Scott Glasgow: The Mechanics of Scoring Low Budget Sci-Fi
Composer Giovanni Rotondo and the First Soundtrack NFT
Interviews by Randall D. Larson
SNAPSHOTS: Soundtrack Reviews:
BUMBLEBEE/Marianelli (La-La Land), CHRONICLE - WERNER HERZOG FILM SCORES/Reijseger (Caldera), CRUELLA/Britell (Disney), DEBRIS (TV Series)/Shockne (Milan), DOCTOR LIZA/Poteyenko (KeepMoving), JUPITER’S LEGACY/Economou (Milan), MADE IN BOISE/McGregor (Notefornote), THE PRODIGAL CAT/Doga (KeepMoving), THE PROWLER/Einhorn (Howlin’ Wolf), A QUIET PLACE PART II/Beltrami (La-La Land), SECRETS OF THE WHALES/Thibaut (Hollywood), SPACE TRUCKERS/Towns (MSM, Quartet), THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD/Tyler (WaterTower), VAN HELSING/Walters (MovieScore Media)
Film & TV Music, Documentary, Vinyl Soundtracks, & Game Music News
The UK’s top-streaming (31 million viewers) drama series THE SERPENT debuted last month on Netflix and captivated audiences internationally. The 8-part limited series tells the story of Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim), a murderer, thief, and seductive master of disguise, who was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travelers on Asia’s hippie trail in the mid-70s. When it came to the music, Emmy-nominated British-based composer Dominik Scherrer (THE MISSING, RIPPER STREET, MARPLE, PRIMEVAL) felt the material needed to be treated with respect and sensationalism avoided. Lead director Tom Shankland wanted the story to be told through a haze of psychedelic 1970s upheaval: drugs, ruthless politics, the old-world order changed. It was especially important to Dominik that he avoid the hokey 70s style type of music that would have been easy to succumb to. The majority of the series takes place in Bangkok, with the rest taking place in various locations, including Hong Kong, Paris, New Zealand, and New York. Dominik composed a lot of the score on location in Bangkok and took inspiration from the urban, epic, and sinister feel that the city encapsulates. He also found himself inspired by composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass’ study/influence of southeast Asian music in the 1970s. A portion of the score was recorded in Thailand – rhythm sections, drums, gongs, and other Thai instruments — all of which Dominik sampled to create more of a risqué sound to match the tone of the series. The modern score also features patches of the modular synthesizer “TONTO,” which was first developed in the early 1970s. There are several timelines in the series, and music is the connecting factor that enhances the overall mystère.
Q: When you first came on board to compose music for THE SERPENT how did you determine the kind of musical style and palette the series needed?
Dominik Scherrer: I’d been talking to Tom Shankland, the lead director on THE SERPENT, for a while about it and we were bouncing around ideas. One of the things that I wanted to know quite early on was the sort of music that they wanted to fulfill the 1970s period elements, as that would free me up in terms of the score; then the score didn’t really have to be 1970s, it could do it’s own thing. That turned out to be the case. I wanted to do a sort of southeast Asian adventure in a way that had a certain 1970s influence in there, but often you start these things and you do a bit of trial and error, and you try some things and you think earlier that this could be exciting, and then a style emerges. It was quite clear that we never really wanted a sort of traditional orchestral score, it just wouldn’t have suited the environment. I also wanted to give it a slightly psychedelic feel because that’s the sort of landscape the story’s set in as well, with drugs going about in the hippie period. I meant to do a sort of cultural chaos, because this was the first time when people could travel around and just have a good time somewhere, it wasn’t something that was just for really wealthy people. It was a cultural mash-up that I wanted, bringing together different worlds of music as well.
Q: What was your process of coming up with the series’ main theme music, and what did you want it to represent?
Dominik Scherrer: I wanted it to be a theme that really followed both Charles Sobhraj, the main character, but also the investigation into him that was largely done by the Dutch diplomat. Initially it was a theme that I developed for the score, and I had other suggestions for the main theme music, and of course it depended a little bit also on the title sequence visuals. It was important to have that right from the start—that kind of slithery, snakiness of the main character in there. Initially I did the theme with a more traditional orchestral arrangement and then we thought, let’s also record this with gongs and stuff and orchestrate it more in a Southeast Asian way, and so now it’s mixed together.
Q: How did you treat the character of Charles Sobhraj throughout the series?
Dominik Scherrer: One of the important things with him is that one should never be tempted to glorify him, even though what he’s done and the way he deceived people could potentially be seen as fascinating. I think we were always very clear that this is a horrible, violent killer. In terms of the music, there was never an attempt to humanize him.
Q: What was your instrumental palette for his motif?
Dominik Scherrer: The whole series was about him, so he had quite a few themes, I rarely do themes per character; I prefer coming up with meta themes, so I had different palettes for him. For example, the total killer side of him, where he is incredibly violent but he does it in a strangely detached way, and that’s more of a synthesis, 1970s synthesizer-based, but quite dark. Then there’s the other side, which is what I call the gem dealer’s theme, which is where he is quite cool in public with his girlfriend, but still carries a dark undertone; that’s with drums and low chords, guitar, and that kind of palette. Then there are other bits where I bring in the very large Thai gongs, which convey an almost spiky personality. Because we see him so much throughout the series in different guises and also very different periods of time starting from the early ‘70s right into the ‘90s, it was important to have a varied palette as well.
Q: How did you treat Jenna Coleman’s character of Marie-Andrée Leclerc, as she seemingly becomes a partner to Sobhraj’s crimes…
Dominik Scherrer: She is a really interesting character. I developed a theme that was for both Charles and Marie-Andrée, and then it’s in episode 2 when it really starts associating with her when we hear her diary [in voice over]. I never really went for a kind of innocence, because I believe she pretty much knew from the beginning what was going on, she just chose to ignore it and then after a while [became an accomplice]. She goes through an interesting journey, because then much later on she is imprisoned and converts to Catholicism and becomes quite religious, and so I gave her these religious undertones earlier so that when she gets there it really lands.
Q: Then we have the Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg, who did most of the footwork to investigate Sobhraj and get the reluctant local authorities to recognize what he’s been doing.
Dominik Scherrer: Knippenberg was the first to put two-and-two together because he had some Dutch nationals missing in Bangkok so he started to investigate. I wanted to give him a slight 1970s minimalist-inspired feel for the music, so it’s kind of Steve Reich or Philip Glass, but in their early periods. There was another ‘70s influence I used for him, which I thought suited him; rather than being nostalgic about it, it made him a more forward, into-the-future-looking character.
Q: How did you treat the variety of time frames and locations that shifted throughout the episodes?
Dominik Scherrer: I’ve had to spot other series where we have these parallel time frames—for example in THE MISSING, which would always jump back and forth a few years. On that show, I’d initially planned to just have one type of music for 2005 and another for 2014, and it was to keep it all very separate. But we found it doesn’t really need to be like that; it’s better if the music connects, because it’s all one story, and that’s exactly the same with THE SERPENT as well. We’re looking at these musical strands that then bring together the story elements, and put you in the right place. Sometimes I’d have a theme that would start in one time period and then it cuts to the other one, and I may have a change of orchestration in the middle of it, quite a radical one, so it may start with guitars or piano or something like that and it changes in the middle to gongs and orchestra, so you know you’re in a different place or in a different zone, but the spine of it stays the same.
Q: I understand you composed much of the score on location – how did this inspiration help you focus your music for specific environments?
Dominik Scherrer: I was in Bangkok for three weeks, and for me to be in this mega-metropolis was inspiring, because it’s a kind of seemingly chaotic place but it’s not really, so it was exciting to get to know the cast, to be a little immersed in it. At the same time I was staying in a very nice hotel room, and downstairs was one of the writers and he was still laboring away on the script, and then I was also recording, which was exciting because I knew I wanted these Southeast Asian elements in there. I spent time in a great studio for a while, recording a percussion ensemble that is featured quite heavily in the score. I was writing some of the stuff almost on the day—I’d found out how they played and what they’re good at and then I’d just get up at six in the morning and write the stuff, then we’d be recording from 10 o’clock onwards, so it was an exciting thing to do. The rest of the recording happened in London later, as usual.
Q: In addition to environmental music, the score often maintains a great deal of tension as we see where things are going with various victims of Sobhraj. What was your technique in building this tension, and how did you use the “TONTO” synthesizer as an element when tension explodes into brutal violence?
Dominik Scherrer: The tension is different each time. If you have a formula then people would know it and it wouldn’t be tense any more, so you have a do it differently each time. It was creating a lot of unease and not hitting too many moments, because it would be a little bit corny to score it like a traditional thriller. The music needed to have an unpredictability in itself as well, so that was one of the things I was able to do with the TONTO synthesizer. I couldn’t use the actual TONTO — it was built in L.A. in the ‘70s; it still exists now and it’s now in Calgary, Canada. I couldn’t go to Calgary so I had a synth player around there who was aware of its architecture and we managed to recreate some of its patches from other equipment, but definitely inspired from the sounds from the ‘70s. Yes, the TONTO sound palette was used in the more violent moments, because it just felt like you were going into a different sort of unpredictable world and that felt like the right palette.
Q: What was most challenging – and then most rewarding – for you in scoring this series?
Dominik Scherrer: Finding the tone initially, was challenging because we didn’t want the whole thing to be depressing, we wanted it to have a drive and it needed to be dangerous. We needed to fulfill a lot of things. Actually, it can be a challenge to not use an orchestra, because an orchestra is a malleable entity that is quite nice and convenient to use; if you are using Southeast instruments like mallets and gongs and various percussion, it’s more difficult to build around the theme with those instruments, and that was a challenge. But being in Thailand and exploring different kinds of music and recording there was very rewarding. Then Covid happened right in the middle of post-production, and we all had to work at home including myself. I couldn’t work from my studio anymore. But there were musicians everywhere and after a while we’d worked out this remote recording thing… then seeing it all come together was strangely like a communal experience even though we were all in different places in the world!
Special thanks to Adrianna Perez and Kyrie Hood of White Bear PR for facilitating the interview, and especially to Dominik Scherrer for taking the time to discuss THE SERPENT’s music with me.
Q: You’ve specialized in science fiction thrillers and horror films since you began scoring feature films in the mid 2000s. What kind of music do you feel modern horror movies require and what, generally, do you try to bring to the scoring table?
Scott Glasgow: When it comes to science fiction and horror films, to a large degree, I feel it all goes back to directors and not composers. It goes back to Stanley Kubrick and William Friedkin, because they chose this music that went to these tense and horrific scenes, for instance in 2001 and THE EXORCIST—this was all music that wasn’t written for these films, so as a result for horrific scenes we’ve been conditioned with clustery kind of sounds out of Penderecki; extreme techniques with orchestra. With science fiction, we’ve got the other worldly sounds of Ligeti, which happened in 2001. Now granted there was Strauss—Richard and Johann—in 2001, but it was the sound of that otherworldly Monolith that set much of the tension in that film. Conditioning became a huge part of music and we’ve become accustomed to associate a certain type of music with scary or otherworldly emotions, and that’s a very interesting thing to tackle as a composer when you score a horror movie.
And then, of course, there are producers with temp love, so with those parameters in mind—you’ve got conditioning of the public, conditioning of the producers, who want to make it as close to the last big horror money-making blockbuster—you have to be pretty creative. I look for my places—what can I do that’s a little bit fresh, a little bit different, and a lot of times they accept it. Some people talk about how they were limited in what they were asked to do and that their creativity’s been stifled, but I’ve done some of the most extreme music possible, from as far from Penderecki as I can, to extreme electronic or crazy experimental instruments, and it’s almost always been accepted. I’m not saying I don’t get forced down a temp road—I do, and anybody who listens to a lot of my scores may be able to hear a few of those! But a lot of times I’ve been able to explore as much as I would if I were just a concert composer. There’s almost no avenue that I’ve been able to go down that has been totally, utterly rejected. Here’s an example—I was working on ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN, which we’re going to discuss, and I wanted to use an experimental scale that Olivier Messiaen uses, and I was able to work it in. It’s a completely heady thing that no one listening is going to catch—but they don’t need to catch it, but it’s something that I can push the limits of what I want to do, what I might consider, and almost everything has been accepted.
1. BREACH On the cusp of fatherhood, a junior mechanic aboard an interstellar ark to New Earth must outwit a malevolent cosmic terror intent on using the spaceship as a weapon
Q: What brought you into this project? I don’t believe you’d worked with director John Suits before…
Scott Glasgow: A composer gets hired through connections and people they’ve worked with. The main producer on BREACH was Corey Large, he’s also one of the actors. Corey and I have been working together since my first film, CHASING GHOSTS, in 2005. There’s a little more to that story: about five or six years went by where I didn’t hear anything from him, and a lot of that has to do with people moving into different directions and hiring different people and just moving on in life. One of the things I do always when I put out a soundtrack album: I send it to every filmmaker I’ve ever worked with. I send them a copy of the album to download. If there’s a physical CD, I’ll send them that too. It happened a couple years ago that Corey was finishing up a monster movie called THE NINTH PASSENGER, and he needed music because things weren’t working out, score wise, on the project. Ultimately Corey said “I’ve got a mess here, I need to get this fixed” and he hired me to score it. That all came from an email I sent out. I got a call the next day, I got the film the day after that, and I had ten days. It was so brutal I actually brought in a former student of mine, Theron Kay, who had done some great work in class, so he came in, I wrote out my themes, and then I’d have Theron help with fleshing out the finished pieces. We had a good experience on NINTH PASSENGER. So when BREACH came around, I was waiting to start on COSMIC SIN, which they were still shooting—Corey was also producing that one—and I said I can jump in and do BREACH if you want. Corey said yes, so I did that and after it was finished I went straight into COSMIC SIN. It’s all about relationships!
Q: Would you describe your musical palette for BREACH and how you crafted the score’s ominous and powerful sonic aggression?
Scott Glasgow: I knew that I needed a bunch of low strings and a lot of low bendy stuff, I knew that I wanted to have one particular theme that I called “the family theme,” for the junior mechanic and his girlfriend (the admiral’s daughter, who is pregnant). That was an important aspect for me because it’s all about their relationship as a family. I watched a couple of the director’s other films and I got the feeling that he does not like thematic stuff or music that poked out too much; he’s more of an ambiance guy. There were two themes that I can think of, one is when they take off into hyperspace, and I had this big build-up and this big brass music right when they take off, and I sent it over to him and he said “I was thinking of having more spaceship noise.” Well, [I said], “consider this, because this is a powerful moment and I think that musically it can support itself.” The producer got involved and it king kind of became a half-and-half of what I intended and what the director wanted, with that scene. And a similar scene where one of the guys explodes—I won’t go into how that happens—and this alien thing, from the alien point-of-view as it runs up and grabs another guy, and I did this really aggressive kind of Goldenthal ALIEN3 type with ripping horn and trills and stuff, and that also got toned down, and I thought that was unfortunate because I thought the aggression in the orchestra helped the aggression of the scene, but again, we are collaborating, and if the director wants to change something, it is their prerogative to do so.
There is also some really heavy, pulsing synthetic stuff in BREACH. There’s kind of a synthetic knocking thing that you’ll hear a lot, which is me tapping my fingers on the side of the Leaf Audio Microphonic Soundbox—a wooden box that has a contact microphone inside it which picks up anything that you do to this box. The box has wires and metal roads and strings all kind of things to create unusual sounds. I wanted to lay down an eerie atmosphere, and literally by mistake I tapped the box, and it made that cool sound. BREACH has the family theme, the knocking box motif, the aggressive tapping synth stuff, and the low bending strings, a lot of suspending bass and cello.
2. ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN A SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention center during a catastrophic alien invasion.
Q: You worked with Brandon Slagle on this film, an interesting take on the alien invasion thriller with a team of SWAT officers trapped in a jailhouse, kind of ATTACK ON PRECINCT 13 style. What were your initial impressions of creating the music?
Scott Glasgow: Just as you mentioned, it’s PRECINCT 13! The whole thing is supposed to be a redirect--it’s supposed to be two different movies. It opens up very slick like a SWAT raid against a gang of Los Angeles drug dealers. There’s little hints in there—like there’s a boy of one of the drug dealers who’s been having nightmares and draws a picture of a mythic creature of the Mexican culture (“El Coo Cooi” translated to the devil, monster, or boogeyman). He’s drawing these things that ultimately turn out to be the aliens who are invading. After the raid and the cops are cleaning up the place and they see the kid’s drawings on the wall, you’ll hear a bowed metal sound that comes from that Leaf Audio soundbox, and that sound is attached to the aliens. So I’m musically telling you: “That’s the alien” as the kid is also telling the cops “that’s the monster from my dream.” But none of that is going to hit the audience without a second viewing. That’s the fun thing about being a composer. We get to draw a musical narrative along the lines with the script and in some ways hint at stuff that, unless you’re paying attention, you’re not going to catch.
Q: How did you decide how to musically contrast the police procedural with the science fiction invasion aspects of the story, such as the high sustained pads when the alien ship sails from the outer solar system into Earth’s atmosphere?
Scott Glasgow: I have a synthesizer here called a Korg Minilogue XD, and it has two oscillators for analog like a Moog, but it also has a user bank which is digital. There are people out there who are creating wav forms that you can upload, and I’ve been using some of those strange, alien sounds. When the aliens first appear outside the county jail, you’ll start to hear this strange otherworldly synth sound; it comes in very clearly when the aliens come creeping around the corner after the SWAT guys run into the building. That alien sound was from this Korg synth that I have and I bought a custom wav form that a guy named Tim Shoebridge created, which I completely tweaked and played into that scene. That’s the thing about these old analog synths, or even the newer ones that emulate the old synths, you’re actually playing it like an instrument. It’s a knob that’s being twisted, as much as a cello is being bowed. It’s played by a human, it’s not something where you’re hitting a key and something’s just happening. So for the aliens I jumped to the orchestra, with the Leaf Audio and the Korg Minilogue synth, and specifically this thing that Tim Shoebridge had created. It’s just a wave form, and it’s up to you to make something of it. You’ve got to flip your knobs and find the right shape for what you’re trying to do.
3. COSMIC SIN
Seven rogue soldiers launch a preemptive strike against a newly discovered alien civilization in the hopes of ending an interstellar war before it starts.
Q: Edward Drake had been the writer on BREACH, and now he’s written and directed this new science fiction thriller, COSMIC SIN. How did you and he decide the kind of score the film needed?
Scott Glasgow: As I mentioned, COSMIC SIN is what I signed on for before BREACH, and I knew they were both epic science fiction stories with Bruce Willis. BREACH was the claustrophobic space ship hallways monster movie, with Bruce Willis having a big gun. COSMIC SIN is all open, it’s guys in spacesuits who fly through the atmosphere; its Bruce Willis as a disgraced military leader who’s called back to duty when a new alien civilization on another planet is the discovered. So musically speaking for COSMIC SIN I started to think how some of these old Westerns had these open chord sounds, where in BREACH I was thinking about tight musical clusters. With COSMIC SIN I would hear the same notes but I’d hear them more open.
Q: How did you treat the characters’ flying in space?
Scott Glasgow: In COSMIC SIN, the space suits are a character on their own—they’re called “Icarus Suits” because you can go through the atmosphere and not burn up, and so you’re basically flying through space without a spaceship, in a suit. I wound up using a sampled choir for the start of the movie, where it opens with this guy falling through the atmosphere, wearing the Icarus suit. That’s how the whole movie starts, with this single choir note coming in as this guy falls through the atmosphere. After that everything gets ambient and obscure with the custom-created synthetic noises and a lot of that going on, and of course there’s some temp things I had to do.
4. BLOODTHIRST In a post apocalyptic world run by vampires, only the strong survive. John Shepard, Vampire Hunter, is one of them. John has to track down and eliminate the master vampire before he himself gets turned.
Q: Coming out of BREACH right into COSMIC SIN and then right into BLOODTHIRST must have been a challenge as well…
Scott Glasgow: The ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN producers hired me for BLOODTHIRST, and their camera man, Michael Su, became the director of BLOODTHIRST, taking over from someone else who left the project. So it’s all tied in with who you know, and in fact the next two films I’m doing is with the same guy. You work with people and producers who learn to trust you and they like your work and they bring you back for more projects. On ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN I met the producer team of the Mahal Brothers, Michael Mahal and Sonny Mahal. They seem to like my work so I’ll be doing another few films for them. First up is a SAW-type film titled DEATH COUNT (starring Costas Mandylor and Michael Madsen) and then I’ll be doing a Western after that called THE NIGHT OF THE TOMMYKNOCKERS (starring Richard Grieco and Tom Sizemore). However between those films I will also be scoring THE WEDDING PACT 2 for a director I worked with before on many films including MANIPULATED. Yes, I can write pretty romantic-comedy scores too but rarely if ever do those scores come out as a soundtrack album—so I plan to release both THE WEDDING PACT 1 and 2 as a double album release when the film is released.
Q: What musical design did you come up with for this film?
Scott Glasgow: The cool thing about BLOODTHIRST is that it takes place in the future, after most of the Earth has been destroyed, and the remaining humans and the remaining vampires are the small factions that are left. As I started watching all these desert scenes, I started to hear Morricone, Sergio Leone stuff; it had this dry, arid feel and the main vampire hunter wears a long duster coat but he uses a crossbow instead of a gun. The way it swaggered it just felt very Morricone. Then the vampires—of course I come back to conditioning again, and I’m hearing a kind of INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE theme. So what I decided to do was to give the humans the Morricone treatment—harmonicas, ocarinas, baritone electric guitar, electric bass guitar, acoustic guitars, banjos, whistles, and all kinds of interesting Spaghetti Western textures. Then for the vampires I went for sampled ancient instruments, harpsichord, theorbo [oversized lute], serpent [snakelike wind instrument], an Irish carnyx [curved bronze trumpet], as well as a viola-da-gamba, which was performed by a live player, Phillip Serna. I have also worked with Phillip years ago on the 2007 Lionsgate film THE GENE GENERATION and we met back when we were both students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I also sampled an Aztec death flute and Tibetan human bone trumpet called a kangling (wind instrument made out of a human femur). I had used death flute and the femur bone in THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY so I already had some experience working with these instruments.
What was cool, when the vampires were attacking and you hear this strange howling sound on top, it could be either the carnyx or the death flute, over really aggressive percussion beds. When they’re threatening the humans you’ll get a little more of the viola de gamba and harpsichord.
Q: Sounds like a positive experience compared to some others…
Scott Glasgow: BLOODTHIRST was a fun experience. The director was really open, and he loved everything—I think I did a revision on just two cues, and one of them was something I wanted to change. So this was one of the best experiences I’ve had scoring a film. Same with ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN. Brandon and Michael are positive guys to work with.
5. MANIPULATED District attorney Diane Conrad is under extreme pressure to resolve a case that has politicians as well as the local community on edge. The clock is ticking and the stakes and emotions are running high. With evidence in short supply, and the personal and professional lives of all concerned unraveling, can you believe anything anyone says? It’s game on.
Q: Unlike the science fiction and horror films we’ve been discussing so far, MANIPULATED is more of a mystery thriller. What was your musical approach to this more down-to-earth film?
Scott Glasgow: I really looked back to films that dealt with courtrooms, police interrogation, and other films of crime drama. With that I found the film’s soul musically. It was a combination of BASIC INSTINCT, THE PELICAN BRIEF and PRESUMED INNOCENT which has sadly become a lost film genre in 2021. Films have changed but honestly a good old courtroom or interrogation drama is good filmmaking that Matt Berman (the director) figured out.
Keeping the instruments simple is important. I decided strings, winds, harp, and piano were the best for this film. I also decided that the detective need a sophisticated theme which was more “jazz chords” but that needed to contrast against the polychord I used for the end of scenes and complexity of the women of the film.
Q: This score is also quite thematically-driven. Would you describe how you’ve integrated a number of themes to drive the score across the arc of the story?
Scott Glasgow: There were a few characters to handle thematically. The main detective has his “trauma” theme, there was also the “crime” theme (piano back & forth), and there was this very Goldsmith motive that expanded and contracted as needed (meaning it went from 6/8 to 7/8 melodically losing a beat). All these themes weaved in and out to create this score. I created a intricate carpet, depending which character was in each scene.
Listen to the track “Clifford” from MANIPULATED on Soundcloud here. https://soundcloud.com/scott-glasgow-music/clifford
Q: The majority of your scores, such as the ones we’re discussing today, are pretty low-budget affairs, but each has some cool and creative positive elements that makes them enjoyable. What kind of a challenge is it for you scoring low-budget films, being restricted mostly to digital samples and synthesizers?
Scott Glasgow: I’ve always wanted to get to that point where the music I create is recorded and produced as it’s supposed to be. But I’ve learned that having limitations initiates creativity. As we started this whole conversation with horror movies and the conditioning of people who watch or make movies, identifying all those conditionings, identifying what they’re expecting of you, then you can identify where you can be creative.
Samples have a tendency to work in a particular way, in the sense that there are things that sound very good and things that don’t. It really comes out to acoustics. Piano and percussion are very believable. So you have to look at what is believable when you’re in a world where you’re not going to get an orchestra but you’re still producing orchestral music. If you look at a wave form, low sounds are the long, drawn-put waves, and short sounds are very short little, zig-zaggy waves. Our ears can differentiate higher pitches better than lower pitches. With samples, we can often identify higher-pitched music as being simulated; lower pitches we don’t identify as much. I can fake low strings really well because our ears don’t hear the details as well. It’s an acoustic thing: if I have to use samples, how do I utilize these samples to create scores that sound relatively authentic? I identity these problem areas and I don’t use those sounds. So, is my creativity being dictated by the technology versus having my creativity dictating to the technology. That’s been a problem for 15-20 years now for most of us. It’s a matter of working with what we’ve got. I really wish we can get away from this “If it’s not live, it’s got to be crap.” It should be about the pitches, it should be about how the music works with the scene, not ‘if it’s live it’s better than if it’s not.’”
I did a sci-fi film in 2017 called STASIS where I imagined myself walking into Vangelis’ room, saying to myself, “I don’t have money for an orchestra,” so I just mentally imagined myself walking into his studio, sitting down, and scoring this film with his “BLADE RUNNER” gear. That was a cool experiment; it just showed me how each film I tackle, I bring in something unique sounding. A new sample library, a new synth, a new musical idea and most importantly a new film. The film is the most important aspect that defines what the music should be doing. Because we are film composers, not concert music composers--the difference is found in collaboration—we collaborate with filmmakers to make music for their films. Understanding that is a key to this business of being a film composer.
Special thanks to Scott Glasgow for taking the time out to discuss these scores in detail, and for helping edit the presentation for Soundtrax.
In the growing world of cryptocurrency, blockchains, and other digital concepts, a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files.
Q: What prompted you to create an NFT edition of your ORPHANS & KINGDOMS score?
Giovanni Rotondo: It all started while I was planning a double release with Long Island based record label Enjoy The Rode Records. Along with two colorful Vinyl albums that I produced and composed, we were building a collectors’ bundle packed with awesome extras (like a custom designed glow-in-the-dark guitar pick). At that stage I started reading about NFTs and how musicians are joining the craze and thought it would be a super cool extra to offer to collectors when the albums will be out during the next fall. The label was very enthusiastic about the idea and as I started documenting myself to understand how to actually make NFTs available (in the crypto world that is referred to minting) I realized it’s no easy task. Therefore I decided to go through the process once to make sure I’d know how to overcome potential hurdles along the way. It was then that I found out no soundtrack album NFT had been yet released (or “dropped”) yet. It was too inviting of an opportunity to let it pass. My score for ORPHANS & KINGDOM is one of the scores I’m most proud of so, with permission from the producer and the director, I chose it for this and went on to mint the world’s first soundtrack album NFT.
Q: For those unfamiliar, just what is NFT and how does one access it as a recorded medium for music?
Giovanni Rotondo: To put it in the easiest possible terms, an NFT is a collectible that lives in the cryptocurrency network. Think baseball cards but digital. They have the advantage to keep unquestionable trace of who the current owner is and of their rarity/unicity. One could argue that an NFT is really just code strings and that wouldn’t be wrong. However multimedia files can be attached to this code (although they have to reside somewhere else on the internet). This, along with the fact that its creator automatically receives commission rights with every subsequent sale, made it very appetizing for the art community as a new way to do business. The music industry has only recently entered the ring but it’s already being discussed often in the news with artists like Kings Of Leon making exclusive versions of their music available as NFTs.
Q: How does this digital blockchain serve as an asset for the storage and playback of music—specifically soundtrack music?
Giovanni Rotondo: An NFT can include unlockables. In other words information that only becomes available to the actual owner of the NFT. These can be links to specific files, or purchase codes that one can use to get physical goods etc... The sky is the limit and artists are already being very creative about it. Some are giving front row seats to their concerts for life to the owner of their NFTs, some others (alright...myself) are including a signed confession of theft in theirs. In this framework the artist’s creativity in making a unique package for their fans is the key to success. For instance how cool would it be if Hans Zimmer minted an NFT linked to separate stems of one of his scores? Or sheet music, or a unique recording of him singing the music from GLADIATOR?!
Q: What is the likely future in NFT presentation in comparison with existing mediums, or is this intended to serve as commodity digital assets in art and other entertainment substances?
Giovanni Rotondo: After immersing myself into NFT waters I must say I do think it could very well go in one of two dramatically opposed direction. Either taking the shape of a bubble that will eventually burst or becoming a go-to marketplace for collectors and fans. I hope the latter but it will really depend on how skillful/resourceful artists will demonstrate to be. Having said this, I don’t think NFTs will take the place of Spotify or the record store anytime soon.
Q: What kind of feedback have you gotten since you announced the sale of ORPHANS & KINGDOMS on NFT?
Giovanni Rotondo: The whole adventure gave me some unexpected exposure with a few blogs and websites mentioning my NFT album. It also made some nice social content to keep my fans and potential clients engaged with my work. So I’d say it was a success!
Q: Anything else we should know?
Giovanni Rotondo: You do need to own a specific cryptocurrency called Ethereum to buy NFTs. If you are new to this game it can easily be an overwhelming experience with crypto-wallets, gas costs, and a whole lot of new things to get accustomed to. Also one should in my opinion see this more as a way to get exclusive content from their favorite artists and less like an investment and keep in mind the crypto world is often tagged as volatile for good reasons. However, should you own Ethereum and looking for a great NFT to start (or grow) your collection you can find mine at https://rarible.com/giovannirotondo.
BUMBLEBEE/Dario Marianelli/La-La Land – CD Released in 2018, this sixth installment of the live-action TRANSFORMERS film series was initially developed as a spin-off and prequel, but was ultimately decided to be a reboot of the franchise, in which, in 1987, a young Autobot scout named B-127 finds refuge at a junkyard in a small California beach town. On the cusp of turning eighteen and trying to find her place in the world, young mechanic Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) discovers B-127, battle-scarred and broken; she nicknames him Bumblebee because of his yellow color, then unintentionally unlocks a message from Optimus Prime urging B-127 to defend Earth in the other Autobots’ absence, which restores some of his memories, and off they are on an adventure of transformation and preservation. Dario Marianelli, new to the TRANSFORMERS franchise, provides a very effective score which rumbles and purrs and growls like the engine of an Autobot’s Camaro. The bulk of the score is driven (no pun intended) (well, ok maybe) by aggressive action music in the lower registers, but there’s enough sympathetic music associated with Charlie, and sufficient opportunities to accommodate Bumblebee’s foibles as he regains his senses (and then he enjoys an ongoing sense of fun) to provide welcome respite through the dangerous journey. “In this particular movie, Bumblebee has a split personality,” said Marianelli, quoted in the liner notes by writer Daniel Schweiger. “He represents the ‘good rebels,’ so he gets an ‘uprising’ fanfare with an upward harmonic progressions. It’s a musical idea that I’ve been adopting over the years whenever freedom is talked about… Bumblebee is also a ‘child’ for a great part of the movie, so there’s a comical side to him. Both Charlie and Bumblebee are in need of a resolution, and it’s that connection between them that is the very heart of the movie, which makes it the heart of the music as well.” There’s a splendid moment near the end, in “Charlie Dives In” where Marianelli allows his main theme to flow bravely and heroically, then it’s reprised with a poignant grace in “Saying Goodbye” as he and Charlie must depart. “Not Quite There” concludes the tracklist with a pop rhythm of accomplishment from orchestra, drum kit, and electric guitar that ends the album on a very pleasing note. The musical content is the same as that of the 2018 digital release, but the sonic elements are certainly improved and benefit from the higher sonic resolution provided by the CD medium.
CHRONICLE - WERNER HERZOG FILM SCORES/Ernst Reijseger/
Caldera Records - cd
“Since his first international success AGUIRRE premiered in 1972, German director Werner Herzog has made a name for himself as a maverick, a rogue director who accepts any and every challenge to put dreams on screens – obsessions of primarily men who decide to go against society and nature,” writes Caldera Records, capturing Herzog’s essence as a film director. For 15 years, he has also worked with internationally celebrated cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger, who has created the music for such colorful Herzog films as THE WHITE DIAMOND, RESCUE DAWN, MY SON MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE, SALT & FIRE, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS and, most recently, FIREBALL. Many, but not all, of these films are documentaries, and their musical treatment has largely been avant-garde or somewhat ethnic; the album accommodates thirteen tracks of very different musical styles, from duets between cello and piano to the intriguing blend of cello with male voices and other elements. Caldera has collected 13 tracks from eight of Reijseger’s scores for Herzog into this very interesting collection, ranging from just under two minutes to more than ten. A bonus 14th track provides an audio interview with Herzog about music in his films and his working partnership with Reijseger. I confess I have not seen any of these particular films of Herzog’s, so I am reacting to the pure music presented on the CD: The music is as confounding and fascinating as Herzog’s films can be, which makes it and them as unique and engaging as they are. Unusual blends and harmonic structures provide thoughtful and compelling musical treatments for the ear, such as “Shadow” which begins as a slightly jarring squeal from Reijseger’s cello and grows, like an awakening flower, into something enthralling and wonderful, merging organ and cello into a charming substance of beauty and grace. The duet between piano and cello in “Gretchen am Spinnrade (Voice from another World)” is equally pervasive and admirable, and again the cellist equalizes elements of the avant-garde with the gracefully appealing. “A Una Rosa, Voche e Notte Antica” from THE WHITE DIAMOND and SALT & FIRE contrasts Reijseger’s articulate playing with a choir of throaty-voiced men and a chorus of hand-drumming. The engrossing purity of tenor and soprano voices on top of the melancholy bowing of the cello and bits of piano fingering lends a solemn air to “Still Life/Leaving Your Earthly Possessions” from MY SON MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE, while “Rainy Season” and “Heaven On Earth” from the same film offers an intriguing mix of violincello quintet with the piano. A delightful duet between cello and piano evokes a sense of enthusiasm to “Brontosaurus” from NOMAD: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRUCE CHATWIN, while the more subdued engagement of “Ombra” from the same film obliges reflection and rumination. “Too Soon” and “Landscape of the Soul,” from SALT & FIRE, pair Reijseger’s cello against a recorder, with a very subtle accordion behind them. Reijsege plays both cello and a shruti box (similar to a harmonium, it is used to provide a drone in Indian classical music) in “Tunguska” from FIREBALL, providing a hypnotic or compelling resonance; both instruments are accompanied by a five-voice men’s choir in an interpretation of “Ave Maria” from the same film. The cello accompanies the Capella Craconiensis choir, from Poland, in “Muen Bwebwe” from FAMILY ROMANCE.
This music, evoking both modernistic and historical/ethnic arrangements, is spellbinding and, at its core, intimately affecting as music, apart from its function as film music. It’s one of the label’s most unique collections to date and makes for a fascinating listen. This 42nd CD-release of Caldera Records, released in collaboration with Spring Music Productions, features a detailed booklet with text by Stephan Eicke, and elegant artwork by Luis Miguel Rojas. The CD was mastered by Niels Brouwer and produced by Ernst Reijseger, Stephan Eicke, and John Elborg.
For more details, see Caldera.
CRUELLA/Nicholas Britell/Disney – digital Disney’ has released both the score album as well as an album of songs heard in their new family crime-comedy drama CRUELLA. The film stars Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Mark Strong; it’s directed by Craig Gillespie and is based upon the novel The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, which is also the basis for the 1961 animated Disney film,
101 DALMATIANS and the two Glenn Close remakes in 1996/2000. The new movie is set in 1970s London and focuses on young fashion designer Cruella de Vil as she becomes obsessed with dogs’ skins, especially dalmatians, until she eventually becomes a ruthless and terrifying legend. Disney has released both the CRUELLA Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring original and licensed songs heard in the movie (for what its worth, I prefer the term Songtrack Album, myself, to avoid confusion), as well as the CRUELLA Original Score album, featuring the music Britell (known for MOONLIGHT and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK), has composed and recorded for the movie. The original song by Florence and the Machine, “Call Me Cruella,” appears as the first track of both albums, properly so, as it’s a perfect song that captures the delicious wickedness of Cruella De Vil. Britell’s score is a marvelous combination of orchestral material both sinister and lavish, and vivid electronic guitar, which provides an ideal piercing tonality to represent the vicious Cruella. Britell’s brief opening cue, “Cruella Disney Castle Logo,” an intensifying tick-tock kind of ostinato that instantly evokes the malevolence of the Cruella character; it opens directly into “The Baroque Ball,” a rich mix of acoustic and electric guitar behind a compelling series of solo female la-las, backed by the London Voices. Britell arranges this same piece into a magnificent orchestral waltz at the end of the album, which makes a beautiful contrast to “Goodbye Estelle,” which is a heavy rock guitar, drum, and choir rendition of the Cruella motive from the “Castle Logo” cue, while “Everything’s Going So Well” is a soft and reflective version of the same piece. Cues like “The Most Dreadful Accident,” the energetic “Surveillance” with its flailing guitars and drum kit, benefit from the rock approach by giving the story some powerhouse energy. “The Baroness Needs Looks” is a delightful scherzo for jazz piano and quick “finger-snap style” light drumming; “I Think You’re Something” follows the same format but replaces the piano with brisk “la-las” from the choir, a thoroughly fun piece of music. “The Angle” is a lovely harmonic piece for piano beneath hushed string choir, with a soft electric guitar taking the piano melody midway through, and “I Like To Make An Impact” is a furtive bit of tension for strings and light piano, moving into Cruella’s motive midway through. “The True Story Of Cruella’s Birth” is a lovely melody for strings and piano beneath a lofty pattern of drums and brief vocalise, ending with some somber electric guitar licks; it segues nicely into the following “I’m Cruella,” a quite sympathetic and absorbing treatment for full string choir and piano. While the electric plays a part with the acoustic in these tracks, a more even-handed mixture of the two combine both elements, of which “Oh That’s A Hybrid” is a perfect example; “The Drive To London” starts out with strident guitar and segues into affecting violin and piano midway through, while “The Necklace” does just the opposite. “Revenge Lets Begin” arranges the Cruella motive into a piercing mix of orchestra, various percussion, and keyboard which clearly relishes in exhibiting the character’s evil intent. “Get It Open Moths” starts out with orchestral whispers – tremolo strings and tentative high piano notes, developing into a massively powerful orchestral maneuver driven by throbs of electric guitar and culminating with a phalanx of deep bass notes. “A Great Tribute She’s Here” is a muscular action piece, nicely textured from electric guitars both twanging and severely plucked over large blocks of full orchestra. “The Cliff” acoustically plays on much of the former, but offers a reflective cadence before gearing back up into full gusto at the track’s end. This kind of mix between the orchestral and the electric guitar works well in this score, as Britell orchestrates the latter in an articulate, cinematic way, which also contrasts between the cruel Cruella and the gentler human and canine characters in the movie.
DEBRIS (TV Series)/Raney Shockne/Milan – digital
This 13-episode science fiction series, produced by Universal Television and Legendary Television, broadcast on NBC and streaming on Hulu, takes place in the present day, when debris from a disabled alien spacecraft has been falling across Earth over the previous six months; an international task force has been formed to identify and collect these pieces, which have been found to have unusual and often deadly effects on humans and their surroundings. Episodes follow partners CIA operative Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and MI6 operative Finola Jones (Riann Steele) as they track down these pieces and investigate others who are seeking the debris remnants with uncertain but likely nefarious intent. Composer Shockne (QUEEN OF THE SOUTH, ANGER MANAGEMENT, KEVIN CAN WAIT) has been scoring TV and films since the early 2000s; he scored the Netflix Horror/Reality-TV series HAUNTED in 2018-19, recently composed the music for Kaia Alexander’s documentary feature film CHALICE: WOMEN LEADERS RISE, and he is currently contributing music to the CYBERPUNK 2077 action role-playing video game from CD Projekt. His music for DEBRIS is a pervasive and engaging electronic score utilizing a mix of synthetic musical assemblies that do an excellent job keeping the viewer/listener on edge. Rockne balances haunting suspense pads and brusque percussive intrusions with delicately emotive sonic spaces using compelling voices. The former dominate the DEBRIS soundscape, as they should since the series follows a procedural format as Beneventi and Jones investigate new disturbances caused by the debris, but Shockne provides impassioned sympathetic music where appropriate (“The Human Condition,” “Following the Body,” “Tears From Bionic Eyes,” “The Redeemer,” and the delicate, almost spiritual-like violin and piano fragrance of “The Space Between”) and gives energy to the agents’ investigations and discoveries (“Pieces”) or the pure awe of what they are finding (“Latitudes”). The focus, necessarily, is on the unnerving and disturbing musical resonances, and this is provided via a variety of highly persuasive elements, from haunting suspended pads mixed with breathy, spooky voicings and clusters of percussive rattles (“Ladder to the Sky,”), stepping tonalities punctuated by rising drafts of synth and drums (“The Lost One,” “Light Brigade”) or measured chord progressions which evoke a potent sense of tension (“Icarus,” “Running With Moonboots,” and the mesmerizing, expanding dynamic of “Weight of Light”). The series’ title music is reserved for the final two tracks: with “Orbital Report,” which is the end title’s curious mingling of non-diegetic synth pads and the diegetic narrative of voice radio reports describing debris fall from space into Earth’s atmosphere, and the energetic and melodic piano, drum, and whooshing synths of “What Comes Down (Debris Main Title).” Rockne avoids distinctive themes or motives in his score; and while the music palette may favor recognizable electronic and percussive elements, each track on the album is quite different, offering a continuously interesting score that follows the series’ journey into discovery, danger, and growing elements of intrigue. The musical score for DEBRIS offers a powerful musical treatment that enhances the sense of wonder and sense of danger evoked as Brian and Finola face uncertainty from the debris as well as from elements within and without their own organization. The music accomplishes this very effectively while providing for a continuously interesting listening experience on its own.
DOCTOR LIZA/Yuri Poteyenko/KeepMoving Records - CD Based on a unique true story, DOCTOR LIZA (aka Doctor Lisa) tells the story of Russian humanitarian Elizaveta Glinka (Chulpan Khamatova), whose wedding anniversary takes an unexpected turn when she decides to help a young girl in trouble. By compressing several true events from Liza’s life into one action-packed day, the film shows just how the life of a social worker can get as she must balance between the challenges of private life while also helping those left behind by the failing health care system. Award-winning Russian film composer Yuri Poteyenko’s (DARK PLANET, NIGHT WATCH, SAVING LENINGRAD) score merges a small string ensemble with some electronic passages that accentuate the drama; the score is most active during the film’s second half, when Doctor Liza’s conviction to help the girl threatens to put herself in danger. It’s quite a captivating score, with vibrant solo piano notes permeating the string orchestra, which largely focuses on the darker sonorities of low violin, viola, and cello structures, as in the grim weaving string timbres flowing across the soundscape (“Lost Memory”), the tentative melodies weaving and congealing to reveal hidden tension (“In Search of Morphine,” “The Theft”), conflict (“The Difficult Patient”), the burden of responsibility (“A Fragile Life,” “Social Duty”), clusters of electronics affecting the worrisome strains of recurrent piano arpeggios and twisting string figures (“Insanity”), the rising, nervous thrust of strings over piano (“It’s My Everyday Life”), and the fog of piano notes masked by worried static (“The Way Home”), out of which comes the resolve and reward of “The Big Family.” The score flows with the dramatic storyline in quite an interesting and enjoyable fashion. The soundtrack also premieres Poteyenko’s original conception of the opening sequence (“A Busy Day”), which eventually went unused and replaced by “A New Day Ahead.” Gergely Hubai provides thorough liner notes, with details about the making of the film and its score.
A limited edition of 100 copies; for more details see keepmoving.
Based on the graphic novels by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, this Netflix series is a multi-generational American superhero epic that spans decades and navigates the complex dynamics of family, power, and loyalty as it depicts the experiences of the world’s first generation of superheroes who received their powers in the 1930’s, and the effect their victories and failures have upon their younger superhero progeny. While some critics found the show an awkward, overstuffed, almost parodistic story of a dysfunctional family, I let it be what it wanted to be and found JUPITER’S LEGACY a unique and intriguing story, focusing on flawed heroes striving to honor their different sets of values, told from two distinct timelines: the tribulations of the modern day, and a series of flashbacks going back to the mid 1920s which tells the origin story of the super heroic characters, modeled largely on DC comics history, and what brought them to their conflicts in the present day. If not a perfect union, I found it a fun and intriguing watch. Economou’s orchestral score plays a leading role in supporting these timelines and the characters that flow through them. Her score is an intellectual and seriously coherent one that matches the flavors of the individual character stories and their shared and opposing values.
Listen to Stephanie Economou’s Main Theme from JUPITER’S LEGACY:
“This first season of JUPITER’S LEGACY offers staggering diversity in style, scale, emotion and time period, so I set out to create a musical landscape through which the score could expand and contract; kind of like a kaleidoscope,” said Economou in a statement about her score. “This afforded me the opportunity to explore varied stylistic sound worlds, from hybrid orchestral to industrial rock to contemporary electronic. At a critical moment in the season, I composed a large-scale choral piece using two of the main musical themes: the heroic ‘Union’ theme and what I call the ‘quest germ,’ which is a cyclical sequence of notes that emerges as our adventure unfolds (Track 28: “Jupiter’s Legacy”). For the chorale, I decided to source the lyrics from the original comic series by Mark Millar and translated the text into Latin. In order to make this pinnacle moment feel purposeful and impactful, I chose to unwind the choral idea by recording small modules of detuned, experimental vocals with the masterfully innovative singer, Ari Mason. My objective was to have these fragmented vocal elements serve as a kind of musical breadcrumb trail, slowly and abstractly weaving itself into the fibers of the score, culminating in a grand declaration of our main Union theme with full choir at the climax.” Even those who didn’t like the show may well enjoy the musical score on its own, it’s very carefully constructed and offers a wide variety of dramatic musical treatments that can be respected and enjoyed on their own apart from the series itself, while also serving as an appropriate and functional supportive accompaniment for the show’s storyline.
The score as a whole is a fascinating journey, each track posing new ideas and musical conversations, while returning to certain motives, configurations, and thematic ideas. “Union of Justice” opens the album with the series’ main theme (UoJ is the story’s version of The Justice League), a powerful, rising cadence for brass, percussion, and choir, immediately persuasive and involving. The character of The Utopian, the lead hero who we get to know from his early adulthood through to his near-elderly years, is given a motif as complicated as his character, made of flavors of heroic music dappled with bits of rough-edged tonality, flakes of dissonance, and sour self-assurance. Chloe, his rebellious daughter, is given a dark, rough-edged, industrial rock tonality, as brash, individualistic, and defiant as her character, and as often played on guitars as on bells, gamelans, or a piano. Raikou, a katana-wielding vigilante/assassin possessing super strength and telepathy, is identified with a cluster of chaotic, wild trumpet sounds that befits her attitude. There’s also a general adventure theme which is brought in from various instruments, strings, harp, even a theremin, as needed.
Individual standouts across the score’s journey include “Paragon and Iron Orchid,” a striking cue that begins sensitively, thoughtfully, before pushing ahead in a sonic rush of massive configurations; “The Hilltop Battle” is an enormous action sequence from episode one in which the whole Union is fighting a near-indestructible villain named Blackstar, which Economou accompanies by immense blocks of brass and drums, softened by occasional rifts in the action before it starts up again. “Through the Storm” is a striking mix of harshly-bowed fiddle set against whooshing synth and vocalise, while “Millers Farm” takes a moment of respite, reprising softly the fiddle motive from the aforementioned track. “Everything Ends Up In A Box” is a soft and impassioned mixture of relief, sensitivity, introspection; and “Crossing the Desert” offers some honest sensitivity and compassion for the senior characters’ early struggles to define who they are meant to be. “Being a Sampson” is a sympathetic track for acoustic guitars over an airy synth pad, bass, and sinewy electronic coils (with just a touch of that fiddle sound) that is quite penetrating and evocative. “Van Chase” is a blast of highly textured electronica and guitars in a quasi-dubstep pattern that accentuates a moment in the story ultimately and effectively told in separate perspectives; “Skyfox and Blackstar” is colossal climactic battle music; “Illumination” is a grand, eloquent ascent of aural intensity from strings, synths, and voicings that grow into an imposing drive; the conclusive “Jupiter’s Legacy” reprises a bit of “Illumination’s” intensity before opening into a resplendent chorale which is quite moving, ultimately fading out and allowing a respite of strings, brass, and soft choir to carry the listener to a profound completion, ending with a reprise of the show’s main theme for sparkling brass and vocalizing choir.
Like the series or not, Stephanie Enonomou’s musical score is absolutely breathtaking, offering a scope of variegated musical design that rises above the typical superhero musical form, achieving what the movie tried to accomplish, to provide an artistic expression that truly embodies the spirit and intellect of the characters and their world, as envisioned by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely and interpreted by the showrunners.
“The biggest thing for me was sitting down and writing a theme for Sheldon, The Utopian, and that actually ended up being magnified and becoming the theme for The Union, and the show theme,” Economou told writer Leslie Combemale in an interview for motionpictures.org. “The Utopian really embodies all of those traditional aspects and morals of The Code. There’s that old trope-y sense of the superhero in him, and so that theme really presents itself quite traditionally sometimes on solo French horn, or a brass section, or orchestra. I did that quite intentionally because I wanted to subvert expectations… On a more minimal level, we hear his theme on acoustic guitar. We really do experience these dark moments with him, so it was important for his theme to be able to expand and contract in that way, so we can have different interpretations or paintings of what this man is. That became the show’s theme because I was able to fragment it in different ways, depending on where we are in the story.”
It’s a most impressive score and very highly recommended.
The album is available at these links.
Listen to the track “Paragon and Iron Orchid:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OvVVblk7cw
MADE IN BOISE/Melisa McGregor/Notefornote - digital MADE IN BOISE is the Emmy nominated documentary about four women who find purpose carrying babies for strangers in the conservative heartland of Boise, Idaho – the unregulated and unofficial ‘surrogacy capital’ of the United States; they encounter unexpected complexities along the way. This film mark’s Canadian-born violinist, composer, and producer Melisa McGregor’s first major feature score; she’s been best known for working with Danny Elfman for the last seven years, assisting him on many film scores from ALICE IN WONDERLAND to MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL. The music for MADE IN BOISE is soft and simple, folksy, primarily featuring solo violin, piano, guitar, and percussion, with some orchestral tracks provided by F.A.M.E’.S Orchestra in Macedonia.” Piano takes the lead in the main and end theme tracks, starting and concluding in a pleasing and congenial tone. A whistler and wordless vocalist is employed over the guitar for the gentle and harmonious “Chelsea Running,” “Chelsea’s Birth” is a soft and tentative piece of music,” while “Ernesto” is a bright piano piece dappled by soft gongs and bowls. “Shannon Before” is a pleasant cue for acoustic guitar and pizzicato strings over a ringing keyboard; while “Nicole to Hospital” services a more worrisome aura, as tentative piano notes over strings establish a concerned mood. The tender song, “On Your Way Now,” is performed by Sharon Van Etten for the end credits, and the album concludes with two bonus tracks, some “wild” acoustic guitar material that could be placed where needed, and an alternate version of “Chelsea Running,” adding the richer flavor of the Macedonian orchestra to the track. A darker or more concerned tone floats along “Cindy Struggles,” echoing the woman’s difficulty, while “Sammy’s Birth” is a welcoming gentle jewel of warmth from the strings, bass, and winds. With MADE IN BOISE, McGregor has crafted a sensitive and positive score that follows these four surrogate mothers as they carry children for intended parents, developing rare bonds; the music highlights emotions and aids in bringing the women together, sharing concerns and then celebrating the children as they are born. It’s a spare score, thinly performed, but offering comfort and solace as each story plays out. The film is available via VOD on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple TV; the soundtrack album is available digitally at these links or see Notefornote Music. For more information on the film, see pbs.org.
For more information on the composer, see http://www.melisamcgregor.com/
THE PRODIGAL CAT/Eugen Doga/KeepMoving – CD KeepMoving Records presents the premiere release of Eugen Doga’s music for THE PRODIGAL CAT (aka NOT ALL CATS ARE GREY). An international co-production with three directors involved at various stages, the film is a romantic comedy with elements of mysticism thrown in, centering around an English woman journalist vacationing in Cyprus who falls in love with a Russian gymnast; despite linguistic and cultural barriers, the two are destined to end up together – while the titular cats are lazily chilling on ancient monuments. Moldovan-born composer Eugen Doga offers a sumptuously beautiful orchestral score molded around the inherent love story central to the film; it’s a delightful score saturated with lovely romantic melodies as well as elements of Balkan music associated with the circus in which the romance develops (“Under the Dome,” the enticing Zorba-like “Under the Southern Sky,” which adds just a touch of pan-flute, and “The Island of Love”), as well as a pleasing assortment of mischievous music associated with the titular cat and his fellow felines. There’s also a jaunty cue, “Rider Jane,” a pensive melody, “Memories,” the sudden emotive turn of “Betrayal” and “Regret,” and the happy resolution of “The Hang-Glider for Two”), all of which nicely enrich the score as well. The composer resolves the score with an impressive end credits cue featuring a solo soprano voice over a wash of luxurious, romantic strings which underscores a literal sail into the sunset. A limited edition of 100 copies; for more details see keepmoving.
THE PROWLER/Richard Einhorn/Howlin’ Wolf Records – CD THE PROWLER (also known as ROSEMARY’S KILLER and THE PITCHFORK OF DEATH internationally) is a 1981 American slasher film directed by Joseph Zito and starring Vicky Dawson, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, and Christopher Goutman. The film follows a group of college students who are stalked and murdered during their graduation party by someone wearing a G.I. uniform. THE PROWLER is widely considered by horror aficionados as one of the best slasher films of its kind, with an intelligent storyline and realistic characterizations. What also makes this movie so well-regarded are the incredibly convincing make-up effects from Tom Savini. The score by Richard Einhorn (SHOCK WAVE, DEAD OF WINTER, SISTER SISTER) for THE PROWLER is a notably classy one; in an era where slasher movies and electronic/early synth scores went knife-wielding hand-in-knife-wielding hand, and in fact Einhorn’s previous scores were indeed nearly all electronic. His music for THE PROWLER is quite a classy one, created mostly with acoustic orchestral instruments – strings, winds, brass – with electronics used sparingly and only to enhance certain stings or scary moments. Howlin’ Wolf’s limited pressing features the complete score in 35 tracks, including ten that are alternate takes or wild tracks. It’s an eerie, chilling score, made all the more potent by the live ensemble. Aside from a comforting melodic cue, “Mark & Pam,” (the album opens with an unused variation of this cue, and a 1983 stereo mix is offered among the extra tracks), the music’s primary intention is to enhance the film’s fear factor; on the soundtrack album, this translates into scaring the listener, to make them feel uneasy with the impending danger carried by the film. Einhorn’s score provides this in spades, with lots of tentative, fear-provoking cues for close-calls and actual kills. Einhorn builds suspense and anticipated danger through incursions of moaning brass (“Pam Walks Back to the Dorm”), emphasizes fear and fright through shrieking string lines, with rapid-fire piano arpeggios and rolling drums matching running feet, and high-register trumpet cries mimicking horrified shrieks while energizing Pam’s attempts to escape from the killer (“Pam Chased,” “Pam Stalked”), evoking pure horror through massively-integrated dissonance of brass, strings, drums and metal percussion (“How’s That Grab Ya?” and the wild array of raging textures that is “Killer Kicks/Lisa Swims/Pool Of Blood”). There’s a lot of this all through the score, and it’s a superlative example of an intricately-wrought acoustic horror score – something of a rarity in 1981! Eagerly recommended. The package includes thorough liner notes by the CD’s audio assembler Ian Zapczynski, which includes both an in-depth interview with Einhorn about scoring THE PROWLER and intriguing details on how the score was assembled and mastered for this package. For more details, sample tracks, or to order, see Howlin’Wolf.
A QUIET PLACE PART II/Marco Beltrami/La-La Land – CD + digital Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprise their roles from the first film, with Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou joining the cast. Composer Mario Beltrami returns to give the new film its score having composed the music for the 2018 original film (see my interview with Marco about scoring A QUIET PLACE in my April 2018 Soundtrax column). The music for A QUIET PLACE II follows on that of the first film, where most of Earth’s human population has been annihilated by blind creatures with hypersensitive hearing that attack anything that makes noise. “From The Beginning” echoes the measured foghorn-like bleat associated with the creatures from the first movie, pretty much inaugurating a palpable tension from the word go. Beltrami also quickly reprises the family theme (“A Quiet Family”) that was such an important part of the first movie with “Family Ties,” which remains a delicate piano motive over a tense synth pad, opening into full eloquence for string choir, remembering better, safer, and noisier times, before resuming the opening trepidation from piano and back to strings. The theme also surfaces as the family, short of their father Lee who was lost to the monsters in the first movie, struggles to stay beyond the target of the creatures (“Regan On Her Own” incorporates family theme for tentative violin, as does “Emmet’s Realizations” later in the film). “Leaving The Farm” is a delicate, emotive, and somewhat melancholy tune heard as the surviving three, Evelyn, deaf daughter Regan, and son Marcus, departs to search for any human communities left, while “Watch Us Run” lays down some seriously urgent chase music, with drums, strings, and blares of brass impelling a quick escape. “Moving In” provides a bit of tension as Emmett, a family friend of Lee, takes them to his bunker, where he’s managed to survive. “You Scream You Die” exudes extreme tension with its low strings, brooding synths, pulsating percussion, wavering low strings, and clusters of percussion and drums that becomes a racing heartbeat; “Entering The Station” is pure effective dread, a perfect nightmarish blend of anxious fear and tension, culminating in an increasing throb that gets faster/races closer, and leaves the listener sweating and shaking. “Encouraging Feedback” provides a pleasing denouement that offers a soothing resolution, which is carried into the conclusive “A Grateful Family.” Very much a potent and affecting survival horror score, Beltrami once again carries the listener into, and then out of, a frightening world of monster menace and hazardous horror back into the warm light of day. The CD version (limited to 2,000 copies) is now available to order from the La-La Land Records’ website, with a digital version expected to be released on May 28.
SECRETS OF THE WHALES/Raphaelle Thibaut/Hollywood Records – digital
This Disney+/NatGeo nature docuseries (now streaming) features a beautifully crafted original score by French composer Raphaelle Thibaut who has always been fascinated by the “singing” of whales, and used a hybrid of strings and Omnisphere synths to make parts of the score sound like the whales’ “oceansong” itself. Additionally, she was was partly influenced by composer Éric Serra’s score to the 1988 Luc Besson film LE GRAND BLEU. Commenting on her score Thibaut said, “Music is very often thought of as a man-made thing, but the series has taught me that music is actually all around, especially in nature, especially around the whales. To me, it was like creating music out of the ultimate original music, the whales singing, the waves crashing. I used rolls and cymbals to illustrate the waves, and lush strings to illustrate the majestic movements with these huge animals. And I did it almost instinctively, I believe because of our deep connection with them.”
Filmed over three years in 24 locations, throughout this epic journey we learn that whales are far more complex and more like us than ever imagined. The four-episode series covers families of orcas, humpbacks, belugas, and sperm whales, exploring the habitats, habits, unique whale clan cultures of these sentient creatures, and their prospects for survival. Thibaut’s score for these fascinating cetaceans is as flowing and balletic as one might expect in melodic orchestral cues like “Orca Dynasty,” “Family Secrets,” and the resplendent “Ocean Giants,” the grandly flowing “Summer Spectacle,” the delicate beauty of “The Narwhal is Alive,” a journey from pianistic, drum-driven confusion into gentle, serene confidence in “Underwater Maze,” the evocative and immersive poignancy of “The Unbreakable Bond.” But there are also some intriguing and progressive nuances such as the light percussion, heavy tympani, and delicate piano that accompanies “Humpback Songs,” the delicate “Bubble Rings,” the violin/pianistic “Majestic Dances,” its soft measures broken by a powerful fully orchestral swell midway through, the powerful, drum-driven “Beluga Kingdom,” the lofty paean to the power of ocean waters in “Busy Waters,” the playful and inventively orchestrated humoresque of “Nap Time” and the equally cheerful “Sperm Whales Clicks” which takes a turn toward “Dangerous Journey” near its latter construct, the dour, digital sound design indictment of “Human Debris,” and the severely chaotic and near-horrific turbulance at the end of “The Grandmother’s Playbook.”
The music is deliberately built around behavior patterns of these various whale species and largely sprouted off of the root structures found in the main theme, from the success stories followed by the documentarians (a juvenile sperm whale named “Hope,” member of a twenty-family clan whose survivability will depend on Hope’s reaching adulthood and establishing her own family) as well as the sad stories, like “The Mourning Mother” orca who lost her baby, and the ferocious musical structures and sonic effects tangled up in “A Dangerous Journey” as a mother beluga is trapped in shallows, her baby separated and alone in the deeper water, while a polar bear nears. In her score, Thibaut captures the marvel, elegance, grandiosity, intelligence, weight, and gentleness of these massive creatures who share our earth, both in her music and in the clarity of meaning that the film and its score represents.
SPACE TRUCKERS/Colin Towns/MovieScore Media –
digital, Quartet Records – CD The music from Colin Towns (THE HAUNTING OF JULIA, THE PUPPET MASTERS, RAWHEAD REX) is finally available from the original score to the 1996 science fiction comedy SPACE TRUCKERS, directed by Stuart Gordon and starring Dennis Hopper, Stephen Dorff, Debi Mazar, and Charles Dance (Gordon regular Barbara Crampton, has a marvelous cameo as Mazar’s mom at the end of the movie). The film is about John Canyon (Hopper), one of the last independent space transport entrepreneurs. Bad times have forced him to carry suspicious cargo to Earth without asking questions. During the flight, the cargo turns out to be a multitude of virtually unstoppable killer robots. This is a fun, low-budget but high-quality science fiction comedy. Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, DOLLS, ROBOT JOX) gives it a fine stylistic flavor; filmed in Ireland with a variety of small special effects houses, the effects are noticeably low-budget but they are acceptable within the production’s sense of fun and energy. Colin Towns turns in a lively and likable score while providing a relatively large orchestral sound (recording with the Munich Symphony Orchestra) that fits the outer space setting. In addition, the film’s “futuristic space trucker” concept also meant a degree of country and western sounds, which were added in Towns’ studio via piano and synth keyboards, and of course some inventive musical humor is incorporated such as the operatic arias spread through the country twang of “Do You Mind?” “Passenger Liner” is an exciting mix of alien space danger and Dimitri Tiomkin orchestral Western music. The two-part “Heading for the Scumcluster” cue presents some very good orchestral and electronic horror music, while “Security Standdown” is a fine tension builder. The 5:30 closer, “Froze Me, Freed Me, Here I Am!” is a captivating suite of aggressive space battle music all on its own, and Phil Todd’s saxophone playing in “Martian Moons” gives the awkward love scene between Mazar and a cybernetically-enhanced Charles Dance a particularly wicked taste. It’s a shame the film wasn’t more of a success, since it’s well-directed, has a great cast really enjoying themselves, and is a lot of fun. Many thanks to MSM and Quartet for rescuing this fine, fun score from oblivion!
For the CD, see Quartet; for the digital, see MovieScore Media.
Listen to the SPACE Trucker’s opening track:
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD/Brian Tyler/WaterTower Music - digital Brian Tyler’s score for New Line Cinema’s thriller THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, directed by Taylor Sheridan and starring Angelina Jolie as Hannah, a smokejumper still reeling from the loss of three lives she failed to save from a fire when she comes across a traumatized 12-year-old boy with nowhere else to turn. Tyler rejoins Sheridan after working with him on the TV drama YELLOWSTONE. “Taylor and I discussed how this film has an array of contrasting thematic tones, such as heartbreak, fear, and hope – all of which needed to be reflected in the music,” said Tyler. “The two main characters are lost souls searching for deliverance. Hannah is a prisoner of her own guilt and memory, while Connor is battling a tragic loss. But this is also a story of human versus nature, as well as the evils of mankind, which is all echoed in the score.” Tyler played many of the instruments on the score – cello, the piano solos, all of the percussion, and then, to provide a unique and inspired sound for this film, Tyler did something he’s never done before: “I recorded the sound of a burning cello that I set ablaze with lighter fluid and played the strings until it burned to a point where it made no sound. That recording of the burning cello recurs as a sonic presence throughout the entire score. It pained me to burn a beautiful instrument like that, but I like to think that that particular cello was sacrificed for a good cause.” [Hear it most clearly in the track “A Burning Cello.”] This large orchestral score is very pleasing in its instrumentation and its emotional interaction with characters and story; it as much draws the listener in and immerses them in its musical development as it does with the audience watching the film.
The score is built around a powerful main theme, which bookends the soundtrack album while also being pleasingly laced through many of the tracks in between. The score is a feast for the ears, with a very engaging thematic structure and thoroughly stimulating orchestral maneuvers throughout nearly all the tracks; it carries the emotional weight of the storyline and builds from that very effectively. “Opus,” a particularly engaging piece, both energetic and thoughtful, introducing its own compelling motif during its second third, while “Lament” provides a powerful reflective resonance. That resonance gives the score much of its soul, running like a river across the soundscape with elongated, sustained orchestral movements which, for example in “Embers,” become disturbed by incursions of sound that interrupt the musical flow and incite uneasiness. “Glimmer of Hope” is a welcome respite via engaging strokes of violins until it regains the flowing measure, which continues to emanate purposely throughout the score. With “The Love of A Father” Tyler introduces a brief three-note horn motif which is associated with the assassins who are identified with the film’s title; the conflict now is between Angelina Jolie’s wilderness firefighter, protecting the teenage boy who witnessed the assassins at their work—both associated with the flowing musical structures—and the more abrupt motif for the pair of killers. Tyler will offset and play against both of these themes as the score progresses, while recognizing the third party to this story—the wildfire—with “A Burning Cello” and other musical treatments. As the score motors to its climax through tracks like “Zero Sum Game,” the respite of “The Calm Inside the Storm,” and the apotheosis of the 7-minute “Ultimatum,” Tyler will thematically play tension, endurance, jeopardy, and finally explosive culmination to a welcome resolution, with the main theme reprised for an affecting flow through its finale. The journey taken by the score on the album, as in the film, is engrossing and satisfying, and this soundtrack is definitely recommended.
Watch the Scoring Session video from Tyler’s YouTube page:
VAN HELSING/Rich Walters/MovieScore Media – digital Coinciding with the launch of the fifth and final season of the Syfy original series VAN HELSING, MovieScore Media releases over an hour’s worth of music from the show’s history, composed by Rich Walters (OLYMPUS). The series is set in the near future, where vampires have risen and taken control. Vanessa Van Helsing, distant relative of famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, is resurrected only to find that she is humanity’s last hope, as her unique blood composition gives her the ability to turn vampires human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires. “VAN HELSING spanned 65 episodes which has given me the musical opportunity to explore many traditional and contemporary musical foundations,” recalled Walters. “From the quiet beginnings in the isolated hospital to traveling back in time into Transylvania, the musical palette, like the vast character and location storylines, evolved alongside all of these. At the core of it all is the journey through evil & good. The music reflected all of these situations from very simple, quiet, and delicate emotional scenes of loss, love, and successes to massive set battle sequences between humans, vampires and other worldly entities.” The series has no main title music, so the album opens with the tense “Renfield House,” a throbbing bit of percussive worry beneath a cloud of suspended synth pads. “Hellish Beast” starts the vampiric action going, as its title might suggest. The 25 tracks provide a wide variety and a lot of persuasive music which is aggressive (“Summoning the Dark One,” “Julius Kills Scab”), suspenseful (“Daywalkers”), haunting (“Ritual”), reassuring (“Jack Is Alive,” “Carpe Noctis”) exciting (“Opening a Portal”), pensive (“Storming the Castle”), heroic (“You Are The Light”), and much more. It’s mostly electronic in creation and carries a lot of interesting textural elements. The selection of tracks provides the best assembly of music from the series and is a most welcome compilation of the show’s music.
Listen to the track: “Renfield House:”
STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH, a spin-off of animated series THE CLONE WARS focused on the elite, eccentric members of Clone Force 99, has debuted on Disney+. The first season contains 16 episodes, and all are composed by Kevin Kiner (who scored THE CLONE WARS series as well as STAR WARS: REBELS), and he definitely continues to keep the STAR WARS musical tradition as he scores THE BAD BATCH. Kiner originally composed his “Bad Batch Theme” for the final season of THE CLONE WARS, and carries it into the new series.
Related: Read my interview with Kiner on scoring THE CLONE WARS an REBELS in my April/May 2020 Soundtrax column – rdl.
Listen to Kiner’s rousing “Enter the Bad Batch” (from STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH/score):
Nicholas Britell, fresh from his encounter with the dalmatian capturer in Disney’s CRUELLA (see review, above), is now set to score Disney’s THE LION KING 2 (with Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams) and has scored the Amazon limited series THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and Adam McKay’s comedy DON’T LOOK UP for Netflix. He also continues to score the McKay-produced HBO series SUCCESSION (returning for its third season).
Spanish composer Roque Baños returns to the world of DON’T BREATHE, having scored the original 2016 film for director Fede Alvarez. The sequel film is written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, with the latter directing. Sayagues had served as writer on Alvarez’ EVIL DEAD remake, along with the first DON’T BREATHE, and this new film is his directorial debut. The sequel is set in the years following the initial deadly home invasion, where the Blind Man, Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), has been hiding for several years in an isolated cabin. He has adopted and raised a young woman who was orphaned in a fire. Her quiet life is shattered when a group of criminals kidnap the girl, forcing the Blind Man to leave his shelter to save her. Baños also scored Fede Alvarez’ previous films, EVIL DEAD remake, DON’T BREATHE, and 2018’s THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. The film is set for release on August 13, 2021.
David (‘Dah – veed’) Murillo R. is an award-winning Colombian film composer and triple-platinum music producer. His composing work has recently included two notable projects: The first two seasons of the Netflix International hit, WHO KILLED SARA?, The series stars Manolo Cardona as Álex Guzmán, a man convicted for the murder of his sister, a crime that he did not commit; released from prison after eighteen years, he swears to take down Sara’s true killer, only to discover that everyone is a suspect. Season 2’s 8 episodes premieres this month. The second project is Sony’s upcoming BLAST BEAT, the debut feature of director Esteban Arango. This film follows the difficulties a family faces after emigrating from Colombia to the USA in 1999, as brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias), a metalhead science prodigy and his aimless younger brother, struggle to align the American Dream with their new reality. The film was released on May 21, 2021 by Vertical Entertainment after receiving acclaim at Sundance in 2020, where the score was praised as a “moody electronic score [that] exalts the contrasts between them on a sonic level” (The Wrap) as well as highlighting the “raw and visceral charge [of the] original score to pump up the youth-driven energy” of the film (The Hollywood Reporter). For more information, see the composer’s website here.
MovieScore Media has released several new and notable soundtracks in late April and May: Timothy Williams and Kieran Kiely composed the Celtic-flavored soundtrack to Roadside Attractions’ romantic dramedy, FINDING YOU, coinciding with the film’s United States exclusive theatrical release on May 14. The film, set in Ireland, is about a young violinist from New York who struggles to put her heart into the music she’s playing; an old fiddler starts working with her and she finds the joy and soul in her music. Ariel Blumenthal’s score for PAPER SPIDERS follows the shifting dynamics between the comically eccentric mother-daughter relationship of Dawn (Lily Taylor) and Melanie (Stefania LaVie Owen), whose bond has grown even stronger following the passing of Melanie’s father – but their lives get disrupted by a menacing neighbor hellbent on tormenting Dawn. Set and filmed in the islands of Thailand DEATH OF ME is the latest film directed by contemporary cult horror icon Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II, REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA). In this film, Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth play a couple vacationing in Thailand whose trip takes a dark turn when they must discover the mystery behind a strange video that shows one of them killing the other; the strange hunt for answers is underscored by the ominous, ethnically-charged horror score by Mark Sayfritz, featuring extensive vocal work by Thai singer Yanin Bandhaya. Finally, MSM presents the original score from the 2020 animated short THE CLOUDMAKER, by Dutch composer Matthijs Kieboom. The story follows the charismatic Hipólito, who lives high up in the sky and transforms clouds into wondrous figures. In order to return to his true love on earth, he first has to find a worthy successor. THE OPERATIVE was composed by Frank Ilfman for the 2019 action feature film directed by Yuval Adler and starring Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman and Cas Anvar. Ilfman used some old, un-tuned synthesizers that to provide “almost a live flowing texture to the large and heavy low based orchestra,” he said. “We used an 80 piece orchestra with a large string section with extra cellos and basses recorded at Teldex Studios in Berlin to give that extra low end textures to convey the thriller and sense of danger in the film.” He used a solo harp to provide both beautiful and uneasy sounds for Kruger’s character. Matthew James’ score from the 2021 horror feature THE DJINN, about Dulan, a mute boy is trapped in his apartment with a sinister monster when he makes a wish to fulfill his heart’s greatest desire. The score explores delicate innocence, reflection, mourning, and sheer terror. “It was important to the filmmakers to use human voice,” said James, “so I performed vocal and choral work for The Djinn’s main theme that serves as a very crucial juxtaposition to Dylan’s unique situation. This myriad of hymns/chants/whispers were effected and used throughout to cover the wide spectrum of emotions Dylan goes through.” In THE AFFAIR, two ladies are linked by a lifelong relationship and an exceptional house built by an architect for one of them in the early 1930s. Polish composer Antoni Komasa-?azarkiewicz builds tension between the timelessness of the main artifact – the house, a building with a personality of its own – and its ever changing inhabitants. “The music needed a beating heart and a human soul,” said the composer. “The first element was provided by the string orchestra, the second – by the sound of solo cello.” (See also Reviews above, and Documentary Score News below)
For more information, including sample tracks, see MovieScoreMedia.
DES is Sarah Warne’s third TV soundtrack album release on Silva Screen Records. Previously released on Silva Screen were DARK MONEY broadcast in 2019 on BBC One and HUMANS Series 2 & 3, broadcast during 2018 and 2019 on Channel 4. DES is a British three-part television drama miniseries, based on real life events: the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who murdered over fifteen young men and boys in London over a period of five years. David Tennant (DOCTOR WHO, GOOD OMENS) gives an award-winning performance as Dennis Nilsen; the series co-stars Daniel Mays and Jason Watkins. The three-part series, which focuses on Nilsen’s capture and subsequent trial, is based on the book Killing For Company by Brian Masters. The series premiered on ITV, UK on 14 September 2020 on. On 16th March 2021 the series was released on DVD and Blue-ray in the US. Gently moving through a body of chords and punctuated by tenderly distorted piano, percussion and floating string fragments, Sarah Warne’s score provides a cold and meditative space for Nilsen’s character to unravel. Sarah is a Film and Arts Composer and multi-instrumentalist based in London. Trained as a classical harpist and pianist, and as a composer Sarah specializes in the blending of acoustic instruments with unique electronic signatures. For details or to order, see SilvaScreenUS or SilvaScreenUK.
Composer Brian Tyler has been tapped to score the upcoming slasher movie sequel, SCREAM. The fifth installment in the horror franchise is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett; it stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Marley Shelton who reprise their roles from the first four movies. They are joined by new cast members Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ben Ammar and Kyle Gallner. Tyler previously scored Bettinelli-Olpin’s and Gillett’s last feature, READY OR NOT. Marco Beltrami has composed the music for the first four SCREAM movies directed by Wes Craven. The new SCREAM movie is slated for release in theaters on January 14, 2022. In other news, Tyler and composer John Carey have returned to compose the score for the upcoming horror sequel ESCAPE ROOM 2, having jointly scored the original film. Directed by Adam Robitel (INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN), stars Taylor Russell and Logan Miller from the 2019 film are joined by Isabelle Fuhrman, Thomas Cocquerel, and Holland Roden for the new movie. After numerous scheduled release dates were changed multiple times, from April 2020 all the way to January 2022, ESCAPE ROOM 2 is now set to be released in theaters nationwide on July 16, 2021 by Sony Pictures. See more details at MusiqueFantastique.
After composing a fistful of short films, several documentaries, and a good few commercials around the world, French composer Alexis Maingaud composed his first feature-length original soundtrack, for Olivier Wright’s debut film PSI in 2017. The following year he was hired by British filmmaker Andrew Desmond to write the music for his 2020 film THE SONATA, featuring Freya Tingley, Simon Abkarian, and Rutger Hauer in a story about a young violinist prodigy in search of her past who inherits a mansion after her long lost father dies under mysterious circumstances. She discovers his last musical masterpiece riddled with cryptic symbols that unravels an evil secret.
Maingaud’s score is a richly engaging work, merging gentle melodies with dramatic and frightening orchestral elements: evocative, haunting violin measures counterpointed by bowing techniques both severe and discomfiting, eerie tonalities and thick, ghostly textures and frightening, dramatic tonalities that built powerful tension and maintain an ongoing, creepy resonance.
The French independent label AOC Production has now released the digital soundtrack.
For more information on the composer, see https://www.alexismaingaud.com
Read Jon Mansell’s detailed interview with Maingaud about scoring this film at MovieMusicInternational
Sample the Score on Soundcloud here
Watch the film’s trailer here:
Notefornote music has released a 24 bit/48k digital soundtrack of Holly Amber Church’s score to BAD IMPULSE, the 2020 thriller directed by Michelle Danner. Starring Sonya Walger, Paul Sorvino, and Grant Bowler, the film follows a suburban husband and father who buys a cutting edge home security system in the aftermath of a traumatic event, only to find that it slowly destroys that which he most wants to protect. See Notefornote. The label has also released the fun and melodic score by Mandy Hoffman and Jamison Hollister for HONESTY WEEKEND, an ensemble relationship comedy about a young couple whose marriage is in crisis, so their therapist prescribes a weekend of total honesty – the same weekend they're going to the country with close friends for a blowout good time. The film can be seen on Amazon Prime; for the digital soundtrack, see Notefornote.
Lakeshore Records has released the original motion picture soundtrack for the RLJE Films family adventure film THE WATER MAN, acclaimed actor David Oyelowo’s directorial debut. The album is comprised of an ethereal original score from Belgian composer Peter Baert, also making a debut with his first composition for a major Hollywood feature. The music of THE WATER MAN is a mix of classical orchestra, piano, percussion, and electronics. Peter felt the score should follow the journey of the main character Gunner, going on quest into the woods to save his ill mother; when David proposed a motherly energy to be present in the music, Peter worked with a vocalist, who has a similar timbre of the mother (Rosario Dawson), and created “The Mother Synth.” Of his musical inspirations, Baert says: “The heartfelt story of THE WATER MAN took me back to two periods in my life. The first reminded me of being in my early teens, always playing in the neighborhood with my friends and going on adventures in a nearby forest. The second transported me back to a day in 2008 when my mom and I found out the diagnosis of her pancreatic cancer. She would be gone in 6 months. At some moment during the composing process the music found me, and it glued to the screen. This beautiful story reflects what I experienced in real life—that it is sometimes better to let go and cherish the time we have, than to hold on at all costs.”
Stream or purchase the soundtrack here https://smarturl.it/waterman
In addition to the two soundtracks reviewed above, La-La Land Records presents a third collection of classic Jerry Goldsmith scores for film and television composed for 20th Century Fox, following up on the first two volumes issued last year, GOLDSMITH AT 20th Vol. 3. Bringing back out-of-print favorites while also debuting previously unreleased music, this collection will feature new authoritative liner notes and unified packaging sure to please avid collectors but also serve as a perfect gateway for listeners experiencing this music for the first time. The playlist includes: THE STRIPPER (the first of Goldsmith’s collaborations with director Franklin J. Schaffner), 1974’s espionage comedy, S*P*Y*S, starring Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland, and directed by Irvin Kershner, plus as a bonus track, the premiere release of “Pacer’s Farewell” from the 1960 western, FLAMING STAR, starring Elvis Presley. This marked Goldsmith’s very first work for the studio. Both previously out-of-print scores return here with all-new art design by Jim Titus and new in-depth liner notes by writer Jeff Bond. The reissue is produced by Mike Matessino and Neil S. Bulk, mastered by Matessino and is limited to 2000 units. The label has also just announced the score by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro to Paramount Pictures’ animated adventure comedy THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN. For this lively animated comic adventure, the composers have created a wildly fun and exciting music score that enriches the film’s bright and colorful charm, its rambunctious action, and its overall hilarity.
Tom Holkenborg’s score for Zach Snyder’s over-the-top zombie heist movie ARMY OF THE DEAD has been released digitally by Milan Records. The film is Holkenborg’s (aka Junkie XL) fifth score for the director, after MAN OF STEEL, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, and both the unused original and the Snyder cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE. The score mixes a family theme for Scott and his daughter Kate (Dave Bautista & Ella Purnell), a wicked zombie romantic theme for alpha zombie leaders Zeus and Athena (Richard Cetrone & Athena Perample), and plenty of horrific, adventurous, and danger music for the heroes’ trek into quarantined Las Vegas to retrieve a cache of money, and a certain other item. Holkenborg is also slated to score ARMY OF THIEVES, an upcoming American romantic comedy heist film which is a prequel to ARMY OF THE DEAD; it is directed by Matthias Schweighöfer and takes place before the events of ARMY OF THE DEAD during the early stages of the zombie outbreak. Holkenborg will also score ARMY OF THE DEAD: LOST VEGAS, an upcoming anime-style spin-off series based on Snyder’s film. Revolving around the early phases of the zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, the series will center on Scott’s (Dave Bautista) origins as well as he and his comrades’ rescue efforts to save mankind. Bautista, Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Tig Notaro, and Omari Hardwick will reprise their respective roles from the feature film for LOST VEGAS. The streaming series will premiere on Netflix.
WaterTower Music presents the soundtrack for the second season of Cinemax’s gritty, action-packed drama WARRIOR. The series was just renewed for a third season on HBO Max. Set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late 19th century, the series follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances. The 27-track WARRIOR: Season 2 original series soundtrack features music from the show by multi-instrumentalist/composer Reza Safinia and award-winning composer and musician H. Scott Salinas. “Season 2 really got into the horrific racism endured by the Chinese community of San Francisco in the 19th century,” described Safinia. “The massacre scene towards the end of season 2 was so moving, and at the same time abhorrent, it pushed me into a very serious place of reflection on the problems this country still faces regarding race, hate, and fear of ‘the other.’ There’s still a lot of ass kicking fun in the show, but for that specific scene the violence was scored with the tragedy of it in mind.” Said Salinas: “It was wonderful collaborating with my old friend Reza Safina on the WARRIOR score which is a whirlwind of guitars, drums, bass and strings, juxtaposed with flying kicks, punches, and street mayhem. With Chinese flavors mixed with hip hop and punk rock sensibilities the score serves up a potent and bold backdrop to this epic period piece inspired by Bruce Lee’s writings.”
Also released from WaterTower Music is Mark Isham’s captivating soundtrack to HBO’s THE NEVERS via digital. Available from Amazon, Apple Music, and other streaming sources, the series is an epic tale following a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world. Isham’s score is a splendid composition, deliciously covering the time period, heroes, villains, and others, and is a beautiful match for the show’s fascinating characterizations.
Listen to Mark Isham’s theme for lead character Amalia True (played by Laura Donnelly):
Lakeshore Records has released HALSTON – Music From the Netflix Series, featuring the original score by Nathan Barr (THE GREAT, CARNIVAL ROW, TRUE BLOOD, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS). The smooth, ’80s-inflected synth score reflects both the sleek outer brilliance as well as the hidden inner conflicts of the ’70s fashion icon. In addition to Barr’s score, the album also includes three original recordings performed by Broadway veteran Krysta Rodriguez, who portrays Liza Minnelli in the series. The five-part limited series is now streaming on Netflix. The digital album is available at these links.
Horror specialist composer and former original Nine Inch Nails member Charlie Clouser (SAW series, RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, CHILDHOOD’S END miniseries) has scored EYE WITHOUT A FACE, a psychological horror/thriller that is a modern take on Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW. The film is written, directed, and produced by Ramin Niami (SHIRIN IN LOVE, PARIS, SOMEWHERE IN THE CITY) and stars Dakota Shapiro, Luke Cook, and Vlada Verevko. The film follows an agoraphobic young man (Shapiro), living with a Youtuber and struggling actor (Cook), who hacks the webcams of young women, and suspects that one of them is a serial killer (Verevko). In a comment posted on twitter on May 13, Clouser revealed that his “score is a claustrophobic all-electronic soundscape of a brain slowly malfunctioning, as usual! [The] tension builds to a startling conclusion.”
Another major horror specialist, Joseph Bishara, will have his latest soundtrack, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT, the third film in THE CONJURING franchise, released May 28th. The film, which stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga who reprise their roles as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, is scheduled for release in the UK on May 28 and in the United States on June 4 by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema. Warner Bros. will also stream the movie simultaneously on the HBO Max service for a period of one month, after which the film will be removed from the service until the normal home media release schedule period. In further Bishara news, Film Music Reporter notes that the composer is rejoining director James Wan on the upcoming original horror thriller MALIGNANT, which stars Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, and George Young. Plot details have not yet been disclosed. The film is scheduled to be released theatrically and on HBO Max in the United States on September 10, also by Warner Bros. under the New Line Cinema banner.
Flying in to stream on Netflix on June 11th is the brand new animated comedy adventure WISH DRAGON – featuring a magical score by composer Philip Klein (THE LAST FULL MEASURE, GROWING UP AND OTHER LIES, MEDIEVAL; also known for orchestrating exciting projects such as RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON, THE MANDALORIAN, and the upcoming JUNGLE CRUISE. To score WISH DRAGON, Klein connected with the story’s central relationship between a son and his mother and the theme of “finding what really matters in life,” using experiences and emotions from his own life to write the heartfelt music at the core of his score. Also inspired by the film’s setting of Shanghai, he workshopped traditional Chinese folk instruments such as the Ruan, Sheng, and Pipa (among others) and plenty of percussion from Chinese drums and gongs – integrating them all into a more Western orchestral score for the perfect fusion of East meets West. The resulting score has plenty of fun, upbeat action music, but at it’s heart a deeply personal and beautiful message of friendship and love.
Varèse Sarabande Records has released a deluxe edition of KNOWING, the 2009 science fiction action drama scored by Marco Beltrami. The film starred Nicolas Cage as an MIT astrophysics professor trying to decipher a prophecy of numbers that eerily predict worldwide disasters. Directed by Alex Proyas (THE CROW), the film features Cage in a race against time with the entire human race at stake. Reuniting with Proyas from I, ROBOT, composer Marco Beltrami provided KNOWING with a powerful score at turns suspenseful, terrifying, pulse-pounding and action-packed. Recorded with a large orchestra in Australia, the score also has poignant emotional moments and a grand scope befitting the film’s apocalyptic implications. KNOWING was released by Varèse Sarabande as a single CD at the time of the film. This 2-CD Deluxe Edition nearly doubles the playing time and features new liner notes by film music journalist Daniel Schweiger incorporating interviews with Beltrami and his collaborators, Buck Sanders and Marcus Trumpp. The label is also releasing an expanded reissue of Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent orchestral score to LIONHEART. Varèse Sarabande’s album producers in 1987 adored this score so much that they released not one but two volumes of vinyl LPs; most, but not all, of the tracks were released on a single CD compilation in 1994. Now, this 2-CD Deluxe Edition presents the complete contents of both LPs, in film sequence, and adds two additional, previously unreleased cues. Because the new cues are sourced from reference material, they are labeled as “bonus tracks” at the end of a shorter-than-expected disc one, so as to remain in chronological order. The new liner notes are by Tim Greiving. (Note: As a result of some errors and omissions in the artwork, the LIONHEART album is estimated to ship approximately June 18th.) For more details see VareseSarabande.
Juanjo Javierre (OFF COURSE TO CHINA, TO HELL WITH THE UGLY, TERROR.APP) has composed the music for ARMUGAN, a fantasy-drama directed by Jo Sol (FAKE ORGASM, THE TAXI THIEF, TATTOO BAR). Synopsis: In a remote valley of the Aragonese Pyrenees the legend of Armugan is told. It is said that he is dedicated to a mysterious and terrible profession, the likes of such that no one dares to speak. They say that Armugan moves through the valleys clinging to the body of Anchel, his faithful servant and together they share the secret of a work as old as life, as terrible as death itself. The soundtrack album is now available via Plaza Mayor Company, Ltd. on Amazon and other digital sources; the music can be sampled on Spotify.
Kronos Records has announced its May soundtrack releases: TATORT: ES LEBE DER KÖNIG (In The Name of the King) by Christoph Blaser who strikes back with yet another stunning, eclectic score, this time for an episode of the German cult TV show; RED YELLOW PINK is a beautiful dramatic score by young talented Polish composer Szymon Szewczyk for this film in which a conflict arises as a strict Roman Catholic mother becomes aware of her son’s sexual orientation; and SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, Frank Ilfman’s latest score, documenting the story of WW2 criminal Albert Speer. All three CDs are limited to 300 copies. For details, see http://kronosrecords.com
Intrada has released a Special Collection edition of Harry Manfredini’s score to the underwater thriller DEEP STAR SIX (1989), one of several underwater thrillers that opened that year, including LEVIATHAN and THE ABYSS. Manfredini deliver shocks with minimal respite, and action highlights abound in this 70-minute score. “Manfredini has several unique orchestration signatures but one in particular is on display here: during action sequences, trumpet parts often go up into the stratosphere!” writes the label, adding that this reissue, courtesy of Studiocanal, while offering modest improvement in remastered audio, features the exact contents and sequence of its original release. http://store.intrada.com/s.nl/it.A/id.12392/.f
Italian composer Marco Werba has released a special private deluxe edition of his score to Dario Argento’s 2009 horror film, GIALLO, starring Adrien Brody and Emmanuelle Seigner. This CD features various movie photos and two bonus tracks (one performed by pianist Claire Delerue, daughter of famous French composer Georges Delerue; the other one performed with the orchestra live during a past ACMF concert held at the St. Cecilia Auditorium in Rome. “The music of GIALLO (“Yellow”), which won three awards, will be presented in remastered integral version,” said Werba. “The CD will not be available in record stores or via the Internet. This will in fact be a limited edition and to have it in your own collection you should contact the composer directly asking for a copy, at my official email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Quartet Records, in collaboration with Solisterrae Music, presents the soundtrack album of a new score by Goya Award-winning composer Pascal Gaigne for the supernatural fantasy drama directed by Igor Legarreta, ILARGI GUZTIAK (2020, Todas las lunas, aka All The Moons). For this story, taking place during the death throes of the last Carlist War, a girl is rescued from an orphanage by a mysterious woman who lives deep in the forest. Wounded and feeling that she is on the verge of death, the little girl will believe that she sees an angel in her, who has come to take her to Heaven. Gaigne provides a large, dark symphonic score, written for full orchestra with subtle electronic designs, where different soloists act as the inner voices of the characters—especially cello, harp and piano. Quartet also offers an expanded CD release of one of Philippe Sarde’s most significant scores for director Claude Sautet, CÉSAR ET ROSALIE. Starring Yves Montand and Romy Schneider as the titular couple, the film is about a most unusual love triangle in which a woman must choose between her artistic ex and her current boyfriend—who may be rich, but is much more boring than her old flame. As the men come to an understanding about the situation, they realize they can be good friends while Rosalie feels conflicted about their growing bond… Sarde’s score is notable for its inclusion of a Moog synthesizer in its propulsive main theme, but the selection also includes a wide variety of cues from a love theme for Rosalie and her two beaus to cool jazz cues representing the ex-husband’s Bohemian lifestyle. Quartet’s first-ever complete presentation of the score includes about 20 minutes of previously unreleased music. Finally, we have a double-header also from Philippe Sarde with two scores from Pierre Granier-Deferre’s films, LE CHAT (1971, The Cat) and LE TRAIN (1973, The Train), both romantic dramas tinged with a bit of a thriller. LE CHAT’s darkly romantic score underlines the unusual relationship perfectly performed by acting legends Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret; this edition contains the premiere release of the complete score. LE TRAIN Romy Schneider and Jean-Louis Trintignant as star-crossed lovers who find true love on board an evacuation train in Northern France during WW2. The original 9-track LP program (previously issued on CD by Universal France in its collection Ecoutez le cinema) is actually the complete score; since it had been devised as a work of 9 movements, the original track list has been preserved for this release.
ABKO Records is releasing a CD edition of Alexandre Desplat’s score for 2020’s THE MIDNIGHT SKY, a post-apocalyptic tale about a scientist in the Arctic (George Clooney) trying to contact a returning spaceship to warn them of a global catastrophe back on Earth. ABKO released the digital soundtrack last December; kudos for offering a CD edition of his fine score.
Blue Underground’s new 4K Blu-Ray edition of the time traveling science fiction movie THE FINAL COUNTDOWN includes a CD of John Scott’s acclaimed score for the film, produced by Screen Archives Entertainment. For details, see SAE.
The latest release from Music Box Records of France is a remastered and expanded CD edition of two Georges Delerue scores: CONSEIL DE FAMILLE (Family Council, 1986) and LE POINT DE MIRE (Focal Point, 1977). The former is directed by Greek-French film director Costa-Gavras, taking a break from the mainstream political thrillers he’s best known for. The film is a comedy for which Delerue delivered a rich and colorful score. His distinctive personal touch can be found in the numerous romantic motifs and themes, although it’s not without its share of tension and suspense. The second film, inspired by Pierre Boulle’s novel, was the first film of the Belgian director and screenwriter Jean-Claude Tramont. Delerue’s score is enriched by themes for both of the main characters, Danielle’s is played on the accordion and is characteristic of the composer’s writing style; while Julien’s theme is entrusted to a transverse flute playing in the low register over violin pads and ethnical percussion. Sprinkled with dissonances, tense strings and light electronic effects, the music also highlights the dark and pessimistic quality of the film. For more details see MusicBox.
Beat Records of Italy has released three new CD soundtracks from Italian films: IL GIRO DEL MONDO DEGLI INNAMORATI DI PEYNET (aka Le Tour Du Monde Des Amoreux De Peynet) features the original score by Alessandro Alessandroni with love theme by Ennio Morricone for a 1974 animated movie directed by Cesare Perfetto. Alessandroni composed a delicious musical score describing through music all of the countries visited by the famous sweethearts, and for the composer it was a real tour-de-force writing themes inspired by the musical traditions of each territory. Morricone wrote a very romantic love theme called “Forse basta (un fiore),’’ which is reprised with numerous instrumental arrangements, including performances by the Cantori Moderni choir. Originally released on vinyl by the Seven Seas label in Japan, it now returns to the market in this complete edition with 38 tracks from the stereo master tapes of the original sessions, for a total duration of 76:10. The label offers a double CD set with the complete score by Piero Piccioni for the movie SO CHE TU SAI CHE IO IO SO (I Know that You Know that I Know), a comedy directed by Alberto Sordi in 1982. Piccioni alternates extremely romantic themes with funky dance music, sometimes with a Latin American flavor, and much more. Beat’s new presentation includes the expanded content issued by GDM Music in 2009 and includes a second CD of unreleased material (total duration 139: 13) using the stereo master tapes from the original recording session. Joining with CF Soundtracks, Beat Records proffers a full CD edition or Armando Trovajoli’s soundtrack for STRAZIAMI, MA DI BACIAMI SAZIAMI (aka Torture Me, but Kill Me with Kisses), an Italian-French comedy directed in 1968 by Dino Risi. The main theme is certainly one of Trovajoli’s most beautiful themes; he reproduces it with many different versions, including a rendition by I Cantori moderne by Alessandroni in a tango style. There is also a beautiful love theme. For more details, see Beat Records.
Decca Records has released the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Bleecker Street and Topic Studios comedy-drama DREAM HORSE, composed by Benjamin Woodgates. Directed by Euros Lyn (DOCTOR WHO), the film tells the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely race horse bred by small town Welsh bartender. With no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to help raise Dream in the hopes he can compete with the racing elites. “Euros was keen to give each race scene its own distinct identity, so each race cue has its own musical flavor and structure, governed by what’s at stake,” explained Woodgates. “Dream Alliance himself is voiced as a solo violin – capricious, un-tamed, brilliant – which vies against the mass of the string orchestra, refusing to yield to its pull. This counterpoint between solo violin and ensemble underpins all the race sequences, through highs and lows, a battling duet, an unrelenting passacaglia, and a barnstorming rondo-finale. One of the film’s key themes is that of giving voice to the unheard; both literally, in the case of Dream Alliance, and more symbolically for Jan and her community. In the early scenes the score lies near-dormant, its step-wise motion punctured only by Jan’s sheer force of will and a faint rumbling of hope. However, as Jan sets out to realize her dream and rekindle a sense of belief in her community, the rumblings intensify and the music’s melodic contours begin to soar.” Noted as an orchestra, conductor, and music director for films and television, DREAM HORSE is Benjamin’s debut feature film score. The digital soundtrack is available on all major streaming platforms, including Apple Music, coinciding with the U.S. theatrical release on May 21, 2021, two weeks before the U.K. release on June 4, 2021.
Hollywood Records/Disney Music Group have released Music from EARTH MOODS, the original Soundtrack from National Geographic’s five-part series for Disney+, featuring score composed and produced by Neil Davidge. EARTH MOODS takes viewers on the ultimate retreat-transporting them to a vast array of colorful and calming corners of the world. On the score, Davidge added, “The filmmakers were keen for each episode to have its own voice so I had to assume different personalities as I was working on them. The choice of instruments is very important in terms of fitting with the various environments, as it dictated the way music would sound. When you’re seeing, images of cities at night with all the lights, you do start thinking of hip-hop beats. For ice, we did a lot of orchestral work, and there are glassy pads and sounds that are used. For the tropical landscapes I used tenor steel drums. I enjoyed taking some of these instruments and trying to play them in a way that wasn’t typical, touching on some of the musical genres, like samba.” All five episodes from EARTH MOODS are now available for streaming. The trailer from the series can be seen here:
From MovieScore Media comes H. Scott Salinas’s original score from the 2021 documentary series SASQUATCH, directed by Joshua Rofé for Hulu, which follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature. “The goal of the score was to take the viewer to that uncomfortable place where you are deep in the forest and it’s getting dark soon and you suddenly don’t want to be there anymore,” said Salinas. “Every sound in the score was carefully curated to have an unnerving quality – percussion made out of leaves being crushed underfoot, a distant and distorted organ, strings slowed down and warbled, pianos played through guitar amps and recorded down a long hallway. The main thematic thrust is an inevitable and prodding chord progression that keeps you on your toes but never really resolves and contains just a hint of backwoods mountain flavors with low and deliberate echoes of bluegrass twang.”
See MovieScore Media.
Composer-Director Stephen Edwards (FEAST, NINJA, RIN-TIN-TIN, SHARK IN VENICE) played dual roles on SYNDROME K, a documentary about the true story about a highly contagious, highly fictitious disease created by three Roman Catholic doctors during the holocaust to hide Jews in a Vatican-affiliated hospital– the idea of catching a deadly disease kept Nazis far away until further steps could be made to save those in need. Edwards actually considered hiring a colleague for SYNDROME K, before making the decision to score this unbelievable true story himself. Good decision. “Since this project took place in World War 2, I was inspired to have a ‘world orchestra’ perform the score,” explained Edwards. “We were able to have cues recorded in Los Angeles, London, Moscow, Prague, Belgrade and Rome. Thematically, I borrowed Haydn’s “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” – which became the German National Anthem – and flipped it into minor mode to represent the Nazis and SS troops in the film. It is also subtly woven into the score to represent our villains. I was lucky enough to have vocalist/composer Lisbeth Scott perform on the score, and her voice is crucial to the “rescue theme” that is heard in later cues. My goal was to musically reflect hope over despair, love and acceptance over hate, and the best of humanity helping one another during one of the darkest periods of human history. “The digital soundtrack is available from MovieScore Media.
Listen to Edwards’ Main Title from Syndrome K:
Will Bates (UNBELIEVABLE, THE MAGICIANS, AWAY, THE LOOMING TOWER) is scoring the upcoming, currently untitled documentary about pop star and business mogul Rihanna. The film is directed by Peter Berg (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, LONE SURVIVOR, DEEPWATER HORIZON) and provides a glimpse into the evolution of one of the world’s most well-known pop artists. The movie will offer private insights into Rihanna’s personality, sense of humor, work ethic, family and love. The documentary is set to premiere later this year on Amazon Prime. – via filmmusicreporter
In Celebration of Star Wars Day 2021, Varèse Sarabande Records is re-issuing the long out-of-print LP THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – Symphonic Suite from the Original Motion Picture Score by Academy Award®-winning composer John Williams. Out of print since 1980, the record is pressed on 180-gram black vinyl and housed in a gatefold jacket featuring the original Star Wars paintings and notes. Available now for pre-order along with two limited exclusive versions: “Ice Planet Hoth Blue” (Vinyl Me Please) and “Imperial Grey Marble” (Newbury Comics). A Canadian exclusive on “Cloud City Orange” will be available only at Sunrise retail shops. Originally released to supplement and not compete with the 2-LP Motion Picture Soundtrack, this 1-LP release skillfully combines a “Symphonic Suite” that John Williams created for concert performance with new arrangements of other cues from the film score. The Empire Strikes Back has become not only one of Williams’ most iconic scores, but one of the most iconic film scores of all time. The LP comes in a gatefold jacket with the original iconic Star Wars paintings by William Stout, images of John Williams, and notes from author Ray Bradbury, composer and critic Christopher Palmer, and from the maestro himself. “The Suite, which I had specially written and adapted for concert performance […] had been skillfully augmented with other music from the film to form a unified whole. A great orchestra and Gerhardt’s opulent sound and dramatic phrasing combine to make a fine addition to a rapidly growing list of great recordings of film music.” – John Williams
Available on July 23rd, click here to pre-order.
Mondo Music, in partnership with Varèse Sarabande, is proud to present the premiere vinyl pressing of Michael Giacchino’s score to the J.J. Abrams threequel, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3. Mondo, having released the first two and sixth vinyl IMF soundtrack so far, continues again this week with a 15th anniversary premiere vinyl pressing of Michael Giacchino’s first go-around with the IMF ... for J.J. Abrams’ directorial debut: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3. While M:I-3 is the third time the series changed filmmakers and composers, this chapter finds our hero Ethan Hunt (producer and star Tom Cruise) attempting to put down roots and, in the process, becomes the seed from which the rest of the beloved series grows. Academy Award®-winning composer (and frequent Abrams collaborator) Giacchino’s take on the franchise finds the score return lovingly to Lalo Schifrin’s brassy and bombastic sensibilities. After the more serious, modern scores of the previous films, Giacchino brings some of the larger-than-life energy of his previous superhero work (SKY HIGH, THE INCREDIBLES) to the IMF, and the series is forever better for it. The disc is pressed on 2x “Rabbit's Foot” colored vinyl (also available on 2x Black vinyl), see Mondo.
Flick Records announces the full, expanded, most comprehensive ever double vinyl soundtrack of Simon Boswell’s SANTA SANGRE featuring four sides, 78 minutes of music including all score, previously unreleased cues, songs performed by cast, and including for the first time ever this release contains all of the music recorded on the set of the film in Mexico City (circus band, street music, barrel organ), PLUS a live performance of Simon’s song “Close Your Eyes” featuring the compelling voice of Mr. Jodorowsky himself! The album has been pressed on Invisible Man See-Thru double crystal vinyl. A free digital download code for 48K 24-bit full quality .wav files is included with every album. Order direct from https://www.simonboswell.com/shop
Mondo has announced the premiere vinyl pressing of Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson’s score to the Netflix phenomenon: COBRA KAI. This 3 disc vinyl set features music from the first 3 seasons of the hit series, curated by the composers into themed collections of music: Disc 1: COBRA KAI - a mix of music scoring the most badass dojo in the Valley, Disc 2: MIYAGI-DO - selections from the music scoring the Laruso family and its ties to the Miyagi legacy, and last but not least Disc 3: FINAL FIGHTS - the music from all three of the explosive season finale episodes. Plus - the Mondo Exclusive colorway comes with a bonus Cassette. All featuring stunning new artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin. As always, all new releases go on sale on Wednesdays at Noon CT at MondoRecordShop.com.
In the PS5 game RETURNAL, composer Bobby Krlic renders a bristling, malevolent soundscape that pairs perfectly with the weaponized planet and the tenacious ASTRA scout who finds herself trapped in the dark heart of a cosmic mystery. Milan has released Krlic’s score to the game, as part of the Digital Deluxe Edition and separately on streaming platforms. Rather than simply replicating the game’s score, the album features a unique set of mixes created especially for the format by Krlic. Best known for his work as The Haxan Cloak, Bobby Krlic brings his experience as an award-winning composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist to RETURNAL, imbuing the score with a gritty and experimental quality that matches the tone of the third-person shooter game. The album marks Krlic’s first-ever video game title as lead composer and follows his critically acclaimed, award-winning scores for director Ari Aster’s MIDSOMMAR, Hulu’s REPRISAL, TNT’s SNOWPIERCER and THE ALIENIST, and more. Developed by Housemarque, RETURNAL is available now for the PS5 console. The streaming/digital soundtrack is available at these links.
Read an interview with Krlic about scoring the game at the Playstation blog website.
Listen to the track “The Crash” from RETURNAL:
When Rik Schaffer composed his score for the video game VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES in 2004, the game became a critical hit, amassing an extremely loyal following that has continued to grow more and more over the years, taking on a life of its own two decades later. Set in the Los Angeles underworld, Schaffer’s melancholy, visceral score navigated various moods through the use of ambient atmospheres, trip hop beats, industrial music, and references to traditional international fare. With hardcore fans identifying with Rik’s music as a key cog to the game’s identity, compositions were continuously added to daily fan playlists, with updated versions and new experiences for the game being created via mods. “1999 to 2003 was the most prolific writing period of my career,” Schaffer said. “During these years I composed hours of original material that would become the score for VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE BLOODLINES. For the first time I’m opening the vaults and releasing ALL of the music I composed during this prolific period of my life. From unused tracks to alternative remixes, and bonus tracks previously only available with the original vinyl album.” After issuing the score for VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE - BLOODLINES in 2019, Sony/Milan Records is now set to release VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES - More Music from the Vault, on June 25th.
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.