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Daniel Pemberton is an Ivor Novello winning and multi-BAFTA nominated composer well-known for embracing a wide range of musical mediums – from electronic to orchestral – throughout his work. He recorded his debut album, Bedroom, in 1994 at the age of 16, using a multitrack cassette recorder, which caught the attention of ambient musician Pete Namlook and was released on the latter’s Fax label. His journey into film scoring began by composing the music for several shorts, British television, video games, and finally feature films, achieving his breakthrough score of director Ridley Scott’s film THE COUNSELOR, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in 2013. In 2014, Pemberton was named the “Discovery of the Year” at the World Soundtrack Awards and has since been nominated for numerous awards for his film music. Recognized for his creative and incredibly versatile approach to film music composition—no two scores ever sound the same—Pemberton’s work includes Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.( 2015), Danny Boyle’s STEVE JOBS (2015; winner, Hollywood Music In Media Awards; Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score), MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019; Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score), Guy Ritchie’s KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017), SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018), BIRDS OF PREY (2020), ENOLA HOLMES (2020), and THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (2020). Interviewed in December 2020, we cover in detail some of the composer’s most striking recent work.
Q: TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 reunited you with writer/director Aaron Sorkin, who co-wrote STEVE JOBS and directed MOLLY’S GAME which you scored. What were your first conversations with Aaron when you came onto this new film, as far as determining the kind of music the film needed?
Daniel Pemberton: It was really cool doing this film, and it was also kind of odd because of COVID. I met Aaron for about an hour in L.A. at the Four Seasons Hotel, where we had a cocktail, and that’s the only physical contact I had with anyone on the entire movie. But it worked out great. He’d already thought a lot about what he wanted the music in the film to be. The original idea was to just have four pieces of music—the opening, the two riots, and the ending. What’s exciting about that is it’s quite rare to have directors who thought that strongly about the structure of a movie from a musical point of view. He talked me through what he had in mind for these scenes—he wanted the opening to be very energetic and up; the riots should be tense and chaotic with drums, guitars, and feedback; then the ending just takes you away from what you’ve been through and gives you something a lot more uplifting that could go into a song. That was the idea. As a composer, I always like films that have less music than more, because then that music’s really got more of an impact. Then as we got on, we ended up putting a bit more score into the film—so we have these four big pillars, and I didn’t want to do anything that would lesson the impact of those moments with other bits of score, but we did add what I call the courtroom music, which is a lot more subtle and underplayed. There’s a lot of stuff in the courtroom where you’re trying to be very discreet, while you highlight certain emotional beats or story points, and then when we get these four big moments, they’re so bold and they really hit you in the face, musically.
Q: How did you develop your score’s musical palette across the film’s coverage of the story, as it shifted between those pillars? Those sequences tend to have very different musical styles and threads.
Daniel Pemberton: There’s a thread through the film, musically, and it was one of these things I kept slightly reworking, to give it a coherent musical narrative. One of the big, big parts of that was the song at the end, which I did with Celeste. I’d started writing that and, because we’d talked about having a song at the end, I was trying to work out how to capture everything about this film into a song and into a very simple idea, because for me the best songs are always things that can incapsulate quite a strong idea as simply as possible. The film’s about protest and people’s rights and why the people protest, which is because their voice is not being heard, and suddenly once I had that phrase, “Hear my voice,” I realized that’s the whole key to this song. And then after I wrote the first half of that with that title, I got Celeste involved and we finished it off. But I’d already got the melody, and that melody goes through the whole film, so in some ways the score is all about taking you through this journey to get to the release of the song at the end. In terms of the palette of the song, that was slightly inferenced by the scoring because there were things like the courtroom scenes where we have these very subtle single guitar notes doubled on the harp, and then that feeds into the song and then the song feeds back into score, so everything’s feeding off each other, trying to create this coherent experience. And you hear that melody at the end, as well; we’ve got this overtly feel-good, over-the-top, up-beat bubblegum sort of band opening, and that all culminates in hearing that theme as well, in a very different style.
Q: I love the opening track, after the main title (“We’re Going To Chicago”) because it evokes the freewheeling enthusiasm and optimism before it gets into these very tense moments of the protests and what happened in the court….
Daniel Pemberton: Aaron wanted the opening to feel like a juxtaposition in some ways, as counterpoint for what actually is being told, which is like America’s kind of going to a terrible place, but the music is telling you “everything is all great and it’s all ok.” That was a big part of his vision for the opening, which I think is really striking and just makes us feel very different. He didn’t want what you’d expect over that kind of imagery, which is more psychedelic rock, he wanted that opening to feel very different.
Q: Did the actors’ performances prompt you in the way you treated their characters in the score?
Daniel Pemberton: When there’s great performances in a film, you don’t want to get in the way. You always give performances space to breathe, and sometimes you can help enhance moments, but especially on Aaron’s films, which are so dialogue heavy and the words are so important, they are the action of the film. It’s always about finding ways to support the scenes and support the actions in ways that are often quite subtle, and then we have these big pieces that aren’t. I usually think in terms of character themes, but this score doesn’t really have character themes, it’s more the overarching themes that have to do with freedom and struggle. In the courtroom scenes, I just used very simple elements, like there’s a tympani which is doubled with a bass guitar—a very light touch which just gives a hint of weight to what’s happening in the courtroom. Or some tremolated guitar, which gives a slight hint at the era without being too on the nose. There were a lot of ideas about being subtle, yet when you get to these big riot scenes, the most important things were those that felt super-visceral and really physical. I used a lot more rock-based instrumentation because I wanted to get that sense of chaos and physicality of what it’s been like to be in those scenes, like the whole thing’s about to explode. I did a lot of stuff with guitar feedback, because I think there’s a kind of randomness to guitar feedback and an instability that felt right for riot scenes, because you don’t know where they’re going to go, it’s just a mass of people moving toward something, and it doesn’t have the necessary control of a classical orchestra. It’s more unstable and under it’s own power and the momentum behind it that’s sort of uncontrollable. I liked that aspect of using rock music there.
Listen to the track, “Take The Hill,” from THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton’s YouTube page:
Q: There’s some interesting moments between the characters, especially between Tom Hayden and Abbie Hoffman as the film goes on, and that final reveal when Hayden realizes what he said into that microphone that might have spurred the crowd on…. Did you score any of those moments between the characters in a particular way?
Daniel Pemberton: Yeah… if you look at the last scene during the last riot, the track is called “Blood on the Streets,” where we have these very big action bits. I’ll spend a long time blocking them out—because it’s a seven minute sequence—trying to work out how I make this journey work musically. I don’t want to score it in a way that’s incredibly reactive, I want to have a more overarching emotional side to it, but at the same time you’ve got to be hitting these beats, the cadences, and the performances. When Eddie Redmayne [as Tom Hayden], who through a lot of the film is quite restrained, when he’s really growing in anger and passion, the music is doing the same thing. And that’s really exciting, because you’re basically playing off the whole scene. I’m playing off the characters in the scenes more than necessarily the characters themselves, because the characters change through the film.
Q: There is a lot of tension that’s delicately conveyed musically during the trial scenes, which then leads to this marvelous catharsis with your powerful track “Stand Up,” which is perhaps the score’s defining moment. What can you tell me about scoring that moment?
Daniel Pemberton: This was a thing, again, where Aaron really wanted a release at the end of the movie. So that track is all about a cathartic moment, and for the moment of understanding what these guys went through. They might not have necessarily won that particular battle, but what they did was incredibly important and kind of goes to the crux of what great American ideals are. And so he wanted music to represent that, it should soar and give the audience more hope. That was a big thing for Aaron—hope for the end, so we could pass it on, so the generation now could look at this film and not just see it was a historical moment in time, but relate to it as something that could speak to what’s happening right now. That was another weird thing about this movie, like by the time we recorded that, a few weeks later, protests… the film was written for like protestors technically in 1968-69, all the ideals behind that song suddenly became super relevant to right now.
Q: The singer Celeste has three pieces that bookend the album just as she bookends the film. We’ve got this wonderful vocalise that is “Hear My Dream” at the beginning, and then the victorious “Hear My Voice” at the end, with the horrific “Hear My Screams” midway through the end credits. How did those come about?
Daniel Pemberton: They were all based on the song which ends the film. Celeste is in some ways the voice of hope in the movie. She opens the film with “Hear My Voice,” and she ends the film with “Hear My Dream.” The other piece, “Hear My Screams,” is more like a bonus thing, just for the end credits roll. That was an idea I tried out for the riots [in “Taking the Hill”], but we felt it ended up being too distracting when you watched the whole run of the scene. So we just put her vocals on “Hear My Screams” in the end credits, because I thought that was so phenomenal. The opening is really just the voice of hope, and the ending is that returning. I love the fact that she bookends the film, it’s a lovely aspect to the whole film’s construction. I think the thing that’s great about Celeste is that I felt like she was the voice of a generation – connecting the generation from ‘68-69 with the modern generation. By being a contemporary artist, she takes what was around then and brings it to the audience today, which was a big part of something Aaron wanted.
Listen to the climactic track, “Stand Up,” from THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton’s YouTube page:
“I’m often trying to do things that are quite different musically, and working out how I can score films in a way that feels very unusual or different, but with ENOLA I felt like that wasn’t going to necessarily serve the film as well as just going for strong themes and strong emotions.”
Q: ENOLA HOLMES is a thoroughly lovely and engaging symphonic score. With this film you were entering into an offshoot of a fictionally historic character of great renown and one taking place in a very specific time period. How did those elements determine the musical direction you needed to take here?
Daniel Pemberton: ENOLA was interesting because it’s one of those things where there’s already been a lot of very good SHERLOCK HOLMES scores. I think the scores that Hans and Lorne did for Guy Ritchie’s movies are absolutely phenomenal and I also like David Arnold and Michael Price’s work on the TV series, so part of me was like, “I don’t want to take on this mantle!” But I had a lovely chat with Harry Bradbeer, the director of ENOLA HOLMES, and this was a very different story, and for Harry it was all about Enola and all about her emotions. So I just went with the character. I’m often trying to do things that are quite different musically, and working out how I can score films in a way that feels very unusual or different, but with ENOLA I felt like that wasn’t going to necessarily serve the film as well as just going for strong themes and strong emotions. When the director says they actually want themes and emotions and they actually mean it, then I was going to jump at it! I actually love writing traditional, more musical orchestral stuff. But I just like mixing it up—I don’t want to do that all the time, so this was a lovely opportunity to actually write nice, big melodic music, the sort of stuff with a real musicality at its heart.
A funny thing—I was working on it last Christmas and we were talking about trying to come up with themes. I’d come up with several but nothing either of us were over the moon about, and I went back to see my family, who live in a very messy house, not unlike Enola’s. No way as big as Enola’s but it’s incredibly messy, and I was in the room that the old piano was in, where everybody hangs out in over Christmas, making tons of noises, and normally I’d tell everyone to shut up, that I’m trying to record something, but it was just impossible so I just ignored everyone and just kept playing the piano with my iPhone there. I wrote most of the themes for the film over that Christmas, and I played them for Harry and in the background of all these initial demos you’d have all my family coming out of the room talking. When I played Tewkesbury’s theme for him, a neighbor had popped in so here’s ‘Oh hello Daniel,’ and I’m having a conversation with him while I’m still playing the piano and recording this theme! That was quite funny.
Listen to the main theme from ENOLA HOLMES, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton’s YouTube page:
Q: Would you walk me through the score’s thematic architecture and how the themes develop and interact with one another as the story rushes on?
Daniel Pemberton: I was very keen to have something with a very strong thematic base, and the idea was always that we were trying to do an orchestral score but we wanted to keep it wonky, so neither Harry or I wanted to do anything that was too polished. We did a pass at the score that was like a more traditional orchestral score, and then I added all these extra elements onto it that made it a bit more wonky and rough. But at the heart of that score are these different melodies. For Enola’s theme, which starts on the piano [plays series of quick, chordal arpeggios on the piano], right from the top we wanted to capture her boisterous energy, her ruggedness and her spirit. I thought there was two aspects to that—there was this very playful, fun side, which are these piano chords, and there was also this much more thoughtful side which were the oboes, and that’s the melody on top. I was trying to combine these two things of the wonky piano and the sublime of the orchestra. That’s her individual theme, and then we have my favorite theme which is what I called the Adventure or Mystery theme [plays a light, brisk melody on the piano]. That was a very useful device because it was very adaptable, so it would come back through the film any time Enola would do something that would set her off on an adventure, you’d hear a version of that theme. She also had these chords [plays a quick dash of classical chords up and down the keyboard], and those would be for Enola doing something fantastic, like being clever or working out a solution. Then we had different themes for Tewkesbury, who was sort of a love interest, sounds for the bad guy, little stuff for Enola’s pet pinecone, and her mother had a theme as well. It was really good fun, just being able to spot a movie and not have it messed around with and be able to have through-lines for all these themes where they’ll pay-off at the right moment and I could introduce ideas early on, knowing I’ve got a director and an editor who are really behind my trying to do that. I think that’s one of the things that makes the film so charming; we don’t hear a lot of fairly melodic scores at the moment, scores that have that kind of through-line because people get obsessed by temp, they want things to sound like temp, the composer doesn’t have enough time to do it… and with this, I was on very early and we were working very closely.
Q: Did Sherlock have a theme?
Daniel Pemberton: Sherlock doesn’t have a theme, no. We did toy with one, but then it felt like it was becoming too busy. In this film he’s not really the main character; I’m sure if they brought him in a bit more than that would have happened. But this is all about Enola. Another thing that was interesting is that a lot of the roughness I tried to give the score was one of my favorite things—I found a squeaky door on holiday once, I was in Greece and we were staying at this Airbnb apartment which had the most amazing squeaky door I’d ever heard in my life. I spent about twenty minutes just squeaking this door backwards and forward to the annoyance of my girlfriend, who thought she was going on holiday. I recorded it all on my iPhone and there’s a bunch of that hidden away in this score, just to give things a slightly rough edge.
Listen to the “Cracking The Chrysanthemums Cypher” from ENOLA HOLMES, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton’s YouTube page:
Q: The score’s delightful energy, instrumentation, and the way it accompanies the film with such verve and excitement is so enticing, and yet through this there are moments of tension and foreboding, especially as the story heads toward its conclusion. How did you map out the score’s journey and weave all of its parts into a coherent whole?
Daniel Pemberton: I did that by just working very, very hard on it. The film is about many different things, but I think it’s mainly about clues and problem solving. There are clues all through the film that will tell you something that will pay off somewhere else, and that includes the score. I love having sounds and themes that are all linked together. When I did SPIDER-VERSE it was the same thing, we’d have Miles’ theme and all these different themes and they’d all pay off in different ways. It’s very satisfying when you can do that.
Q: “Train Escape” is a rip-roaring bit of orchestral agitato – What was most demanding for you about scoring a powerful, dynamic action cue like that?
Daniel Pemberton: This film, like a lot of the films I normally do, was very complicated to work out musically. I’ve got a horrible tendency for greenscreen movies that are stylistically very unusual. Whether that’s STEVE JOBS or THE COUNSELOR or THE SPIDER-VERSE, they’re always very complex puzzles to solve, and this one was refreshingly straightforward in that there was a big action scene, there was a baddie, there was a love interest, and it was really fun to have very bold story ideas that weren’t necessarily as complex as other films that I do, where you might have to hold back on the emotion. In this one I could go all out on it. That was just so much fun for me. Something like that train chase is just great—you’re on a train, you’ve got the rhythm of a train, and you’ve even got the sound effects tied in to the same speed as the train tracks. We spent a long time with the sound department and the editor, Adam Bosman, making sure the sound of the train was exactly the same rhythm as the tempo of the strings. I think that also makes it very enjoyable. We edited that sequence a bunch of times, and we pushed stuff backwards and forwards, but it’s just fun to write proper adventure music. I’m really pleased that so many people have responded to the film, because I love the film as it is, but as a kid I’d absolutely adore the film.
Listen to “Train Escape” theme from ENOLA HOLMES, courtesy of Daniel Pemberton’s YouTube page:
Q: There’s also some wonderful classical material, like in “Fields of London,” which sets a proper tone for the film’s time frame and setting.
Daniel Pemberton: That’s a kind of rearrangement of Enola’s theme, taking the melody you’ve heard on the oboe but giving it a far more lush, sort of fake John Barry-esque kind of approach of just throwing millions of strings on one line. Like I said, I don’t get to play in this sandbox that often, and that’s kind of by my own choice, but with ENOLA it was so much fun to go there. The film could support music of such scale because I think the heart and the emotion was so big that you could really go to town. And that’s really just trying to capture British countryside and I love the British countryside; it’s absolutely beautiful, and I just wanted people to get that kind of emotion from the score.
Q: I wanted to ask briefly about your score for THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE, the TV series you scored with Samuel Sim. Coming into that with the history of the 1982 film that Trevor Jones wrote this wonderful score for, what was your take on this new iteration?
Daniel Pemberton: Trevor’s score is really fantastic and what Louis Leterrier [director on AGE OF RESISTANCE) wanted was actually something quite different. Because this film takes place a long time before that film, he wanted it to feel a lot more simplistic. Where that original film is incredibly lush and rich, orchestrally, we started off trying to make something that sounded a lot more organic and folky, as if it was made by the instruments of Thra—like sounds that could only exist in Thra. I wanted the AGE OF RESISTANCE score to be a bridging gap between Trevor’s score. We referenced his main motif a couple of times, but not very often—and we do at the end, the whole thing is like passing the baton on to Trevor in the feature film. I wanted to do something that felt like the early days of a score… it’s kind of like, not more simplistic, but it’s a different take on that world, a less advanced stage, but still providing you with emotion and rich language, because it’s such a rich visual film. For me it was really important that the music had a very deep sense of color and a deep sense of unexpectedness in the instrumentation. I wanted it to feel it came from Thra. So all the sounds are very organic, sort of rough, unusual, and then on top of that we ended up putting in more orchestral stuff just because it felt like it needed that scale. But that hadn’t been the plan—the orchestral elements really came through later into the production as we realized the show would benefit from them.
Q: What was the instrumentation prior to that?
Daniel Pemberton: Early on, Louis was a really big fan of KING ARTHUR  and he loved the way that film was very unconventional in its sound, so we tried to get very unconventional very early on. It’s very close-miked, we used lots of very medieval instruments like nyckelharpa and viols, and things that have very rough strings that are quite ancient, but as we progressed we realized we did need that weight and extra level of emotional complexity that orchestral elements could bring. And so it was about trying to marry these two worlds, really.
Q: How did you and Samuel Sim work together to score the series?
Daniel Pemberton: Sam’s an old friend of mine who I’ve known for years. They originally wanted me to do the whole series, and I just felt I couldn’t commit to ten hours of TV. And so we both came on at the start. I basically tried to set up the tone and get the whole thing rolling and get the sound working and the melodies going, and then Sam came in and wrote a bunch of really great pieces for the series as well. So it was me starting it out and then sharing the workload with Sam as a co-composer. I probably did about two-thirds of the show and Sam probably did about a third.
Jay Lifton is a composer based in New York City. Jay is a graduate of Tufts University (BA), and The New England Conservatory of Music; he has scored numerous commercials and more than fifty shorts, documentaries, TV films, and feature films since the early 2000s, including PETER AND VANDY, GREG THE BUNNY, SHOOT ME NICELY, HOW HE FELL IN LOVE, ACCOMMODATIONS, TORMENTING THE HEN and IBM’s “Watson and Me” series of commercials. I recently interviewed Jay about his most recent projects: the Lifetime short parody film A RECIPE FOR SEDUCTION in which a young Colonel Sanders (Mario Lopez) has a steamy (savory?) love affair with a young heiress who must choose between her young chef with a dream of fried chicken glory and a wealthy, duplicitous suitor handpicked by her mother; and SISTER OF THE GROOM, starring Alicia Silverstone as a young woman who attends her brother’s wedding in the Hamptons only to become immersed in chaos between her family, her brother’s French fiancée, and the surprise arrival of her ex. As composer and musical director of the latter, Jay worked closely with director Amy Gross to create a refined orchestral score with some French and Mediterranean instrumentation that matched the theme of the film.
Q: How did you initially get into film scoring?
Jay Lifton: My mom is a musician and when I was a kid I was into making movies on a VHS Hi-8 Cam in the early’ 90s. But I was always doing music so my mom would take me to recording sessions if I was off from school. I grew up in the New York suburbs, and some of them would be in the city in small studios, some would be out in Long Island where I’m from, but it gave me a sense that there are jobs here to be had, and people do this for a living, they play on sessions, they play on scores. That sort of opened a window to jobs existing in music and films and things.
Q: What were some of your first jobs that got you started?
Jay Lifton: The first job I ever did was a Juicy Juice commercial, like 20-something years ago. I was working as a junior writer in a music company called JSM in New York, doing that while I was pursuing film scoring as well. A friend of mine hooked me up with a music supervisor, Stephanie Diaz-Matos, and there was some emergency where the composer didn’t work out and she called me to demo on the job. That was a film called PETER AND VANDY , that was the first feature I did. It went to Sundance and then I got the scoring bug after that.
Q: You’ve scored a lot of short films on your way to where you are now – what did you learn from these and how different have you found scoring the needs of shorts versus feature films?
Jay Lifton: I like doing shorts a lot, actually. You can just get the idea of it very quickly and you’re composing maybe one or two musical themes in a short, as opposed to maybe five or six in a feature, or more if it’s a sci-fi feature with tons of music. But on a short, I just find them a lot of fun and they’re usually a nice way to meet a director; typically with shorts I’ve done, where I worked with the director, has turned into feature work down the line.
Q: With SISTER OF THE GROOM, you worked with director Amy Miller Gross on ACCOMMODATIONS in 2018. How was it working with her again on this film and what direction did she give you about the kind of score this film needed?
Jay Lifton: We had a good time on ACCOMMODATIONS. On this one we had an even better time because there was a lot more music to be written. I had three jobs on SISTER OF THE GROOM—the main part of the film is the wedding so I needed to write fake jazz standards for a wedding band; then there was the score; and then there was a songwriter who’s a really talented guy, Lee Reitelman, whose songs are in the film and he’s in the film performing them, and I produced studio versions of those songs. That turned into a great working relationship, because we’re also working on an album of his music which will come out in the Spring.
Q: How did the film’s budget reflect the musical palette you were able to use?
Jay Lifton: This was a film where there was some money for players—not the New York Phil, but I could bring in a dozen of my friends to play live over samples and in some cases replace the samples. I usually strive for that. I love using samples for mock-ups, but any time I can either supplement or replace that with live musicians I try to do it. Even on a low budget short, if I can hire a violinist or one live musician it makes a tremendous difference.
Q: How did you develop the score thematically across the arc of the story?
Jay Lifton: It’s nice doing Amy’s second film because we already had a good rapport from the first, and we were able to get into talking about characters right away. We’re both big fans of character themes, so in this, Audrey [Alicia Silverstone’s character]—she’s almost in every scene—and so we definitely wanted a strong theme for Audrey that changed at some point along the way as her character changed. There’s another big scene where secrets are being kept from people and then later they are revealed, and I had a theme for the secrets and then an inverted version of that when the secrets are revealed.
Q: You have a sublime melody in a cue called “We Arrive at the Beach” with a very nice mix of piano and strings—how did that cue originate?
Jay Lifton: That’s the resolution of the “Audrey” theme. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but she reaches a point where she becomes comfortable with who she is and who her sister-in-law is; it’s a cathartic moment in the film, so it’s the same three-note motif that started the film and here it’s also ending the film, but the orchestration is totally different. The music is also very loose and that’s her sort of loosening up as a person. The beginning version of that theme was more of a tight classical orchestration.
Q: Another cue I found quite striking was “Secrets Kept,” which captures an air of tantalizing mischief or subterfuge…
Jay Lifton: That’s early on, and it’s the first time the Secrets theme is heard. She arrives at her family’s summer compound and realizes that things are being kept from her, little things that she’s being excluded from, and are upsetting for her. That plays often when something is being concealed from her.
Q: How does your score allow the film’s comedy to flow during the funnier moments in the story?
Jay Lifton: I mostly tried to write the score from Audrey’s perspective, so often the funny moments are punctuated with kind of a dryer score, which is something I’ve always liked—almost dry or passive music in a way that plays straight man to something funny happening on the screen. There’s definitely a scene where there’s an argument that happens over a very restrained classical music, and I liked that juxtaposition.
Q: On a film like this, with different emotional moments trading off, do the performances of the cast provide any unique inspiration for where you go with the music for their characters?
Jay Lifton: Definitely. In most cases, I think when a character is really emoting and giving a strong performance, the best thing to do is write less and let them be the “melody,” as opposed to writing too much and overscoring the scene and then it becomes overbaked or cartoonish. There are a lot of emotional moments in the movie, especially a lot of frustration and pent-up anger, and when that comes out I tended to accentuate but not do too much. I never want to distract from what the actors are doing or write in a way that’s competitive with them. I see the orchestra as the accompaniment to the actors’ melody.
Q: What was most challenging about scoring this film?
Jay Lifton: I think it was the three-job aspect of it. I had to be on set for two days over the summer to direct the on-screen gypsy jazz band. Being on set, there’s a lot of variables if you’re used to being in the studio. In the studio everything’s pretty much under your control. On set it was a rainy week so there was a lot of start-and-stop and we were there a long time. But the musicians were so fantastic and clearly experienced, so that made it a pleasure. Also we were very well fed on the set and that certainly made it very comfortable. And I should definitely mention Katy McIlvaine, who was the music supervisor on this film; I couldn’t have done this without her because there were so many little fires to put out along the way. She has such a great positivity about her and she’s always trying to push things forward, which is really what you need on a set.
Q: What was your process of creating the faux jazz-standard music for the wedding scene?
Jay Lifton: That was interesting. We needed eight numbers, and we ended up using six. One was a piece that I had actually done for Amy’s first film that we thought would be a funny Easter egg when we put it in as the slow dance for the wedding band. The other ones were based on weddings I had been to and what kind of things were played; we needed some kind of slow dances and then we needed some up-beat cocktail music. I’m a big jazz fan, and went to school for jazz, so it was a nice opportunity to write in that style, which I don’t get to do all the time.
Q: You recently scored an unusual project called A RECIPE FOR SEDUCTION. What was the market for this short film?
Jay Lifton: This thing was as surprising to me I think as it was to everybody else that it got picked up by. I mean The Atlantic covered it, it was everywhere! It was a piece for Wieden+Kennedy, but the production company that wrote it I’ve known for almost twenty years and this is their kind of thing—they love to do just absurdist parodies. I’ve done a lot of music for them over the years and we just have a very good rapport. We know each other creatively and they just let you work, which is amazing.
Q: What can you tell me about its musical needs and how you treated the tone of the film and its character interactions, score-wise?
Jay Lifton: We decided that the music should sound refined and expensive and it should not at all be in on the joke. It should be very serious and very in the genre of this sort of film, as if it were a legit Lifetime movie, just with the most genuine of intentions. I think that helps a lot. I wasn’t that familiar, honestly, with Mario Lopez as an actor prior to this, but he delivers the lines so seriously and without flinching. He steals the show.
Q: What was your musical palette for this and how much music did you write for this short?
Jay Lifton: It’s about nine minutes of music for a 15-minute short. It was an orchestral palette; they referenced John Williams and classical influences like Vivaldi for some of the temp music. So I stuck with mostly strings and woodwinds throughout; as it develops it gets a little more of a modern orchestration, but mostly it’s a very classic film score sound.
Q: In a film like this, which runs between parody and sincerity, you’re playing it straight, musically. How do you accommodate that and really sell the genuine Lifetime Movie kind of vibe?
Jay Lifton: That’s a good question! I think the thing is just not to highlight too much. Create moods and instead of scoring moments, score the scene as a whole. The viewer should never feel the hand of the composer in it, but I have a feeling because it’s such an on-the-nose parody that it ends up feeling that way anyway! I tried not to make it cartoonish and to pretend this isn’t a guy dressed up as Colonel Sanders, it’s just characters acting this out, and what would I score then?
Q: Where was the film shown?
Jay Lifton: Lifetime aired it and you can see it on their website and their YouTube channel and probably on Hulu.
Q: So they’re actually part of the parody of their own style?
Jay Lifton: Yeah. I believe they commissioned it, and they’ve promoted it intensely. That speaks to how good a sense of humor they have toward their own material!
Watch the RECIPE FOR SEDUCTION movie here:
Q: In 2014 you scored a film called TEST, which you also wrote and directed—what was it like to handle those multiple roles on this project?
Jay Lifton: That was a really amazing experience, and it’s something I’d like to do again at some point. Directing and writing it—I wrote it with my wife, Catherine—was great. I liked being able to create the world and then add the music. It wasn’t like any music I had done before, it was very abstract.
Q: What scoring adventures do you have coming up that you can tell me about?
Jay Lifton: I’m suppose to work on a pilot that’s going to be produced in the summer called HUDSON FALLS, and stars Richard Kind, from CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. That was something interesting because they shot it last summer under the SAG COVID restrictions, it was one of the few shoots that they did, and they got some attention from New York outlets for being very COVID compliant. It’s a crime drama and he plays a private investigator. The other thing I do almost every year is music for IBM for either the Golf Masters or the US Open and that’s cool—of course it’s different now but hopefully production will fire back up as soon as the pandemic starts to wane. Earlier I mentioned this artist, Lee Reitelman, who’s a brilliant singer/songwriter, we are working on a full-length album. Some of the songs will be from Amy’s movie, and then there’s four or five originals that are completely new. So we’re producing that and it should be coming out soon.
Special thanks to Lauren Mennuti of Impact24 PR for facilitating this interview.
For more information on the composer, see https://www.jaylifton.com/
SISTER OF THE GROOM is now playing on Amazon Prime – watch the film’s trailer below:
This animated short film is based on the book by Marvell Ginsburg that has been educating children about the Holocaust for over 30 years. The story details the harrowing and inspirational story of a Torah rescued during the Holocaust, eventually finding a new home at the Solomon Schecter Day School in Skokie, IL. For two decades composer Daniel Alcheh (pronounced al-SHEA) has written music for concert halls, feature films and animation, documentaries, TV shows, and countless commercials. He is also the co-founder of the music production unit Sonic Vault, which offers music, sound design and voice-over services to international content producers of kids animation and live action. As the son of a Holocaust survivor who had lost both parents’ families to the Nazi camps, Alcheh said that he was “at once excited and apprehensive when asked to score THE TATTOOED TORAH. “This was more personal than just a scoring job, and I wanted to be sure I could do justice to this touching story that spans generations and continents,” he said. “After conversations with director Marc Bennett about different instrumentation options, I started sketching and decided that by means of large orchestra and choir I could convey the beauty, pain, and inextinguishable spirit of European Jewry during those times.” Recorded by a live orchestra and choir in Moscow, Alcheh’s score is both appealing and affecting, its music style drawn from Jewish musical heritage but also embracing cinematic musical conventions that enliven the story’s drama.
“It’s a film about history, about community, about family and about cultural heritage and the things that bond us,” Alcheh explained. “There is religiosity and mystery, tragedy, hope and nostalgia all blended together, and of course the hints of stylistic Jewish music from Europe of that period, which comes across in the melody, harmony, and instrumentation as well.” Because this is a children’s short film, the filmmakers made a point of staying clear of too much violence. Alcheh reserved a touch of violence and shock to the beginning of track 3, when the Nazi’s march into Europe.
Alcheh worked closely with director Marc Bennett, discussing what would be the right instrumentation for the score. “It’s important to understand that Ed Asner is narrating throughout the whole film, wall to wall, except for the long end credits sequence,” Alcheh said. “So rather then using smaller groups of musicians—guitar, clarinet, accordion, all sorts of band permutations and sizes, incorporating electronics—I felt that a full orchestra would be able to give the narrated visuals warmth and depth while not conflicting with the narration. It would be more costly, especially after I thought of bringing in a 30-piece choir as well, but the producers and director not only came on board with that idea, but also literally flew with me to Moscow for the recording sessions. I’m so happy we didn’t give up the idea of the choir—it brings such depth of emotion to some key moments and adds that perfect layer of prayer, hope, fragility, and humanity to the music.”
Thematically, there are three main themes running throughout the score:
1) The Jewish theme that is central to the score. It opens the film in Track 2 and concludes it in track 15 (“End Credits”). It appears as a solo violin prayer in “His Father Was One of Them,” but also in more obscured forms, such as the opening of track 4, “The Warehouse,” where it is transformed from the upbeat 4/4 into a dark, heavy waltz in 3/4 before morphing into a type of perpetuum mobile, both mechanical and a bit maniacal, in “Numbered & Recorded” (the center of track 4).
2) The nostalgic theme—the motif for family, community, and remembrance—appears in the apex of the film in Track 10, “This is How We Never Forget,” and is reprised on Track 12 (“A Part of Him Was Gone”) and Track 14 “Zeidi,” which appears when the grandfather is taken away by the Nazis.
3) The core of the film score is a spiritual theme evoking mystery and illumination, which generated much of the score. Fragments of it are scattered throughout the whole score in many cues. It originated in the Westminster Synagogue scene, Track 9, beginning with the solo piano and then taken by the strings and winds. “Once I found the tone of that scene I knew I found the tone of the film,” Alcheh said. “That four-part harmony and the movement in thirds felt like it encapsulated so much with so little.” There’s a “Bach chorale” version of it on Track 1, the “Intro,” sung by the choir. It opens and closes the theme as it appears in Track 15, and begins Track 2. It also opens Track 8, “Searching the Shelves,” heard from solo violin playing the moving 3rds and 6ths with double stops. Then it also appears in more transitional and less prominent forms, such as at the end of Track 2, “Curfew,” in the choir and winds in the middle and end Track 6, “War is Tough/The Little Torah Had Found Them;” also in the harp and bells at the end of Track 7, “To America.”
“It was a joy and a true privilege to work with Marc, producer Lisa Efferess, the Kopin family and the whole team,” said Alcheh. “We all gained an enduring friendship and hope the music reaches the hearts of children and adults everywhere and lives on with the story of the little Tattooed Torah.”
THE TATTOOED TORAH soundtrack will be available on CD or for digital download from Notefornote Music.
The CD is available for preorder; the label expects to ship during the week of February 22nd. 10% of all proceeds will be donated to the Holocaust Museum of L.A. and the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center.
BELOW ZERO/Zacarías M. de la Riva/MovieScore Media - digital
Coinciding with the film’s Netflix premiere on January 29, 2021, MovieScore Media is releasing the heart-pounding action drama score for the Spanish thriller BELOW ZERO (Bajocero) with music by composer Zacarias M. de la Riva’s (AUTOMATA, TADEO JONES). Co-written and directed by Lluís Quílez, the film tells the story of Martin (Javier Gutierrez), a policeman who has been tasked with transporting six dangerous prisoners in the middle of winter. When he gets flat tires on a lonely road, Martin soon realizes that he is in the middle of a complex plan that is not exactly the typical rescue mission he thought he’d face. “BELOW ZERO is a movie in disguise, really,” explains Zacarias about the score. “It looks and feels like a thriller, but it’s a heart-breaking drama that bears a terrible moral dilemma at its core. Music had to help with that disguise, fulfilling the crude physical part when needed with extensive use of all kinds of percussion (synthetic or acoustic) and electronics, while providing footing and support for the moral struggle with the use of restrained strings and a pipe organ.” The album opens with a furious propulsion from strings and percussion, which introduces the main action music of the piece; there are some tranquil cues such as “Garcia,” “Soledad,” “El Fandango,” and “Confession” which offer a respite from the strident aggression, but the center of the score as it follows the tension and conflict of the story is held within the strong momentum of the opening motif. It’s a story of impulsion as Martin tries to maintain control over very dangerous odds, and the score in its strenuous agitato properly focuses on that material. A couple of cues, “Dawn” and ‘Signal,” mix their calm moments with the action material, while the concluding tracks, “Final Resolution” and “Martin (End Credits)” lend a resonance of respite and relief as the film concludes. It’s a powerful work that spares little time in solemnity, and it captivates the listener in that forceful nucleus.
Listen to the main theme from the score:
CONQUERING CHINA/Oscar Fogelström/N10Y Records - digital Starring and directed by Johan Jonason, CONQUERING CHINA (2014) is a documentary about the Swedish singer’s attempts at making a musical breakthrough in the Chinese megalopolis of Shanghai. While music is said to be able to cross linguistic barriers, Jonason finds it’s actually much harder to make an impact than he had previously thought. Part autobiography and part travelogue, the movie has been compared to a musical documentary version of LOST IN TRANSLATION, featuring appearances by French synthesizer god Jean-Michel Jarre and Chinese star DJ Ben Huang. Leaving the synths and singing to those luminaries, the musical score, composed by Oscar Fogelström, is a delicious modern orchestral score that provides a delicate and delightful acoustic pattern behind Jonason’s journey. The score is meant to complement Jonason’s own pop music as well as songs by prominent Chinese artists. “I love this kind of ambiguous vibe as the whole film moves between fantasy and reality in a seamless manner, plus I also found the idea really compelling because it was my job to portray the ‘old western society’ with my music, as a contrast to the fast-paced Chinese way of living,” explained Fogelström. “Using nineteenth century eastern European music as a foundation for the score, this gave me the opportunity to pay tribute to some of my favorite composers, like Wojciech Kilar. The production also wanted me to mix in hints of Chinese ‘culture’ to further enhance the ambiguity, so I had to find a way to connect these disparate musical worlds.” The result is a marvelous musical journey, from the sonic textures that open the score with “Arrivals/Departures,” introducing the main theme, an appealing motive derives from a fast, three-note call-and-response pattern from woodwinds,
through a variety of set pieces and variations through to the “Last Call” that revisits and concludes the opening material and theme. “The Best of Both Worlds” is an especially evocative cue that merges a bit of East and West sensibilities, while “Setting Sun” is captivating in its Asian flavors, despite being performed largely by western instruments. “Souvenirs” is a gentle, melodic excursion into tourism, while “How Does One Play Beethoven” is rich with intricate harp plucks and dazzling filigrees of the main theme from flute. The score was performed by the renowned FAMEs Orchestra in Skopje, Macedonia with percussion and harp overdubs recorded in Sweden; featuring noted jazz harpist Stina Hellberg Agback. There’s about 20 minutes of music on the album, but from start to finish it’s a complete pleasure for the ears.
CONQUERING CHINA is available on all digital platforms, incl. Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.
Watch a short clip from the recording session:
COWGIRLS VS PTERODACTYLS/Reber Clark/Bandcamp – CD & digital After her husband is taken by a malicious pterodactyl, a schoolteacher enlists the help of a prostitute and a gunslinger to rescue him. The premise is cool, the acting is good to middling, the production value is poor (its low budget, financed largely by an Indiegogo campaign, is painfully evident), but the film IS fun and entertaining; the special stop-motion effects are good, and its musical score is terrific. This movie gets a pass because its better traits make it a fun watch and the earnestness of the filmmakers and honest humor in their creativity makes a lot of things forgivable, and director Joshua Kennedy deserves two E’s for Effort and Enjoyability. The lead actors do a pretty good job, with special kudos to Haley Zega as the local brothel madam who turns in an especially engaging and earnest performance; Madelyn Wiley and Carmen Vienhage are also quite good as the schoolteacher and the gunfighter, respectively. Former Hammer horror queen Martine Beswick serves as narrator of the tale. The stop-motion special effects for the flying pterodactyls, by Ryan Lengyel (THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR), while cheap, are very good, as are the hand-puppet baby hatchlings (less said about the static models moved by hand). But, aside from the winged reptiles, the movie’s best attribute is definitely the digital music score by Reber Clark, known for scoring the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. Clark, who also scored Kennedy’s previous film, 2019’s HOUSE OF THE GORGON, pays homage to a number of American and Italian Western film scores while providing an exciting musical environment that serves the film quite well. Clark’s main theme owes a huge debt to Jerome Moross’ theme from 1958’s THE BIG COUNTRY, and respectful shadings of Goldsmith, Tiomkin, Bernstein, and Morricone are to be found throughout, but Clark is respectful and well-intended in his musical references; it’s homage encased within Clark’s own musical notions. The score is a thoroughly exuberant Western pastiche. Acoustic and electric guitars and bass, whistling, growling pads from synth, rattling ratchets, jew’s harp, tubular bells, whistler, and the articulate like abound, giving the film’s suspenseful moments a proper Western all’italiana gravitas, while the main theme and other flavors favor the Americana tradition of symphony orchestra elements, with an occasional harmonica, cimbalom, banjo, raspy bassoon, tympani glissandi, and sharply struck wood block. There’s even what conjures up to me Max Steiner’s Stegosaurus footsteps music from KING KONG in the jaunty “Debbie Shows the Eggs” – probably coincidentally (it’s also present in the start of “Flying Eggs,” accompanied by rustling piano strings. “Dinosaur Hunter” is an especially evocative track embodying most of all this, beginning furtively before erupting midway through into a dynamic full-on orchestral power run, a configuration Clark will reprise in the dynamic “Pterodactyl Attack,” replete with callbacks of brassy Bernstein. The battle between the girls and the newly-hatched pterosaurs finds its culmination in “180 Proof Anglo-Saxon” and “Eggs Hatch,” both fully active orchestral pieces with touches of Goldsmith snare and Bernstein brass, ending with a final shout of victory ? la a modified version of the classic Tommy Walker “Charge!” fanfare. One assumes these are all digital samples, given the film’s expected budget, but they are convincing samples and evoke the proper sonic resonance. The score works within and without the film and is a delight in all of its components.
The movie is now showing on Amazon Prime, and composer Clark is offering a CD and/or digital soundtrack of his score for sale (and for free listening) on his bandcamp page. For more details on the composer, see https://www.reberclark.com/.
Watch the film’s trailer, featuring Clark’s score:
DOCTOR WHO SERIES 12 - REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS/Segun Akinola/Silva Screen - digital
The soundtrack for the 2021 DOCTOR WHO New Year’s Day special, REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS, is now available to download from the usual sources. The episode tags the conclusion of Series 12 and heralds the 6-episode Season 13, which is said to be Jodie Whitaker’s last as the venerable Doctor. Composer Segun Akinola, who has scored all of Doctor Who Series 11 and Series 12 and is scoring the new season as well, has maintained a far more ambient and modernistic sound for the show than Murray Gold’s celebrated melodic orchestral style for the ten series he did since the show’s 2005 revival, but Akinola’s work has grown with the style of the new seasons, and his work for “Revolution of the Daleks” is a pleasing mix of action, tension, and perhaps harsher but highly effective emotive cadences. “Something Revolutionary” (introducing the new Daleks) and the following “Break-Out Ball” (when the Doctor is freed from imprisonment by Jack Harkness), both of which are nearly seven minutes long, mix ambiance with orchestral dynamics and are quite powerful cues in their resonances within the episode and as listened to on the soundtrack album. This soundtrack includes a number of long tracks, three at 6 minutes and change, one at a little over 7, and two at more than 8 minutes, allowing some intriguing development of the music within these tracks. The oppressive darkness of “The Clone,” revealing the menacing, cloned Dalek with a terrific blast of horns, segues near the end into an emotive solo piano melody. That piano bit is reprised in “The Production Line,” which is a mix of threatening brass and percussion and very pleasing string melody. “Thank You For Being My Friend” is a very tender and sympathetic mix of sustained synth pad and solo violin as The Doctor acquiesces to Ryan’s decision to leave the Tardis and return home. “The Death Squad” is a vigorous battle track, heard when Death Squad Daleks detect mutated DNA among the defense drones and prepare for maximum extermination. “Bad Boys” offers a forceful resolution to the climax of the episode, while the Doctor, in “Bye Fam,” offers a sympathetic and moving adieu to the departure of two of her companions, through solo violin and softly floating synth pad, concluding the episode with a heartfelt resolve. This is probably Akinola’s best and most impassioned DOCTOR WHO score, rich in melodies and ambiances alike, but conveying the heart(s) of the Doctor, her companions and friends, and plenty of tension riffs and energetic action material.
Listen to the track “Break-Out Ball” from Segun Akinola’s YouTube page:
FEAR AND DESIRE/Gerald Fried/Caldera Records – cd
It’s a wonderful thing to see a number of recent releases devoted to composer Gerald Fried, especially while he’s still around, at age 93, to enjoy the attention and interest in is work. Best known for his scores to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and STAR TREK, Fried has generated more than 140 credits since he started out in the early 1950s, scoring the first films of his Greenwich Village friend Stanley Kubrick. He went on to compose B-movies of all manner during the ‘50s, feature films and lots of television episodes throughout the ‘60s and 70s, winning an Oscar for his theme and scores for ROOTS, and working through into the early 1990s, and he’s still contributing to short films, a Star Trek tribute comedy film just a few years ago, and ongoing commissions of his concert music. With their 41st soundtrack release, Caldera reaches back to present the premiere soundtrack release of Fried’s first two film scores, both for Kubrick, FEAR AND DESIRE and DAY OF THE FIGHT. The latter came first, in 1951, when Kubrick decided to make a short documentary film about boxer Walter Cartier; the tightly focused 16-minute film follows him during the hours preceding a seminal fight. Fried composed approx. 12 minutes of music, performed by a small orchestral ensemble, which begins with a rousing fanfare and then a variety of classically-styled material to fit the sequences Kubrick had filmed; occupying four tracks, it’s dramatic and flavorful, and benefits from the composer’s then-recent graduation from Juilliard with a major in both composition and the oboe. 1952’s FEAR AND DESIRE, represented on the album’s first 16 tracks, was Kubrick’s first feature film, about the essential human passions of four soldiers trapped behind enemy lines during the Korean War. Fried introduces his main theme through an elegiac melody on solo bassoon, which opens into a bombastic orchestral sound that depicts the soldier’s despair through triumphant melodic measures. A recurring motif is provided via Fried’s favored oboe. Filling in the final 11 tracks is Fried’s music for the 1964 short film TO THE MOON AND BEYOND, produced for the 1964/65 World’s Fair in New York. It’s not a Kubrick film but it did inspire Kubrick and may have had an influence on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Fried’s score, made up of fairly short cues, is an intriguing and imaginative musical voyage. All three scores are relevant examples of Fried’s creative versatility with small ensembles and are a most welcome addition to the composer’s available film soundtracks.
Listen to a suite of the music at Spotify.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY/Ennio Morricone/Quartet – CD
No introduction ought to be necessary for this score to our readers; along with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, it’s the composer’s most recognized and popular score, and has seen a variety of expanded releases over the years since it’s first meager 34-minute offering on United Artists LP in 1967, but Quartet’s 3-disc release last Christmas clearly takes the cake for the score’s broadest and most complete presentation to date. The first significant expanded release came from GDM in 2001, with 55-minutes of music, but that was still far from including all the material that Morricone had conceived for the film. Thanks to newly discovered original recording sessions vaulted in mono at MGM, which also include a large number of alternates, revised cues and music that was ultimately not included in the film, Quartet’s release is certainly the most inclusive and best-sounding presentation of this score yet, with 43 tracks comprising the full film score and alternate versions of 20 additional tracks. The third disc includes the original 11-track album for its historical value, although it has been remastered for the first time from the first-generation stereo master tapes and sounds better than ever. The main theme with its coyote howl and choir over a myriad of orchestral instruments, electric guitar, and various other sounds, is surely the most instantly recognizable and famous of Morricone’s themes, but the score as a whole contains a variety of additional themes, from the intoxicating and oft-covered “Ecstasy of Gold” to the lesser known theme for Tuco’s brother, the rich bugle calls of the “Carriage of the Spirits” theme, the recurring “Story of a Soldier” melody, to the sonic cameo of the pocket watch chime from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE in the midst of GBU’s extended final gunfight scene, and that scenes massive trumpet/piano/guitar (etc.) resolve. This is a must-have treasure for any soundtrack collection (the label recently reported receiving a new stock of the CDs after having sold out a first batch). Of special interest is the 24-page booklet with thorough liner notes by Tim Greiving, who offers a detailed analysis of the film and score, including quotes from an exclusive interview with Clint Eastwood given especially for this release, and a number of valuable quotes by Morricone from the 2019 book, Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words. Chris Malone, who did the mixing and mastering for this album, also provides notes on his restoration process.
LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION/Goldsmith/Varese Sarabande Deluxe 2CD
This 2003 mix of live action and classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters was Jerry Goldsmith’s final film score, a wild and crazy musical journey undertaken by the Looney Tunes characters in search for a man’s missing father and the mythical Blue Monkey diamond. The film was directed by Joe Dante, whose intentions to make a tribute to animation wizard Chuck Jones were undermined as he lost creative control over the project as contentious interference from various parties interfered with Dante’s best intentions, leaving him with little more than an aimless “gag-fest” that went from “location to location,” as Dante put it, without much of a coherent story to follow. Despite the disappointment in how the movie turned out, it’s true value lay in Jerry Goldsmith’s contribution via an exuberant cornucopia of manic musical accompaniment that bestowed the film with its honest wackiness, with references to Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott and reflections of his fellow film composers’ strewn throughout the mix, making this score and its soundtrack a continuously flowing current of musical gags, references, and even honestly dramatic music that makes for a vivid and exciting listening experience. As Daniel Schweiger writes in his very thorough liner notes for this album, “Where hitting every physical and verbal gag with a mallet would have been fine within the running course of a cartoon short, Jerry Goldsmith’s talent for thematically uniting a human-filled feature would be essential for this hybrid film. Here, he’d use elastically variable melodies and motifs that thematically grounded the gravity-defying characters, even as he was sure to use bursts of distinctly antic cartoon energy.” Having been originally released by Varese Sarabande in a pleasing 20-track collection of Goldsmith’s music in 2003, the label has expanded its offering with this deluxe edition proffering a whole 78 tracks spread across two discs, and including the original 20-track presentation in the mix along with it. The result is dazzling, but also bittersweet, as Goldsmith would die within eight months of completing the work. In fact, his failing health caused producers to bring in composer John Debney to complete the score on the film’s last reel. Fluent on scoring animation himself, Debney incorporated Jerry’s themes and added his own instincts for scoring animation to complete the project. In addition, Australian composer Cameron Patrick was also brought in to record his spot-on transcriptions of Stalling’s music (sheet music being non-existent) to the overall mix of the music. While the 2003 CD contained only Jerry’s music, this expanded deluxe edition includes the music that Patrick and Debney brought into the production, as well as swaths of music from Stalling and classical composers that was directly quoted from their sources. This, along with the first double-CD volume from Season 1, is plainly a must-have for any serious film score collector; it’s exciting, spirited, stimulating, emotive and impressionistic film music, a dizzying, dazzling, gorgeously demented voyage into musical pandemonium, but one that always keeps its course and delivers its heart-felt array with flair and artistry.
LOVE AND MONSTERS/Marco Beltrami & Marcus Trumpp/Quartet –
CD, Paramount - digital Directed by Michael Matthews (FIVE FINGERS FOR MARSEILLES ) and starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, and Ariana Greenblatt, LOVE AND MONSTERS takes place seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, during which Joel Dawson (O’Brien) along with the rest of humanity have been living underground while giant creatures infest the surface world. After reconnecting over radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee (Henwick), who is now just 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground and decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite the dangerous monsters that stand in his way. Beltrami and Trumpp combine forces to craft a powerful hybrid score, orchestrally performed by The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. The filmmakers vision “called for a hybrid approach to the score, where that epic, gothic orchestral sound had to go hand in hand with a more contemporary, modern-day one,” the composers write in their notes for the album booklet. The result is a fusion of atmospheric concepts melded with a classic symphonic palette that gave their score a splendid thematic approach. Their vigorous main theme for brass (“Apocalypse Theme”) is introduced in the prologue and rapidly grounds the story into its post-Monsterpocalypse environment, while our timid hero Joel is given a tentative, but ultimately heroic theme largely played on a Rhodes piano, the delicate resonance of a banjo is associated with the two above-ground dwellers who help Joel on his journey across monster territory. To provide a variety of sound structures for the creatures they encounter along the way, Beltrami and Trumpp experimented manipulated live recordings of insects and birds—even a bullfrog’s mating call—that were then “treated electronically and turned into tonal pads and subtle rhythms in a variety of ways for different sequences.” The result is a fine merging of the orchestral with the synthesized-organic, making a deliciously textured sonic voyage for the ears across the album’s soundscape. A thoroughly fun and enjoyable post-apocalypse musical mix for young love and oversized slimy, gooey, toothy, etcetera monsters. The CD album is available as a limited edition of 2000 copies only from Quartet Records.
Listen to the “Prologue” from LOVE AND MONSTERS from Paramount’s YouTube page:
NIGHT WATCH/DAY WATCH/Poteyenko/KeepMoving - cd
Russia’s Keep Moving Records soundtrack label has released on separate CDs the soundtracks to Timur Bekmambetov’s excellent NIGHT WATCH (2004; Nochnoy dozor) and its equally absorbing sequel DAY WATCH (2006; Dnevnoy dozor). Loosely based on the first two books in a series by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko (which runs half a dozen books to date), these two films form the first large-scale fantasy thriller made in Russia. Both films are set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime have agreed on a kind of uneasy truce, each keeping the relative peace in their own half of the day—the light side’s force was called The Night Watch, and the dark side’s was The Day Watch. The books chronicled the life of an alternative universe plagued with vampire lore and a constant battle between the light and the dark side. The films pared that down into two segments of the saga. Composer Yuri Poteyenko, who as Gergely Hubai notes in his comprehensive notes for each film and its score, can be credited for establishing the sound of Hollywood film scoring in Russian cinema, composed the scores for both films; while Russian rock, metal, and hip-hop songs also flourish among each film (in some cases displacing Poteyenko’s score). The first film’s prologue accompanies the bloody medieval battle that resulted in the pact made between the Others and created the separate factions of Light and Dark. The music here ranges from ancient-sounding woodwind performances to the full strength of live orchestra and choir. With the situation thus established, the music becomes more modern as the story moves close to the present with “The Call,” a powerful and diversified 7-minute cue which through a variety of measures and treatments introduces the main character of Anton, a Night Watch agent who is tasked with saving Egor, a boy who has fallen under the call of a vampire. With that, the story is set in motion and served by mostly shorter cues covering individual sequences and a variety of treatments until the final end conflict between Anton and his counterpart within the Day Watch; the telling of that central arc of the story is richly detailed, emotive, vastly supernatural, and with a range of orchestral music, both powerfully active (“Vortex Exorcism,” “Lift,” the climactic “Bloody Battle”) but also containing some very moving cues. “Near Death,” for example, is a richly poignant piece for orchestra, a haunting solo duduk, choir and solo voice; sans the choir and voice, the duduk is also powerfully felt in “Go There!” wherein Anton comforts a cursed woman; “The Prophecy Comes True” is another piece with a strongly felt emotive landscape, as is “The Choice,” when Egor faces the decision on which faction to join. Poteyenko’s final track for NIGHT WATCH, “Hope,” was meant for the end credits but wound up being replaced by various songs depending on the region the movie played in (it’s heard on the soundtrack album, and eventually made it into the end credits for the second film).
DAY WATCH chronicles the final showdown between Light and Dark Others, and with Anton trying to retrieve Egor from the Dark Others in the Day Watch. The film opens with its own prologue, “The Prophecy,” telling of the acquisition by 16th Century Turko-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane of the Chalk of Fate (which can turn time backwards). Anton wants to find the Chalk in order to erase the decision he made years ago that resulted in Egor’s joining the Day Watch. A couple of sub-plots add to the scenario, and Poteyenko’s music provides a variety of exotic layers to cover them all. “Tamerlane’s Tomb” is an especially redolent orchestral melody with a pleasing climactic resonance; “Changing Faces/Going To Party” contains some very powerful choral and orchestral gravitas, as does “Birthday Party” (which in the film is broken up by a number of source music cues). The second half of the film included some of the director’s biggest set pieces, with the combined track “Ride Through the Darkness/Trap/ The Battle” being one of the franchise’s most complicated musical cues (at c 0:50 the composer includes a couple phrases of the medieval “Dies Irae” which is always a strong piece to add to any supernatural battle), culminating in “Back to the Beginning,” a conclusive cue both resonant with passion and victory. The first half of the end credits (sans songs this time) contains the folksy tune “Driver Song,” and concludes with the poignant “Hope.” Both of these films are epic dark fantasy sagas exploring the struggle of good against evil in a unique fashion, giving Poteyenko a splendid opportunity to create grand themes, the poignant struggle of doomed romance, and plenty of thrilling battle music. These soundtracks to both films have been in the making for several years; both CDs come with generous booklets containing complete breakdowns of the score and the various versions of the film circulated on different markets, by writer Gergely Hubai. For details see KeepMoving Records – NIGHT WATCH, DAY WATCH.
THE ORVILLE Season 2/ La-La Land – CD This science fiction comedy-drama series continues to provide some of the best live orchestral scoring you’ll hear on TV these days, largely thanks to creator/writer/star Seth MacFarlane’s insistence on using live original orchestral scores, often in homage to the STAR TREK franchise, for every episode. This thorough, 2-CD soundtrack for the show is a symphonic delight with richly endowed harmonic melodies, textures, and frequent renditions of its eloquent, grand main theme, composed by Bruce Broughton. Suites from all 14 episodes from the show’s second season are bracketed by Broughton’s main theme, which for Season 2 was remixed by Shawn Murphy, who was the sole score mixer on the second season (it’s the same original recorded source as the Season 1 pilot, but remixed). The episode tracks represent anywhere from one to seven cues from each of the 14 episodes (the average being four), ranging from elegant, sweeping cadences (Debney’s delicate “Laura’s Theme” from episode 11, “Lasting Impressions;” McNeely’s “Hope For Alara/Amputation,” from episode 3, “Home;” Cottee’s “Protecting the Colony” from episode 12, “Sanctuary”), thrilling, action-oriented material (Debney’s “Saving The Orville” from episode 2, “Primal Urges;” McNeely’s “Battle for Earth” from episode 9, “Identity Part II” and his furious “Another Kaylon Attack” from episode 14, “The Road Not Taken;” Cottee’s “Testing Deflectors” from episode 7, “Deflectors”), to dark, tense mysteriosos (Debney’s “Kaylon's Dark Secret” from episode 8, “Identity, Part I;” Cottee’s “Locating Moclan Vessel” from episode 12, “Sanctuary”), and McNeely’s “Searching for the Orville” from episode 14, “The Road Not Taken). It’s a richly engaging score full of a variety of music worthy of repeated listening. The album booklet includes short notes by each of the composers on scoring this season. The album is produced by Dan Goldwasser, John Debney, Joel McNeely, and Andrew Cottee, mastered by Dave Collins and art designed by Goldwasser.
Listen to The Orville Main Title (Season 2 Shawn Murphy Mix):
A PERFECT PLANET/Ilan Eshkeri/Sony Music - digital
Ilan Eshkeri’s fourth collaboration with Sir David Attenborough resulted in this five-part documentary series that explores how forces of nature—volcanoes, sunlight, weather and oceans—drive, shape and, support Earth’s great diversity of wildlife. Its final episode examines the impact of humans on the natural world and asks what can be done to restore a perfect balance. The series includes stunning footage filmed in 31 countries across six continents. Of the soundtrack, Eshkeri says, “Creating the music for A PERFECT PLANET has been a hugely rewarding experience. The series celebrates the extraordinary world we are a part of as well as showing the delicate balance of the systems that support life, and what we need to do to ensure its future stability. It’s a message that’s very important to me and one that I believe we have a responsibility to engage with—in a way that not only educates but inspires the next generation. This influenced my approach to the music, and set me on an unconventional path. Composing the music for A PERFECT PLANET has also been enormously challenging—not least because of the unprecedented logistical issues of trying to record an orchestra during the lockdown! I’m grateful to everyone at the BBC and [production company] Silverback who supported me and the ideas I threw at them and I hope my music can play a small part in helping to inspire change.” The soundtrack begins with two cues that are generic to the program and applied as needed: a rather folksy melody beginning with piano and gradually adding in solo violin and vocalise, as if Eshkeri is exemplifying the human connection with the environment, reminding us of our part in the ongoing survival of our rotating orb in the main theme, “A Perfect Planet.” Then he perhaps suggests how that connection is played out more dramatically in the following album track, “A Perfect Balance,” which portrays our Earth’s perspective through majestic and wonderful full orchestra. Apart from these two themes, which can be used “wild” anywhere across the series’ five episodes, the score focuses on species or environments that are covered in the specific episodes (Eshkeri said in an interview [link below]: what’s “challenging about a series like this is you’re essentially writing 50 short films. Each animal character is its own story.”). So there are specific themes or passages for the segments about flamingos, volcanoes, wildebeests, sunlight, vampire finches, mangroves, manta rays, reforestation, Spring, sooty shearwaters, and so on, each with its own unique musical treatment and design. The music is delicate, delightful, and dramatic. Music for such evocative and stunningly photograph documentaries such as this have become so much more expressive and immersive in recent decades, and Eshkeri’s score is quite attractive and stimulating.
Read a very good interview with Eshkeri about scoring A PERFECT PLANET at flickeringmyth.
Listen to “A Perfect Balance” from A PERFECT PLANET via Sony Soundtracks YouTube page:
VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT (1957)/Albert Glasser/Kronos – CD The consummate B-movie composer Albert Glasser (1916-1998) is seeing something of a renaissance with a recent two-score reissue from Dragon’s Domain with more to come, and this world premiere soundtrack release (in any form) of this 1957 Viking adventure film score—and if you think the short title is a mouthful, be advised the film’s original full title was THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT—a bigger mouthful even than the oddball THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES from 1964 (which, by the way, has a wacky score by Libby Quinn and André Brummer which has yet to be released on its own). But I digress. Glasser’s VIKING WOMAN is a low budget orchestral gem, an A-quality score from the tail end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. This Roger Corman-directed film is kind of unique by 1957 standards, being essentially a feminist Viking warrior story, although knowing Corman it’s likely made for more prurient and exploitative reasons (as perhaps suggested by the film’s centerpiece, the Dance of Desire [track 11, “The Bacchanal”]). Either way, Glasser provides a tremendous heroic gravitas that would fit any Viking warrior story, masculine or feminine. The score’s main theme begins with a cluster of low brasses then gives way to a three-note ascending herald for French horn (somewhat reminiscent of what Mario Nascimbene would do with his three-note opening of his score for 1958’s THE VIKINGS, although he then takes it into a different tonal structure after what’s called the horn signal). Glasser’s motif goes into a series of clashing brasses and drum-driven horn progressions punctuated by smashing cymbals, slow and steady as if following the cadence of the rowing crews on the deck of a Viking ship. “They Throw The Spears” is an elegant string-driven arrangement, a calm tribute to Viking warriors. “They Build and Launch The Boat” is an energetic track that celebrates the creation and launching of the ship, and once at sea, there’s plenty of adventure to be had, to which Glasser bestows plenty of gusto and serenity alike. Tracks like “The Shark,” “Into The Vortex,” “Lightning Strikes,” the martial tempo of “The Burial Pit,” and “Escape to the Ship,” are brimming with symphonic fury, while tension abounds in “The Escape” and “The Sea At Night,” and an entwining solo violin melody encapsulates “The Dark One” (the only Viking woman not a blonde). Glasser reprises his main theme in the Cormanesque “Papa Grimlet Meets The Girls” and there’s a terrific fight cue titled, no doubt with tongue in cheek by Glasser, as “Doug Fairbanks The Second.” The titular Sea Serpent doesn’t have a theme, and in fact only has a cameo in the film, despite the promise of its verbose title (although in truth Corman only promised a voyage into “the waters of the Great Sea Serpent” and never actually guaranteed us a serpent with a starring role). The monophonic sound is flat but acceptable (the moody cues fair the best, sonically); Glasser’s powerful score remains impressive and dynamic despite its lack of dimensionality.
Kronos’ CD contains all the surviving music for the film, which is considered to be the most of it. It’s available now in a limited edition of just 500 copies. To order or to sample tracks, see kronosrecords.
Revel to the film’s trailer, which includes snippets of Glasser’s main theme:
WANDAVISION Volumes 1-4/Christophe Beck, et al/Marvel Music/Hollywood Records - digital
The first four episode soundtrack albums for Marvel Studios’ Disney+ series WANDAVISION have been released, with five more to come (like the first season of THE MANDALORIAN, Disney is issuing a soundtrack for each episode rather than a single album covering selections from the entire season.; releasing them the Friday after the premiere of each episode). The scores for each episode are composed by Christophe Beck (ANT-MAN, EDGE OF TOMORROW, FROZEN), with Michael Paraskevas and Alex Kovacs assisting as co-composers, while the original theme songs featured in the episodes were written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez (FROZEN, COCO). The concept of WANDAVISION is far different from the typical Marvel feature films, despite a clear connection between the two. Set three weeks after the events of AVENGERS: ENDGAME, Wanda Maximoff and Vision are living an idyllic suburban life in the town of Westview, trying to conceal their powers. As they begin to enter new decades and encounter television tropes, the couple suspects that things are not as they seem. The first three episodes find them living as if they are in sitcoms from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, respectively; not until episode 4 does the situation pull back and begin to show what’s happening beyond Westview’s impenetrable borders with an opening segment directly tied to events from ENDGAME. It’s a deliciously creative concept and a unique story construct. The music of the first three episodes largely followed the style of the sitcom era the episode was spoofing. Episode 4 gives us a full album of dramatic film score as the confrontation between outside forces and what’s happening inside Westview becomes more evident. For their faux TV sitcom themes, Lopez and Anderson-Lopez came up with a four-note motif that could be used in each of the theme songs, allowing flexibility in style and form while permitting enough variation to make each one unique and suitable for the musical needs of the given era, and these are just a ton of fun, especially for those oldies among us (gingerly raising my hand…) who grew up with those old shows.
“We wanted to have an optimistic group of voices singing jazzily (though not too jazzily!) about the love between these two—and the main question of the first episode, whether two Avengers in love can pass for normal in a typical American suburb,” said Anderson-Lopez in a press release. Robert Lopez described the second episode’s theme as sexier and flirtier: “We decided to put lots of raunchy trombones commenting,” he said, “and in one part we also used my favorite ‘60s keyboard sound, the RMI Rock-si-chord (a sort of electric organ harpsichord sound).” Beck composed and produced all score tracks on each WANDAVISION album. On composing unique scores for all nine episodes, Beck said “For each era, the music is a loving homage to the sitcom scores typical of the time period. This involved not only the instrumentation, but also the composition style.” According to Beck, the score features instruments that were typical of the era being represented in a given episode. Early episodes feature small orchestral ensembles, while later episodes embrace a rock-pop style. Beck also utilized period-specific recording and mixing techniques to achieve the authenticity filmmakers wanted.
The town of Westview’s magical musical range is enjoyable, even nostalgic; the journey taken by the songs and scores for each time period in the WandaVision storyline is unique and fun, and when it begins to merge with the real world beyond its borders and the more familiar MCU-styled music enters the story, things take new forms and form new jeopardies both for those within Westview and the agents outside trying to evaluate and restore what’s happening within. It’s all Unique with a capitol “U” and a very original take on its subject matter, which the music fits to a capitol “T.”
Listen to Christophe Beck’s dramatic turn-of-events cue, “Who Are You?,” from WANDAVISION: Episode 4 (where Wanda confronts Rambeau):
R.I.P. to Perseverance Records’ Social Media Director of 13 years, Carla Zienneker, who passed away on January 25th at the age of 78. Carla joined the soundtrack label in 2007 to manage the company’s Social Media sites. “She did an amazing job and was so good that actually a few of our artists hired her to do their Social Media,” label owner Robin Esterhammer wrote in a Facebook post. “She was always overworked and always underpaid. We will miss her.” As will those of us who benefitted from her news and enthusiasm for her efforts in supporting film music.
The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announces its list of nominees for excellence in musical scoring in 2020, for the 17th annual IFMCA Awards. British composer Daniel Pemberton and German composer Hans Zimmer lead the field with the most number of nominations, each receiving a total of five. In addition, this year the comedy category is dominated by women composers, and the first ever Japanese film was nominated for Score Of The Year. The International Film Music Critics Association will announce the winners of the 17th IFMCA Awards on February 18, 2021.
Read the full details at IFMCA.
The 2020 Hollywood Music in Media Awards virtual streamed show on January 27th was a tremendous success. Some of the industry’s finest talent participated and were rightfully recognized. Among the winning awards were Carlos Rafael Rivera THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT for Outstanding Score – TV Show/Limited Series, Nathan Barr HOLLYWOOD for Outstanding Main Title Theme - TV Show/Limited Series, Lolita Ritmanis BLIZZARD OF SOULS (DV?SE?U PUTENIS) for Outstanding Score/Independent Film (Foreign Language), Rod Lurie, Larry Groupé, Rita Wilson “Everybody Cries” from THE OUTPOST for Outstanding Song/Independent Film, and John Paesano MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES for Outstanding Score/Video Game. See the HMMA website for the complete list of winners.
British composer Anne Nikitin (THE IMPOSTER, AMERICAN ANIMALS) has composed an evocative, textural, and magical mix of live instruments and synths for the newly-released Netflix series FATE: THE WINX SAGA, a live-action reimagining of the popular 2004-2019 Italian animated series WINX CLUB. Nikitin’s score for the WINX series is an evocative, textural, and magical mix of live instruments and synths that provide an engaging soundscape for the fairy’s Otherworld and the teenage students learning their fairycraft at Alfea, only to have it interrupted by deadly creatures called Burned Ones, whose purpose remains a mystery. The music forms a rich tapestry of mood, melody, and menace.
Read my interview with Nikitin about scoring the WINX series at musiquefantastique.
Lakeshore Records has released the original series soundtrack to BRIARPATCH, featuring score by Giancarlo Vulcano (UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, 30 ROCK). The 12-track soundtrack to the USA Network series, starring Rosario Dawson, is available now on all major digital music services. Described as “a southwestern version of TWIN PEAKS” by The Hollywood Reporter, the 2019 series follows a senator’s aide who returns to her small corrupt hometown near the U.S.-Mexico border to investigate the death of her sister—a local cop killed by a car bomb—when she unravels a complex web of lies, crimes and conspiracies. The digital soundtrack is available here.
On January 15th, Lakeshore Records digitally released the lead single “The Comedown” by Henry Jackman (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, BIG HERO 6) from the highly-anticipated Apple Original film from the Russo Brothers, CHERRY. The single will be available exclusively on Apple Music for 60 days before becoming available to all other DSPs on March 19th, 2021. In the film, Tom Holland plays an Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt. Elaborating on the single, Jackman stated, “THE COMEDOWN represents the thematic climax of the score for the movie CHERRY. For me, the challenge was to match with music the consummate ending to the film that the Russo Brothers had created. In order to achieve that, the final piece had to be stirring and cathartic, but also philosophically and emotionally ambiguous.” Purchase & Stream “The Comedown” on Apple Music.
In other Jackman news, he’s scored Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ original series THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER. The six-episode show stars Anthony Mackie (as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon), Sebastian Stan (as Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier), Daniel Brühl (as Sokovian terrorist Baron Helmut Zemo, who was responsible for the Avengers’ breakup in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and Emily VanCamp (as Sharon Carter, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Peggy Carter’s niece). The new series is scheduled to premiere on March 19, 2021 on Disney+, and will be part of Phase Four of the MCU.
Austin Wintory is scoring the upcoming British prison drama IRE. The film marks the directorial debut of actor Ross McCall and stars Craig Fairbrass, Stephen Odubola, and Jason Flemyng. Fairbrass plays a 50-year-old dangerous prisoner, incarcerated for double murder in a maximum security prison, who struggles against the system and his inner turmoil, when a young black gang member becomes his unlikely new cell mate and a daughter he has never met finally requests to meet her estranged father. IRE is currently in post-production and is expected to premiere later this year. – via filmmusicreporter
Along with their Deluxe CD reissue of LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (see review above), Varèse Sarabande Records second CD Club for January is BABE (The Deluxe Edition), composed by Nigel Westlake. The film was a massive surprise hit in 1995, about a farm pig who longs to be a sheepdog. A major part of BABE’s exquisite, perfectly pitched storybook tone is the charming, resonant symphonic score by Australian composer Nigel Westlake, who interpolated a tapestry of classical works to perfectly capture the human emotions of the film’s animal characters, while ironically treating the humans with an animal-like comedy and whimsy. BABE was released as a music-and-dialogue album at the time of the film; this CD Club edition features the expanded score as music only.
New Zealand composer Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper (FANTAIL, HOUSEBOUND, THE LEGEND OF BARON TO’A) has scored the epic action/horror/World War 2 film, SHADOW IN THE CLOUD, from the producers of ATOMIC BLONDE and DEADPOOL 2. Directed by Roseanne Liang, the film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a female Flight Officer who joins the all-male crew of a B-17 bomber with a top-secret package, and then encounters an evil presence on board the flight. Mahuia holds a Masters of Music in performance violin and after finishing his studies in Sydney, Australia, he came home to set up shop as a composer/producer. He currently resides in Auckland, New Zealand. SHADOW IN THE CLOUD is now available on Amazon Prime and Vudu. Endeavor Content has released the film’s original motion picture soundtrack—available now digitally on all major digital music services. For purchase links, see here. Watch the film’s exciting trailer here.
Invada Records and Lakeshore Records have released Bobby Krlic’s original soundtrack to the second season of the TV series THE ALIENIST: ANGEL OF DARKNESS, available now on all major digital music services. The period drama television series, based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Caleb Carr, stars Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning as an ad hoc team assembled in mid-1890s New York City to investigate a serial killer who is murdering street children. The 2020 sequel series premiered on July 19, 2020 follows newspaper illustrator John Moore and criminal psychologist (alienist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler who investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century. The first season was scored by Rupert Gregson-Williams and a soundtrack was released in 2018 by Lakeshore. Purchase Krlic’s 2nd Season digital album here. A vinyl release is forthcoming.
Mark Isham has composed the score for Shaka King’s JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, which tells the story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal. Listen to a sample from the score, via Isham’s YouTube page:
WaterTower Music has released two new soundtrack albums for the CW drama RIVERDALE. The albums feature selections of the original score from the third and fourth season of the show composed by Blake Neely (THE FLASH, ARROW, GREYHOUND, THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, BATWOMAN) and Sherri Chung (BATWOMAN, THE LOST HUSBAND, ONLY HUMANS). The label has previously released two score albums for Seasons 1 and 2, as well as multiple soundtracks featuring the songs from all seasons.
WaterTower Music has also released WONDER WOMAN 1984 (Sketches From The Soundtrack) – a digital album featuring the music of Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer separate from Zimmer’s WONDER WOMAN 1984 original motion picture soundtrack (reviewed in my December 2020 column). The release of Zimmer’s Sketches From The Soundtrack is distinct as it provides listeners the rare opportunity to hear the iconic composer’s ideas while en route to his final WONDER WOMAN 1984 score. Fans get a unique “behind the scenes” glimpse at Zimmer’s musical creative sketchbook—the process, writing, ideas, and the production—via tracks that, although not utilized in the film in these arrangements, inform the final score. This album is a foretaste into an important component of the way Zimmer develops film music, which is not often made available to fans. Astute enthusiasts may hear elements within these 11 tracks that landed in the final score, via reinterpolations and/or shifts in production techniques.
The digital album is now available at these links.
Dubois Records has released a soundtrack album for the BBC and Netflix limited series THE SERPENT, featuring selections of the show’s original music composed by Dominik Scherrer (THE MISSING, PRIMEVAL, RIPPER STREET, MARPLE). The 8-part drama series tells the true story of Charles Sobhraj, a murderer, thief, and seductive master of disguise who was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travelers on Asia’s hippie trail in the mid-70s. “This is a real story: a very fascinating one, but also an extremely disturbing and frightening one,” Scherrer said. “The victims were real, and some of the characters are still alive. The material needed to be treated with respect and sensationalism avoided. Lead director Tom Shankland and I already discussed this project five years ago. It had been in preparation for a long time. In terms of the music, Tom wanted the story to be told through a haze of psychedelic 1970s upheaval: drugs, ruthless politics, the old world order changed. For a story set in the 70s, it would have been all too easy to resort to cliches such as funky Wah-wah guitars. We wanted the music to live in this tumultuous, cultural restlessness, and to create an environment where Sobhraj’s brutality could breed and go undetected for so long. Charles Sobhraj was an admirer of Nietzsche, dominating and subjugating his victims, as if he saw himself perhaps as the superior ‘Ubermensch’. I was keen to infuse the musical strands with a kind of Zarathustran drive to banish otherworldly values. The young hippies were in search of these otherworldly values, they wanted to explore the teachings of Eastern spirituality, and Sobhraj put a brutal end to their journeys.” The Mammoth Screen production currently airs in the UK every Sunday night on BBC One and will premiere worldwide on Netflix later this year.
Lakeshore Records has released the original series soundtrack to the miniseries THE STAND, with music by Nathaniel Walcott and Mike Mogis—both members of the band Bright Eyes. Developed by Josh Boone & Benjamin Cavell and based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, the series is described as “King's apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied by a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the nefarious Dark Man.” The production features Stephen King’s son Owen King as a producer and writer, and includes a new ending written by Stephen King. Walcott and Mogis have contributed to most of Josh Boone’s other works; their score ranges from intimate acoustic guitar-based themes to menacingly droning cues that encompass the wide range of moods in the miniseries. The soundtrack is available here.
Lakeshore Records has also released the soundtrack to the second season of SERVANT, the Apple original series from Academy Award-nominated director and executive producer M. Night Shyamalan. Written and created by Tony Basgallop, the second season of the acclaimed series premiered January 15 on Apple TV+, and new episodes premiere every Friday. The music is again by Trevor Gureckis (THE GOLDFINCH, VOYAGERS, BLOODLINE) who has approached the music with a fresh, increased intensity as the series has evolved to a new level of horror. The series follows Dorothy and Sean Turner, a Philadelphia couple who hire a girl named Leanne to be the nanny for their baby son, Jericho. Leanne’s arrival brings about strange and frightening occurrences for the couple.
For purchase and listening links, see here.
Italy’s Beat Records offers a expanded CD reissue of Ennio Morricone’s memorable Western score DA UOMO A UOMO (aka DEATH RIDES A HORSE), a Western film directed in 1967 by Giulio Petroni and starring Lee Van Cleef, John Phillip Law, and Mario Brega. “Morricone perfectly managed to describe all the emotions of the hero’s revenge against those who massacred his family by creating a recurring main theme in an aggressive ride for guitars and rhythm section, complete with the accompaniment of the choir of Cantori Moderni,” writes the label. Representing one of the composer’s most iconic scores for the Western genre, this new CD reissue incorporates the mono masters from the original recording sessions as well as the surviving stereo mixes, for a total duration of 75:00. For more details, see beatrecords.it
Marco Beltrami’s unofficial website, managed by Petr Kocanda, reports on his forthcoming scoring assignments: “With the number of delayed projects that have been completed last year, 2021 should bring plenty of new projects hopefully accompanied by score albums as well: AMERICAN NIGHT - the score was completed last Fall. Release date announced for Italy only (March 4th), although it may possibly appear at various festivals; CHAOS WALKING - co-composed with Brandon Roberts. The score was completed in Spring/early Summer 2020. Lionsgate is expected to release the movie on March 5th but this date may change. A QUIET PLACE: PART II - the score was recorded in February 2020 and the movie has been delayed several times since. Paramount is currently expecting to release the film on September 17th. Soundtrack album is coming from Paramount Music (iTunes), it remains to be seen if another label will release it physically; VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE - currently in the works. Very little is known about the movie, which is set for release on June 25th; FEAR STREET Trilogy - co-composed with Anna Drubich. Netflix will release all three parts of the trilogy this summer. For more details, see marco-beltrami.com
Jon Opstad’s score for the BBC One period drama series, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, from 2018, has been released by Manners Mcdade Music Publishing. The soundtrack is available to stream and download from Amazon, Apple Music, and other major digital platforms. Read the composer’s online blog about his scoring process on this film, here.
Milan Records today announces the February 12 release of the original soundtrack to MINARI with music by award-winning composer Emile Mosseri (THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, KAJILLIONAIRE). Available for preorder now, the album features score music written by Mosseri for director Lee Isaac Chung’s family drama. The resulting 16-track collection is an emotionally evocative body of music that enhances the film’s intimate storytelling. A tender and sweeping story about a Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, MINARI shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. Of the soundtrack, Mosseri says, “Working with Lee Isaac Chung on Minari was the purest collaboration. Isaac made a gorgeous film about his childhood, and it was an exciting challenge to try and musically personify something as visceral and emotionally-loaded as childhood memory. He invited me into his filmmaking process at the script stage which was a first for me and a dream. I’m grateful that my music found a home in his profoundly honest, vulnerable and deeply poetic film.”
See links to listen or purchase here. A24 will release the film nationwide starting February 12, 2021.
Milan Records also announces the February 5 release of LITTLE FISH original motion picture soundtrack with music by composer Keegan Dewitt. Available for preorder now, the album features music from the sci-fi pandemic romance and 2020 Tribeca Film Festival standout directed by Chad Hartigan, and marks the fourth score collaboration between longtime friends DeWitt and Hartigan. Starring Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Raúl Castillo and Soko, the film follows one couple who, as a memory loss virus runs rampant, fights to hold their relationship together before the disease can erase all memory of their love in this sweeping sci-fi romance. Keegan DeWitt is one of the more versatile and exciting young composers working in film and TV in 2020. Whether adding a refreshing voice to larger projects at HBO, Showtime and FOX, or collaborating alongside notable independent filmmakers; Keegan Dewitt’s work crosses a large tapestry of styles and demands attention with its originality and emotion. LITTLE FISH will make its debut in select theaters and on VOD nationwide February 5 from IFC Films.
Also coming from Milan on February 5th is the original motion picture soundtrack music for the romantic sci-fi thriller BLISS, featuring the with music by composer, multi-instrumentalist, and Fall On Your Sword founder Will Bates. Included within the 24-track album is a new original song entitled “You And I,” which features vocals from Skye Edwards of Morcheeba. BLISS is now showing on Prime Video and in select theaters from Amazon Studios. Get the album from these links.
Sonor Music Editions has issued some notable previously-unreleased Italian soundtracks in digital form, including Ennio Morricone’s very early score to I DUE EVASI DI SING SING (1964; Two Escape from Sing Sing), which is also on Spotify. Alessandro Alessandroni’s delightful lounge/jazz score for the erotic thriller LA PROFESSORESSA DI SCIENZE NATURALI (1976, The Professor of Natural Sciences; see also vinyl news below) and several non soundtrack albums by Alessandroni are also available. Additional digital/streaming Morricone scores have been released by Decca (UMO) Classics (CAM), including L’AUTOMOBILE (1971), LA SCIANTOSA (1971), a 20-track expanded INCONTRO (1971), CORREVA L’ANNO DI GRAZIA 1870 (1972; It was the Year of Grace 1870), and others. Most can be found on Amazon or Apple Music.
- via Jon Mansell’s Soundtrack Supplement #33
Thomas Newman has reunited with director John Madden (he scored Madden’s THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL and its sequel, and THE DEBT) to score the forthcoming war drama OPERATION MINCEMEAT. Starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, the film is based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. It takes place in 1943 when the Allies are determined to launch an all-out assault on Fortress Europe; two intelligence officers concoct a disinformation strategy aimed at preventing their massive invasion force from being massacred by German soldiers and planes when they touch down on the continent. -via filmmusicreporter
Plaza Mayor has released a soundtrack to Pablo Aguero film AKELARRE (COVEN), composed by Aránzazu Calleja and Maite Arroitajauregi (MURSEGO), performed by Alos Quartet. The adventure film takes place in Basque Country, 1609. Ana, Katalin and their friends are suddenly arrested and accused of a crime they know nothing about: witchcraft. Commissioned by the king to purify the region, Judge Pierre de Rosteguy de Lancre does not doubt their guilt. Whatever they say, they are called witches. All they have to do is become one.
Watch the film trailer:
Fernando Velázquez’s acclaimed score for HBO’s PATRIA (2020), a Spanish historical drama web television limited series about two families affected by terrorism in the Basque Country, has been released online via Apple Music. A CD edition will be released shortly from Quartet Records.
Film composer Maximilien Mathevon has released a new non-film electronic music album called Memory Fast Lane, which will be available through the Plaza Mayor Company on January 29. “It’s an album I began working on during the first lockdown in France in April,’ Mathevon told Soundtrax. “It was the result of a need to break the slow routine of these days. Therefore the main thematic element is the dance and the energy—the need to move, to live; yet in a difficult context. The situation hasn’t really been improving, sadly... This need of energy is still relevant!”
Notefornote music has released a 24/48khz digital soundtrack to AT THE END OF THE WORLD a 12-minute short film directed by Fon Davis, best known as an acclaimed visual effects artists. The film follows John, a soldier in the world’s last war, who finds his true love Sara while watching footage of wild animals from a world gone by. He vows to always be there for her, even as the world burns around them. The film features a beautiful and moving, multi-award winning score by composer Edwin Wendler (DEAD ANT, ESCAPE, DRAGON SOLDIERS). See notefornote.
To celebrate Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s legacy, Silva Screen has released their 4th release of Barry Gray’s music from the Anderson’s iconic TV shows in CD, digital and vinyl formats. FIREBALL XL5 follows the label’s previous releases of UFO, SUPERCAR, and THUNDERBIRDS soundtracks. Like the previous three, this one is newly compiled, mastered, and designed by the creative team at Fanderson - The Official Gerry And Sylvia Anderson Appreciation Society. Fireball XL5 was set in 2062 and followed the exploits of the eponymous spaceship commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. It was produced, like most other Anderson productions, in Supermarionation, using puppetry techniques that captured the imagination of a generation. The album features 24 tracks from 16 episodes, including the FIREBALL XL5 main theme and single version. In the opening theme, Barry Gray employs, for the first time, the Ondes Martenot, bringing an eerie and other-worldly sound to the series. The contrast of detached electronic music with the jazzy musical language served as a perfect juxtaposition of the alien and human worlds. Each episode would finish with the “Fireball” pop song, sung by Don Spencer, bringing the viewer back to the warmth of their 60s lounge. The album is available in digital, CD, and vinyl formats – see silvascreen.com
Cinema-KAN Records of Japan has announced the world premiere release of original soundtracks from two mystery films of the Kosuke Kindaichi detective TV series THE MUMMY BRIDE and THE HEAD (Gokumoniwa No Kubi) broadcast in 1983 and 1984. Based on the fictional Japanese detective created by renowned mystery novelist Seishi Yokomizo, the TV series starred Ikko Furuya as Kosuke Kindaichi and featured music composed by Takeo Watanabe (MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, LONE WOLF AND CUB). The music from both episodes are featured on the album, which is available from Ark Square and other sources.
Lakeshore Records has released the original soundtrack to OUR FRIEND featuring the uniquely orchestrated score by Rob Simonsen (GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, FOXCATCHER, THE SPECTACULAR NOW). Created with the help of the London Contemporary Orchestra, the score explores themes of life, love, and friendship in unexpected and impressionistic ways mixing sublime orchestrations with acoustic flourishes. The film is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (MEGAN LEAVEY, BLACKFISH) is based on the National Magazine Award-winning story by Matthew Teague and starring Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, and Casey Affleck.
The soundtrack is available now at these links.
La-La Land Records has announced its February soundtrack releases: Quincy Jones’ music to BANNING, a 1967 romantic drama starring Robert Wagner, Anjanette Comer, and Jill St. John. This is the latest entry in the Universal Pictures Film Music Classics Collection, in a limited edition of 3000 Units; and Christopher Young’s music to HARD RAIN, the 1998 crime drama starring Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid. This one is a limited edition of 1000 units.
James Wan’s new horror movie MALIGNANT was to have been released into theaters last August, but things being what they are, delays occurred. Warner Bros/New Line has now scheduled the film for release on September 10, 2021. “Described as an original thriller not based on any existing IP,” wrote John Squires on the Bloody Disgusting website, “we’re told that the film is going to be part of the Giallo sub-genre. MALIGNANT’s plot is being kept under wraps.” Wan’s frequent collaborator Joseph Bishara has scored the picture.
Bear McCreary is scheduled to score the original animated series MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION. The film is an animated reboot of the classic Masters of the Universe franchise focusing on unresolved stories of the iconic characters, picking up where they left off decades ago. The film is expected to premiere later this year on Netflix.
Lakeshore Records announced he release of the soundtrack to THE MARKSMAN, featuring music by Emmy Award-winning composer Sean Callery (HOMELAND, JESSICA JONES, 24). Callery’s expansive yet intimate score reflects both the high drama of the action thriller as well as the personal connection of the two protagonists. The story tells of a rancher on the Arizona border who becomes the unlikely defender of a young Mexican boy desperately fleeing the cartel assassins who’ve pursued him into the U.S. The film is directed by Robert Lorenz and starring Liam Neeson. The digital album is available at these links.
Intrada’s latest release, from January, is the complete Carter Burwell soundtrack for PSYCHO III, on 2 CDs. The second modern sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous thriller in 1960, finds infamous motel proprietor and serial killer Norman Bates in 1986, returning for third tale, as Anthony Perkins not only gives us renewed look at Norman but is also occupying the director’s chair this go-around. PSYCHO III also gave composer Carter Burwell his first big studio feature. He created his own voice to franchise’s musical signature with a sparse primary theme built from repeating minor-key chord progression colored by electronic pizzicato string effects, subtle choral fragments. For details, see Intrada.
Quartet Records latest release is Almodóvar & Iglesias: Film Music Collection, a mammoth 12-CD box set that compiles revised and remastered editions of all the soundtracks from the films on which director Pedro Almodóvar and composer Alberto Iglesias have worked together—a partnership that celebrates 25 years of uninterrupted collaboration this year. This collection is an updated reissue of the label’s the earlier 11-CD edition which has been meticulously remastered and each of the 12 CDs are enclosed in individual cardboard sleeves.
For more details, see Quartet.
Award-winning composer Nainita Desai has composed the music for the Sundance 2020 winning feature documentary film THE REASON I JUMP and her score has already been nominated for both a BIFA and Cinema Eye Honors Award for Best Music Score. Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world. Like the book upon which the film is based, Desai’s score opens a door to a constellation of divergent ways of experiencing reality. The aim was to evoke the intense sensory worlds described in the book with a Dolby Atmos 360 soundtrack. Distinctions were made between the musical worlds of the different characters in the soundtrack, using different instrumentation. True to the film’s themes, Nainita sought authenticity towards autism and neurodiversity, Elisabeth Wiklander, cellist with the LPO is autistic and a cultural ambassador for the National Autistic Society and her contribution brought great sensitivity and perception. Mercury KX will release a soundtrack of Desai’s score on April 16th. In the meantime, watch a music video by Nainita Desai performing her cue from the score, “Beauty Is In The Detail” below:
Not technically a documentary but a biopic, SON OF THE SOUTH, composed by Steven Argila (composer of BASMATI BLUES, music producer: SYLVIE’S LOVE) has been released by Lakeshore Records. In this poignant true story set in Montgomery, Alabama, a Klansman’s grandson must choose which side of history to be on during the Civil Rights Movement. Defying his family and white Southern norms, he fought against social injustice, repression and violence to change the world around him. SON OF THE SOUTH is from executive producer Spike Lee and based on Bob Zellner’s autobiography, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek. Album available at these links.
Watch the trailer at YouTube.
Varèse Sarabande has issued a vinyl release of the soundtrack for the Netflix film THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, written and directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Aaron Sorkin (MOLLY’S GAME, THE SOCIAL NETWORK). The vinyl tracklist is comprised of ten original score selections by three-time Golden Globe®-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton and two original songs performed by breakthrough Polydor recording artist Celeste. The LP is now available for pre-order today and will be released on February 26—the weekend of the Golden Globes, where the soundtrack is a contender for the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories, and the film itself is expected to receive multiple nominations. An exclusive sky blue-colored vinyl will be available only at Target.com. The soundtrack to the film is also available on digital platforms and CD.
The atmospheric score by Giuliano Sorgini (THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE) for the 1975 Italy occult horror film, UN URLO DALLE TENEBRE (The Return of the Exorcist; issued on CD by Digitmovies in 2016), has been released on vinyl from Sonor Music Editions, also orderable from Amazon. The label is also releasing the premiere vinyl soundtrack by Alessandro Alessandroni for the erotic thriller LA PROFESSORESSA DI SCIENZE NATURALI (1976). The LP, available on January 22, can be ordered from Amazon here. Selections can also be previewed as a suite on Soundcloud here.
Quartet Records and GDM present the first vinyl edition of the Ennio Morricone score for SENZA MOVENTE (aka SANS MOBILE APPARENT), a 1971 French crime thriller. Morricone’s score perfectly captures the paranoia taking over the French Riviera with an eerie main theme adorned with the whistling of Alessandro Alessandroni and a distinctive mellophone solo by Maria Verzella. SENZA MOVENTE offers tuneful diversions for the investigation, including two powerful montage cues which appear in the film with no overlapping dialogue or effects. This LP has been restored and specially mastered for vinyl from the original stereo master tapes. A limited edition of 300 units. See Quartet.
Waxwork Records presents the vinyl edition of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER original motion picture soundtrack. Available for the very first time since 1990, this deluxe vinyl release features the complete soundtrack with score cues by Robert McNaughton, Steven A. Jones, and Ken Hale. Starring Michael Rooker and Tom Towles, the 1986 film is a psychological horror crime film directed and co-written by John McNaughton. The movie is loosely based on convinced real life serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole. The score features primitive synth drones, ambient electronic cues, hard pounding drum machines, warbling synth bass, bar room jukebox rock ‘n roll, and dialogue tracks. The music has been re-mastered for vinyl and the album features 180 Gram “Crime Scene” colored vinyl (crystal clear with blood red smears) and printed inserts.
This item is a pre-order and is expected to ship February, 2021.
In other news, Waxwork Records has announced that, beginning January 22nd, all Waxwork releases will be packaged with MOFI Original Master Sleeves. The anti-static, archival quality, non-scratch sleeves are the gold standard and will protect the vinyl discs much better than paper sleeves. “We are excited to offer this deluxe addition to our releases for you!” writes the label.
Scored to Death 2:
More Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers By J. Blake Fichera
Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2020
494 pages, 9x6, paperback, $24.95
In the sequel to J. Blake Fichera’s popular 2016 first volume, Scored to Death 2 offers a much welcome compendium of new interviews with 16 more film composers who have specialized in or made significant contributions to horror film music. The second book is larger by more than 100 pages than the first, containing fascinating and in-depth interviews with such horror score notables as Richard Band, Charlie Clouser, Michael Abels, Joseph LoDuca, Koji Endo, Brad Fiedel, Bear McCreary, Craig Safan, Holly Amber Church, Kenji Kawai, and many others, offering a provocative and quite fascinating journey into the making of music for this broadly specialized form of filmmaking. As a musician and film editor, Fichera knows the kind of questions to ask that will prompt memories and generate comprehensive discussions, illuminating not only the menacing musical mores of scare cinema, but in-depth details about the horror scores these ladies and gentlemen of the baton and/or the battery of electronica have created. From classics of a few decades back like CREEPSHOW, RE-ANIMATOR, DAY OF THE DEAD, DARK SHADOWS, THE TERMINATOR, to more recent chillers like GET OUT, IT FOLLOWS, SADAKO VS. KAYAKO, HAPPY DEATH DAY, GRETEL & HANSEL, DEATH NOTE, and much more, Fichera asks provocative questions that stimulate comprehensive answers.
The horror genre is booming these days, and has grown into a multiplicity of categorical sub-genres; with this growth, composers and musicians around the world have found new styles and innovations in musical sound that expands the immersive experience of watching scary movies. Scored to Death 2 follows on the popularity of Fichera’s first volume by providing an ongoing conversational examination about the art and science of fright films which is both intriguing and instructive. It will answer questions about the how and why behind some of the most powerful and affecting scare scores of recent decades, which will educate and enlighten fans and followers of these films while also offering insights and inspiration for those seeking to follow in the haunted footsteps of these music makers into the horrific halls of fearful film scoring.
Five years since the rebooted STAR WARS™: BATTLEFRONT series debuted, Walt Disney Records has released STAR WARS™: BATTLEFRONT and STAR WARS™: BATTLEFRONT II original video game soundtracks, featuring award-winning scores from composer Gordy Haab. The albums are the audio companion pieces to the critically-acclaimed action shooter games from Electronic Arts Inc. Both scores were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and The London Voices Choir at Abbey Road Studios. They have garnered award wins for Haab including Music of the Year and Best Interactive Score from the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.). “I consider composing the original score for EA's Star Wars™: Battlefront series one of my greatest accomplishments,” stated Haab. “Creating new music for a game with such high expectations was a colossal task, only made more daunting by my own passion and desire to pay honor to my favorite franchise. And for this reason, I poured a lifetime of love into every note. As did the orchestra who performed it—and every person who helped bring the music to life!”
Listen to or purchase STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT from these links and BATTLEFRONT II from these links.
Austin Wintory just released AGOS: A Game of Space: in the year 2057, Earth is doomed. In a desperate move for survival, mankind embarks aboard hundreds of ships, putting its future into the hands of artificial intelligence to guide them to a distant habitable planet in order to rebuild civilization. “This album came out a couple months ago on Spotify, Apple, etc. and fortunately, Ubisoft gave me clearance to release it here [on bandcamp] too,” said Wintory in a news brief. “One of my few 100% electronic scores, featuring only synths and textural colors, with zero live performers! The game is a very cool, meditative space VR game from the Paris studio and as ever, I am so grateful to work with them!”
See details at bandcamp
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.