Unpublished John Powell Interview: PAN, DRAGON 2, RIO 2
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Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, HALO The Series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure, and a richly imagined vision of the future. In a war for humanity’s very survival, our deadliest weapon is our greatest hope. In its adaptation for Paramount+ which premiered Thursday, Mar. 24, HALO will take place in the universe that first came to be in 2001 with the launch of Xbox®’s first "Halo" game. Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, HALO The Series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure, and a richly imagined vision of the future. The series stars Pablo Schreiber (the Master Chief, Spartan John-117), Natascha McElhone (Dr. Halsey), Jen Taylor (Cortana), Bokeem Woodbine (Soren-066), Shabana Azmi (Admiral Margaret Parangosky), Natasha Culzac (Riz-028), Olive Gray (Miranda Keyes), Yerin Ha (Kwan Ha Boo), Bentley Kalu (Vannak-134), Kate Kennedy (Kai-125), Charlie Murphy (Makee) and Danny Sapani (Captain Jacob Keyes). With 17 Emmy nominations and 4 wins, including 3 for Outstanding Music Composition for his work on Fox’s 24 (starring Kiefer Sutherland) and 1 for his work on Netflix’s Peabody Award-winning JESSICA JONES (starring Krysten Ritter), Sean Callery is one of the most nominated film/TV composers of all time. Callery’s credits include Showtime’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning drama HOMELAND; Robert Lorenz’s action/thriller feature THE MARKSMAN; CBS All Access’ BULL; Fox’s NEXT; National Geographic’s THE HOT ZONE; CBS’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired drama series, ELEMENTARY; Fox’s Steven Spielberg-produced TV series, MINORITY REPORT; Reelz miniseries THE KENNEDYS; Fox’s longest running drama BONES; and many more. Watch the HALO Movie Trailer:
Q: Tell me about scoring the science fiction series HALO. Coming into this project, based on the popular X-box video game, what were your initial conversations with the director about the music they were looking for?
Sean Callery: One thing that was always very important, and it certainly was important to me as a composer, was to respect the ongoing legacy of the musical contributions made already over the last twenty years by the original composers*, whose work I greatly admire. I wanted to make sure we were affording the proper respect to that, because you can’t really have a show about HALO without its connection back to the roots of how it existed, which began in a gaming platform. The story was so rich and so beautiful, and those original themes were really iconic, and at the same time we wanted to make something that was unique to the format of a streaming linear storytelling experience rather than a gaming experience, which was an interesting thread.
This is a story that’s separate from the canon of the game – it’s sort of the way that the STAR WARS stories have diverged out into different tree branches of stories. That’s what this is, and in so doing they wanted to also have an original sound – or something that was a departure, to some extent, while also keeping our connections to the foundation at the center. That was probably the biggest challenge for me, because I wanted to make sure that whatever we did was unique and fresh for the project we were working on, but also wasn’t completely alien or foreign to people who know the franchise.
It was a really interesting way to proceed and we sometimes went back and forth – we do definitely conjure the themes from HALO, but in some very specific areas. In the beginning, I think I quoted them possibly too much – and in my defense I had to learn the entire HALO universe, because I really didn’t know it very well. So once I understood more of the universe that we were living in, it made the experience more fun, quite frankly.
* [Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori, Stephen Rippy, Neil Davidge & Kazumi Jinnouchi, and Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White & Brian Trifo]
Q: What was your instrumental palette for the HALO score?
Sean Callery: Definitely orchestral. We recorded orchestra in all the episodes, strings and brass and so forth. There’s choir, of course, but we also went into different new worlds – we have different planetary systems and different moon colonies. In those regards, sometimes for certain characters we used GuitarViol [essentially a guitar formatted viola/cello hybrid] which is a beautiful string instrument that defines a certain villainous character. Then I designed a hybrid wind instrument that would represent certain areas of the world that were a little more connected to nature, and in some cases I hired a wonderful cellist named Vincent Ségal to do these really interesting bending textures that sometimes defined these very interesting stories involving humanity and morality and so forth. It was just a beautiful weaving instrument that sometimes spoke to the mysticism of HALO and its connection to everybody. It was very fun.
Q: Coming into this highly textured world of HALO, how would you describe your thematic or motivic design for this score and how it developed across the space of the series?
Sean Callery: One thing that was stated very early on was that they wanted to explore some new theme ideas, especially for the new characters. They wanted a theme for the Master Chief in this particular thread of the story. When I was interviewing for this, we’d just entered into the second year of the pandemic, and when I read the script and saw the rough cut of the show, what I really realized in the story was the central character [John] was awakening to things about himself that he wasn’t really connected to. I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic, but that really struck me. I thought, Who among us hasn’t been asking that question these last two years – what are we all about? What are we supposed to do? What’s important to us? And I said to them, “Much as I think the action and certainly the twenty-year history of the game is extraordinary, the reason I would argue that the game is so successful is that it speaks to issues that we go through as human beings. When you strip everything away, and we’re talking about the worldwide health of the planet, what is important to you? And sometimes we do wake up to things, and we read stories throughout the entire history of the pandemic where relationships tighten, some of them fall away, some people get new jobs, some of them double down on the jobs that they have, some of them retool or refresh things – I just thought the story came along at such an interesting time; and so my theme for John has an aspect of his reaching for the authenticity of his humanity. I really think he’s discovering who he is, and that’s something that we all get uplifted about, when you find out what your truth is. And that’s really what governed me with regards to finding a theme for that character.
Q: When you were developing this score – and I know you’ve done a number of series before, so you’re certainly familiar with taking a series of themes and musical concepts across a run of anywhere from ten to dozens of episodes as in 24 and ELEMENTARY – how did this come up in HALO as far as developing it across the arc of the series?
Sean Callery: That’s a really great question, because there were times when we were talking early on about finding themes… for example there’s a character in the show named Quan Ah, she’s a young woman who suffers a tremendous tragedy in the opening moments of the show, and we were having discussions about what her theme should be. My honest answer to them in the beginning was “I don’t know!” because we’re just beginning our journey with her, and it wasn’t until the second and third episodes that I found the tendrils of her theme, not only the actress’s performance, but just in where I thought the story was going. Sometimes you come with an idea… John’s theme was the one I wrote first because he was the central character and there was so much discussion about him at first; but for the other characters… for Cortana, for example, she shows up in a later episode. She was a very interesting character because she brings a little bit of levity along with her seriousness, but there’s a bit of nice beautiful color to that character, unlike the others, and when she appears I arrived at a theme for her fairly quickly. I thought it would be very interesting for her character because she’s small in size and she made me smile.
When I’m working on anything I just pay attention to what I feel as a viewer – just like you would when you’re watching something – and then I try to decide how that would be expressed musically. Where is this character going? The beauty of this show is that each character has a very specific arc and I’m happy to say that the themes have survived… in other words, sometimes there were happier or sad moments or more uplifting or more challenging moments, and I find that some of the best themes are the ones that can survive and be re-arranged in certain ways that can support what happens to the character and the plot.
Q: What elements of the storyline and/or characters prompted some of your most interesting musical designs?
Sean Callery: There is an alien race called the Sangheili, who are at war with the human race. Their first appearance is very striking… I mean, we’re looking at what’s happened in the real world overseas, with clouds of violence and tanks coming through them, and there’s some very similar imagery to that in this. These aliens are just huge, barnstorming, menacing characters that stomped into the land and the homes of these people, so we had just a brooding, grizzly, dark and simple low theme that sort of pervades whenever we see them attacking. These are things that came to me when you see the level of intimidation and destruction that they cause. So as a result some of these textures are not organic; they’re in combination with orchestra and so forth – but they have their own specific sound pallet in the show. Even when you don’t see them, sometimes they’re inferred or referred to, or you see the result of their carnage, and sometimes their themes would come in. That was one thing they really pushed home to me; which was they really wanted to have more themes throughout the show, and I was really encouraged by that.
Q: How have you treated the futuristic setting of HALO, musically?
Sean Callery: A lot of times I was really informed by the beauty of the environment, the cinematography, the set design, and the production design. There were some scenes in caves that contain ancient historical clues, and sometimes there was a natural coldness to the imagery – some planets had been at war so they looked tired and beat up. All these kinds of things are not very musical words that I’m using, but that’s how I work: when I see something like a damaged planet, a planet abused for its resources, how does that manifest? A lot of times the worlds have different colors so when you’re on a space station that is more clean and pristine, or if you’re on a planet that’s barely surviving because it’s been pillaged of all its resources, all of that informs me in terms of musical color. In the end I really hope I’m worthy of the respect of fans who are very passionate about the game, in that I want to provide an experience that honors the ongoing legacy of the game, but also brings in this adjacent chapter that it is it’s own little ecosystem but is connecting to the main body of HALO.
Q: Do you know if there are plans for a soundtrack release?
Sean Callery: There is. I think we’ve recorded three hours of score – it’s a huge undertaking, and I’ve put aside what I think are some of the stronger moments in the show. Some of the things that I think were really beautiful, in the sense that they’re very full and rich in what parts of the story they represent. Some companies they like to release the soundtrack halfway through a season, so I’m hoping that following the release of the show, if we get our way, we will deliver that.
HALO is a twenty-years-old interactive story played by millions of people, so it was not lost on me about how you had to really treat the property with a lot of respect and yet you’re still doing the job that you always do on every show. You have to write, you have to satisfy people, you have to meet the needs of others who have ideas and bring in your own point of view. So my hope is that listeners or viewers feel good about this, and they’ll appreciate the HALO score.
For more information on Sean Callery, see his website at https://seancallery.com/, listen to his music on Spotify and Apple Music, and read his bio on the 24.fandom wiki. This interview has been lightly edited for clarification. Special thanks to Alix Becq and Jana Davidoff of Rhapsody PR for facilitating this interview.
John Powell is an English composer most famous for his work on animated movies. He started off his career as a composer of music for commercials, and as an assistant to Patrick Doyle. Like many other emerging composers of the 1990s, Powell was a member of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions and he frequently composed alongside members of the studio. In 1995, Powell co-founded “Independently Thinking Music.” The Studio, housed in London, produced scores for more than a hundred European commercials. Powell is perhaps best known for scoring John Woo’s FACE OFF (1997), DreamWorks Animation’s ANTZ (1998) with Harry Gregson-Williams, which marked the beginning of a long partnership between him and Gregson-Williams, as well as an even longer partnership with him and DreamWorks Animations. Powell co-scored with Gregson-Williams CHICKEN RUN and SHREK. On his own, he scored three ICE AGE animated films for Blue Fox Studios, all three HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON movies (Powell’s intensely researched score for the first of these DRAGON movies, which made outstanding use of bagpipes and penny whistles, earned the composer an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score). Powell was hand-picked by composer John Williams to adapt Williams’ themes and compose original music for SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018). Powell is a multiple Annie Award winner for Best Music in an Animated Feature Production and Best Original Score, and has won or been nominated for numerous other film industry awards. The following interview was conducted in 2015 for a book project, and during that Q&A we also discussed his recent scores for Joe Wright’s PAN (2015) as well as the animated features RIO 2 and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (both 2014). This portion of the interview is presented here for the first time.
Q: You have just scored the live-action fantasy adventure PAN, based on the Peter Pan books of J. M. Barrie. I understand this is your first time working with director Joe Wright – how did you become involved in the film?
John Powell: It was a very last minute thing. He works with Dario Marianelli normally, who I’m actually a big fan of. I love his scores and I’ve loved their scores together, as it were, for their movies. ATONEMENT was an incredible film. So it was weird to get a call for this, but for some various reasons it hadn’t worked out for them on this one, perhaps because it’s a very different type of film than Joe has ever done before. When I was asked I was a little shocked but I happily went along to see the film and then meet Joe afterwards, and he was very wonderful. I wasn’t looking to do a film at that time – I was in the middle of finishing up a piece that I’ll be recording in August for a classical work, an oratorio and some other pieces, so I was not thinking of doing a film but then this came in and I was intrigued and I felt I should go and see what this is. So when I had dinner with him I felt that he sincerely needed somebody to come in and get him out of what felt to him like a bit of a weird place, because he’s lost his collaborator of many years [on this film]. He’s not done every film with Dario, he did HANNAH with The Chemical Brothers and that was fantastic, so he’s got a big range of types of music that he likes. In this particular case, I think he needed something a little broader. I sort of felt a little like the studio hammer coming in to be noisy, loud, and unsubtle, but I did try very much to keep in mind this is a Joe Wright film. I have to respect the tradition, as it were, and try and write music that comes from that tradition, comes from where Joe’s been with music before, but obviously do what the film, a slightly bigger, broader, more tent-pole-y film, needed.
Q: What input did Joe and the producer(s) give when you first came on board, and how did you develop your approach to scoring this film?
John Powell: I saw it complete and almost finished. We were five weeks away from scoring when I saw it, so I didn’t have long to write it. They’d had several previews and weren’t happy with the direction things had been going in. One of the easiest things about walking into a film that is changing composers, is that the first composer has come through giant loads of processes with the film, with the director, with the studio, and that’s the hardest thing. I’ve been there before and, as you come in as the second composer, it’s a much easier job, because you can learn from that process that’s already happened. So by this point, five weeks before scoring, they were probably much clearer to me than they’d ever been to Dario. The process means that everybody has to learn how the film works, and I think the film changed a little bit in its nature as it got made, from an older audience to a slightly younger audience, so it needed to get broader and a little sillier, but at the same time keeping its emotionality.
When I started to sit down with Joe, and I would interrogate – it’s called a spotting session, but I call it an interrogation! – I go through every scene and I say to the director, Ok, now why did you do this? What is the purpose of this scene and what is the purpose of that line? I go through the whole thing and I try and catch up on how the film is the way it is and why, and what the true story is at a sub-contextual level. So in that interrogation I got so much interesting information out of Joe, and I suddenly realized that he makes his films – this is my impression, anyway, he may have a totally different take on it, but what I got from him was that he makes his films the same way he would have made puppet shows as a kid. I think his parents were puppeteers, and so he connects with that family history, that idea of telling stories in an intimate and family way.
One of the first things I did, the next morning, we carried on spotting, and I wrote the beginning of the film in about four hours before the session the next morning, just to try out some things and one of the things was this little tune that I thought was appropriate for what I felt was one of the backbones of the storytelling, which was the relationship between Pan and Hook, which is also the relationship between Peter and his friend, Nibs. That friendship needed to be a storytelling tune, so I wrote a tune on the piano, and then I thought, well, we open with the mother basically telling us what the story is going to be, it’s like a preview of the story, and then there’s this beautiful animation in stars, to give you a rough idea of what you’re gong to see, it’s like a little overture. So I used that moment to play that; I played it on the piano, because the piano is kind of something that could have been sitting in Joe’s house at home, and his parents showed him a story, so that’s what we need for this.
It comes back at several points, as the storytelling is at its most intimate, and he liked the theme and I felt that tune would work fine as a big heroic pirate theme for adventure and for loss, and then I wrote another theme for Pan’s searching for his mother. There’s a theme that’s about searching for love and it includes a twisted version for Blackbeard where it’s all inverted and contorted. Then we needed a few other tunes, and within a couple of days I’d managed to knock them up, get them in front of Joe while he was here in L.A., and talk about the reasons I was going to have themes and how they were going to be attached to the story. That relaxed him and he seemed to be happy with the nature of the tunes. And over the next few weeks, even though it was at a distance – he was back in London – I sent him lots of themes to test tone, because that’s one of the hard things about these kind of films – how the music can help or damage the tone of a film. So I tried things to see where everybody’s comfort level was on music being comedic, music being hard and aggressive, music being adventurous where you could be darker. These kind of things are the questions that I’m very acquainted with in the animation film world, where the audience is very carefully considered as far as the level of violence versus the level of comedy versus the level of emotion. For most live action films you don’t have to worry quite as much – you’re trying to create a tone that’s generally for all the people. But for these kind of adventure films you have to find a tone that suits the nature of the story, suits the audience, and so a few weeks of tests in different cues across the whole movie, I got to see everyone’s reaction to things and generally they liked it. We tweaked things here, pulled things back a little bit there, and I was learning the film as well. It takes a while to actually get to know what should be written, what the tone is.
Q: You have a very good knack at integrating your themes into your action music and creating this propulsive drive while always keeping in mind what those themes represent, the heart of the story. In a film like PAN, what was your style of doing that and creating that kind of forward motion of the music while referring to the various characters’ themes?
John Powell: One of the tricks is always to have themes that are malleable. The hardest thing about writing tunes is writing tunes that will stand up to stretching and pulling and won’t break, and will at least stay somewhat recognizable, even under extreme variation. I’ve always treated films as theme-and-variation; the question is how many themes? There’s not only one theme, it tends to be three or four themes, and then you’ll add in some motif material or some stuff that gives you some grease to roll on. Between those various bits of material, you start to juggle it around and see what works and how you can get them to integrate. It doesn’t need to be at all like that, that’s an old fashioned way of doing it, but I think if the film is supportive of it, it can work. There’s definitely some films where it’s not needed, and there are some films where it’s actually probably harmful because it damages the film’s tone, or if the music is a little too on-the-nose with its thematic material. I’ve always tried to use story themes rather than characters, so it’s not a true leitmotif. But in this particular case, we should have an issue of what the common story lines are for all of the characters. In this one you have Pan looking for his mother, you have Blackbeard, who loved his mother, so that idea of searching for love is common to them. So it made sense to have a tune that would be the two reflections of love – the perfect kind of mother love and then the romantic, damaged love that we’ve all felt from first girlfriends and things. So it was tricky trying to create that theme, trying to take something I could slip on its side and felt right for both things.
Q: Music can often help bring to life the most fantastic of environments and aid the audience’s suspension of disbelief. How do you feel your score accomplishes this and gives PAN a sense of energy, excitement, and danger?
John Powell: In the very opening, people might watch it and think I’ve gone a bit crazy, but the opening scenes are set in Second World War London, when the Blitz is going on, and London is being bombed to hell. It’s kind of a serious moment in recent British history and it hits kind of hard if you’re British – I remember my father showing me – we had a house in London, and we would walk past this gap in the houses and I said “Why isn’t there a house there?” and he said “Well, that’s a V-1…” So it was all over London. It’s a serious thing, but in the greater scheme of things, as I watched the film, the scenes in London and the scenes with the Blitz, were about something else, really. They were about getting Peter into an adventure, and out of the world he was suffering in, which was the world where he didn’t know his mother, he didn’t know his place in the world, he was an orphan in an orphanage, and then he loses his friend and all these other kids keep going as they get picked for adoption. So you can see where the film takes off for Peter in a good way during the Blitz. Treating the Blitz to be heavenly, I felt, was dangerous, so I tried to make as much fun around it as I could, and keep it about a couple of kids having a lark, and I think as long as I kept that tone consistent throughout the movie, from there onwards, I think people would forget that I’d been a little bit at odds to some of that imagery. But I wanted to make sure that you had fun, as this opening scene with the kidnapping of the kids and all this kind of stuff, and the first signs of the pirates, I wanted you to feel it was the beginning of an adventure. It wasn’t as serious as it could look from the outside, if you took it out of context, but once we get to Neverland, then I hoped that I had built in a belief system for the audience, that they understood the tone and the nature of the film they were in the middle of.
Q: It sounds like it would also provide an elegant contrast to the earlier scenes that are rooted in the real world to the magic of what’s in Neverland and those experiences.
John Powell: Yes. Actually that was one thing I realized as well, that when you’re dealing with a film that’s all about magic, it was essential that I didn’t make the music too magical. I actually held off anything like that until quite near the end. But I did try and establish a theme in the main opening titles, when you see the mother leaving Peter at the orphanage, of prophecy. I decided what we needed was a theme for prophecy, and that theme continues all the way through the idea that Peter will become Pan, and that Peter is the god-child, he will solve the issues for lots of other reasons in the movie, for lots of other people. Essentially it’s a prophecy coming true. That tune is very heavily established at the front and then... even with intervals of it, I deliberately made sure to make little arcing shapes or motifs that were from it and that might keep it constructed. The funny thing is I probably applied more compositional rigor to the score for this than I have done to my oratorio! But that was because it made sense to me, and the oratorio, being a different beast, didn’t quite need the same construction.
Q: Over the years you’ve gained a particular dexterity for scoring animation, starting with ANTZ in 1998. How do you look at that journey through animation and what you’ve been able to bring to those films?
John Powell: It was absolute luck. It was a joy because I’d always loved animation and it hadn’t occurred to me that I could do it, or I could get into it. I came to Los Angeles to work with Hans Zimmer, and Hans happened to be on PRINCE OF EGYPT and he needed help so I started helping on that. Jeffrey Katzenberg was on that and he was one of the nicest, most wonderful men, and so watching Harry and I work with Hans on that film, when ANTZ came up he suggested the two of us work together, which was fantastic. So it was a lead in that I’d never expected. As we started to do it I realized this is something I enjoyed – and it’s not just the music, it’s actually the art itself. I love film, but there’s bits of films that I probably don’t appreciate as much as I should, maybe costuming or some of the subtleties of dialogue – I love cinematography and I’m a big camera fan; when cameras move I’m always watching for that because that’s where I think the composer should take note because it’s a language. When it comes to animation, I’m even into the actual animation itself. You can appreciate an actor acting, but when you see how an artist has brought a character to life in animation, if you go back to Mowgli in JUNGLE BOOK, I’m the kind of person who can watch loops of him walking – that’s the kind of madness that animators have! I get stuck watching animation scenes when the animation is beautifully done, which it now is. We’re in a golden age; there are amazing animators in all of the companies. The standard is so incredibly high that you can sit at any of these films and you can look at them and think, Omigod – I mean I almost track some of the animators because as the shots come in, they have a little name at the bottom and so I can see it and go, ahhh, yes, this guy’s really good!
Q: How has music for animation changed in the years you’ve been scoring them? Probably, since the late 80s, composers have taken animation more seriously – it’s not cartoon music like it was decades ago, but they’re treating it like a serious drama with the various permutations of humor and song that are included in those. How have you seen the needs for scoring animation change over the years?
John Powell: At the very beginning, with Jeffrey, I remember Harry and I being screamed at for making it sound like a cartoon! “It’s meant to sound like a live action film!” And that was part of, obviously, Dreamworks trying to establish their own thing. Jeffrey came from Disney where that was the foremost style, and he was deliberately trying to create something new. So one of those things is, Well, let’s not Mickey-Mouse it, as the term is. Let’s be more “live action” about the whole thing. And that’s what we did… but of course I hadn’t done many films at that time, so I didn’t have that much experience of what live action was, even. I treated ANTZ like a film. I didn’t try and make it too silly, and when I did I got shouted at… I mean, in CHICKEN RUN I got shouted at for coming up with the kazoos the first time – but after a few weeks and I kept going, Jeffrey would go, “Can you stick some more kazoos in here?” He’d realized, at that point, that there is a value sometimes in being silly. I have a great love of stupid music! I’ve collected this great library of stupid music – fun music; music that’s kind of got a sense of no-limits-on-it ability to be able to dance in your head. That’s the music I like to write, and it happens to be that animation seems to allow me to go more towards that. Live action – of course you can do comedies but they tend to be a certain style and they tend to be all about words and gags. You have to get tense with thrillers, and then it’s tension after tension; and then in action films it’s a mixture of tension and thrust and violence and that gets boring as well. Love stories tend to be needing to have this constant emotionality to them, but in animation I’ve always found that I can do all of those things. I get to do a bit of everything, with lots of joy – and the joy stuff is the hard thing to get into live action. So that’s why I’ve always enjoyed animation.
Q: Your scores for the RIO films contained some splendid Brazilian-flavored music while dipping in and out of the songs that were so prevalent. How did you revisit and expand your musical design from the first film into RIO 2?
John Powell: The great thing was that the characters move from Rio to the Amazon, and I tell you, you can drive fifty miles outside of Rio and you start to hear the music change. Brazil is this verdant world of music, never less than fauna. The music is endlessly changing around. The truth of it is, we went and did research trips and things, and it was fascinating, and also the director, Carlos Saldanha, being Brazilian, is incredibly knowledgeable about the music of his own country. I also had Sergio Mendez – and some of his early albums are fantastic and explored all the different types of music from Brazil. And then lots of other people came in and gave us lots of pictures of what the music look like in the Amazon. In the sense that the first film is about taking a character from Minnesota and sticking him into this crazy world of Rio, this one was taking people that we’d already met and liked, and sticking them into an even more exotic place. So the music got to evolve towards what that music could be or perhaps sometimes is. There’s music in there that is almost authentic – and there’s some that’s fantastically unauthentic because it’s a Hollywood film and we’re allowed to do that, and were the inventions of me and Sergio jamming with Carlinhos Brown. We tried everything and had a lot of fun, and then we got to play with UAKTI, who I’ve always been a great fan of ever since I met Carlos, who first introduced me to the band. He gave me a CD when we were doing ICE AGE 2 and said “You should listen to these guys, they’re really interesting.” And I’ve been trying to figure out how to get them into a film I was working on, and so when Fox said “Yeah, we’ll bring them over and their ten tons of gear and they’ll set up in your studio for a week,” I was wetting myself!
Q: Same question regarding HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which would have been my vote for best score of 2010. What new musical areas were you able to explore in the second DRAGON film, while maintaining the structure developed in the first score?
John Powell: The thing about the second one was, and I’ve said this before, it’s that the characters grew up and I needed the score to grow up a bit, too. I needed new themes, but I also needed to honor the first movie’s themes. So I was very careful about where I used the old themes and where I used the new themes. I tried to be precise about what the themes were for, again – “Lost and Found” was a theme about I thought I lost my mother, now I’ve found my mother, and then, I’ve lost my father. And then I lost my best friend, and then he comes back. And so with that tune, I knew I needed to adapt what for me was the strongest arc of the story. And then there were things about growing up, literally, becoming a chief, so I had a tune that was all about the difficulties of taking that responsibility, transitioning in your life. There was a tune that represented the magical nature of the Bewilderbeasts, the good one and the bad one and the amazement that you got from such a gloriously wonderful animal – in the same way that I feel if I see an elephant – something that’s so incredibly built for its purpose and the nobility with which it exists as the right shape, and how that has given us the ability to be able to see this animal. So that theme was me deliberately trying to collect all of my thoughts on that into one. I allowed the score to have the same nature, the same heart, the same color that the first one did, but make sure that the new themes had purpose, and that the old themes had purpose when we needed to hear them again. They weren’t in there because they’d been temped in and everyone was used to it, which honestly is sometimes unfortunately the case. When you get a second film, it can be very messed up, because there’s a lot of good will brought from the first film to the second film. You should be trying to be as careful with the second film, I think, as you certainly were about the first film and give as much energy and care.
Q: With that in mind, they’ve just recently announced DRAGON 3 (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World). Have you had any thoughts where you might take this one?
John Powell: No, I haven’t yet. Obviously there’s a lot of things that I’m not privy to at the moment, other than there will be a film and I am on it, and it will be the work I spend 2019 doing. It’s hard, because the two films now have both been very good, but have had very different characters, as well. The maturity of the second one was hard for some people because it was dealing with subjects that people don’t want to go to the cinema and deal with, but they do like the characters and they had enough fun, I hope, with the film that they were willing to shed a tear in the right way without too much feeling of being put through it by the filmmakers. So I think, with that in mind, I would imagine that everybody on the third film is cognizant that we have to bring as much joy to the third film as we can, especially considering it’s probably going to be the last one. That’s probably the right thing to do – let’s all go out the right way.
Special thanks to John Powell for taking the time to discuss these scores with me in detail, and thanks to Costa Communications for facilitating the original interview.
A BANQUET/CJ Mirra/First Artists Recordings – digital + vinyl
A BANQUET is a 2021 British horror film directed by Ruth Paxton in her debut feature and written by Justin Bull (LITTLE RITUALS, MERGE). The film stars Sienna Guillory as a widowed mother who is radically tested when her teenage daughter insists a supernatural experience has left her body in service to a higher power. The film premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in cinemas on March 11th via Hanway Films in UK and IFC Midnight in the USA. “An intense combination of an apocalyptic nightmare and a family psychodrama,” wrote Allan Hunter of Screen Daily. The film has been scored by CJ Mirra, which is the alias of London-based recording artist, composer, and sound designer, John Sampson. Combining live analogue instruments with electronic and ambient textures, his sound blurs the boundaries of composition and sound design. The score is mostly ambient and textural, imparting an aura of foreboding, somewhat organic tension, and tonal anxiety that maintains a frightening sonic presence as the film and its music progresses. The edgy “Shopping Bags,” which opens the album, proffers a growing menace through a synthetic motor that gains traction and volume. “Lipstick” is conveyed by melodic guitar, violin, and delicate voices which provide quite a nice harmonic structure and cadence, despite some brief underlying dark tones that remind us things are not all bright and cozy; that music is reprised in “Scales (Extended),” but its pleasing structure becomes twisted and shadowed by darker sonic elements that keep the apprehension close and constant. “Don’t Be The Show” is a burbling distortion of chaotic sound design beneath whooshing wind, a touch of harsh violin tonality, and distant, undefinable sounds. The title track, “A Banquet” offers a mix of a continuous, electronic pad beneath dampened percussive rhythms that seem to flow across a persistent design of sinuous sound, ghostly voicings, and undulating thumping; it’s a very effective amalgamation of musical disturbiana, both fascinating in its sonic patterns and unnerving in its immersive reverberation; “Forest Sounds” follows a similar design without the repetitive percussion thwacks, as does “Remembering” with its own version of sustained haunting atmospheres, bridged by interludes of recurring metallic turmoil. “Teeth” is flowing dark, metallic reverberations for voices, tonalities, increasing percussion slaps; it begins rather prettily but grows edgy and discomfiting, resolving in a cluster of gathered sound; its musical design is replicated somewhat with a strident soprano vocalise in “Finale” which concludes the score with a somewhat brighter timbre and renewed vocalise over advancing, low keyboard tones, while still harboring an uneasy flavor that leaves the listener with an aftertaste of unresolved dread. It’s a potent scare score, more haunting than ferociously scary, but with repeated listening it offers an intriguing musical depth and configuration. The digital soundtrack album has been released by First Artists Recordings (FAR), the new label imprint of First Artists Management to release a mixture of soundtracks and cinematic records, and is now available on Amazon and other digital/streaming services. In addition, a limited Green vinyl album is available via Burning Witches Records. For more information on the composer, see his official website: https://cjmirra.com/
Listen to the ambient unease of “A Banquet:”
THE BATMAN/Michael Giacchino/WaterTower Music - digital
Director Matt Reeves’ remarkable new take on the Caped Crusader is given a powerful orchestral score by Michael Giacchino. The score is based on themes for each of its major characters – the Batman, the Catwoman, and the Riddler, which form a thematic triptych – or what Jon Burlingame in Variety called “a dark symphony” – around which the characters dance as the film develops and progresses. The Batman’s theme opens with a low cadence of piano notes joined by a sinewy rhythm and then a melody from strings enhanced by wiry notes from an electric guitar, which is taken by the full orchestra in a grand, heroic yet measured and brooding presentation. It’s a theme in two parts, the repeating four-note motif called “Batman’s Obsession” that opens the track is one piece; the other is a more melancholy motif associated with Bruce Wayne persona and the dark enigma that is Gotham City (this secondary theme is heard to its fullest presentation in the later track, “Funeral and Far Between;” it can be considered a fourth main theme but is intrinsically related to the Batman theme just as the character of Bruce Wayne is to The Batman). Both segments reference different sides of the Batman, and are used together or separately across the film’s psychological landscape. Riddler’s theme is introduced with children’s choir – referencing the character’s troubled past. Ave Maria, Franz Schubert’s 19th-century vocal work, “was built in the movie’s DNA from the very beginning,” director Reeves told Jon Burlingame, which Riddler actor Paul Dano sang as a boy chorister. Reeves asked Giacchino for “a fun-house mirror version” of the piece to represent the grownup killer. “In an emotional sense, the Riddler’s still 10 years old,” said Reeves. “It would feel creepy… that kind of desperate boy’s voice throughout the whole movie.” On the album, Riddler’s theme springs from the children’s choir and grows into a powerful orchestral presence full of menace, before returning to the children’s voices, intoning the nature of the puzzling, scheming, enigmatic serial killer, and “hinting at the mad villain’s troubled past.”
The motif for Selina Kyle/aka Catwoman, shares the piano with Batman’s theme before drifting into an elegantly slinky, gracefully delicate, somewhat noirish and very feline violin melody which is taken over by a slightly jazzy piano and double bass before the orchestra adopts the measured treatment. Hints of Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith (CHINATOWN especially) and John Barry can be recognized in the seductive motif. (review continues below)
Listen to Giacchino’s “Catwoman” theme:
Each of these themes roam across the score’s soundscape, and there are extended versions of each of them added to the end of the soundtrack (they were released separately as preview tracks in the weeks before the full soundtrack was issued). These three motifs form the basis of the character-driven score, but Giacchino offers a number of full-on action pieces such as “Escaped Crusader,” featuring some tremendous brass material at its end. “Penguin of Guilt” is more of an action theme than an official motif for the waddling mobster’s brief appearance in the movie, driven by a subtle percussion rhythm, which is amped up severely in “Highway to the Anger Zone,” heard during a car chase between Batman and Penguin. “An Im-purr-fect Murder” resumes the percussion base of the previous two tracks as it shares a kind of dance between the Batman and Catwoman themes, reprising the delicious brass punches from “Escaped Crusader” at its end. (And, yes, the track titles continue to reflect the composer’s love for puns in his titular naming). Elements of his primary themes are sewn into these pieces as well. The album concludes with an amazing 12-minute pianistic Beethoven-styled “Sonata in Darkness,” a full, reflective resolution of the Batman theme, played by American classical pianist Gloria Cheng. In all of THE BATMAN’s musical parts, reflective motifs, and dynamic action moments, this is a thoroughly engaging, thematically-based action/psychological drama score, which gives the film what it needs, emotionally and energetically, and makes for a thrilling, repeat listening opportunity on its album.
Listen to Giacchino’s “The Batman” main theme:
THE GILDED AGE/Harry Gregson-Williams & Rupert Gregson-Williams/WaterTower Music - digital
In their second mutual composing collaboration since 2019’s CATCH-22 miniseries, the Gregson-Williams brothers have collaborated anew on this HBO Max Original Limited Series. The story begins in 1882 with young Marian Brook moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her thoroughly old-money aunts. The series follows Marian as she embarks on a mission to infiltrate the wealthy neighboring clan dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish son, Larry, and his ambitious wife, Bertha. “The story of old moneyed society pushing back against the unstoppable force of the new provided a contrasting backdrop of colors to work from,” the composers remarked. “From the outset it was clear that we ought to use a chamber orchestra as the sonic backbone to the score, thereby using instrumentation that would feel natural to the late 19th Century time period.” Through their experimentation, the composers leaned into a more contemporary vibe by adding various unexpected sounds to this traditional pallet, such as hammer dulcimer, kantele and ukulele, as well as the occasional arpeggiated synth element. “The multidimensional characters lent themselves to being scored with distinct melodic material that we laid out in the early episodes and developed as their individual stories unfolded,” they said. The score is very much within the music of the show’s time period, and is provided with delicate and delightful melodic themes and attractive cadences. The sonic texture is quite enjoyable with its standard and folk instruments with the bit of synth adding an interesting texture to the proceedings. Of the 39 tracks on the album, most are relatively short, averaging between 1:40 and 2:45 minutes, with four rocking the scales at 3:15, 3:45, and 3:55, but they are so nicely interwoven with their surrounding cues that they provide a lovely continuing listening experience through their whole hour and 19 minute length. THE GILDED AGE offers a very pleasing harmonic discourse within a mostly consistent musical treatment that is enjoyable both for its period musical designs as well as its occasional integration of new flavors. Highly recommended!
Listen to the series main title:
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 Deluxe Edition/John Powell/
Varèse Sarabande – CD and digital
On the heels of Varèse Sarabande’s Deluxe Edition of 2010’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON from last October comes this 2-CD set of John Powell’s magnificent symphonic score to its 2014 sequel, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. John Powell created a splendid, Academy Award-nominated score for the first Dragon film and continued his style for the sequel: gloriously symphonic and enhanced with Irish instrumentation, it is deep and rich in the classical tradition while conveying emotion and nuance for modern audiences, particularly around the joy of flight. As with the first film, Icelandic singer Jónsi collaborated with Powell and contributed vocals to selected tracks. The label has expanded the original single-disc album with a program of two discs, which includes a dragon’s handful of demo versions, an alternate opening theme, and other dragon music goodness. All three of Powell’s DRAGON scores are deliciously tuneful, powerfully thematic orchestral presentations, with engaging themes and motifs flying across the colorful trilogy. Fresh musical nuances and treatments were offered with each of the sequels, making the journey from first to third especially pleasing. New liner notes are provided by Tim Greiving, who also wrote the notes on the original film’s Deluxe Edition, interviewing both director and composer.
The first film was about a hapless young Viking named Hiccup who aspires to hunt dragons but becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed. The second film takes place five years later when Hiccup and Toothless, his young dragon friend, discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Powell sparingly adapted his motifs from the first movie while focusing on new themes for the second film’s story and situations, and for the characters that have grown since their debut in the first movie. “Not only are [Powell’s] themes sticky and endlessly satisfying,” writes Greiving, “their construction and development could fill an entire book,” (which, he notes, is in fact being written now by music theory professor Erik Heine, author of the new James Newton Howard’s Signs: A Film Score Guide [see my Book Review, below]). His first score, in addition to its huge orchestra and choir, was enhanced by ethnic instruments such as hardanger fiddle, pennywhisle, warpipes, dulcimer, and “ethnic wind sampling;” for the second film his massive orchestra is given the additional flavors of Uillean pipes, Scottish bagpipes (played by The Red Hot Chili Pipers), Bodrán, and the like. A cool touch added to the CD tracklist is the including of the cue numbers (1m1, etc.) after each track title, which allows one to quickly locate digital demo tracks and their finished versions among the 2-CD track listings. The added sonic girth of this 2-CD edition, with its addition of 13 new tracks, 1 alternate version, and 6 demo tracks, makes this a thoroughly appealing and essential soundtrack. Powell’s music is melodically enchanting and offers a stimulating orchestral experience if listened to loudly through large home speakers or a good headset.
For more information on this score, see my interview with John Powell on scoring this film, above. The album is available in a limited edition of 3000 copies from VareseSarabande.
THE IPCRESS FILE tv series/Tom Hodge/Lakeshore - digital Ivor Novello-nominated composer Tom Hodge has scored the six-part British ITV thriller television series THE IPCRESS FILE, based on the novel of the same name by Len Deighton (and related to the 1965 film adaptation, starring Michael Caine and composed by John Barry). The new series was written by John Hodge, marking his first foray into television, and directed by James Watkins. It stars Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander and premiered on March 6 on ITV. Says Hodge in the label’s press notice: “I knew immediately I wanted a little of the jazz (or at least slightly polytonal) idiom; it is not something I’ve had a chance to really explore before in film and TV, but I consider it a core part of my musical voice, so I was very excited to work in this space. And I was really keen also to come largely from an acoustic angle and I was keen to explore something more traditional in that respect. Off the back of this, I made the conscious choice to only use sounds that were actually available in the 60s.” Hodge did manage to add in a brief sprinkle of John Barry into his score in the opening episode, which can be found “in the string orchestrations and the waltz over the sequence of Harry in the jeep at the beginning,” he told interviewer Jon Mansell, as well as “one second of cimbalom in Episode 3 over the international spy playground of Beirut – just couldn’t resist!” Aside from these tributes to IPCRESS’ original film music, Hodge has provided quite a likable treatment of his own across the series. By strictly staying within a 1960s sonic environment, he gives the sound of this new IPCRESS FILE a proper likable tonality with which to engage; largely provided via piano, drums and percussion, double bass, lots of electric guitar, string orchestra, trombone section, mixed woodwind section, solo alto and bass flute, solo cello, and then very occasional bits of 1960’s era synth via a ‘63 Buchla (emulation) and Moog (“their modern Matriarch but with a great ‘60s vibe” he notes). All of this gives the score a splendid period musical texture which fits the environment as well as the faithful tonality of this new IPCRESS FILE. This fresh iteration is due to air on AMC+ in the US at some point this year; it’s currently playing Sundays on ITV in the UK. Read Jon Mansell’s detailed interview with Hodge on scoring this series at MovieMusicInternational.
Watch the series’ trailer, here. The album is available at these links.
Listen to the short track “A Token of Gratitude” from Tom Hodge’s THE IPCRESS FILE soundtrack:
KIMI/Cliff Martinez/WaterTower Music - digital KIMI is a new techno-fear thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Zoë Kravitz and Rita Wilson, written and produced by David Koepp. The film’s title refers to an Alexa/Siri-like voice-activated digital assistant called KIMI, which is in use in the apartment of an agoraphobic tech worker named Angela Childs (Kravitz), who works from the apartment as a data stream interpreter for a Big Brother-like corporation called Amygdala. KIMI hears everything said in the apartment (including what Angela listens to on the Amygdala data streams), dutifully recording it all. One evening, while reviewing a data stream, Angela is shaken after overhearing a murder on a recording she’s analyzing, but meets with resistance when she tries to report it. Seeking justice, she must now do the thing she fears the most: she must leave her apartment. The use of a digital assistant not only enhances the high-tech nature of Angela’s large apartment and her job, but its abilities also wind up aiding her in the climax when a hit squad from Amygdala are sent to contain a data breach via getting rid of Angela. Soderbergh’s frequent collaborator, composer Cliff Martinez (SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE, SOLARIS, CONTAGION, TRAFFIC) has given the film a very moody, understated, tension-building score that fits the character’s agoraphobic behavior, especially when she has to venture outdoors to report in person what she heard as a murder over the data stream device. It’s an unobtrusive but effective score that provides energy when needed while remaining subtle throughout, with some notable action moments in its second half when Angela is on the run from the Amygdala hit men who use their system’s tracking capabilities to remotely locate her in the busy downtown streets. I really like this score. The music works splendidly well to maintain an uneasy tension throughout the film, and is equally engaging when listening to it on its own via the soundtrack album.
Listen to two tracks from KIMI below:
THE LOST CITY/Pinar Toprak/
Paramount Music & LaLa Land Records – digital & cd Pinar Toprak’s score for this new action/adventure comedy is a fun and exciting musical adventure in its own right. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Brad Pitt and is about a reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model who gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure. “Writing this score brought me back to why I fell in love with film scores in the first place,” said Toprak, “The adventure, the romance, and most importantly the fun. It’s been a pure joy paying homage to those classic adventure films I loved growing up while giving it my own contemporary signature.” Toprak’s score immediately embraces the melodic jungle adventure its exotic search-for-hidden-treasure premise promises, and it’s a most welcome musical treatment, with a grand main theme which is powerfully introduced and frequently reprised throughout the film, and plenty of evocative indigenous instruments to set the environment in tracks like “You’re Safe Now,” (nicely merging with surging brass). “Pino Grigio on Ice” is a delightful resonance between light piano, strings, brushed drums, and woodwinds, ending with a soft sonority from choir and a conclusive statement from strings. A lovely melisma is introduced in “The Only Clue,” interacting with a few statements from horn, violin, and winds, ending with a powerful upsurge of full orchestra; the melisma is reprised in an especially powerful measure at the end of “Watch Your Step.” A brief statement from choir introduces the discovery of “Ruins Revealed,” while “People Eat Cake” is about as festive and amusing a cue you can provide about people eating cake, although the festivities being interrupted by tribal drums and flutes may have taken some of the taste out of said cake. “Alan Gets a Moped” is a robust chase motif, while “Hammock Extraction” is an exuberant little scherzo, opening into a reflection of the main theme midway through and closing with some happy musical noodling; “Set Your World on Fire” opens with fully drawn vivacity from muscular string bowing and shouting brass, a treatment reprised nicely in “Fairfax Escapes” which morphs into some vigorous danger material; “Dulcius Ex Asperis” is a gentle, flavorful cue (it’s Latin for “Sweeter than Prickly”) that resonates briefly into the main theme, turns quietly intimate again, and concludes with a powerful statement from brass, strings, and drums. “A New Adventure Beginning” reprises the nimble tempo from “Pino Grigio on Ice,” and the score concludes with a heavy orchestral/electronic adaptation of “The Final Countdown” from metal band Europe, a full rendition that’s a call back from a very brief bit earlier in the film. The score is quite sturdy, reflective, energetic, occasionally emotive and intimate, serving its film and its soundtrack album with memorable and pleasing music. In addition to Pinar’s orchestral/exotic score, the soundtrack also features three new tracks written for the film by Grammy and Latin Grammy winning composer, Cheche Alara, as well as two bonus tracks from Pinar. The score soundtrack is now available digitally from Paramount Music, and on Limited Edition CD from www.lalalandrecords.com.
Listen to a suite from Pinar Toprak’s score:
SPEAK NO EVIL/Sune “Køter” Kølster/MovieScore Media - digital MovieScore Media has released the original score by Danish composer Sune"Køter"Kølster from the 2022 horror film SPEAK NO EVIL. The story has to do with a Danish family that visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend in a quiet place gradually becomes a living nightmare as the foreign visitors try to overcome the terrifying horrors coming down on their unsuspecting family. About the score, composer Kølster said: “From the beginning, we wanted to make a score that was a larger than life, mythological and existentialistic, and told the ‘story behind the façade.’ We wanted the music to make a statement, be a real driving character in the film, often with a voice going in a totally different direction than the pictures, to make the audience fill out the blanks between picture and sound.” The 17-track soundtrack provides a very interesting and varied experience, from the opening “Overture” with its repeated configuration of furtive, tremolo strings intersected by heavy, low brass notes (later repeated in “Crying Wolf”) to its use of spooky, “bending” or “curved” tonalities from brass, first heard in “Call of the Sireen” but reprised in “Inbearable Heat of Vesta,” “Hybris of Cupid” and “The Predator,” through a number of songs (the song in “Garden of Amor and the Muses,” the conclusive operatic duets of “Amor of Death” and “Requiem”) and the festive, accordion-driven “Dance of Bacchus.” Kølster notes: “A great inspiration was the early operas of Italy: we wanted to make music that was like the divine choir in the Greek drama, standing on the side, commenting, moralizing and warning the humans, growing out of the deep subconscious and mythological core of the film. And we were never in doubt that the organic, classical/avantgarde orchestral and vocal score was the way to go.” The music shifts from the soft, droning low string and bassoon maneuvers of “Tears of Gaea” to the tense “Crossing the River Styx” with its rolling waves of sound driven by beaten timpani. The music often creates eerie, reflective and unnerving patterns through string vibrations and spooky horn impositions, as in “Abel’s Secret,” or, with “Web of Peithos on the Fields of Elysium,” the furtive, interactive plucked bass notes set against vibrato strings, concluding with heavy horn intonations and reverberant tympani strikes. The continuous siren-like drones of “The Gates of Hades” (enhanced by the addition of the bass notes from “Web of Peithos”), “Sacrificium,” and “Sword of Justica” create menacing patterns of desperate discomfort. In all of its adept variations, SPEAK NO EVIL offers and intriguing, often fascinating aural structure and listening experience. To sample tracks or order the digital soundtrack from MovieScore Media, see here.
Watch footage from the recording session with Macedonian FAMES Orchestra of the track “Tears Of Gaia:”
TOP SECRET!/Maurice Jarre/La-La Land Records - cd La-La Land Records has released a 2-CD expanded and remastered release of Maurice Jarre’s original score to the 1984 big screen cult comedy classic (Shhh!) TOP SECRET!, written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker (the purveyors, don’t call me Shirley, of AIRPLANE!), and starring Val Kilmer. Jarre’s score was an effective one that fit the kind of play-it-seriously madcap music the way Elmer Bernstein’s score accommodated AIRPLANE! The movie film parodies various film styles such as Elvis Presley musicals, spy films of the Cold War era, and World War II movies as it told of an American rock and roll singer (Kilmer) who becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany. The film didn’t do well either in box office or critical appraisal, lacking the more cohesive comedy of its flighty predecessor; the original 12-track score album, released by Varèse Sarabande on LP (by That’s Entertainment Records in the UK) and cassette in 1984 and reissued on CD in 2005 as a limited edition Club Release, was enjoyable despite trying awkwardly to capture all of the comedy nuances once they were divorced from the film itself, although it was nicely bolstered by an excellent romantic main theme presented in multiple variations, from lyrically gentle to engaging pomp & action, and given an especially expressive rendition over the “Happy Ending.” Here, the dozen tracks of the original album are nicely morphed into a full 21 score tracks enhanced by three bonus cues, seven source music cues, and (for the first time) half a dozen equally comedic or lampooned songs from the film, along with the original 12-track presentation, newly remastered, for good measure), providing Jarre’s score a much fuller opportunity to express the composer’s full intentions and provide a much more cohesive and engaging listening experience. Daniel Schweiger provides a thorough set of liner notes, articulating the creation of both the film and it’s score, featuring new interview comments from the writer/directors and others who had a hand in making the movie, compressed into a nicely designed 20-page insert booklet.
Listen to Maurice Jarre’s “Happy Ending” from TOP SECRET! (from 2005 Varèse Sarabande release):
Oscars: Although filmed prior to the official broadcast and edited into the actual Oscar ceremony, the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) has been awarded to Hans Zimmer for his score to DUNE Part One. Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell won the award for best title song from Cary Fukunaga’s James Bond film NO TIME TO DIE. Congrats! [As for the ceremony itself, its lack of respect given to the music awards (and 7 other categories) to be filmed earlier and “edited” into the live ceremony was unceremoniously blatant. So much for celebrating the place of music in the Academy's (& ABC’s) desire for more irrelevant song & dance numbers. [Also, fighting should be relegated to the pre-ceremony photo shoot as well.]
The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) presented the winners of the 3rd Annual SCL AWARDS for score and songs in visual media on March 8th at the Skirball Cultural Center. Germaine Franco won for Outstanding Original Score for a Studio film for ENCANTO, while Daniel Hart was awarded in the Outstanding Original Score for an Independent Film category for A24’s THE GREEN KNIGHT. Chilean-Canadian composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer scooped the prize for Outstanding Score for a Television Production for HBO’s THE WHITE LOTUS. Hildur Guðnadóttir won in the Interactive Media Category for the video game BATTLEFIELD 2042, along with Sam Slater, marking Guðnadóttir’s third SCL Award since the inaugural ceremony in 2020. The first ever David Raksin Award for Emerging Talent was awarded to Stephanie Economou for JUPITER’S LEGACY. In the song categories, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell won for Outstanding Original Song for a Drama/Documentary for the theme song to “NO TIME TO DIE,” Outstanding Original Song for a Musical/Comedy went to “Just Look Up,” co-written by Nicholas Britell, Taura Stinson, Ariana Grande and Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, from Adam McKay’s DON’T LOOK UP. For more information go to https://thescl.com/scl-awards
British BAFTA (British Academy of Film & Television Awards), which by the way did not push any of their award winners to an off-air segment prior to the telecast (ahem), announced last March13: Hans Zimmer has won the British BAFTA Award for best original score for DUNE Part One. It’s his first BAFTA win after twelve nominations (across film, TV and games); DUNE won five awards in all. For the full list and comments, see Entertainment Weekly.
The Guild of Music Supervisors held its star-studded 12th?annual award ceremony on March 20th virtually, celebrating outstanding achievement in the craft of Music Supervision in film, television, documentaries, games, advertising, and trailers during 2021. Among the winners are Mandi Collier for her work on both SYLVIE’S LOVE and ZOLA. The Oscar-nominated original song “Dos Oruguitas” from ENCANTO by Lin-Manuel Miranda won for Best Song Written and/or Recorded for a Film. Steven Gizicki won “Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Over $25 Million” for TICK, TICK... BOOM! while Julianne Jordan and Justine von Winterfeldt won Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Under $10 Million for BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR and Mandi Collier, Jen Malone & Nicole Weisberg won Best Music Supervision for Film Budgeted Under $5 Million for ZOLA. Also: Best Music Supervision Television Drama: Liza Richardson - LOVECRAFT COUNTRY - Season 1; Best Music Supervision Television Comedy or Musical: Janet Lopez - THE WHITE LOTUS - Season 1; Best Music Supervision - Television Movie: Laura Webb & Lindsay Wolfington - TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER; Best Song Written and/or Recorded for Television: “F*** The Pain Away,” Songwriter: Merrill Nisker (aka Peaches)/Music Supervisor: Matt Biffa: Sex Education Episodes 302 and 307; Best Music Supervision for a Documentary: Angela Asistio: VAL; Best Music Supervision in a Docuseries: Aminé Ramer - HBO Music Box Series.
See the complete winners list for the 12th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors Awards here.
Nainita Desi has won Best Composer at the Girls On Film Awards event held at The Garden Cinema on March 2nd. One of the film’s Nainita scored, FOR SAMA, also won Best Documentary Feature. Girls On Film is a film review podcast from a female perspective, hosted by film critic and broadcaster Anna Smith. Listen to the podcast Spotify, SoundCloud or subscribe here: www.apple.co/2D4ByK0, and follow their page on Facebook.
An award for Best Original Film Score was given to Erwann Chandon for SIMON’S GOT A GIFT on February 21, 2022, during the 47th Sci-Fi Film Festival ceremony in Boston (USA), where the film began its run. This soundtrack has already allowed Chandon to win the “Emerging Talent” Michel Legrand 2021 Prize in France. The film follows eight-year-old Simon, an orphan who dreams of being adopted by a family; but Simon is not a child like the others, he has a secret power: he is able to take the appearance of every person he has ever touched. The soundtrack album is available from these links.
Intrada has announced a soundtrack CD featuring Craig Safan’s all-new score for Universal’s silent film masterpiece THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The 1925 silent film classic, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry, was composed by Safan under commission. The orchestral score premiered at “Opera at the Shore” in Chace Park on July 11, 2019, where The Marina del Rey Symphony performed a live-to-picture medley of the music accompanying scenes from the movie. For the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Safan composed and conducted a large tapestry featuring Gothic shadings, beautiful romance, tortured suspense, requisite organ and a plethora of quieter passages for solo instruments including a medieval dance. This new recording on Intrada features the Miles End Symphony with vocal soloist Sonia Kazarova, under the baton of the composer. Watch a clip from Lon Chaney’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA unmasking scene set to a portion of Safan’s new score, on my musiquefantastique website, here.
To hear Intrada’s sample tracks or to order, see Intrada.
Brendan Angelides scores Showtime Networks’ new series SUPER PUMPED, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kyle Chandler, Uma Thurman, and Elisabeth Shue, and is based on the 2019 nonfiction book of the same name by Mike Isaac. The first installment, subtitled “The Battle For Uber,” is based on Isaac’s book and follows the roller-coaster ride of the upstart transportation company, embodying the highs and lows of Silicon Valley. It premiered on Showtime on February 27, 2022. Ahead of the series premiere, the series was renewed for a second season, which will be based on a separate forthcoming book by Isaac about Facebook. Composer Angelides also scores Netflix’s limited-series ECHOES, starring Michelle Monaghan and Matt Bomer, which is scheduled to premiere sometime in 2022.
Milan Records has released the Original Series Soundtrack to Season 2 of HBO’s THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES by multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter Joseph Stephens. The album features both instrumental score music and original vocal songs written by Stephens for the second season of the comedy series about a world-famous corrupt televangelist family. Returning to the series after scoring the first season, Stephens has created what he calls a “massive soundscape with a wide palette of sonic vibrations and textures.” The resulting 50-track collection reflects this expansiveness, ranging from synth-heavy instrumentals punctuated by operatic choral voices, distant whispers and manipulated tape machines, to original worship songs and Christian Rock parodies. Available from these links.
Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, has released THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL: Season Four, Music From The Amazon Original Series as a digital album. The album features three new original songs written for the series by Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore as well as classic compositions by a number of swing composers and songwriters. A CD version will be available on April 29, with a vinyl release on November 4th – which may be preordered here. “Writing original songs for Season Four was a joyride,” said the songwriters. “When else in our career are we going to be asked to write 60s pop, a calypso wedding toast, classic burlesque strips, and even a fake Golden Age Broadway musical? Every time Amy and Dan would call with a new assignment we’d laugh at this new wild, musical adventure. Then we’d hang up and wonder if they were punking us.”
The standalone six-part thriller series THE TOURIST, from Jack and Harry Williams, the creators of BAPTISTE and THE MISSING, features a riveting score by Dominik Scherrer, is now streaming on HBO Max. The internationally co-produced television series stars Jamie Dornan as a car rollover victim who wakes up in an Australian hospital with amnesia. He must use what few clues he has to discover his identity before his past catches up with him. Watch the series’ first look trailer below:
Sony Classical has released the digital soundtrack album for the sixth season of the Starz original fantasy-historical-romance-drama series OUTLANDER. The album features selections of the original music from the show’s composer, Emmy Award winner Bear McCreary. A CD version is set to come out on April 15 and is now available for pre-order from Amazon, here. The show’s sixth season will premiere this coming Sunday, March 6 on Starz and a seventh season has already been ordered. Via filmmusicreporter. Listen/download the album at these links
James Newton Howard will be scoring the television adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Directed and co-created by Shawn Levy, this is a mini-series coming to Netflix, which stars Aria Mia Loberto as Marie-Laure, Louis Hoffman as Werner, and Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie. It tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French teenager, and Werner, a German soldier, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. “I love this novel, and I am so excited to help bring it to the screen,” Howard wrote in a Facebook post.
Varèse Sarabande Records has announced its March 2022 CD Club titles: an energetic 2-CD set of John Powell’s magnificent symphonic score to HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (see details in review, above), and a Deluxe Edition of Michael Kamen’s THE IRON GIANT. Originally released as a 49-minute program in 1999, this Deluxe IRON GIANT album fills an entire CD, with a 64-minute score program plus 13 minutes of alternates, outtakes and rare demos—including a piano-and-guitar attempt at an unrealized song, “Souls Don’t Die,” based on Kamen’s theme, performed by Kamen and Eric Clapton. Tim Greiving’s new liner notes feature new interview material with director Brad Bird, music editor Christopher Brooks and orchestrator Blake Neely, going deep into Kamen’s working process and their adoration for the gifted, late composer. See Varèse Sarabande. (A digital version of the Deluxe Edition to THE IRON GIANT is also available at all traditional download and streaming sites.)
In 2008, In the jungle, the oldest communist guerrilla in the world is living its last moments in the Colombian jungle. Raul Reyes, the second in command of FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army), is killed in a bombing. He leaves behind an unprecedented document: 10 years of correspondence with all the conflict’s leading players, bearing witness to a fierce struggle. The French-speaking, Swiss-released film is directed by Juan José Lozano and Zoltan Horvath, and features music by Nascuy Linares (FREE COLOR, THE WHISTLER: ORIGINS, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, LUXOR, ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENEZUELA). Plaza Mayor Co. has released the soundtrack to JUNGLE ROUGE (Red Jungle) which, in mixed animation, immerses viewers in the intimate and political story of a man, as well as a revolutionary utopia that dreamed of changing the world before collapsing. It’s an animated thriller that delves into the secrets of the oldest communist guerrilla, as the revolutionary utopia was slowly turning into a nightmare. The film had its world premiere at FIFDH 2022, the 20th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, in Geneva. See more details on the film at FIFHD. Watch the film’s teaser trailer below:
The eighth season of CW’s Arrowverse series, THE FLASH, begins with the five-part “Armageddon,” wherein a powerful alien threat arrives on Earth under mysterious circumstances, causing Barry (The Flash), Iris, and the rest of the team to be pushed to their limits in a desperate battle to save the world. The crossover event includes hero and villain guest stars including Black Lightning, The Atom, Sentinel, Batwoman, Phantom Girl, psychic alien Despero, Chillblaine, Damien Darhk, Goldface, and others. Water Tower Music has released the digital soundtrack to the Season 8 crossover event, composed by Blake Neely and Nathaniel Blume. The “Armageddon” crossover event premiered last November/December; the second part of the Season 8 of THE FLASH debuted on March 9 on the CW, picking up where season 7 had left off. - via filmmusicreporter <- see which for tracklist & further details
UMMA, an upcoming American supernatural horror film written and directed by Iris K. Shim, is about a Korean immigrant, Amanda, and her daughter who live on a rural farm, raising bees and living without modern technology. When Amanda receives the cremated ashes of her estranged mother, it unleashes a vicious spirit intent on taking her body for itself. UMMA stars Sandra Oh, Fivel Stewart, Dermot Mulroney, and Odeya Rush. Roque Baños (EVIL DEAD , OLD BOY , DON’T BREATHE, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB) has scored the film, which is scheduled by Sony on March 18, 2022.
Watch the UMMA trailer, which includes portions of Roque’s score:
La-La Land Records and Paramount Pictures proudly present an expanded and remastered release of acclaimed composer Mark Isham’s original score to the 1993 feature film sci-fi drama FIRE IN THE SKY, directed by Robert Lieberman, and starring D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick and James Garner. Isham’s compelling score to this involving and reportedly true account of a rural timber worker’s alien abduction is a potent and elegant musical work, brimming with tension and atmospheric suspense, but also heart and Americana. It’s a rich, dynamic meld of inventive synth and traditional orchestra that is celebrated in this remastered CD presentation, expanded with previously unreleased music. Produced by Dan Goldwasser and mastered by James Nelson, this limited release of 1000 units features exclusive, in-depth liner notes by Jeff Bond and art direction by Goldwasser. The label has also released a 2-CD limited expanded edition of Maurice Jarre’s score for TOP SECRET!, the wacky comedy from the makers of AIRPLANE!. (See review above).
Mark Isham has also composed the first season of THE CLEANING LADY, the thrilling and emotionally driven character drama about a whip-smart Cambodian doctor who comes to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her son, but when the system fails and pushes her into hiding, she uses her cunning and intelligence to fight back, breaking the law for all the right reasons. The soundtrack also features six songs, including a version of the George and Ira Gershwin-penned classic “Someone To Watch Over Me” performed by series star Élodie Yung. The album also includes five songs performed together by Ruby Ibarra & Nick Isham. Watertower Music has released the soundtrack for streaming and digital – see links.
Composer Arturo Cardelús is reteaming with director Salvador Simó on the upcoming animated feature DRAGONKEEPER. The film, based on Carole Wilkinson’s series of fantasy novels, tells the story of a slave girl who becomes a Dragonkeeper by helping the last surviving dragon find a safe location to hatch its egg, and features the voices of Bill Nighy, Bill Bailey, and Naomi Yang. Cardelús (BLACK BEACH, IN A HEARTBEAT) has previously collaborated with Simó on the 2018 feature BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES, last year’s Disney Channel animated special DESCENDANTS: THE ROYAL WEDDING and the short LA AUTOESTIMA. Dragonkeeper is currently in production. No release date has been announced yet. – via filmmusicreporter
Related: see my interview with Cardelús about LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES in my October 2019 column.
Acclaimed composer & orchestrator Conrad Pope has returned to the scoring stage with the music for THE SOUND OF VIOLET, a new feature film written and directed by Allen Wolf. Over his career in Hollywood, Conrad has contributed to the music of more than a hundred films, including many iconic movies, working with John Williams, Don Davis, Howard Shore, and many more. THE SOUND OF VIOLET is a romantic dramedy based on the critically-acclaimed novel that brings attention to human trafficking and autism. The production filmed all around Seattle, Washington. Conrad and Allen Wolf previously collaborated together when Conrad composed the score to Allen’s feature film thriller, IN MY SLEEP.
In collaboration with Lionceau Films and Pathé Films, Music Box Records presents the new score composed by Philippe Rombi for the film LE TEMPS DES SECRETS (The Time of Secrets). Adapted from Marcel Pagnol’s eponymous book, directed by Christophe Barratier (The Chorus), stars Guillaume de Tonquédec, Mélanie Doutey, François-Xavier Demaison, Anne Charrier and introducing Léo Campion. The film takes place in Marseille, July 1905, as nearly a teenager Marcel Pagnol embarks in his last summer vacation before high school and returns, at last, to his beloved hills in Provence. What begins as a summer of boyhood adventures becomes one of the first loves, and unearthed secrets. LE TEMPS DES SECRETS is the fourth collaboration between director Christophe Barratier and composer Philippe Rombi after WAR OF THE BUTTONS, TEAM SPIRIT and FLY ME AWAY. For this coming-of-age film, Rombi composed a very lyrical and intimate score with a beautiful waltz theme. Recorded with the prestigious Orchestre National d’Île-de-France, the score also features memorable themes, lively rhythms and a mystery that evoke childhood memories with tenderness. The soundtrack includes an 8-page CD booklet including statements from director Barratier. See MusicBoxRecords. Related: See my review of Rombi’s excellent score BOÎTE NOIR (Black Box) in my January 2022 column.
Music Box has also announced the newly remastered edition of his score to the 1964 classic adventure film THAT MAN FROM RIO (L’Homme de Rio), directed by Philipe de Broca (KING OF HEARTS, CHOUANS!), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Françoise Dorléac, and scored by Georges Delerue. The release coincides with the 30th anniversary of the composer’s passing (1925-2022). The film follows a young man who comes to the rescue of his girlfriend who’s been abducted by thieves and brought to Rio, resulting in an extravagant adventure. Supervised by Colette Delerue, this new French 2022 release has been newly remastered from the scoring session elements and offers a new assembled program. The CD comes with a 12-page booklet with liner notes by Sylvain Pfeffer, discussing the film and the score. The release is limited to 1000 units. See MusicBoxRecords.
Daniel Pemberton is set to return to score the upcoming Netflix original film ENOLA HOLMES 2. The movie is directed by Harry Bradbeer (FLEABAG) and stars Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, and David Thewlis. The sequel to Bradbeer’s 2020 ENOLA HOLMES (also scored by Pemberton – see interview in my Jan/Feb 2021 column) follows the title character as she takes on her first case as a detective, but to unravel the mystery of a missing girl, she’ll need help from friends – and brother Sherlock. The film will premiere this year on Netflix. - via filmmusicreporter
In other Pemberton news, Back Lot Music will release a soundtrack album of his score for DreamWorks Animation’s feature THE BAD GUYS. The album also includes songs performed by Anthony Ramos, Elle King, and The Heavy. The soundtrack will be released digitally on March 31. The animated comedy is based on the Scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey and centers on a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws who are about to attempt their most challenging con yet – becoming model citizens. The movie is being released in several international markets over the next couple of weeks and will arrive in U.S. theaters on April 22. – via filmmusicreporter
Rob Simonson’s score for the Netflix original film THE ADAM PROJECT has been released by Milan Records. The film is directed by Shawn Levy and stars Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, and Zoe Saldana. The sci-fi adventure follows a time-traveling fighter pilot who accidentally crash-lands in 2022 and teams up with his 12-year old self on a mission to save the future. The album is available at these links. In addition, Sony has posted a video of the recording session of the score’s main theme (that’s the composer on the grand piano).
Watch it below:
MovieScore Media’s most recent releases for March include BEYOND THE SUMMIT (La Cima) by composer Paula Olaz (her score for NORA, co-composed with Pascal Gaigne, was previously released by MSM). The film is about a man seeking to finally reach his goal of climbing Annapurna, but is injured in an accident and is helped by a woman climber who has been taking refuge on the mountain. “Music [is] composed for saxophone quartet, string orchestra, piano, mixed with atmospheres and instruments, created expressly to match the sonority of the wild nature of this film,” said the composer. “It revolves around several main themes that change throughout the film, adapting to the psychological and emotional state of the characters.” Also released is the 2021 animated feature DOGTANIAN AND THE THREE MUSKEHOUNDS, scored by Spanish composer Manel Gil-Inglada using more than 120 musicians and technicians, resulting in an expressive orchestral soundtrack, dynamic, fun and majestic. Also new from the label is LAST FILM SHOW from French composer Cyril Morin, an original score from the 2021 drama feature film directed by Pan Nalin. Synopsis: When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart; he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams. unaware of heartbreaking times that await him. “Nalin wanted to have the music coming from the real sounds of the film and later eventually become a melody,” said Morin. “We used a lot of synthetic sounds in order to bond with the sounds coming from the trains, the factory, the projector. Beside ‘sounds coming from the film,’ when a melody is coming from it, I use a piano, flutes, and also a marimba, a guitar, a saxophone, which have nothing to do with a local music. When Samay is alone I use a sort of dobro guitar inspired by American blues. I use it also as sound effect.” For more details, sample tracks, or to order see MovieScore Media.
Disney’s BETTER NATE THAN EVER is a feel-good comedy adventure with show-stopping musical numbers. Based on the award-winning novel by the film’s writer-director Tim Federle, the movie is about 13-year-old Nate Foster, who has big Broadway dreams. There’s only one problem – he can't even land a part in the school play. But when his parents leave town, Nate and his best friend Libby sneak off to the Big Apple for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove everyone wrong. The original soundtrack features the film score by Gabriel Mann along with 3 original songs and the George Benson classic “On Broadway.” The movie begins streaming exclusively on Disney+ beginning April 1, 2022.
Disney & Pizar’s TURNING RED features three original songs written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell with score by Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson. According to the composer, the score is eclectic – a musical representation of what it might feel like to be a teenager in the early 2000s. “The score is a clash of cultures as well as a clash between the older generation and the new,” he says. “The clash in musical styles also represents Mei’s internal struggle with her own identity. But these conflicts push her forward into her journey of self-discovery.” Göransson created character-specific themes for Mei, her mother, Ming, and a third for the red panda itself. “Mei’s theme is represented by the flute,” he says. “At the beginning of the film, Mei’s theme alternates between the western flute and the dizi [a traditional Chinese flute made of bamboo], to reinforce the split in her sense of self. Ming’s theme is represented by the guzheng [Chinese plucked stringed instrument],” continues Göransson. “Her theme is traditional, nostalgic and always there to remind Mei of the love that she has for her daughter.” As for the red panda theme, the composer describes it as “quirky, grotesque and awkward,” incorporating the bianzhong, which is a set of bronze bells to highlight, according to Göransson, “the heightened uncertainty of Mei’s chaotic, emotional state.” Göransson incorporated other traditional Chinese instruments, including the pipa, a pear-shaped stringed instrument; the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese fiddle; and Chinese opera percussion. These instruments were used to underscore the Lee family heritage and their mystical connection to their ancestor Sun Yee. Listen or buy the soundtrack here.
Lakeshore Records has released THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY, the new original series now streaming on Apple TV+. Composer Craig DeLeon’s vivid score evokes the wide range of emotions found in the limited series, which stars Samuel L. Jackson as Ptolemy Grey, an ailing man forgotten by his family, his friends, and even himself. As he sinks deeper into a lonely dementia. Says composer DeLeon: “When I was asked to score THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY, the producers allowed me to do what I absolutely love about film scoring in the first place: to create a world within which a story is told and emotions are felt. It’s about sonic world building for me. An effective score is like the campfire in the woods from where a storyteller tells you a story. They could tell it over the phone or write it down but it hits different with the smell of the firewood and the pine and the night sky and the flickering flames. The score is that campfire.”
Milan Records has released the original motion picture soundtrack to AFTER YANG, featuring an original score by Aska Matsumiya and an original theme provided by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Based on the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” from the book Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein, the film is A24’s newest science fiction drama; taking place in a near future: when his young daughter's beloved companion – an android named Yang – malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him. In the process, Jake discovers the life that has been passing in front of him, reconnecting with his wife (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter across a distance he didn't know was there. Inspired by the film’s futuristic setting and subject matter, Matsumiya utilized A.I. technology throughout her scoring process, feeding both her own compositions and Sakamoto’s contribution into a special A.I.-driven software developed by Luke Fischbeck (of Lucky Dragons) that generated infinite musical variations. Of the soundtrack, composer Matsumiya says, “In terms of instrumentation, the score consists of piano, cello, marimbas and lots of synths… the concept was that we wanted to make sure that the sound was both new and futuristic, but also very human at the same time. We wanted to create a sort of paradox, echoing the sentiment that in the future, often what we actually want is to be more human and return to the essence of humanity. Which is why we ended up mixing the very human-like, warm instrumentation with the more futuristic synth work and A.I. variations.” AFTER YANG is available now in theaters and streaming on Showtime. The soundtrack is available at these links.
Three new limited CD Italian zombie horror soundtracks are available from Quartet Records. The first is a reissue of the classic Stelvio Cipriani score for Umberto Lenzi’s 1980 cult horror plague film INCUBO SULLA CITTA’ CONTAMINATA (aka NIGHTMARE CITY, aka LA INVASIÓN DE LOS ZOMBIES ATÓMICOS). Cipriani’s iconic score is largely electronic with a few live instruments providing a bit of light-hearted counterpoint to carnage. The label also presents the premiere release of the soundtrack to Bruno Mattei’s 1980 iconic zombie film VIRUS (aka VIRUS, L’INFERNO DEI MORTI VIVENTI, aka APOCALIPSIS CANÍBAL, aka HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD), which compiles together both library music and an original score composed by Gianni Dell’Orso. The third zombie soundtrack is a reissue of fan-favorite experimental Giuliano Sorgini’s score for Jordi Grau’s masterpiece THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (aka LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, aka NO PROFANAR EL SUEÑO DE LOS MUERTOS, aka NON SI DEVE PROFANARE IL SOGNO DEI MORTI). In a technological innovation, composer Sorgini was given the budget to record his score on four-track tape, a historical first for Italian horrors. The idea was in giving sound to the titular dead – the screams, howls, laughs, cries and whispers. Each of these CD features new liner notes by Gergely Hubai discussing the film and the score. For more details, see www.quartetrecords.com
X is a 2022 American erotic slasher film written, directed, produced, and edited by Ti West. Starring Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, and Scott Mescudi, X takes place in 1979, as a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film at a secluded farmhouse in rural Texas, but the leering interest of their hosts, a reclusive elderly couple, turns violent as night falls, and the cast find themselves fighting for their lives. The film has been scored by Tyler Bates (DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004, 300, WATCHMEN, THE SACRAMENT, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Netflix’s THE PUNISHER, DEADPOOL 2, all four JOHN WICK movies) and recording artist/actress Chelsea Wolfe (LONE, SUKEBAN: OCTOPUS POT). Read my detailed interview with Tyler Bates about scoring X with Chelsea Wolfe at musiquefantastique. Prior to the full soundtrack, A24 released Wolfe’s cover version of “Oui Oui Marie” from the film’s upcoming soundtrack, which is available from amazon. Listen to it below:
On March 25th, Silva Screen Records will digitally release THE CHELSEA DETECTIVE, Ian Arber’s electro-acoustic soundtrack to Acorn TV’s original drama. The series has to do with DI Max Arnold (Adrian Scarborough), whose lifestyle on a battered houseboat in Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk contrasts sharply with the affluent elite whose crimes he helps solve alongside partner D.C. Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry). Arber’s nuanced soundtrack spotlights a timeless piano and cello theme against pulsating strings and electronics, a modal motif that keeps recurring, in different variations, with the sound expanding and contracting. Navigating nostalgia and pensiveness, Arber creates a sense of covert anxiety against a backdrop of beauty, bolstering the dark undertones of the Chelsea story lines.
Ian Arber is a classically trained film and television composer, proficient in cello, piano, bass, electric and acoustic guitar, and music production. Arber is best known for his work on Netflix original’s THE ONE (2021) and MEDICI (2018), BBC One’s thriller THE CAPTURE (2019; soundtrack available via Silva Screen), MY NAME IS LENNY (2017) and the award-winning documentaries AFTER THE SCREAMING STOPS and I AM BOLT (2016).
Composer Atli Örvarsson will be releasing an original EP album, 7 Cycles, later this year from the Icelandic label INNI. “7 Cycles is an exploration of the idea that our lives occur in seven-year cycles. Some of these pieces are new and some have been with me for a while, so you could say they represent different cycles of my own life. I also had a desire to focus on solo piano and the vulnerability that comes with not having a big orchestration or production to hide behind. It’s a quest for honesty and rawness of emotion.” Listen to the delicate piano piece “Clouds,” which was previewed earlier, on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more, here.
Back Lot Music has released the soundtrack to the Focus Features film THE OUTFIT, featuring new music by Academy Award winning composer Alexandre Desplat. The movie stars Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O'Brien, and Johnny Flynn – it is about an expert tailor who must outwit a dangerous group of mobsters in order to survive a fateful night. Now available digitally at these links.
Listen to Desplat’s jazzy main theme from THE OUTFIT:
Reber Clark has rejoined writer-producer-director Joshua Kennedy (for whom he scored the stop-motion extravaganza COWGIRLS VS PTERODACTYLS (2020; see my review in the February 2021 Soundtrax) and the Gothic fairytale HOUSE OF THE GORGON (2019, winner of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Independent Film) to score SATURNALIA, in which Kennedy plays lonely cartoonist Melvin Kolbaba, who spends his life dreaming up cartoon characters when, through a strange and wacky twist of fate, his drawings come to life when a top secret experiment goes awry. UK “Scream Princess” Dani Thompson stars as Saturnalia, Melvin's beautiful and voluptuous cartoon cave-girl who leaps forth from his artwork to cause havoc and hijinks for anyone who crosses her path. The film also features a voice cameo by cult-film icon Martine Beswicke, and a rockin’ ‘60s-style title song sung by Laura Laureano. Sample Clark’s deliciously campy SATURNALIA score, a retro Henry Mancini-esque score with plenty of big band flavors on bandcamp, available digitally and on CD (while they last).
Plaza Mayor Company has released J Bateman’s score to SAINTS AND SOLDIERS: AIRBORNE CREED, a 2012 World War II war film directed by Ryan Little, based on events surrounding the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of Operation Dragoon, which occurred two months after D-Day during the invasion of Southern France. The film is a sequel to the 2003 war film SAINTS AND SOLDIERS (which Bateman also scored), and is followed by the third film in the series, SAINTS AND SOLDIERS: THE VOID, which was released in 2014. The soundtrack is available from Spotify, Amazon, and other digital music sources.
Christopher Nicholas Bangs (BEEN SO LONG, JUNKHEARTS, PANIC, DIMENSIONS) is scoring the new Apple TV+ series, WE CRASHED. Based on the hit Wondery podcast “WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork,” the series stars Academy Award and SAG Award winners Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, and is inspired by actual events: the greed-filled rise and inevitable fall of WeWork, one of the world's most valuable startups, and the narcissists whose chaotic love made it all possible. Listen to “An Entrepreneur” from WE CRASHED:
Kronos Records has announced its Spring releases: FAREWELL GULSARY by Andre Matthias. World Premiere release, CD limited to 300 copies. Based on famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov’s novel, the film deals with old age, loss, and disenchantment but at the same time celebrates the beauty of life and what we make of it. The music has an ethnic flavor to it, transporting you to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan but more precisely into Gulsary and Tanabai’s hearts and souls. Samples and pre-order here.
BLOOD ON THE CROWN by Laurent Eyquem. Modern historical drama, World Premiere release, CD limited to 300 copies. The movie deals with the events that lead to the 7th June 1919 Maltese uprising against their British colonizers, a revolt that started as a protest against the price of bread that years later culminated with independence of the Maltese islands. The score is highly eclectic and dramatic; the more tranquil pieces have a European flavor to them with a hint of Middle Eastern touches. Samples and pre-order here.
STORIA E PREISTORIA by Piero Umiliani. 1972 cult documentary, first time ever on CD, limited to 300 copies. This title was released as a very rare vinyl in 1972 on the Omicron label and a true collector’s item. The music can be best described as the mystical romanticized atmospheres of civilizations bygone as viewed through 1972 viewing spectacles, all with a very heavy personal Umiliani feel to it. A real gem. Samples and pre-order here.
Watertower Music has released the soundtrack to the HBO® Max Original Limited Series DMZ, the futuristic drama based on the comic series published by DC, that sees America embroiled in a bitter civil war, leaving Manhattan a demilitarized zone (DMZ). The film features the music of Emmy Award-winning composer and Julliard-trained pianist Kris Bowers, who is currently nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for BRIDGERTON, the Netflix series. The 19-Track DMZ soundtrack is now available for streaming and digital purchase from Amazon and other digital music sources. Watch the series trailer here. Listen to the Main Theme from DMZ:
Speaking of Kris Bowers, Capitol Records has announced two new soundtrack albums for the Netflix original series BRIDGERTON. The BRIDGERTON Season Two Soundtrack from the Netflix Series album features selections of the original score from the show’s second season composed by Kris Bowers, while the BRIDGERTON Season Two Covers from the Netflix Series album features orchestral versions of songs from iconic artists of the past three decades. Both soundtracks were released digitally on March 25 (Lakeshore Records has previously released Bowers’ score and the covers from Season 1 back in 2020).
- via filmmusicreporter
Horror score specialist Howlin’ Wolf Records presents Christoph Allerstorfer’s score for THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING (2022). The setting for the sequel to writer/director Lawrence Fowler’s 2019 demon monster horror flick, THE JACK IN THE BOX, is the Rosewood Manor estate where a vintage Jack-in-the-box is opened by a dying woman. When she does so, she enters into a deal with the demon within that would see her illness cured in return for helping it claim six innocent victims. Breathing emotional depth and life into every scene in THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING, Allerstorfer’s gothic symphony is performed by a 42-piece orchestra, Big Island Orchestra Vienna. For more details, including track list and sample tracks, see Howlin’ Wolf Records, here.
Watch the scary scene “Goodbye, Stacy” with Allerstorfer’s score:
The frequent Asylum scoring team of Christopher Ridenhour, Christopher Cano, and Mikel Shane Prather are currently scoring the Tubi original, TITANIC 666. The film is directed by Nick Lyon (EARTHTASTROPHE, STORMAGEDDON, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE) and stars AnnaLynne McCord (EXCISION). The film takes place one hundred and ten years after its namesake’s fateful journey, as the Titanic III’s maiden voyage will returns us to the original site of the wreck. Although a faithful replica of the original, this mammoth cruise ship is built with the most advanced technology, ensuring that it has no chance of sinking. But when the Titanic III arrives at the tragic site, strange events begin to occur, as dark forces from the deep rise to the surface, terrorizing all aboard and threatening to repeat one of history’s greatest disasters. The film as yet has no announced release date. The composing trio also recently scored The Asylum’s DRACULA: THE ORIGINAL LIVING VAMPIRE, in which Amelia Van Helsing is on the desperate hunt for the killer responsible for a string of grisly murders targeting young women. Her prime suspect: the mysterious Count Dracula. Meanwhile Ridenhour and Cano continue to score a variety of Lifetime movies as well.
The latest adaptation of Stephen King’s 1975 novel SALEM'S LOT is underway, directed by Gary Dauberman. The plot centers on a writer who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot in search of inspiration, only to discover the presence of a vampire. Composer Nathan Barr (KATE, THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL, THE DEVIL’S LIGHT) and singer/composer Lisbeth Scott (ALL MY LIFE, AMERICAN SON, JUSTINE) will be scoring the forthcoming film, which is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on September 9, 2022, by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Walt Disney Records has released a digital single soundtrack to the cartoon short, FAR FROM THE TREE, featuring the original score composed by Nami Melumad (STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS & PRODIGY, THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW) and is now available to stream/download on Amazon and any other digital music services. FAR FROM THE TREE is written and directed by Natalie Nourigat and revolves around a young raccoon whose frustrated parent attempts to keep them both safe. The short was released in theaters last fall in front of Disney’s ENCANTO and is now available to stream on Disney+. – via filmmusicreporter
Lakeshore Records has released the digital soundtrack to PACHINKO featuring music by Nico Muhly (KILL YOUR DARLINGS, HOWARDS END). The evocative score showcases strings, piano, and left of center orchestral flourishes that provide a vivid backdrop to the sweeping drama that begins with a forbidden love and crescendos into a saga that journeys between Korea, Japan, and America to tell a story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning. The series made its global premiere March 25 today on Apple TV+. The album is available at these links. The label has also digitally released the Original Series Soundtrack to PAM & TOMMY, featuring music by award-winning composer Matthew Margeson (ROCKETMAN, KINGSMAN franchise). Margeson goes outside of the orchestral score box incorporating strings and piano with striking electronics and percussion creating a dynamic backdrop to the series. Set in the Wild West early days of the Internet, the eight-part original limited series PAM & TOMMY is based on the true story of the Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor (Seth Rogen), the video went from underground bootleg-VHS curiosity to full-blown global sensation when it hit the Web in 1997. Says Margeson: “Creating a musical world for the PAM & TOMMY story turned out to be such a rewarding, yet challenging journey. Coming from a more orchestral background, not being able to lean on those tools as a crutch definitely meant pushing myself into uncomfortable musical territory.”
Lakeshore has also release a new EP, “Songs From The Attic,” from promising Philadelphia-based R&B singer-songwriter Saleka that contains four songs used in the latest third season of SERVANT, the Apple Original Series from M. Night Shyamalan. Her new song “Take It Or Leave It” is featured in the series’ finale, which aired March 25 on Apple TV+. Notes Saleka: “ ‘Take It or Leave It’ is a cheeky song about the classic situation of being with someone who wants to keep you close but never wants to really commit. It echoes the dynamics of the relationship between Julian (Rupert Grint) and Leanne (Nell Tiger Free) in the show. But it also reflects the overall unrequited love Leanne feels from the Turner family in general. She wants to belong and yet they will never fully claim her. The lyrics move between a sarcastic self-observation, and moments of assertion demanding an answer one way or the other.” The EP is available at these links. Listen to “Take It Or Leave It” on YouTube here.
THE TOXIC AVENGER is an upcoming American superhero comedy horror film, written and directed by Macon Blair. The film serves as a reboot and “contemporary reimagining” of the 1984 film of the same name, and the fifth installment overall in its film franchise. The film is produced by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, who produced the previous films in the franchise, and stars Peter Dinklage as the titular character. Composers Brooke Blair & Will Blair (GREEN ROOM, VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX, BLACK CHRISTMAS) are reteaming with Blair to score the film. The composers have previously scored the filmmaker’s directorial debut I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE and also composed the music for several other films he wrote and produced. No release date has been set yet for THE TOXIC AVENGER.
Endeavor Content has digitally released LIFE & BETH the original series soundtrack featuring music by Ray Angry and Timo Elliston. Cool jazz cues mix with evocatively modern acoustic moments that uniquely capture the range of moods and backdrops in the comedic series created by and starring Amy Schumer. The story has to do with Beth, after an unexpected incident, having flashbacks to her teen self and learns how she became who she is and who she wants to become. The jazz here serves a deeper, dramatic role, rather than just being an accent to a punchline, say the composers. The series premiered on Hulu March 18.
THE REQUIN is a 2022 American horror thriller film written and directed by Le-Van Kiet (THE ANCESTRAL, FURIE, THE RICH WOMAN, HOUSE IN THE ALLEY) and stars Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper. The movie is about a couple on a romantic getaway who find themselves stranded at sea when a tropical storm sweeps away their coastal villa. In order to survive, they are forced to fight the elements, while a school of great white sharks circle below (REQUIN is French for SHARK). The film, scheduled to be released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 29, has been scored by Swedish-born composer and songwriter Jean-Paul Wall, who has written music for many Swedish movies and TV-shows. He is best known for SUTTON’S CASE (2020), THE MIRACLE OF THE SARGASSO SEA (2019)m SPINNING MAN (2018), and HEART OF A LION (2013).
Disney has released the AMONG THE STARS soundtrack, featuring music composed and produced by Colin Stetson (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, UZUMAKI, HEREDITARY). The six-part docuseries, with fly-on-the-wall access into the vast world of NASA, is now streaming exclusively on Disney+. The album is available at these links.
Composer Andreja Pesic (THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS 3, KOSOVO: A MOMENT IN CIVILIZATION) has composed the music for the documentary MONTENEGRO: A LAND DIVIDED, a feature documentary film by Serbian-Canadian director Boris Malagurski, analyzing the historical causes of social divisions in Montenegro and attempts to uncover who is profiting from the decades-long polarization. The documentary includes the last interview with Metropolitan Amfilohije, as historical footage of national significance. A soundtrack album of Pesic’s moving score has been released by 3722496 Records DK. Watch the film’s trailer here. Listen to the track “Call of Our Ancestors:”
This book first came to my attention last January, and I gave it a short plug in that column, but now that I have the volume in hand, allow me to elaborate a bit more on it in this full review. James Newton Howard’s Signs, A Film Score Guide by Erik Heine is among the most recent of Rowman & Littlefield’s series of book-length film score examinations, which thus far totals 19 volumes, from 2004 to 2017. Its author is professor of music at Oklahoma City’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music, and he has written extensively on film music. Heine divides the book into six chapters: examining Howard’s musical background, his film scoring compositional process, a historical and critical examination of the film SIGNS, investigating the sounds of science fiction and director M. Night Shyamalan’s approach toward the genre, Howard’s technique of sketching and scoring SIGNS, and finally the author’s essential analysis of the SIGNS score. There are a number of musical examples for those who can read music, and a number of tables which illustrate the score’s structure and various distinctive sections within cues and in the composer’s recurring use of a three note motif in this score.
“James Newton Howard’s music for SIGNS, like many of his scores, takes a new approach for a film,” Heine writes in the book’s introduction. “The idea of basing the music on a single gesture is an approach similar to that of the early twentieth-century composer Arnold Schoenberg, but the largest influence on the score comes from Igor Stravinsky, specifically his music for the 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring… Howard’s approach to this film [is] an outlier when compared with the rest of his career. In doing so, his music for SIGNS will be recognized, not only within his work with Shyamalan, but as one of his most significant and best film scores.”
What follows is an extremely thorough and detailed analysis which will be valuable both for those musicologists and academics who can read music as well as those film music followers and examiners who don’t (in other words, don’t let the inclusion of technical musical data or samples of musical staves draw you away from this important book; there is plenty of detail and discovery in the author’s text to understand the form, function, integration, and structure of Howard’s SIGNS score.
“Despite Howard’s adeptness at composing long melodies and themes, as he did in UNBREAKABLE, he shies away from that side of his compositional abilities in SIGNS, instead favoring a dedication to the three-note motive,” Heine writes at the end of his cue-by-cue analysis of the score in Chapter 6. “Through that adherence to a minimum of compositional means, Howard created a film score that can be described as an example of minimalism… In SIGNS, Howard’s music doesn’t slowly change over time, nor are the process and the final product the same thing, but the three-note motive from the beginning develops and transforms into something wonderful.” Heine’s conclusion demonstrates just how powerful this seemingly simple score is, how it’s treatment of the three-note-motive represents various connected elements of his score, and how it delivers a profound resolve by the film’s end, as the reader will perceive.
“Howard’s score for SIGNS is one of his most effective, most inspired works,” Heine concludes in the book’s epilogue, “and will continue to affect anyone who watches the film long after the credits stop rolling.”
This book is the first to examine the composer’s work in detail, and in so doing demonstrates why and how James Newton Howard’s film music style is challenging to pigeonhole. The comprehensive analysis in this book also affords the first significantly broad examination of the music in any of Shyamalan’s films. It deserves a place in any thorough library of film and film musical studies.
Coming this Spring is the highly-anticipated STAR TREK: DISCOVERY SEASON 3 soundtrack on vinyl. Jeff Russo’s series score is getting the double vinyl treatment with a gorgeous blue and white marble pressing that is sure to be another winner with the truest of vinyl collectors. This is a limited edition vinyl pressing on 140 gm Blue/White Marble vinyl, with printed inner sleeves and a gatefold jacket. Lakeshore Records has secured a limited amount for an advanced pre-order on the Lakeshore Webshop ahead of the regular retail sales.
Pre-order The Vinyl.
In association with WaterTower Music, Mondo has released the BAFTA- and Oscar-winning soundtrack to DUNE by Hans Zimmer, who has taken the notion of a sci-fi soundtrack to another level here, mixing more traditional electronic and orchestral elements with Cubase instruments created especially for this project and fused with female voices singing in a language developed by Zimmer himself. The result is otherworldly and completely enveloping, much like the sands on Arrakis. The music here is vast, open and sprawling but at its core is an emotional depth few other composers come close to. Featuring original artwork by Greg Ruth, the 2XLP set features sand colored vinyl disc housed inside a beautiful gatefold sleeve, the package finished with a full-color, rigid outer plastic jacket capturing the majesty of DUNE perfectly. See Mondo.
Two new limited LP releases are now available from Quartet records. Riz Ortolani's addictive killer masterpiece for L'INVASIONE, and Carlo Savina's cult horror score for Mario Bava's classic LISA AND THE DEVIL are now available for the first time in vinyl. Both pressed in audiophile transparent color 180 GM vinyl.
Mondo is very excited to continue its ongoing series of releases with Toho. This week’s release is their first non-GODZILLA related title in the form of SPACE AMOEBA, an incredibly fun Kaiju film, loaded with some exceptional man-in-a-suit mayhem and destruction. Blessed with an incredible score from Akira Ifukube, it’s available for the first time on vinyl. The package features artwork from Matt Taylor. Numbered edition of 2500 pressed on 140 Gram Helios 7 vinyl (also available on 140 gram “Eco” vinyl) packaged in a blacklight UV activated gatefold sleeve. See mondo.
Speaking of Akira Ifukube, Waxwork has also announced two new original motion picture soundtracks on vinyl. The first is the complete original film score from KING KONG ESCAPES on a deluxe vinyl album officially for the first time outside of Japan. The album is presented on a 180 gram “Element X” colored vinyl, deluxe packaging, new artwork by Ross Murray, heavyweight gatefold jackets with matte satin coating, a 12”x12” art print, and more.
This item is expected to ship June 30, 2022. See Waxwork, here.
The second album has just been reported on Facebook but isn’t on the Waxwork site yet. “The next release in our ongoing series of classic Toho soundtracks is THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS original 1966 motion picture soundtrack by Akira Ifukube. Featuring the complete soundtrack officially available outside of Japan for the first time. 180 gram “Sanda” & “Gaira” colored vinyl, new artwork by Vance Kelly, deluxe packaging, heavyweight gatefold jackets with matte satin coating, an art print, and more!
With the 2012 critically-acclaimed video game Journey, composer Austin Wintory forever changed the world of video game music when it became the first and only video game score to ever be nominated for a Grammy Award, remaining so to this day. In celebration of Journey’s 10th Anniversary, T-65b Records has release Traveler: A Journey Symphony, in which Wintory re-orchestrates and reimagines his entire Journey score, transforming it from an intimate piece to a grandly symphonic one. The intimacy of the original, built from a few soloists and a small string ensemble, is now brought to life by the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Voices choir, cellist Tina Guo, and a dozen acclaimed singers. “In 2012 my life was changed forever by the release of Journey, owed entirely to the generous support and love shown by the players and listeners. I truly can’t imagine my world without it, and all the new friends and artists it brought into my life, new career opportunities and adventures,” said Wintory. “The last 10 years I’ve gotten so many utterly beautiful messages from people, telling of their relationship to the game. There’s been this recurring fantasy: to play and experience the game for the first time again. To feel it all anew. So, I wrote this album as a giant love letter and blast of gratitude to those people, for all the generosity they’ve shown me this past decade, in the hopes that maybe this album offers a fresh take and delivers a taste of that ‘for the first time’ feeling.” Traveler: A Journey Symphony was recorded at St. Luke’s in London with the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices Choir, conducted by Wintory himself. The new album can be purchased now from bandcamp or sampled on Distrokid, which also includes a Spotify link.
In further Wintory news, Austin has released “innOcence,” a stand alone single from his first game score, flOw, recorded during his Traveler session with the LSO and LV choir. “There would be no Journey without flOw (and Flower!), and as such this wonderfully quirky, meditative little game has always held a soft spot for me,” Wintory explained. “Revisiting this, the truly oldest of any work of mine, was a very nostalgic experience. As with the game, it was simpler and more innocent time, but hopefully enjoyable to new ears today!” For details see bandcamp.
Lakeshore Records in partnership with Ubisoft has released Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarök Blood Fire Tears – Original Game Soundtrack featuring music by Norwegian musician Einar Selvik of folk/world band Wardruna. The three-track EP is one of two companion album released to Ubisoft’s expansion of its hit game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. In Dawn of Ragnarök, the most ambitious expansion in franchise history, Eivor must embrace their destiny as Odin, the Norse god of Battle and Wisdom. Unleash new divine powers as you embark on a desperate quest through a breathtaking world. Complete a legendary Viking saga and save your son in the face of the gods’ doom. “Composing for this extension of the AC Valhalla has been interesting and fun as always,” said Selvik, with a “new storyline and new artistic direction to follow. Compared to previous work in the AC universe, I would say that these songs have a more modern feel to them, both in their construction as well as their melancholic distorted expression.” Track List: 1. Frigg Wept, 2. Grieving Baldr, 3. Surtr. Download/Listen the EP is out at these links.
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.