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By scoring SPIRIT UNTAMED, Award-winning composer Amie Doherty became the first female composer to score a DreamWorks Animation feature film. In addition to the score, she composed the song “Fearless,” performed several times in the film. When it came to creating an original song for the film, Director Elaine Bogan had a very specific vision, “We wanted ‘Fearless’ to represent the path in which Lucky comes to find herself. After our initial meeting with Amie, she then brought us this demo that just blew us away. The music and lyrics were both beautiful, and the way that ‘Fearless’ is in the final film is the exact way that Amie presented it to us in her first pass.” Doherty went on to develop both the English and Spanish versions of the song, which are sung by Eiza González and Isabela Merced. “Eiza and Isabela are both beautiful singers,” Doherty explains, “They recorded at DreamWorks studio while the filmmakers directed them, and I musically coached via Zoom. The performances were both intimate and emotional.” The first sequel to the studio’s 2002 animated feature, SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON, SPIRIT UNTAMED is an epic adventure about a headstrong girl named “Lucky,” longing for a place to belong, who discovers a kindred spirit when her life intersects with a wild horse. According to Mike Knobloch, president of Music at Universal Film, “Amie Doherty delivered a beautiful, lyrical, tuneful, thematic, melodic score. She knocked it out of the park. It makes our journey with Amie a special win on a lot of levels. We’re proud to be this invested in her.” Amie Doherty is an Irish composer based in Los Angeles. Her scoring credits include Focus Features’ THE HIGH NOTE, HERE AND NOW, Amazon Prime’s series UNDONE; the short JURASSIC WORLD spinoff BATTLE AT BIG ROCK, and DreamWorks Animation’s short film MAROONED, for which she received the “Best Score for an Animated Short” award at the 2019 Hollywood Music in Media awards. Other projects include the Emmy-nominated documentary LIGHT IN THE WATER. Doherty’s other musical contributions include orchestrating and conducting tracks on Lady Gaga’s Chromatica album and conducting the orchestra and choir with 50 Cent at Radio City Music Hall for the POWER Season 5 premiere. Other credits include working with composer Jeff Russo on the TV series STAR TREK: PICARD, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, FARGO, THE NIGHT OF, ALTERED CARBON and THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY.
Q: Your score for SPIRIT UNTAMED is a wonderfully engaging and powerfully lyrical adventure score that sets an exciting and emotive tone for this film. How did you prepare for scoring this film, especially being that it is the latest film in the franchise that began with SPIRIT, STALLION OF THE CIMARRON in 2002?
Amie Doherty: The first thing I did after reading the script was to meet with the teams and see if it was a good fit. I had come up with some ideas for what I thought the score could contribute to the film, and when I met our director Elaine Bogan, co-director Ennio Torresan, and our producer Karen Foster, it was pretty clear right from the start that we were all on the same page in terms of what the score could bring to the film. I had this idea that it should be symphonic in nature and definitely tip my hat and tip the score’s hat to the Old West and frontier scores, but given a modern flair, so I included a lot of guitar stuff and some vocals, like male vocals. I was inspired by the band Fleet Foxes and the use of their vocals in their tight three- and four-part harmony and I thought that would be a cool way to modernize the symphonic sound of the score. So when I did talk to them and said here’s an idea for part of the palette, Elaine mentioned that she was a huge Fleet Foxes fan and that she had actually been talking about them herself; they had even put a Fleet Foxes song into the temp which ended up in the film. So it was one of those weird coincidences where I had no idea that they had even talked about the Fleet Foxes, so that was one of the ideas that we went off of, and then looked at various instruments, palettes, and things like that.
Listen to “Meeting Spirit & Main Title” from the SPIRIT UNTAMED soundtrack:
Q: The film’s music contains a mix of songs and instrumental scoring. How did you work with director Elaine Bogan to integrate the songs tonally and narratively within the score, especially the anthemic centerpiece, “Fearless?”
Amie Doherty: “Fearless” was actually the first cue that I wrote for the film when I came on. I actually came on a lot earlier than most composers do on films because they needed this, at the time we were calling it a lullaby, to open the film, and so we had to nail the lullaby so it could go on and be animated to keep things moving. I had this idea that the lullaby would be Milagro’s theme and that we would use the melody from that throughout the film whenever we want Lucky and the audience to feel like her mother is with her and she’s looking down on her and taking care of her. I had planned on just writing the melody and we had discussed with the Universal music team that eventually a lyricist would be hired. I wasn’t a lyricist, so I went away and wrote some placeholder lyrics just based on what they had told me – they told me such beautiful stories about these characters and it was clear how much they loved them, I was just so inspired by what they told me. I went away and wrote the lyrics and everybody loved them, so we ended up keeping them. At that stage it was just like a 30-second lullaby, so then later in the film they decided to include it half way through the film, and it kind of grew legs and became its own thing. We recorded it for the end credits as a fully-produced song that Jake Gyllenhall sings. It was a real joy to have that time to sit and work out a theme and just have that to work into the score. Hopefully it’s like a touchstone for people who recognize it as the song, and recognize it as Milagro’s theme in those emotional moments with her daughter.
Q: You’ve also developed the English and Spanish lyrics for the featured songs. How was it to shift linguistic gears in the words and accompaniment for these songs?
Amie Doherty: That was actually a really interesting experience! I do not speak Spanish, and as I mentioned I hadn’t planned on writing all of the lyrics, so I wrote the entire English version, and then the Universal Music Team brought on a fantastic translator called Elsten Torres, and I worked with him. I sent over the English lyrics and he translated them. Some of them obviously don’t translate directly so we would discuss the essence of each line or what the emotion each line is really trying to convey, and he did a fantastic job translating it. I think it sounds really beautiful.
Q: In addition to the songs, you’ve also used vocalise in some powerful ways as part of your musical palette in this score. I’m especially fond of the track “I Am The Train” in this regard. How did you decide to integrate the vocals and what was the process of incorporating the voices within your musical orchestrations?
Amie Doherty: Right at the very early stages when we were discussing the palette, I had mentioned using that tight 3/4 part harmony, ala Fleet Foxes, and I had mocked it up and I had a friend record it for the demo and I had thought eventually we’d figure out who’s going to record it. Mike Knobloch and Angela Leus at Universal, they called one day and said “Do you want us to pitch this to Robin Pecknold, who’s the lead singer of Fleet Foxes?” on a total longshot, and I said yeah, sure. So we sent over some tracks and he loved them and was super excited to come on board and sing them. It was such an exciting thing to add to the palette. I love working with vocals, and in a lot of scores I like to incorporate them – I think they have a real human connection and can be very emotional and beautiful. I also recorded some female vocals, Eiza González, who plays Milagro, actually sings in the firefly sequence but in a much more textural kind of background way, and I also recorded Morgan Kibbey, who’s a good friend of mine and an amazing singer, and she recorded a lot of textural stuff too, just to fill out that warmth, and I love layering it with the orchestra and coming up with different, unique textures.
Listen to “I Am The Train” from the SPIRIT UNTAMED soundtrack:
Q: How would you describe the score’s thematic architecture and how did your themes integrate and develop across the arc of the film’s storyline?
Amie Doherty: I knew right from the get-go that I wanted this to be a very thematic score. Those are the kind of scores I grew up with and I love animated adventure scores, so we actually worked really hard on the themes for each… There are seven themes: two main themes and five sub-themes. What I did initially was, we took various chunks of the movie, six or seven areas, and I just worked really hard on the themes, defining them as their own thing and deciding which instrumentation works with each theme. It was great to have that time – as composers we don’t always have that time to go back and forth and really lock it in with the director. But once the themes were written and established, the rest of the score almost fell into place, because we knew exactly which theme should go where. Then it was just so fun to arrange them in different ways, with different instrumentation for the various emotions. Something that I kept in mind when writing the themes and working them in different ways, was to ask myself if this worked in an action sequence, would this work in an emotional sequence, would this work in comedy? So it was really fun.
Listen to “Rescue Mission” from the SPIRIT UNTAMED soundtrack:
Q: How large an orchestral ensemble was used to record the score?
Amie Doherty: I think we had about 72 players. We recorded it at Abbey Road, which was incredible and the fact that we did this during peak COVID times was crazy. I would stay here in L.A. and the orchestrators were based in London. John Ashton Thomas was the lead orchestrator and Gavin Greenaway was another orchestrator and they have a team, and Gavin conducted; they’re both in London while I sat here in L.A. The technology is amazing. Andrew Dudman, the recording engineer at Abbey Road, ran the whole thing so smoothly. I spoke directly into all of the players’ ears and was giving notes and producing the session from L.A. It did take a lot longer than usual because of COVID restrictions – we could only have one section in the studio one at a time so we did four days of strings and then we did two days of brass and then we did two days of woodwinds and a day of percussion. We had to break it all up, so it was a much longer process.
Q: I’ve also wanted to ask you about scoring UNDONE, an Amazon Prime animated science fiction series about a woman who discovers she has a new relationship with time after surviving a near-fatal car accident. Both the series and your score really impressed me. What brought you into that show and how would you describe your musical approach to the series?
Amie Doherty: That one is an adult animation series. I met with them a few years ago – we’re actually working on Season 2 right now – and it’s one of those things where my agents had pitched me for it and I wrote a demo, met with them, and I just loved that they really wanted something unique and different – that’s a composer’s dream! They gave me free reign to try out anything with no restrictions or limits. It’s such a beautifully written show and the visuals are stunning and so captivating. It was very much an organic score as well. I also used a lot of vocals in that score, and it has this kind of handmade feel to it while you watch it, so I kept the score very organic and I used a lot of solo instruments. It was a lot more intimate than SPIRIT UNTAMED!
Listen to “Why I Caused The Accident” from the UNDONE soundtrack:
Q: I loved your score for the JURASSIC WORLD short spinoff, BATTLE AT BIG ROCK. What was your musical palette for this short film and how were you able to keep the flavor of the JURASSIC PARK franchise while giving the music your own unique spin?
Amie Doherty: Oh! That went back to huge orchestra; we recorded that at Abbey Road also a couple years ago. That one was just a total dream come true. I’ve been a huge fan of JURASSIC PARK and the score is obviously one of my favorite scores. So when I was brought on board I was totally mind blown! I did have permission to use John Williams’ themes, and Michael Giacchino’s themes from the JURASSIC WORLD set of films. I sat and talked with the director, Colin Trevorrow, and we chose these moments where we should give the audience what they want and bring in those themes. That was just an incredible experience because I really sat down and studied, in particular, the LOST WORLD soundtrack, which I used in the end credit sequence of the short. Obviously it was as much of an education/learning experience as anything else, and I also got to contribute a theme to the JURASSIC WORLD which is the “Battle of Big Rock” theme, which was an incredible honor. I got to work it in with John Williams’ themes and there’s a little bit of the Family Theme from Michael Giacchino’s JURASSIC WORLD score too.
Watch the 10:24 short film, BATTLE AT BIG ROCK, at Universal’s Jurassic World YouTube page,here.
Q: One final question – and I’ll preface that by giving you congratulations for being the first female composer to score a Dreamworks animated feature film! That’s a wonderful step in the right direction.
Amie Doherty: Thank you!
Q: In 2019 you participated in a speakers panel for Billboard Magazine about “How female composers are pushing the boundaries to change the music and film industry.” What progress have you seen in this regard from today’s perspective?
Amie Doherty: Something that I feel super hopeful and encouraged by is the amount of awareness that there has been in the last couple of years, especially with some of the programs – like the Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab, that was one that was doing it for years and they always had their eye out for diversity, and then in the last couple of years the Universal Composers Initiative started, which is actually the seed in how I ended up working on this film. Just for a studio like that, they were the first of their kind to go out and actively make a seat at the table for women and people of color, and I really applaud that. I think it’s programs like that and people really putting their money where their mouth is – for want of a better phrase – and making it happen. I feel very encouraged by that, I think it’s really wonderful. I feel that I’m seeing a lot of positive change and hopefully there will be more – like I keep saying I’m so honored to be the woman whose name is attached to this milestone of being the first female scorer for a Dreamworks animated film. My dream is that in the not-so-distant future that no one will bat an eyelid and that it will just be the norm to see a woman’s name at the end of a studio film. Hopefully that’s where it’s going.
Q: I hope so, too. Thanks very much for talking with me today!
Special thanks to Ray Costa and Lana Lay of Costa Communications for facilitating this interview.
The SPIRIT UNTAMED soundtrack has been released by Back Lot Music and is available digitally from most streaming and digital music services.
Frederik Wiedmann is an Emmy Award-winning composer with over 140 titles to his name in all realms and genres. He has been inspired to film composition since his first listen of John Barry’s score DANCES WITH WOLVES at the age of 12. Wiedmann has been noted for composing the Dreamworks Animations’ MADAGASCAR spinoff ALL HAIL KING JULIEN for which he won his first Emmy with Mitch Watson (lyrics) for the song “True Bromance,” and subsequently scored the 2020 cartoon series MADAGASCAR: A LITTLE WILD. He has also been a mainstay in the DC cinematic universe starting in 2011 with his work on GREEN LANTERN - THE ANIMATED SERIES, which led to scoring a dozen animated features in the DC Extended Universe, including JUSTICE LEAGUE THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX, DEATH OF SUPERMAN, BATMAN HUSH, WONDER WOMAN BLOODLINES, and SUPERMAN: RED SON. His work has included numerous scores in such popular horror/sci-fi/fantasy film franchises as HOSTEL, HELLRAISER, LAKE PLACID, DEATH RACE, THE SCORPION KING, and three TREMORS movies, and he received praise for scoring the animated series THE DRAGON PRINCE (2018-19). Wiedmann’s most recent score is one he’s most proud of, scoring the alien invasion thriller OCCUPATION: RAINFALL, Australian director Luke Sparke’s sequel to his first rate alien invasion survival story, 2018’s OCCUPATION. In the new movie, set two years after the aliens have landed on Earth, survivors from Sydney, Australia, fight in a desperate war as the number of casualties continue to grow. Wiedmann’s score is a large-scale orchestral work which became “the most epic ride of my career,” as he describes it. “It’s every composer’s dream to be called up one day: ‘Hey, I like your work in [insert your past work] very much, I’d love for you to score my upcoming film,’ and the film turned out to be a rather awesome one, and the director who cold-called you was an amazingly talented one.” Wiedmann composed and recorded, with orchestras in London and Macedonia, 117 minutes of music for the two-hour long film. “I had the work cut out for me,” he said, “And boy, was it fun!”
Q: How did you become involved with OCCUPATION RAINFALL? I understand the director called you out of the blue?
Frederik Wiedmann: It’s one of those things that you never expect will happen to you. You read stories about film composers getting a call out of the blue from famous directors and that becomes the beginning of a long relationship. For me, it was an email sent through my website – and the only emails I get through my website are usually phishing attempts or occasionally fans asking for soundtracks that aren’t available. And then this email came in from this gentleman from Australia telling me about his indie sci-fi film with Ken Jeong and Jason Isaacs, and if I were interested in taking a look at it, because he’s a big fan of my DC work. I sent it to my agent and I politely responded to Luke, the director, and asked for more information, like “Can I see some of the film? Is there any more you can give me, I would love to talk to you about this project more.” And then as he sent me the first pieces of footage I was blown away because it was just so unbelievably awesome and I couldn’t believe that this just came to me like this. Within two days the contracts were signed, everything looked good to go, and I was deep into scoring reel one. To top it off, the director and I immediately found we were on the same wavelength – we have the same interests in terms of music, the same taste it seems, so the whole process was incredibly smooth from that point on.
Q: What were your first ideas for the film’s score? What conversations did you have with Luke about the kind of music he wanted and the direction it would take?
Frederik Wiedmann: In the beginning, the references that Luke gave me were Steve Jablonsky/TRANSFORMERS, and we talked about Hans Zimmer’s earlier stuff like BROKEN ARROW and THE ROCK – granted those are fairly old scores but there was something in them he said he always enjoyed and there was a slight nuance of patriotism, especially in THE ROCK, that he responded to. So we listened to a few pieces on YouTube and exchanged ideas about the kind of sound palette. We decided it had to be a big score with lots of brass, lots of strings, possibly choir, and an immense amount of percussion – that was a given. He told me “don’t hold back! This is supposed to be a big adventurous ride for the audience, so we should bring out all the tricks in the bag and make it awesome. There’s no restraints!” That was music to my ears as a composer, to have that big of a color palette to paint with! There’s nothing more exciting for us than to be given so much freedom.
The first thing I did was for the opening of the film, when we look at Earth from space. We get a voiceover giving us a short summary of what had happened to this point, which basically sums up the first movie. This is where I introduce what I call the “Earth Theme.” It’s one of the first themes that I wrote, which gets reprised several places throughout the film, mostly in connection with our humans and Earth itself. The next big theme is what I’ve referred to as the Hero Theme, which was first used during the big escape from Sydney where they are evacuating all the refugees through an insane amount of alien fire and attacks, almost an impossible get away but somehow the main heroes make it. That scene, as action-packed and spectacular as it is, has so much heartbreak and human sacrifice tied into it because some people don’t survive during this escape, that the music, while being driving, also had to feel very human and noble. It also had to accomplish the whole idea of sacrifice. So this Hero Theme is a little different from my other hero themes that I usually get to write for Superman and Batman; it had a lot more heart to it. That was the second big theme that I wrote, which has many moments in the movie where it reoccurs.
Listen to the track “Taking Fire”
Q: You’ve mentioned the philosophical idea risen in the story of “how far would you go for the greater good?” How did you emphasize that idea through your music?
Frederik Wiedmann: There are several fairly big conflicts in this film. Some are shown from our hero’s point of view, and some from the aliens’ point of view – there is a human character in this show who’s not an alien but who’s more or less treated as a villain, because he has his own agenda and he’s going completely against our heroes. There’s a lot of conflict there, because he think’s he’s doing the right thing by saving the human race but at the same time he’s completely neglecting that there are also innocent lives on the alien side that might need saving. Just like humans, alien families have also been thrown into this mess and become collateral damage, which is an interesting angle to take in an alien invasion film – suddenly there are vulnerable alien children who are caught in the cross-fire.
Q: Would you describe the film’s motivic orientation, and how did those motifs recognize the conflicting progress and fallback that occurs during the ongoing battle.
Frederik Wiedmann: I believe the whole score is basically more of a human survival story than an alien invasion score. The whole direction is geared toward that – it’s more about the personal journey of our main characters, Matt and Amelia, and the lead alien, who we get to know as Gary. It’s really about them and their journey and what they’re trying to accomplish more than about the science fiction element of the Earth being invaded by aliens. All the themes are about the sacrifice, the emotions, and the yearning of the heroes for a better life for everybody – and basically to survive. As you will see, they don’t just encounter hostile aliens with guns, there’s also a fair amount of creatures that need to be confronted that are also not from this planet!
“We wanted to avoid sounding too orchestral – what I mean by that is it shouldn’t sound like a full-on organic orchestral score. We wanted to have a bit of a hybrid feel… where it’s more layered with some unique instruments and synths and a lot of non-orchestral percussion that goes with it. That was the foundation of everything that we’ve done.”
Q: How did you select your instrumental palette for the score, assigning specific instruments to flavor the characters, situation, and emotional resonance as the story plays out?
Frederik Wiedmann: Right off the bat, the main core of the music was decided to be fairly orchestral. But we wanted to avoid sounding too orchestral – what I mean by that is it shouldn’t sound like a full-on organic orchestral score. We wanted to have a bit of a hybrid feel. Something like, for lack of a better comparison, the TRANSFORMERS movies or something like what Hans Zimmer would do where it’s more layered with some unique instruments and synths and a lot of non-orchestral percussion that goes with it. That was the foundation of everything that we’ve done. And there was always an opportunity for some experimentation – like I suggested to Luke, why don’t we give our lead alien, Gary, the good alien who sides with the humans and helps them on their journey, why don’t we give him a unique solo instrument that can carry through the film as his thing, given he’s not from this world. So I recorded an Armenian duduk that became pretty much his theme, because it’s very warm and deep and still feels very human, because Gary is by far the most human alien you will meet in the film.
In some scenes I thought about experimenting with solo strings within the big orchestral sound. There was room to play with something that almost sounds more like a string quartet – most specifically, there is one scene where Amelia walks through an underground facility that she just discovered, and she sees that there’s an array of torture chambers set up by the government where those aliens and their families are kept, and she’s walking through this hallway with horror, but rather than using scary music, we made it very personal and emotional, and this is where we have a very small arrangement of solo string instruments guiding us through that, which I thought was an interesting way to treat this scene. Luke was very open to exploring that and that’s what we ended up doing.
Listen to the track “The Standoff:”
Q: How did you treat the major battle scenes in the film?
Frederik Wiedmann: The battle scenes were the most exciting ones because they’re always actiony and exciting, with a hint of danger because in most cases the humans are quite overpowered by the aliens. It’s never an easy fight, and so there’s always a certain level of impending doom and intensity that accompanies all of the action sequences. They’re pretty heavy pieces with a lot of notes. For example, there’s an amazing scene with a big spaceship chase through the Australian outback, and in this case there are a lot of high trumpets and strings moving extremely fast. That’s probably the most STAR WARS-esque we got to in this film. It has sci-fi elements, it has the driving intensity, but it’s still feels like it’s part of this one big family of themes.
Q: As all that is going on, were you able to integrate any of the character themes in the middle of those action cues?
Frederik Wiedmann: Yes, absolutely. There are many places where the themes come back during the action. The biggest example is in the piece I mentioned earlier, which on the soundtrack is called “Hail of Fire,” where they’re escaping through an insane amount of enemy fire, and it’s really an action scene with a lot of percussion, driving strings, and brass, but on top of that there’s this big emotional melody that carries us through it. It pushes us, again, out of the action into the personal experience of these refugees.
Q: What can you tell me about recording the brass section at AIR Studios in London, and the strings in Macedonia?
Frederik Wiedmann: Oh man, that was an amazing experience! Honestly, the ideal solution would have been to record everything at Air Studios, but it was really hard to coordinate sessions because this was deep during COVID. Things were bad in England at that time, and I was lucky that Air Studios was even open and operational. They couldn’t allow the amount of people that I needed in the room at that point; there were just too many restrictions. I was able to fit the brass in, with seats separated, so we decided to do brass there alone with Ben Foster conducting, because brass is something that is very difficult to record well. In my opinion and my experience the best place to do it is L.A. or London. There are some other places where it’s great, too, but this is the top of the line, and Luke wanted the best of the best and so did I, because the movie absolutely deserved it. So we opted for that.
And for strings, the F.A.M.E.S. Orchestra in Macedonia had a pretty good grip on COVID, so they allowed me to put forty people in a room. I’ve recorded with them dozens of times; I love the work they do and I’m very comfortable recording there. I know the musicians and the conductor and I’m very aware of what they’re capable of, which is a lot. They’re a terrific group. It was the right move to do that there and then do the brass in London, and then we put it all together in L.A.
Q: Did you use Zoom or something like that to communicate with the recording staff at these sessions?
Frederik Wiedmann: Yes, exactly. I was on Zoom, they fed me the orchestra through software called Source Connect [https://www.source-elements.com/products/source-connect/], which is an HD audio stream plug-in where you can hear fairly good quality of a recording mix-down with something like a two-second delay, so we used Zoom and Skype to talk back to the booth, the mixers and the conductor, but we’re monitoring through that plug-in. This way we got a pretty good idea of what’s coming. We could give them notes and all that, and then they just upload the files. Then it was me and my assistant Henrick Aström, both cutting up the orchestra and putting it back together; our fantastic lead orchestrator Hyesu Wiedmann and additional orchestrator Andrew Kinney (he did a couple of cues too) were absolutely going above and beyond and giving the greatest detail into this score that it needed, and then my mixer Jason LaRocca did an amazing job putting it altogether here and giving it the nice 5.1 surround mix that we wanted. Then we shipped it all back to Australia. Once around the world and back again!
Listen to the track “The Ascend”
Q: How much time did it take from the time you first started the score until you delivered the final mix?
Frederik Wiedmann: I think we had two to three months. That was pretty comfortable. At least I found it comfortable! It’s a lot of music but this is so much in my wheelhouse I could write it at a good pace.
Q: With a musical score that runs three-minutes shy of the film’s two-hour running time, the term “wall-to-wall” music seems apt and appropriate given the storyline. What do you think prepared you to tackle a score of this magnitude at this point in time, and how did you overcome the challenges this project may have posed for you?
Frederik Wiedmann: I actually felt extremely ready to take this on. When they told me “two hours of orchestral action music” I was like, “Ok! Let’s do it!” Honestly, I have done so many DC animated superhero films since 2011, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, so after that nothing really scares you any more! This is just a language that I’ve gotten good at and that I’ve done so many times that it comes very natural to me. So I wasn’t intimidated. It really helps as a great motivator to keep writing and keep exploring new things, and having somebody like Luke Sparke as a director on the other end who’s so incredibly receptive of what you do and appreciates the things you bring to the table, that it just became this fun dialogue between him and I and the music. I just keep throwing things at him and improving and making it better and brainstorming new ideas, and that way it comes together really quickly. I always think that if you’re very comfortable in your environment as a composer, you can really achieve amazing things.
Many thanks to Kyrie Hood and Chandler Poling of White Bear PR for assistance in facilitating this interview. And special thanks to Frederik Wiedmann for taking time out to discuss his score with me in some detail.
The OCCUPATION: RAINFALL digital soundtrack is available from the composer’s LLC, Kaleido Sound. The album is available from Apple Music, Amazon, and other streaming services.
For further information on the composer’s film scores see my previous interviews: Scoring GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – Soundtrax December 2011 Scoring THE DRAGON PRINCE & OTHER WORKS – Musique Fantastique
THE DJINN/Matthew James/MovieScore Media – digital A mute boy is trapped in his apartment with a sinister monster when he makes a wish to fulfill his heart’s greatest desire. Matthew James’ (QUARANTINE THERAPY, ADOPTED) original score from this 2021 IFC Midnight horror film explores the delicate innocence, reflection, mourning, and sheer terror young Dylan experiences. “It was very important to make sure the musical score grew with him throughout the film,” said James. “It was important to the filmmakers to use the human voice, so I performed vocal and choral work for THE DJINN’S main theme that serves as a very crucial juxtaposition to Dylan’s unique situation. This myriad of hymns/chants/whispers were used throughout to cover the wide spectrum of emotions Dylan goes through. It truly set the tone for the entirety of the score.” James utilizes traditional orchestral instruments but also expresses an homage to the late ‘80s synth era wherein the film takes place. The composer sampled famous synths from Yamaha, Arturia, Moog and others to create the sound of the period. The mix of modern orchestra and ‘80s synthesis makes the score for THE DJINN a most enjoyable listening experience; in addition to relating to the electronic sound of the time period, the music also characterizes Dylan and lends a musical voice to his experiences (“Fall That Same Year - Dylan’s Theme”, “Artifacts Required”), while “On the Radio B-Side” is a very likeable ‘80s synth pop tune complete with drum machine effects. In contrast, James provides some potent spooky orchestral music that definitely fits the film’s scarier moments (“Book of Shadows and The Spirit of Fire,” “The Djinn Awakens,” “Appearance and Transformation,” “Shapeshifting,” “Night Terror,” “Trapped,” “The Toll,” and the climactic “The Showdown”) while “Guardian of the Shadow Realm” shares a bit of Moog tonality with its suspenseful mysterioso. “Could I Have Stopped It?” and “The End” both lends an airy synth quality to the brooding mood of the film’s denouement. It’s a fun and enjoyable score that makes a fine listen on its own. For more details, see MovieScore Media.
Listen to Dylan’s Theme from the DJINN:
FORGOTTEN WE’LL BE/Zbigniew Preisner/Caldera – CD Zbigniew Preisner’s score this 2020 film, directed by Fernando Trueba and inspired by Héctor Abad Faciolince’s “Oblivion: A Memoir” in which he describes with great tenderness the life and work of his father, the revered Colombian scientist and activist Hector Abad Gómez who was killed by mercenaries in 1987. Much of the film is told from the author’s viewpoint as a child, and thus Preisner’s score adopts a similar perspective, providing poignantly tuneful melodies and using rich orchestral colors tinged with gentle piano refrains, the formal chords of a church organ, the clarity of xylophone and solo harp interludes, and such, illustrating both affectionate memories as well as haunting moments of pained remembrance. It’s largely a restful and reflective score, a musical portrait of the loss of childhood innocence, beautifully performed and quite nicely presented. “Musically I wanted to concentrate on emotions, father and family,” Preisner is quoted by Stephan Eicke in his accompanying booklet notes. “I tried to feel the ambience they lived in, letters they wrote to each other, and in the end describe the tragedy of a family that lost a beloved husband, father. I know such horrible crimes from communist times in Poland and I remember the atmosphere. The film is universal. It refers to the past but often the past is present.” Thus has Preisner engaged in the fundamental emotive background of the film and what it presents to the viewer; the music fulfills the story of son and father, mourns the tragedy visited upon the family, and brings both son and father to life through the emotional landscape of its music and the gentle reminiscence it conjures forth.
For more details, see caldera records.
KNOWING Deluxe Edition/Marco Beltrami/Varèse Sarabande Records – CDDirected by Alex Proyas (THE CROW), the 2009 science fiction action film KNOWING starred Nicolas Cage as MIT astrophysics professor John Koestler who is trying to decipher a prophecy of numbers that eerily predict worldwide disasters and trying to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. Reuniting with Proyas from I, ROBOT, composer Marco Beltrami provided KNOWING with a powerful score that matches Koestler’s worry and apprehension for what he’s discovering. KNOWING was released by Varèse Sarabande as a single CD at the time of the film—the new 2-CD Deluxe Edition nearly doubles the playing time and features new liner notes by film music journalist Daniel Schweiger incorporating interviews with Beltrami and his collaborators, Buck Sanders and Marcus Trumpp. Beltrami and his co-composers mirrored Koestler’s mathematical quest in the storyline by adopting a musical idea based on that same concept. A normal musical scale is made out of seven notes, Beltrami explained. “So what if you had a main theme for KNOWING that was made out of six notes? They could descend downward without it being resolved. Then in order to cycle back to the first note, you’d have to keep going down and down before starting it again. That gives you an unsettled feeling while also musically uniting the score.” Beltrami crafts a unique and compelling play on numbers for his main theme which descends and ascends via a musical construct comprised of “two movements of four notes – creating the melody and structure that the score’s numerous motivic ideas would flow from,” as Schweiger writes in his liner notes.” This musical concept of portraying a numerological concept in musical form is originally obscured as the film opens in 1959, and gradually becomes evident and finally revealed as the film reaches its climax. It’s an intriguing and delightful method that is tied to intellectual story ideas evoked musically, and the score’s journey becomes quite fascinating, albeit horrific in its story ramifications, as we unveil its sonic pattern. Beltrami’s collaborators provide significant material as well, from Buck Sanders’ resourcefulness in creating unique digital samples, and Marcus Trumpp’s augmenting Beltrami’s growing horrific patterns with his own disquieting orchestral theme, “It’s the Sun,” which is quite haunting as it anticipates Earth’s impending incineration via a solar flare. Recorded with a large orchestra in Australia, the score continually engages the film’s concept with a textured ambient approach, fitting the film’s waiting game with a number of fragrant and tense musical pieces that progresses slowly across the storyline, building suspense and offering some moments of tension along the way (notably, “New York,” “Moose on the Loose,” and especially “33” and “Loudmouth”), but these cues are still working on developing where the score is headed. It’s not until the music—and the Earth—explodes into massive sonic eruption with “Shock and Awe” and “Caleb Leaves” that the score really reaches its full apocalyptic energy. At Proyas’ request, Beltrami included three classical pieces in the score, from Holst’s “The Planets – Jupiter,” Guy Gross’ “New Theme,” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7 in A Major,” only the latter’s “Allegretto,” which plays without any accompanying sound effects in the final Boston disaster scene of the film, has been included on either version of the soundtrack album (heard three times, including Beltrami’s final interpretation, “Roller Beethoven,” followed by the dazzling respite of “Aftermath,” “Sunny Delight,” and the finale, “New World”). This intriguingly prophetic score in its original single disc release was an absorbing musical landscape, but in its longer form on this Deluxe Edition it really paints a vast and more engrossing treatment, offering an imaginary symphony of cataclysm-and-resolve that is quite masterful in the ingenuity and evocation of its science fantasy. See VarèseSarabande.
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES/Miklós Rózsa /Quartet CD Miklós Rózsa’s marvelous music for Billy Wilder´s introspective 1970 adventure-comedy THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES has been newly preserved in this impressively remastered 2-CD edition with much extra material to feast upon. At the director’s request, Rózsa adapted his Violin Concerto, Op. 24, for the film’s main theme, which provided an ideal treatment for the master detective in all of his attitude and quirks, supplemented by newly composed thematic material. While Tadlow’s beautiful newly-recorded 2007 release of the score with the City of Prague Philharmonic (including music from scenes cut from the film) was marvelous, having the original soundtrack music remained much in desire. With the original recording masters forever lost, Quartet’s 2013 “Archival Edition” release of the score did the best it could using three different monaural music-only stems from the MGM vaults, none of which was in ideal condition. Flash forward eight years where current technology has allowed the audio, while still based on the music stems, to be masterfully reworked by Chris Malone, resulting in much better-sounding audio. While still in mono, the sound is richer, fuller and, this time around, Quartet has been able to include the original “Gabrielle” cue, which had been too damaged to include in the 2013 release. For the second CD, Quartet has licensed the “Fantasy” track Rózsa recorded for his 1977 Polydor album, “Rózsa Conducts Rózsa,” as well as the premiere 1956 Jascha Heifetz RCA recording of the violin concerto itself, from which so much of the score is drawn, both carefully remastered by Malone. A variety of source music (recorded and supervised by Rózsa himself) and bonus tracks (“Gabrielle” concert version, “Eternal Silence” alternate, and an extended “Main Title/221B Baker Street”) conclude the second disc. All of which makes for a wonderful listening experience. The melodic and tonal flavors of the concerto is pure Rózsa and, along with subordinate themes and treatments, has been intrinsically adapted to serve the character and storyline of the film. The Tadlow version’s richly masterful stereo recording has been a mainstay to my ears, but hearing maestro Rózsa’s own recording in what is probably the best original soundtrack version we’re likely to have, is food from the gods. The package includes a 24-page booklet with revised liner notes by Frank K. DeWald. For more details and information, see Quartet Records.
SHORT CUTS 2020: The Best of Original Short Motion Picture Scores/Various/MovieScore Media – digital, Quartet Records CD, forthcoming
MovieScore Media has produced a third volume in the Short Cuts compilation series, devoted to original music written for short films from composers around the world. Volume 3 features 15 tracks from short movies ranging from 2:44 to 8:48 minutes in length. Not all of the films are accessible to be seen (some are still making festival circuits, etc.), but fortunately their music can be enjoyed, and each one of them is a compelling work. COSMIC FLING, composed by Jordan Seigel, tells of an intergalactic garbage man who lives on an asteroid who falls in love with a lady astronaut who is stranded on a comet passing by his asteroid every so often, and must resort to extreme measures to capture her affections during her infrequent revolutions (watch the film here). Christopher Slaski’s moody Morricone-esque CAMALEÓN follows a man who must confront himself while out on vacation. Nicholas Repetto scored BOUND, a the thriller about a widow living a solitaire life in a decaying old house, estranged from her children, while harboring a dangerous secret in the basement. Steffen Schmidt’s Western short JAVELINA RUN is about two idiot ranch hands who pretend to be fugitive train robbers to impress the ladies at a wild west saloon (watch a featurette about Schmidt’s score here). Laura Rossi’s reflective GIRL TUESDAY has to do with a very determined French girl who will go to extraordinary lengths to bring back that special someone. Robin Hoffmann’s A FATHER’S JOB tells the story of a Jewish woman’s fate in the middle of the last century in Germany. Joan Vila’s SOLUTION FOR SADNESS has to do with a woman who receives a mysterious package that reprieves her melancholy, but its results are more permanent and pervasive then she realizes. Christian Heschl’s penetrating score for Chris Schmid’s short nature film ENDLESS BEAUTY, about the Serengeti, the vast eco-system in central east Africa, home to millions of species of birds and animals and yet has become intensely fragile through land development and poaching as well as climate change. Joe Kraemer’s short horror score for the Twilight Zone-ish SCLERA ABSENTIA, about a young married couple’s evening taking a terrifying turn when they invite a very strange 12 year-old boy in from the rain. Elia Cmiral’s avant garde reflection of COVID in his home town of Prague in his film ALTERED MIND OF 20-20 (watch it here). Joris Hermy’s music for Hristo Todorov’s short modern tale of love and enchantment, LE PETIT CONTRAT. Kevin Smither’s powerful and contemplative music for Ixchelt Bueno and Maude Thomas’s THE BEAST – and much more. The compilation is a treasure of creative, evocative, and moving scores in short form. Again – this year’s collection is highly recommended.
THREE DAYS TILL THE SPRING/Anton Lubchenko/KeepMoving Records – CDThis premiere Russian soundtrack label has released the first feature film score by composer Anton Lubchenko. THREE DAYS TILL THE SPRING (2017; Tri dnya do vesny), directed by Alexander Kasatkin (LISTENING TO THE SILENCE, THE DAUGHTER, ZOLOTO tv series), the film takes place during the siege of Leningrad in World War II, after a Nazi bombshell destroys an experimental medicine institute where deadly dangerous viruses were kept. The city faces a bacterial catastrophe, and it’s up to Dr. Olga Maritskaya (Elena Lotova) and NKVD (Internal Affairs) officer Vladimir Andreev (Kirill Pletnyov) to save the city with only three days till the spring thaw, when the virus could run rampant. Lubchenko’s score is built around a lovely classical-styled waltz for strings and trumpet (during shooting the film was to be called LENINGRAD WALTZ), which is heard throughout the movie. This opulent motif is contrasted against a dark, mysterioso theme for see-sawing strings over two-note brass chords, which reflects the suffering of the citizenry (“Plague in the City” being a striking example). The composer also uses a powerful motif for organ set against surging violins and brass to reflect the ongoing danger the viruses have toward the people (“Hopelessness”). “Night Sabotage” is a reflective cue for piano, snappy percussion, flutes, strings and brass that creates a mood of disorder; while “Arrival of Andreev” is a luxurious violin melody, celebrating his arrival but then turning furtive and dark; Maritskaya is given a fervent theme for woodwinds that speaks to her dedication to find a solution to the problem (“Maritskaya in Jail”). “Confession” is an engrossing track for intricately bowed string figures interspersed with winds and a touch of the “Hopelessness” motif. The score was recorded by the Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra in the Theatre Concert Hall under the composer’s baton. This score possesses a heartfelt, full orchestral development with quite operable emotive thematic articulation; it’s a recommended score and Anton Lubchenko is a composer to watch. The album contains 17 tracks and 43:26 minutes of music. The CD is available in a limited edition of 100 copies. Features liner notes by Gergely Hubai.
For more information, see keepmovingrecords
VIRTUALLY/Christy Carew/Notefornote Music – digital Christy Carew is a Canadian-American composer of music for film, TV, advertising, multimedia and the concert world with nearly forty films – mostly shorts – to her credit so far, and a dedicated John Williams fangirl since the age of 6. As music director and in-house composer for the production music library 5 Alarm Music, she’s also written additional music and arrangements for dozens of TV series and movies, including the creepy gospel arrangement of “America the Beautiful” heard in the PURGE movie trailers (and end credits of THE PURGE: ANARCHY). One of Christy’s recent scores is VIRTUALLY, a multiple festival award-winning 25-minute science fiction film about a woman (Katie Savoy) struggling to survive alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland when she discovers a virtual-reality machine and escapes from her loneliness into a scenic virtual world. When she falls in love with a man inside this virtual world, she must choose between love and life… The film is directed by Patrick Hogan (POPE DREAMS, KILLING TIME), and Carew has provided a sumptuously rich orchestral musical score. “With very little dialogue for most of the action… it really needed to rely on the score, which is a hybrid orchestral-electronic element with beautiful solo cello work by my frequent collaborator Simone Vitucci,” Carew said in an interview with the nomanslandblog website (read the whole interview here). She layers Vitucci’s deeply moving cello work with a colorfully flavored array of synthetic keyboard pads, rushes, and tonalities that cascade and pop and burst airily. Delightful woodwind strains and synth choirs of bright, gleaming cadences contrast against darker timbres as the woman faces her difficult choice (“Urgency”). Without spoilers, I’ll simply say the score’s ending, musically, is delightfully fulfilling. It’s a thoroughly captivating and satisfying emotive environment. Carew’s score for VIRTUALLY garnered a best original score award at FilmQuest and best original score (short film) at the Tenerife International Music Festival. Notefornote Music has considerately released Carew’s score digitally, allowing her wonderful music to be heard by itself. The film is available for a low-price rental on AmazonPrime.
For more information and to sample the tracks, see NotefornoteMusic.
For information on the composer and to sample more of her work, see http://www.christycarew.com/
The recent Scoring for Streaming: The Women Composers of Netflix panel is now streaming on YouTube. This is a fascinating Zoom discussion with composers Stephanie Economou, Lili Haydn, Wendy Blackstone, and Nainita Desai, describing their work-flow, philosophy, and approach to writing music for some of the top rated Netflix shows. The panel is moderated by Alexandra Patsavas (Netflix Music Creative + Production/Original Series) and Colleen Fitzpatrick (Netflix Music Creative + Production). The hourlong video is very well worth watching and gives insight into the composers’ scoring process. Watch it on YouTube.
The World Soundtrack Awards step into their third decade celebrating the art of film music by honoring Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou. Best known for her close collaboration with director Theo Angelopoulos, she will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Soundtrack Academy. The World Soundtrack Awards Ceremony & Concert will be held on October 23, 2021 as the traditional closing event of Film Fest Ghent (October 12-23. WSA2021 also welcomes back the annual thematic concert, which is planned for Friday, October 22. Maestro Dirk Brossé will be conducting the Brussels Philharmonic, performing at both the thematic concert and the World Soundtrack Awards.
For more information, see https://www.filmfestival.be/
With its third compilation album of music for short films (see review section above; see my April 2020 column for my 2019 Short Cuts review), MovieScore Media has announced the creation of a completely new sub-label that will focus on the growing, much overlooked field of music from shorts. “Producing the third installment of the annual Short Cuts compilation was more of a challenge this time, most likely because of the limitations brought upon film production due to the pandemic,” said MovieScore Media’s producer Mikael Carlsson. “We were still able to collect an eclectic range of excellent original short film scores from both industry veterans and talented newcomers – the kind of wonderful mix that was also the trademark of the first two collections. The number of high quality short film scores out there is so impressive that working on these three compilation albums led to the creation of a new MovieScore Media digital sub-label devoted exclusively to single and EP releases of short film scores. The label name? Short Cuts, of course!” One of the scores featured on the Short Cuts 2020 compilation, Matthijs Kieboom’s award nominated music for THE CLOUDMAKER, also marked the first release on the new Short Cuts label.
More of Nicholas Britell’s highly-anticipated score to Amazon Original THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD is now available digitally via Lakeshore Records. Volume 2 and Volume 3 follow his iTunes Top 10 Volume 1 release. Both digital albums are now available on amazon and other streaming services.
Marvel Music/Hollywood Records has released “TVA,” the main theme from Marvel Studios’ new series LOKI, streaming exclusively on Disney+. Music is by composer Natalie Holt, who comments on the track: “I channeled over-the-top Shakespearian drama, drew from my love of classic 70’s synths, big orchestral power, and the glorious sound of the sci-fi go-to instrument – the Theremin, played by the wonderful Charlie Draper. The track musically represents the TVA, evoking its majesty and power. The TVA [refers to the Time Variance Authority in the series] theme comes in many guises throughout the series and blends with Loki’s theme, which gets its full outing at the end of episode two and blends with some earthy Nordic folk instruments to connect with Loki’s origins. Getting to work in the MCU, and on a character like Loki, was such a gift. I have so enjoyed inhabiting this world, fleshing out stories and adding layers of emotion and meaning with music, and being a part of this exciting chapter of the MCU development.” For more information on the LOKI series score, see my post “Natalie Holt: Marvel’s LOKI Composer” at musique fantastique. -rdl
YASCORE has released the soundtrack album for the high-concept French sci-fi horror thriller MEANDER (Meandre). The strikingly creepy, moody album features the film’s original music composed by Frédéric Poirier (HOSTILE, shorts NODE, SONS OF CHAOS). The film, written and directed by Mathieu Turi, stars Gaïa Weiss, Peter Franzen, and Romane Libert and is about a woman who – after getting a car ride from an unknown man – wakes up locked in a series of strange tubes full of deadly traps. The thriller, which premiered at various film festivals last year, will be released in select U.S. theaters and on VOD on July 9 by Gravitas Ventures. The digital soundtrack is available now on Amazon and other digital music sources.
- via Filmmusicreporter
Composer Danny Elfman has released his first solo music album in 37 Years with Big Mess. Elfman had initially written two songs, “Sorry” and “Happy”—his first non-commissioned songs since Oingo Boingo disbanded—that were intended to debut at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2020. The show was also planned to feature a number of reworked versions of Elfman’s film score compositions and Oingo Boingo songs, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A complete album was then written, unplanned, with Elfman stating that once he started, he “couldn’t stop,” ultimately recording a total of 18 songs. The album comprises two “heavily contrasting” halves and ends with a reworking of the Oingo Boingo song “Insects,” from the 1982 album Nothing to Fear. Big Mess is now available from these links.
Composer Bear McCreary has completed a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA live record that began life over a decade ago. “I’m thrilled to announce that So Say We All: Battlestar Galactica Live, is available from Sparks & Shadows [Bear’s own boutique label]on all streaming platforms. In addition to these newly-produced live arrangements, McCreary has announced the long-awaited arrival of digital and streaming versions of his original BSG scores for the first four seasons of the show.
La-La Land Records and Silver Lion Films present legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith’s original motion picture score to the 1980 big-screen treasure-hunting period drama CABO BLANCO, starring Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Dominique Sanda, and directed by J. Lee Thompson. Having provided music for Bronson-starrers BREAKOUT and BREAKHEART PASS, Goldsmith again expertly supports the actor with his superb work for CABO BLANCO and unleashes a rousing, Latin-flavored score that teams with adventure, action and intrigue. Previously out of print, this wonderful Goldsmith score returns on CD, remastered in hi-resolution and expanded with additional Goldsmith-recorded period music and classical standards. The label also partnered with Paramount Pictures to present a limited edition CD re-issue of renowned composer Alex North’s score to the 1981 film DRAGONSLAYER, directed by Matthew Robbins. Previously out of print, the album returns to commemorate the beloved film’s 40th Anniversary. Produced by Dan Goldwasser and remastered by Mike Matessino from a 3-track LCR master recording, this expanded limited edition release of 2000 units, which features the same content and master as the label’s 2010 release, presents correctly-titled cues in film order and includes bonus tracks. The CD booklet features in-depth liner notes and track analysis by Jeff Bond.
Sepia Records has announced a 2-CD soundtrack of Victor Young’s scores to Dave Fleischer’s animated films GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (the first time on CD for the soundtrack, studio recordings, and previously unreleased songs from the 1939 full-length cartoon motion picture) and MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN (1941), both presented in a 2-CD set. Release date scheduled for July 2021. For more details see SepiaRecords.
Milan Records has digitally released the original motion picture soundtrack to the upcoming action-comedy sequel, THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD, starring Salma Hayek, Ryan Reynolds, and Samuel L. Jackson in a continuation of the 2017 film. Composer Atli Örvarsson returns with a score even more elaborate and bombastic than the first. Of the soundtrack, composer Örvarsson says, “Director Patrick Hughes and I had been discussing this sequel since the first movie came out. I visited the set twice while working on the score, so it felt like the music became an organic part of the film. I used several of the themes from the original film, but added some new material as well, so it feels a bit like THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD music on steroids!” The album is comprised of 18 high-energy tracks; the film opens on June 16th; the soundtrack is available now at these digital links.
Varèse Sarabande Records has released the soundtrack to “2:22” from Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard and James Orr. The film, directed by Paul Currie, is a story about the curse of time, the pull of fate, and the eternal power of love, when a man’s life becomes derailed when an ominous pattern of events repeats itself in exactly the same manner every day, ending at precisely 2:22 p.m. In addition to the score, songs on the collection include “Like It Or Not” by Bob Moses, “Someone to Stay” by Vancouver Sleep Clinic, and “Grow” by Frances. See varesesarabande for details.
In other news, Varèse Sarabande Records has dropped its June 2021 CD Club titles: THE MATRIX (The Complete Edition) by Don Davis and PAYCHECK (The Deluxe Edition) by John Powell. Few blockbusters can claim to be as influential as THE MATRIX (1999), written and directed by the Wachowskis. From its super high concept that has wormed its way into the public’s imagination (what if we’re all just living in a computer simulation?), to Keanu Reeves’ iconic hero Neo, to the brilliant, jaw-dropping and story-based visual effects, THE MATRIX delivered on all fronts. Its three films grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, and a fourth is on the way. THE MATRIX demanded a score that was as unique, sophisticated and imaginative as its concept and action – and that’s exactly what composer Don Davis delivered. Davis, who previously scored the Wachowskis’ BOUND (1996), reinvented the symphonic language of the action blockbuster by drawing on cutting-edge concert-hall minimalism and his own background as an avant-garde composer, while maintaining the energy, pace and density required of a studio action film. THE MATRIX was released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film, and then in a Deluxe Edition that fit as much of the score as possible on one CD. By popular demand, this new 2-CD set presents the complete score. This version is also available through Record Store Day 2021 as a 3-LP set releasing on July 17. Visit RecordStoreDay.com to find a participating retailer. Liner notes feature a new interview with Don Davis conducted by Kaya Savas.
John Powell burst into film scoring with a magnificent, emotional and modern soundtrack to John Woo’s iconic hit, FACE/OFF (1997). Six years later, Woo and Powell reunited for PAYCHECK (2003), a sci-fi techno-thriller based on a 1953 short story by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Total Recall). Ben Affleck stars as a programming engineer who undergoes a voluntary memory wipe to protect his client’s secrets—but upon going to collect his paycheck, he is given an envelope of seemingly random trinkets and items. He must use these clues to unearth the terrible secrets of his own project. By 2003, Powell had already scored THE BOURNE IDENTITY and had his finger on the pulse of the modern action-thriller score. PAYCHECK blends synth and pop-rhythms with orchestral scope and, most importantly, Powell’s impeccable sense of taste. Despite almost non-stop action and suspense, he focuses on emotion and utilizes melody to elevate the proceedings. PAYCHECK was released by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film; this 2-CD set Deluxe Edition greatly expands the playing time to over 95 minutes, and features new liner notes by Daniel Schweiger, incorporating new interview comments with Powell.
These special edition titles are available exclusively on VareseSarabande.com and internationally on Intl.VareseSarabande.com.
Kevin Kiner (STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, REBELS, and THE BAD BATCH, CSI: MIAMI, HELL ON WHEELS) and his sons Sean and Dean Kiner (SINGLE PARENTS) are the composers of the new Netflix anime series TRESE. The supernatural series is set in Manila, Philippines where supernatural creatures of Philippine folklore live in hiding amongst humans, and Alexandra Trese finds herself going head to head with a criminal underworld comprised of malevolent supernatural beings. The show is based on the Philippine graphic novel created by Budjette Tan & Kajo Baldisimo. The series premiered on June 10, exclusively on Netflix.
- via filmmusicreporter
WaterTower Music has released a special episode digital soundtrack from the LUCIFER series, season 5, the “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” album, featuring the songs performed by cast members in that special musical episode. In Part B of the stunning fifth season of LUCIFER, God himself comes to Earth. Secrets were revealed, heroic sacrifices were made, and the world will never be the same. To that point, the epic Musical Lucifer Episode aired, and WaterTower Music now has the soundtrack to that episode available. The soundtrack features all the music heard in that episode – 8 classic songs such as “Another One Bites The Dust”, a fun mash up of “Bad to the Bone/No Scrubs”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Wicked Game”, and more performed by the series’ cast members.
Coming up later this month from WaterTower Music is the June 25 release of the soundtrack to LISEY’S STORY, the Apple Original series based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King – and adapted by the author himself – that follows Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore) two years after the death of her husband, famous novelist Scott Landon (Clive Owen). A series of unsettling events causes Lisey to face memories of her marriage to Scott that she has deliberately blocked out of her mind. The series is scored by Chris Clark, who composes and produces under the mononym “Clark,” and whose vibrantly wide scope of musical offerings ranges from TV projects (THE LAST PANTHERS, RELLIK, KIRI) to film (DANIEL ISN’T REAL), to collaborations on contemporary dance projects with choreographer Melanie Lane. Clark described his mindset on approaching the music: “It was a pleasure writing music for this show, I had to inhabit quite extreme polarities of emotion. LISEY’S STORY is just as much about fragile human relationships as it is traditional horror. I love this thing in film, you get to write so much material, and you have to keep the code totally efficient and versatile. The music needs to be an elastic shapeshifter. It makes you interrogate the material, you always have this burning question ‘ok music (as if the music is a person) you can do this, but can you do this, this, this this and this’. It’s a bit of an obsessive quest, working in film suits my nature. You also have to kind of become a character in the film yourself. Interpreting what you see, projecting back into the picture, as music, being guided by imagining the interior life of the characters, and letting what you create seep into that. It’s rather addictive. The Long Boy will haunt me forever.”
Lakeshore Records has digitally released ALLEN V. FARROW original series soundtrack with music by Michael Abels (GET OUT). The show is a four-part documentary series that goes behind decades of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of one of Hollywood’s most notorious and public scandals: the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then seven-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow. Says Abels: “In ALLEN V. FARROW – as with most documentaries – nearly all of the complex story is told through dialogue and narration, leaving less sonic space for music than in a fictional saga. Yet, there are heartwarming family memories brought to life here, as well as difficult moments of silence that convey emotions too deep to be easily expressed in words.
So, I wanted the score to provide a sense of forward motion in sections that are heavy with facts and information, to paint a joyful backdrop for the happy memories, and to be present for the awkward, uncomfortable emotional moments (rather than amplify them). I especially used piano, clarinet and strings to unify the score despite its stylistic variety. And it was great fun to write a bit of classic jazz to accompany the images of 20th-Century New York that are often identified with Woody Allen films.” The 36-track album is available from these links.
Listen to the Main Title from ALLEN V. FARROW:
GRAMMY® Award-nominated musician Patrick Stump, lead singer of the multiplatinum-selling rock band Fall Out Boy, will perform the theme song for MARVEL’S SPIDEY AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. Stump also serves as songwriter and composer for the series, which is the first full-length Marvel series for preschoolers. The digital soundtrack is set for release Friday, Sept. 17, on Walt Disney Records. Of his involvement with the series, Stump said, “When I was approached to write the music for MARVEL’S SPIDEY AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS, I was first just excited to hear that Disney Junior was doing this show, and secondly, I think it took me all of 10 minutes to say yes and start writing the theme song in my head. As a lifelong Marvel fan, this is a dream come true for me, and I can’t wait for kids and families, including my own kids, to see the show when it premieres this summer.”
Quartet Records, in collaboration with Handmade Films, presents a remastered CD reissue of an early masterpiece from John Williams: his score for Robert Altman’s 1972 psychological thriller-drama IMAGES, starring Susannah York. The film inspired one of Williams’ most fascinating and avant-garde scores. The composer based his ideas on two different musical styles: one more classical, almost childlike; the other experimental, aggressive, with an essential contribution from famous Japanese percussionist and experimental musician Stomu Yamash´ta. This musical duality allows Williams to reflect how sanity gradually and irretrievably loses ground to madness in York’s character. The composer was Oscar-nominated in 1972 for both IMAGES and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE; this was the first time he received a double nomination in the same category of Original Score, something that became usual in the following four decades. See Quartet Records for more details.
The Skydance and Apple animated short film BLUSH will receive its world premiere as part of the short film programming at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, going on now June 9-20. BLUSH is written and directed by Emmy® winner and former Disney animation veteran Joe Mateo (POCAHONTAS, BIG HERO 6), and features an original score by Chinese-Malaysian composer Joy Ngiaw. The short follows an astronaut’s journey after he crashes on a desolate planet; when a visitor arrives, the traveler discovers a new life and realizes the universe has delivered astonishing salvation. The composer explained that she was swept away by the film and wanted to create a score that reflected the wide range of emotions it evoked. “I featured instruments found in households that remind us of home and family, such as piano when we first hear the theme, as well as strings which provide a lot of heart,” Ngiaw said. “Since this film has no dialogue, I featured solo woodwind instruments as the character’s voices. Wind instruments also capture our theme of breathing and oxygen.”
The highly anticipated TV series BLINDSPOTTING had its World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, ahead of its Starz broadcast premiere on June 13. The series is adapted from the film of the same name, which debuted in 2018 with critical acclaim all around. Three years later and history seems to be repeating itself—AV Club says, “BLINDSPOTTING is one of the best film-to-tv adaptations in years.” L.A.-based composer Michael Yezerski scored the original film and returns to score the series in collaboration with avant-garde jazz trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire. The composers share a similar aesthetic yet have different musical backgrounds (Michael’s is contemporary concert/electronic), which allowed them to create something completely new that really works for this complex series.
Watch the series’ trailer:
PHX Music has digitally released the original motion short film soundtrack to Justin Floyd’s vision come to life, in the musical QUINCEAÑERO. The music is composed by Max Aruj and Steffen Thum, with lyrics by Antonio Sol, and songs performed by the film’s cast. The film recently premiered at Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), as part of its Latinx Inclusion Series, in partnership with Netflix. In the 20-minute whimsical musical, Gabriel is on the verge of his 15th birthday and dreams of having his own quinceañera, a tradition reserved for girls. When his father – steeped in tradition – sets himself against the quinceañero, the timid boy will have to rally his family to make his dream come true. “Having director Justin Floyd entrust us to bring his vision to life in a new style was both exciting and horrifying,” said Aruj. “But having an amazing team in Steffen and Antonio made the process a blast!” Adds Thum: “Writing a musical is a particular kind of challenge, going beyond just scoring to picture, as we’ve done before, so it was a bit of a daunting task. It was Justin’s vision and strong ambition that pulled us in, while Antonio’s expertise was crucial in getting the lyrics right. It all grew from there, and our actors and dancers brought the songs to life beautifully.”
Intrada has garnered another Jerry Goldsmith first: after locating and releasing first-ever soundtracks to the composer’s TAKE HER SHE’S MINE, THE DON IS DEAD, and FACE OF A FUGITIVE, the label has now unearthed Jerry’s cool score for the 1973 Burt Reynolds low-rent private eye flick, SHAMUS. Goldsmith offers the picture just under 26 minutes of original music, following a trend of relatively brief scores he sometimes wrote for pictures as varied as VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, PATTON, CHINATOWN, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES and others. Goldsmith launches from the outset with his “Main Title” in easy-going style, featuring light percussion, fender bass, organ and gentle piano on his primary theme. Both lengthy and melodic, Goldsmith illuminates Shamus’ humble beginnings with simplicity and breeze. It’s a tune that recurs several times throughout the score, each with a guise of its own. Much of the music is soft-spoken and rhythmic, with special kudos for “Surprise Visit,” featuring guitar, organ, harp, percussion and strings in relaxed manner albeit with forward motion. With “Here I Come” and “A Broken Limb,” Goldsmith propels the chase sequences with crisp, driving percussion and left-hand piano rhythms playing underneath zig-zagging upper string figures. A special spotlight goes to “The Warehouse,” where Goldsmith highlights a suspenseful search and discovery of surplus military supplies with eerie, transparent violins sliding in one direction above opposing basses underneath while violas and cellos move about with their own figure. While the complete score is under half an hour, Goldsmith ensures considerable variety in both style and orchestral colors. The package includes informative notes by Scott Bettencourt, original campaign artwork and graphic design work by Kay Marshall, cue assembly and musician’s list details.
For more details and sample tracks, see Intrada.
Premiering on Amazon Prime last May 21st, AQUARIUM OF THE DEAD is the latest audacious fear feature from The Asylum, the B-movie studio best known for the SHARKNADO films and the Syfy original series Z NATION, plus all manner of shark-related and zombie-related horror/comedy and “mockbuster” movies. The film is the third animal-related zombie film in director Glenn Miller’s Zoombies trilogy that began with ZOOMBIES (2016) and continued with ZOOMBIES 2 (2019) (The new film has a verbal tie-in with the Eden Zoo, fictional location of both ZOOMBIES movies). The film is scored by Chris Ridenhour and Christopher Cano, The Asylum’s go-to composers since 2007, along with Mikel Shane Prather who joined the team in 2016. Their score really enlivens The Asylum’s generously over-the-top storyline and gives the film the kind of dramatic energy that enhances the suspense and CGI-laden zombie-sea life attacks that are central to the film’s overblown storyline while aiding its fast pace. The film stars Vivica A. Fox, D.C. Douglas, Erica Duke, and Eva Ceja as aquarium workers trapped in lockdown after a scientific accident causes sea creatures in the aquarium to become raging zombie animals. Despite its imperfections, writes Paul Lê in a review at the bloodydisgusting website, “something as hurriedly made as AQUARIUM OF THE DEAD still manages to wring out a smidge of perfunctory entertainment for avid B-movie fans. Come for the premise; stay for the zombie walrus.”
Netflix has announced during its Geeked Week livestream earlier today that its live-action adaptation of Sunrise’s COWBOY BEBOP anime will premiere this fall and confirmed that Japanese composer Yoko Kanno (composer of the COWBOY BEBOP anime, as well as such notable animes as MACROSS PLUS, THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE, GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX, WOLF’S RAIN) will score the new series. The show’s teaser video features the live-action cast and the anime’s opening theme song “Tank!” by the Seatbelts (watch the video here on twitter). The science fiction drama, based on Hajime Yatate’s anime series and starring John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda, is the jazz-inspired, genre-bending story of a rag-tag crew of bounty hunters on the run from their pasts as they hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals. They’ll even save the world… for the right price. Netflix will premiere COWBOY BEBOP this fall.
Swedish pianist-composer Matti Bye has scored TOVE, a Swedish/Finnish coproduction that centers on the life of Tove Jansson (1914-2001), an author celebrated in Scandinavia for her series of Moomin children’s’ books. The biopic is now released in Scandinavia and will head toward the US, UK and other European territories this Summer. The drama, directed by Zaida Bergroth, about the creative energy of Tove and her turbulent search for identity, desire, and freedom inspired the composer. “For me Tove Jansson herself is an immensely inspiring artist of creativity and boundless imagination, and I love [having] the courage to choose my most unconventional film music I ever made – textural and minimal music that takes winding paths into the irrational, self-contradictory human psyche of Tove,” said Bye. During the initial writing, Bye set out on a journey to attempt to illustrate Jansson’s inner world in sound: “I wanted the melodic and sonic language to try and get as close to this sense of her inner decision-making process and psyche as possible.” The score, which also features Finnish composer and artist Laura Naukkarinen (Lau Nau) as well as Matti’s band Mambo Noir Trio, integrates electronics and field recordings into a central part of the sound picture. The result is an illustrative and authentic score that leads the viewer into the mind of the protagonist and sets the scene. The soundtrack album is now available from Oona recordings on all digital platforms worldwide, at these links.
Jeff Beal is scoring Oliver Stone’s new AGC Television documentary JFK REVISITED: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, which examines declassified files related to President Kennedy’s assassination in a far larger context than before, aiming to shine more light on what really happened in 1963.
Amanda Jones has composed the score for the documentary DREAMLAND: THE BURNING OF BLACK WALL STREET. Directed and produced by Salima Koroma, the cinematic documentary celebrates the Black cultural renaissance that existed in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and investigates the 100-year-old race massacre that left an indelible though hidden stain on American history. “It was an incredible honor to score DREAMLAND: THE BURNING OF BLACK WALL STREET,” Jones wrote on her Facebook page. “BIG thanks to my incredible music team and extremely talented musicians Kristen Personius, Sandro Morales Santoro, James McAlister, Emer Kinsella, Lee Harcourt, Perice Pope, and Paul Cornish.”
Coming to Netflix on July 7th is CAT PEOPLE, a meowvelous new documentary directed by Sandi Tan (SHIRKERS, GOURMET BABY, MOVEABLE FEAST) that explores our fascinating relationship with cats through the lens of some the most remarkable, and surprising “cat people” in the world, defying the negative stereotypes of what it means to be a cat person while revealing the fundamental truths of what it means to have deep bonds with these fiercely independent, mysterious creatures. The show has been scored by Tyler Strickland (JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEVIL IN DISGUISE, PRIDE, THE OXY KINGPINS, TORN APART: SEPARATED AT THE BORDER) who reports on Facebook’s Documenting The Score page that scoring the documentary was “purrfectly adorable.” Watch the trailer on YouTube.
Waxwork Records will release Tom Holkenborg’s music to Zach Snyder’s ARMY OF THE DEAD as a deluxe double LP album featuring never before seen interactive packaging with new artwork and design by Oliver Barrett. Listeners must tear open the screaming visage of Zeus, the film’s zombie leader, to reveal a locked vault door. The packaging then expands into a neon pink and yellow soaked triple gatefold which unlocks the vault to reveal a horde of Las Vegas zombies inside. As the listener continues opening the album packaging, and all zombies are killed, you’ll be greeted by Valentine, the film’s beloved (and first ever?) zombie tiger! The score has been pressed to 180 gram neon pink and yellow vinyl and the album features exclusive liner notes by director Zack Snyder. Pre-order the album now here. This item is expected to ship in Fall, 2021.
Jesper Kyd and Sarah Schachner’s dedicated vinyl release of ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA Original Game Soundtrack is available now. Pressed on Red w/Yellow Splatter vinyl & Teal w/Black Smoke vinyl, the album features 28 tracks of music from the hit video game from game giant Ubisoft. “Valhalla marks the first time the two of them (Jesper & Sarah) have worked together, and the sheer size and scale of the Viking-themed soundtrack is all the better for it. – via SPIN Available from Amazon in both vinyl and mp3 versions, and other online vinyl record sources.
The ocean floor is the last truly mysterious place on Earth, and Ben Prunty’s score for SUBNAUTICA: BELOW ZERO – the long-anticipated sequel to the fan-favorite undersea adventure game SUBNAUTICA – is a truly engrossing salute. Introduced in early access via Steam and the Epic Games Store in January 2019, SUBNAUTICA: BELOW ZERO was released to numerous platforms on May 14, 2021. The physical versions of the game are published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. “The FASTER THAN LIGHT / INTO THE BREACH composer approached this one less like a game-scoring job and more like an opportunity for some musical and spiritual growth,” reported Casey Jarman in The Best Video Game Music on Bandcamp: March/April 2021. “Hearing the sparkling, spiraling tracks on a nice good set of headphones is the musical equivalent of having your mind blown by Carl Sagan’s COSMOS (1980). Ambient and otherworldly but connected by a common textural palette, these are heady compositions that overpower like tides, dart unexpectedly like schools of exotic fish and contort like jellyfish… SUBNAUTICA: BELOW ZERO is nothing short of a wonder that will cement Prunty as one of the finest composers in his field.” Read Jarman’s full review, along with other game scores newly posted to Bandcamp, here.
Capcom’s GHOSTS ‘N GOBLINS RESURRECTION game score, attributed to the “Capcom Sound Team” (otherwise here known as Kento Hasegawa, Masato Kouda, and Ryuta Hida), is available on Amazon and through Steam. The 8th game in the GHOSTS ‘N GOBLINS series, this is a 2D side-scrolling platform game which features knight Arthur, who must navigate the Demon Realm in order to battle enemies such as skeletons, zombies, and the Pigmen. Also from Capcom is a digital soundtrack from their RESIDENT EVIL VILLAGE game, available on Amazon and Apple Music. The sequel to RESIDENT EVIL 7: BIOHAZARD (2017), players control Ethan Winters, who is searching for his kidnapped daughter; after a fateful encounter with Chris Redfield, he finds himself in a village filled with mutant creatures. While VILLAGE maintains the series’ survival horror elements, the game is said to adopt a more action-oriented gameplay style compared to its predecessor. The album features the music of Shusaku Uchiyama, Marcin Przyby?owicz, and Nao Sato. The game’s theme song, “Yearning for Dark Shadows,” is composed by Brian D’Oliveira and performed by Aga Ujma.
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.