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Soundtrax: Episode 2017-2
June 5, 2017

By Randall D. Larson


Featured Interviews:

  • Lorne Balfe: Lego of the Dark Knight: Scoring The Lego Batman Movie
  • Tyler Bates – Upping the Ante with JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2
  • Marco Beltrami – On Gods, Chariots, & Hungry Sharks

Soundtrack Reviews
3 GENERATIONS (Thordson/Lakeshore), A ESMORGA (Montes/Caldera), ALIEN: COVENANT (Kurzel/Milan), BOSCH (Voccia/Varese), EAST OF EDEN etc. [Gerhardt LSO] (Holdridge/BSX), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 (Bates/Marvel), HARLOTS (Rael Jones/Silva Screen), JANE & PAYNE (Goldstein & Tarrab/Quartet), JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK (Kral/La-La Land), LEGEND OF THE LICH LORD (Valenti/Howlin’ Wolf), LIVIDE (Gesqua/Kronos), MOVING ART- WHALES AND DOLPHINS/ANGKOR WAT (Alan Williams/Quinate), PANIC/FITZGERALD (Tyler/Howlin’ Wolf), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (Zanelli/Disney), SEGUIMI (Werba/Kronos), THRILLER (Goldsmith/Tadlow & Silva Screen), WONDER WOMAN (TV - Fox, Kane, etc./La-La Land), WONDER WOMAN/Gregson-Williams/WaterTower


Book, Soundtrack, Vinyl & Game Music News

Apprenticed at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions, Scottish-born composer Lorne Balfe has contributed to such scores as BATMAN BEGINS, THE DA VINCI CODE, TRANSFORMERS 2, INCEPTION, and others; emerging into his own with shared composing credits on MEGAMIND and moving into such A-list movies as IRONCLAD, TERMINATOR: GENISYS, THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, Michael Bay’s 13 HOURS. His score for THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE gives the Dark Knight’s plastic Lego persona a rich orchestral quality in keeping with the character’s big screen blockbusters; other recent scores we discuss here include the TV series THE STORY OF GOD and the feature film CHURCHILL, starring Brian Cox as the iconic British Prime Minster of World War II. Balfe’s most recent score is for the new National Geographic series, GENIUS. Executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the series main title is by Hans Zimmer with Balfe handling the rest of the score. Milan Records has released a soundtrack EP digitally last month. “Music was very important to Einstein,” Balfe said about the GENIUS project. “It was part of his thought process; he used music to distance himself from the problematic equations that he was trying to solve. The distance would then lead to the solutions.”


Q: How did you get involved in the LEGO BATMAN movie?

Lorne Balfe: I got involved with a phone call from the director [Chris McKay]. He had seen 13 HOURS and weirdly enough, - not that it’s a connecting film, with its subject matter – but I think that he liked it. He described LEGO BATMAN as: ABOUT A BOY, the Hugh Grant film, meets Michael Bay! That was my introduction to it, and that’s what made me actually fall quite in love with the concept.  I’ve had the privilege of working on the last three BATMAN films and I thought maybe they wanted a parody or something, but it was the exact opposite of it, really; it was a case that it’s as if this was a sequel to the Batman franchise. So it was to be sometimes taken very, very seriously, and sometimes just a nod to the past.

Q: Once you had that brief from the director, how did you begin to map out where you were going to go with the score and its various ingredients?

Lorne Balfe: The first thing that I wrote was the Robin theme, which I originally wrote in a song format. That ended up being the song “I Found You.” So I began writing that way and gradually moved onto the Batman theme or motif. This was never to picture because the visuals were changing so much – every couple of weeks I’d get updates of different reels and different scenes, so the real writing to picture didn’t start until five months before the recording.  I did a lot of writing in Australia because we were recording there and the film was being made there, so I packed the studio off and moved to Sydney.

Q: How would you describe your motif for Batman?

Lorne Balfe: I would describe it as straight to the point!  Actually, there was a Bruce Wayne theme and there was a Batman theme. Some people will ask “Are you referencing the Tim Burton world?” and it was never that, it was more the Gothic world; it was going back to that world. We wanted more of a motif or a hook rather than going down a long melody; that was the intention with Batman.

Q: One thing you do very well in this score is create this tremendous energy which really brings these little Lego figures to life.

Lorne Balfe: It’s always hard working to animation, because it’s not finished when you have to begin working on it. Sometimes you exert your music prowess a bit too much because there aren’t any colors there and then when it’s finished you start taking things out, because there’s probably too much. But with this, it’s like, when you’re watching it, you stop thinking after ten minutes that you’re watching an animation film, so that’s why with a lot of the action I tried to play it quite serious. I would have written that opening, the first section of “Black” [first cue on the soundtrack album], for any Michael Bay film, because it was deadly serious.

Q: What was unique about this style of Lego animation? Their expressionism is somewhat limited compared to what you’d find in something like PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR –  did you needed to consider that while you were establishing your musical approach?

Lorne Balfe: Weirdly enough, it’s probably the same thing that went on in our heads when we were children, playing with Legos! We would be doing the same commentary and the same rhythms – we were making sounds to try and make a soundtrack [for our play]. When watching it, I would be remembering my memories as a child and the accompaniment I gave to it! So to me the experience was the same as doing a live action, I just stopped thinking of it as animation. Also, every character movement is real in the world of Lego master builders, so you can’t all of a sudden have the character doing some weird yoga move that’s not possible…

Q: That’s not true to the actual Lego pieces…

Lorne Balfe: Yeah. It felt very real to me!

Q: And yet within all of that hyper action and propulsion of the action music you’ve got that theme for Robin and his interaction with Batman and that nuance is there.  How did you interface those themes to comment on some of the more subtle aspects of the storyline?

Lorne Balfe: Again, playing it deadly serious. With [youth-oriented] animation there’s nothing worse than something pointed in the direction of children to make it patronizing, musically. There was a computer game called SKLANDERS that I used to do, and I never, ever wrote children’s music. I felt it was stupid to patronize a child by writing simplistic music, so I always tried to write with an adult point of view, but remembering the fact that we lose our imaginations once we become late teenagers. It just slowly gets removed away from us, and it is that whole kind of WILLY WONKA mentality. So here, for example with the Joker theme, obviously it’s a parody of a genre of music – a mixture of funk and prog-rock and psychedelic musical elements, but to me you could have played that and it could be serious. So it could be light hearted but it’s not slapstick/Looney Tunes styled music.

Q: How would you describe your instrumentation on this score?

Lorne Balfe: Anything goes! The Joker’s accompaniment consists of harpsichord, sitars, slide whistles, pipes of all types. It’s difficult when you’re looking at something that’s plastic; the colors are there but it was all different colors and influences and it was the same with making the score more of a hybrid, because it’s not just an orchestral score, there are also synthetic elements to it, with synths. To give the visual colors the right tone, it was a case of making sure it’s a mixture of organic and electronic.

Q: The tradition these days is that it’s not just you on these things, you’ve got a large team that’s involved with supporting you on this. What was the role of these various people and how did you manage them to cook up, as you say, the final score?

Lorne Balfe: It’s more complicated because it’s kind of a global experience. In one minute you’re in Sydney writing and recording and two days later I’m in London recording Chad Smith from the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers playing drums. And then you’re back in L.A. trying to finish the mix of “Who’s The Batman?” The concept of song and score is always a very difficult concept… writing a score is a solitude experience, but as soon as songs start getting involved it becomes more complicated, and you need a great support team around you because there are drum passes and guitar passes coming left, right, and center. When it comes to the mix, we’re very fortunate of having Steve Lipson mix the score – his background is mainly songs and albums – recently he started working in films – and he’s just amazing at being able to make sure that all these weird colors just fit, sonically, with each other, so that they don’t sound like you’re just having two worlds competing against each other, a rock band and an orchestra.

Q: Not to mention sound effects on top of all that!

Lorne Balfe: Yes! And you know the other thing is that, you start writing based around the sound effects you’ve got, and then two months later they’ve progressed, they’ve gotten better, so you have to readdress that. And then dialogue changes! Somebody said to me a couple of days ago, “well, I thought you would have had more of that theme in that scene,” and I said “Well, yes, there could have been but the thing is we have to write to picture, and that changes the point of view!” So the orchestration and depth of it is always gradually changing, because the picture is changing and the sound effects and the sound design is changing.

Q: You also recently scored the speculative Morgan Freeman documentary THE STORY OF GOD – what kind of music did that entail?

Lorne Balfe: That one was a group effort, through my company, Fourteenth Street. Television is always the most challenging process, I think. You’ve got a shorter window, you’ve got to tell a lot in a small space of time. I personally always find television much harder than film. If you look at television music a while back it used to be mainly stingers and the kind of crossover music to get you from one scene to another, and now television is looking at situations more thematically. Also the way we’re watching television is different now. I worked on a show called THE CROWN last season and people would watch the episodes maybe four or five at a time. So you have to be very aware thematically that you’re staying truthful and honest to that one episode, but since people are now watching it in longer chapters, if you’re thematically doing too much, it wears on the ears.

Q: What kind of music do you need for a story talking about the search for God, which is a pretty heavy concept for a television show?

Lorne Balfe: I think it needs to play in neutral. Again it’s back to the same thing, if you start doing parodies and even angelic textures it becomes a bit of a cliché. So you just have to remind yourself that the story is neutral because it’s about finding the answers and if you play it too religiously you alienate a certain part of the audience that aren’t regarding it as a religious experience.

Q: Now you’ve just finished scoring CHURCHILL, with Brian Cox in the title role. What can you tell me about your score for that film?

Lorne Balfe: It’s a fantastic film. I’m a massive Churchill fan and I’ve always seem to have several copies of the same book of his speeches lying around. Jonathan [Teplitzky], the director, had worked on a TV show called MARCELLA which was on Netflix, and I’d heard about the film and I really wanted to be part of it. Also, when I read the script, I enjoyed it because it wasn’t a parody of Churchill, and Brian Cox’s performance is not the caricature of Churchill that we’re used to – the low tone, drink-obsessed old man. You see somebody who would have sacrificed his life for his country; it’s the type of character that we’ll never, ever get any longer. He fought in the Boer War, and this story takes us up to Dunkirk, and the pride and love that he had for his country and his countrymen/women, that he would have done anything for them. There is a bigger message of his service to his country. So it’s a very quiet score, far quieter than LEGO BATMAN, that’s for sure!  And to make it more intimate, it probably has ten musicians compared to LEGO which I think we probably hit a wall of over a hundred. So it’s a different beast. Weirdly enough, I kind of looked at it more as a love story. There’s a great relationship between him and his wife that seldom ever gets talked about, and his struggle from what he loved, which was his country, so it’s a very quiet but yet emotional score.

Lorne Balfe’s score for CHURCHILL has been released digitally by Filmtrax, and is now available on amazon. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE was released digitally and on CD by WaterTower music.

Special thanks to Beth Krakower of The Krakower Group for facilitating this interview. For more information on the composer, see his web site:



A brief chat about some recent scores.

Q: You scored GODS OF EGYPT for Alex Proyas. How would you describe your music for this large-scale mythological fantasy?

Marco Beltrami: GODS OF EGYPT is a huge score - two hours and 38 minutes of music. It’s a very orchestral score; there are some processed electronic elements but it’s a very traditional, very thematic, action-adventure score.

Q: How did you treat the mythological aspects – the Egyptian gods and the whole quest of the thief in the show?

Marco Beltrami: They all have their own themes. We did do some processed vocal sounds and even used some of the piano sounds from the hill for the underworld [Beltrami and his collaborator Buck Sanders created some unique instruments on the hill outside his Malibu studio; one of which is an outdoor piano which, when recorded during a mild wind, added an open air quality to the instrumental timbre – see this video for some examples], but for the most part it’s a standard orchestral score. It was sort of refreshing to do that. 

Q: Timur Bekmambetov’s new adaptation of BEN-HUR is a film I felt had a lot of merit but didn’t seem to get very fair treatment from viewers or critics when it came out. I felt your main theme was just gorgeous, one of your most emotive melodies. What was the process of developing the theme and keeping it flexible enough to be used in a number of variations across the film?

Marco Beltrami: That was a tough process.  There were a lot of people involved – there were two studios, and we’d have meetings with… I couldn’t even count how many people were there! When I first saw the movie I was envisioning doing it more with period instruments, like ancient Greek instruments, but that got shot down pretty quick – although I did have some musicians who specialized in ancient instruments who came in and played. That theme, it’s a simple theme but I wanted to make it almost like it could be songlike and something that could have the opportunity to develop over the course of the movie. In its final incarnation it was slightly altered from my original concept but more or less intact.

Q: How did you define, musically, the environment and time period in which the story takes place?

Marco Beltrami: In the end, I did wind up using some period instruments but they were processed electronically; the drums on the slave ship, for example; there is also some vocal material in there. And for the scenes in the Hur household, instead of using traditional harp I used a lyre, so there is a little bit of that throughout the score.

Q: How did you treat the film’s massive action set-pieces, the naval battle between the Romans and the Greeks, seen completely from Ben-Hur’s perspective in the slave galley below decks, and the climactic Chariot Race sequence?

Marco Beltrami: The chariot race was tough, because it’s very long. How do you build the momentum and the tension when it starts off and it’s already at level ten? Where do you go from there, how do you carry it on? A lot of what I ended up doing had to deal with changing up the rhythm. Using odd metered rhythms that would keep it unsettled, keep some intrigue for the ear, not relying on full orchestra throughout it, changing the focus of it, picking up on visual cues that could either be natural pauses to the music or ins and outs, so it didn’t become just a wall of music. The naval battle was a similar idea. It’s a lot shorter and had more of an arc to it – so our destination was a lot closer, musically. And there, the fundamental rhythm was already established on screen with the drummer in the slave galley.

Q: The film, being a new adaptation of the original book rather than a remake of the 1959 movie, focuses more than previous versions in its treatment of the book’s biblical elements and the concept of forgiveness. How did you treat these story aspects in your music?

Marco Beltrami: The forgiveness thing was associated with Jesus, so I wanted to represent it musically as something more spiritual. I used these prayer bowls as the basis for the sound, almost like meditative crystal bowls; they’re not associated with Christianity but I thought they supplied a good sound.  It’s almost hypnotic when he appears and the Romans stop attacking and he has this kind of power over them. I thought giving him that sort of a musical presence would associate with that spirit of forgiveness and of being kind.

Q:  I thought THE SHALLOWS was a thoroughly gripping thriller aided immeasurably by its star performance, editing, and its music. Was your first thought, coming into this project, something along the lines of “how do I score a scary shark movie without sounding like JAWS?”

Marco Beltrami: Absolutely! You try to come up with a motive for the shark that is not a rip-off of JAWS, exactly. The director was asking me to keep it sort of guttural and metallic, something animalistic, so over time I developed a motive… at the time we were building these plates to create natural plate reverbs in the studio, and so we had these big 8-foot plates all around, so we’re thinking maybe if we bowed the plates we could get a cool tone out of it and then process the pitch. So we started playing around with that and came up with a signature for the shark.

Q: You worked with Angelina Jolie to score her movie FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER. What was that experience like?

Marco Beltrami: I think that might come out sometime this year. It’s a very textural score, it was tough because it’s not a harmonic or melodic score in a traditional sense. The story is shown through the eyes of a six-year-old Cambodian girl, and it’s been a challenge to channel my inner six year old girl! But Angelina is very creative and she’s made a very personal movie for her, and it was great to be part of that experience.

Q: So what’s next on your agenda that you can talk about?

Marco Beltrami: I’m sort of enjoying not doing too much right now! There’s a couple of things… there’s an AMC show that’s going into its fourth season that I co-score with Brandon Roberts, who actually has worked on all these projects that you’ve mentioned, and then there’s a movie I did for the Dowdle Brothers, called NO ESCAPE, and now they’re filming a 6-part TV show on the incident at Waco, Texas, so that’s coming up. I’m looking forward to that. Buck and I will be working on it. Beyond that, I’m trying to catch a little bit of a breather; it’s been like two years of no break!

The BEN-HUR soundtrack is out on CD from Sony Classical; GODS OF EGYPT from Varese Sarabande. THE SHALLOWS remains unreleased.

For more information and news on Marco Beltrami, see his web site:


While interviewing Tyler Bates about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 for my upcoming book on super hero scores (and GUARDIANS 2 features some marvelous orchestral thematic runs in between its electronica components and “Awesome Mix” songtrack. See my review below), I had the opportunity to ask him about a pair of new action scores:

Q: With JOHN WICK, CHAPTER 2, what opportunities did you have in expanding your score for the first film into the heightened action and activity of the second?

Tyler Bates: I did the two JOHN WICK movies with my friend, Joel J. Richard. We have a unified understanding of the “John Wick” world as director Chad Stihelski sees it. We each bring ideas to the table and provoke each other to do fun and crazy stuff!

In the second JW movie, I wrote more electronic music with unorthodox sounds and musical figures as opposed to the guitar-driven songs and score I did in the first movie. I fired up some of my old synths and also used sounds from my archives that were formatted for old software platforms. There are so many soft synths that emulate this or that classic synth that I sometimes forget how cool and interesting some of the old samples were that I made over the years with my friend, Wolfgang Matthes. They have so much character that it was inspiring to revisit these sounds outside the context they were created for originally. I also used the Native Instruments FM8 a fair amount on this score. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the source sound is by the time I bit-crush and mutilate the sounds – I’m just making sonic chaos! Joel and I both play tons of guitar on the JOHN WICK scores.

Q: Your sonic palette of guitars, drums, voice, and electronics gives the film quite a modern, contemporary edge. How did you bring all of this together to support the direction you wanted the score to go?

Tyler Bates: Chad is really great to work with. His energy is very intense and positive, and he loves rock music, especially. He speaks of JOHN WICK as a mythological character in a graphic novel, so that inspires us to have fun and create a sound that is unique to JOHN WICK but imbued with a timeless quality. There are some traditional instrumentation in the score – we allude to the Russians from the first movie and the Italians in the second one with various culturally specific instruments and vocals. In the second JOHN WICK film, a fight takes place in a museum. Joel had an idea that we should experiment with operatic vocal gestures backed by classical-inspired music that’s driven with rock guitars and electronic drums. That worked out really well and, in turn, inspired synth work that has a choral quality to it throughout the score. In healthy collaborations, one thing leads to the next, which is the case when Joel and I work together. It’s interesting to open your vision for a score to the voice and perspective of another musical collaborator. It gives me fresh perspective on the projects I do solely by myself.

Q: While working with one of the JOHN WICK co-directors on CHAPTER 2, you worked with the other one on ATOMIC BLONDE (formerly THE COLDEST CITY). How did your experience working with them as a co-directing team pave the way for what you are doing with them individually on these new films?

Tyler Bates: Chad Stahelksi and David Leitch are both the kind of people you want to work with because they want everyone on their crew to be successful in their task. This mindset is probably related to their long careers as fight trainers and stunt coordinators that do the dangerous dirty work on movies. Composing is very demanding work and every project requires a long stretch of time that a composer is deeply involved with the movie, so I aim to find directors who challenge and inspire me and who are doing fun and interesting projects that I enjoy.

I came to know both David and Chad through working on the first JOHN WICK film. We developed a great working relationship. Having already worked with David Leitch going into ATOMIC BLONDE made our collaboration a really enjoyable experience because we were comfortable with each other personally, and Dave knew my taste and sensibilities well enough to communicate the feeling of the music he was looking to score ATOMIC BLONDE. Dave also knew my songwriting and producer side, so he asked me to record and produce songs with HEALTH and Marilyn Manson for the movie, which is work that I absolutely love to do.

Q: How did you treat the story arc of the titular character in ATOMIC BLONDE?

Tyler Bates: The score began with demo sketches I shared with Dave while he was in pre-production, which I didn’t expect to become the final score. But Dave and the editor, Elísabet [Ronaldsdóttir] were cutting the picture to my demos and they liked the sound of it. The score is minimalist compared to much of my work, which is a welcome change, especially because the film is so strong that the motive of the score is more subversive or understated than many movies I have done. Obviously, the arrangements evolved with the picture, but the DNA of the score lives in the initial sketches that were recorded into my iPhone and the first synth sketches I delivered to editorial. I find it to be a much more rewarding experience as a composer when your final score is culled completely from your initial original ideas specific to the project you are writing for.

Q: You alluded to the style that he’s used in this film – how did that stylization affect where you were going musically and what kind of accompanying stylisms did that suggest in your music?

Tyler Bates: The songs, the clothes, and the environment, clearly contextualize the film in the late 1980’s, which allows the score to be more impressionistic than literal in serving the film. The score definitely gives a nod to the 80’s, but it’s also aesthetically modern. I wanted to avoid creating a score that feels like other recent ‘80s-like scores that have been done for either TV shows or movies, so it was a matter of “Ok, what can we do that is cool but maybe not do what’s happening in this show or in this movie?” Limitations often breed creativity. In this case, my task was to create a score that effectively underscored quiet tense moments, while the songs typically underscored the significant action sequences, while framing the story in a modern impression of the late 1980’s. It was pretty tricky, I have to say.

Q. Last year you worked with James Gunn on THE BELKO EXPERIMENT. This score is much darker, edgier, and electronic. What elements of the story were you focusing on as central to your musical design?

Tyler Bates: Greg McLean directed the film, and James wrote and produced it. The creative process of creating the score and producing the songs was primarily between Greg and myself. That movie takes place in a contained environment - a very generic office building, which doesn’t necessarily give a composer much visual atmosphere to work from. If you’re doing a horror movie and it takes place in a cellar where there’s a grimy quality to the space it’s a bit easier to see potential musical ideas that may work in that space. There’s an aspect to the music that’s not unlike an industrial movie, buried inside the arpeggiating electronic pulse that drives the action in BELKO. Uncomfortable textures permeate the atmospheric spaces in the movie, similar to DAWN OF THE DEAD. My goal was to find a way to immerse the audience in the physical environment and make us feel uncomfortable or off-kilter, without being too over-the-top – at least until the story starts to really unravel. Then, all bets are off! By the third act, the music is pretty insane! At this point, I wanted to sonically agitate the audience more and more as the characters started to lose their shit and became unhinged. The situation this film’s characters are placed in forces them to defy everything they think they are as people in everyday life.

Greg emphasized underscoring the very dark humor in the film, so that aspect was integral to my approach to the score. This film is ridiculously violent and insane, but it is a reflection of a facet of our world right now. So the music needed to underscore that aspect of the insanity that is becoming commonplace throughout the world.

At the eleventh hour, there was a need to record and produce a few famous American pop songs, arranged and performed in Spanish. That all happened very, very quickly, because there were limited resources and very little time. Justin Moshkevich handled the language translations and also connected us to great Latin artists to record the songs. We produced the music together but it wouldn’t have come together in such a narrow timeframe without Justin’s great talent, hard work, and connections.

Q: I really like the two versions of “California Dreaming” that are on the soundtrack album. Those are both really cool, especially the thrash oriented “California Bleeding” which closes the album.

Tyler Bates: That was something else! Gilberto Cerezo, of the band Kinky, sang his ass off on that track. My good friend, Dave Lombardo who currently plays drums for Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Cross (formerly of Slayer) played drums on it; Rani Sharone played bass, and I played guitar. The track was recorded live. That was super fun – it’s pretty trashy, but I love it!

Q: You’ve also been scoring the TV series SALEM. How have you treated the historical period and locale and the provocative use of witchcraft in this fantasy-drama?

Tyler Bates: There’s nothing historically specific that inspired the music. The show needed to be roughed up a little bit, so I applied a fair share of discordant sounds and violent percussion in the first season. The second season was more about intertwined relationships and romance, so the music needed to be more thematic and more musical than the first season. The third season was fun and crazy. Marilyn Manson joined the cast in the third season. Since we work together on a regular basis I joked with him that I was going to score his scenes with a slide whistle [laughs]. Working with Brannan Braga [co-creator] was fantastic. He too is a collaborator who encourages the people around him to do something that excites them. He made it a great deal of fun to work on that show, and I’m sad to see it coming to an end.

Q: You’re involved in various aspects of music, from your film and TV scoring to touring with Marilyn Manson. How do you keep all of that together?

Tyler Bates: I try to create experiences in life that are going to inspire me to write music – not because I have an assignment or a deadline, but because I’ve been somewhere or I’ve done something that keeps me excited about music. Manson and I just finished another record which will be released this year. I tour with him as a lead guitar player – and that experience of playing the music we wrote for thousands of people each night fires me up to get back into the studio and write for film and television projects with great collaborators. If I were to never leave my studio I think I would just go completely nuts. My schedule is pretty exhausting, but I am inspired by the many experiences I have that bring new perspectives on how I think, feel, and relate music.

Back Lot Music will release Bates’s score to ATOMIC BLONDE, although a date has not yet been announced. Varese Sarabande has released JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2, and THE BELKO EXPERIMENT is out on CD from Lakeshore.

For more information and news on Tyler Bates, see his web site:

New & Notable Soundtracks in Review

3 GENERATIONS/West Dylan Thordson/Lakeshore - digital
West Dylan Thordson is a composer from the Twin Cities who first rose to prominence when M. Night Shyamalan featured his cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in the film LADY IN THE WATER. West has been on an upward climb ever since - composing music for all of the episodes of HBO’s THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST, and recent credits include David O. Russell’s JOY, which I have not seen nor heard, but I was very impressed by his powerful and grungy horror score for Shyamalan’s SPLIT (available digitally from Back Lot Music). 3 GENERATIONS is a touching drama about three generations of a family living under one roof in New York as they deal with the gender-changing transformation by one that ultimately affects them all. The film is powerfully cast, with Elle Fanning as transitioning Ray, Naomi Watts as mother Maggie, and Susan Sarandon as lesbian grandmother Dolly as the titular trio, and Thordson’s music remains appropriately unobtrusive in gently supporting their performances. His musical palette is the fairly standard grouping of piano(s), synths, and cello – but with this ensemble Thordson gives the film a heartfelt underpinning that works in its favor and also provides a warm, almost soothing listen on its own. The composer favors minimal variations on his tonal “Family Theme,” but it focuses so well on serving as the harmonic, aural connection between the threesome that it doesn’t really seem repetitious in any way. The score is colored in grey hues dappled by bright sparkles of color, intrinsically linked to the emotional bearing of each of the three central characters and accompanies them individually and collectively on their journal through the story. The piano(s), especially, are very close miked and often highly reverbed, lending a profound texture and set in spacial contrast in relation to the often further-away flavors of the supporting keyboards which is very pleasing.

A ESMORGA/Zeltia Montes/Caldera - CD
Based on a famous 1959 book in the Galician Language of northwestern Spain, A ESMORGA (2014) tell the tale of three struggling men during 24 hours in which they roam through the city, visit the pubs and brothels, before they meet a tragic end. Previously filmed in 1977 and, for Spanish television, 1997, this 2014 film is reportedly the first made with Galician actors. The music of composer Zeltia Montes was written for solo piano, noted for her score to the award-winning 2016 documentary FRÁGIL EQUILIBRIO. The A ESMORGA score’s cheerless austerity gives it a striking presence through the deliberate, unhurried notes, performed by the composer herself, which conveys an acute sense of intimacy to the film. Montes “delivers three key themes which are not only memorable in themselves but also receive several variations throughout the melancholy, minimalist score, which is Montes’ most personal of all her works,” writes the label on their web site. The music achieves a level of despondency and fatalism that becomes increasingly palpable as the protagonists lose themselves in a binge of alcohol, brawls, cheap sex, and murder as they obstinately make their way toward their own perdition.  The music lays a weighty, almost desultory hopelessness as the film winds down the final 24 hours of these men’s lives, accompanied by Montes’s sad epitaph – which becomes a woeful tone poem for despair. The album concludes, as it Caldera’s tradition, with a 12-minute audio commentary about the score by the composer.
For more details, see caldera

ALIEN: COVENANT/Jed Kurzel/Milan – CD & digital
Australian composer Jed Kurzel has leapt into stardom with his recent scores for his brother Justin’s feature films MACBETH, THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS, and ASSASSIN’S CREED (not to mention his creepy score for Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK, still waiting for a proper CD soundtrack), which led to his being chosen to score Ridley Scott’s return to the his ALIEN franchise with ALIEN: COVENANT, a sequel to the director’s PROMETHEUS (and both are prequels to ALIEN). His music is much more interesting than the lackluster and noisy ASSASSIN’S CREED; he presents some industrial cacophonies and pretty workably orchestrated musical sound textures that are potent enough in ramping up the film’s creepiness, suspense, and active scare factor. Kurzel is definitely able to craft together scary standalone soundscapes, though there’s little active adrenalin within its treatment. But what his score really lacks is a unifying thematic thread upon which to hang all of his specially-crafted horror material (the score’s most reflective and thoughtful cues, the effusively elastic and entwining string figures of “Dead Civilization” and “Survivors,” both seem to develop from the structure of Harry Gregson-Williams’s “Life” theme from PROMETHEUS, two cues written by a new composer to enhance Marc Streitenfeld’s fairly flat treatment). While Kurzel does provide an alien motif, a kind of echoey metallic two-note gonging figure introduced in “Incubation,” his score’s most significant and effective moments are due to the inclusion, presumably at Ridley Scott’s direction, of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from the 1979 ALIEN film – both its Echoplex-treated trumpet part, which serves as COVENANT’s emotive touchstone, and its rhythmically pulsing and reverberant flute section, which Kurzel sometimes develops separately. In fact, since Scott infamously removed most of Jerry’s main theme (and other pieces) from ALIEN in favor of retaining temp music tracks from Jerry’s FAUST, Howard Hansen’s “Symphony No. 2,” and other material, there’s ironically probably more use of Goldsmith’s ALIEN theme in Kurzel’s ALIEN: COVENANT score than there was in ALIEN*. The frequent incursions of that theme here are what gives ALIEN: COVENANT its musical center, providing the pathos and solitude that derive from character-based horror rather than simply horror for its own sake, which much of Kurzel’s own sound design material tends to deal with. (And the use of this material from ALIEN and PROMETHEUS does give COVENANT an appropriate musical connection with its predecessors, something the original three ALIEN sequels never bothered to do.)
“There were certain elements of Jerry Goldsmith’s score that we wanted to keep in,” Kurzel told Nick Spacek in an interview for “The familiarity of those few brass notes provide a certain comfort and reassurance that this is Ridley Scott re-engaging with the original material. It also put us in a unique position to be able to lure the audience in with something familiar and then turn the whole thing on its head with something more foreign and separate from the original.”
ALIEN: COVENANT is effective but uneven in its musical gestures, relying on two predecessors’ emotively persuasive themes for most of its dramatic effectiveness in the midst of an aural landscape of mostly unremitting sonic turmoil. It’s well-crafted and Kurzel indeed captures some fiercely frightening sound structures, but it seems to lack nuance and cohesiveness on its own; the whole is not quite the sum of its parts, although most of the parts work well enough on their own. “Face Hugger” drives a great sense of terror with a discordant rush of wriggling sonic tendrils that may make you unconsciously wipe your mouth and chin. “Lonely Perfection” settles into a deceptively tranquil atmosphere of reverberated synths before erupting with a confluent sense of immediate peril, and along with “Cargo Lift” and “Terraforming Bay,” delivers a potent mixes of dissonance, from shrill string choirs to heavy percussion and severe rhythmic swipes of violins, to create strong moments of desperate action. A redundant and repetitive percussion beat that Kurzel develops to poor effect in “The Med Bay, “Bring It To My Turf,” and elsewhere works much better in “Command Override” when those industrial percussion slams are subordinated to a progressive low string line that gives it contrast and semblance; heavy masses of lower strings gather efficiently into running ambiances that give “Launcher Landing,” “Neutrino Burst,” and “Chest Burster” moments of emotive stability (Kurzel’s string material that surrounds the Goldsmith theme in “The Covenant” are very effective, as well), as do the more intricate string figures of “A Cabin on the Lake.” But then tracks like “Payload Deployment” are conflagrations of awkward noise with little effect or payoff. It’s a score with moments of primal ferocity that stand well alone but require the distinction of the external material to give it cohesion and dramatic consequence.
(PS: A point of contention some have brought up is that Goldsmith’s credit for composing the “ALIEN Theme” only appears a few seconds before the very end of the End Credits of the film, and only appears on the inside booklet among the technical credits of the soundtrack CD, potentially leading many who don’t notice to praise Kurzel for his fine “ALIEN COVENANT Theme.” Poor Jerry deserved better than that.)
FYI: A vinyl/digital edition of the soundtrack will be released on July 7th

* Goldsmith’s ALIEN theme figures prominently in six tracks of 22 tracks on the ALIEN: COVENANT soundtrack: “The Covenant,” “Sails,” “Planet 4 (Main Theme),” “Wheat Field,” “Grass Attack,” and “Alien: Covenant Theme”

BOSCH/Jesse Voccia/Varese Sarabande – CD
Jesse Voccia (ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH, SEX AND THE CITY, THE PROPOSAL) has scored the police procedural web TV series running on Amazon Studios, which has been released on CD by Varese Sarabande. The album features music from the first two seasons, as well as the series theme song, “Can’t Let It Go,” performed by indie electro/soul band Caught A Ghost. Voccia’s score is tonally ambient for the most part, designed around varied resonant structures and menacing sonic elements that are layered and reflected or offset against one another. There are lots of dark spaces between the musical elements which allows for and maintains an omnipresent noir-ish feel. Voccia supports the more active sequences with assertive piano runs, drumming and various other percussion beats and fills (“Chasing Chilton,” “Kidnapped,” “Drop House Raid”), but almost always interfaced with that sustained, ambient vibe that is predominant to the music circulating beneath. Cues are mostly short, with 39 tracks covering an hour and five minutes on the album, but it mixes together well affords a nice blending of sound throughout its length. A moody and provocative listen.

EAST OF EDEN: The Motion Picture and Television Music of Lee Holdridge/BSX - CD
Lee Holdridge is one of the best melodists around, and this collection of some of his finest film melodic/thematic scores, conducted by Charles Gerhardt and performed by the LSO, is just wonderful, from the powerful heroic themes of THE BEASTMASTER and Wizards & Warriors to the grand eloquence of THE GREAT WHALES and the sublime motifs from GOING HOME and the TV miniseries version of EAST OF EDEN, and others. It’s a masterful performance and a fine listening experience. BSX’s release is a re-sequenced reissue of the long sold-out 1985 Varese CD and 1994 Citadel CD versions. The album includes the original notes from the composer.

GIFT/Ian Honeyman/Madified - digital
The German TV film GIFT (Nachtschatten), which premiered May 17th, is a meticulously researched thriller about counterfeit pharmaceutical manufacturing in India, who these drugs hurt or kill, and how global drug companies are involved. The film itself is fictional but it is based in fact and on investigations the filmmakers have done over the past two years. The score by Ian Honeyman (THE PHILLY KID, GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA) includes a few traditional Indian instruments to reflect the film’s environment, but focuses more on rough, organic sounds to emphasize the dangerous product of the pseudo-pharmaceuticals that are the film’s more significant emphasis. The score is therefore jarring and largely discordant, which fits the topic of the film with a very interesting instrumental texture. “I used sitar, dilruba, oud, Indian flutes, and a variety of struck guitars, unnamed wooden percussion and found metal and wooden pieces,” Honeyman described. “My team and I also made or modified two custom instruments for the score, a ‘yaybahar’ (bowed strings connected to drum heads by springs) and a ‘cellotar’ (electric guitar heavily modified to be bowed).” Echo effects and sympathetic resonances from the Indian instruments create a mesmerizing and often claustrophobic resonance that increases the film’s sense of corruption and crime, while the created instruments and found percussions are used effectively to lend interesting new timbres to the musical palette – these combined sounds are especially likable in environmental tracks like “India” and “Mumbai Streets.” A light, slapping percussion motif becomes a recurring thing that drives the story toward its climax, while an intimately somber piano melody over suspended strings motif in “This is Home” lends a reflective poignancy to the story, as does the yearning “Come Home.” The piano converges with the percussive effect in “Sanacorp,” and the two elements will merge as the story spools down to its resolution, concluding with the impassioned lamentation of “Control,” which serves as a kind of epitaph to the story. Throughout the score Honeyman establishes an effective sonic palette and supports the story’s journey with inventive and compelling instrumentation, all of which makes a fine listen apart from the film.
Watch a video showing the custom instruments created for the GIFT score on the composer’s web site, here. (The page also includes sample tracks from the GIFT score.)
The digital score is available via “name your price” at Madified’s Bandcamp page, here, and is also available at fixed price through iTunes, Spotify, etc.  A physical CD release should be forthcoming from Amazon.

Marvel Music - digital

To many, if not most, filmgoers enjoying the energetic entertainment of the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY sequel, the music they will remember will be the “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” songs scattered throughout the film, and while these popular tunes have their place in the film’s musical mix, it’s really Tyler Bates’s hybrid orchestral-electronic score that gives the film and it characters their emotional gravitas. No news to film score aficionados, of course. The good news is that in VOL. 2, Bates’s anthemic main theme is given more room to shine than in the first film. The score album (sadly offered only in digital as kind of a shy younger brother to the “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” songtrack being touted on CD, vinyl, even audio cassette) is a very fine presentation. VOL. 2 is a more musically complex score, with the main theme making a variety of heroic charges and the storyline between Quill and his father opening up some powerful emotive musical material that enlivens the character’s humanity in a strong way (“I Know Who You Are” and the choir-infused “Dad” are likely the score’s emotional high points, with the latter achieving an especially affecting moment). The focus on the GUARDIANS 2 score is on orchestra and choir. Bates does play guitarviol (an electric guitar-like instrument that uses a bow) in a few scenes, but it’s less of a hybrid score than the first GUARDIANS and gives the composer a chance to really flex his classical symphonic chops. Recorded with an orchestra of 93 players at Abbey Road – including Bates’s 15-year-old daughter who played the piano (“She’s a classically trained pianist so her chops are far more advanced than the written music,” Bates told me recently, “but when it’s live and you’re on the spot, the simplest musical figures are not easy to play on cue with deep emotion. I am really happy for her to have had that opportunity, and that she handled it as a true professional.”). Presented via a 44-minute running time, the score album is a fervent mix of cheer-worthy anthemic surges and articulate moments of graceful poignancy, nicely capturing all the depth and authority of a traditional symphonic film score with the occasional nod to contemporary musical textures.

HARLOTS/Rael Jones/Silva screen - digital
The score by Rael Jones (MY COUSIN RACHEL) for Hulu & ITV’s 8-part TV series HARLOTS, having to do with the rivalry between two sisters who own separate brothels in 18th Century London, has been released digitally-only in the US and UK. For this period drama with a stylish contemporary twist, Jones has eschewed the period elegance that defined his superlative MY COUSIN RACHEL (just released on Sony Classical, btw) score and given HARLOTS its own superlative treatment through a very modern vibe with a lot of attitude that befits the independent and self-assured characters depicted in the show. The soundtrack mixes electronica and stoner rock genres, underpinning the story and reflecting the experiences and rebellious nature of the ladies; and it’s a deliciously faded jewel and a most welcome musical bedfellow. Jones’s main theme is instantly infectious, a definitive electric guitar melody over a shuffling bass and drum beat, while a secondary theme (“Sexual Vocation”) drolly defines the ladies’ horizontal trade with a kind of tiresome arcing bass motor device over busy percussion and keyboard, devoid of passion and intensity – it’s all work, after all. Jones reserves the latter for the social intercourse between the women, energizing it with cool variations like the effervescent “The Vilest Sin,” wherein it sparkles with piercing electric guitar notes, vibrant and assertive drum beats, energetic keyboard arpeggios, and all manner of assorted and intriguing instrumental textures. Silva’s album presents 53 tracks, mostly fairly short (62 minutes total), but they blend together nicely into a sumptuous and very fun listening experience that will likely curl your lip, if not your toes.
Rael Jones is a classically trained composer, multi-instrumentalist, and former orchestrator and music editor; he performs most of the music himself, aided by Adam Betts, drummer for Three Trapped Tigers, and Sara Wolstenholme on violin. The album includes four songs, most of which were used over End Credits, three of them being new interpretations of traditional British folk tunes which contribute effectively to the tarnished grace of the series’ musical design.
Sample the main theme and other tracks on Jones’s web site here.
[Check back next month’s column for my in-depth interview with Rael Jones]

JANE & PAYNE/Andrés Goldstein & Daniel Tarrab/
Quartet Records - CD

JANE & PAYNE is a 2017 documentary film about the historic meeting between primatologist Jane Goodall and whale conservationist Roger Payne that took place in Argentine Patagonia. In their 80`s, and after admiring each other all their lives, they met at the whale observation camp that Roger created in his youth - to live in the middle of extreme wilderness and to share their views of the problems that affect our planet, and their solutions. Argentine director Boy Olmi (SANGRE DEL PACÍFICO) arranged to have his film crew accompany the meeting and film their conversations, the movie celebrates both scientists’ careers and serves as a fly on the wall during their meeting as they discuss, with their gentle wisdom and insight, the importance of conservation of species and of the Earth itself. Composers Andrés Goldstein & Daniel Tarrab (their 2013 score for WAKOLDA [The German Doctor] was released by Quartet in 2014) have crafted a very pleasant score that both accentuates the Patagonian landscapes and unobtrusively serves as a warm, gentle bed of melody beneath the scientists’ conversations. While rooted in folk traditions of the locale, it’s not a strictly ethnic-flavored score, although some South American instruments such as charango, ronroco, Venezuelan cuatro, and ethnic vocals make their way into the sonic texture, which otherwise features acoustic and electric guitars, violincello, piano, and some synths; the composers perform most instruments and programming themselves. All in all, and removed from the film, each track a piece of its own, the music makes for a very pleasing listen and a most interesting gathering of instrumental textures.
Sample some tracks here at Quartet Records
For more information about the composers, see their web site at

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK/Robert Kral/La-La Land -
CD & digital

Robert Kral (ANGEL, HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, BATMAN ASSAULT ON ARKHAM) accompanies a half-dozen of DC’s super heroes in a confrontation with the supernatural in the 27th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. By joining Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and others with super-heroes empowered with sorcery, wizardry, and other magical and occult powers – featuring a unique team-up with Constantine, Jason Blood, Zatanna, Black Orchid, Deadman, Merlin, Felix Faust, and Swamp Thing cooperating in a conflict against Doctor Destiny and the Demons Three – JL DARK takes the science fictionesque superhero team into the supernatural realm of dark and white magic.  Kral’s music fits the concept like an ashy shroud, composing the music as a heroic horror-fantasy, built upon a theme-driven orientation. Most of the main characters as well as the Dark team as a whole carry their own themes, which are well-integrated into a powerfully orchestrated musical journey with becoming motivically overpowering. He’s also reprised briefly his Superman and Batman themes from SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT/ASSAULT ON ARKHAM, respectively; which adds a nice musical continuity between the Kral-scored animated DC films. “Keyboards and several different stacked piano sounds were used for some of the old-school horror motifs,” Kral wrote in his composer’s notes in the album booklet. “Musically I wanted the keyboards to hearken back to Goblin’s scores for the masterful Italian horror films of Dario Argento, who I felt was the influence for the more famous keyboards in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. I also combined these tones with cellos and orchestra - and even Dubstep – for the titles and during Swamp Thing’s fight with Destiny which made for a very exciting scene and track.” Throughout it’s an exciting and robust work, a sturdy mix of styles delivered with a commanding drive and organized within an engaging thematic structure.

LEGEND OF THE LICH LORD/Bruno Valenti/Howlin’ Wolf
Spencer Estabrooks’s 2015 fantasy-comedy-adventure, a story of a mismatched group of rogues joined together to defeat an evil necromancer and a lich (undead creature), features a very effective hybrid score by versatile composer Bruno Valenti (MAC DADDY AND THE LOVERS, the Canadian web series THE PROTECTOR CHRONICLES, and ONE HIT DIE). While the film is a broad comedy, Valenti properly plays it straight, giving an earnest gravitas to the group’s quest and its assorted dangers, adventures, and challenges. “It was a very challenging experience,” wrote Valenti in his composer’s note, “because I had to juxtapose the literal script with the musical script, in order to achieve a balance where the result is even more comedic than treating it like a regular comedic film, but at the same time describing the personality of the characters, the period, and the place where the film is supposed to happen.”  Adding live tenor saxophones and flutes to his digital orchestra, Valenti captures a very good sense of grand scale to his score, and rather than complicate matters by composing themes for each of the characters, he focuses his musical accompaniment situationally, between a theme for the good group and one for the evil characters, thus enabling the music to interact in simpler terms during the adventure and battle scenes. It’s a fun score nicely presented in a limited edition pressing of only 300 CDs.
For more information and audio samples, see Howlin’ Wolf Records here.

LIVIDE (aka LIVID)/Raphaël Gesqua/Kronos - CD
The 2011 French film LIVID is a quite potent horror thriller from directors Julien Murphy & Alexandre Bustillo, whose 2007 feature debut INSIDE was also very well received. Beginning with a concept that would coincidentally be reworked in Fede Alvarez’ DON’T BREATHE (2016), we have a trio of teenage burglars breaking into a remote mansion occupied by an elderly invalid with rumors of hidden cash stowed somewhere in the home. But LIVID takes this incipient notion into a more supernatural realm than DON’T BREATHE; the directors admit LIVID is less a horror film than a supernatural fantasy, “like Bros. Grimm with all the gory parts left in.” The mansion is huge and formerly served as a classical dance academy with its lone elderly resident the former dance instructor. There may indeed be cash hidden around the place somewhere, but what the burglars discover is something far less human and far more gruesome, and the invalid, like Alvarez’s, is far more than she seems. The film is especially effective for its atmosphere and its look, a quotient very much aided by the creepy musical score from composer Raphaël Gesqua (who went on to score Murphy & Bustillo’s AMONG THE LIVING in 2014). Kronos presents the complete score (plus alternate takes and other extras) in a world premiere 2-CD set, accompanied by a 6-page booklet with notes by the directors and composer, and a short interview with Gesqua about the score by John Mansell (you may need a magnifying glass, though, as the print font is very small). The music is a highly textural, tonal work that provides a haunting musical sound design. Gesqua’s hybrid synthesis can be quite frightening on its own, which makes the 2-CD album best explored in small doses, but it’s strikingly useful in creating a constrained mood of anxiety and tension which works as well off screen as it does within the film. Gesqua has crafted a labyrinthine excursion of interactive sounds, fragments of melody, and harmonic ideas that blur the distinction between digital instruments, electronics, and found sound that unrelentingly amps up the film’s sense of disturbia (“Ben Is Back - Jessel's Meat” being an excellent example of the score’s multiflavored, progressive discordance and a very scary track on its own) until its final, poetic resolution of “Soul Sisters - Final Lullaby” which introduces Florence Martin Giovannelli’s delicate vocalise (the score’s only live “instrument”) rendering a calm sonic consummation for the “End Title.”
Sample some of the tracks at

Alan Williams/Quinate Publishing - digital

Two new releases by Alan Williams, both from new episodes of the second season of Netflix’s documentary series, MOVING ART. From the award-winning filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, MOVING ART: WHALES AND DOLPHINS features the captivating underwater images from director and cinematographer Howard Hall as it explores these celebrated marine mammals anew. Williams accompanies the cetaceans’ graceful undersea dance with rhythmic fluidity, music that is both soothing and representative of the larger whales’ self-confident, fin-propelled gait beneath the surface. The music exudes the magical sensation of seeing these creatures up close and in their proper habitat, from the frolic of the dolphin pods and the enchantment of baby dolphins to the undulating elegance of the blue whale, where Williams adds a sturdy but diminished drum beat to an intricate violin melody that accompanies the awesome majesty of the largest animal on Earth. ANGKOR WAT, which recently received a Jerry Goldsmith Award nomination for Best Documentary Score, accompanies the captivating images from Cambodia's beautiful archeological complex. Williams’s tranquil melodies and striking instrumental harmonies capture the beauty of the landscapes and ancient temple ruins. With a harmonic flow of flutes and suspended strong choirs gently punctuated by subdued gamelan-styled gongs and drums, the music is settling and calming, reflecting the natural colors of the photography with an almost reverent regard.
Sample a cue from WHALES AND DOLPHINS on YouTube here.
Sample a cue from ANKOR WAT on YouTube here.
Both soundtracks, and Williams’s new concept album The Explorers, are available on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify, or direct from his Bandcamp page.  For more information on the composer, see:

Brian Tyler/Howlin’ Wolf - CD

The release of these two hitherto unreleased scores for director Henry Bromell fills a major gap in Brian Tyler’s early filmography.  2000’s PANIC, a psychological noir thriller recorded with a 40-piece orchestra, is given an intimate and reflective flavoring that fits the interaction of a hit man (William H. Macy) trying to get out of the family business despite the wishes of his father (Donald Sutherland), and the alluring young woman (Neve Campbell) with whom he inadvertently falls in love. Tyler’s sensitive and flowing harmonic orchestrations paint a compelling portrait of both characters, with themes flexible enough to navigate through the story’s shifting moods, with the perspective largely focusing on Macy’s character, through whose point of view the story is told. Tyler considers PANIC a pivotal score in his career, at a time when he was known for action-comedy films like SIX-STRING SAMURAI and indie horror thrillers like THE 4th FLOOR (PANIC was only his eighth feature film score, yet a very mature work far beyond the quirky films that preceded it). “Having this slice of drama and emotional tone was totally different, and it made people seek me out,” Tyler is quoted in the comprehensive liner notes by writer Zach Tow. “It was a different style of movie, and it kind of opened up my career, leading me to different genres without getting boxed in. If it wasn’t for PANIC, I don’t know if it would have happened.”
The other film, 2002’s TV-movie FITZGERALD (aka LAST CALL), came sandwiched in between FRAILTY and BUBBA HO-TEP, two scores that began to propel Tyler towards the A-list. It tells the story of the last years of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Jeremy Irons), spent with his young secretary and confident (Neve Campbell). His first Emmy-nominated score, FITZGERALD features a jazz ensemble as well as a chamber orchestra that flows freely with a strong jazz presence, making occasionally detours towards the atonal side. The score paints a musical portrait of the time period Fitzgerald was writing in (the jazz flavors) and the writer’s increasingly drunken stupors (the atonal dissonance), with morose piano reflections bridging the gap between the two. Tyler immersed himself in the psychological underpinnings of the character and developed a complex, intricately developed score that comes as close as Bromell’s filmmaking to really capturing the sad loneliness and alcohol addiction the author experienced. The release is a significant addition to the composer’s discography, with the increased recognition from today’s perspective of the import these two scores have made in Tyler’s journey from film music novice to film music rock star.

Geoff Zanelli/Walt Disney - CD & digital

For the fifth film in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, Hans Zimmer turns the reins over to one of his protégés, Geoff Zanelli (THE PACIFIC, INTO THE WEST, MORTDECAI), who contributed additional music to the first four movies in the franchise and thus is able to step up to the podium with an authentic degree of musical continuity in the new score. “What Hans did for the PIRATES movies redefined the sound of the entire genre, it has been very fulfilling to work alongside him and [producer] Jerry [Bruckheimer] on the past four films,” Zanelli said in an August 2016 interview with Andrew Barker for Variety. “DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES enlarges the PIRATES universe with many new, unique elements, and I'm building a distinctive sound for this film that springboards off of many years of collaborating in the PIRATES world." Zanelli’s music is very much saturated with the PIRATES musical DNA. The main theme (“He’s A Pirate”), composed by Zimmer for 2003’s CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL and further developed by Zimmer and associates through DEAD MAN’S CHEST (2006), AT WORLD’S END (2007), and ON STRANGER TIDES (2011), is here intact, opening the new soundtrack with a bland but noisy remix by Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike that serves primarily to annoy. Fortunately the theme makes itself known throughout Zanelli’s score to properly integrate with the film and its musical legacy (it also culminates the score in the dazzling “Beyond My Beloved Horizon”). Zanelli’s focus is clearly on staying true to the franchise, and the score fits the PIRATES oeuvre like a 17th Century buccaneer’s glove, with “He’s A Pirate” and the familiar hybrid instrumental texture of the franchise resonating with sufficient familiarity below decks even while Zanelli shoots examples of his own musical personality across the bow. Explaining how music helped the first PIRATES score upend the genre, Zanelli told interviewer Daniel Schweiger that “It’s really an orchestra treated as if it’s a rock band… We were all approaching the whole thing with as rock and roll attitude, a sneer, and a gallon of rebellion.” * Zanelli maintains his own self-indulgent approach in his score for DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES with a thunderous progression of daunting heavy drums, serpentine celli resonating wickedly through a guitar amp, and overarching wailing of choir that make up the beautifully ponderous theme for Salazar, and the composer’s multifaceted treatment of much of the action music. The music’s orchestral rock and roll edge is nicely contrasted with sinewy suspense material and deft interaction of strings, moments of sublime reflection and personality (“My Name is Barbossa”); and the unique and very different temperaments of featured cellists Martin Tillman and Tina Guo provide identifiable resonances for the Pirates (Tillman) and Salazar (Guo) themes. The score’s maintains a magnificent presence on Disney’s 17-track, 72-minute soundtrack album, ranging from emotive intimacy to rousing adventure – it’s a lot of fun and a very well-crafted gathering of musical energy.

* For more details, see Daniel Schweiger’s in-depth interview with Zanelli here.

SEGUIMI/Marco Werba/Kronos - cd
Italian composer Marco Werba continues to demonstrate his articulate mastery of sensitive orchestral composition with his score for SEGUIMI (“Follow Me”), Claudio Sestieri’s delicate and surrealistic drama-thriller set in the modern day at the ancient Italian village of Matera. Sestieri directs the film with a provocative and purposeful but often elusive visual style, which Werba enhances with music that is both melodically attractive and sonically complex as it reflects the film’s psychological bearings and the story’s dual sensations of loss and obsession. Marta is an Olympic diver recovering from a pool accident and the loss of her father; Sebastian is an avant-garde painter obsessed with his lover and muse, a Japanese model named Haru. In befriending the two, Marta develops her own platonic obsession with Haru; the story focuses on the extremes that such obsession and identification can possess. Werba’s score revolves around the musical representations of each of these characters. Sebastian is identified with a fairly unresolved cadence of cello, piano, and a progressive sheen of metallic synth, over a bed of violins, reflecting in this multilayered confluence his indeterminate personality; Marta is given a tumultuous gathering of strings – cello, violin, harp – that creates a multifaceted psychological portrait. Haru is represented by sinewy strands of solo cello, performed by the virtuoso cellist Tina Guo in her first performance for an Italian film; elsewhere her simple five-note motif is performed by the Shakuhachi (Japanese flute). “This is the most experimental work that I have done so far, that alternates electronic sounds and Eastern ethnic instruments with traditional orchestra,” Werba told me. This musical sound design saturates the story with a subdued and absolutely haunting resonance, ranging from facets of lilting cello (“Sebastian’s Madness”) to highly reflective melds of electronics and voice for the film’s more surrealistic moments (“The Swimming Pool,” “The Mirror”); together with the film’s visuals it creates a mesmerizing filmic harmony that elevates Sestieri’s film as a viewing experience significantly. Vocalist Valentina Cidda provides her voice for two songs used in the film: one (“A Shade of Sadness”) evokes Marta’s grief when she returns to Matera after her father’s death (a longer version is included in part during the second half of the End Titles; and concludes the CD in its entirety), and “Dit de l’amour” accompanies a provocative dance between Marta and Haru. The soundtrack has been issued in a limited edition of 500 copies; an 8-page booklet is included with notes by John Mansell and short commentaries by both Sestieri and Werba. For more details and music samples, see:

THRILLER/Jerry Goldsmith/Tadlow Music & Silva Screen - cd
In the early days of his career, Jerry Goldsmith honed his craft by scoring music for a number of CBS television series. The most varied and unconstrained of these were surely his scores for the speculative fantasy anthology series, THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THRILLER. The former has been fairly well represented on LP and CD; the latter far less so – thus it came as a great thrill [No pun intended. Well, maybe] to learn that Tadlow’s latest world premiere recording would revisit more than an hour’s worth of music from six of THRILLER’s most provocatively scored episodes, each episode score presented via a trio of short suites. Producers James Fitzpatrick and Leigh Phillips (the latter also reconstructed the scores) rearranged the powerful resources of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra into an unusual chamber music set up that befitted the scope of Goldsmith’s music, which was originally recorded with minimal ensembles to fit the series’ music budget, but yet made the most of its inventive orchestrations. We’re treated to marvelous performances of “The Grim Reaper’s” intense mix of electric organ and fiddle; the Druidic conflict of “Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook” is emphasized with the interaction of solo violin and rhythmic blares of despondent brass choir, while also containing some splendid folk-styled melodies; “Well of Doom,” a tale of demonic abduction, is saturated with growling, low-register winds and a grim, arrogant trumpet, filling the episode with a constant sense of dread, yet finding a moment to allow a beauteous love theme for harp to shine before the omnipresent chords of impending doom swallow it for good. The ghostly retribution of “Mr. George” proffers a splendid contrast between a string-charged lullaby, representing the story’s villainous cousins , and a delicate harp and glockenspiel motif that represents the innocent child who is subject to their wicked intentions, with a lively flute melody serving as connective tissue between the opposing motifs. “The Poisoner,” a tale of bottled homicide and thwarted intentions, reflects its 19th Century setting with a chamber ensemble of strings flavored by harpsichord, and a piercing melody line that emphasizes the titular character’s malevolence. “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” based on the famous Robert Bloch story of the Whitechapel murderer seemingly at large in modern Chicago, mixes a dance-band combo, suggesting the music halls of the Ripper’s East London hunting grounds, with suspenseful violin measures, both invoking a slightly dour waltz melody that gradually turns monstrous as the story runs its course, reassembling its original shape for the ironic and malicious finale. Closing the album are a set of End Title suites for these episodes (as a kind of postscript, the series edited together elements of that episode’s score to serve as its End Title music, rather than using an officially-composed end credits theme) which makes for a fascinating and colorful compilation.  Conducted by Nic Raine, the ensemble is in fine form, very well replicating the unique flavors of the original TV performances. In the accompanying booklet, Jon Burlingame provides authoritative background and music commentary on each of the suites, and Leigh Phillips provides notes on his process of reconstructing the scores and preparing them for recording.
In case you missed it last column, watch a video from Tadlow’s autumn 2016 recording session of the THRILLER album here

WONDER WOMAN/Charles Fox, Artie Kane, etc./La-La Land – cd
La-La Land Records serves up a limited edition 3-CD set full of previously unreleased music from the 1975-79 TV series starring Lynda Carter as the dazzling Amazonian heroine. It’s a marvelous collection hinged of course on the shrill “Wonder Woman!” choral title theme (composed by Normal Gimbel and Charles Fox) but the real magic is found in the three-hours plus that we have of unreleased episode scoring, which ranges from ubiquitous pop music for orchestra and rhythm section to delicate, lyrical melodies and silky smooth suspense strains, with the occasional business for domestic affairs. But mostly this WONDER WOMAN was saturated with raucous 1970’s TV music gloss. It was fun, it was dazzling, and none of it was intended to be taken very seriously. Composers Charles Fox, Artie Kane, Robert Prince, Johnny Harris, Robert O. Ragland, Angela Morley and Richard LaSalle were responsible for the weekly episode scores, enhancing and energizing Lynda Carter’s adventures as both mild mannered Diana Prince and as the superheroic woman of wonder. The main theme turns in frequent appearances both vocally and instrumentally throughout the episode scores in the manner of an anthem associated with WW’s exploits and heroic rescues of humankind. The incidental music ranged from very generic suspense and action accompaniment for orchestra and/or rhythm section, even a bit of then-trending disco, often spooling up into WW’s main theme to carry the music into a triumphant crescendo; occasional synthesizer elements on top of that added some unique texture to the musical treatments. It’s a terrific collection both as a historical record of late ‘70s TV scoring styles and as a dazzling array of exciting and entertaining adventure, crime, and super-heroics from the small screen. La-La Land’s album contains a generous 3.8 hours of music, including the different main and end title variants, bumpers, alternates, and source cues, and scores from a thirteen of the show’s 60 episodes, plus that of the original TV movie score, THE NEW, ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN by Charles Fox, that led to the ensuing series. Produced by Neil S. Bulk and mastered by James Nelson from 3-Track WB studio vault elements, this limited edition of 3000 units also features a 28-Page booklet with extensive original liner notes by writer John Takis, whose track-by-track commentary is especially informative and useful.
For more information and sample tracks, see

WONDER WOMAN/Gregson-Williams/Water Tower – cd & digital
Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in the new DC Extended Universe feature film possesses an intensity and personality that makes the character her own, and which I found thoroughly engaging. There’s no need to or point in making comparisons with any previous iteration of the character. In the same manner, Rupert Gregson-Williams, young brother of film composer Harry Gregson-Williams and who wins his largest assignment to date with this score, provides an ideal accompaniment for Gadot’s Diana, enhancing the actor’s performance with an emotionally varied composition that reflects the character’s power, beauty, and compassion. “With WONDER WOMAN, we had an exceptional undertaking at hand,” said director Patty Jenkins: “Bringing a legendary character to life with a score befitting one of the greatest super heroes of all time, while musically bridging three entirely different worlds. Rupert Gregson-Williams… embraced the challenge and created an entire world of themes and textures that organically grew with Diana’s storyline. He found her voice, her hope, and all of her dreams, and brought them to life around her.”
An elegance pervades the score as it takes its journey from the paradise of Themyscira to the devastating battlefields of World War I Europe; the score is thematically based and most themes are melodically inclined which makes for a very emotive score and an affecting listening experience on disc. Gregson-Williams makes good use of the contrast between an assertive, languid melody line for strings and/or horns playing above a bed of pulsating keyboard punctuated by growing drum beats; it’s a device that’s been used somewhat commonly (usually via marcato strings as the underlying rhythm) and Gregson-Williams gives it his own flavor here, especially in the rising statement of his main theme in tracks 10 and 11 (“We Are All to Blame” and “Hell Hath No Fury”) when Diana truly emerges as Wonder Woman. The musical approach is tied to her journey, developing more complexity and more instrumental weight as the story arc runs its course. “I used a hybrid of orchestra and ethnic drums and vocals for the origin story, and as the character grew I introduced electric cello and more electronic colors,” the composer explained. “By the end of the movie I brought in orchestra, full choir, percussion, and a large palette of electronica.”
In contrast to Diana’s emotive theme, the music for the evil Ares (Track 9, “The God of War”) is somber, menacing, and unsettled as it roams about from low strings, growling horns, and slamming drums. It prowls like an impatient predator, circling, low to the ground, seeking its prey. It’s earlier appearance, in Track 4 (“Ludendorff, Enough!”), spins up into a strident crescendo just past the midpoint, celebrating a victory in the laboratory, before settling back down into its hushed predatorial maneuvers, then cycling back through the sequence anew. The villain theme is also used to characterize Fausta Grables (Track 7, “Fausta”), a character familiar from the ‘70s TV series as a WW2 Nazi operative, who is the woman in the elegant blue dress that Diana confronts and then impersonates to gain admittance to Ludendorff’s gala party; the second half of the cue appropriately morphs into Diana’s music as she strides confidently as Fausta into the gala.
WONDER WOMAN is an origin story; we meet Diana before she understands her powers, so her theme needed to reflect her innocence and naiveté,” Gregson-Williams said. “She moves from young girl to a woman who knows her path through the journey of the film.” The score’s main musical theme follows this story arc, reflecting Diana as she grows from an eager child princess to a trained warrior as an adult; it’s not until the midpoint of the film, when she asserts herself in battle, that we hear her elegant orchestral theme in its full confidence.  That’s also when Gregson-William imports the strident electric guitar and drums of Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman theme from BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE in tracks 6 (“No Man’s Land”), 8 (“Wonder Woman’s Wrath”), 13 (Trafalgar Celebration”), and, via the drum motif alone, 14 (“Action Reaction”). The thematic development of the music that follows Diana from naïve trainee to noble warrior and, ultimately, impassioned hero is purposeful and suitable, as is the use of the BvS theme in all its emotional rage, which reveals itself as the connective tissue between the two films as it pertains to Wonder Woman’s character. It will be very interesting to see where this thematic interaction takes us in Junkie XL’s score for JUSTICE LEAGUE this coming November. (Also, if I’m not mistaken, the start of Gregson-Williams’ opening track, “Amazons of Themyscira,” consists of a sinewy phrase of the first 4 notes of the BvS Wonder Woman Theme, just a little wavering filigree, as it to presage events to come before opening into the flashback that will take us into that music’s full apotheosis.)
The album concludes with the powerful end title track, “To Be Human” sung by Sia, featuring English singer and multi-instrumentalist Labrinth. Sample the End Title song on youtube here
Listen to Gregson-Williams score track, “Angel on the Wing” at youtube here (other tracks may follow in autoplay)
[Rupert Gregson-Williams and Patty Jenkins quotes are from the WONDER WOMAN soundtrack press release].


Soundtrack & Music News

Back Lot Music will release Brian Tyler’s score to Universal’s new THE MUMMY digitally on June 9th, with a CD to follow at an unspecified date. The movie, first in Universal’s new Dark Universe revival of its classic monsters, shows in theaters the same day. Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Russell Crowe star; the film involves an ancient princess who is awakened from her crypt to bring her malevolence to the world.
 - via

Intrada has released the world premiere release of one of the rarest soundtrack albums in history – Max Steiner’s legendary soundtrack from THE CAINE MUTINY, featuring Humphrey Bogart’s 1954 Academy Award-nominated role as Captain Queeg, helming aging naval minesweeper U.S.S. Caine during WWII in the Pacific. Through the combined efforts of Columbia Pictures and Intrada, the entire score has been restored from mono music elements stored on D/M/E rolls, happily free of any dialog or sound effects. For more details, see

Charlie Brigden’s The Sound Of Fear podcast on horror movie scores, has partnered with Diabolique magazine and how has a spot on their web site, well as the usual places. Find it here:
Highly recommended, the podcast, narrated by Lisa Brigden, is now on its 4th episode, “Can You Survive?”, focusing on shock horror, all about music scoring zombies and chainsaws sharing space with possessed children and a movement of films centered around the offspring of the devil. Previous episodes are also available on the Diabolique site.

The score to the eclectic and mercurial Starz cable TV series AMERICAN GODS was composed by Brian Reitzell (LOST IN TRANSLATION, HANNIBAL). A soundtrack album will be released digitally on June 16th by Milan Records (with a vinyl and cd edition to follow later in the summer). AMERICAN GODS was developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for Starz based on the Neil Gaiman novel about the conflict between the old gods of mythology, whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in number, and the new American Gods who are manifestations of modern life and technology, such as the Internet, media, and modern means of transport. The soundtrack album includes 15 tracks from Reitzell’s score and five songs heard in the series, including the original "Queen of the Bored" composed by Reitzell and sung by Shirley Manson of Garbage (listen to it here in Soundcloud), as well as classic covers sung by Mark Lanegan and Debbie Harry of Blondie, who joins Manson for a powerful take on Persian singer Googoosh’s “Tehran 1978.” 
Sample Reitzell’s Main Theme from AMERICAN GODS at Milan Records’ site here.

Lakeshore Records will release the LEGION Season 1 Volume 2 soundtrack digitally on June 9, 2017. The album contains additional original music by Jeff Russo (FARGO, THE NIGHT OF) with two sought after pieces – the special LEGION “Fauxlero” version of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” and Dan Stevens performing The Muppets’ classic "The Rainbow Connection" on banjo. "So glad to be releasing volume 2 of the season one score. There were a number of cues that we just couldn't let out of the bag until after we aired,” explained Russo. “‘Fauxlero’ was so much fun to put together and when was the last time you heard a harpsichord cue?
“When I first started working on LEGION, the showrunner Noah Hawley gave me some great feedback regarding the tonal palate, he suggested I read neurologist Oliver Sacks Hallucinations,” Russo continued. “It was a fascinating read and it really did help inspire. It is all about the way that our mind can change our perception of reality and what that says about our brains. It was something that directed me right to where this amazing show was going.”

Last month Lakeshore released the soundtrack to the 2016 documentary NEWTOWN, a close look at how the community of Newtown, Connecticut came together in the aftermath of the largest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never before heard testimonies to tell the story of a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Czech-born, English-raised composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist  Fil Eisler composed original music and also produced the music, bringing in contributions from other leading composers.
“Fil reached out to me initially to talk about gun violence in America and how he could get involved in combating the problem,” said producer Maria Cuomo Cole. “Upon learning about NEWTOWN, he said, ‘I want to help you in any way possible to tell this story. As a father of a little girl, I have to do something.’”

"The biggest inspiration behind this score was simply to be part of something that might further the conversation around gun violence without being preachy or political,” said Fil Eisler. “The movie was too precious to be seen just through the prism of my own experience which is why I asked some of my friends in the composer community if they would join me in contributing to the project. I didn't ask anyone what their political beliefs were. I simply explained what the project was about and asked if they wanted to be a part of it. Not one of them said no. No matter where you stand on the debate, we all want our kids to be safe."

“Given the subject matter of this film, already so laden in profound grief, the score was critical,” said director Kim A. Snyder. “We aimed for subtlety, and a haunting beauty that might capture the essence of childhood and all that was lost on 12/14. When Fil had the generous idea to bring together a community of musical talent to create our mosaic score, it was completely complementary to the very essence of the film and its intent – ‘We Are All Newtown.’ Our final recording session of some of these works on the sound stage at Warner Brothers with dozens of live musicians, many in tears as they played, was among the most memorable days in the making of NEWTOWN.”

Penka Kouneva reports that the latest scoring assignment is for the supernatural horror feature DEVIL'S WHISPER. The film’s premiere is at Dances With Films on Sat. June 10th followed by a debut at Cannes. The composer describes the music as ambient, “creepy and powerful.”  

Silva Screen Records has released GUERRILLA, a powerful soundtrack to Sky's 1970s political drama featuring a mix of Max Richter's score and a choice selection of early 70s music - reggae grooves from the Trojan catalogue, rare Noir tracks and more. “GUERRILLA is a powerful and demanding piece of work, and it doesn't pull its punches,” Richter said. “As well as being outstanding drama I believe it is a valuable contribution to our understanding of its time, and by extension, our own.” Set against the backdrop of one of the most explosive times in U.K. history, GUERRILLA tells the story of a politically active couple whose relationship and values are tested when they liberate a political prisoner and form a radical underground cell in 1970s London.

The upcoming series CLOAK AND DAGGER, based on the Marvel Comic Characters of the same name, follows the story of two teenagers from very different backgrounds who find themselves burdened and awakened to newly acquired superpowers while falling in love. Mark Isham has been confirmed as composer for the series, which will air on Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family) in 2018. This is the first live-action television appearance of Cloak and Dagger; the pair previously appeared in animated TV shows ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and WOLVERINE VS. SABRETOOTH.

Madison Gate Records has released a digital soundtrack from PARIS CAN WAIT, featuring the original score by award-winning composer Laura Karpman (CARRIE, TV’s TAKEN) and is inspired by French jazz. The soundtrack features two re-imaginings of classic French songs – “Je te veux” and “Que reste-t-il de nos amours” – sung by international star vocalist Ute Lemper.

Composer Sharon Farber (WHEN NIETZSCHE WEPT) has completed scoring and mixing of Mike Burstyn’s film AZIMUTH, a drama about an Egyptian and an Israeli soldier seeking survival after encountering each other in the Sinai desert at the end of The Six Day War of 1967. [Photo: L-R: film editor Alain Jakubowicz, composer Sharon Farber, director Mike Burstyn, cinematographer Ram Shweky]

Composer Jeff Beal (HOUSE OF CARDS, BLACKFISH) is proud to announce his first collaboration with Academy Award®-winning director Oliver Stone on THE PUTIN INTERVIEWS. “There are few filmmakers I admire as much as Oliver Stone,” said Beal.  “His fearless approach in tackling tough subjects is legendary, artistic and provocative.  I am honored to be composing the score for THE PUTIN INTERVIEWS for him.  In a time of such political noise and anxiety, this series gives us a timely view into a world we’ve never seen, from the inside-out.” Stone was granted unprecedented access to the Russian president during more than a dozen interviews over two years, with no topic off-limits. This four-part documentary series provides intimate insight into Putin's personal and professional lives. The documentary series will premiere on SHOWTIME over four consecutive nights starting on Monday, June 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Tadlow’s next major score reconstruction will be a new recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s celebrated score for the 1946 Western, DUEL IN THE SUN.

Watch the recording session for the breathtaking main title on youtube here and the rousing Casino Dance here. Also forthcoming from Tadlow on June 14 is CECIL B. DEMILLE: AMERICAN EPIC, a Special Collectors Limited Edition of 1000 copies featuring the last score by Elmer Bernstein for a feature documentary.

Rael Jones had scored Fox Searchlight Pictures’ dark romance film, MY COUSIN RACHEL from director Roger Michell (NOTTING HILL), with his screenplay based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier; Sony Classical has just released the score album digitally and on CD. The film tells the story of a young Englishman (Sam Claflin) who plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin (Rachel Weisz), believing that she murdered his guardian. “A lot of the film is Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin together, so the individual voice-like nature of woodwind instruments, seemed more appropriate than any other instruments because of their distinct sounds and characters,” said Jones.  “‘Rachel’ herself I'd often represent with clarinet because, firstly the hollow nature of that instrument suited her in her mourning and her slightly low voice as well. The clarinet's great in its low register. Also, the clarinet is subliminal. You can play very quietly on it and it can creep in.”

Giona Ostinelli is composing the music for the upcoming Spike TV event series THE MIST, based on the Stephen King novella. A Swiss composer working in Hollywood, Ostinelli  is a just 29 years old but has 25 feature films to his credit, including the 2016 horror film CARNAGE PARK and DARLING, and 2015’s POD – his efforts on these scary movies gave him a pedigree that was ideal for THE MIST’s incarnation as a 10-episode series. King’s novella, first filmed by Frank Darabont in 2007, has been reimagined for television by executive producer and writer Christian Torpe and produced by the Academy Award winning Weinstein Company, starring Frances Conroy (AMERICAN HORROR STORY, SIX FEET UNDER), Alyssa Sutherland (VIKINGS) and Morgan Spector (ALLEGIANCE). The series focuses on a small town family, recently victimized by a brutal crime. As they deal with the fallout an eerie mist rolls in, cutting them off from the rest of the world and harboring something unknown within its foggy vapors. THE MIST will premiere on June 22, 2017 on Spike TV. The newly-released trailer can be seen here.
For more information on the composer, see

George Kallis announced on his Facebook page his first collaboration with the Walt Disney Company on the local language film THE LAST WARRIOR, an epic adventure based on a Russian folktale. The production resumes Disney’s commitment to take local language features for the Russian marketplace.  Orchestral recordings are set for June, said Kallis; the film is planned for release in October 2017. Kallis has also completed scoring THE BLACK PRINCE, the story of Queen Victoria and the Last King of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh, which will be released this month by Caldera Records.

Premiering on Netflix on May 19th, is THE KEEPERS featuring original score by Blake Neely (ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL). From director Ryan White (GOOD OL’ FREDA), the film is a seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.

IT COMES AT NIGHT is an upcoming horror film directed and written by award-winning filmmaker Trey Edward Shults and starring Joel Edgerton. The original score was composed by Brian McOmber, the former drummer of Dirty Projectors. McOmber's score utilizes synths, lonesome strings, and thundering percussion, which conjure a kind of primal darkness in the music that is both foreboding and deeply unsettling. The film is being released June 9th; the soundtrack will be released the same day by Milan.
Sample “The Triumph of Death” from the IT COMES AT NIGHT soundtrack, here on Soundcloud.
Watch the film’s trailer here.

Composer Ceiri Torjussen continues to score the National Geographic Channel documentary series BREAKTHROUGH, a groundbreaking anthology show about leading scientists and how their cutting-edge innovations and advancements will change our lives in the immediate future and beyond. Season 2 premiered May 2nd with an episode about the use of psychedelics in treating addiction. 
For information, background, and to watch episodes, see:

Composer Wendy Blackstone has completed scoring – and serving as producer – for director Evan Oppenheimer’s romantic drama LOST IN FLORENCE. The film follows a heartbroken former college football star who gets in over his head with a dangerous Florentine sport and an alluring local woman. “I speak four languages and I like to compose in many styles if it suits the film,” Blackstone said in an illuminating interview for the web site. “It felt right to keep the score fresh in this way. I like to make my own sounds and find a unique vocabulary for each film. This film had some fun original sounds woven into the score. Yet fundamentally, it’s a romantic score with a driving score under the action games.” Blackstone has been scoring films since 1985 and is noted as one of the first of a growing number of female composers being recognized for their work in a typically male-dominated craft. (Click on image for interview)

Patrick Doyle has scored Kenneth Branagh’s new take on Agathe Christie’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, the sixth filming/televising of Christie’s celebrated railway murder mystery.
Watch the film’s first trailer here:

Doyle has also provided a very pleasing score for the UK comedy film WHISKY GALORE! – a remake of a 1949 British film about some Scottish islanders who try to plunder cases of whisky from a stranded ship. The score is rich in Scottish and Celtic vibes and melodies as only a Scotsman like Doyle can write them. The soundtrack has been released digitally by Air-Edel Records and available from amazon in US and UK.

WaterTower Music has released digitally and on CD Daniel Pemberton’s score to Guy Ritchie’s action adventure KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD. “This isn’t your usual Hollywood epic adventure, it’s a Guy Ritchie Hollywood epic adventure,” explained Pemberton. “That means usual rules don’t apply. In fact no rules apply. All that matters is can you make a score that sounds like nothing else?”
The label has also issued the first soundtrack album for the Netflix original science fiction series SENSE8, featuring selections from the show’s original music composed by Johnny Klimek & Tom Tykwer; also included are songs from the first season.
For more details, see filmmusicreporter

Coinciding with the movie’s American premiere, MovieScore Media presents Cyrille Aufort’s score for PAST LIFE, Avi Nesher’s film that tracks the daring late 1970s odyssey of two sisters - an introverted classical musician and a rambunctious journalist as they unravel a shocking wartime mystery that has cast a dark shadow on their entire lives. Since one of the main characters is also a musician, the score for PAST LIFE includes not only traditional underscore, but also original, deliberately challenging pieces that were commissioned especially for the film, to be performed by the in dramatic moments. “When Avi and I talked about PAST LIFE, he told me it was a quest for truth of two sisters haunted by a dark secret. That’s why the score is a blend of several musical components that mirrors the feelings of the characters.” MSM has issued the album digitally, and plans a CD release on June 23.

The romantic fantasy thriller 2:22 will be released on CD by Varese Sarabande on July 14th, and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. A digital release is said to be forthcoming in a couple of weeks. The film, directed by Paul Currie, follows a man whose life is permanently derailed when an ominous pattern of events repeats itself in exactly the same manner every day, ending at precisely 2:22 PM. The album features the film’s original music composed by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard and James Orr, plus a few songs.
Watch the film’s trailer on IMDB here
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Composer Michael McCormack is currently scoring LONG LIVE THE KING, the new documentary from Frank Dietz about the legacy of the classic 1933 KING KONG. More details and the trailer for LONG LIVE THE KING can be seen on the film’s Facebook page. The KONG film will be out on DVD this Summer; McCormack plans to release a limited CD of the score via his web site (here). His soundtrack to THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING is also available from his web site, among other movie documentaries and music albums.  McCormack is currently scoring TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN for indie horror film director Donald F. Glut.

Music plays an appropriately haunting part in David Lowery’s Sundance hit “A GHOST STORY,” which stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as they attempt to navigate love, loss, and the afterlife. The film hits theaters on July 7, along with an evocative soundtrack as intimate, haunting, and elegant as Lowery’s stylish and riveting direction. The film’s soundtrack has been crafted by violinist Daniel Hart.

The A GHOST STORY soundtrack is being released via Milan Records on both CD and digital on July 7, with a special 180 gram white vinyl coming up on July 14.
Listen to this exclusive sample of the first track from Hart’s soundtrack, “The Secret In the Wall,” at indiewire, here.

Kronos Records has announced their soundtrack releases for June: NIKOLA TESLA by Alfi Kabiljo, an anniversary edition first time out on CD; LA MORTE VESTITA DI DOLLARI (Dog Eat Dog) by Carlo Savina – first time on CD; and IL REIETTO DELLE ISOLE (Outcast of the Islands) by Mario Nascimbene – first time ever in any format. All are limited to 300 copies.

New releases from Japan, via
HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN by Hajime Kaburagi – a world premiere soundtrack CD from the 1969 cult classic film.  CINEMA-KAN label
HOUSE OF TERRORS by Shunsuke Kikuchi – world premiere soundtrack CD from classic occult horror film (aka THE GHOST OF THE HUNCHBACK or IL POZZO DI SATANA) from 1965.

Those with a love for Akira Ifukube’s kaiju scores for Toho films (GODZILLA, RODAN, GHIDRAH, VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE, MAJIN THE HIDEOUS IDOL, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, etc.) may be interested in this new set which contains rare tracks from some of the composer’s drama and historical scores: Three Shells has released Akira Ifukube: Nikkatsu Film Music Complete Works, a four disc set definitive soundtrack collection featuring music from all but two Nikkatsu films that Ifukube scored. In total, music from fourteen films - 180 tracks spread across four discs – is included on this set, which contains over four hours of music. The Japanese label reports that master tapes from only six films have survived (discs 1 - 3). The music in disc 4 was extracted from optical tracks, focusing as much as possible on that material not containing dialogue or sound effects (i.e., the music on disc 4 was most likely extracted straight from the films' audio tracks, but there was no other source available to release this music). This set retails for approximately $89.00, and is available from Amazon Japan, ArkSquare, and CD Japan.
Disc 1: “The Maid’s Child” (06/26/1955, directed by Tomotaka Takasa), 22 tracks (tracks 1 - 22).
“Scoundrels of the Sea” (08/20/1957, directed by Kaneto Shindo), 13 tracks (tracks 23 - 35).
35 tracks total.
Disc 2: “Tear Down Those Walls” (06/23/1959, directed by Ko Nakahira), 19 tracks (tracks 1 - 19).
“Teikoku Bank Incident: Prisoner on Death Row” (04/12/1964, directed by Kei Kumai), 31 tracks
(tracks 20 - 51).
51 tracks total.
Disc 3: “Japanese Archipelago” (05/26/1965, directed by Kei Kumai), 26 tracks (tracks 1 - 26).
“The Burmese Harp: Complete Edition” (02/12/1956, directed by Kon Ichikawa), 26 tracks (tracks 27 - 52).
52 tracks total.
Disc 4: “Muddy Youth” (09/21/1954, directed by Ichiro Sugai & Kozaburo Yoshimura), 8 tracks (tracks 1 - 8).
“Woman of Ginza” (04/01/1955, directed by Kozaburo Yoshimura), 4 tracks (tracks 9 -12).
“Three Faces” (08/09/1955, directed by Umetsugu Inoue), 6 tracks (tracks 13 - 18).
“Police Diary Part 2” (11/16/1955, directed by Seiji Hisamatsu), 5 tracks (tracks 19 - 23).
“Silver Suicide” (02/05/1956, directed by Kaneto Shindo), 4 tracks (tracks 24 - 27).
“The Crime of Shiro Kamisaka” (02/25/1956, directed by Seiji Hisamatsu), 6 tracks (tracks 28 - 33).
“Wandering Shore” (06/21/1956, directed by Kaneto Shindo), 5 tracks (tracks 34 - 38).
“Who Committed Murder” (07/03/1957, directed by Ko Nakahira), 4 tracks (tracks 39 - 42).
42 tracks total.
- Via Japanese Film Music Forum

The Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program has announced its 2017 Summer Intensive Program. This program ran in Seattle every year from 2001 to 2015 and is now offered every other year. The program has become extremely popular, attracting students from all over the world. The two-week program for 2017 is scheduled to run from July 31st to August 11th, 2017, Monday through Friday, from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM, and will include a number of “core” and elective courses, some evening film screenings and weekend activities. For details, see:


Film Music on Vinyl

Waxwork Records presents the deluxe, re-mastered-for-vinyl 30th Anniversary edition of the soundtrack to one of the most beloved films in the history of horror cinema, EVIL DEAD 2. The music by composer Joseph LoDuca is the sophisticated follow up to the first film’s outstanding soundtrack, engrossing the listener in classic orchestral horror, electronic cues, and haunting lullaby compositions. The LP edition features 180 gram yellow colored vinyl, heavyweight old-style tip on jackets, 11” x 11” printed insert, and all new artwork by Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative.
For details, see

Varèse Sarabande has released a vinyl version of Angelo Badalamenti’s celebrated score for David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET. The film marked the first musical collaboration between auteur director Lynch and composer Badalamenti.  This amazing release allows listeners to experience BLUE VELVET's evocative score that when juxtaposed with Lynch's use of early pop tunes, created a singular disquieting effect. Together with Lynch’s purposeful eye, this score formed helped form a thematic language that inspired a generation of films and nightmares.

Music on Vinyl has released Ennio Morricone’s music to the 1912 silent film adaptation of Shakespeare’s RICHARD III. The film is the oldest surviving American feature-length film and the first feature-length Shakespearean adaptation ever made, discovered in 1996. Morricone composed the score to accompany the American Film Institute’s 1997 restoration of the film. Music on Vinyl’s disc is a limited edition of 1000 numbered copies on transparent vinyl. RICHARD III joins three other Morricone scores reissued for the first time on vinyl by the label: BUGSY (1991), SOSTIENE PEREIRA (1995), and CITY OF JOY (1992).


Film Music Books

SCORE: A Film Music Documentary -
 The Interviews by Matt Schrader

Published in paperback and for amazon Kindle: film composers uncover the secrets behind film music, from crafting emotions and making it in Hollywood, to the tricks of giving an audience goose bumps. 
Available from amazon.
The book is tied in with SCORE: A Film Music Documentary film,
see Facebook page.

La musique de film en France, courants, spécificités, evolutions
(Film Music in France, Currents,
Specificities, Evolutions)

By Jérôme Rossi
This French language book has been published by Symetrie in France. It spans more than a century of applied music, since L'ASSASSINAT DU DUC DE GUISE, the first official music made for a film by Camille Saint-Saëns (1908)  The book details large aspects of French music scoring, its characteristics and specialities through the pioneers (1930-1960) from Honegger to Charpentier, the Nouvelle Vague (panorama 1960-1970, Delerue, Antoine Duhamel), the contemporaneous tendencies (Lelouch, Sarde, songs, the profession and the “new symphonism form” by Rombi and Desplat). It closes with interviews with Dutilleux, Demarsan, Duhamel, Colombier, Cosma, and Morricone (concerning his French film scores).
Available from amazon france.

- via Maestro, the online Ennio Morricone magazine #11


Games Music News

IFMCA award-winning composer Olivier Derivière (Remember Me, Assassin's Creed IV Freedom Cry) has composed his latest game score, for the psychological thriller game Get Even, developed by Polish studio The Farm 51 and published by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe. What’s especially unique about this score is its 3D-audio sound design. To fully immerse players in the center of the game’s multi-dimensional story, Derivière created a visceral and emotional musical score – rendered live in the game’s engine – that infuses sound sources from within the game’s environment and reacts in real-time with the actions of the player. “Through the use of real-time MIDI, live musicians recorded in ambisonics, and other audio tricks, the gaming environment itself is now an orchestra waiting to be conducted, and everything in it is a potential instrument,” said Derivière. An intense and genre-defying musical journey combining organic electronic music and live orchestra, recorded and mixed in 3D audio with the Brussels Philharmonic, Derivière’s score conveys a vast spectrum of emotions whereby all the music is connected directly to the meaning of the game – from the sublime elegance of classically-rendered compositions to very dramatic, modern symphonic renderings, and heady mixtures of sound design and percussive drive or truly frightening cacophonies of disturbing sound textures relentlessly in pursuit of the listener in a fully surround sensation.
Video: Explore how Auro-3D technology is used to tell a unique story through sound in Get Even, in this short video on youtube:   
For more information on the composer, visit .

Austin Wintory just announced his game score to DeFormers,  a multiplayer brawler game developed by Ready at Dawn and published by GameTrust. “I can honestly say I've never attempted a score anything like this,” Wintory described his music for the game. The Creative Director and a true kindred spirit, Andrea Pessino, had said early on that he imagined something ‘epic but whimsical.’ Embrace the silly but make it huge. Even despite the openness of that direction, I remain astonished by just how much free reign Andrea and the developers at Ready at Dawn gave me. I came back with ‘what about an Italian western on steroids, mixed with psychotic circus music and flamenco?’ No one seemed to bat an eye, and so here we are! 
Sample and./or purchase the DeFormers score at Wintory’s Bandcamp page.

Winifred Phillips’s 2009 score for the Spore Hero game has been reissued digitally this year and available on amazon and is well worth checking out: [Phillips has crafted a game score that is as clever as it is cute, while also reaching to proportions that are often epically heroic.  Her main theme is a bubbly and spirited romp through a colorful panorama of sporaging alien creatures, vivid woodwind melodies, sparkling trills, cheerful harps and roaming rhythms enlivening the landscape.  “Sporable” is a, well, adorable track that takes the score through many of its diverse paces and serves as a fine showpiece for the music’s multilayered sensibilities.  A variety of electronic whorls and whoops intersperse with a jaunty exploration melody for flutes and synths in “SporeZone;” “Sporexplore” is equally meandering, sparkling musical colors and clever textures amidst a bed of various synth pads and riffs, and “Wanderment” similarly drifts a bit freely across the soundscape; while the light orchestral rampage of “Monster Mayhem” and “Beast Brawl” are both cartoonishly captivating, managing to be as tongue in cheek as it is dramatically exciting.  The fast-roaming “Evolvable” captures a compelling flavor and cadence in its straight-ahead action oriented sensibilities, as does “Nemesis” and, especially, the lavish “Spore War” with its phalanxes of percussion-driven choir and dramatic intonations of brass.  It’s an entirely fun score.] – from my original review of the CD soundtrack in my Nov. 2009 column.

Sumthing Else Music Works, Relic Entertainment, and Games Workshop®, present the official soundtrack for Warhammer® 40,000®: Dawn of War® III, the long-awaited third installment of the critically acclaimed real-time strategy franchise, featuring the game's original score by BAFTA award winning, EMMY® and Ivor Novello nominated composer Paul Leonard-Morgan (Battlefield: Hardline, Dredd 3d). The album is available digitally from iTunes and, with CD edition available through amazon.

Sumthing Else Music Works also presents the CD release of the original soundtrack to For Honor™, a ground-breaking melee action game from Ubisoft featuring Vikings, Knights and Samurai combat.  The game's original score, composed by Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi, is available now on CD in stores, via amazon, and for digital download from  

Worth reading: Sean Cleaver speaks with composer Joris de Man, production duo The Flight and Guerrilla music supervisor Lucas van Tol of the hit game HORIZON ZERO DAWN – winner of the Game Critics Awards for best original game in both 2015 and 2016.  The composers talk about finding unique "tone," sound and soul for the various characters and worlds in the game. This task is at the core of what game scoring is all about. Access it via

 – via Penka Kouneva (thanks for the link!)


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. A wholly re-written and expanded multi-book Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published:) the first book is now available from Creature Features and Book 2 coming up next Spring/Summer from Midnight Marquee Press. See:

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copy editing assistance.

© 2017 - the Soundtrax column is copyright by Randall D. Larson; all rights reserved.

Randall can be contacted via -Your Store to Buy Hard To Find Film and Television
Music Scores and Soundtrack CDs!