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Soundtrack, Documentary, Vinyl Soundtracks & Video Game Music News
French pianist and composer Mathieu Lamboley studied at the Paris music academy. He composed his first original score at the age of 25 and was awarded the prize for Best Original Music at the Aubagne Festival. Since then, he has worked on more than forty films, beginning with shorts and documentaries and moving into feature films and television series. In 2018, he composed the critically acclaimed score of MINUSCULE 2, an orchestral piece for 95 musicians and choir, which gained him nominations at both the World Soundtrack Awards and the IFMCA awards. Most recently, he composed the original score of the Netflix series LUPIN, an international hit ranking #1 on the streaming platform.
Q: How did you begin composing music for films?
Mathieu Lamboley: Almost by chance, I must say. I was at the cafeteria at the Paris Conservatory, I saw an ad about a director looking for a composer for his short film. I had never composed for a film before, so I figured it as a new experience and I ended up getting a prize in Aubagne Festival for this music. The director carried on making films after that, and we started a really nice collaboration.
Q: How do you prepare for a new scoring assignment and deciding, with the director, what kind of music should be used?
Mathieu Lamboley: It really depends on the movies and the directors. Some of them are really accurate as to which kind of music they want, some others let me try different colors. I like to see the directors and listen to some music together, in order to feel musical affinities. Then it’s really a matter of story line, characters, filming. All this combined helps me find inspiration.
Q: With your new score for the Netflix series LUPIN, based on the famous French detective, you’ve written an engaging score mixing the classical orchestra style with modern styles of popular music. How was this scoring approach chosen and how have you contrasted the styles in the episodes?
Mathieu Lamboley: What I liked about LUPIN was this idea of legacy. The character of Assane gets the famous book from his father and then passes it on to his son, and the series itself bears the legacy of Maurice Leblanc’s work. I wanted to transmit this in my music as well: my classical heritage, the great masters that I have listened to and studied with passion: Beethoven, Prokofiev; while anchoring this in the present world by playing with other more contemporary legacies: for example the hip hop beats.
Q: How would you describe your thematic configuration of the LUPIN scores, with many of the characters assigned a specific theme?
Mathieu Lamboley: I love thematic music, so for me it was obvious that for this series each character should have his/her own melody, like a symphonic poem. For Assane, I imagined the chromatic melodic descends, and wanted a touch of malice in it. Pelligrini required something really dark, such as a funeral march, with this kind of Strauss style, really classical. For Claire, I chose the piano, almost like a prelude, romantic; this was for me the best music to represent her mood.
Q: Since this is a series, how have you been able to develop your themes and motifs across the landscape of many episodes, rather than being held to the fixed length of a feature film?
Mathieu Lamboley: That’s a very interesting point. In a series we have time to develop themes. I was really free to express if the scenes needed music or not, and the more we get into the series the more I destructured the melodic pattern and reharmonized it, in many variations. It is really fun to compose and hide all these variations along the episodes like clues in a way to get into LUPIN’s atmosphere.
Q: Your use of strings is very striking in your score for LUPIN, and I’ve noticed that many of your scores favor a large and evocative string section. How would you describe your use of strings in your film music?
Mathieu Lamboley: I guess that it is because of my classical education background—I love to write for large orchestras. My inspirations come from the “repertoire,” so in this kind of music you have a lot of large strings. That’s what I did for the animation film MINUSCULE,in particular, where I could express all my Debussy & Ravel inspiration. In LUPIN I wanted to mix the strings with a hip hop style, so I changed my way of writing in some cues. I decided to write more ostinati so that the orchestra could fit perfectly with some modern patterns. If you just try to put together classical strings and hip hop beats, it can get really cheap easily, or artificial.
Q: Is there anything else you can say about your experience scoring the LUPIN series?
Mathieu Lamboley: It was just awesome, a crazy experience—with high expectations from the producers, but this is something I like because it pushed me to try new things. I won’t spoil the series of course but Part 2 will give even more room to my music, which I’m happy about.
Q: Your 2020 score for Laurent Tirard’s LE DISCOURS (The Speech) has an unusual musical palette of piano, ukulele, violin, percussion, and bass. What inspired this musical palette and how have you flavored the film with these instruments?
Mathieu Lamboley: I’m always trying to give a project a unique score which can be related to the writing or the musical palette. For THE SPEECH, I chose the fretless bass as a solo instrument because it fits with the main character, who is a funny lost guy and the fretless bass brings this uncertainty. For the strings and piano, we recorded small sections for an intimate pop sound.
Q: You worked with Laurent Tirard earlier for 2018’s LE RETOUR DU HÉROS (Return Of The Hero), described as a historical comedy. Your score features a splendid dramatic main theme for orchestra and choir, and some very interesting “comic” music. How would you describe your score and how it’s interacted with the varied needs of the film’s scenario?
Mathieu Lamboley: This film was special because Laurent first wanted to have a Western music. But I didn’t want to do only guitars and Morricone style. I thought about it and I realized that the baroque music style was nearly perfect in a sense, because the action takes place 200 years ago, which would really fit with what we can imagine for Western music. So I decided to blend these two styles to create a “baroque Western music” for the film which I think has become part of the film’s identity.
Q: Your score for the animated film MINUSCULE 2: MANDIBLES FROM FAR AWAY (2019) is a delightful orchestral fantasy that treats its characters and their situations rather seriously. What was the experience writing a score for an animated film, while musically treating it as if it were live action?
Mathieu Lamboley: This film was an amazing experience as well. There is no dialogue so I had the opportunity to really express new things musically. The music, in a sense, had to tell the story. I spent a great amount of time on writing the theme and shaping the orchestration in details. I guess it’s one of the scores that I am the most proud of. We were lucky enough to record this with a high-end French Orchestra: the Orchestre National d’Ile de France (90 musicians and a choir).
Q: MINUSCULE 2 also features some tremendous action music (“Mantula Persecución” for example), use of a Theremin, and a children’s choir. How did you select the score’s varied instrumental palette?
Mathieu Lamboley: It appeared to me that for some of the action scenes, some salsa and Caribbean rhythms would be fun to explore with an orchestra. As for the theremin, well the mantula was so frightening that it had to be musically something really strange. This instrument was perfect to create this emotion, as was bassoon for the theme of the ant.
Q: Your score for director Pascal Chaumeil’s UN PETIT BOULOT (2016; Odd Job) possesses a varied and appealing palette, with a main theme that favors keyboards. Would you describe how you chose (or were asked) to score this crime comedy film?
Mathieu Lamboley: The brief was: it had to be kind of a comedy thriller. So as usual I had a main theme, and for the arrangement I wanted it in more of a pop-rock style, because the character has that kind of spirit. Many guitars and cymbaloms were for me the right instruments to create some kind of mystery in the comedy. Again I wanted a strong identity, and we ended up with a quite ambitious production: an orchestra production on the one hand with great strings, and a pop rock production at ICP studios in Brussels, a very inspiring place.
Q: SOEURS D’ARMES (Sisters in Arms, 2019) is a story about female soldiers in war, which is scored with a lovely main theme along with dramatic music (“The Last Assault,” for example) that depicts the warfare they are facing, and a very nice theme song. What was your experience in scoring this film and giving its characters and situation the kind of music it needed?
Mathieu Lamboley: For SOEURS D’ARMES the director and I wanted lyricism and heroic music, so we have both. The theme of the song, “Sunrise Is On You,” is the main theme of the movie, and I felt that writing an aria was appropriate. I also really wanted to give room for women’s voices (in the songs with a folk singer, and in the arias with a classical singer) since the film focuses on these women’s fight. It’s always a matter of writing music fighting for the same goal as the film itself I guess.
Q: The comedy LOLO (2015) has an infectious, dance-like theme and a lot of very fun musical cues (“Itching Powder,” “Broken Arm,” etc.). How did you decide the kind of music that would best fit comedy films like this and some others you’ve scored (BOULE ET BILL 2, for example)?
Mathieu Lamboley: I think music for comedy needs to be subtle. I always had to find the right balance between too much comedy or not enough. But as a matter of fact, I think composing for comedy should not be writing funny music or placing percussion on each joke, but more to find the right spirit and mood of the movie, in a general way. With comedies in particular, finding the rhythm of the images is key.
Q: In contrast you’ve also scored very serious films, such as the tv-movie FOR DJAMILA (2011), MADAME BOVARY (2017), and the documentary SIGMUND FREUD, UN JUIF SANS DIEU (2020). How would you describe your approach to these scores?
Mathieu Lamboley: I love to change style of movies. In these movies it was interesting because the music had to be really minimal: I didn’t have an orchestra but only a few musicians, so I had to focus on the essence, provide the most emotions you can with just a few instruments. It’s nice to have restrictions, to be able to find the right way to write what you feel.
Special thanks to Sylvia Guirand for facilitating this interview.
Gerald Fried was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1928 and studied at the Juilliard School during the 1940’s. It was during this period that he made the acquaintance of a young photographer named Stanley Kubrick; when Kubrick began making his first films he asked Fried to score them, and two careers were launched. After moving to Los Angeles Fried began composing and arranging music for films and television shows, frequently incorporating jazz techniques. He wrote many episode scores for THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. as well as composing scores for the original STAR TREK series, for which he created the famous musical underscore now known as “Star Trek fight music” for the episode “Amok Time.” In 1977 Fried took over scoring the Emmy Award-winning score for the 1977 miniseries ROOTS when original composer Quincy Jones was unable to meet the series’ deadline. Jones’ music was featured in the first episode, while Fried composed the signature ROOTS theme and scored the remainder of the episodes as well as the sequel series. Fried also arranged the exotica album Orienta. He won the Golden Pine Award (Lifetime Achievement) at the 2013 International Samobor Film Music Festival, along with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Clint Eastwood. His credits consist of nearly 300 films, television episodes, and specials.
Q: Some of your first scores were for the early films by Stanley Kubrick. What was it like working for Kubrick in those early days?
Gerald Fried: In the first place, he wasn’t Stanley Kubrick then, he was just another nervous, neurotic kid hanging around Greenwich Village! But he had one thing going for him—he sold so many freelance pictures to Look Magazine that at the age of 16 they put him on the staff! So that should have tipped us off that he wasn’t just another nerd hanging around the Village! He also married the prettiest girl in Taft High School, which was another clue. So we were just friends—had we known he was going to turn into the Stanley Kubrick we know and love today, we probably all would have been scared! But he was just another bright guy, maybe a little more energetic and talented than us, but sort of in the same league.
Q: What were those early films like and how did he work with you as far as determining the kind of music he wanted from you?
Gerald Fried: Even though he played percussion with the high school orchestra, he didn’t know much about music. I was already at Juilliard then—I was an oboe major. But he knew there had to be music, and he asked me one day, “Gerry, you’re the only musician I know. Do you know how to conduct and write a movie score?” So I thought real fast, and I said “Sure! Oboe majors know how to do that!” And he meant it. He rented the RCA Recording Studio on Fifth Avenue in New York, and put down money on it. So I spent the next few months going to ten movies a week to try to find out what to do! There were no books on movie composing then, we’re talking about 1950. And there were no courses, like I taught at UCLA for sixteen years—there were none of those back then. So I learned by going to movies, just figuring out what to do. He left me alone—he didn’t know what to say. It was a good score, it was DAY OF THE FIGHT, an 18-minute short that RKO bought—it was called RKO Pathé, the documentary end of it. It wasn’t like on the later pictures where I had to justify every note; he just let me do it and it worked. I got hired to do more scores for RKO. It wasn’t until after THE KILLING and PATHS OF GLORY that he truly became the Stanley Kubrick of his reputation.
Q: How would you describe your score for PATHS OF GLORY?
Gerald Fried: Except for one Strauss Waltz and Le Marseilles when they were showing the French army, it was an all-percussion score. That was fun. We recorded it in Munich, Germany. The only reason he got there was because he couldn’t sell that picture for anything, nobody wanted to deal with this kid. But Kirk Douglas, who was in Munich filming THE VIKINGS, met with Stanley and said “Hey, this kid’s good,” so in between takes on THE VIKINGS, when they had a day off, they shot PATHS OF GLORY. And it was Kirk who actually set it up.
Q: The film was interesting and very innovative for its time to do a score that was all percussion. How did that idea come about?
Gerald Fried: The movie took place on the front lines, France, in 1917, and it just seemed like a natural approach. Also, there was an aesthetic reason: by having an all-percussion score, it is in a sense draining the blood out of the music. There was no tonality, no instrumentation, just percussion. And these soldiers, alone on the battlefield, probably felt like their lives were draining from them—they were getting shot at in the middle of barbed wire, and the austerity of an all-percussion score seemed to match that.
Q: How much percussion and what types did you actually use?
Gerald Fried: I think we used five timpani, two or three different kinds of snare drums, different kinds of cymbals, a gong… That was tricky. In later movies I used Latin instruments, like scrapers. I just watched a MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. that I did, which was on one of the TV channels that runs old classics, and by God I used a lot of bongos and scrapers!
Q: Your first score in the horror genre was THE VAMPIRE, 1957, also known as MARK OF THE VAMPIRE on TV. What can you tell me about scoring that film and how you sought to enhance its scarability?
Gerald Fried: What I did then—and maybe even still do, unconsciously—is I go back into the repertoire. As an oboe player, I played in symphony orchestras, so I’d played practically all the major symphonic repertoire. By that time I’d played the Pittsburgh and Dallas Symphony, New York Little Orchestra, and the L.A. Philharmonic, so I would go back and think, “What to me was done by the masters, like Berlioz, by Shostakovich, the great composers, how did they handle horror and ghoulishness and all that?” And I kind of put together my own sound from reviewing the classics, which I suppose is what all composers do consciously or unconsciously. And, once again, percussion has to be a special sound. I’m sure I used a lot of percussion in the Dracula movie (THE RETURN OF DRACULA).
Q: You also used the Dies Irae in a couple of your horror scores back then—RETURN OF DRACULA and I BURY THE LIVING.
Gerald Fried: Yeah. That was my general philosophy, to say ok, what stuck out to me in all those years of playing the repertoire? Same thing with jazz, I also was a jazz sax player around New York, and I would go back and think what it was about the big bands or the small combinations that grabbed me the most about jazz, and I built up my own repertoire from that.
Q: In those days, horror films at their basic level were almost always a morality play about good vs evil. Was that an idea for driving a horror score in those days?
Gerald Fried: Probably… Maybe even consciously, too. But certainly as you just described the dramatic set up of those kind of movies, it begs for that treatment. Morality play simplicity.
Q: You’ve scored a number of jazz-based crime and noir films—Corman’s I MOBSTER, MACHINE GUN KELLY, CRY BABY KILLER… What were your thoughts about using jazz not only as a tonality or a vibe in the film but also something that would connect with the characters and the emotional resonance of these stories?
Gerald Fried: I used jazz instrumentation for all of them. With I MOBSTER I may have used a big studio orchestra with strings and all that, but in MACHINE GUN KELLY the music serves two functions—one is to set the tone of the times, which music can do especially in the ‘30s era; that was a cinch, I knew that kind of razzmatazz, Charleston kind of music. Then I used those same instruments but without the jazz harmonization; more concert/dramatic instrumentation but using the jazz instruments for the underscoring. And for sentiment or tender scenes I would use kind of a jazz-inflected thing but not pop—it was the jazz instruments, the jazz sound, doing lyrical things, but I kept it all with the instrumentation of the times.
Q: Your jazz-based scores fit the vibe of the time period so well, and really gave a propulsion and a movement that seemed to fit these gritty, urban crime thrillers…
Gerald Fried: I don’t think I knew from film noir then, I just wanted to do the best job I could, using this indigenous material—by that I mean the sounds of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Once again, when I had to set the tone, then I used more traditional stuff, but then I had to break down the tonality and make the rhythm jagged so it sounded like underscoring, not like there was a band playing next door! That’s one of the dangers of using jazz or pop music, it almost sounds like a band out in the street or something, but if you distort the tonalities it can serve as dramatic music. And jazz has such propulsion by itself, it’s almost a given for those scores to work, just by the very fact that it was jazz.
Q: One of your scores that didn’t use jazz was the Robert Mitchum crime drama KILLER IN THE FAMILY, about a father serving time for murder who convinces his three teenage sons that his life is being threatened by fellow inmates and that they should break him out of jail. That was much later of course, in 1983, and it has a really nice orchestral score that enhances the psychological tone of Mitchum’s character.
Gerald Fried: Yeah, that was more symphonic. I was very pleased with the score.
Q: You carried that jazzy style into some of the early TV episodes you scored, like M SQUAD, SHOTGUN SLADE, and others…
Gerald Fried: SHOTGUN SLADE started off as a joke. Jennings Lang, the producer, made a joke at a party one night—Monica, his wife, told me this—he said, “Hey, let’s do a jazz Western!” Everybody laughed, and then there was silence in the room and someone said “hey, what about a jazz Western?!” So I was the bright, new young composer in town then—and that was because Lew Wasserman had this very intelligent idea in 1958—he decided that television was here to stay, and he wanted to get his stable organized—directors, actors, art directors, composers—so he hired most of the composers around town to do an episode of M SQUAD, and from that he chose two of us to be put on staff at Revue Studios, I was one and Johnny Williams was the other. I was assigned SHOTGUN SLADE and I think John Williams did CHECKMATE. SHOTGUN SLADE was just a lot of fun, a jazz score with a Western flavor.
Q: How did you approach Western films like TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN—and the many Western TV episodes you scored… WAGON TRAIN, WHISPERING SMITH, and at least one episode of GUNSMOKE… What were those experiences like for you?
Gerald Fried: I loved it! I was a folky in my Greenwich Village days, I actually played guitar and banjo. I loved the Western folk tradition and used that as much as possible.
Q: Do you remember how big the orchestras were that you got to use? I know the budgets were pretty small back then.
Gerald Fried: MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. I think, like the one I just saw a few nights ago, “The Alexander The Greater Affair,” sounded like we used eight or nine guys, no more! The other one, maybe eleven or twelve, the ones at Universal. On TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN I had four players! The reason for that is because it was written by Dalton Trumbo and Ned Young and Sterling Hayden, all the blacklisted guys, and the studio found out they were blacklisted and stopped the budget cold. So Ernest Gold was hired to do the score, and Ernest called me and said “Gerry, I’m supposed to do TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN but they said they’ll only pay for four instruments! I can’t do that!” He was trained in Vienna with the Philharmonic. Me, I thought that would be a hoot! So we used four men—two percussion, Laurindo Almeida on guitar, and Bob DeVol on trumpet. I also played oboe and English horn on it, so it was five sometimes, but they only had to pay for four! Of course, part of it was easy because there were a lot of Mexican scenes, and Laurindo is a hell of a guitar player and he took care of those by himself—and occasionally I would play a little oboe solo.
Q: It’s almost as if the austerity of the music fit that style of film; it gave it a kind of a lonely, Western small-town-in-the-desert feel to it.
Gerald Fried: In a sense it was a good aesthetic, even though that had nothing to do with the producers, or the studio.
Q: Although that limited size orchestra might seem restrictive, the composers working on these shows did some amazing stuff. How were you able to use your creativity to compose some really interesting music and instrumental effects?
Gerald Fried: One trick that I used which, once again, I learned from the classical symphonic repertoire, if you want something to sound big, prelude it with something small. Like I would begin a scene in MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. with a guitar or just the bongos—I did that a lot—and then when you bring in seven guys it sounds like the New York Philharmonic! That’s a trick I used.
Q: You also worked with director Jacques Tourneur on TIMBUKTU, with Victor Mature and Yvonne De Carlo…
Gerald Fried: I loved that! It was like I was Max Steiner or Victor Young! It was an old-style movie and I had fun doing the old sound and a lot of Oriental stuff. As a double-reed player and an oboe player I knew all about writing Oriental music
Q: You’re credited with scoring some episodes of THE FLYING NUN…?
Gerald Fried: Never did it. They probably tracked some of my music into that show. This happens a lot, and if they track over fifty percent of the piece then they have to give you credit. I also got credit on one or two SIMPSONs, they quoted my STAR TREK music on that show!
Q: You were one of the main composers on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Gerald Fried: Yeah, I did most of them.
Q: What are your recollections from scoring episodes—aside from the fact that the bongos really made a great sound for it!
Gerald Fried: [laughs] The whole show was tongue-in-cheek and it was plain old fun. You could make exaggerated jokes in the music whenever they had one of their puns. I remember this one because I just saw it a couple of nights ago like I mentioned, “The Alexander The Greater Affair.” They had a huge scimitar with a 2- or 3-foot blade hanging over Robert Vaughn’s head and the guy who was torturing him quoted a Gillette Razor Blade commercial, “We get ten percent more usage from this blade!” So I did something silly just to underscore the joke.
Q: Scoring the TV series GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and then the three made-for-TV movies; how did scoring the movies contrast with what you had to work with on the TV episodes?
Gerald Fried: I had a larger orchestra for the movies, which was sort of expected, I guess! I enjoyed that. You could be as silly as you wanted.
Q: The show had its own musical vibe, it could be very fun, very frolicsome…
Gerald Fried: There was one I remember, I can’t remember the name of it, but they needed an orchestra so Gilligan collected a lot of sea shells and blew across them to make the different sounds of an orchestra. I had to imitate that in the studio. I got jugs of wine and Pepsi Cola bottles and everything to get a whole range of things and blew across them just like he did!
Q: One interesting movie you scored was 1969’s WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE?, which was a psychological horror film. Do you recall how you augmented the film’s suspense with music?
Gerald Fried: Part of it was obeying the regular rules of underscoring a picture. Geraldine Page was a wonderful villainess, and I had to make the audience aware of that, so I would always have some underscore of monster-type music when she was on screen. The main theme, which I used both for some lyrical things and also for the end credits, I had a good singer, Sherlie Matthews, record it. They said everybody’s doing it so we might as well cash in! Sherlie called the song “Come With Me,” and it was actually a good lyric because she’s a good singer, but Robert Aldrich [producer] wouldn’t let it in the movie for a very good reason, which is that after she just buries four or five people under those pine trees in the back yard, you can’t have a song saying “Come With Me.” It’ll get a laugh! I didn’t think of that, so the song never got in.
Q: But the tune of the song is in the score, isn’t it?
Gerald Fried: Yeah.
Q: On a film like that, when you come in at the end to do your music, what are you looking for as far as your inspiration in the story, the performances, or what the director has to say?
Gerald Fried: All of those! You have to understand the producer’s taste, because he has the power to fire you and get somebody else, so you have to be aware of that. You have to use your own judgment as to what the dramatic essence of the movie is, even if it’s just a horror/monster thing, there’s still a point and a personality to each movie that’s different from other movies, which is why I can’t stand it when I hear music that I wrote for Movie A and they track it into Movie B! You’ve just got to keep your wits about you at all times and take into consideration all the factors that go into a successful score, including pleasing the director and producer, and that’s usually not a problem. Like, Bob Aldrich’s taste wasn’t really hip up to the time, he liked more old fashioned dramatic music, so I steered a little bit toward that, but not enough to hurt my own aesthetic.
Q: In a film like WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE when you have these wonderful performances by Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon…
Gerald Fried: And Mildred Dunnock!
Q: Yes! Now, do the performances of the cast affect how you think about scoring certain characters in a film like this?
Gerald Fried: Sure it did, not consciously but unconsciously. Like Geraldine Page, she’s such a mage, she takes over the screen when she comes in, and so did the other two. Mildred Dunnock, being terrified of Geraldine Page’s Aunt Alice character, she did that so well it was probably like they invited me to make her even more terrified and Geraldine even more an abusive monster.
Q: Were there any particular orchestral techniques that you found of value to create suspense, horror, or shock in a film like this, or any of the even more monstrous movies you’ve scored?
Gerald Fried: A sudden blast of the brass is always effective for getting people to jump out of their seats. And when I wanted to lay low but keep the tension going, there’s nothing like a little percussion episode which, when kept soft, can do that. The tympani works so great under dialogue, it keeps the tension and keeps the beat, and then when you bring in the instruments it’s more of a contrast. Tricks like that are almost automatic after you do a few pictures.
Q: I wanted to talk a bit about your music for ROOTS, which has been one of my top five scores for a long time. Your main theme and your underscore is so engaging and so fun and so moving when it needs to be. What can you tell me about getting involved in that miniseries and what the challenges were of scoring something of that size?
Gerald Fried: Thank you! About getting involved, you know the story with Quincy Jones?
Gerald Fried: He was hired as the logical person to do it, and even though I worked a lot with David L. Wolper and Stan Margulies, I figured, well, of course, I’d hire Quincy Jones too! The opening date was January 15, 1977, and the first week in December 1976 I get a call from Stan Margulies, saying “Gerry, we’re going to give you $1000 to keep your pencil sharp and your mouth shut!” “Oh?” I said. “Does this have something to do with ROOTS?” And Stanley said “What did I just tell you?!” So, yeah, Quincy did come up with a theme, but then I wrote my own theme, finished episode number 1, and as you know, did everything else. It was kind of an honor to be on that picture.
Q: Coming into it musically, how did you decide how to begin scoring such a project, and figuring out character themes that are going to be going across a very large arc of storytelling?
Gerald Fried: I tried to be as true to the characters as possible. Like Chicken George had a jaunty, early-American/African-American feel to it; Kizzy’s theme, same thing. And of course all the scenes in Africa, I had as my consultant Ciaphus Semenya, who told me about the griot [West African storyteller, historian, poet] and certain kinds of African music associated with the griot. The main theme—and this was a tough one—had to invite the non-African American audience. It had to be an authentic sound that’s appropriate to the picture, and it also had to contact a huge television audience. I thought about that thing for a long time; there wasn’t much time, but much of that time went into trying to do that one theme.
Q: You revisited ROOTS for the sequel, ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION, a couple of years later. Coming into that, you’re using some of your themes from the first series and yet here you’ve got a whole new period of time and group of characters to support musically…?
Gerald Fried: Stanley and I came up with the same idea separately, but when we told each other our ideas we both grinned, because what I had planned was exactly what he was going to ask me to do. Each segment, as it moves up through the generations, the music moves up as authentically to each generation as possible, so that in the 1890’s it was sort of a ragtime version of the theme; in the 1920s there was a Charleston version of the theme, and then in the 1930s and 1940s it was a big band version of it.
Q: Were you recognized for this score at the time, because Quincy Jones seemed to get a lot of the credit for what you did after he’d left the project.
Gerald Fried: The people in the industry knew the story, but to the outside world it was a Quincy Jones’ score. He would go on talk shows and call himself the composer of ROOTS, even long after he was fired and sued by David Wolper for breech of contract, which was successful. When the lawsuit came he couldn’t contest it, because he didn’t write the music [only parts of the first episode], but proving damages was very difficult and I did not have a show biz lawyer, which was my mistake. My lawyer didn’t know what to do so the only thing that he came up with was that Quincy had to go back to the shows and the magazines and say “My friend Gerry Fried really wrote the music.” That’s the only thing I got out of it. Probably the biggest compliment I ever got in my professional life was that one of the giants of the music world went out of his way to perjure himself to claim that he wrote the music that I wrote. When you think about it, it’s a compliment that he fought so hard to get credit for that.
At the end of twelve years of this legal bullshit going back and forth, at Alex Haley’s funeral, Quincy made a speech in front of the reporters, and said “I’d like to say one more thing about ROOTS, and that’s that there came a time when I got kind of brainwashed by the responsibility, this music had to be the greatest black music”—and this was his quote—“it had to be the black ‘Rite of Spring’ and, well, I had my friend Gerry Fried to write that and the rest of it.” So he did it publicly, and I went over to him and said “Hey, man, that was classy.” And he reached out to me and we briefly embraced, so the story has that kind of an ending.
Q: You scored two TV movies, BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS/MANEATERS ARE LOOSE, both of which had to do with escaped animals that were creating havoc. How did you musically treat these films?
Gerald Fried: My memory of those movies were that they were kind of artificial, kind of a forced drama, so I did the best I could to enhance the situations, and probably not very subtly.
Q: In 1980 you scored a historical TV movie, THE ORDEAL OF DR. MUDD, about the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth. Do you recall anything about that score? It starred Dennis Weaver as Samuel Mudd and was directed by Paul Wendkos.
Gerald Fried: Oh, yeah. Dennis Weaver did a hell of a job! They finally gave him something to act and he did beautifully. I loved doing that, and I took it seriously. I probably used a lot of folk tunes, too, or folk-type tunes, and used a lot of civil war music. I didn’t work with Wendkos directly; I came in strictly post-production. I came to the recording and probably made few suggestions but we didn’t really work together like say the way I worked with Stan Margulies, who was a hands-on producer.
Q: One other film I wanted to ask you about is THE MYSTIC WARRIOR (1984), which is a film about the Sioux Indians, almost a pre-DANCES WITH WOLVES sympathetic treatment of Native Americans…
Gerald Fried: I loved doing that one. I treated it like Sergei Prokofiev treated ALEXANDER NEVSKY, like a cantata with a chorus and everything, telling the story. That was fun working on. I had a chance to do a choral fugue and lots of indigenous stuff, which I always enjoy. Also, I did I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER (1975), Chief Joseph’s story. I used lots of indigenous sounds.
Q: You also scored the 1983 TV series CASABLANCA, based of course on the classic Bogart movie.
Gerald Fried: In a sense, I tried to keep it in the old style. I don’t think it would have been wise to go into competition with CASABLANCA, one of the most beloved movies of all time, so I didn’t change it to something modern. I kept it within the idiom of the original. I wrote music in a sort of Max Steiner way, as I remember, with lots of long sentimental cello solos and violin solos, different chops, and so it gave me different challenges.
Q: I assume the producers wanted to replicate the idea of the classic, at least to refer back to that without imitating it completely…?
Gerald Fried: Right.
Q: Was it a challenge to create the old Steiner sentimental style while being able to put your own voice to it?
Gerald Fried: Not too much. It’s such a wide area, that style of music, as well as the romantic stuff that Steiner and Waxman and all those guys did in those days. I would just write an original theme and use that style, and that did the job right there. It didn’t take much thinking, as I remember, since I’d grown up with those sounds, so it was easy to step into that vibe.
Q: And you’re still working. You recently scored 20 WAYS and PSYCHE ASCENDING, which are very interesting short films…
Gerald Fried: Yeah. They were made by a local director, Peter Kershaw, in Santa Fe. 20 WAYS was fun, that I had to write a comedy about Jews trying to escape from Germany, which was a challenge. We also had like five instruments in the orchestra!
Q: The other short film was PSYCHE ASCENDING which was a modern parable based on ancient Greek myths about Aphrodite…
Gerald Fried: They wanted to humanize the goddess Psyche—it didn’t sound very god-like! I just tried to make it personal. Hecuba was kind of a nasty witch, but a human sort of witch in charge of Psyche, and Juno was jealous of Psyche who started off as a mortal and was prettier than Juno, and she was jealous of that. It was like a human story. That was fun to do.
Q: Looking back at your years of scoring films and the wonderful variety of movies you were able to work on, how do you assess what you did and how film music has changed over the years since you were steadily working?
Gerald Fried: Scores these days seem to shy away from music making a clear statement, and they sort of want to hide more. I can actually understand that—when I was first thinking about movie music in the early days, hanging around with Stanley and us wise guys in the Village who were still in our teens, this was the snotty thing to say, to show how superior you were to movies in American then, to say “Oh, that score, you know when the girl runs her hand through the water, they don’t have a harp there or a string section! That’s ridiculous!” Well, I changed my tune about that once I began to understand that part of the magic of movies is the fact that the people on the screen were just two dimensional, especially in black and white. They aren’t real, and a film’s score isn’t real either, but the combination is like the two negatives making a positive. The combination of the two brings out the magic. So I started to make as strong a statement as I could for each movie I wrote. I’m glad I caught the tail end of the Golden Age of film music!
Q: You certainly had your hand in a lot of films that, at the time, might have been small and inconsequential, but now a lot of them are revered as B-movie classics or A-movie classics. Even the TV stuff you did we’re now seeing your music getting into commercial release so it can be respected as it should be.
Gerald Fried: Well, thank you! That was nice to have happen. I’ve been spending the last few years writing symphony works and oratorios. The first one was actually back in 1966, when Franz Waxman was running the Los Angeles Music Festival and he set up concerts. He had Stravinsky himself as a guest conductor once, and I was on that series—I had a piece called “Omnia Ad Dei Glorium” (All The Glory)—it’s set like a baroque oratorio, like, say, The St. Matthew Passion, with the evangelist narrating “Jesus said unto the disciples,” except it was jazz! In fact the evening was called “A New Look at Jazz,” and the other piece was Lalo Schifrin’s “Jazz Mass.” Good piece of music! So I’ve been doing that since. Just last year I had another one performed in New York at the Signature Theatre during the New York Music Festival. I did about four or five performances of these big works when we lived in Santa Fe.
Q: That’s great! I’m glad you’re still writing and those creative juices are still there and finding expression!
Gerald Fried: I work at maybe a ten or twelve percent efficiency of what I used to work! Every once in a while I find my head on the desk, I’m asleep!
Special thanks to Gerald Fried for taking the time out to discuss these scores with me over the last few years. - rdl
BANNING/Quincy Jones/La-La Land – cd Available in a generous limited edition of 3,000 copies, this 1967 romantic suspense/drama stars Robert Wagner, Anjanette Comer, Jill St. John, Guy Stockwell, and James Farantino and is about a hustling golf pro who takes a golf instructor job at an exclusive country club where the owner and his son in law are fleecing the wealthy guests by using various schemes. Jones has created a delightful melodic landscape for the film, largely based around the infectious tune of the opening song, “Eyes of Love” (sung by Gil Bernal), which is given a nice mixture of variations throughout the album, which are effectively intermingled with an assortment of furtive and taut suspense motifs (including “Relay Chase,” which carefully builds from teasing bits of the main theme into a full-on, energetic powerhouse of snarling horns, rolling drums, and jazzy-driven bongos and brass; “The Set-Up” and “The Tournament” both demonstrating engaging tremolo strings, bursts of brass, and intriguing percussion interplay; while the fascinating variety of instrumental arrangements in “Trying Tie” and “Sudden Death” (the latter not used in the film) is quite enthralling. The varied range of its main theme—from full orchestral arrangement (“Main Title”) to reeds, harpsichord, and vocalise (“Members Only”), lounge club combo (“The Eyes of Love Instrumental”), sensually provocative winds and piano mixed with disarming clusters of interested flutes (“Fixation”), even a bit of tension mixed with evocative melody (“Rendezvous/Price Control”) and so on, meets its match with the delightful edginess of its icy cool suspense music. Jones’ “Eyes Of Love” did receive an Oscar nomination for best song, but lost out to “Talk to the Animals,” by Leslie Bricusse, from DOCTOR DOLITTLE. The CD booklet features detailed notes by Jon Burlingame, who rightly sums up this score as “Quintessential Quincy” (and indicates the score was recorded with a 55-piece orchestra conducted by Joseph Gershenson). This is a thoroughly delightful and compelling score, most welcome to encounter through the ears after fifty-four years in waiting!
BLOOD OF ZEUS/Paul Edward-Francis/Milan – digital Milan has issued a digital soundtrack to the Netflix anime series, BLOOD OF ZEUS, composed by Paul Edward-Francis (HOWL, THE PARALLAX THEORY, BUNNICULA, HOG-FATHER), a British composer now based in LA. The adult animated series is centered around Greek mythology; its first 8-episode season debuted in October 2020, with a second season confirmed by Netflix (a total of 5 seasons are outlined). The show is based upon tales “lost to history” rather than passed down with our current canon of Greek myths, which allows plenty of options in creating new characters and associations. The show’s mature subject matter gives it the feel of a live-action fantasy epic, an attribute which is enhanced by Edward-Francis’ magnificent old-school score, inspired by the classic style of Hollywood Golden Age epics but given a touch of synthesized modernity. Necessarily for budget restrictions, the score is created via digital samples, but they are powerfully rendered and provide massive orchestrations that sound quite authentic. “The Titans,” for example—heard during a massive flashback scene in episode one that reveals the origin of the demons which are ravaging the human settlements, and what part the ancient gods had played in that—is a tremendous cue that rages with undulating barrages of furious brasses and drums, thick flurries of choir, broken by empathetic impressions of melodic string waves; culminating in a languid descent as the music gradually spools out and dissipates. These kind of colossal gestures give the score, and consequently the running story, an impressive power, which is in turn contrasted against serene woodwind melodies and quieter treatments that resonate with sympathetic compassion (for example, the second half of “A Peasants Way of Life,” or the gentle, tonal cadence of “Past Is Prologue.” There are 34 tracks and just under two hours of music on Milan’s digital soundtrack, all wonderfully textured, provocatively driven, and a captivating feast for the ears. Very highly recommended.
Related: Read my interview with composer Paul Edward-Francis about scoring this series, and much else, at musiquefantastique. Listen to the track “The Titans” below:
CIVILTÀ DEL MEDITERRANEO/Bruno Nicolai/Kronos - cd Composer Bruno Nicolai created this score for a Italian television documentary series about the history of civilization in the Mediterranean region. Kronos Records has reissued on CD the long out-of-print LP issued by EDI PAN in 1971. Nicolai has constructed his music into a trio of distinct musical designs—the first consists of a quite serene main theme which is heard in four variations (Tracks 1, 5, 10, and 14); it’s written in the composer’s modern style, and is a captivating melody introduced in “Il Mare” from what is either the plucked strings of a zither or electric guitar, then taken alternately by flute/acoustic guitar and string choir/electric bass through the end of the cue; it’s quite a captivating opener and one of Nicolai’s most striking compositions. The theme recurs in “Civilta’ Mediterranea” with a soft, low horn taking the melody over bass and drumkit, with the strings coming in about half way through; the version is reprised in “Mediterranea” without the bass and drumkit; while an alternate arrangement of “Il Mare” is played for solo flute over acoustic guitar. A different and quite delicate orchestral melody is heard in “L’Altra Sponda/The Other Shore” from string choir counterpointed against a repeated four-note phrase from flutes. A quite unusual track is “Tonnara/Tuna Fish” which covers a fishing sequence, features Jew’s harp, acoustic guitar, and the distinctive whistling of Alessandro Alessandroni, which segues into a distinctly Neopolitan melody for strings and mandolin, then repeating the order once more. The whistled part of the cue would be quite at home in an Italian Western, and offers a pleasing and distinctive sound of its own. Interestingly, Nicolai later re-arranged “Tonnara” into his main theme for DON GIOVANNI IN SICILIA, a 1977 TV drama.
Apart from these lovely melodic cues, there are five tracks comprised of a variety of ethnic music, and six comprised of mostly baroque classical music, both conveying specific locations and time periods in which the documentary covers. These cues are less flavorful melodically, and perhaps less interesting musically, than the rich thematic tracks, but they do convey a suitable taste of the period and unique musical flavoring of these regions throughout time. All of this makes CIVILTÀ DEL MEDITERRANEO quite an intriguing journey. The package is enhanced by liner notes from MovieMusic International’s John Mansell, and the CD is a limited edition of 300 copies. See Kronos.
Listen to the opening track, “Il Mare” from CIVILTÀ DEL MEDITERRANEO:
CRISIS/Raphaël Reed/Varèse Sarabande – cd CRISIS is a dramatic thriller written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki (ARBITRAGE). Set against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, three stories follow a drug trafficker arranging a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation; an architect, recovering from oxycodone addiction, searching for her missing son; and a university professor who battles unexpected revelations about his employer at a pharmaceutical company, bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market. French Canadian composer Raphaël Reed provides a pulsing electronic score that fits the film’s dark scenario quite well. Early on, Cliff Martinez was brought on board as music advisor (he scored Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC, to which CRISIS has been compared; the musical legacy between the two films is thus well founded, although Reed has managed to make the CRISIS score his own). “Composing the music for CRISIS was an incredible experience and a beautiful challenge,” said Reed. “Cliff Martinez and I had weekly discussions with Nicholas Jarecki about his vision for the film to have its own unique musical identity embodying the themes of struggle and hope in the face of great adversity—fitting ideas for the opioid emergency. We wanted the music to draw attention to the complexity of the characters’ emotions and to underline the darkness of the opioid epidemic while still instilling some positive possibilities. With that in mind, I experimented with different instruments, playing them in unusual ways, creating striking textures and strong thematic elements.” The pulsating effect along with a frequent use of electronic sustains and pads, often with soft piano accompaniment, maintains a lot of tension and emotive desolation that keeps the listener well on edge; “Breaking In” is quite a tense cue using these elements. “Revelations” is a nice mix of reverberating hand drums over synth, while “You're Lucky” is an effective mix of resonating percussion and soft, spiraling synth movement. Reed maintains, contrasts, and merges these configurations quite articulately throughout the score; near the second half of the film, when the perspective shifts a little more into the investigation over the corrupt criminals, Reed lightens the textures by moving into higher registers in tracks like “Whistleblower,” “Following Guy,” “I’m A Federal Agent” and “It Took Four Minutes” with its very tonal opening segueing into an intense and quite gripping denouement of fast piano notes, bass, and percussion. “You Don’t Trust Me Anymore?” sets hushed, whispering synth pads and growing sonic patterns against battering drums and rapid bass notes to set up a very cool fusillade of energy. The more laid back synth pads of “I’m Feeling Much Better Now” lends a contrasting respite, with echoes of the “Four Minutes” piano figures coming in near the end. “No Mother, No Deal” sets reflective synth peals against low, rough-edged synth chords and higher, soaring notes in a very likable tonic of onrushing sound; “You Remind Me Of Someone” concludes the action with a soft collage of piano and ringing synth pulses, while “We Were Lucky To Get Him” closes out the score with a mix of previous elements into a six-minute closing reprise. Raphaël Reed’s CRISIS is a very capable score, making the most out of fairly limited sonic structures, but it provides just the kind of sustained layering and percussive drive that gives the film its escalating tension and comforting resolve.
Listen to the track “I’m A Federal Agent” from the CRISIS soundtrack, below:
HARD RAIN/Christopher Young/La-La Land – cd Scored in the mid-1990s, when Christopher Young took a slight break from scoring horror films (between 1995’s SPECIES and 1998’s URBAN LEGEND, HARD RAIN (originally titled THE FLOOD) is one of several action and crime films that Young composed during his brief sabbatical (COPYCAT, UNFORGETTABLE, NORMA JEAN & MARILYN, SET IT OFF, HEAD ABOVE WATER, MURDER AT 1600, and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE, were the others). This film, a hybrid disaster/crime film in which the protagonist tries to prevent a rival gang from stealing three million dollars during a catastrophic flood caused by a severe storm, gave Young the opportunity to score a hard-driving action movie using traditional orchestral methods in an era where synth-driven scores for films like SPEED, THE ROCK, and TRUE LIES were paving the way for new electronic designs for action movies. Young himself had been at the forefront of electronic and/or musical sound design scoring techniques with a number of his early films like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2, INVADERS FROM MARS, and HELLRAISER, but with HARD RAIN he recognized the need to embrace a more traditional method of scoring action, in the manner of Michael Kamen’s DIE HARD and Jerry Goldsmith’s FIRST BLOOD, not to mention Young’s own history of orchestral action scores for VIRTUOSITY, THE FLY II, JENNIFER 8, and COPYCAT. This score is motif-based, occasionally rising to a grandly heroic theme, with plenty of punchy brass, shivering string tremolos, urgent, trilling woodwinds, and intriguing motific contrasts from harmonica (via Toots Thielmann), chimes, and tubular bells, which add fresh, contrasting resonances to the sonic mix.
With the premiere of the HARD RAIN soundtrack, we have a superb orchestral action score, performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, which exceeds Milan’s 1998 51 minute album with a full load of 24 tracks and more than 78 minutes of music. As Jeff Bond writes in his detailed liner notes, Young had to make changes to some of his score remotely late in postproduction to accommodate last-minute editorial changes in the film, which included revised album versions of some cues. “Young’s action writing was impressive when the score debuted, but a complete presentation of the score reveals one of the most robust and relentless action scores of its era and a textbook example of the way a powerful orchestral score can raise the game of a genre film.” HARD RAIN is an essential Chris Young soundtrack; it reveals how the composer’s inventive musical expertise runs solidly between genres and confirms his treatment of symphonic action scoring is as authoritative and accomplished as his ferocious and fearful music for the science fiction and horror genres. La-La Land’s expanded limited edition (just 1000 copies) with its fresh remastering by Digital Outland’s James Nelson will please those who have favored this score among his work as well as those coming to this score new.
Listen to the HARD RAIN Main Title below:
INSIGHT/Sid De La Cruz/Plaza Mayor Co. - digital Plaza Mayor Company has released a soundtrack album for the action thriller INSIGHT, featuring music composed by Sid De La Cruz (HELL ON THE BORDER, WEAPONiZED, ATONE). The movie follows a counter-terrorism agent who blends his skills as a martial artist and clairvoyant to bring the world’s most nefarious individuals to justice as he is forced to make an unexpected detour to Los Angeles upon receipt of the news of a cover up surrounding his brother’s alleged suicide. The film stars Tony Todd, Keith David, Madeline Zima, with director Ken Zheng in the lead role as the agent. De La Cruz has given the film a vigorous score that maximizes the story’s action. It’s heavy with energy and the propulsive rock-based synth and percussion elements that form the basis for most of the music provide a persuasive drive that’s highly effective. “LAX” is a fine opener that starts things off with a great momentum and provides the basis for where the score will go from there. “Abbey & Jian Warehouse Brawl” and “Jian Vs. Wallace” are both dynamic action cues that ebb and flow with driving force and forward motion to fit the waves of the fights, while “Warehouse Betting” starts off innocuously enough until its sonic construction uncoils and forms a staccato impulsion of massive energy, and the climax “Jian In Syria” adds Middle Eastern instruments (Qanun, Riq, Darbuka percussion, and Zill [finger cymbals]) to augment the sonic texture set against the heavy synth thrusts (In the “Credits,” De La Cruz accomplishes a similar effect using guitar harmonics, creating high-end plucking sounds that pierce the dark synthetic textures and create effective electric guitar-like peals within the somber energy of the track). The softer focus and tempo of “FBI Raid” and “Graveyard” provide a nice breather between the action material. In addition to Sid’s cues, composer Holly Ann Church has added two short original cues which provide a melodic contrast to De La Cruz’s more relentless energy, and which are included on the soundtrack. Sample the score on Spotify. For more details on the album, see PlazaMayor. For more details on the composer, see https://siddelacruz.com/.
Listen to the track, “Jian In Syria” below:
THE LAST WARRIOR: ROOT OF EVIL/George Kallis/Walt Disney - digital This 2021 Russian fantasy comedy film is a sequel to 2017’s THE LAST WARRIOR (aka THE LAST KNIGHT), produced in collaboration with The Walt Disney Company. Both films develop around traditional Russian fairy tales. With the evil threats of Baba Yaga and Koschei having been defeated in the first film, Ivan, the titular hero, is relaxing with the peace and tranquility experienced within Belogorie. But when an ancient evil rises and the existence of the magic world is put to danger, Ivan has to team up with old friends and his new rivals, setting out on a long journey to defeat the new enemies and to return peace to Belogorie. “The second episode ended up darker and more energetic than the first one with some lengthy action sequences that are reflected in the soundtrack,” Kallis said of scoring the new film. “This gave me the opportunity to re-explore and bring back old themes, accentuate the orchestrations, while also adding some new melodic ideas.” The new film benefits from Kallis’ experience with the 2017 movie and allows him to expand and intensify the music composed for the previous film. It’s a thunderous orchestral score (performed in Macedonia by the FAME’S orchestra and Pro Ars choir) that benefits from a wide range of themes and motifs, some brought in and/or expanded from the first movie, others composed for this sequel. “The Last Warrior Main Theme” is the thematic bulwark of both scores, and is given a powerful musical statement in the major battle scenes. Each of the main heroes possess their own musical motifs as well. “For Ivan, I composed a motif which follows him as he travels between modern times and the world of Belagorie with the help of the portal that is enabled by the Magic Sword,” Kallis explained. “While the motif is originally rather humorous, since Ivan is the primary comic relief, his theme’s melody had to be flexible so as to also build up for his heroic or noble moments.” This film’s villain, a former wizard murdered and revived into the evil Rogoleb, is given a motif played primarily by horns and brass but often accompanied by fast woodwind and string flourishes “that portray his hundreds of roots which he uses as weapons.” In addition to character-based themes, Kallis provides a number of recurring motives for various emotional ideas—hope, escape, victory, and the like; A choir-driven “Theme of Hope” opens the film and returns at the climax with “Evil Defeated,” a poignant and vigorously resonant arrangement of powerful drums and victorious brass set among driving strings in an ornately arranged 5:40 minute resolution. The score’s vivid array of music for heroes, villains, magical creatures in a magical land is a fascinating and carefully wrought construction which is a delight to hear on its own. Kallis’ rich gift of thematic development and orchestration is well on display in this score. The film closes with a melodic summation and a suggestion that Ivan’s story may not yet be over (“at the end of ‘Evil Defeated,’ I planted my own musical foreshadowing…” Kallis remarked). A pleasing and thoroughly engaging musical adventure. The album is available at these links.
For more information on the composer, see https://georgekallis.com/music/.
Listen to the track “To The Land of the Dead” below:
MEERKAT: A DYNASTIES SPECIAL/ Benji Merrison and Will Slater/Silva Screen - digital Music for the various BBC nature documentary series continues to be some of the most moving, compelling, and beautiful documentary film music in recent years. Silva Screen, which has released most of the BBC docu soundtracks either digitally or, in some cases, on CD, presents MEERKAT: A DYNASTIES SPECIAL as the introductory film of the forthcoming sequel to the 2018 Dynasties series - DYNASTIES II, which will contain four episodes and premiere in 2022. The 2018 series was unique in that it followed the true stories of five of the world’s most celebrated, yet endangered animals—penguins, chimpanzees, lions, painted wolves, and tigers; each in a heroic struggle against rivals and the forces of nature, these families fight for their own survival and for the future of their dynasties. The 60-minute special, which was aired on December 28th 2020, was composed by Benji Merrison and Will Slater, who scored the original 2018 series and are scheduled to score the second season as well. Filmed in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the Christmas special follows the young meerkat queen Maghogho and her family battling to survive in hostile environment, during a drought. “MEERKAT: A DYNASTIES SPECIAL was a pleasure to score,” said the composers in a statement. “We worked very closely with the producer Emma Napper to develop a strong thematic language which is used to underpin the narrative development of the film. We were also very keen that the instrumentation and ‘sound-world’ of the score reflected the physical textures of the landscape in which the Meerkats live. In a subliminal way, the effect is to draw the viewer down to ground level, to be emotionally aligned with the Meerkats as the real-life storyline unfolds.”
The 22-track MEERKAT soundtrack is encased in layered, lyrical atmospherics, lending a persuasive sonic dynamic to the adventures of the Meerkat family using some synths or samples (especially in the haunting track “Makgadikgadi”), vocalise (the soothing evocative “Life Is Fragile” and elsewhere), and live players in London and an orchestra recorded in Europe. Like the original DYNASTIES series, MEERKAT’s score is an amazing musical journey of evocative measures, mostly conveyed through layered patterns given a slow, drifting, cadence; with more energy given to a handful of active moments such as the percussive-driven “Chase Sequence,” “The Rival Gang,” (an especially aggressive musical encounter with roaring brasses and muscular drumming), the tentative hide-and-seek of “Hiding Among The Herds,” the emotively moving “Drought Breaks”, and the heavy rhythmic drive of “One Last Challenge.” The original 2018 series theme is carried over to the start (full version) and finish (short arrangement) of the MEERKAT presentation, and both are included on the album. The score is in line with the style and tone of BBC documentary series, but like most of them it carries its own unique sound and an intriguing and often emotive captivation; it fits the visual sequences ideally yet offers a completely absorbing listening experience apart from that.
For more information, and links to listen or buy, see SilvaScreenUS or SilvaScreenUK.
Listen to the “Maghogho Theme Suite” below:
ROLLON – SUR LES TRACES DU PREMIER NORMAND/Maximilien Mathevon/ Plaza Mayor Co. - digital
Maximilien Mathevon’s score for this fictional documentary, which translates as ROLLO – IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE FIRST NORMAN, tells the tireless quest of contemporary researchers to find the traces of Rollo, an exiled Viking who became the founder of Normandy. Through a fictional narrative, Rollo (played by actor Victor Ovigne) describes the four main stages of his formidable adventure: banishment, conquest, conversion, foundation.
The film begins with the merciless bloodletting of Viking raids, continues with one of the most astonishing diplomatic chess games in history, and ends with the creation of an autonomous “state:” the Duchy of Normandy. The score offers an impressive historical flavoring in the synthesis of its orchestrations, the instrumentation and melodic interaction, and the tonal mix of male choir and early drums and tonalities. “The music had to represent first the Viking and warrior side of Rollon, as well as the Christian side of Bishop Francon, who arranged Rollon’s fate,” said the composer. “The two elements coexist with a musical color based on orchestral sounds but also on the cymbalom, harp, flute, and choirs.” Mathevon captures the historical tone of this fictional history very well throughout his score through a variety of attractive and intriguing timbres. Most tracks have their own structure, but running through most of them is Rollon’s theme (or perhaps ostinato), a recurring, four-step descending melody, which is arranged for all manner of treatments from low brasses and strings (“Prologue De Rollon/Rollon Prologue”) to cymbalom (“Alesund,” which also gathers into a fine, pitching forward attack), a reticent harp interpretation (“L’ile De Skye/Isle of Skye”), heroic trumpets (“L’exil/Exile” and “Les Conquetes De Rollon/The Conquests of Rollon”), and the like. The frequency of this main theme recurring does not render it over-used, but rather provides its melodic element as a structure withing a variety of treatments which provide their own configuration. In contrast with the cavernously deep male voices, which reach their lowness in “La Barbarie Viking/Viking Barbary,” we have the higher, clerical female choir which offers the Christian counterpart to the Viking motif, in tracks such as “Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte (which briefly counters the singers with a reprise of Rolland’s theme on the cimbalom),” “Le Bapteme/Baptism,” “Un Homme A Part/A Man Apart,” and “Les Raids Vikings/The Viking Raids”). Both choirs merge together in the near-operatic impetus of “La Bataille De Chartres/Battle of Chartres.” Mathevon concludes his historical journey with a structural recap of the score via the elegant and commanding “Suite De Rollon/Rollon Suite.” It’s a powerful and engaging score that enlivens its historical storyline with a likable mix of standard and unique musical instruments and an efficacious use of voices to reflect the politics that are at play during this period in history.
Listen to the “Prologue” from ROLLON, below:
SENIOR MOMENT/Laura Karpmann/MovieScore Media – digital Five-time Emmy winning composer Laura Karpman (LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, WHY WE HATE, TAKEN, ODYSSEY 5) once more demonstrates her articulate versatility by providing a delightful caper comedy score to Giorgio Serafini’s SENIOR MOMENT. Starring William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, and Jean Smart, the film follows the trials and tribulations of retired NASA pilot Victor Martin (Shatner) who has just been stripped of his driver’s license. Not only must he battle with the DMV, but he is also forced to find new ways to navigate love and life without his beloved vintage Porsche. “SENIOR MOMENT is a delightful film that is both a cool caper and a great love story,” explains Karpman. “At its core, it is a film that, with humor and love, explores the dignity of aging. I had a blast with this project; bringing up my jazz chops, re-mixing and playing with source cues, and writing a love theme based on a Viennese waltz for a couple that was always meant to be!” Karpman provides a splendid light-hearted score that covers all of the film’s basis, from the funky hip-hop of the opener, “Senior Center,” through the brash big band rhythms of “Car Crash” to the elegant and simple pianistic love theme that overtakes the fun music with the captivating surprise of true love. The excursion the music takes to get from Opening Credits to End Credits offers a wealth of rhythmic delight and exuberant musical entertainment, topped off with the honest sentiment of a straightforward piano-based love theme (“Romance,” “I Was an Idiot,” “Reflection,” “I Know.”). Tracks like “Hungover” with the delicate inertia of its piano base, wiry bass, crusty baritone sax (also championed in “The Cavalry”), rhythm section cheer squad, cheeky acapella vocalise appearing out of nowhere only to suddenly vanish, crowd voices, and all manner of other musical forms poured out of the cocktail mixer with such seemingly disparate components as jazz sax + turntablism (“Toughness”), dark, shadowy rhythms with a touch of backward masking (“Rock Kendall,” “Getting Dressed”), the brash mix of sax, flutes, shrieking pulses of brass, bongos, snare, and tom-tom of “Girl Chase,” with innocuous piano and violins doing their thing in between,
to the more straightforward, snappy tick-tock percussion, pizzicato, and woodwind carnival of “Tortoise Race.” Just about everything comes back in the finale, “Senior Moment,” which concludes the album and ends with a very straightforward Serious Moment from keyboard, flute, and brushed snare, bringing us back into karmic reality. In all of its capacity to delight, wow, and astound the listener, Karpman’s score is a scrumptious, deliberate riot and a sentimental affair—a thoroughly enjoyable wild and crazy experience which is not to be missed! For more details see MovieScore Media. For more information on the composer, definitely see http://www.laurakarpman.com/
Sample some of the score below:
THE VIGIL/Michael Yezerski/Lakeshore - digital IFC Midnight’s THE VIGIL is a supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante to take on the responsibility of an overnight “shomer,” fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed’s dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong. Composer Michael Yezerski (THE TAX COLLECTOR, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, THE BLACK BALLOON) has molded a frightening and fascinating sound collage that begins with clustered voices and keyboard (“Tefillin”) which imposes a virtual sonic weight upon the listener as it increases in tempo and volume, drifts across a haunting assortment of languid currents and unique musical sound designs, and ends with a simple purity of peaceful resolve (“Sunlight”), basking in the warm relief of flowing synth waves and innocent patting of hand drums. The fascinating part of the journey is getting there. The score maintains an ongoing tension throughout by using direful musical sound designs—the sorrowful solo violin meandering above a wash of strained voices and intricate piano fingering; haunting mixtures of droning chants that harbor sounds like dark sonic shadows; the weight of sudden, startling drum beats; raged synth whorls over deep, raspy vocal utterings; see-sawing semblances of sound that drift in and out from an uncertain expanse. It’s a fairly frightening musical concoction, and yet there’s something appealing—perhaps alluring—about these worrisome tonalities that attracts the ear, or the intellect, to absorb, to listen. The sounds are ghostly, evocative, malevolent, troublesome, yet captivating; a brilliant gathering of musical disturbiana that pierces to the mind. Discordant and yet deeply fascinating. A musical sound collage sculpted to the confines of a coffin. Speaking about the philosophy behind the score, Yezerski has said, “As [director] Keith Thomas and I discussed, music is memory. We associate music with the best and the worst times in our lives. For THE VIGIL we needed to create a score that explored the malevolence of memory (both personal and cultural).” Yezerski went on further to note, “We needed massive textures that could read as both beautiful and brutal. The music attacks but also meditates on long and difficult lives. After all, what is the greater horror at play here—the supernatural or our lived reality?” There’s something ethereal in this score’s unrestrained cadence, simple in its flowing disharmony but remarkably effective in captivating the listener, sustaining the story, and offering a unique musical perspective. This is thoughtful horror movie music, not so much a gathering of jump scares (well, excepting the opening of “Behind You”) but a slow undulation of quite ominous sound formations that ooze out of the fearscape to ensnare rather than shock; scary in its filmic effectiveness yet intriguing on its own as a listening encounter. I quite admire it.
Purchase and stream: https://smarturl.it/the-vigil
Listen to the opening track, “Tefillin,” below:
WANDAVISION Volumes 5-9/Christophe Beck, et al/Marvel Music/Hollywood Records - digital (see review of WANDAVISION Vol. 1-4 in my Jan-Feb column)
With the advent of WANDAVISION’s episode 5, the reality behind the events in Westview becomes much clearer, especially with the inclusion of S.W.O.R.D. agent Monica Rambeau—appearing here three weeks after the events that transpired in AVENGERS ENDGAME—the establishment of a S.W.O.R.D. command post just outside the CMBR (cosmic microwave background) field that Wanda has set up to keep the town isolated, and the rivalry between Rambeau and FBI agent Jimmy Woo against self-serving S.W.O.R.D. Director Tyler Hayward, begins to reveal a hardier dynamic than one experienced in the more frivolous comedy of the first two or three segments. Meanwhile Wanda’s control over the barrier and the automaton-like people inside Westview begins to unravel; she is having difficulty maintaining her sitcom-influenced world as they begin to phase into one another. Except for episodes 8 and 9, each of the final five episodes (and their soundtracks) continued the tradition of including the snappy faux TV theme jingles from Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez before getting into Christophe Beck’s increasingly dramatic score. With episode 7’s revelation that witch Agatha Harkness has been disrupting Wanda’s life in Westview (prompting the Lopez’s brief but delicious tune “Agatha All Along” heard at the end of episode 7, and episodes 8 and 9 erupting into all-out battle between S.W.O.R.D. and FBI forces, Wanda and Agnes, Vision and himself (etcetera), full-on dramatic scoring brings the series to a climax and final resolve. By Episode 9, in particular, Beck really takes off the soft gloves and scores the series’ climax with some extraordinarily thunderous action music, as well as a bit of poignant material as Wanda says farewell to Vision and then leaves Westview, realizing the harm her grief wrought to the people who’d lived there. The series concludes with the impassioned “Reborn” as, some time later, we revisit Wanda, settled alone in a wooded cabin, having come to terms with herself… or, as a final musical moment of brassy crescendo and a slow camera pull-in into a darkened room inside the cabin, suggests that Wanda, has instead embraced her incarnation as the Scarlet Witch. The musical scores for this 9-episode series are as unique as the show’s concept; apart from augmenting the idiosyncratic elements within each episode, Beck’s dramatic music also parallels the stages of grief which form the subliminal nuances of the series as Wanda experiences them. As a complete set of music from each episode, the nine digital albums form an exemplary and thorough sonic journey through the unpredictably distinctive world of WandaVision.
Watch the track “Ascendent” from WANDAVISION Episode 9:
ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE/Tom Holkenborg/WaterTower Music – digital Tom Holkenborg originally wrote a score for JUSTICE LEAGUE in early 2017, but when director Zach Snyder stepped down during post-production in order to deal with the death of his daughter (complicated by increasing creative differences with Warner Bros. on the film), Joss Whedon came in to finish the movie, and instead of using the music Holkenborg had written for Snyder, he instead brought in Danny Elfman (who had composed additional music for Whedon’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON; Brian Tyler was it’s primary composer) to write a completely new score for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Fast forward to 2020 when Warner Bros, noting the mixed reviews and poor sales for Whedon’s JUSTICE LEAGUE (provoked by a fan movement to let Snyder now realize his original vision for the movie): Holkenborg, who had completed about half his original JUSTICE LEAGUE score when the switch in directors/composers occurred in 2017, was now back on board with Snyder on what became a four-hour super-hero epic. “I [had done] 50 to 55 minutes of original score, but then the rest of the movie was covered with music edits from that material and from demos that I had done for the film,” said Holkenborg in an interview with Tim Beedle for dccomics.com. “So I listened to everything before we got greenlit to start on this thing, and I really felt like I needed to do it over and to do it again.”
It took Holkenborg eight months to compose a new score for the Snyder cut in his studio. “I wanted to create a score that was going to show my full spectrum without losing a distinctive throughline: strong thematic statements, orchestrational and electronic colors, an arc of four hours that needed to be properly filled,” the composer told Jon Burlingame in an interview for Variety. Most of the score was created in Holkenborg’s private studio using a handfull of synths, percussion, bass and guitar, but to provide the necessary large string and brass elements, live players were needed, a process complicated in the midst of the COVID pandemic. In addition, Holkenborg had to record his orchestral tracks for JUSTICE LEAGUE and GODZILLA VS. KONG at the same time. “I’ve been all over the spectrum, like recording individual players at home, and one recording in a bathroom, and the other one in the living room, and the other one in a bedroom, with some barking in the background of neighbors’ dogs,” he told Adam Chitwood in an interview for Collider. “I mean, you cannot imagine how intense that was. But everything took so long. Both the movies were recorded, orchestrated, and mixed by me, and then delivered to the [dubbing] stage, over a time span of like 14 weeks instead of nine days. It was a very meticulous planning process.”
The result is a massive score running 3-hours and 45-minutes (plus two songs licensed for use in the film and album) in its digital release from Warner Bros’ WaterTower Music, a complicated thematic-based hybrid score which is quite suitable to Snyder’s fully-achieved JUSTICE LEAGUE film. The new score provides enormous musical treatments across the lengthy arc of the story as Bruce Wayne, in the wake of Superman’s death in BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, gathers a team which can defeat Darkseid’s emissary Steppenwolf and his massive army of parademons, who are intent on destroying humankind and terraforming the Earth. For the most part, Holkenborg’s JUSTICE LEAGUE score features new themes for nearly all of its characters—only Hans Zimmer’s Superman theme from MAN OF STEEL and his Wonder Woman battle theme from BATMAN V. SUPERMAN are re-used intact. “I needed more colors for all the different characters, as well as a distinctive theme for the group together,” Holkenborg told Tim Beedle. “Everybody has their own theme. The League is very important. For Wonder Woman, I took the idea that Hans [Zimmer] and I worked on together for BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but then made a new version of it where world music is more important—where I underscore the rich history of the Amazons and that they’ve been here for such a long time, and that they will always be here. I used ethnic instruments for that. The most apparent instrument, if you will, is the voice of Delaram Kamareh. This talented Persian opera singer is from Tehran, Iran, and she is the soulful inner voice of Wonder Woman. Superman’s theme was developed by Hans for MAN OF STEEL, and we used it in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. In the few spots that it plays in this movie, it’s like a callback to the world of the last couple of movies. Batman is completely new in this movie, because BATMAN V. SUPERMAN was focusing on Batman as a tormented character, with the traumatizing events that he experienced in his youth and how it’s impacting him now. But that book is closed in JUSTICE LEAGUE. This is a new day for Batman, where he is on a different mission.”
As well, Aquaman is given a new, surging brass motif, Flash has a slowed-down brass and choir theme that matches the slow-mo photography showing Flash’s super-speed from inside his own perspective. Cyborg has a sympathetic signature from strings and piano, and an expansive stirring anthem covers the Justice League team, while an array of gloomy, inharmonious sound structures with a “crazy choir from hell” (as Holkenborg described it to Burlingame) provides suitable supervillain music.
Overall I’m very pleased with Zach Snyder’s corrected version of JUSTICE LEAGUE and I think it’s score works very well. Much as I would have enjoyed thematic continuity with the original Superman (Williams), Batman (Elfman), Aquaman (Gregson-Williams), and Wonder Woman (Gregson-Williams) themes, I respect the composer’s decisions concerning the new character themes, and mostly I’m very impressed by the large-scale treatment he gives to this score, which fits the four-hour-plus film pleasingly in both its mighty battle scenes as well as its quieter, interactive and pensive moments. It’s a massive project to undertake and it pays off effectively.
Watch a “Studio Time” video from Holkenborg detailing how he created Flash’s massively-layered theme “At The Speed of Force.”
Listen to “At The Speed Of Force,” featuring Flash’s theme:
Composer (and now filmmaker) Elia Cmiral has received wins in three categories at the Prague International Short Film Festival for his short film ALTERED MIND OF 20-20. “I am honored to be the winner in three categories at the festival—Best Original Score, Best Sound Design, and Best Producer,” he said in a Facebook post. “It means a lot to me since the film is set in my native city of Prague and the music is greatly performed by the Czech string quartet, Epoque Quartet. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this project, namely Alexandr Smutny and the Soundsgate team in Prague.”
The Society of Composers & Lyricists have bestowed their award for Outstanding Original Score For An Independent Film to Lolita Ritmanis’ for her music to the Latvian feature film BLIZZARD OF SOULS. Additionally, Garry Schyman and Mikolai Stroinski won the Award for Outstanding Original Score For Interactive Media, for their score to METAMORPHOSIS, Carlos Rafael Rivera won for Outstanding Original Score For A Television Production with his music for the Netflix limited series THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste won Outstanding Original Score For A Studio Film for Disney/Pixar’s SOUL. For more details and full winners’ list, see SCL. Congrats to all!
On February 18th, The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announced its winners for excellence in musical scoring in the 2020 IFMCA Awards:
Score of the Year: Christopher Willis/THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD
Composer of the Year: Daniel Pemberton
Breakthrough Composer of the Year: Thomas Clay/FANNY LYE DELIVER’D
Best Original Drama Film Score: Tar? Iwashiro/FUKUSHIMA 50
Best Original Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Score: John Powell/THE CALL OF THE WILD
Best Original Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Film Score: Hans Zimmer/WONDER WOMAN 1984
Best Original Animated Film Score: Bruno Coulais/WOLFWALKERS
Best Original Documentary Film Score: Steven Price DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET
Best Original Score For Television: Carlos Rafael Rivera/THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
Best Original Score For A Video Game Or Interactive Media: Michael Giacchino & Nami Melumad/MEDAL OF HONOR: ABOVE AND BEYOND
Best New Archival Release – Re-Release Or Re-Recording: KING OF KINGS/Miklós Rózsa, Tadlow Music
Best New Archival Release – Compilation: John Williams In Vienna/John Williams, Wiener Philharmoniker & Anne-Sophie Mutter/Deutsche Grammophon
Film Music Record Label Of The Year: Quartet Records/José M. Benitez
Film Music Composition Of The Year: “Main Title” from THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, music by Carlos Rafael Rivera
The ASCAP Composer’s Choice Awards are up for voting and these are the nominations, for media released in the US in 2020: 2020 ASCAP Film Score of the Year
Ammonite - Volker Bertelmann
Bad Education - Michael Abels
The Invisible Man - Benjamin Wallfisch
Mank - Trent Reznor
Soul - Jon Batiste & Trent Reznor
Wild Mountain Thyme - Amelia Warner
2020 ASCAP Documentary Score of the Year
Becoming - Kamasi Washington
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet - Steven Price
Naughty Books - Catherine Joy
The Reason I Jump - Nainita Desai
The Social Dilemma - Mark A. Crawford
2020 ASCAP Television Score of the Year
The Crown - Martin Phipps
His Dark Materials - Lorne Balfe
Lovecraft Country - Raphael Saadiq
Mira, Royal Detective - Amritha Vaz
Tales from the Loop - Philip Glass & Paul Leonard-Morgan
2020 ASCAP Television Theme of the Year
The Casagrandes - Lalo Alcaraz, Germaine Franco & Michael Rubiner
His Dark Materials - Lorne Balfe
Little Fires Everywhere - Isabella Summers
McMillions - Pinar Toprak
Tales from the Loop - Philip Glass & Paul Leonard-Morgan
2020 ASCAP Video Game Score of the Year
Cyberpunk 2077 - P.T. Adamczyk, Paul Leonard-Morgan, Marcin Przybylowicz
The Last of Us Part II - Gustavo Santaolalla
Metamorphosis - Garry Schyman and Mikolai Stroinski
The Pathless - Austin Wintory
Star Wars: Squadrons - Gordy Haab
The winners will be announced at this year’s virtual ASCAP Screen Music Awards during the week of May 17. For more details, see ASCAP.
The Jury of the 2021 HARPA Nordic Film Composers Award awarded Danish composer Flemming Nordkrog with this year’s award for his score for SHINE YOUR EYES, directed by Matias Marianis. “The jury of this year’s HARPA Nordic Film Composers Award want to honor a score which is inventive, unconventional, and mystic,” wrote the jury in a statement. “A bold and very accomplished score that served the picture very well. This film is not packed with music, it comes in just at the right places. It features a creative and especially colorful use of the small ensemble chosen, and leaves quite a long afterburning. It makes you want to listen; listen out of context, listen. Because it shines.” For more information on the award and the annual Nordic Film Music Days celebration, see the website here.
Watch a short video about Nordkrog’s scoring of the film:
Notefornote Music has released Christopher Young’s “The Golden Arm” premiere episode score from the Quibi anthology series, 50 STATES OF FRIGHT. The horror anthology series, executive produced by Sam Raimi, explores stories based on urban legends from different places in the United States, taking viewers deeper into the horrors that lurk just beneath the surface: this first episode features Rachel Brosnahan (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL) as a Michigan woman who loses her arm in a lumber accident and has it replaced by a golden appendage, with unexpected complications. The project marked the eighth collaboration in 20 years between director/producer Raimi and Young. The CD is a limited edition of 500 copies; the CD/download bundle can be pre-ordered now; CDs are expected to arrive the week of April 19 but the download is sent upon receipt of the order. Every CD order will be receiving an extra booklet with a personalized Christopher Young autograph.
For more details see Notefornote Music.
Related: See my interview with Christopher Young on scoring this show at musiquefantastique.
Marvel Music/Hollywood Records have release “Louisiana Hero,” the end-credit track from Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER, streaming exclusively on Disney+. Music is by composer Henry Jackman (KONG: SKULL ISLAND, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and CIVIL WAR, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE and THE NEXT LEVEL). The full soundtrack albums will release in April - The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Volume 1 (Episodes 1-3) on April 9 and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier: Volume 2 (Episodes 3-6) on April 30. Commenting on the track, Jackman said, “Composing ‘Louisiana Hero’ was an exciting challenge. The idea was to take the brief heroic melody used for Falcon in the score for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and develop that motif into a fully realized super hero theme. At the same time I wanted to ground the piece by using elements of Southern blues to reflect the fact that Sam/Falcon comes from Louisiana.” The “Louisiana Hero” single is available at these links.
Imagine grown-up Hansel and Gretel becoming top agents for the Department of Magical Security after escaping the Witch’s gingerbread house. That’s exactly what happens in SECRET MAGIC CONTROL AGENCY, now streaming on Netflix. The new Wizart Animation feature film, created and made by Russia, merges the unlikely genres of “fantasy fairy tale” and “spy mystery,” which created unique challenges for American composer Gabriel Hays to solve in the score. Whereas spy music is typically mysterious with serious swagger; the fantasy side of things typically feels more mystical, otherworldly, and epic. Hays pulled from both seemingly disparate genre traditions to compose the ideal score for the film. See my interview with Hays on scoring this and other films, at musiquefantastique. Sample Hays’ main theme from the score here:
WaterTower Music has released the digital soundtrack for Tom Holkenborg’s colossal soundtrack to GODZILLA VS KONG, the long-awaited showdown between two icons in the feature directed by Adam Wingard. Holkenborg’s score features 15 new tracks created for the film by Grammy-nominated composer Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Zack Snyder’s Justice League). The film has released in 2D and 3D in select theaters and IMAX. In the US it will be also available on HBO Max for 31 days from theatrical release. Tom Holkenborg is abundantly clear about his passion for the project. “I’m a huge fan of Godzilla and Kong! I’ve watched over 35 Godzilla movies over the years, so geeking out with Adam over this film came naturally,” explained the composer. “Kong is such an iconic character with over 90 years of scoring history behind him, and this was a perfect project for me to flex the retro monster orchestral scoring side of my brain, mixed with my very contemporary electronic side - in this case `80s sequences and basslines in the vein of John Carpenter. In this score I am trying to emphasize the insanity of Godzilla and the humanity of Kong. In the spirit of the film, it was fun to get my mad scientist coat on and make some monstrous sounds!” Holkenborg’s unique approach to scoring blends historical understanding of classical scoring technique with an embrace of cutting-edge technology. His artistic choice for Godzilla’s music sees the composer embracing his modern roots, leaning towards a robotic, all electronic score. While his take on Kong is a deep dive into the history of this monster’s score – the previously referenced 90 years of scoring history – combined with sourcing rare instrumentation like stone flutes and marimbas. Tom sampled a custom made 6ft mega bass drum and the biggest bass amp in the world – a 13-foot-tall amp designed by legendary bass amp maker Ampeg – to give the score its monstrous elements. – WaterTower Music
Available at these links.
Grammy winning composer Mark Isham and composer/performer/conceptualist/curator Craig Harris have provided the score for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH which punctuates director Skaha King’s film, inspired by true events, which tells the impactful story of community activist Fred Hampton, who became the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1968, and who, through his empowering words and passion for the people, led the organization’s fight for freedom and individuals’ self-determination, before his assassination at the hands of the FBI. Harris and Isham enhance the realistic cinematography of `60s life in Chicago with a combination of orchestral jazz and melancholy strings. “When Craig and I couldn’t work together, Shaka had the whole film temped with period music that could be licensed as a backup plan—it was also an experiment to see what would work. Some of the pieces did work, so Craig and I were to tie the pieces together, to expand upon themes and build music that would connect the emotional and storytelling dots,” explained Isham. The composers then put together scoring sessions in New York—with distancing protocols—with accomplished musicians from the worlds of classical and jazz. The soundtrack album is available from WaterTower Music.
Coming to theaters, on demand, and digital HD on April 16, JAKOB’s WIFE is a horror thriller directed by Travis Stevens and starring Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, and Bonnie Aarons. Crampton plays Anne, who is married to a small-town Minister and feels her life has been shrinking over the past 30 years. Encountering “The Master” brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder. However, the change comes with a heavy body count. American producer/musician/remixer and score composer Tara Busch provides the film’s score.
Orlando Perez Rosso’s original score for the 1916 silent film adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA has been released digitally by Back Lot Music. See my October 2020 column for a review/interview with Rosso about scoring this unique version of Verne’s novel. The soundtrack is now available at these links.
Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios have released the animated film RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON, which takes viewers on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. James Newton Howard has composed a abundantly textured score which brings the exotic landscape and its denizens, both human and reptilian, fully to life. Commenting on his score, Newton Howard said, “Writing on RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON was nothing but a joyful and creatively inspiring musical experience. Working in animation is a truly collaborative process, and the directors, cast, and animators brought the characters to life in such a thrilling and dimensional way. I worked with them to create a musical world that was as vast and varied as the fictional world of Kumandra where our story is set. The directors’ vision for the world was largely inspired by Southeast Asia and particularly Indonesian culture, so I wanted to look there first for inspiration and sounds to incorporate into my hybrid orchestral/synth palette. The issues of division and healing a fractured society that the film tackles are very meaningful today, and the deep core of the film allows for the music to have an equally strong emotional impact.” The digital soundtrack was released in late February from Walt Disney Records; the album also includes the original song, “Lead the Way,” written and performed by Grammy®-nominated artist and songwriter, Jhené Aiko, as heard in the film.
Speaking of Disney animation, Pinar Toprak composed the music for Disney Animation’s US AGAIN animated short, which released alongside RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON earlier this month. It will also drop on it’s own in June on Disney+. The short, directed by Zach Parrish and choreographed by Keone and Mari Madrid, has no dialogue and is told all through dance and music. See this article on Deadline for more details. Toprak has also recently scored the feature film IT’S TIME, which tells the true story of University of Mississippi defensive back Chucky Mullins, who in 1989 became paralyzed after making a tackle against Vanderbilt player Brad Gaines. Both were forever linked by that play in a relationship born out of tragedy. This film doesn’t yet have a release date. Additionally, Pinar reports that she has begun composing and recording the music for STARGIRL Season 2.
In other Disney news, the original soundtrack to family superhero comedy FLORA & ULYSSES, streaming on Disney+, is out now and available for download. The score was composed by Jake Monaco. The film is a delightful comedy-adventure based on the Newbery Award-winning book about 10-year-old Flora, an avid comic book fan and a self-avowed cynic, whose parents have recently separated. After rescuing a squirrel she names Ulysses, Flora is amazed to discover he possesses unique superhero powers which take them on an adventure of humorous complications that ultimately change Flora’s life—and her outlook—forever. Now streaming exclusively on Disney+. The soundtrack is available now to stream or download from retailers including Amazon.
David Buckley (PAPILLON, ANGEL HAS FALLEN, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM) has scored NOBODY, an action thriller directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Bob Odenkirk, Gage Munroe, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, and RZA. The movie revolves around a bystander who intervenes to help a woman being harassed by a group of men who becomes the target of a vengeful drug lord. A digital soundtrack is available from Back Lot Music, from the usual sources.
The new original anime film DOTA: DRAGON’S BLOOD is now streaming on Netflix. This high-action fantasy series is score by composer Dino Meneghin and is based on the massively popular MOBA video game DOTA 2. Although the series is set in the fantasy DOTA universe, the score isn’t the kind of sweeping, orchestral music typically found in the genre. Meneghin wanted a different kind of score more akin to Tangerine Dream or the old Heavy Metal cartoons, and he set to work creating an entirely unexpected score for the series driven by synths and oftentimes abstract but still able to pull the emotional weight of the story.
MovieScore Media has released the digital soundtrack to the BBC miniseries MRS. WILSON, starring Ruth Wilson, Iain Glenn, Keely Hawes, Anupam Kher and Fiona Shaw. The 3-part drama is set in 1940s and 1960s London and 1930s India and follows Alison Wilson, who thinks she is happily married until her husband dies and a woman turns up on the doorstep claiming that she is the real Mrs. Wilson. Anne Nikitin’s (FATE: THE WINX SAGA, THE PALE HORSE, LOST GIRLS, ALL THE MADMEN) music for the series is a lovely throwback to classic Cold War and espionage series with rich, dark strings establishing the intercontinental mysteries. The score was nominated at the Music+Sound Awards in the category of television scores. See details at MovieScore Media. Listen to her richly arranged main title below:
Also from MovieScore Media is the Spanish heist film THE VAULT (also known as Way Down), scored by Arnau Bataller (THE VALDEMAR LEGACY I & II, REC 4, A PERFECT DAY, MEDITERRÁNEO). Directed by Jaume Balagueró, the film stars Freddie Highmore (BATES MOTEL) and Famke Janssen, the film offers a curious blend of a heist movie and an inspirational sports story with Bataller’s intense action hybrid score capturing two exciting events at the same time. When an engineer (Highmore) learns of a mysterious, impenetrable fortress hidden under The Bank of Spain, he joins a crew of master thieves who plan to steal the legendary lost treasure locked inside while the whole country is distracted by Spain’s World Cup Final. “The music of THE VAULT is the sum of many musical ingredients mixed to obtain a fresh, exciting cocktail that leaves a good taste in the mouth of the audience.,” said Bataller. “We start putting the sound of the viola da gamba representing some historical elements, Then we add a few drops of ‘passion,’ the force that moves our protagonists represented by a theme played by strings. We continue with touches of thriller and action, planning the robbery, high-tech equipment, accompanied by lines of pulsing synthesizers, hang drums, guitars, and keyboards. And we finish by sprinkling some epic music for our protagonists, who face all sorts of problems while most people in Spain were celebrating a historical moment: the victory of the 2010 Soccer’s World Cup 2010. Agitate and Serve fresh.” Sample the score here.
Jermaine Stegall has scored COMING 2 AMERICA, the sequel to 1988’s comedy COMING TO AMERICA, reteaming Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in a new adventure in which African monarch Akeem (Murphy) learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with him. In an interview with Zach Kincaid of cinesamples, Stegall described his most rewarding and most challenging moments on this project as, “There was definitely the element of trying to conjure up endless creativity, in addition to coordinating remote recordings during this current pandemic! I think we recorded great performances, and I’m quite proud of being able to record at Fox, even though we had to split the orchestra into its major food groups (so to speak).” Stegall prepared for scoring the film by “writing as much as possible, sketching all kinds of musical ideas that related to West-African music and textures. Most of this film actually takes place in the land of ‘Zamunda’ that we see only a little bit of in the original film.”
Joseph Bishara’s latest score is for the Sam Raimi-produced, Jeffrey Dean Morgan-starring horror film THE UNHOLY. The film, based on James Herbert’s 1983 novel Shrine, is about a hearing-impaired girl who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak, and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold. Are they the work of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister? The film is slated for an April 2nd release. – via bloodydisgusting
Marc Streitenfeld has scored the new war drama, SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, directed by Andy Goddard and starring Eddie Izzard, James D’Arcy, Dame Judi Dench, and Jim Broadbent. Synopsis: In the summer of 1939, influential families in Nazi Germany have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher (Izzard) there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm; but the authorities believe he is the problem. Streitenfeld’s score was conducted at Air Studios by noted DOCTOR WHO, TORCHWOOD, and THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO alumni Ben Foster.
La-La Land Records’ latest release is a deluxe 3-CD collection of original music from the classic Irwin Allen 1966-1967 sci-fi/time-travel adventure television series THE TIME TUNNEL. This first volume collection of original music from the series features dynamic work from acclaimed composers John Williams, Lyn Murray, Paul Sawtell and Robert Drasnin, each of who demonstrate fine examples of exciting 1960s television scoring. Limited to 1000 units, this set is produced by Jeff Bond and Neil S. Bulk, executive produced for 20th Century Studios by Mike Matessino, and digitally edited and mastered from original mono recordings by James Nelson. The exclusive liner notes are by Jeff Bond and the art design is by Mark Banning. The label has also announced the original motion picture score to Paramount Pictures’ horror sequel FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII – JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989). Acclaimed composer Fred Mollin (FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII THE NEW BLOOD, FRIDAY THE 13th: THE SERIES) fashions the first FRIDAY film score at that time not composed or co-composed by Harry Manfredini, creating an all-new musical soundscape of fun and terror. For details, see La-La Land.
Inspired by his Oscar nominated score to the landmark feature film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, John Debney’s enthralling music has been performed and captured live as the thrilling concert event THE PASSION ORATORIO. Presented by Debney Productions and Costa Communications, in cooperation with Icon Productions, THE PASSION ORATORIO: A LIVE CONCERT EVENT took place at the world-renowned Mosque – Cathedral in Cordoba Spain. Over 6000 people attended and it was the first orchestral concert performed in the mosque in over 40 years. John Debney created the work to “exemplify the universal ideals of Love, Faith, Hope and Mercy.” An album of the performance is now available from La-La Land Records.
Varèse Sarabande Records has dropped its March 2021 CD Club titles: ALONG CAME A SPIDER is one of Academy Award®-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith’s final film scores. The music pulses and twitches with uneasy throbs, lurching into orchestral action for moments of shock and violence, and nobly sets a powerful French horn theme (for the forces of good) against a brooding tapestry of darkness—all while the clock ticks away on a young victim’s life. With Wes Craven’s THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, composer Brad Fiedel (THE TERMINATOR, FRIGHT NIGHT, TRUE LIES) creates hypnotic soundscapes from his keyboards, including wood and metallic percussion elements, synthesized hawk screams and choral samples. He perfectly evoked the Haitian setting and Vodou aesthetic while providing a disturbing blanket of doom and dread—but also a unique sense of almost uplifting melody and spirituality. Both albums are limited editions of 1500 copies. For more details, see VareseSarabande.
Quartet Records and Paramount Pictures present the world premiere release of the highly requested score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai for Alberto de Martino’s gangster film BANDITS IN ROME (aka ROMA COME CHICAGO). Following their work on de Martino’s notoriously nepotistic spy spoof OK CONNERY, Morricone and Nicolai share co-composer credit on this funky soundtrack that features raunchy jazz cues for the heists, an achingly beautiful love theme for our lead gangster and the idyll he wants to achieve with his girlfriend, plus a few cool dance cues for the gangsters’ hideout that also doubles as a go-go disco. Until now, BANDITS IN ROME was one of the most significant gaps in the Morricone and Nicolai discography. This 18-track CD features all the surviving material in mono (although the film uses the music in a very liberal fashion). The CD was supervised by Claudio Fuiano and restored and mastered by Chris Malone. A richly illustrated 12-page booklet includes liner notes by Gergely Hubai, who discusses both film and score. Limited edition: 1000 units. See Quartet Records.
Another Morricone rarity available from Quartet, in collaboration with Sonor Music Editions (=vinyl), is the premiere CD release of the score for Lucio Fulci’s caper comedy, I DUE EVASI DI SING SING. Composed in 1964 (the same year of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), Morricone’s fun jazz noir parody score was previously released on a hard-to-find library LP with generic titles and no connection to the film. This CD contains virtually all the original music written by Morricone for the film. See Quartet.
Quartet also presents the world premiere release of Riz Ortolani’s obscure killer masterpiece for the equally obscure home invasion drama directed by Yves Allegret, L’INVASIONE. The plot centers around an architecture professor who invites close to a dozen students to his home for a discussion. The meeting soon turns into a home invasion as the students refuse to leave and threaten their bourgeois teacher; even his wife turns against him. Ortolani’s tuneful score is built on a strong main theme, largely associated with the students’ attack: a psychedelic rock anthem with guitar and saxophone working together to underscore the brash lifestyle of the teenaged troublemakers. In contrast, the love theme sounds like it’s coming from the world of the older generation of cocktail parties and marital infidelities. The score is rounded out by a number of self-contained experimental, funky soundscapes, including sound collages and an organ piece. See Quartet.
The Plaza Mayor Company has released the soundtrack to LION ROCK, composed by Tommy Wai Kai Leung (THE BULLET VANISHES, NEW POLICE STORY, SEOUL RAIDERS). The film, the second feature directed by Nick Leung, has to do with Lai Chi-wai, one of the top rock climbers in Asia, who in 2011 lost everything when a motorcycle accident took away his ability to walk. Rather than succumbing to his fate, Lai found his own way of scaling those dizzying peaks again. Sample the soundtrack on Spotify; the digital album can be had from various services including Amazon.
Lakeshore Records has released SUPERINTELLIGENCE, the digital soundtrack featuring music by Fil Eisler (EMPIRE, TO THE BONE, SHAMELESS). Eisler has created a vivid orchestral backdrop that illuminates the emotional themes of the technological comedy thriller. The film directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, and James Corden is available now on HBO Max. When an all-powerful Superintelligence (Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (McCarthy), the fate of the world hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save, or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving. Says Eisler: “When Ben and I first talked about the movie and what the score should sound like, he had this very clear idea that he wanted the score to have a timeless quality to it, not necessarily old fashioned, just not overtly “futuristic” or synth based. The conceit of the movie is of course that computers and A.I. have finally got the better of us and are about to kill us all, but it’s very much a human story and a love story within that construct. So ultimately, I took a fairly old school approach to both the writing and the recording of the score. I had done quite a few scores that were some sort of hybrid of synths and orchestra at that point or orchestra and other instrumentation but on this one the idea was that if we were going to record anything whatsoever, it was all going to happen live, in that room at the scoring session.”
Eisler has also scored THUNDER FORCE, a superhero comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as two estranged childhood best friends who reunite after one devises a treatment that gives them powers to protect their city in a world where supervillains are commonplace.
Composer Karl Preusser (WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, FLOAT, SPACE GUYS IN SPACE) is scoring BASEMENT, a thriller written and directed by Robert Rosenbaum. The film, currently in post-production, has to do with nine neighbors who take shelter in a Brooklyn basement during the first air raid of the new war, and must find a way to band together in order to survive.
INTRADA’s March releases include the CD Premiere of Elmer Bernstein’s spirited soundtrack from the 1986 Ivan Reitman film LEGAL EAGLES. Starring Robert Redford, Debra Winger, Darryl Hannah, Brian Dennehy, and Terence Stamp, Bernstein anchors the film with two primary themes, one for the Redford/Winger love story and a brighter, rhythmic tune for Redford’s legal activities, focusing on solving both a murder and an art theft. Other musical ideas cover Hannah’s complex character and offer a charming motif for her relationship with her missing father. The label has also released world premiere release of an early Jerry Goldsmith western score, FACE OF A FUGITIVE (1959), starring Fred MacMurray, Lin McCarthy, Dorothy Green, with James Coburn in his first feature film role. Goldsmith here tackles his third feature film score, his first in color, and his first for full orchestra. Intrada’s presentation features the complete score mastered in mono from print takes, courtesy of Columbia Pictures, surviving in reasonably good condition despite their age. Several Goldsmith-arranged source cues also appear including composer’s own original rag. Booklet notes by Jeff Bond.
For details see Intrada.
Beat Records of Italy has re-issued on CD Ennio Morricone’s original soundtrack from the western movie VAMOS A MATAR COMPAÑEROS (aka COMPAÑEROS), directed in 1970 by Sergio Corbucci, starring Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Fernando Rey, and Iris Berben. The film remains one of the late composer’s most popular works, where the harmonica by Franco De Gemini, Alessandroni’s whistle and the Cantori Moderni choir play the lion’s share. Beat Records proudly reissues this masterpiece by Ennio Morricone for the Italian Western using the stereo masters of the original recording sessions, with a total duration of 63 minutes. Mastering by Claudio Fuiano, liner notes by Daniel Winkler, graphic layout by Daniele De Gemini. The CD has been available since March 15th from Italy. See BeatRecords. The label has also reissued on CD the Ennio Morricone score for the cult western MY NAME IS NOBODY, directed in 1973 by Tonino Valerii. Morricone composed one of the most loved scores using such elements such as the whistle of Alessandro Alessandroni and the voice of Edda Dell’Orso mixed with some sonic innovations as Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkeries.” This CD was made using the stereomono masters of the original session with the total duration of 74:21. Mastering by Claudio Fuiano, liner notes by Andrea Morandi, graphic layout by Daniele De Gemini. See BeatMyNameIsNobody.
Italy’s Digitmovies soundtracks will release on March 24th the soundtracks to the Western film ED ORA… RACCOMANDA L’ANIMA A DIO! (And Now... Make Your Peace With God) by Franco Bixio, for the first time in a full edition on CD. The date will also see their release of three Stelvio Cipriani costume erotic comedies with long titles on two CDs: METTI LO DIAVOLO TUO NE LO MIO INFERNO/LEVA LO DIAVOLO TUO DAL …CONVENTO/RACCONTI PROIBITI... DI NIENTE VESTITI (2CD), also for the first time in full editions. And, thirdly, another premiere full edition, Ivan Vandor’s spy movie score for 1967’s BERSAGLIO MOBILE (Death On The Run). See digitmovies.
HUGEsound Records, one of several businesses destroyed by a 2018 entertainment industry Ponzi scheme, is celebrating its return to life with a new web store, offering rare original film and video game soundtracks, including blockbuster titles – THE LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE, James Cameron’s AVATAR, WARHAMMER: CHAOSBANE, DOTA 2, Peter Jackson’s KING KONG, and more. “It took two years of maneuvering, but we finally managed to extract the record company and a few key music assets from the courts,” says music entrepreneur and composer Chance Thomas, whose game and film scores are offered on the site. “Some of this music represents the pinnacle of my life’s professional work. It’s an incredible relief to have it back.” The new HUGEsound Records is located at www.HUGEsoundRecords.com.
Benji Merrison (MEERKAT—A DYNASTIES SPECIAL, THE BEATLES IN INDIA) has scored SAS: RED NOTICE, a forthcoming action-thriller starring Sam Heughan, Tom Hopper, Hannah John-Kamen, Ruby Rose, and Tom Wilkinson. Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack digitally in tandem with the March 12th UK film release. “SAS Red Notice was a dream project to score,” said Merrison. “The mix of all-out action, psychological thriller elements, the twisted ‘Britishness’ and the underlying love story are all subjects that play to my musical strengths. It was clear that the score needed a precise thematic language from the off. Once this musical language was established, the true joy was to morph and twist these themes in and out of each other, as the full psychopathic nature of Tom Buckingham unfolds.” Sample some of the score:
Lakeshore Records has announced a welcome swath of other digital soundtracks during late February and March: the Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Television horror-thriller EVIL EYE, composed by Ronit Kirchman (THE SINNER, LIMETOWN), which recently won a 2020 Hollywood Music in Media Award for “Outstanding Score for a TV Movie/Streaming.” Kirchman’s music creates a unique contemporary international language with great sonic impact, combining cutting-edge thriller and horror musical designs with traditional Indian instruments and textures. Available here. Paul Leonard-Morgan’s MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY, from the Showtime film which documents Timothy Leary through the eyes of Joanna Harcourt-Smith and the lens of Academy Award-winning Director Errol Morris. Soundtrack Available here. THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY features an emotive orchestrated score by Emmy Award-winning composer Kris Bowers (WHEN THEY SEE US, MRS. AMERICA, BAD HAIR) that underlies the dramatic tension of the film’s complex and unvarnished look at the irrepressible Billie Holiday and her struggle against the race-based harassment of the federal government. Find it on these links. CHERRY, by Henry Jackman (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, BIG HERO 6), is from the highly-anticipated Apple Original film directed by the Russo Brothers—now playing in select theaters and on Apple TV+. The soundtrack will be available exclusively on Apple Music for 60 days before becoming available to all other DSPs on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Speaking about his score, Jackman stated, “CHERRY’s soundscape never deviates from the core idea of emulating the internal. It’s music that ebbs and flows depending on the emotions and mental state of the main character grounding the film in Cherry’s subjective experience.” Purchase and stream the soundtrack on Apple Music. THE VIOLENT HEART, the latest film score from John Swihart (THE BAY OF SILENCE, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE), from Gravitas Ventures, is available now on VOD (watch on iTunes). See the film’s trailer here. Synopsis: Fifteen years after the murder of his older sister, Daniel finds himself falling for Cassie, a vivacious high school senior. The 28-track album is available to download/listen to the score here. THE COURIER features original music by BAFTA-winning, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated Abel Korzeniowski (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, A SINGLE MAN). Directed by Dominic Cooke, the Cold War spy film follows Greville Wynne and his Russian source as they try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Available now digitally. [See more in Documentry News below.]
Notefornote music announces an April 8th release of a CD soundtrack for BREAKING NEWS IN YUBA COUNTY, a comedy crime drama about a woman who takes advantage of her growing celebrity status when the police and the public think her dead husband is just missing when in fact he’s suffered a heart attack when she discovered him in bed with another woman. Directed by Tate Taylor (THE HELP, GET ON UP), the film opened in January, and features a great cast, including Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Barkin, Matthew Modine, Samira Wiley, Clifton Collins Jr., Jimmi Simpson, Bridget Everett and Juliette Lewis. The soundtrack features the score by four time Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal (HOUSE OF CARDS, SHOCK AND AWE, CHALLENGER: THE FINAL FLIGHT, WHITEFISH). Pre-orders are now being taken; the first 50 orders will receive an autographed booklet signed by Jeff Beal. See: Notefornote music.
PlantSounds offers the first ever release of the wonderful score by Fuzzy (aka Jens Wilhelm Pedersen) to the 1998 Danish animated film H. C. ANDERSEN & THE LONG SHADOW. This album marks the first ever release of any of Fuzzy’s scores, which makes this even more special, as he has been one of Denmark’s most beloved composers since the 70’s. The soundtrack will be available on CD from March 29th, the first 25 to pre-order a copy from www.plantsounds.net will receive an album signed by Fuzzy himself.
Little Twig Records has released Drum and Lace’s suspenseful score to the film DEADLY ILLUSIONS, currently showing on Netflix. The drama thriller, written and directed by Anne Elizabeth James and starring Dermot Mulroney, Kristin Davis, and Shanola Hampton, follows a bestselling female novelist, suffering from writer’s block, who hires an innocent young woman to watch over her twin children. As the novelist dangerously indulges in her new best seller, the line between the life she’s writing and the one she’s living becomes blurred. The soundtrack is out on March 26 on all digital music streamers/retailers.
Coming soon from Cinevox Records of Italy is a special double CD containing Stelvio Cipriani’s soundtracks for the Eurocrime trilogy which includes the movies LA POLIZIA STA A GUARDARE (1973; aka The Great Kidnapping ), LA POLIZIA CHIEDE AIUTO (1974; aka What Have They Done to Your Daughters?), and LA POLIZIA HA LE MANI LEGATE (1975; aka Killer Cop). The box represents a homage from Cinevox Record to the great composer, who passed away in October 2018. The double cd includes an hour and 49 minutes of music from the original recording session masters and, as bonus tracks, all five singles that were released from these films by Cinevox at the time. The trilogy is distributed worldwide by Pick Up Records and is available from Intermezzo Media.
Silva Screen Records Presents two notable BBC documentary soundtracks from 2020 and 2019. The first is PRIMATES, a 3-episode documentary series which premiered on BBC 1 in May 2020. The episodes follow our closest animal relatives and reveal how much we have in common with them. The score was written by composers Adam Lukas and Denise Santos, who work as a part of the musically diverse composer’s collective, Bleeding Fingers. The second release is from THE PLANETS, which premiered on BBC 2 on May 28, 2019. Narrated by Professor Brian Cox, the five episode series follows the dramatic lives of the eight majestic planets that make up our solar system. The score was written by composers James Christie, Anže Rozman, Jacob Shea, and David Fleming, who are also part of Bleeding Fingers. Both of these docu scores were digitally released on March 5th, along with a third, new documentary score, for MEERKAT: A DYNASTIES SPECIAL, composed by Benji Merrison and Will Slater, a sequel to BBC’s DYNASTIES mini-series from 2018. See details on this one in the Review Section above.
2020: THE STORY OF US is a feature-length documentary by Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald that tells the story of Coronavirus in Britain through the experience of people immersed in its impact, both personally and professionally. With extensive access to intensive care units [ICUs] across the country, the film begins before the pandemic became a worldwide medical emergency and stretches through full lockdown into the peak of the crisis and beyond. Using testimony from staff in hospitals—consultants, doctors, and nurses—as well as weaving in the experience of patients, this documentary paints a vivid portrait of the working lives of ICU staff and those they treat during a crisis which proves both challenging, life-changing, and often tragic for those caught in it. Nainita Desai has scored the series, which debuted March 16th in the UK on ITV. Desai has also recently scored HBO Max’s PERSONA: THE DARK TRUTH BEHIND PERSONALITY TESTS, which explores the history and growing dangers surrounding the seemingly innocuous Myers–Briggs personality test. Tim Travers Hawkins’s doc takes a deep dive into how the personality test evolved from a way to self-identify into a “dangerous tool” in the hands of the powerful. Watch the trailer for PERSONA below:
Benji Merrison (MEERKAT—A DYNASTIES SPECIAL, THE BEATLES IN INDIA) has scored SAS: RED NOTICE, a forthcoming action-thriller starring Sam Heughan, Tom Hopper, Hannah John-Kamen, Ruby Rose, and Tom Wilkinson. Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack digitally in tandem with the March 12th UK film release. “SAS Red Notice was a dream project to score,” said Merrison. “The mix of all-out action, psychological thriller elements, the twisted ‘Britishness’ and the underlying love story are all subjects that play to my musical strengths. It was clear that the score needed a precise thematic language from the off. Once this musical language was established, the true joy was to morph and twist these themes in and out of each other, as the full psychopathic nature of Tom Buckingham unfolds.” Sample some of the score:
The music score of Kate Simko (LIMETOWN), American composer, electronic music producer, and leader of her ensemble London Electronic Orchestra, can be heard in UNDERPLAYED, a documentary about the underrepresentation of women in the electronic music industry. Simko’s elegant yet bold score seamlessly weaves in-and-out of diverse sub-genres of electronic music, with gritty textures, emotive melodies, and classic-style analog bass bubbling beneath the storyline of the film. From vintage New-style York disco beats to lush morphing synth soundscapes, the score reflects Simko’s experience as an ardent vinyl record collector and international DJ.
The film was completed in 2020 and played at several festivals (premiering at Toronto), but achieved its debut on Amazon Prime on March 8th (International Women’s Day). Simko’s score for the film has been released by Lakeshore Records. “As a DJ-turned-film composer, this doc was a full circle moment for me, and the film is very close to my heart,” Simko said. Her track “Her Likeness (Extended Edition)”—the only uptempo cut on the soundtrack—was released ahead of the 20-track album; “UNDERPLAYED is a film about women’s voices being heard,” said Simko. “‘Her Likeness’ is like a homage to all the women out there hustling to carve a space for themselves in this industry.” Watch/listen to the extended mix of the track on YouTube.
Blumhouse Television and CNN are presenting the original series, THE PEOPLE V. THE KLAN, a four-part docuseries which tells the unrenowned true story of Beulah Mae Donald, a black Alabama woman who took down the Ku Klux Klan after the brutal murder and lynching of her son. Local law enforcement was slow to acknowledge that the murder was racially motivated, but Beulah Mae and local black leaders refused to back down until Michael’s killers and the hateful organization they belonged to were brought to justice. Ceiri Torjussen (BURN, STAYCATION, PRIMAL RAGE, BIG-ASS SPIDER) has composed the score. The show will roll out over two weeks, premiering back-to-back episodes on Sunday, April 11th and airing the final two episodes on Sunday, April 18th at 9pm and 10pm ET/PT. For more details and to watch the trailer, see blackfilm.com
Lakeshore Records has also released MUSIC GOT ME HERE, featuring the original score by Stephen Endelman. The doc begins as a snowboard accident leaves Forrest Allen, age 18, trapped inside himself, unable to speak or walk for almost two years. Tom Sweitzer, an eccentric music therapist with a troubled childhood, credits music with saving his own life. He’s determined to help Forrest regain his ability to speak. This is a story of the power of music to heal and transform lives, often in miraculous ways. The music is available at these links.
Node Records has released the score for Alex Gibney’s documentary TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL, featuring music by Peter Nashel and Brian Deming. In this film Gibney, known for hard-hitting documentaries like ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, and co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger take an in-depth look at how the United States government [mis-]handled the response to the COVID-19 outbreak during the early months of the pandemic. Listen to the music (and watch the trailer) here.
In 1946, Isaac Woodard, a Black army sergeant on his way home to South Carolina after serving in WWII, was pulled from a bus for arguing with the driver. The local chief of police savagely beat him, leaving him unconscious and permanently blind. The shocking incident made national headlines and, when the police chief was acquitted by an all-white jury, the blatant injustice would change the course of American history. Based on Richard Gergel’s book Unexampled Courage, a new documentary, THE BLINDING OF ISAAC WOODARD from director/producer/writer Jamila Ephron, details how the crime led to the racial awakening of President Harry Truman, who desegregated federal offices and the military two years later. The event also ultimately set the stage for the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which finally outlawed segregation in public schools and jumpstarted the modern civil rights movement. Emmy-winner and four-time Emmy nominee Joel Goodman has scored the film. For more information on the composer, see joelgoodman.com. The film premiered on March 30 as an episode of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE TV Series on PBS. See here for details and information.
Beat Ball Music offers the soundtrack to THE STONE KILLER, by British film composer Roy Budd (GET CARTER, FEAR IS THE KEY), remastered from the original master tapes and featuring extensive liner-notes by Charlie Brigden and newly illustrated artwork by Sean Phillips. The film, by director Michael Winner, follows Charles Bronson as a detective getting to the bottom of the killings in the Sicilian Mafia. The soundtrack has everything one could expect of a 70s cop action movie score—with elements such as funky variations on a theme—but Budd (on spooky synthesizer and treated electric piano) also colors his music with cinematic jazz/soul and strange lounge sounds. The first disc of this 2-LP reissue is a faithful replica of the original Italian (Fonit-Cetra) edition, which is accompanied by a second disc that contains outtakes and other unreleased tracks to form a more ‘complete’ expanded edition. Both disc are in 180g heavyweight vinyl housed in gatefold tip-on sleeve. Estimated ship date is April 2nd.
Pre-order now from LightInTheAttic
Waxwork Records presents the debut release of ALICE, SWEET ALICE, the original motion picture soundtrack by Stephen Lawrence. This 1976 slasher film, directed by Alfred Sole and starring Brooke Shields in her film debut, is set in 1961 New Jersey, focusing on a troubled adolescent girl who becomes the suspect in the brutal murder of her younger sister at her first communion, as well as in a series of unsolved stabbings that follow. The music features heavy usage of dissonant strings, repetitive keys, church organ, and motifs that segue from eerily mischievous and playful to dread inducing and utterly haunting. Available for the very first time in any format, the complete soundtrack is available on 180 gram “Yellow Rain Coat with Blood Red Splatter” deluxe packaging with new artwork by Steven Reeves, old style tip-on gatefold jackets, a heavyweight insert, exclusive composer liner notes, and original recording session photography. For more details, see Waxwork.
Quartet Records, in collaboration with GDM and Universal Music Publishing Italia, presents their first seven-inch single with the premiere release of Teo Usuelli’s infectious score for Marco Ferreri’s 1969 cult film DILLINGER E’MORTO, starring Michel Piccoli, Anita Pallenberg and Annie Girardot. See Quartet. The label has also issued a vinyl edition of their premiere release of BANDITS IN ROME, the top-rare soundtrack from Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai (aka ROME COME CHICAGO) which the label just released on CD. See Quartet BanditsLP.
Light in the Attic also offers three Studio Gibli soundtracks available for the first time on vinyl: an image album edition of PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA, and premiere vinyl releases of THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA, and THE WIND RISES, each composed by legendary Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi. See these links for details on ponyo, kaguya, and wind rises.
Death Waltz Recording Co. offers BenDavid Grabinski’s directorial debut HAPPILY on vinyl. “HAPPILY is fueled with so much paranoia, it could easily be an extended Twilight Zone episode,” writes the label. “Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerry Bishe) have been married for 15 years and living the perfect life. Their relationship is so perfect that instead of being supported by their friends, they are resented and rejected until a mysterious man in black (Stephen Root) turns up on their doorstep and changes everything for them. To say more would be to spoil the fun. It’s the kind of film you do not want to read reviews on as you should go in with no spoilers and fresh eyes. The score, by Joseph Trapanese (TRON: LEGACY, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), is a moody, mysterious piece of work, full of space and quiet, contemplative moments but with an unnerving sense of dread below the surface that gives just the right amount of unease whilst listening.” Available on 180g pink & green vinyl, spot varnish gatefold sleeve with liner notes by writer/director BenDavid Grabinski & composer Joseph Trapanese, and featuring a download of the entire score, plus nine bonus cuts not on the physical format. Ltd edition of 500. Expected to ship in May 2021. Ships worldwide. Available via Mondo.
OONA Recordings has announced a limited edition environmentally conscious vinyl pressing of the I AM GRETA soundtrack by Rebekka Karijord and Jon Ekstrand. Manufactured at RPM Records in Denmark, every step in the production process was carefully considered in order to achieve the most environmentally friendly product possible. The synergy between the two composers with very different backgrounds as well as the blend of classic instrumentation and usage of electroacoustic elements led to a unique, compelling score. I AM GRETA, the intimate Hulu documentary by Swedish director Nathan Grossman, tells the story of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg through compelling, never-before-seen-footage. The vinyl edition is available from roughtrade.
Varèse Sarabande has released the LP version of the soundtrack for the five-time Golden Globe®-nominated Netflix film THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, written and directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Aaron Sorkin (MOLLY’S GAME, THE SOCIAL NETWORK). The vinyl tracklist is comprised of ten original score selections by four-time Golden Globe®-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton and two original songs performed by breakthrough Polydor recording artist Celeste (see my interview with Pemberton on this score, and others, in my Jan-Feb column). The LP is now available for purchase or streaming here. The soundtrack to THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 is also available on digital platforms and CD from Varèse Sarabande.
Waxwork Records presents the original motion picture soundtrack to the sci-fi/horror film COME TRUE as a deluxe vinyl release featuring heavyweight “Sleep Study” colored vinyl (cyan blue with red and yellow splatter), new artwork by Sara Deck, old style tip-on gatefold jackets, a heavyweight insert, liner notes, and production photography. The music of COME TRUE was composed by celebrated synth-pop duo Electric Youth and electronic artist Pilotpriestand, and encapsulates a dark, dreamworld landscape that carries viewers across the journey of the film with pulsing urgency. For information see Waxwork. A digital album of the soundtrack is also available from Milan Records.
Garry Schyman and Mikolai Stroinski won the SCL Award for Outstanding Original Score For Interactive Media, for their score to METAMORPHOSIS from the Society of Composers & Lyricists. See my interview with Garry & Mikolai on scoring METAMORPHOSIS at musiquefantastique. Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad won the IFMCA award for Best Original Score For A Video Game Or Interactive Media: for their music to MEDAL OF HONOR: ABOVE AND BEYOND. (For more SCL award winners at the top of the News section.)
LEGO Universe was the company’s first ever massively multiplayer online game launched in October 2010, with a soundtrack composed by Brian Tyler and additional music by John Harman and Richard Dekkard. The soundtrack to LEGO Universe was the first video game soundtrack composed by Tyler; it was recorded with the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, but due to scheduling constraints, Tyler ended up overseeing the entire recording live from a studio in Los Angeles using video and audio streaming between the countries. The LEGO Universe theme went on to be used at the entrance at LEGOLAND® parks across the globe and proved to be very popular with fans. Despite its popularity, the soundtrack has never been available to purchase or stream until now.
As the landmark anniversary approached, Tyler and Dekkard came together to completely remaster the score, which is now available across popular digital music stores and streaming services. On the remaster, Tyler said: “I’m really proud of the music and I’m proud of the game. I am asked all the time ‘Is it going to be available? and earnestly thought to myself ‘I hope it is!’ I really wanted that for the fans, so I was not going to miss a beat in terms of helping get this out there to the world.”
Listen to a featurette from 2010 on the recording of Tyler’s score, below:
Lakeshore Records in partnership with Ubisoft are set to release the game score for ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA: THE WAVE OF GIANTS on both “Opaque White” vinyl and a special limited-edition “Evergreen” vinyl, featuring music by Norwegian musician Einar Selvik of folk/world band Wardruna. Selvik shares ten evocative tracks steeped in Nordic musical traditions that further enliven the authentic ethnography of the Viking culture in the best-selling game ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA. Selvik is well known for his work on The History Channel’s VIKINGS series. The opaque white edition will be released on June 4 and available at major retailers. Sample the track “Helreið Oðins – Odin’s Ride to Hel.”
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.