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Soundtrax: Episode 2017-3
July 26, 2017

By Randall D. Larson


Featured Interviews:

  • Mark Isham and the Journey of Megan Leavey
  • Rael Jones – My Cousin Rachel and the Harlots

Soundtrack Reviews
2:22/Gerrard & Orr (Varèse), ALIKI MY LOVE/Hadjidakis (Disques Cinemusica), THE BLACK PRINCE/Kallis (Caldera), CASTLEVANIA/Morris (Lakeshore), CHURCHILL/Balfe (Filmtrax), DESPICABLE ME 3/Pereira (Back Lot Music), DOWN THE DEEP, DARK WEB/Ilfman (Lakeshore), DRAGONHEART: BATTLE FOR THE HEARTFIRE/McKenzie (Back Lot Music), DUEL IN THE SUN/Tiomkin (Tadlow-Prometheus), I WANT TO BE A SOLDIER/Jusid (Kronos), THE MONSTER/tomandandy (Lakeshore), THE MUMMY/Tyler (Back Lot Music ), PAPILLON (expanded OST)/Goldsmith (Quartet), PUPPET ON A CHAIN/Piccioni (Silva Screen), SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE/Cirino (Kritzerland), STAVISKY/Sondheim (Quartet), WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES/Giacchino (Sony), WAY TO THE REBELLION/Shaw (MSM)

Soundtrack, Concert, Book, Vinyl & Game Music News

Oscar nominated composer and Grammy winning musician Mark Isham has scored Bleeker Street’s feature, MEGAN LEAVEY, based on the true-life story of a marine corporal (Kate Mara) and the relationship with her military combat dog that saved many lives in Iraq. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (BLACKFISH) from a screenplay by Pamela Gray and Annie Mumolo & Tim Lovestedt, the film also stars Edie Falco, Ramón Rodríguez, Bradley Whitford, and Common. In his score, Isham incorporates a poignant hybrid design of electronic meets organic.
For television, in addition to scoring all seven seasons of ONCE UPON A TIME and AMERICAN CRIME for Oscar winner John Ridley, Isham will be scoring the forthcoming series in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe for Netflix, CLOAK AND DAGGER, set to premiere in 2018. Mark Isham recently collaborated with John Ridley for the documentary about the L.A. Riots, LET IT FALL.
Interviewed shortly before the film premiered, we discussed MEGAN LEAVY at length as well as some other recent works. -rdl

Q: Coming into MEGAN LEAVEY, what were your initial musical inclinations to best represent the layers of emotion that are powerfully presented in the film?

Mark Isham: I think the biggest thing on this project was the director’s particular taste in music. She had a very specific style and taste that she wanted to go from, which fortunately was much aligned with my tastes in music as well! So she wanted a hybrid score, something that felt modern but that could still represent very strongly the emotions, but without ever giving you that sense of over-selling anything. It was that perfect balance of making you cry but not feeling that you’re being told you have to cry – which is right up my alley. I think that’s probably what I do best. Then in terms of the sound of it, finding a balance between traditional scoring (strings and orchestra) and then modern elements, there are a lot of guitars, a lot of keyboards, a lot of samples, found sound… It’s a wide range of sonic palette, and yet we managed to make it all fit in the same film. It’s a story in two parts, one is their journey together in the war, and the next is her trying to salvage him, basically, as a war veteran. So you’ve got two big emotional arcs both of which demand quite a different sort of storytelling, but at the end the emotional resolve is the same, it’s about this relationship that’s been forged.

“The score is very modern, though – it’s pretty much all sampled sounds and some guitar and bass, but other than that you feel like you’re almost in an indie film. Then it opens up and gets broader and more epic, and by the time they go to Afghanistan, it’s a war movie, it’s an action movie.”

Q: How did the relationship between Megan and Rex and its arc across the storyline become represented in the score?

Mark Isham: It starts off that she’s scared to death of him! He’s a bit of damaged goods when they meet. He’s not especially friendly, he has not taken well to his previous training, but she’s so committed. There’s a certain point in her life where she realizes “I can’t keep not confronting things when they get hard, I keep walking away from things because I think they’re too difficult,” and this dog becomes the thing that she decides not to walk away from. Represented musically, it’s a blend. In the beginning we’re a little more traditional, some of the training montage is completely orchestral, and certainly the opening montage when she is sort of destitute and she’s introduced as this lost soul. The score is very modern, though – it’s pretty much all sampled sounds and some guitar and bass, but other than that you feel like you’re almost in an indie film. Then it opens up and gets broader and more epic, and by the time they go to Afghanistan, it’s a war movie, it’s an action movie. We’re huge with massive percussion and the orchestra’s charging away trying to keep up and give us size and scope, because she’s in the fight of her life. Later, with the big emotional scenes – and I respected Gabriela so much for this – she said “I want a little more of a modern feel here, sweeping strings is not who this character is; can it be a little more of a song form?” It’s guitar-driven, it’s eight-bar phrases, it’s not traditional Hollywood orchestral scoring at all, it’s a little more pop-ish, for lack of a better word.

Q: As one of the first composers to combine synths with live orchestra, how have you seen this integration develop over the years in film music, and how has your use of the hybrid concept progressed into the manner where we’re seeing it today in this score?

Mark Isham: It’s interesting. I don’t know if I was first but I certainly remember I did it on my very first film score. To be really honest with you, I had never written for orchestra when I did my first score, so I was helped in the process of adding orchestra to that score. I’d sat in an orchestra many times and I’d worked under great conductors, so I certainly was very familiar with the orchestra as an instrument, but that was more from a performance point of view than an actual experienced composer. It took me several films of bringing orchestra in to feel comfortable with it, but I’ve always blended the two. I think I’d written 25 films before I had the courage to do a purely orchestral score. So in terms of its evolution, it certainly seems to be the way of the world now. I think you still hear completely electronic scores still, but a completely orchestral score is fairly rare these days.

Q: Was there a need to differentiate or contrast the military world with Megan’s civilian world as the story shifted between those environments?

Mark Isham: Well, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort to do so. The most purely orchestral moments are, like I said, earlier in the film, which are fairly military moments. Gabriella’s point of view on this was to make sure we’re telling this from Megan’s perspective: this is her experience, and there’s a certain amount of humor to that, with her relationship with Rex and her struggles in the Marine Corps training regimen. These are actually lighter moments, that’s why we ended up with the orchestra because you can be light without being quirky and silly, you still be meaningful – at least I found that was the case. But with the emotional moments, it was more of a “let’s really get the feeling of a great song” – with great 4/6/8-bar progression and guitar-driven motifs that really just push the emotion in much more of a song style, so the emotional moments are perhaps scored with a heavier vocabulary. That just happened to be the way that it worked as a result of the choices that Gabriella and I discovered as we went through the process.

Q: What element of Megan’s character especially stood out for you as something you wanted to focus on, musically?

Mark Isham: I think that there’s an evolution in her, from the moments of light-heartedness where you’re not sure if she’s going to make it. But Gabriella’s pacing on this issue was quite good, in that she realized that this woman does have something going for her and that she’s going to win, and the relationship with the dog shows you quite early on that side of her character. The bringing in of the more pop-driven elements and the more electric guitar elements give her character a foundation and a solid and, if I may say so, even a heroic quality.

Q: In contrast, another film you recently scored is SUN DOGS, which takes a more comedic yet heartfelt story involving a military-involved premise. What can you tell us about your musical approach for this movie?

Mark Isham: Not too different, actually. Probably less of a pop feel to it, though definitely still guitars and some electric bass and electric pianos, but with a chamber orchestra. This was also a balancing act for a very uniquely drawn character, somebody who you don’t want to pity but you want to understand, and you want to see the world through his eyes. There’s a lightness but there’s also a definite seriousness, because he is exceedingly conscientious about the way he views the world. We wanted the music to represent that, but also with a wink to the audience that this is a unique guy who’s got a different point of view.

Q: A film you scored last year which I don’t think has been released yet, FALLEN, seems like it may have presented some interesting challenges with a romantic premise in which one of its characters is in fact an angel. How would you describe your musical treatment for this picture, and what’s going on with that film?

Mark Isham: I wish I knew! I think Scott Hicks is one of the finest directors of our time; he’s become a really good friend and we had a great time working on this picture. I know he’s very proud of this picture, I know that I’m exceedingly proud of the score, he loves the score, but God knows what happened. Somewhere in the producer/distributor world this picture has floundered, and I don’t know why. With the score, I didn’t go so far as to use harp, but I did use choir and I did use a woman’s voice, even though the angel is a man. The score is a hybrid, with some fairly serious electronics but also with a fairly big orchestral sound, because it’s big – there are battles; the film is an heir to the TWILIGHT genre, so the music can afford to be slightly larger than life, big and romantic and robust. With Scott’s sensibility, I think we hit a very nice balance.

Q: You also recently scored the documentary LET IT FALL: LOS ANGELES 1982-92. What were the needs for music in this presentation and what kind of tone and treatment did you work out to accompany it?

Mark Isham: John Ridley directed it, and I have a long history working with John for three years on AMERICAN CRIME. When we started AMERICAN CRIME, he had this fondness for modern minimalism – Max Richter and John Adams and Steve Reich, and of course he’s talking about my heroes. I think John Adams is the greatest composer of our time, and I’ve learned from him and still study him to this day. So it was a request from a director that I could not be happier to embrace, and our entire score for AMERICAN CRIME was chamber orchestra minimalism, which was a delightful experience. So when I talked to him about the documentary, I said “Well, what do you have in mind?” and he said, “You know, we’ve temped it with AMERICAN CRIME and it just works so great, I just love that music, and if you feel that you need to create something beyond that, in a new personality, that would probably be a good idea, but other than that I have no specific requests.” So I doctored it up a little bit and we went a little more electronic. There are long scenes which are almost all electronic, and at the end I decided to do it for a string quintet (a string quartet with string bass), a slew of percussion, about three or four different organs, all the way from big church organs to the lowly but vigorous Farfisa organs, and some monophonic synthesizers. It’s not 100% accurate but basically the sound of it is “Music for String Quintet, Organ, Percussion, and Minimoog.” That sort of sums up the feel of the score. There’s a tremendous amount of music in it, but the points where music rises up and actually has a voice of its own, that’s the real feel of the score, although there is a lot of ambient music as well. It was an exciting project for me, because I lived through that, and it was an interesting time in American culture; I think John found a fascinating story to tell, because he starts a decade before and really shows the cultural evolution of events that led to it in a way that I don’t think anybody quite understood.

Q: You’re set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe when you score the Netflix series CLOAK AND DAGGER. While it’s probably too early to discuss specifics, do you have any thoughts about this show’s needs for music at this stage that you can share?

Mark Isham: I’ve scored the pilot, and it’s really well done. Gina Prince-Blythewood directed it, and she really did a wonderful job, and Joe Pokaski is the show runner and he’s great as well. Right now it’s more electronic-based than anything else, but I feel that there should be an organic element that I’d like to explore a little further before we lock in the exact sound of it. I’m still not quite sure what that will be, but the thing about this show that I think will set it apart is that there is a very large emotional element to this that perhaps isn’t always present in the Marvel stories.

Thanks Costa Communications for facilitating this interview, and to Mark Isham for his warm welcome and sharing of his experiences and perspective. -rdl


Photo: Selfie of Rael Jones taken as he arrives for the premier of MY COUSIN RACHEL on June 7th. Image used by permission of Rael Jones.

A dark and layered romance, MY COUSIN RACHEL, adapted from Daphne Du Maurier's gothic romance novel of the same name, tells the story of a young Englishman who plots revenge against his mysterious and beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. The film is composed by Rael Jones, a composer and multi-instrumentalist, based in London. As a creative, flexible, and technically adept artist, Rael has adopted many roles on feature films including: music producer, orchestrator, music editor, music programmer and session musician. As a musician, Rael has also performed around the UK, including touring as a guitarist with Guillemots front man Fyfe Dangerfield, as well as with his own band Thumpermonkey, and released a solo instrumental album, Mandrake, last year. Sony Classical previously released his sweeping orchestral score for the Weinstein Company’s feature SUITE FRANÇAISE. He is currently scoring Hulu & ITVs 8 part series HARLOTS, set in the 18th Century brothels of London, and written, directed and produced entirely by women. Interviewed in early June, we spoke at length about each of these scores, and others.

Q: How did your experience as a musician, music editor, and composer of additional music prepare you for, and factor in, your moving into the official composer’s role?

Rael Jones: That’s a great question, although actually I’ve always been a composer of projects for many years, but much more humble projects even while I was working in other areas on bigger projects. I’d always be doing short films with students for little or no money, and that taught me how to write within a budget. At the same time I’d see how more experienced composers would write when they’d got an orchestra in the budget, and I suppose what I’ve done is I’ve taken the experience that I’ve got from working in supportive music roles on the bigger films and brought that to my own composing jobs as they got larger. I think you learn a lot musically working with lots of different people, as I have, but possibly more importantly, you bring it into your own musical identity. That’s been core to what I do musically, being sort of the teenager fumbling through and working out music for themselves, but the political side and the technical side and the mechanics of how film and TV soundtracks work cannot be underestimated. It’s a massive part of the job, and so I’m really indebted to all the various people I’ve worked with when I’ve been a music editor or programmer or producer. They have really informed how I now approach film soundtracks on a technical and political way.

Q: With MY COUSIN RACHEL, how did you work with director Roger Michel to determine the kind of music most suitable to accompany this film and its multifaceted characterizations?

Rael Jones: On MY COUSIN RACHEL it was a bit of a two-stage process. Initially, quite a few themes were written on piano, largely away from picture, and I’d play them to Roger on the piano and he would say which of those he liked and what he didn’t. Then, because the edit was changing a lot – they were working with temp music as well, and with some of that, in terms of instrumentation, especially, you find out what works. So on a very basic level it became clear it was going to be orchestra and piano, and that really fit into the feel of the piece. The film needed a classic orchestral sounding score, albeit with a quite modern approach in tonality. That was clearly what Roger wanted. He was also referencing some classic scores, such as for Hitchcock films, and I did bring in some of the harmonic language of Bernard Herrmann into the score, while always trying to bring a modern twist into it as well. So it gradually became about taking those initial piano themes and fleshing them out into fully-fledged demos. The way I tend to work is, I’ll always present a fully-orchestrated demo for every cue in the film before we record it, so there are no surprises at all on the day, it sounds exactly like the demo only better! I find that’s really reassuring for the directors, so they’re not sitting there in the back of the room at the recording studio and panicking because they’re suddenly hearing lots of different things for the first time!

Q: You’ve described how you’ve used the unique sound of woodwind instruments to reflect the character traits of both Rachel Weisz and Sam Clafin’s characters, Rachel and Philip. Would you elaborate a bit on this to show how you created their themes and how you’ve represented and contrasted their characters sonically and lyrically in the score?

Rael Jones: I think sometimes it can be a trap for a composer, or it can be old fashioned sometimes, to have this-is-this-character’s theme and this-is-that-character’s theme, and so on, so it’s more often that the themes are based on the mood. There’s definitely a “suspicion theme,” which I suppose does attach to Philip largely, and I suppose the vast majority of the film is from Philip’s perspective, musically, because Rachel is an enigma – we never really know what she is thinking and we don’t know her motives, whereas Philip is a totally open book. So in a way the music is always framed from his perspective and Rachel is inscrutable – the music doesn’t try to say for sure what she’s thinking at any point. However, tonally, I do tend to reflect characters in certain way. The oboe probably connects a bit more with Philip and his agricultural/pastoral upbringing, and the clarinet tends to fit more with Rachel. I use flutes more when they’re being romantic and warm with each other, that kind of thing. I’ve used solo woodwinds more than I ever have before on this film, and they really are prominent, but with a very large string section that is supporting the six woodwind players, and a French horn as well. Sometimes, orchestrationally, it’s using those seven soloists (the horn and the six woodwinds) as a sextet passing voices between them, but with fifty string players supporting them with harmony and texture as well. So it’s a bit of a mix, to be honest, how the woodwinds are used. Sometimes it’s very soloistic, sometimes it’s more as an ensemble of voices.

Q: Your purposeful use of instrumental choices and performance characteristics also enhanced the psychological resonance of characters like Philip in particular, as in your use of bowed glasses and subliminal use of harp. How would you describe how you used these treatments to identify character traits and personality?

Rael Jones: The glass is by far the most literal reflection of what’s on picture that I do. It’s almost a sound effect at times, because you’re not sure if he’s psychologically going through a lot of problems, if he’s psychologically traumatized, or if he actually has an inherited brain lesion or something like that. So when he’s touching his head or when he’s got a headache and we’re not sure why, often the glass reflects it, almost like a sound effect but it’s in key with the piece, so it’s like a layer on top of the orchestra. That was halfway between what a sound designer might do and what you would do in concert with orchestra. Sometimes the strings will double that glass, as well, but the glass is really the searing, harsh and oppressive side of it. And then the harp might sometimes double it as well with a sound called bisbigliando, which means “shadowy whispering sound,” when you play the notes very quickly, that sometimes doubles it as well, and I’m a big fan of that sound, it gives an interesting shimmering texture on top.

Q: Is your use of those elements in the manner of an ostinato to reflect specific character peculiarities in the story?

Rael Jones: Absolutely. I like pedal notes as well, so even though the harmony may be changing quite wildly through different keys or chords, and might be a bit bi-tonal as well (at times it’s that extreme), but there’s always one note which keeps playing through all those chords, and that might be on a high harmonic string and a harp bisbigliando, and some bowed glass as well, and then it may be a repeated piano note – an insistent, obsessive, repetitive note running through everything. It’s all part of the same effect, psychologically.

If you said to somebody, “Okay, we’re going to make a period drama set in 1763,” you definitely wouldn’t automatically think drop tune, tech guitars, and the like! But they definitely wanted it to be modern… they knew they wanted it to be very bold, edgy, and rebellious to reflect these women who worked for themselves and were very empowered and forward-thinking.


Q: In contrast to the period-accommodating score for RACHEL, your music for Hulu’s period drama HARLOTS takes on a much more contemporary attitude. How did this anachronistic but very effective treatment come about?

Rael Jones: The fact that the score is as modern and as bold as it is would never have happened were it not for the show-running director Coky Giedroyc and the producers, Deborah Hayward, Alison Newman, and Alison Carpenter. Were it not for those ladies really wanting a bold, modern soundtrack it would never have happened, because if you said to somebody, “Okay, we’re going to make a period drama set in 1763,” you definitely wouldn’t automatically think drop tune, tech guitars, and the like! But they definitely wanted it to be modern – initially they were thinking maybe hip-hop and they were exploring different modern genres, but they knew they wanted it to be very bold, edgy, and rebellious to reflect these women who worked for themselves and were very empowered and forward-thinking. It’s quite easy to imagine them being tragic figures, as prostitutes, but actually women in this time were in many ways more independent and empowered if they were prostitutes because they actually owned their own money. If you were a rich woman and were married, at that point in time, you were effectively a kept woman and didn’t own your own money; your husband owned it. Whereas if you were, as Samantha Morton is in HARLOTS, an owner of a brothel, she had her own agency and her own power. So the modern music reflects that empowerment and forward looking-ness, but also it’s their music, it’s their perspective. They’re not looking at things through a period 1763 lens, although they’re dressed in a certain way and are speaking a certain way. The music is like a Google translation of the way they feel about themselves. It’s modern and edgy on that basis, because that’s how it felt to them at the time. There is a lot of darkness in the period, but it’s also fun and cheeky. So it was about me trying to eke out as much of the boldness and modern sound as I could; in the end, I tried to bring in some period instruments of the time, but what seemed to gel with the story and the characters was, in most cases, just very modern, quirky, heavy rock. That’s what we went with and I was really blessed that they let me do that. What’s so funny was that in a very short space of time I’ve got these two projects out, MY COUSIN RACHEL and HARLOTS, and they’re both period but they’re both so different in how reverential they are or are not for what instruments you might associate with that period!

Q: How did you support the romantic focus of SUITE FRANÇAISE while reflecting the dark atmospheres of the World War II period and environment in which I takes place?

Rael Jones: The whole challenge with SUITE FRANÇAISE was that it was a very oppressive film at times because the Germans have these people on lockdown and it’s their home town but it’s not their own anymore. So a lot of the time the music is very tense; there’s lots of low sustained brass and strings and heavy drums and percussion to represent the mechanization of war. So there’s that element, but then as well there’s the forbidden love story between Michelle Williams’s character and Matthias Schoenaerts’s character, and that’s something which eats into that tension, gradually. It’s tentative at first, because it’s forbidden and she doesn’t fully trust him at first, but gradually that becomes a full love theme by the end of the film. As the score progresses that love theme becomes a bigger component in the soundtrack. I don’t think it’s until about an hour into the film that we properly hear it, and then we hear it a few more times and then the biggest arrangement is at the very end of the film. Before that it’s quite an oppressive soundtrack – some of it’s about keeping up appearances despite the horror of having this oppressive force in your town, and some of it is just about the dread and malevolence of the Nazi movement.

Q: With STILL THE ENEMY WITHIN you underlined a film about the British Miners' Strike of 1984-85. How did you give a sense of emotion and drama to this factual documentary presentation?

Rael Jones: A lot of the STILL THE ENEMY WITHIN soundtrack wasn’t about my having opportunities to compose great music or anything like that, because it’s constant talking in a documentary, and, more than many other projects I’ve worked on, I felt a real duty to not get in the way and just support exactly what happened without manipulating what is quite a sad and tragic period in British history. There is a scene, for example, about a great riot that happened in a place called Orgreave, which allowed for a proper bit of scoring because it’s a very dramatic moment, but a lot of the film is talking heads. It’s miners from that time talking about their experiences, so for me it’s about reflecting what they’re saying without in any way being self-conscious or overpowering their recollections, which is a very different job. I almost feel more like a filmmaker when I’m working on that kind of project. It’s not the kind of music I would put on Track 1 of my show reel, but it is something that I am really happy about in the way it supports the documentary. There’s also a little bit about reflecting the period or the setting, so there are a lot of tracks in the film from the ‘80s, when the events took place, and I was trying to complement those, tonally, using early electronica sounds. A lot of what I was doing in the underscoring was in keeping with that whole period.

Q: SUPERSONIC is a documentary about the rock band Oasis, which featured a lot of the band’s own music on the soundtrack. What was your role in providing energy and drama to the story while stepping aside to let the band’s own music shine?

Rael Jones: That was a film where the credit doesn’t necessarily reflect what I did on the film, because there I needed to take responsibility for all of the music in the film, not just the score. I had to do some quite technical work with Oasis’s music, so at times I was more like a music producer, and I’d try to find the best archived recording of the live gigs that we were seeing. In many cases these gigs happened twenty five years ago, and I had a hard drive with loads of audio which was being transferred off of old cassettes and things like that, trying to find the best possible recording of the various songs, in order to help the director, Mat Whitecross, to tell the story of their touring life. Also, for later gigs, especially KNEBWORTH, which is one of the really huge gigs they did in 1994, we had multitracks from that show – so I took the multitracks and mixed them for the film. They’d never been properly mixed before apart from the actual live gig, so for the cinematic telling of their journey I took those multitracks and mixed them as best as I could and tried to fit them into a cinematic space that reflected the positioning of what we’re seeing on the screen.

And then with the soundtrack side, because the story is about them as a band, especially the brothers and their rivalry, so there is about 40 minutes of original music from me in there as well. That was more than I anticipated, frankly, but it’s just where we ended up going with it, because, a bit like STILL THE ENEMY WITHIN, there’s a lot of talking, and there’s a lot of sections that needed subliminal support from me, and I was trying to support the more emotional side of the story but doing so within the same sound world as the band; so I’d use feedback guitars and acoustic guitars – a bit often they’d use cello and things like that in their tracks, like famously in their song “Wonderwall,” so I’d use solo strings as they did. It was about trying to be an emotional echo of what Oasis’s music sounds like in order to support their story.

Q: You’re now working with Ashvin Kumar on his film NOOR, a romantic drama set amidst the political and human conflicts in Kashmir, perhaps not unlike the romantic conflict in SUITE FRANÇAISE. What can you tell us about this score?

Rael Jones: Well, I can’t tell you a lot because I’ve written basically nothing of that yet – that’s about to start now, it’s my next project. I’ve collaborated with Ashvin for many years and I think it’s going to be quite an intimate soundtrack. Budgetarily, of course, we can’t have a massive orchestra in that film, but I think it will reflect the intimate nature of it being a story with a small number of characters. Probably a small Western ensemble, which might be piano and string quartet, that kind of thing, and then we’ll bring in Eastern instrumentation as well, because it is very much the meeting of West and East. The whole film is from the perspective of this girl from Birmingham, Britain, and she travels across the Kashmir to try and find out what happened to her deceased father, who was a militant there, so it’s very much from a Western perspective. The music will probably also be from a Western perspective but there will be these Indian/Kasmiri layers on top of that as well. What they will be we will see – it’s going to be a journey. But I think it’s going to be probably a lot of Eastern voice and we’ll see if I go for a sarangi or a sarod as well, on top of the Western side.

Watch a video of the recording session for the soundtrack for MY COUSIN RACHEL with composer Rael Jones at Air Studios with a 60 piece orchestra.
Recording track “My Torment
Recording track “Headaches Blind Me
See photos and a short video from the MY COUSIN RACHELpremiere

Thanks to Ray Costa of Costa Communications for facilitating this interview, and to Rael Jones for his time and enthusiastic conversation. -rdl


New & Notable Soundtracks in Review

2:22/ Lisa Gerrard and James Orr/Varèse Sarabande – digital & cd
This horror thriller, 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 score, composed by Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard  (JANE GOT A GUN, I, FRANKENSTEIN, SAMSARA) and James Orr (additional music JANE GOT A GUN, BALIBO), is an effective and mesmerizing mélange of synthesis, chorale-infused piano interplay, and percussive rhythm that lends itself quite well to the baffling unreality in which the man finds himself. “The director was very sensitive to sound and tone,” described Gerrard. “There was scope in the score for a main theme for the two principal characters, Dylan and Sarah. This is played briefly at the beginning of the film with piano, and then resurfaces throughout in various different guises, culminating in the orchestra in the finale.” Added James Orr: “The theme itself was one element, but the nature of the sound that produced it was very important to him. It needed to fit in with the idea of it being something contemporary and fresh. We experimented a lot with recording both organic and synthetic sounds - voice, piano, guitar, strings - but manipulating them in a way that twisted them more to an electronic feel. The voice was key throughout, but it's often used in a way that morphs the sound into something else, and is often a textural component and not a lead.”
Four songs precede the score on the album, which represents the score with an even 22 tracks on CD, but 27 on the digital version. It’s a sonic journey of mostly short cues presented in close sequence, midway through the album the track “2:22” emanates with an absorbing ambiance and a beat provided by distant gongs that is quite enhancing in its languid progression; in contrast, the closing track, “2:23,” concludes the journey with livelier guitar and keyboard riffing that conclude the score with a satisfying air of almost soothing resonance, leading into Gerrard’s beautiful vocalise over the top of it. Quite nice, no matter the time of day.
For more details, see Varèse Sarabande

ALIKI MY LOVE/Mano Hadjidakis/Disques Cinémusique – digital
There is something infectious about Greek music, and that includes Greek film music, which is most often derived from Greek folk and popular music. Such is the case with Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis’s elusive soundtrack for Rudolph Maté’s 1963 romantic comedy ALIKI MY LOVE. This is the first reissue of Hadjidakis’ up-tempo and charming score since the original soundtrack LP came out in the US on Fonata in1963, and it’s one of many rarities being given a digital reissue from the Canadian label. Starring popular singer and film/stage actress Aliki Vougiouklaki, the soundtrack features five songs (two featuring vocals from Vougiouklaki; one of those is a duet; and three sung by a small chorus) and seven instrumentals (two of which are instrumental versions of chorus vocal songs). The score is celebratory and charming and, while brief (12 tracks and 32 minutes) it’s a very enjoyable album, especially the instrumentals, with lots of mandolin and bouzouki, and a most attractive melody and performance. The main theme (“Aliki”) drifts from its Greek instrumental style into a middle section which is performed by a small but sublime string ensemble, while “The Welcome March” is pure Greek festivity, and as stimulating as any of Hadjidakis’s themes for NEVER ON SUNDAY or TOPKAPI.
For info and to sample tracks, see the iTunes page here.
More information on the label’s digital reissues can be found at

THE BLACK PRINCE/George Kallis/Caldera - cd
This 2017 historical drama is a US/UK/India co-production filmed in England and France and directed by Punjabi-born British actor-writer-director Kavi Raz. The film tells the story of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab before its British annexation. After the First Anglo-Sikh War, the king sees himself torn between his own country and England and struggles to regain his own kingdom. Cypress-born, Hollywood-based Emmy and BAFTA award-nominated composer George Kallis (GAGARIN FIRST IN SPACE, 93 DAYS) paints this drama with a colorful orchestral score sparingly enhanced by sarangi and Punjabi male vocalise, which he conducted in Hungary with a live orchestra. As Kallis describes in his audio commentary track on the CD (a wonderful feature still exclusive to Caldera releases), Kavi Raz prefers not to use temp tracks, thus giving his composer free range not to be confined by pre-existing musical ideas “He wanted an orchestral period drama score with Punjabi instruments scattered around to provide a North Indian suggestion to the story,” Kallis explained. The score is richly evocative, with a sublime main theme introduced in “Opening Titles” but reprised powerfully in “The Painting” and meeting its most emotive and affecting elegance in “Back to England,” with additional intriguing variations as well, including especially intricate interplay of various themes in “Assassination Attempt” and “The Sword of Maharaja.” There are several other equally compelling themes, and the delicate use of the ethnic music adds an intriguing color to the material. This twentieth CD-release of Caldera Records includes a detailed booklet with notes by Gergely Hubai and elegant art design by Luis Miguel Rojas.
For more details and sample tracks, see: caldera-records

CASTLEVANIA/Trevor Morris/Lakeshore – digital and cd
Trevor Morris has composed a heavily atmospheric score for the new Netflix animated series CASTLEVANIA, based on the popular Konami video games about a vampire hunter named (ironically) Trevor who fights to save a besieged city from an army of otherworldly beasts controlled by Dracula himself. “Being asked to contribute to CASTLEVANIA was such a great call to get,” Morris said. “As a composer it’s just a cool, colorful and interesting world to get into, and provides endless inspiration for music. It was just such a fun and cool project to work on. I could score CASTLEVANIA for years and years.” Opening with a fast-paced, tympani-propelled rhythm for horns, strings, and choir, Morris immediately gets the sonic juices flowing in a rich mélange of focused instrumentation that could have gone on another four minutes if the Main Titles lasted that long. It’s a very impressive rhythmic motif that in its audible palette and its texture identifies both the landscape and the energy of the story that will follow. Morris of course is a master of textured orchestral landscapes especially with his history scoring period TV series like THE TUDORS, THE BORGIAS, and VIKINGS, the telefilm THE PILLARS OF EARTH, feature films IMMORTALS and THE SCORPION KING 3, as well as the DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION video game. Aside from the very large, sweeping soundscapes that identify the land and cultures of CASTLEVANIA, Morris also brings his knowledge of early musical instruments to bring that world to life, in tracks like “Murdenu Tavern” and its sequel, “Tavern Brawl,” while elsewhere he creates a fascinating hybrid sound of electronics and acoustics, as in the funneling motor sounds of “Twilight Descends” and the rapid-fire electric basso beat that underlies the orchestra and choir in “Night Hordes Besiege Greisit” and the wild progression of orchestra, synths, solo voice, and choir in “There's an Army of Us” that give these action sequences an amazing amalgamation of the primal and the modern. The climactic sequence when “Alucard Rises” and “Trevor Fights Alucard” parries and thrusts and snarls and snaps with sonic ferocity before emerging into the calm resolution of “Hunter, Scholar, Soldier” that concludes film and score. A captivating musical journey, this is music thick as cordwood and resonates with a breadth of sound that is an amazing mix of earthy strength and fragile, airy sinew, strikingly combined and connected.

CHURCHILL/Lorne Balfe/Filmtrax - digital
Jonathan Teplitzky’s respectful biopic of the World War II British Prime Minister, CHURCHILL (which focuses on Winston Churchill’s life and dedication to country up around the of D-Day) [see trailer] is one of several high-profile, high-budget movies about either Churchill or England in World War II (a great triple feature could be made with this along with Christopher Nolan’s new DUNKIRK and Joe Wright’s forthcoming DARKEST HOUR about Churchill during the early days of the Nazi blitz). Lorne Balfe approached scoring Teplitzky’s film with sense of quiet honor and dignity. The composer has a great historical interest in Churchill and invested that passion into a very eloquent and unobtrusive score performed by a small ensemble of about ten or so players. Balfe also focuses on the relationship between Churchill and his wife, scoring parts of it in the manner of a great love story. The album is a fairly calm and dignified work favoring fast piano fingering and a stately complement of strings. It carries the gracious bearing of the British aristocracy of the first half of the 19th Century while capturing the human being within the stature of the then-revered Churchill, reflecting the weight of his office during this critical time, while flavored with the mighty affection between the Prime Minister and his wife. In its hushed serenity the score carries multiple emotive nuances which, upon repeated listening, become further revealed and affecting.

DESPICABLE ME 3/Heitor Pereira/Back Lot Music - digital
Having scored the previous two films in the DESPICABLE ME franchise as well as the MINIONS spinoff, it’s no surprise to see Heitor Pereira back in the driver’s seat of the third iteration’s score. Pereira wrote over an hour of music and incorporated nearly 150 performers for the score including playing a dozen instruments himself, including guitar, bass, piano, drum machines, ukulele, mandolin and a “bucket bass” (one string on top of a bucket). Two days of the recording sessions were spent on percussion with drummers Alex Acuña, Bernie Dresel, and Mike Shapiro playing simultaneously on complete drum kits, followed by a session in which they played ethnic percussion (taiko drums, African jun jun’s and Brazilian Surdos) – not to mention the bravado of a 60-voice choir (who sang through tin foil to create a distortion complementing Pereira’s original ‘80s sounding synths to match the persona of Dru’s new nemesis Balthazar Bratt. It’s thus a highly produced score that is very much in motion, constantly shifting gears to follow the fast track of the film’s characters yet avoiding funny music and playing straight man to the hilarity of Dru, his long-lost twin brother, the minions, and the villainous severity of Bratt – while standing high from time to time with an emotive paean to family loyalty and honor. In fact its constant speed and abrupt turns in twists make it a bit awkward to keep up with, but it’s nonetheless a very fun score to listen to both in its frenzied tempo and in the magnitude of its very evocative multi-instrumental voice.
Periera’s next animated film, THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE, opens in August.

DOWN THE DEEP, DARK WEB/Frank Ilfman/Lakeshore - digital
In this tense documentary about the dangers - and the promise, depending how you look at it - of the Darknet, a cast of mysterious and secretive hackers, cypherpunks, and crypto-anarchists guide us ever deeper down the darkweb’s rabbit hole, uncovering the hidden light at the bottom of the deep, dark web. The film delves beyond the child porn, drug sales, and hitmen-for-hire that have dominated existing explorations of this virtual Wild West to ask if the Darknet is a prophetic glimpse into the twisted dystopian future that awaits us, or the key to escaping the Orwellian reality in which we are already living. The music by Frank Ilfman (Saturn Award and Israeli Academy Award winner for 2013’s BIG BAD WOLVES score) matches the film’s style and tone to a very dark “T.” Ilfman gives the score a modern electronica sensibility that shifts and moves above a slightly paranoia-inducing beat that sounds throughout most of the tracks and keeps the darknet environment mysterious and shady while also keeping the listener properly on edge. The aural environment is comprised of the sounds of networks and circuit boards and the sounds of electrical activity flying through wires, conveyed in an increasingly dark territory which, like the film itself, is one of both fascination and anxiety. It makes quite an interesting sonic journey. The score concludes with an effectively “dirty” track, given phonograph scratch sounds and distortion that adds an interesting tenuous effect to the music as it crackles and pops across the soundscape.
Watch the film’s trailer on YouTube here
Ilfman’s recent works include the upcoming film THE ETRUSCAN SMILE and Lionsgate’s mystery thriller GHOST STORIES; his 2009 score for the documentary KILLING GIRLS was just released by Quartet Records.

Mark McKenzie/Back Lot Music - digital

Mark McKenzie has scored all three follow-up films in the DRAGONHEART franchise, starting with 2000’s sequel DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING, and continuing with the 2015 prequel DRAGONHEART 3: THE SORCERER’S CURSE. For the fourth film (a sequel to the prequel), McKenzie filled the mostly electronic soundtrack with a captivating array of intriguing textures, dark electronics, driving percussion, joyful Celtic dances, powerful orchestral runs, and impassioned cello solos. All of the sequel scores have reprised the beautiful Dragonheart Theme that Randy Edelman composed for the first film in 1996, and it’s given a number of new arrangements here in BATTLE FOR THE HEARTFIRE, while McKenzie’s use of crystal glass chaconnes serves as repeated meditative theme to underscore the past trauma of the protagonist, which slowly unfolds over the length of the film. McKenzie said he was asked to go a little simpler on this fourth film’s score. “The idea was to have a less complex level of thematic material and counterpoint but a broader range of musical color. While most of my original soundtracks are composed for large orchestra, often with choir, this one is particularly rewarding without an orchestra because musical electronics continue to become more and more interesting to me.” The score retains its melodic structure and McKenzie’s articulation with the highly authentic digital orchestra provides both exhilaration and sensitivity in the music, rendering emotional empathy for the dragon and protagonist alike. The outcome is a warm, festive, and exciting score that works very well on its own.
Listen to music samples on the composer’s web site here

DUEL IN THE SUN/Dimitri Tiomkin/Tadlow-Prometheus - cd
For their latest newly recorded release, Tadlow Music presents one of my personal favorite Dimitri Tiomkin scores, the thunderous and impassioned music from David O. Selznick’s DUEL IN THE SUN, a complicated 1946 Western known for its frank examination of prejudice and forbidden love (for a while it was nicknamed “Lust in the Dust” due to its heavy sexual content). Starring Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez, a young half-Native American girl who goes to live with her Caucasian relatives, and Gregory Peck as Lewt, the lustful gunfighter who intends to have her, Selznick viewed this as a GONE WITH THE WIND in the old West, with a vast musical score based on an energetic main theme and numerous subordinate motifs, including an interpretation of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” that serves as a theme for the kindly aunt (Lillian Gish) who takes Pearl in. The film’s post-production phase was as difficult and problematic as its production period was, with Selznick making a multitude of edits and reshoots, causing Tiomkin to rewrite some cues multiple times to fit the revised footage, which, in turn, made restoring the full score for new performance a challenging task to find which version was which. The film was one of the first to have a record album made of its score, albeit one with score highlights re-performed by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and released by RCA Victor as a set of four 78-RPM records. Aside from bootleg LPs of the score, conducted by Tiomkin (uncertain if original soundtrack or re-record; likely the latter) on the Sound Stage and Cinema Records labels, music from the film was mostly confined to “Movie Themes” type compilation albums and collections of Tiomkin’s music on LP and CD. Thus Tadlow’s fine 2-CD restoration of the full score, powerfully performed by Nic Raine conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in as close to a full-blooded symphonic replica of Tiomkin’s complete score as we’re about to get. The music is magnificent. An epic work as large as Selznick’s mighty ambitions, with a terrific performance to enjoy at high volume from big speakers, this is yet another must-have production from Tadlow’s continued efforts to restore lost or improperly recorded scores from the classic era of movie music.
For more details, see:
Watch Tadlow’s video of the recording session of the score’s Main Title & Fanfare at YouTube here.

I WANT TO BE A SOLDIER/Federico Jusid/Kronos – cd + digital
Christian Molina’s 2010 drama I WANT TO BE A SOLDIER tells the story of eight year old Alex, who develops an unhealthy obsession with violent images on TV, which leads to an unwholesome preoccupation with becoming a great soldier who destroys his country’s enemies in violent wars. Molina is thus making a comment about violence in mass media and its effect upon youth, although by choosing a troubled and asocial youth as his protagonist he might be have loaded the deck a little bit. Federico Jusid’s score is very complementary and works well in underlining Alex’s developing fixation, giving the troubled boy a sense of emotional depth with which the audience is allowed to empathize. Jusid’s score is primarily acoustic, favoring piano, woodwind, and strings, which tend to characterize the childlike innocence of the boy, while use of electric guitar over percussion, strings, and a judicious use of electronica convey his unhealthy interest in violent warfare. As John Mansell writes in his album notes, “The work is filled with affecting and deliciously haunting tone poems, which are intricate and beguiling. We are treated to soaring strings and frail but attractive piano solos which are underlined by woodwind passages that are woven into the fabric of the work.” This is a very flavorful score which paints a compelling psychological portrait which is both disturbing and sympathetic. Still, the music makes for a very pleasing and thoughtful listening on disc.
For more details and sample tracks, see:

THE MONSTER/tomandandy/Lakeshore - digital
Lakeshore Records has released tomandandy’s score for THE MONSTER, the suspenseful and scary 2016 film from horror filmmaker Bryan Bertino (THE STRANGERS). The film, which after a limited release last November was released to home video in January, is about a mother and daughter who must confront a terrifying monster when their car breaks down on a deserted road. The pair’s potent score for THE MONSTER begins with quietly reflective piano motifs as the composers introduce the strained dynamic between mother and daughter; that emotive bearing never fully goes away, even when the music anticipates, reveals, and attacks with the titular inhabitant of the woods. From the tendrils of electronic misterioso through the large blocks of synthesized sound that accompany the monster’s strikes, the interaction of the creature music with the constancy of the characters’ eloquent piano music creates a haunting, frightening, and occasionally violent accompaniment that retains its focus on the relationship situation as it is tested and resolved throughout the course of the story. Scary reflective layers embody tracks like “Side” while tormented piano strains in cues like “See” paint a picture of entrapment and desperation as mother and daughter are forced to cooperate while taking refuge in their inoperable car while the ravaging monster, having torn apart and consumed both a tow truck driver and a pair of unwary ambulance medics, prowls about with still unsatisfied hunger.
Tomandandy’s latest horror film scores include 47 METERS DOWN, released last Friday, and WISH UPON, which premiered July 17. 
Sample tracks or purchase on iTunes here.

THE MUMMY/Brian Tyler/Back Lot Music – cd (12 tracks) & digital (36 tracks)
Available in two versions, a 12-track CD or the 36-track deluxe digital release, Brian Tyler unwraps the essence of the new MUMMY remake that was fast on action but whose expected shock and horror was pretty absent. Regardless of your opinion of the movie, Tyler’s music is full-blooded and muscular, constructed around the kind of engaging and memorable main theme he has such a great knack at creating. It’s a thematically oriented score with interplay and development of a number of themes throughout; “Nick’s Theme” has an appropriate heroic arrogance for Tom Cruise’s rogue adventurer character which plays off the main theme; “The Secret of the Mummy” is the theme associated with the supernatural in the story, an especially evocative, progressive rhythmic cue that grows with increased gatherings of instrumental weight above a bed of flowing marcato strings. It’s reprised quite nicely in the track “The Call of the Ancients.” The diabolical fiddle at the heart of the “Set” theme conveys a supercilious malevolency that interacts intrinsically with the Mummy and Supernatural themes. In more of a stately manner we have the theme for the “Prodigium,” the very British secret organization of self-important caretakers in charge of keeping hidden the monstrous creatures that exist in the world; the deliciously feminine motif for Ahmanet, the ancient Egyptian queen whose awakening sets in motion most of the terrors that will spring forth (“Egypt's Next Great Queen,” “Lost Tomb Of Ahmanet,” “She is Risen,” etc.), betrays in its melodic loveliness a devastating danger. Each theme (and there are a few others as well) is fully developed and flexible enough to be reprised in whole or in part, giving the score as it breathes and moves and rages plenty of opportunity to whisper and to howl. A case in point is “Unstoppable,” which sets forth some unnervingly creepy atmospheres comprised of intricate textural harmonics, wafting sinewy winds, and ominous choral murmurings, concluding to interact with the main theme near the end. The themes are effectively and purposefully organized to provide a very intriguing motivic pattern around which the score flows, and the orchestration makes the most of the large capacity of sound at Tyler’s command. At two hours and five minutes in its deluxe digital edition, Tyler’s THE MUMMY makes for a very compelling and fully developed symphonic work, as involving in its powerful orchestra runs as it is in its more shadowy moments of haunting texture and tonality.
Listen to the main theme on YouTube here; other themes and tracks will be linked to it as well.
For more details on Brian Tyler’s score for THE MUMMY, see my interview with Tyler at musiquefantastique here.

PAPILLON (expanded OST)/Jerry Goldsmith/Quartet - cd
It’s already sold out at the label, so hurry and check the online retailers before this one gets to the pricey eBayers. Quartet Records’ expanded soundtrack to one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best and most beloved scores, Franklin J. Schafner’s 1973 Devil's Island escape drama PAPILLON, based on the bestselling autobiography of Henri Charrière, one of the few people to allegedly escape from France’s notorious penal colony. Quartet’s release has been carefully remixed and mastered by Mike Matessino from the recently discovered multi-track masters of the complete sessions, recorded in Italy and preserved in mint condition. Music was used very sparingly in the film (there’s only 40 minutes of it in the 150-minute film), as both Schafner and Goldsmith agreed it should be exercised as musical commentary just where it could best emphasize the story’s psychological moments. The score is anchored by its main theme, a fine waltz for accordion and orchestra with an infectious melody, and its love theme, “Gift from the Sea,” a sublime tune for flute/oboe, harp, and orchestra associated with Charrière’s love affair with a native girl that runs from tentative to infatuated. The main theme is one of Goldsmith’s most striking melodies and one of my personal favorites, one that will frequently come into mind unbidden but very welcome. Beyond those two musical tentpoles, the score is less melodic and more discordantly structured as it focuses on the struggles the character undergoes during his imprisonment and his escape attempts. Goldsmith’s score was released on LP all over the world in 1973, appearing on CD for the first time 1988 in a straight reissue of the Capitol LP from Silva Screen. Universal France released an expanded reissue in 2002 which included several previously unreleased tracks and a French version of the song “Free as the Wind,” taken from Goldsmith’s theme melody with lyrics added by Hal Shaper, sung by Nicoletta; this same program was released in Japan on Rambling Records in 2015. Now with Quartet’s expanded edition, in a limited run of only 1,000 copies, features every note Goldsmith recorded for the film, including music not used in the final cut, extended versions of some cues, alternates takes, and source music used in the film. Now, I confess not to be a fan of source music on soundtrack albums, finding them to be peripheral and negligible at best and an unwanted distraction from the score at worst, although in PAPILLON’s case each of the seven source tracks – three selections from Gounod’s Faust, two French pop songs from 1930, an arrangement of field drums, and a triumphal parade march – serve as accompaniment for significant moments in the film and thus they serve a greater function than, say, incidental music from a jukebox or other music-as-set-design function. Arranged by Alexander Courage and conducted by Goldsmith, these cues truly belong here as  important musical moments in the film, even though I may decide to pass them by on further listenings to focus on the Goldsmith compositions. Quartet’s release features a 20-page full-color booklet with two excellent commentary notes: an introductory overview of the film and its music by Ecoutez le cinema! producer Stéphane Lerouge, and a detailed musical analysis, including track-by-track examination, by John Takis. Jerry Goldsmith’s PAPILLON is an essential score for any film soundtrack collection, and this version from Quartet is easily the most significant and comprehensive edition, in both music and text commentary, that we’re likely to get.

PUPPET ON A CHAIN/Piero Piccioni/Silva Screen – CD [UK only], digital, vinyl
Italian composer Piero Piccioni turned in a ferocious Hammond-heavy jazz score for this 1971 suspenser adapted from Alistair Maclean’s 1969 novel. A crime thriller set in the decadent enclaves of 1970s Amsterdam mixed up with drugs and organized crime, Piccioni’s score is rooted in jazz and imparts a wonderfully, as someone once put it, “gonzo” sensibility that energizes and excites the action scenes, especially the electrifying main theme, a heavily throbbing fistful of jazz rock for sizzling Hammond organ, flailing drum-kit, and exuberant rhythm section that bookends the film fore and aft. What’s especially intriguing about the score is that some of the darker action/suspense sequences are also scored using a jazz aesthetic, if not jazz music. “Escape” “Troubles in the Big City,” and “Obsession,” for example, are deliciously tenuous musical moments with dark, exuding textures that aren’t jazz in any musical form, but are rooted in jazz timbre and tonality, and are brilliantly fascinating as a result. There’s also a traditional string-driven love theme, very demur and very sweet, creating a smooth sense of intimacy among the heavier sounds of action and hallucination. After the main title, the score proper begins with intoxicating impressions – “Drug Dealers,” “Psychedelic Mood,” and “LSD Party” (and a fourth, “Drugs Hypnosis,” a few tracks beyond) – jazz under the influence, with three very different sonic impressions of mind-altering submergence. At the other end of the story, the finale is accompanied by a formal, funereal solo church organ piece which assumes a fascinating melodic composure and often sounds like it’s just about to break into the drums and guitar of a ‘60s progressive rock song, but, of course, never does. But every track is a piece of sonic enticement. The album is available digitally or on CD in the UK, digitally only in the US.

This 2015 SyFy release, directed by Jim Wynorski (CHOPPING MALL, DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR, PIRANHACONDA), is a mash up of the Women-in-Prison exploitation film with the currently trending sharksploitation film; Wynorski came up with the concept in response to SyFy’s request for a movie “like The Asylum’s SHARKNADO.” Seen and raised. With the project greenlit, and a production schedule not much longer than it takes a shark to swallow a quintet of escaped female prisoners and their guards – well, fifteen days – Wynorski had the film in the can, ready for his composer of choice, Chuck Cirino, to give it the final musical magic. Cirino brought his proclivity for writing catchy tunes and his remarkable articulation with a studio full of synths to bear on a very cool score that supports the film by playing it completely straight over the movie’s tongue-in-cheek audacity and its fresh-out-of-prison friendly lady charm. Cirino really knows how to amp up a scene with pensive rhythm and sonic attack. Here we have the saga of a half dozen imprisoned busty babes doing chain gang work in shorts & halters in the Arkansas swamp just in time for a pain-gang of hungry prehistoric sharkasauruses, escaped because fracking broke the barrier between Earth’s surface and the vast underground ocean from whence they came, allowing them free range throughout the swampland to munch upon the curvaceous convicts and luckless locals caught in their weedy wake. It’s everything you want from a low budget Wynorski picture – it’s well-made but a little sloppy around the edges, its script is freewheeling with logic and science, its CGI is mediocre, the acting ranges from pretty good to not so much – and it’s terrific ton of fun despite all of that. Cirino’s main theme is invested with a splendid Morricone-styled vibe over a sweltering frenzy of layered and interactive piano and synth patterns and a vigorous percussive beat (listen to the Main Title at the Kritzerland link below). In addition to bookending the score, the theme is put to great use in driving the action forward and providing a running riff for the decreasing number of jaded jailbirds (“Angry Prison Ladies,” “Escape to the Cave”). The suspenseful moments are built up with highly textured and reverbed synth orchestrations, sometimes with choir added or built around variations of the main theme for sampled brass (“Search and Discover,” “A Severed Leg Conversation,” “Subterranean Travel/Cold Light”), but the halting, throbbing blues bass riff from the main theme is almost always underfoot. Cirino signifies the presence of the shark through a rapid and light percussive pattern which makes a fresh and notable ostinato. There’s also a blistering boogie & blues track (“Burnin’ Sunshine”) worthy of classic Canned Heat accompanying the obligatory slo-mo montage of the busty babes on a sweaty work detail out in the swampland; another fine blues-driven track is “Curious Cave and Driving” with an intriguing touch of Goblin riffing a la ZOMBI, which covers several moments of the post-escape adventures. Another winning track is the cheeky “Bride of Sharkenstein,” proffering a funky mix of guitars and rhythm section. The film’s occasional moments of character tenderness are supported by soft choirs of warm synth (“The Book,” “Breakfast of Champions,” and the poignantly reflective “For the Kid”). Say what you will these types of films - love, like or hate – their scores tend to be pretty good, and this one is thoroughly effective and very enjoyable on its own. The music is mixed comparatively low in the film, so hearing it full throttle courtesy of the dazzling mastering of Digital Outland’s James Nelson restores its original energy and vigor and makes for a rocking good listen.
For more details, to order or hear audio samples, visit kritzerland

STAVISKY/Stephen Sondheim/Quartet - cd
This expanded OST from Quartet presents Stephen Sondheim’s only full-length orchestral movie score. Director Alain Resnais, a huge fan of Sondheim’s musicals, felt his music would be a perfect fit for the film, and in a very stylish way, it definitely is. The film focuses of the last months in the life of the notorious French businessman/swindler Serge Alexandre, aka Stavisky (Jean-Paul Belmondo), from late 1933 to January 1934. The score is very theatrical, with the flavor of period dance music throughout, although only a couple of themes resemble authentic period tunes. As writer Frank DeWald puts it in his album notes, “For the most part, Sondheim’s lengthy score maintains a relatively neutral emotional distance from the drama… the score has a chamber orchestra-like texture and steadfastly resists any grand symphonic gestures.” Sondheim’s main theme (“Générique”), present in several variations and reprises, features a lithe melody for saxophone over a percussive piano pattern in a foxtrot-styled idiom which is gradually enforced by strings as it climbs to a subdued crescendo with the saxophone briefly assuming a sinewy countermelody for the ascent; several of the segments within the “Générique” will later be treated as motifs of their own as the score is developed. A sublime melody for Stavisky’s wife Arlette shares her husband’s motif of arpeggiated piano notes underlying a higher melody alternately taken by winds and strings. In “Arlette and Alexandre” Arlette’s piano arpeggios sound beneath Stavisky’s saxophone melody in a very nice combination. The score’s primary dance sensibility will be reprised in later cues developed as waltzes, including one such variant of the main theme (“Le Future”), and other treatments. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable score and a delight in this longer version. Previously released on LP and CD in a 24-track/44-minute presentation, Quartet’s expanded archival edition offers a full 37 tracks/68-minutes, allowing for a number of previously unreleased theme variations, alternate takes, and extended versions of both the Générique and “Final” cues, enhanced by DeWald’s informative album notes which cover creation of both film and score in pleasing detail.

Michael Giacchino/Sony Masterworks - cd

To say that Michael Giacchino’s second PLANET OF THE APES score (following 2014’s DAWN OF…) is one of the composer’s finest works to date is really saying something, considering the amazing output of outstanding score’s he’s composed just in the last couple of years. This is the fourth film Giacchino has scored for director Matt Reeves (the other three being DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, CLOVERFIELD [whose only music is a respectable tribute to Akira Ifukube’s GODZILLA music over the End Titles], and SUPER 8), all strikingly fine compositions. But his music for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is an astonishing work whose construction, like much of Giacchino’s exceptional score to JUPITER RISING, goes beyond the characteristic film musical elements of theme-and-variation into intricate and very complex symphony-like orientation. The music is both very heavy and occasionally airy, reflecting both the scope of events and the survival stakes to both the human and simian races, as well as the personal struggles of Caesar and his family, based around an ingrained musical sound design of primitive, even coarse textures, contrasted against the more poignant but highly inflected lighter instrumental colors (“A Tide in the Affairs of Apes” is an excellent example of this, expressing each side of the contrast from start to finish). Giacchino also reprises the primary, descending, often piano-based theme that he introduced in DAWN, which, especially when played here by very impassioned brass, offers much of this score’s indelible pathos (“Exodus Wounds,” “Apes Together Strong,” “Don’t Luca Now” [yes, Giacchino continues to enjoy his punderful track title proclivity here], “End Credits,” and in its most heartfelt and affecting variants, at the center point of “Planet of the Escapes” and second half of “Paradise Found”) but his use of thematic material and the development, reprisal, and interaction of that material is especially sophisticated here, giving this score a very grounded and impressionistically felt symphonic maturity. Whether fragmented, rephrased, or sent into powerful crescendos, WAR’s thematic orientation is saturated within a larger musical drive which is tremendously effective and engrossing, every harmonic, textural, and instrumental line married into a progressive interoperating emotional fusion that magnificently expresses the essential nuances of each scene while enhancing the story’s ongoing depth of character development.
The score begins with “Apes’ Past is Prologue,” a nearly 11-minute, well, prologue that summarizes the past history depicted in RISE and DAWN that hearkens back to some of the respectful Goldsmith-esque percussive, acoustic material Giacchino had composed for DAWN. From its desolate beginnings as it motors up to a pitched crescendo only to dissolve into silence, at which time the clear reflections of Goldsmith’s own APES music emanates out of the quiet ether and evolves into a discordant array of choir, rolling drums, and tribal voicings which almost sound like something out of Kubrick’s 2001. It’s a masterful tone poem for apekind’s history on planet earth. As for its future, this is where the story leads, ending in a masterful resolution which, with the establishment of characters Cornelius and Nova, clearly sets the table for the coming events of 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES storyline, perhaps little more than twenty years in the saga’s future. The prologue leads into the first major battle between The Colonel’s soldiers and Caesar’s ape army with the 5.29 minute rhythmic progressive cue “Assault of the Earth,” with echoing high-register peals of flutes over increasingly jarring percussion matter. Once again the music is strategically textural, its timbre and harmonic sound evoking the dark forest setting and the primal conflict between men and their ancestral others, the apes, but it’s also highly emotive, reflecting the desperate attitudes of both sides, if betraying its sympathy toward those at the center of the ape uprising. This mix of earthy battle music and reflective, emotional interactions will continue throughout the score, particularly evident in tracks like “The Ecstasy of the Bold,” a short but marvelous ascending gathering of brass and men’s choir over a two-note driving drum cadence and swirling cyclical figures from the violins. The 9:30 “End Title” is a massively powerful suite of all the score’s parts that would make a tremendous concert piece. In my estimation, Giacchino’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, at this point in time, is easily my pick for best score of the year.
Related: see my review of Giacchino’s DAWN OF… score in my July 2014 column, here.

WAY TO THE REBELLION/George Shaw/MovieScore Media
George Shaw (STAR WARS MUSICAL) has provided a broad symphonic score to Wesley Chan’s 13-minute 2016 STAR WARS fan film, providing close-without-violating-copyright renditions of John Williams’ classic themes to give the short film a broad and authenticated musical design. If not exact reproductions of the STAR WARS themes we know and love, they are immediately recognizable as appropriate sound-alikes. Produced by Wong Fu Productions, the story is set alongside the timeline of A NEW HOPE and focuses on events that make average people follow the Rebellion instead of the Empire. By building on STAR WARS lore, including the search for a crystal that could be used for creating lightsabers, WAY TO THE REBELLION expands on the classic trilogy’s world. I “loved that this story runs parallel to events in A NEW HOPE that culminate in the Death Star’s destruction of Alderaan,” said Shaw. “I even made reference to the music that happens in the film at the exact moment of Alderaan’s destruction. This was a fan film that I had always dreamed about composing, paying great attention to emulating the incredible orchestral style of John Williams, and developing some original themes of my own." The first five tracks are from WAY TO THE REBELLION, while the remaining 13 are from a variety of other sci-fi themed short fan films that Shaw has scored or contributed to, including STAR TREK WARS (2015), FIRST ASIAN JEDI (2016), and DEALBREAKERS: SHE’S NEVER SEEN STAR WARS?! (2016). All of the scores – particularly the REBELLION tracks - carry an impressive sense of scope, and are well recorded, using a mix of great sounding digital orchestras plus a handful of live orchestra recording sessions that Shaw was able to make during a session at Warner Bros Studios [“We were able to record four cues with a live orchestra (sweetened with some samples),” Shaw told me. “One for FIRST ASIAN JEDI and three for WAY TO THE REBELLION. Everything else was a synth orchestra”]. The “Other Fan Film Scores” section is more of a mixed bag of content, but the STAR TREK/STAR WARS (and, in one case, a mash-up of HARRY POTTER and STAR WARS) vibe is effectively rendered. There’s even a very cool “exotica” interpretation of a Star Wars Theme facsimile featuring xylophone, vibes, bongos, and wood block (“War Among the Stars”). Fan films are becoming plentiful among the big franchises like STAR WARS and STAR TREK, losing the kind of amateur quality that the format may have started out with to become respectable, if low budget, unlicensed and thus occasionally fought by the franchise owners, forms of indie cinema – and scored as close to authentically as possible. These scores and bits are very good and a delight to listen to.
Watch WAY TO THE REBELLION on YouTube here (13 mins.)
Watch the FIRST ASIAN JEDI on YouTube here (4 mins).
For more details and sample tracks, see


Soundtrack & Music News

I recently learned that film music archivist David Fuller passed away last May - he was one of the founders of the Screen Archives record label back in the late '80s/early '90s, and produced such first-time-on vinyl soundtracks as Albert Glasser’s HUK! and TOKYO FILE 212, and Paul Sawtell & Bert Shefter’s KRONOS, in addition to their first CD release (SC-1-JM) in 1991, the 42-track expanded OST of Jerome Moross’ grand score for the sprawling 1958 Western THE BIG COUNTRY, which included an LP-sized booklet with comprehensive liner notes by Michael H. Price and John Caps [the music was reissued in 2007 by La-La Land]. More recently David had been dedicated to helping archive and preserve the film music of Gerald Fried, and was a contributor to Western Clippings, a newsletter about old western films and their makers. David had evidently been ill for some time and passed away on May 9th. His obituary, from the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Tribune, has been posted here:
Roger Hall featured an interview with David a year or two ago on his American Music Preservation web site, which is well worth reading:

A new web site devoted to the late French composer Georges Delerue has been launched by Jeannot Boever (who manages the Soundtrack/Cinemascore online archives and the Hugo Friedhofer web site) in cooperation with the composer's widow, Colette Delerue. Have a look at it:
After you page down from the home page there is an option in the upper menu for English language.

Sony Classical announces the release of Danny Elfman’s first ballet score, Rabbit & Rogue (Limited Deluxe Edition). Elfman created the ballet for Twyla Tharps’ choreography for the American Ballet Theater. By all accounts, Elfman wrote a score that wears his admiration for the Russian ballet masters, such as Stravinsky and Prokofiev, proudly on its sleeve. Sony’s Limited Deluxe Edition offers a variety of insights into the production of the ballet score, including a bonus DVD with an exclusive interview with Danny Elfman.

The new KING KONG documentary, LONG LIVE THE KING: THE LEGACY OF KONG!, which features an original score by Michael McCormick (THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING), is now available to rent ($2.99) or buy ($9.99) on amazon (the trailer can be viewed there for free), or to watch on youtube ($3.99). This feature-length (66 mins.) documentary focuses on the enduring popularity of the character King Kong, and how the 1933 film has inspired countless artists, writers, and filmmakers. The soundtrack is available from Michael McCormack’s web site. McCormack is currently scoring TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN for indie horror film director Donald F. Glut.
Joseph LoDuca has been brought on to compose the music for the upcoming sequel, CULT OF CHUCKY. Written and directed by Chucky’s creator Don Mancini, the film stars Alex Vincent, reprising his role as Andy Barclay from the original CHILD’S PLAY movie, with Jennifer Tilly, Tiffany, and Fiona Dourif. Brad Dourif returns to provide the voice of the cursed doll. LoDuca previously scored Mancini’s last Chucky sequel, 2013’s CURSE OF CHUCKY. The new film will be released straight to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on October 3, 2017 by Universal Home Entertainment.
-via - for more details, and to watch the film trailer on that site, click here

Varèse Sarabande will release John Williams: Themes And Transcriptions For Piano digitally and on CD July 7. The album features the original music composed by John Williams from classic films like LINCOLN, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, SCHINDLER’s LIST and HARRY POTTER, among others. All pieces were specialty recorded for this release and performed by acclaimed classical pianist Simone Pedroni. This is the label’s second piano performance album. Late last January Varèse Sarabande released the very interesting THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER And Other Themes for Piano, featuring newly created piano versions of beloved themes composed and performed by the composer, Bruce Rowland.
Varèse Sarabande has also digitally released the score to the forthcoming horror film JASMINE. The album features the film’s original music composed by Shie Rozow (#FOLLOWFRIDAY, BALLISTICA). “This was my first time doing an all-electronic score, and in many ways the score also needed to double as sound design,” explained Rozow. “I took various orchestral sounds and effects and processed them very heavily to turn them into something very electronic and quite different. And in order to really get the emotion I wanted, I felt I needed a bowed instrument. There’s something about how a bow pulls across a string to generate a sound in a way that no other instrument can. Since I wanted to stick to the electronic palette I used an electric cello that is also quite processed, and that’s featured throughout the score. The film is called JASMINE, yet we never actually see Jasmine in the movie. So one of the tricks was to create a ‘Jasmine theme’ that would emotionally connect our main character.” Born in Israel, Shie Rozow has worked on films as a musical editor since the late 1990s, including such major releases as AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, HUSTLE & FLOW, and 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, while also emerging more recently as a composer in his own right.
For more information on the composer, see:

Among Intrada’s latest releases is Richard Band’s music from several episodes of the MGM TV series STARGATE SG-1, all previously unreleased. Band was one of several composers to score the 1997-2007 science fiction series (the bulk of which were done by Joel Goldsmith); Intrada’s 2-CD set features fully-developed “suites” from three separate episodes (“Cold Lazarus,” “In the Line of Duty,” and “Singularity”) plus a lengthy finale written for “The Serpent’s Lair,” (Band’s only contribution to this episode). “Using a compositional palette of synthesizers augmented by small instrumental ensembles, Band fashioned evocative sci-fi soundscapes with a degree of symphonic architecture,” wrote the label in its announcement. “Melodies both haunting, dramatic trade with exciting action cues, militaristic percussion sequences. Band’s harmonic vocabulary melds rich, highly accessible chordal ideas with intense, aggressive vernacular to create unusually wide range of material.” For details and music samples see: intrada
Also new from the label is a premiere CD release of Alan Silvestri’s score for the 2014 documentary series COSMOS Vol. 1 (including two tracks not on the digital release).

Syfy has announced that SHARKNADO 5: GLOBAL SWARMING will premiere on Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 8:00 P.M. The plot of this one involves a “global sharknado” arriving to obliterate the entire planet. Anthony Ferrante once more directs, with Chris Ridenhour and Christopher Cano supplying the score (they’ve composed all the ‘nado films starting with SHARKNADO 2 – read my interview with Chris Ridenhour about scoring SHARKNADO 2 here)

Quartet Records has released the long sought-after soundtrack to the (1986) historical-romantic costume drama, LADY JANE, composed by Stephen Oliver, one of the foremost British composers of opera and music theatre of his generation. Sadly, Oliver passed away when he was only 42 years old; LADY JANE was his only film score. With Tadlow Music’s James Fitzpatrick producing, aided by a thorough remastering job by Gareth Williams, Quartet is able to present the complete score and album program in a 2-CD set (for the price of one). For details and sample tracks, see: quartetrecords

Dragon’s Domain Records has released a sparkling newly mastered reissue of Australian film composer Brian May's long sold-out score to the science fiction-adventure thriller SKY PIRATES. The movie is an exciting tale in the vein of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and ROMANCING THE STONE, about an Australian Air Force pilot and his newfound love interest who rush to find a set of ancient stone tablets that hold the key to arcane knowledge and power before a self-serving villain can acquire them for nefarious purposes. May’s boisterous musical score gives the movie a thoroughly exuberant dynamic. SKY PIRATES is immersed in bold gestures, large orchestral adventure, and heroic measures that are expressed in energetic and exciting terms. Based on melody, mystery, and motif, May’s orchestral score is one of his finest, buttressing the film very well and more often than not subverting the movie’s logistical failures with the diversion of thrilling adventure. Also new from Dragon’s Domain is the world premiere of two obscure but excellent TV-movie scores by Basil Poledouris – PRISON FOR CHILDREN, a 1987 drama about unruly teenagers who face prison terms for minor offenses, and SINGLE BARS, SINGLE WOMEN, an entertaining 1984 ensemble romantic drama. Both films feature sumptuous themes and engaging dramatic music. For more details, or to hear audio samples, see

MovieScore Media returns to the small-screen with an electrifying Stuart Hancock score balancing between a teen comedy and a horror film. CRAZYHEAD is created by BAFTA-winning Howard Overman whose previous big hit MISFITS detailed the lives of teenagers blessed (or cursed) with superpowers. The new show’s six episodes chronicle another unorthodox coming-of-age story as our two heroines navigate their way through the choppy waters of their early twenties while simultaneously kicking the ass of some seriously gnarly demons. Originally shown on Channel 4 in October 2016, CRAZYHEAD is now available worldwide on Netflix. “As a composer, scoring Crazyhead was a new stylistic departure for me,” explained Stuart Hancock about his 80s inspired, retro cult sound for the show. “I had previously worked with the team at Urban Myth Films to create the soundtrack for ATLANTIS, which had an epic orchestral sound, whereas CRAZYHEAD called for a grungy, more electronic sound world with a nod to the classic retro horror scores of the likes of John Carpenter. It was a whole lot of fun to explore this style, and to contrast subtle emotional underscoring with a bold, eyeballs-out brutality for the action and horror.”
For more details and some sample tracks, see: moviescoremedia

Also from MovieScore Media, coinciding with the film’s general release on July 7 is Joseph Conlan’s score for the Irish romantic comedy SANCTUARY. Directed by Len Collin, the film features a cast of actors with intellectual disabilities, telling a heartfelt tale of love against the odds. Conlan explains how a good story can be the most helpful feature when writing music: "If the film is good, a film composer can be inspired by it. The film was extremely inspiring for me, due to the writing and the performances and by the subject of the film. This romantic comedy gave me the chance to write a score that was light and fun and quirky, but then poignant and even dark at times. My favorite score in recent years."

Composer Michael Gatt has composed the original score and main titles for the new Syfy series BLOOD DRIVE, dubbed “one of the ten best shows to watch in June” by Rolling Stone Magazine.
“Before writing a note of BLOOD DRIVE, I first worked with synth and guitar tone specialists to create a quiver of custom synth patches and guitar tones that would become the bedrock of its sound,” Gatt described. “Having the specific instrumentation became evermore crucial as each episode of the series is very different as each pays tribute to a different grindhouse genre, thus the score would change with each episode as well. Along with heavily recurring themes, the instrumentation helped glue the overall score together and keep a signature sound to the score regardless of whether I was writing straight up horror or the BLOOD DRIVE version of spaghetti western music.”
Set in the dystopian "distant future" of the year 1999, where water is a scarce as oil and climate change keeps the temperature at a cool 115 in the shade, Los Angeles is a place where crime is so rampant that only the worst violence is punished, and where Arthur Bailey - the city’s last good cop - runs afoul of the dirtiest and meanest underground car rally in the world. “The show is very meta and the score is no exception,” Gatt concluded. Having premiered June 14, BLOOD DRIVE can be seen on Syfy on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
For more details, see my posting on the musiquefantastique web site

Canadian label Disques Cinémusique has rereleased digitally the two sold-out volumes of Unpublished Film Music of Georges Delerue that were arranged and produced by Robert Lafond in 2004 and 2005. These albums contained faithful re-recordings of never-released Delerue scores performed via digital orchestras. The musical approach remains fully orchestral and quite faithful to the original soundtracks. In addition Lafond also provided suites of several Delerue scores in the form of short concerti for piano and orchestra. Both remastered volumes these albums are now available for download and streaming on most Internet music boutiques. For the best sound quality; the label recommends which offers both iTunes-quality downloads and also the high-resolution FLAC 16-bit option. The PDF booklets of the original CDs can be viewed and downloaded on the Disques Cinémusique website, as are the PDFs for its other releases.
For more details, see the Disques Cinémusique website here (Vol. 1) and here (Vol. 2)

Forthcoming from Little Twig Records on July 14th is a digital soundtrack of Ian Hultquist's hypnotic score for the BRONX GOTHIC. Directed by Andrew Rossi, the film is a documentary portrait of writer and performer Okwui Okpokwasili and her acclaimed one-woman show of the film’s title, which fuses dance, song, drama, and comedy. With intimate vérité access to Okwui and her audiences off the stage, BRONX GOTHIC allowed for unparalleled insight into her creative process as well as the complex social issues embodied in it. The film has been described as a masterful character study on the artistic expression. Fans of Brian Eno, Philip Glass & Steve Reich will definitely be interested in this.
For details, see or pre-order through amazon.
More information on the composer can be found at

Ryan Shore expands his travels through Disney's Sci-fi universe with STAR WARS: FORCES OF DESTINY, premiering on the Disney Channel later this month. The show is an original series of animated shorts which explore the untold stories that helped shape the destinies of Rey, Jyn Erso, Princess Leia, Sabine Wren, Padmè Amidala, Ahsoka Tano, and others. The first few episodes are now available on Disney’s YouTube channel. Shore explains his experience on STAR WARS: FORCES OF DESTINY: “I’m so grateful to Lucasfilm for bringing me on board, and collaborating with them on these tremendous stories featuring the female heroines of STAR WARS. One of the biggest musical challenges for STAR WARS: FORCES OF DESTINY has been finding a unique way of honoring John Williams’s indelible musical language from the trilogy of trilogies while at the same time penning from my own musical vocabulary.”
Shore also returns to score the second season of Disney’s animated PENN ZERO: PART TIME HERO, which premiered July 10th on the Disney Channel. For this series, Shore scored and co-wrote songs – over 12 hours of music to date, in every possible style for the series. For Season 2, Disney will be releasing one episode per day, every weekday (except Fridays), July 10-27, and the series finale will air July 28.
Watch Disney’s overview of STAR WARS: FORCES OF DESTINY on youtube here

Among La-La Land’s July releases is a four-CD set containing five hours of music from the classic ‘60s spy-Western TV series THE WILD WILD WEST, a limited edition of just 1,000 units The set is produced by Jon Burlingame, who also wrote the comprehensive and authoritative liner notes for each of those releases. In a Facebook post, Burlingame described the set as including “excerpts from 26 scores representing all four seasons. Composers include Richard Markowitz, Robert Drasnin, Richard Shores, Dave Grusin, Fred Steiner, Harry Geller, Walter Scharf, Jack Pleis -- plus the never-before-heard Dimitri Tiomkin theme that was rejected early on.” Also set for release this month from La-La Land Records are
Henry Mancini’s THE GREAT RACE (3 CDs), James Horner’s UNLAWFUL ENTRY (expanded), Steve Jablonsky’s TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2 CDs), and Blake Neely’s RIVERDALE, Season 1. All can be ordered from La-La Land Records now.

Klaus Badelt's score for BALLERINA, which was released digitally by Gaumont last December, will be released in Japan as a full 2-CD set on July 26. Reportedly the first CD replicates the Gaumont’s edition, while the second contains the full score at over 28 tracks of music. Pre-orders available, so far, from cdjapan.

KLOWN INDIGO: Admirers of John Massari’s terrific synth score for the Chiodo Brothers’ 1988 sci-fi horror comedy (released on CD by Percepto Records in KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE may be interested to know that Massari has begun an Indiegogo campaign to fund a special recording session to record the entire KILLER KLOWNS score with a full orchestra. Massari will be aided in this endeavor by punk rock band The Dickies (who sung the film’s title song) and fellow composer Bear McCreary who’s offered to play some of his rare musical instruments to give the acoustic KILLER KLOWNS recording some unique sonic flavors. “My original synthesizers exploded the soundtrack with a kaleidoscope of colors and textures; however, the creative soul and inspiration living in this epic score was born from the heart of classical music,” Massari explained on his Indiegogo page. “It is my desire to re-awaken the heart and soul of this iconic film score, adding a fresh dimension by utilizing the powerful majesty of a full classical orchestra featuring Hollywood’s finest musicians. I invite you to join me personally in this amazing artistic process.” John added, when I asked him about the project, “I do have a strong affection for the synth score. Since it was heavily influenced by classical music, I thought it would be a wonderful project to put in front of an orchestra.”  For a cool sample of what the orchestral version of KKFOS’s synth score will sound like, view this video from a 2016 symphonic performance of a cue from the score:

For more details on the crowdfunding campaign, see the indiegogo page.

Daniel Hart’s score for A GHOST STORY has been released on cd, digital, & vinyl from Milan Records. A GHOST STORY is the new film from director David Lowery (PETE’S DRAGON, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS) about the ghost of a man (Casey Affleck) who returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away.
Sample the reflective, yearning piece "The Secret In the Wall" on Soundcloud. The vinyl edition features a ghost-white colored 180gm LP housed in a “glow in the dark” jacket!


Film Music Concert News

Nowadays more and more high profile concert halls and music festivals all over Europe add the masterful compositions of great Hollywood composers to their line up to attract younger audiences with mass appeal. The critically acclaimed Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, will add such a concert series to its highly anticipated program. Danny Elfman, David Arnold, and John Powell will be a part of this one-of-a-kind concert format, in which they will give “behind the scenes” stories and tell fun anecdotes of their cooperation with Hollywood’s Top Filmmakers. But the star of the evening will be their scores brought to life in an opulent setting within this popular venue. The first concert on Sept 30, 2017 is named “Batman meets Alice” and features Danny Elfman. The glamorous concert event, “The Sound of James Bond” on March 25, 2018, features the unforgettable sound of 007, with David Arnold as guest of honor that night. The third concert in the series is titled “Ice Age and Beyond” is set for June 24, 2018. This concert is dedicated to animated movies and features the music of John Powell, the star of this evening. For information about tickets, see these links to John Powell Concert and/or David Arnold Concert (Danny Elfman is sold out).

This year at Soundtrack_Cologne, Germany's largest film, television, and video game music conference, the session will again be divided into three different themed days: Games (August 24th), Film (August 25th) and TV (August 26th). “Music in Games” on August 24th will feature a presentation from composers Petri Alanko, Bobby Tahouri, and Gareth Coker, who will discuss their body of work, personal experiences, upcoming projects, and the peculiarities of composition for interactive game worlds. "Music in Film" Day will feature composers Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka: LION, IN DUBIOUS BATTLE) and Lesley Barber (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS), and others to be announced. This day will also feature a Film and Game Music Masterclass with Hollywood composer Jeff Rona (TRAFFIC, DOMINION, POWERS). The session on TV Music, August 26th, will feature composers whose work ranges horror classics to innovative drama: Mark Snow (THE X-FILES), Michael Price (SHERLOCK), Carly Paradis (LINE OF DUTY), and Walter Mair (THE SAME SKY).
In addition, during the festive award ceremony on the evening of August 26th, legendary film composer Bruce Broughton will be awarded this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.
For more details and information, see:

This year’s Film Music (FIMU) Symposium in Vienna will take place on September 26th and 27th, 2017 at the University of Music and Performing Arts. Danny Elfman will participate at this year’s Symposium along with many other guest speakers from Austria and the United States. The speakers will discuss current developments in the Film Industry, including topics in entertainment law and PR as well as the challenges of composing for Hollywood. Additionally, this year FIMU will focus on the topic “Video Game Music.” Danny Elfman will also provide young musicians and composers a view into his creative process during a masterclass on the second day of the FIMU event, as well as being honored with the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award at the 10th annual Hollywood in Vienna Gala on Friday, Sept 29th at the Vienna Konzerthaus.

Golden Voice will host a live concert performance featuring Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein – composers of STRANGER THINGS - at The Theatre at Ace Hotel. They will be performing the synth-fueled score from the hit Netflix series shortly after the highly anticipated Season 2 premiere on October 31st. Tickets are now available at


Film Music on Vinyl

Mondo announces the release of a 2-LP vinyl album of John Williams’s iconic music to JAWS. Their release will be the first vinyl release of the full score as it appears in the film (the original soundtrack LP and subsequent vinyl reissues were actually re-recorded presentations). The album is produced by Mike Matessino who restored, edited, and remastered each cue for this release. The full package art is by Phantom City Creative and will be released separately as a poster in three different versions.
Also, Mondo in conjunction with Lakeshore Records and Sparks & Shadows presents Bear McCreary's score to COLOSSAL on vinyl. The album will be pressed on 180 Gram Vinyl, and the cover features artwork by We Buy Your Kids.

La-La Land Records’ 2-disc collector’s vinyl release of Jerry Goldsmith’s STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE score returns for the rest of its limited run at the end of this month. Originally issued in March, the final opportunity to grab the last of label’s 1500-unit vinyl edition comes up at the end of July. The album features colored 180 gram vinyl and a 12-page, full-color insert booklet (with iconic Bob Peak cover art), housed in a stunning gatefold jacket showcasing original art by Daren R. Dochterman. Pre-order now at

Varèse Sarabande will release a vinyl edition of Brian Tyler’s score to SABAN’S POWER RANGERS on July 28. The soundtrack features Tyler’s original music and the exclusive track “Give It All” performed by the band With You. Catch the limited edition colors at the following retailers: Barnes and Noble for The Yellow Ranger edition, Hot Topic for the Pink Ranger edition, FYE for the Red Ranger edition, Indie Record Retailers for the Blue Ranger edition - the Black Ranger version is available at all participating retailers. Each color version will be pressed in a limited run of only 500 copies each. See:
(FYI: Read my review of Brian Tyler’s POWER RANGERS score in my April 2017 column here)
Varèse Sarabande has also released a vinyl version of the BLUE VELVET soundtrack. The soundtrack features the original score by Angelo Badalamenti, and is available in either blue or black vinyl editions. See:

Silva screen is offering Hammer Horror Classic Themes 1958-1974 Soundtrack LP in a limited edition on green vinyl. This album brings some of Hammer’s greatest music to vinyl for the first time. The release showcases a selection of classic themes from the film company’s varied soundtrack catalogue from composers that range from the great James Bernard to David Whitaker and spans Hammer’s golden years between 1958 and 1974.
For details see:

The Knife. The Shower. The Screeching Strings. The most famous cue in film music. So ingrained in the popular consciousness is “The Murder” that it has become the defining sound of terror – inspiring countless recordings, performances, homages, parodies and cultural references: from The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Brian De Palma’s CARRIE and Mel Brooks’ HIGH ANXIETY to FAMILY GUY, FRIENDS, THE SIMPSONS, and more. “Prelude” opens the film, accompanying the ‘uber-cool’ main titles (designed by Saul Bass) which sets the stage for the ground breaking score. These two iconic film cues from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful PSYCHO (1960) will be released by Transmission Records on July 21st in a special 7” black vinyl edition of 1960 copies.
For details or to pre-order (quantities are getting low) see (reasonable shipping rates to North America)

Because PREDATOR came out in the ‘90s during the premature death of vinyl, Alan Silvestri’s masterful score has never been released on LP…till now. Real Gone now presents Silvestri’s score in a double-LP set featuring newly commissioned, custom front cover art and additional stills from the production decorating the gatefold package. The sound to this release is taken from Intrada’s 2012 complete and definitive edition of the score, and it comes on green and brown “camo” vinyl limited to 1300 copies.
For details, see:

Craft Recordings announces the vinyl debut of the best-selling and GRAMMY®Award-winning soundtrack to the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic, WALK THE LINE. Due out July 21st, the album features original recordings from the Academy Award-winning film, with fiery performances by actors Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Rather than sourcing Cash’s original masters, director James Mangold took a fresh approach to the soundtrack, appointing legendary producer T Bone Burnett (O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?) to navigate Phoenix and his fellow cast members through new recordings of classic country and rockabilly tunes. While Burnett provided some 20 minutes of acoustic folk- and country-based instrumental music that served as underscore, it’s the songs that serve as the film’s true, pervasive score, providing both emotional support and historical authenticity.
The vinyl songtrack can be preordered on Amazon.


Film Music Books

SCORE: A Film Music Documentary - The Interviews by Matt Schrader
A companion book to the documentary film SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY.
The world's finest film composers uncover the secrets behind film music, from crafting emotions and making it in Hollywood, to the tricks of giving an audience goosebumps. 
Now in stock at amazon
For more information on the documentary see Facebook

La musique de film en France
By Jérôme Rossi
Awaited by francophone film music lovers, this collective French book has just been published by Symetrie. France invented the cinema, so it spans more than a century of applied music, since L'assassinat du duc de Guise, purported to be the first official music made for a film, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1908). This is an informative book for French readers, detailing the major aspects of film scoring, the characteristics and specialities through the pioneers (1930-1960) from Honegger to Charpentier, to the Nouvelle Vague (1960-1970) and Antoine Duhamel, the more contemporaneous styles of Lelouch, Sarde, and songs, and the “new symphonism form” of Rombi and Desplat. The book closes with excellent interviews with Dutilleux, Demarsan, Duhamel, Colombier, Cosma, and Morricone (on his scores for French films), plus an homage to Maurice Jarre.
- via Maestro, the online Ennio Morricone magazine #11
Available from


Games Music News

Penka Kouneva’s latest game score is composing the music for the VR game The Mummy: Prodigium Strike, based on the Universal movie. Available now at select VR locations in both Los Angeles and New York City as part of their growing permanent collection of Virtual Reality experiences, The Mummy: Prodigium Strike is a unique virtual reality experience based on the film where players take on the role of an agent for monster-hunting organization Prodigium. Utilizing the revolutionary StarVR headset and 4D technology, players are tasked with protecting fellow agents from the wrath of the titular mummy, Princess Ahmanet.


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
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