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Soundtrax: Episode 2022-3a
Special Edition: April, 2022

Feature Interview:

Grammy-nominated and two-time BAFTA-winning composer Austin Wintory has had a career straddling film, video games, and the stage. He has scored over 50 features, including several Sundance hits (GRACE, CAPTAIN ABU RAED), and over 30 games, netting him 7 BAFTA nominations, 2 wins of the peer-voted ASCAP Composer's Choice Awards, and a slew of other industry accolades. His work, ranging from intimate indies like Journey to massive blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed, is often noted for its unique perspective and unusual approach. Many of his game scores have enjoyed success in concert upon release, with performances all over the world including a recent presentation of his music before an audience of nearly 15,000 in Krakow, Poland. He is also a popular podcast, guest hosting the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences show “The Game Maker’s Notebook” and the popular game’s discussion show “Play Watch Listen.” On March 13, 2012, thatgamecompany released the award-winning, critically-acclaimed video game Journey, scored by Wintory. Journey 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 released Traveler: A Journey Symphony by Austin Wintory. This new album re-orchestrates and reimagines the entire 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 this interview, Austin describes in detail his inauguration into game scoring, how Journey came about, and how he transformed its electronic palette into the grand orchestral treatment of Traveler: A Journey Symphony, and much more. - rdl

Q: In our first interview, way back in 2009, you were just beginning your journey into video game scoring with flOw (“Flow”). After discussing several film scoring assignments, we talked about flOw and you made a very prescient statement, which I’ll quote: “If you look at all the historical precedent over thousands of years, culminating in film… the idea of interactive music within a non-linear environment has no precedent in all of human history – I think as games become more and more accepted and mainstream, you’re going to see a much wider variety of games… I think the music is going to take on its own identity the way that film music sounds different than contemporary concert music.” From today’s perspective, how accurate do you feel your prediction has become, and how has music for video games developed from what was happening in 2009?

Austin Wintory: My reaction is to say that I think we are definitely several steps farther down that path than it probably felt like we were at the time I said that. There’s still plenty of road ahead, as it were – meaning the broad adoption of non-linear storytelling by the average audience member is still a fraction compared to the number of people who would watch a traditionally linear film or TV show. At one point I believed – and maybe I still believe this – that non-linear  (or maybe at least interactive in one form or another) entertainment in storytelling would become the dominant means of storytelling at some point within this century, the same way that films so definitely became the dominant way of telling a story – and I include TV under the banner of films or cinema or whatever you want to frame it as. That storytelling method has beat out all other prior forms of humans telling stories to each other. I think games can do the same, but maybe more accurately or realistically they’ll achieve parity with each other, whereas right now it’s still pretty clearly in the film domain. Film still commands a far larger audience than games, even as games are in the billions of players. Part of the issue is that games are so divided because there are so many different ways to play games – and there’s such a fundamental difference between a Playstation or an X-box game versus a PC game versus a mobile game, versus a Nintendo game, versus something you’d play in a web browser like Wordle – that you can have billions of people who are gamers but no one game would necessarily be played by a huge swath of people; whereas a billion people might watch the latest Marvel film. You end up with this far more fractionalized cultural absorption – no one game commands an influence the way, historically, some of the biggest films have, whether it’s STAR WARS or E.T. or something like that, where hundreds of millions of people watch and continue to watch it over the years. So to make a long story short, we still have a ways to go before I think non-linear storytelling becomes a normal thing that people engage with no differently than film. But we’re definitely leaps and bounds farther than we were in 2009!

Q: What can you tell me about your original musical excursion from flOw to Journey. What did you experience in them as they, and game scores around them, were setting these new precedents?

Austin Wintory: It’s a little difficult to step outside one’s self to truly give an assessment of that. At the time, and still today, on any new project the goal is always to somehow do justice to the project, and to write something that feels properly respective of its needs and goals. To hopefully do something interesting in the process that, at minimum, feels like something I’ve never done, but in an ideal world feels like something that maybe no one’s ever done! Some days you achieve that better than others, but that’s the general goal, then and now. I think the only thing I would have been thinking of, in an externalized sense, that feels like the spirit of your question, was that when starting on Journey, as someone who had spent a lot of time listening to the great music – as you well know and I’m sure we discussed, the greats of the lineage of cinema always were at the tip of my tongue in any given moment throughout my life – whether it’s the Goldsmiths or the Horners or the Bernard Herrmanns or whomever. So walking into a project like Journey with that in the back of my head as to where the bar is, from a writing standpoint and crucially from a performance, recording, and production standpoint, was a massive consideration. Having that in my mind surely represented a big change, moving from flOw to Journey – where flOw was always understood to be this very textural, electronic, basically non-melodic kind of interactive musical thing that was meant to be very meditative and relaxing, and that’s about it. That was plenty for us to wrap our brain around back in 2006 when we first started thinking about it. So by the time it came to do Journey, which had to be more expressive and way more emotionally resonant and universal, I thought we can’t just rely on computer samples. This was still reasonably uncommon in games at the time, and particularly for anything smaller than a big, giant blockbuster game, which Journey definitely was. I remember having to keep the pressure on with Sony to make sure that the budget didn’t disappear, and that I could do some live recording and maintain Tina Guo and the other musicians’ presence in the score. We also did a very modest string orchestra date for it. That was so heavily motivated by the fact that, on the one hand, the ball was not necessarily that high with games for live recording and for really expressive, world-class musicianship; there were some exceptions but not that many. But meanwhile, film had been setting that bar for the better part of a hundred years, and had set it incredibly high, and so it was like: I can’t pretend I’m in some vacuum and unaware of what they had been doing in film and even TV; I couldn’t be saying “Nah, this doesn’t matter. It’s ok to just do things with samples because video games are used to that.” It’s like I’m a consumer of both, and I don’t want there to be an obvious disparity! It’s always such a bummer to watch an amazing film, like a Pixar movie with this gorgeous execution of its score and then to pivot to some game that came out the same day and feel this huge plumet in production value on music – even though the rest of the game may have been on an equal level of artistry as the Pixar film I had just watched. That was part of my active agenda that I’m incredibly grateful for, and I don’t think I would have had the career that I’ve had if I had been backed into a corner and been unable to produce that score the way I did, because without the emotionality of those performers, Tina in particular, I don’t think the music would have stood out the way it seems to have, the way that the performers carry it. The writing is fine, I guess, but the musicians are really the vessel for its emotional power to whatever extent it packs a punch, and if that hadn’t happened, I literally don’t even know what I’d be doing! My whole career was essentially predicated on that one title!

Q: Your score to the video game, Journey, was the first – and to date remains the only – video game score to be nominated for a Grammy Award. What were your feelings, personally and toward the evolution of video game music, at that time and what did that achievement mean for you as a composer?

Austin Wintory: There’s no denying it was a charming feather in the cap. I don’t put a lot of validation on it, in no small part because the Recording Academy is very different from the Film and TV Academy. The world of soundtrack albums and original scores and, particular for video games, is pretty niche for the Recording Academy because they are overwhelmingly populated by rock bands and jazz artists and hip-hop producers, people that are in far more so-called mainstream genres. The inner working of the composer community is a little bit off of their main beaten path, so when it comes time for them to vote, they’re not necessarily voting from a place of tremendous expertise on this. That is why I think – I don’t mean to sound cynical – but when you look at the Grammy nominees [for soundtracks] every year they tend to mirror pretty closely whatever the Oscar nominees would be or some other score that got a lot of buzz. I think that’s just because the main recognition of having done the circuit is what carries it. Now, of course there is some subset of the composer community who are Grammy voters and presumably that’s the only way that somehow Journey made it through, so it was pretty surreal. But, as much as it is a genuine honor to have that peculiar title, I feel like it’s in a way it’s almost like an indictment of the Recording Academy, because video games have been eligible for Grammys since 1999, and there was never one nomination for solidly thirteen years, and then there hasn’t been one in the ten years since. I actually thought for sure that was going to finally change when I thought Hildur Guðnadóttir and Sam Slater were going to get nominated this year for Battlefield 2042, and I was quite surprised that they didn’t. So, yes, in any case, to me it is a peculiar thing. It’s not like I’m ashamed of it or something – but I also try to never give it more weight than it necessarily ought to have.

Q: What prompted you to create Traveler – A  Journey Symphony in celebration of the game’s 10th anniversary, and how did you take its synthetic elements into an orchestral palette?

Austin Wintory: I can tell you, it was not easy! I realized I was juggling a handful of competing desires as soon as I realized this was a thing I wanted to do, which was maybe six or seven months before it would need to be done. So maybe August or so of 2021 is when I said “You know what? Next year will be the 10th anniversary, and I’ve been such an incredibly lucky recipient of so much good will from the players of this game and from people who’ve discovered the music. The last yen years have basically been literally daily generosity from anonymous strangers online – never mind all the career opportunities that have begun with an email that was like “Hey, I love Journey so I want to show you this thing that I’m doing!” Not a week after Journey came out, I got a call from these guys in Texas who wanted to tell me about their game called The Banner Saga! They were hunting far and wide for a composer and they were looking at all these demo reels, and then they played Journey and they said “You know what? To hell with it, let’s just call this guy!” And that ended up being one of the most creatively rewarding trilogy of game projects I’ve ever worked on. So I began thinking, “how do I broadcast a big giant Thank You to the world for all that has happened over the last ten years?” The little fantasy in my head was the desire to experience the thing that you love for the first time again, where if you could some how erase your memory and taste it again, and have all those thrills, I thought maybe I could re-approach the music to offer people that, since it seems to still have some significance. It hasn’t expired the way most games do. So how to approach it? Then I basically found myself between these two goal posts, of saying “this has to be different enough that it doesn’t feel like a rehash, because if it’s too similar to the original, then I wouldn’t blame people for going, “Well, that’s all well and good but I prefer the original!” That’s how I’ve always felt when such and such orchestra releases “The Best of John Williams” and they do these verbatim recordings of “The Raiders March” or whatnot. It’s pretty much always like, “Yeh, I guess, but how can you compete with the London Symphony at Abbey Road on the original recording?” I’ve always felt that those would have been wiser to make their own version, and of course that’s sort of considered sacrilege in the world of orchestral performance – no one’s looking for a given conductor’s twist on Beethoven’s Fifth or The Raider’s March, which I think is a shame. I think that’s a weird cultural blind spot. I was thrilled a few years ago when, in the spirit of something that’s far more interesting to me, Max Richter did his “Vivaldi Recomposed” as an example of “what if this was the norm?” You take the Raiders March and you take it into something wild and crazy and new. That would be worth listening to and recording! So it was like “how do I achieve that?” – but yet how do I make it close enough at the same time that it can achieve that fantasy of a goal that is new. That became a bar-by-bar, note-by-note negotiation with myself. I had to pull a lot of hair out over the couple of months that I spent working on the arrangement to try to crack that code of “this is too similar; this is basically a transcription; I’m going too far afield; or a few places where I unleashed the bombastic-ness of the orchestra and had to really walk it back. I don’t know that I can offer a coherent summary other then to say that it was not easy. It took a lot of back-and-forth, and I would make mock-ups with the computer of the charts and send them to a few folks and get their reactions. In terms of your specific question of how to transform it all into a completely acoustic ensemble instead of this hybrid of synths and textural electronic beds and things that are super prevalent in the original, interestingly that part probably came the easiest because the actual musical content of those electronic parts tends to be very simple. You spend an hour developing an interesting sound with a synthesizer so that it evolves and moves and is interesting, and then you go to record it and you basically hold down a note and let it play for forty seconds! It’s like a drone, but it’s hopefully an interesting drone and it’s not just some mindlessly static thing. At the end of the day, though, that’s still basically an E, or that’s a B, or whatever the case. So orchestrating that is: okay, how much can I play with that sound? Maybe it starts in the violas and then they shift into a different bowing position and I sneak bassoon into the note… and before you know it you have this sort of undulating, moving sound that is still just one note. So the compositional part, which is always in many senses the most difficult, is in this case by far the easiest. It’s just playing with the colors of the orchestra. And for this I had a 91-piece orchestra and a 32-voice choir of basically the best musicians on the planet, where nothing that I could throw at them would even get them to break a sweat!

Q: Along with Traveler, you’ve recorded, at the same session, “innOcence,” a stand-alone single from your first game score, flOw. What can you tell me about creating this and how you’ve made that into a new kind of, flowing, piece of music?

Austin Wintory: This was one of those that I just couldn’t resist! flOw turned fifteen a few days before Journey turned ten, and it’s one of those that, even though the popularity of Journey massively eclipses that of flOw, I still get comments on from people at fairly regular intervals about that game. It has a very sentimental place in my heart because it, literally, was my own origin story, as it were. That one project was truly the beginning of everything with me – and not just from a professional opportunity and a credit and a paycheck way, but it really changed how I thought about music. I had never done electronic music; I had never done interactive music. All these things that I hold as huge passions and are core to my life and core to my philosophy about my place in the world, were born as a by-product of doing that game. I’ve never seen a game that was so artfully trying to be different and to capture emotions that are not typical in the world of video games. I remember, Jenova Chen, the creator and creative director of flOwflOw had begun as his masters thesis at USC – he had this whole idea of games… there are games that get rated “M” which is the video game equivalent of being rated “R,” but the reality is that the majority are rated that way because of sex and violence. He said: “The irony of labeling that ‘mature’ is massive, because that’s basically teenage boy content. Real ‘mature’ content is the stuff that wouldn’t even be of interest to you until your mid-20’s, and then if you revisit it in your mid-30’s you see a whole layer that you missed before, and once you revisit it in your mid-40s you see another layer you missed before because it ages along with you.” Truly great art is a reflection of the world that you will be able to project onto your current perspectives and challenges, and he said “That’s what’s sorely lacking in video games – things that challenge you and that can reflect you and not just the primal, carnal side of what it is to be human,” which most games, especially at the time, were trying to appeal to. Games have a sorely less diverse palette of experiences to offer, so flOw is one where Jenova said “I want to make a game in which it’s exclusive purpose is to be meditative and relaxing, where it helps you actually center yourself. How do we make that in a way that’s engaging and not boring?” That’s actually a really interesting challenge; the ideas almost contradict each other. So that was what his masters thesis was in school: to try to figure that out, and needless to say he found at least one answer to that question, and I was tasked with the same question with going through the music. I’d never done anything like that before – never done the interactivity and the electronic production aspect of it. So I’ve always had a nostalgia for just how much it reoriented my path. There have been a couple of orchestral renditions of it, and they were always a little quick and dirty and I was never totally thrilled with them. I had always done them myself and they reflected a much younger version of me, and they lacked the restraint that I felt was needed. But the funny thing with this arrangement was, I was really quite busy on my current writing and then also really scrutinizing all these charts, so I called a friend of mine who is a composer and orchestrator who I trust, named Brian LaGuardia, he’s a fellow Denverite who lives in Colorado and I’ve known him for years now, and we’ve collaborated in this way. I said “I’d like you to arrange this” and I sent him very specific instructions. He sent me back a first version that was very beautifully arranged but completely different than what I was looking for; so I sent him a long email with some comments. He very graciously took all my notes to heart and did another pass, and then we made a few more tweaks, getting really fine-grained in my feedback, but especially from that second version he had really internalized what I was after. I think his first version was guilty of all of the same mistakes I had made in my earlier versions, where he was having a hard time resisting the temptation to let the orchestra really soar, and I said “On this piece, we must hold them back. There’s something really beautifully about a huge ensemble playing really quietly, and let’s just own that. This piece should never crescendo past mezzo forte, and even that should be one time and very, very brief! Keep the whole thing really introspective and hopefully very beautiful.”

Q: One of your most recent video game scores was for Aliens: Fireteam Elite, which I believe is your first in the Aliens franchise. Tell me about coming into this project, and were there any musical influences from the movie franchise or other game scores?

Austin Wintory: This was one where an old friend of mine who works at what was then Fox – now Disney – reached out to me. He’s a high-level producer who oversees the execution of licensed titles, so if a video game company wants to make an Aliens game or an Avatar game or anything else that might be a Fox title, that ultimately falls under his umbrella. He knew I was a die-hard Alien and Aliens fan and he just called me out of the blue and said, “Hey, I’m helping to shepherd a studio that’s working on a game and  I’d love to introduce you guys.” So he introduced me to the studio and it was one of those wonderful things where they were, ‘Oh, man! We’re so glad he introduced us! It was in no small part because of the reputation of a game like Journey, we probably wouldn’t have thought of you for this. We’re big fans of you around here but we definitely have you compartmentalized into a different part of our brains! But knowing you’re into this…!” I said “Look, I literally have a painting of Jerry Goldsmith on my wall, and Alien in particular is truly one of my all-time favorite scores of his, and probably just scores in general – and I have nothing but deep admiration for what Horner had to do in the five minutes he had to write Aliens!” We just clicked and jumped straight in. The game is broken into stages where there are four main chapters. The first chapter is the one that is meant to feel the most familiar to any fan of the franchise. There’s a lot of running around in metal-girded hallways that are claustrophobic and dimly lit while Xenomorphs jump out and try to kill you, which is very on brand! And then, as you get farther in, the game starts to introduce new elements and new creatures. The studio, Cold Iron, had total license from Fox to add their own creature designs and their own Xenomorphs and they were able to expand the vocabulary of the IP with total freedom. They extended that freedom to me with what I pitched for the music. What they really liked was being able to start off where we’re a bit in homage territory, and as we get farther into the gameplay I could aggressively push the music in new places. Obviously, it had to still always feel like Alien and Aliens, in particular, which is like horror-action music with a strong sense of that mid-Century sci-fi sensibility which is very angular and very dissonant and expressionist. I really wanted to retain those elements but start to bring in new things, so I started sneaking in some really weird electronic elements. There’s even little flickers of something that would almost be adjacent to heavy metal, which in a way is my sleight of hand homage to where Elliot Goldenthal was starting to go with Alien3, which definitely also had some pretty progressive elements in it compared to the first two. So it was awesome. It was an amazing experience. They really let me go to town and I had next to no resistance at any point to any of these experiments. I got to tip my hand to Goldsmith and Horner and Goldenthal, and also go to places where none of their scores go.

Q: You’re still active in film music scores, and recently scored James Nunn’s action thriller ONE SHOT. What was your sonic palette for this film project and how do you juggle or contrast your approaches for linear motion pictures versus immersive video game music?

Austin Wintory: Certainly the technology is the big difference. I’m working on a series right now for Netflix and on the one hand the linearity of that project makes things a lot easier. You just look: “Oh, the scene starts here and it ends there” and the biggest thing you have to worry about is when they cut the picture and you realize “Oh, they moved where this scene is located and now it goes into a different scene,” or “oh, the scene is half as long as it was.” That kind of thing is a completely normal part for the course of Film Music 101! But with a video game, what if the player decides to go over here or go over there, what if they decide to do something wildly different? You have to anticipate that in the score. Suddenly not having to worry about any of that is quite the liberation! ONE SHOT, funny enough, came to me via a game! I had done a game that was this intersection between film and game called Erica [2019], and it’s a game that’s shot like a film. I don’t like to call it “interactive film,” because that makes it sound like it’s a film that’s been modified to be interactive, whereas I actually think that is a videogame that was shot like a movie – to the extent that it’s 51 percent video game and 49 percent film. That was a truly amazing experience, but very challenging to get right. To my great fortune, one of the producers of Erica went on to make a movie after we shipped that game, and that was ONE SHOT. He called me and said, “Hey, I had a great time working with you on Erica, how would you like to take a look at this one and I can introduce you to the director?” So he introduced us, we got along great, the director James Nunn is a fabulous guy, he’s directed a bunch of movies. The thing that made it a challenge was that it’s one of these films, as you can tell from the pun of its title, that’s all a single, continuous camera move. The whole movie is a single unbroken shot – in reality they filmed it as maybe a half-dozen 15-20 minute takes but they sneaked hidden edit points into it. So spotting a movie like that ends up being the biggest challenge, because once you’re in you can’t really go back out. The normal things that facilitate cues naturally coming and going within a film, like a time jump or a character bursting in and altering the dynamic of a scene, aren’t available. But there’s something about the realism that comes from the camera never cutting and having the old school cinema-verité, where you’re voyeuristically in the space with the actors all the time, makes it feel like music better establish itself early and then never leave, in order to not feel intrusive. That movie is 96 minutes long and the score was quite wall-to-wall! But it forms a ratcheting heartbeat as a result. The film is one continuous suspense/action theme, so it was actually quite effective, I think, to let the music be a part of saying “You can never relax! The characters are never going to escape the kind of life-and-death scenario that they’re facing until, theoretically, the movie’s over.” And so, even if it was conventionally shot, there’s the fact that the movie takes place in real time. If it’s a 96-minute movie, it takes place over 96 minutes. They even were very proud of themselves that at one point someone says something like “The helicopter will be here in fourteen minutes,” and then literally fourteen minutes later in the movie the helicopter arrives! They were so committed to the idea of it feeling real time that even if it wasn’t shot continuously, the music helped keep you in the moment in a way that, had we come and gone in a more conventional way, would have distorted that. The entrance and exit of music is a common trick you use to help sell the passage of time, and in this one that would have been a big problem.

Q: Any concluding thoughts here about your journey through film, TV, and video game scoring?

Austin Wintory: Oh, I don’t know. How do I summarize it? I’m just lucky that I get to do this every day. Ever since 2006, when my career first got started, I’ve never had a dry spell or a period where I was sitting on my hands going “I don’t know what my next project is going to be.” There’s always been something, and some times it’s been big things and some times it’s been small things, and some times it’s been things that, later, I was like, well that was terrible, I hope no one sees that! And sometimes it’s things I’m incredibly proud of. But there’s always been something, and the farther I get into this career I realize how unusual that is and how incredibly lucky I’ve been to have had such opportunities and to have so many producers and directors and whatnot who believe in me and are willing to bring me in and be part of their teams. Every year that goes by, I’ve made more and more efforts to be useful and helpful to young composers, whether it’s through the content on my YouTube channel or just having people over for coffee when they first move into town, or doing mentorship events at Master Classes at University, which is something that’s become really important to me – that’s a constant reminder of just how incredibly not guaranteed or assured my remaining busy is! So every day that I’ve got stuff to do, it never slips my mind how lucky and how not presumable that is. Journey, needless to say, wildly altered the trajectory of my career, and I’m just so outrageously grateful for that and I hope this new album can deliver on my hope that, for those who are passionate about that game or even its score, can feel like they get a little dose of something new just as my thank you to them for this sustained interest, and for the way that their passion for it has quite literally enabled every dollar I’ve spent to put food on the table or keep the lights on for the last ten years!

Thanks so much to Austin Wintory for such a detailed and articulate discussion, and special thanks to Andrew Krop and Kyrie Hood of White Bear PR for facilitating this interview.

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 album was jointly produced by Wintory and Andrea Pessino, co-founder of the acclaimed game studio Ready at Dawn. To purchase see Bandcamp or Distrokid.

For more details on Austin Wintory and his music see his website, Bandcamp page, and YouTube Channel.

See my 2009 interview with Austin Wintory from my August 4, 2009 Soundtrax column, about scoring Captain Abu Raed, Grace, and others.


Soundtracks & Film Music News

Winners of the 64th Grammy Awards in the soundtrack field are: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, Carlos Rafael Rivera, composer, tied with SOUL, Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, composers, for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media; THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY, Andra Day (singer/songwriter/actress) for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media; and “Women Warriors - The Voices of Change,” Amy Andersson, conductor; Amy Andersson, Mark Mattson and Lolita Ritmanis, producers (featuring composers Miriam Cutler, Starr Parodi, Sharon Farber, Nathalie Bonin, Isolde Fair, Anne-Kathrin Dern, and Penka D Kouneva).

THE 13 LORDS OF THE SHOGUN is the Japanese 2022 Taiga drama – a highly prestigious annual television event Japan, often a massive and sweeping historical epic based on the life story of an esteemed noble figure from the past. The 2022 Taiga drama “Kamakura-dono no 13 nin” depicts the people revolving around the power struggle during the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate after the showy Genpei War. Hojo Yoshitoki is the 2nd Shikken (Regent for the Shogun), who learned everything from Minamoto no Yoritomo and the pillar of the warrior era. This is filled with the story of the young people, who have no ambition, crawl up to the top of the warrior rank. The highlights are the power struggles that take place in the new capital of Kamakura. The score is by the Tokyo-based American composer Evan Call, one of the only westerners ever to score the Taiga. Call has handled the music for various anime, including VIOLET EVERGARDEN series, the film JOSEE, THE TIGER AND THE FISH, the TV anime APPARE-RANMAN!, and YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. The score is an enormous theme-filled epic for the full orchestra and chorus, as well as a range of specialist ethnic Japanese instruments,” wrote Jon Broxton on MovieMusicUK.US. “It overflows with gorgeous romantic passages and moments of soaring grandeur and regal opulence, but also contains a fair share of tender intimacy, some quirky light comedy as well as some stirring battle music. The main theme is memorable, rousing and powerful, and has that ‘Japanese choir’ sound that you often find in Anime soundtracks…”  Sample or purchase the soundtrack from Amazon.
Listen to the track “A Clash of Dragons and Tigers” below:

WaterTower Music has announced the release of the soundtrack to JULIA, the HBO Max original comedy series inspired by Julia Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, “The French Chef,” which pioneered the modern cooking show. The JULIA soundtrack showcases the music of four-time Emmy-nominated composer Jeff Danna (THE BOONDOCK SAINTS, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS [w/ Mychael Danna], RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE). On how he chose to sum up history’s most famous Food personality in a musical theme, Danna offered, “that was indeed the challenge posed to me by (Executive Producer and Showunner) Chris Keyser and (Executive Producer and Creator) Daniel Goldfarb’s brilliant and warm showcase of Julia Child’s early years on television. The answer I arrived at was the tune that we hear throughout this series.” Continued the composer, “It is a tune that is sometimes hurrying along, sometimes strutting with a swagger, sometimes leaking out with emotional resonance. I chose a sound that was somewhat vintage – it is 1962 after all – and able to live comfortably next to the source music selections from that era – but also, hopefully, a timeless melody that resonates as Julia Positivity anytime we hear it.” The series debuted with three episodes Thursday, March 31, followed by one new episode each week through May 5. The 17-track JULIA Soundtrack is now available for streaming and digital purchase at these links. In other news, Jeff Danna is or has recently finished scoring the animated film MY FATHER’S DRAGON, by director Nora Twomey for Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon. Based on the Newberry-winning children’s books, the film follows a young boy who runs away to an island to rescue and befriend a baby dragon. The film is scheduled for a 2022 release on Netflix.

Madison Gate Records has released Jon Ekstrand’s (QUEEN OF HEARTS, MARGRETE – QUEEN OF THE NORTH) score to Marvel’s MORBIUS. The soundtrack is currently available to stream/download on Amazon, Apple Music, and other major digital music services. The movie based on the Marvel Comics character centers on antihero Michael Morbius as he attempts a desperate gamble while being dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others suffering his same fate. – via filmmusicreporter. Prior to MORBIUS, Ekstrand co-scored, with Rebekka Karijord, ALL THE OLD KNIVES, a 2022 American thriller film directed by Janus Metz Pedersen starring Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathan Pryce (Ekstrand and Karijord previously co-composed the documentaries I AM GRETA and PRAY, OBEY). ALL THE OLD KNIVES is about two CIA operatives who are also former lovers who reunite at idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea to re-examine a mission eight years ago in Vienna where a fellow agent might have been compromised. “I had such a great time working together with composer extraordinaire Rebekka Karijord on this one,” Ekstrand said in a twitter post. “Amazing solo cello performance by the genius Julia Kent and mind blowing solo violin performance by Hanna Ekstrom , some next-level synth programming by the always awesome Tarek Mansur!” The score was orchestrated and conducted by the Nicholas Dodd and recorded in Budapest with East Connection Music; the film was released in limited theaters and on digital on Amazon Prime Video on April 8, 2022.
See my interview with Jon Ekstrand about scoring MORBIUS and ALL THE OLD KNIVES at musiquefantastique.

La-La Land Records and CBS present the label’s final collection of music from the STAR TREK television universe, STAR TREK COLLECTION – THE FINAL FRONTIER, a massive four-CD presentation with a bounty of previously unreleased music from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, STAR TREK: VOYAGER and STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE. Disc 1 includes, for the very first time anywhere, “lost cues” by Jerry Goldsmith written, but never recorded, for STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, performed here by renowned composer Joe Kraemer. The rest of Disc One features cues from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION by composers Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, including music from such episodes as “The Dauphin,” “Time’s Arrow Part 2,” “Lower Decks,” and more. Disc 2 showcases music from STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE by composers Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaaway, David Bell and Paul Baillargeon and features tracks from various episodes including “Blood Oath,” “Take Me Out To The Holosuite,” “Rocks And Shoals,” and more! Disc 3 highlights tracks from STAR TREK: VOYAGER by composers Jay Chattaway, Paul Baillargeon and David Bell, including music from the episodes “The Darkling,” “Flashback,” “Real Life” and others. Disc 4 features selections from STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE by composers Dennis McCarthy, Kevin Kiner, Paul Baillargeon, David Bell and Velton Ray Bunch, including tracks from the episodes “Silent Enemy,” “Marauders,” “Cold Front” and more! Produced by Ford A. Thaxton, James Nelson, Mark Banning and Lukas Kendall, and mastered by James Nelson, this special 4-CD collection contains a 44-page booklet with exclusive liner notes by writer Randall D. Larson and stellar art design by Mark Banning. This deluxe release of musical gems from four of the most celebrated sci-fi television series of all time has a total running time of more than five full hours and is limited to 3000 units. For more details see La-La Land Records.

Nicolas Cage stars as... Nick Cage in the action-comedy THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT. Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalized version and cash-strapped of Nicolas Cage agrees to make a paid appearance at the birthday of a dangerous superfan (Pedro Pascal), but Cage is really an informant recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) since the billionaire fan is a drug kingpin who has been cast in a Tarantino movie. Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is and forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. The film has been scored by Mark Isham, who commented “This is really Nick at his finest. Thrilled to be able to score this film!” The movie premiered at the Southwest Film Festival on March 13th, its general opening in theaters via Lionsgate happens April 21st. Isham’s digital soundtrack will be released on all streaming platforms 4/22/22

Hollywood Records digitally releases THE DROPOUT Original Score with music by Anne Nikitin. This 34-track album features the all-synth-driven score by Nikitin, usually known for her more organic moody strings and delicate piano refrains, from the Hulu Original Series based on the true story of the rise and fall of biotech company Theranos and it’s fraudulent founder, Elizabeth Holmes (played by Amanda Seyfried). This marks the British composer’s first time composing an all-electronic score as she wanted to play up the biotech setting of the story – there’s no organic music in her score at all (and it’s an absolute delight! -rdl)! Creating an all-synth score happened by accident as Anne experimented to find the perfect sound to score the series, getting inspired by the character of Elizabeth Holmes herself, whose entire persona is a self-fabricated veneer – the bright and bubbly facade of an enthusiastic biotech entrepreneur that belies her own inherent narcissism, deceitfulness, and a roiling darkness simmering just beneath the surface. Stream or Purchase the soundtrack here.
Related: see my interview with Anne Nikitin about scoring Netflix’s FATE: THE WINX SAGA (2021) at musiquefantastique, here.

Back Lot Music will release the official digital soundtrack album for the historical fantasy epic THE NORTHMAN on April 22, 2022. The album features the film’s original music composed by Robin Carolan & Sebastian Gainsborough (aka Vessel). The film is co-written and directed by Robert Eggers (THE WITCH, THE LIGHTHOUSE) and stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Gustav Lindh and Willem Dafoe. The movie is based on the legend of Amleth and is an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder. “Robert wanted the world of THE NORTHMAN to feel harsh and uncomfortable, and for everything to feel like it was caked in mud and dry blood, so it was crucial for the score to mirror that,” said the composers. They needed to make a soundtrack that both honored the immense research that had gone into the authenticity of this Viking-era story and complimented the cinematic maximalism of the film for a modern audience. The artists stretched themselves to the depths of their creativity and the resulting album is a gorgeous sonic tableaux that places the listener right in the center of the film.
While arranging the score, the composers consulted musician and ethnographer Poul Høxbro for inspiration and insight into the history of Viking music. Having backgrounds in left field electronic music, Robin and Sebastian felt liberated by the constraint of using a small selection of musical tools for this piece. “Electronic music has almost limitless potential when it comes to making sounds and that’s obviously an incredible thing, but you can also go down the wormhole and get lost in it sometimes. There’s no risk of that happening when you only have a few primary instruments to draw upon,” Robin remarked.
The composers utilized traditional instruments such as the tagelharpa, langspil, kravik lyre, and säckpipa to build the cinematic world of The Northman, but attempted to experiment with what they had as much as possible in order to come up with something that still felt left field leaning. “One of the pieces we wrote was intended to emulate the sound of a bullroarer; an ancient, relatively humble looking instrument used in sacred rituals, or in battle to intimidate enemies. It makes a really disorienting roaring vibrato sound and was capable of creating insanely low frequencies that could travel for miles. For this we attempted to do the same thing, but the twist being that we used a huge, 40 piece string ensemble in order to do so. Recording that made for a pretty mad, suitably unsettling experience.”  Robin says when asked about one of the more unique aspects of the soundtrack. Everyone involved put so much effort into both their research and their creativity and this richness is evident in every track. The album as a whole is a cinematic masterpiece of sound and ambiance, both gorgeous and disturbing, like the film it so beautifully accompanies.
Writing about THE NORTHMAN score in England’s loudersound website, Merlin Alderslade reported that the score “sounds every bit as epic as it looks, utilizing traditional Nordic wind and string instruments alongside booming drums and swelling orchestral elements. The result is a soundtrack that swirls between stiflingly intense and hauntingly beautiful, complimenting Jarin Blaschke’s visuals to create a world that feels both mythical and palpable.”
Pre-order the soundtrack album here. Watch the film’s trailer here. Listen to the track “Storm at Sea/Yggdrasill” from THE NORTHMAN below:

Plaza Mayor Company announces the soundtrack to BROKEN KEYS/LE DERNIER PIANO a new film directed by Jeremy Keyrouz and featuring a musical score by Gabriel Yared. The movie is a Selection Officielle for the Cannes Festival, and is about a pianist who tries to escape persecution in his Middle Eastern town where modern ways of living and music have been banned by an extremist group. The digital soundtrack is available via amazon, can be heard on Spotify, and is available on CD

From Workshed Films comes the action/comedy/horror film LET THE WRONG ONE IN, directed by Conor McMahon, starring Anthony Head, David Pearse and Eoin Duffy, and released by MPI Media Group (USA). Referencing the title of the 2008 Swedish horror film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, this new film has to do with a young supermarket worker discovers his older brother is a vampire and has to choose whether to help him or slay him. The film has been scored by Liam Bates, a composer, arranger and conductor of music for film and television since 1995 known for scoring the films EARTHBOUND (2013), LAST PASSENGER (2013) LEAP YEAR (2010), GHOSTWOOD (2008), and SHOWGIRLS (1995). “Although LET THE WRONG ONE IN is a comedy horror, the themes in the score remain foreboding with suspenseful undertones and the occasional frantic jolt. The tale is set in the heart of modern-day Dublin, with references to old Transylvania. I  echoed these references by using a cimbalom (hammered dulcimer family) and a virtuosic solo violin, played by Lynda O’Connor, all of which sit within a darkly shaded orchestral score. A haunting solo vocal line points to the vampiric spectre which is rapidly spreading through the city. The Swedish label MovieScore Media has released Bates’ score for LET THE WRONG ONE IN (and previously released his LAST PASSENGER score). For more details and to sample the score, see MovieScore Media

Lakeshore Records Releases MEASURE OF REVENGE Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, music by Nick Urata with songs by Jumero. When Lillian Cooper’s famous son dies suddenly from a supposed overdose, she conducts her own investigation, aided by a drug dealer, to pursue answers, justice, and revenge.  Born in NY, Nick Urata is best known as founder and front man of the influential band Devotchka. In 2007, the band gained worldwide recognition and a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack of Academy Award winning film, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Since then, Urata has scored more than 25 films including PADDINGTON, CRAZY STUPID LOVE, WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, RUBY SPARKS, and FOCUS. Jumero are a trio consisting of two brothers (Jared and Michael) and a very close childhood friend (Ryan) who can be considered as a brother too.

In a new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic thriller FIRESTARTER from the producers of 2020’s THE INVISIBLE MAN, a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers fights to protect her family and herself from sinister forces that seek to capture and control her. Rather than bringing in a new composer, John Carpenter along with his son Cody Carpenter and collaborator Daniel Davies, are on board to compose the new film’s score, after previously collaborating with Blumhouse Productions on HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021). Directed by Keith Thomas (THE VIGIL), from a screenplay by Scott Teems (HALLOWEEN KILLS) based on the novel by Stephen King, FIRESTARTER is scheduled for release both theatrically and to stream on Peacock May 13, 2022, by Universal Pictures. Watch the trailer for the 2022 FIRESTARTER:

CHOOSE OR DIE (formerly titled CURS>R) is an upcoming British horror thriller film directed by Toby Meakins in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Asa Butterfield, Iola Evans, Eddie Marsan and Robert Englund. Its premise has to do with Kayla, a broke college student, who decides to play an obscure 1980s survival computer game in pursuit of an unclaimed $100,000 prize. After a series of unexpectedly terrifying moments, Kayla soon realizes she’s no longer playing for the money, but for her own life. The film features the scoring debut of Liam Howlett, the founding member of the EDM band The Prodigy which was formed in 1990. CHOOSE OR DIE is scheduled to be released on April 15, 2022, by Netflix.
– via filmmusicrecorder (which see to watch film’s trailer) and other sources.

SUITCASE CITY is a new futuristic crime thriller series taking place in the year 2054. A city run by gang violence, corruption, and overall violent crime is the last remaining hub on Earth controlling all the main resources for survival. Resources such as oil, gas, transportation, ammunition/firearms, food/water, and more. Radical groups and organized gangs in the early 21st century have ravaged the Earth igniting nuclear bombs and destroying most of humanity. Law Enforcement Is Extinct. The gang, the SR 20’s, control the city and these resources. A former police officer named “Mason” and now militia leader of ex cops have come together to regain the city. This last band of law enforcement is attempting to overthrow the SR 20’s gang and their leader, “Orleans,” in order to restore justice in the city. Mason and the militia or “Alliance” as they call themselves are the last hope to saving the city and the world. The series is written, directed by, and stars Keith Sutliff along with Sasha Golberg, and Vittorio Nuzzo and is scored by Italian composer Federico Vaona, none for scoring numerous Italian TV series and video shorts. The SUITCASE CITY series soundtrack is coming mid-April on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, BandCamp, and more.

When the CIA’s most skilled mercenary-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins. Composer Henry Jackman reteams with directors Anthony & Joe Russo (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR & ENDGAME) on the upcoming Netflix original film THE GRAY MAN. The action thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, and Wagner Moura. Jackman has previously scored the Russo-directed features CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER & CIVIL WAR and CHERRY. THE GRAY MAN will premiere this year on Netflix. – via filmmusicreporter – which see for more details.

Endeavor Content has digitally released TOKYO VICE the Original Series Soundtrack featuring music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. The vividly dark electronic score shifts tempos and moods, Japanese instrumentation and acoustic moments to create an ominous backdrop to the series exploring the corrupt Japanese underworld. The HBO Max original crime drama debuted the first three episodes on April 7, and will be followed by two episodes debuting each Thursday. Loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein's non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat, the crime drama series, filmed on location in Tokyo, captures Adelstein’s (played by Ansel Elgort) daily descent into the neon-soaked underbelly of Tokyo in the late ‘90s, where nothing and no one is truly what or who they seem. Noted Bensi and Jurriaans: “The score for TOKYO VICE is a careful blend of electronic and organic compositions. One of the main elements of the score is a constant rhythmic pulse embedded in each cue – reflecting the story’s relentless drive. We used only a minimal amount of traditional Japanese instruments in the palette for the score. Even though the series takes place in Tokyo, we wanted to give just a subtle Japanese flavor without pushing too far into that world. Whether stark and bold or minimal and vulnerable, we wanted the score to capture a sense of Jake’s lonely and dangerous journey deep into Tokyo culture and its dark underworld.” The album is available at these links.
Listen to the Main Title from TOKYO VICE:

INTRUSION is a psychological thriller about a married therapist who moves to a small town with her husband, but her world is shattered by a nightmarish home invasion – and the suspicion it sparks. The film stars Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green, and is directed by Adam Salky (DARE, BLINDSPOT series) and written by Chris Sparling (GREENLAND, DOWN A DARK HALL, THE DESPERATE HOUR). The film features a dark synth & percussion score by composer Alex Heffes (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, STATE OF PLAY, THE RITE, TOUCHING THE VOID, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM). The film was released on Netflix and quickly became the No.1 streamed movie on the platform. Watch the film’s trailer:

A24 had released EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, the Official Motion Picture Soundtrack by Son Lux. This 49-track album features the massive, maximalist yet emotionally resonant score by the experimental trio, as well as featured collaborations with Mitski & David Byrne in duet, Randy Newman, and the incomparable vocals of Moses Sumney. Comprised of band members Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang – Son Lux wrote a whopping one hour and fifty minutes of original songs and score for Daniels' two hour-long, Michelle Yeoh-starring, action-comedy film. Of the album, Son Lux states, “Even though we knew from the moment Daniels asked us to score this film that it would push us in new and unexpected directions, we couldn’t have predicted how much we’d learn from the project. What emerged was our most ambitious undertaking to date, over two years in the making, resulting in two hours of new music. It was an opportunity for us to play, to infuse humor into our work, and to experiment from and beyond our various musical backgrounds.” EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action-adventure about an aging Chinese immigrant (Michelle Yoeh) who is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led. The film also stars Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis and is in theaters now. Purchase & stream the soundtrack at these links.

Watertower Music has released a 39-track digital original soundtrack to FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE, the newest adventure in the Wizarding World™ created by J. K. Rowling, which opened in theaters internationally beginning 7 April 2022 and will be released in North America on April 15, 2022. The soundtrack features the music of distinguished Emmy- and Grammy- winning composer and nine-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard who returns to the Wizarding World to once again construct the music for the film, powerfully underscoring the characters and their adventures, having created the musical quotient of the first two films, “Fantastic Beasts” films, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, and FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD. “Composing the music for the Fantastic Beasts movies has been a musically fulfilling and challenging adventure,” remarked Howard. “What more could a film composer want than to be given a canvas as rich and exciting as FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE.  It’s a pleasure to collaborate yet again with director David Yates, who has made an intricate and powerful cinematic experience that fans will love.” Howard’s soundtrack is now available for digital purchase and streaming here, and on CD here.

Atlantic Screen Music/Filmtrax has released a soundtrack album for the action thriller FORTRESS. The album features the film’s original music composed by Timothy Stuart Jones (aka Tim Jones) (CHUCK, HUMAN TARGET, BEAST OF BURDEN, SURVIVE THE GAME, HIDE AND SEEK); Miles Bergsma (MY FIONA) has contributed additional music. Starring Jesse Metcalfe, Bruce Willis, and Chad Michael Murray, the film follows an ex-CIA agent and his son who are trapped in a secret compound under attack by a vengeful cyber-thief. The soundtrack is now available to stream/download on Amazon and any other major digital music services; the movie is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD. – via filmmusicreporter <- which see to watch film’s trailer.


Documentary Soundtrack News

Netflix has released RETURN TO SPACE (Soundtrack From The Netflix Film) with music by acclaimed composers Mychael Danna and Harry Gregson-Williams. This soundtrack marks the first collaboration between Mychael Danna and Harry Gregson-Williams. The documentary feature film RETURN TO SPACE debuted globally on Netflix on Thursday, April 7th and is directed and produced by Oscar-winning filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (FREE SOLO, THE RESCUE). RETURN TO SPACE covers the inspirational rise of SpaceX and Elon Musk’s two-decade effort to resurrect America’s space travel ambitions. Offering rare access inside the first crewed mission launched from U.S. soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, this is an intimate portrait of the engineers and astronauts chosen for the historic moment. RETURN TO SPACE is produced by Anna Barnes and executive produced by Matthew Hamachek. Of the soundtrack, composer Mychael Danna says:  “RETURN TO SPACE was indeed just that for me personally: one of my first scoring jobs ever was to be the composer-in-residence at Toronto’s McLaughlin Planetarium back in the late ’80’s – early 90’s, where I wrote many hours of music to accompany the star shows and space documentaries there. It was truly a pleasure to return to this extra-terrestrial musical spacescape, alongside my dear friend Harry Gregson-Williams. Harry and I had been looking for a project to collaborate on (and get a break from working with our respective brothers haha!), and when Jimmy and Chai approached us, whose work we had long admired, we knew this was the one for us! Using analog and digital synths, old tape machines and FX boxes paired with orchestral colors, we painted in bold style to portray the daring style of Elon Musk’s brave missions.”
Said Harry Gregson-Williams: “RETURN TO SPACE presented me with the unique opportunity to not only work with my longtime friend Mychael Danna but to collaborate with two of the most highly respected documentary filmmakers in the business in Jimmy and Chai. The scope of music required for their film presented a huge challenge to us and was one that we threw ourselves into keenly. Our aim was to create a score with the sonic and emotional range that would reflect the daring and dynamic nature of Musk's space program, his unwavering belief in its validity and the extraordinarily determined and dedicated team he gathered around him.” The soundtrack is available from these links. Watch the docu’s trailer below:

On April 22, 2022, Silva Screen Records will release THE GREEN PLANET, Benji Merrison and Will Slater’s lush and atmospheric soundtrack to BBC Earth’s 5-episode TV series narrated by David Attenborough. The series takes place across five worlds – tropical, water, seasonal, desert, and human and shows these worlds from a plant’s eye view. It treats plants as protagonists and follows their story at their own pace, whilst they strive to reproduce, communicate, and survive. The Guardian describes the viewing experience “From glowing bioluminescent fungus to 7,000 different camera set-ups for ants, the veteran broadcaster’s miraculous profile of plant life will have you gasping in astonishment so often you’ll be breathless.” Said Merrison: “The challenge was to create a score which allows the audience to connect with plants on an emotional level, much more of a conundrum than when scoring for the animal kingdom. We recorded a number of experimental sessions, using unconventional instrumentation, both acoustic and electronic. We also experimented recording electronic signals from plants, and translating this into audio. For the more traditional sound elements, we recorded individual orchestral sections, building up a library of textures, phrases and orchestral colors. A kind of ‘modular’ musical kit of parts. During the ‘coal-face’ period of the scoring, we re-sampled ourselves, by processing and integrating these modular components into aspects of the final cues, finishing them off with additional recording sessions. This created a sort of ‘real, but not real’ sound, which was very effective in bringing the audience inside the surreal wonder of the plant world.” Also available on Silva Screen Records are Benji Merrison and Will Slater’s soundtracks DYNASTIES AND MEERKAT - A DYNASTIES SPECIAL and Benji Merrison’s scores for highly acclaimed GENERAL MAGIC and THE BEATLES AND INDIA.

Nainita Desai reports that she is scoring the new Netflix and SkyUK co-production 6-part series, PREDATORS.. Sky hosts the streamer on its platform but the pair have never commissioned a series before. The series, produced by Sky Studios-backed indie True to Nature, will follow six apex predators as they face the ultimate test to survive as their rapidly changing world impacts both their own lives and that of the wild kingdoms over which they rule. Those who once dominated are now being challenged. Territories are being redrawn and new alliances forged. In this ever-shifting landscape, each predator must overcome new challenges and grasp new opportunities. For Polar Bears in Canada, Wild Dogs in Zimbabwe, Puma in Chile, Lions in Botswana, Brown Bears in Russia, and Cheetahs in Tanzania, this is the ultimate power struggle. The stakes have never been higher - who will win and who will lose?  PREDATORS will launch on the Sky Nature channel in the UK, Germany and Italy later this year and Netflix will take rights elsewhere. Watch the PREDATORS trailer below:

Carly Comando (THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET, BITTERSWEET) has released a soundtrack album for the documentary LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD. The album features the composer/pianist’s original score from the film and will be released digitally on April 21. The docu is directed by Jeremy Workman and follows 20-year-old Domino Artist and YouTube creator Lily Hevesh (known as Hevesh5) as she rises as an artist, role model, and young woman. The movie was filmed over 3 years across countless cities, was premiered at last year’s SXSW Film Festival before being released in select theaters and on Discovery+ last summer. – via filmmusicreporter


Vinyl Soundtrack News

Mondo, in conjunction with Hollywood Records and Marvel Music, presents the premiere physical release of Joel P West’s original score for Marvel  Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. The composer uses a delicate and inventive mix of Chinese instruments like Tanggu drums and Ehru, mixed with Western symphonic instruments, to symbolically build on the themes and conflicts of the film. The release features all new artwork by Dani Pendergast, liner notes by composer Joel P West, and pressed on 2x 180 Gram Mondo exclusive color vinyl (also available on 2x 180 Gram black vinyl).
See Mondo

Mondo is also distributing three horror soundtrack vinyl releases from Burning Witches Records: THE DESCENT - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP. Music by David Julyan. Pressed on “Glow Stick” Green Vinyl. Includes 3x lobby card prints, with liner notes from the composer, as well as the director Neil Marshall; THE OLD WAYS - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP. Music by Ben Lovett. Artwork by John Pearson. Pressed on Clear and Red Smoke Vinyl; and LET US PREY - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP. Music by Steve Lynch. Artwork by Ben Turner. Pressed on Purgatory Pink (Grey, Orange, and Red Color Marble) Vinyl. See Mondo.


Video Game Music News

The EP of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Welcome to Knowhere ?(Original Video Game Soundtrack) features music from one of the most iconic locations in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Vibe to the alien techno of Knowhere’s dance club, the haunting industrial sounds of Mantlo’s Bar, and the new age soundscape of the Collector’s Emporium. Also included are fan-favorites “Showdown with Lipless” and “The Huddle.” All featured tracks are composed, performed, and produced by BAFTA and IVOR NOVELLO-nominated composer Richard Jacques.


Randall D. Larson was for many years publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: 100+ Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes more than 300 soundtrack CDs. He can be contacted via or follow Musique Fantastique on Facebook.

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Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.