BIRDS DO IT, BEES DO IT (Fried/Caldera), THE FAREWELL (Weston/Milan), FOR SAMA (Desai/Milan), THE INFORMER (Blair & Blair/Varèse Sarabande), GHOST HOUSE (Rich Ragsdale/Howlin’ Wolf), LOVE, GILDA (Cutler/Lakeshore), MINUSCULE: MANDIBLES FROM FAR AWAY (Lamboley/Music Box), OPEN BOOK (Martynov/Keep Moving), PLANET OF THE APES (Original Film Series Soundtrack Collection/La-La Land), POLTERHEIST (Guadino/Tadah Media). REMNANTS (Wintory/ T-65b Records), REND (Acree/Materia Collective), THE SPY WHO FELL TO EARTH (Schlochtermeier/MovieScore Media), THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO Series 2 (Foster & Foster/Silva Screen), UFO (Gray/Silva Screen)
• Soundtrack, Vinyl, Film Music Book News
Part One: Alan Silvestri: Scoring The Avengers Interviewed by Randall D. Larson on June 8, 2015 With AVENGERS: ENDGAME releasing on Blu-ray this week, I thought it would be a good time to assemble the best portions of my as-yet unpublished interviews with Alan Silvestri on scoring THE AVENGERS, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, and AVENGERS: ENDGAME. I’ve kept some of his statements back for exclusive use in my forthcoming book on music for superhero films, but I think what wouldn’t fit makes for a pretty informative interview on its own. –rdl.
Q: After scoring CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER you came back to score the first AVENGERS movie. How did you become involved in that and what were your initial meetings with Joss Whedon like?
Alan Silvestri: After I’d gone through my first Marvel experience with CAPTAIN AMERICA, I was contacted rather early for THE AVENGERS, which was great. It wasn’t the same mad dash that I had experienced on CAPTAIN AMERICA. I remember going to visit Joss, who was on location in Cleveland. I flew in, met with him, and then I went back to the airport. He came from his hotel room into this lounge and we talked maybe for an hour. He was doing night shooting and he was on the edge of exhaustion. Anyway, we had a lovely first meeting and I think that was really so he could just lay eyes on me and have an initial chat. Then I came back when they finished the shoot and we spotted the film in the normal way. They had temp’d pretty much all the film, which is rather common now—they’re putting music in the film while they’re shooting, because they have to constantly be ready to show producers and studio people what’s going in.
During the spotting session, the mandate was: “We want a theme, something that we can call ‘The Avengers’.” So that’s where I started and came up with what became the theme for that first film.
Q: What was the challenge on creating that theme, since here you don’t just have one hero character, as in CAPTAIN AMERICA – you’ve a whole group of them to deal with.
Alan Silvestri: It’s like the DIRTY DOZEN, every one of them is bad-ass, every one of them deserves their own movie and their own theme and all of that! So I felt I had to bridge over all the personal stuff and distill just raw super hero. Things that came to mind were grand, not a big active kind of melodic approach, something that would be powerful, invincible, something that would have a sense of momentum – those were the kind of words as far as finding the way in that came to mind. And then much like CAPTAIN AMERICA I started to look at the film and decide where I know that this theme will play and where it really has to deliver. There’s an iconic moment in the middle of the Battle for New York and I knew the theme has got to somehow help with this moment. The interesting thing about this iconic AVENGERS image is that nobody is moving, they’re taking a breather in between attacks, and I needed something that was going to make sense and work for this non-action moment. That’s what became the main theme.
Q: In this film, rather than having a single villain such as The Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA, like you’ve got multiple heroes, you’ve got a whole alien race that’s threatening the world. How did you characterize them, thematically?
Alan Silvestri: The alien machines were a very different thing than, for instance, Loki, who was the bad boy. They were a crowd, and they didn’t have very much of a personal presence. There were always tons of them and they all looked the same, relatively. I gave them a musical sensibility that treated them as group.
Q: Now in this case, you were able to bring in your own theme for Captain America as part of the thematic unity of THE AVENGERS. In what way did you do that, and was there ever any thought about bringing in themes from the previous Iron Man, Hulk, or Thor films that were done by other composers?
Alan Silvestri: I was very careful about anything Captain America. There were a few instances where we were able to quote some of that, but again, you had to be careful that you didn’t turn this into a caricature and spoil the moment of triumph by being so on-the-nose with his theme. So I used it very sparingly. I used it in some of the more subtle scoring places but in terms of the dramatic statement of Captain America’s theme I was very careful with that.
Q: I assume also that you didn’t want to make this into a Captain America film; you didn’t want to have him singled out…
Alan Silvestri: Exactly. That was another aspect to be considered. I came up with a little scent of a theme for the Scarlett Johansson character, and when Joss heard the first little bit I had done he wanted to have more of it, because he liked the idea that she had a musical signature. I was never asked to go back and take anything that was used thematically, for instance, with Iron Man. I started my own—I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it a theme—but I played Iron Man a certain way in the film. I used more percussion for him and things like that to set him apart.
Q: Where was this score recorded?
Alan Silvestri: This was recorded at Abbey Road, and it was probably close to the same size orchestra as CAPTAIN AMERICA—I’m going to say about 85 players.
Q: How did that recording experience contrast with the one at Air, where you recorded CAPTAIN AMERICA?
Alan Silvestri: Well, you know, they were both great experiences. We worked quickly. These days pretty much every cue in the film has to be mocked up, so by the time you get to the scoring stage, the director has heard almost everything, made notes on everything, sometimes had things re-mocked up, so although it’s still very different when you get on the scoring stage. After all this prep, it’s usually very different in a good way. It’s more grand, more beautiful, and all of that. I had a great time with Joss, he was there for every moment of it. At Abbey Road they have a second level platform area where you can sit up there and look out over the entire studio. So I had them bring out a big screen monitor out there as well as chairs and headsets so anytime Joss wanted to get out of the control room he could come and be in that room, and it was a blast, you know. I hate to go so far as to say it was a party—we’re all working very hard, but it was a celebration because at this stage of the game for a director, they’ve been working so long, and in Joss’s case, he wrote the script, developed all that, went through the whole shoot, has gone through all of the post production, and now he gets to sit there with this amazing group of people in the orchestra and in real time watch his movie be finished. I’ve heard from so many directors that it’s one of the most thrilling aspects of the filmmaking process, because it is so immediate and exciting.
Q: Aside from the big action moments and the big thematic/anthemic moments, you’ve also had some very reflective, intimate moments. How did you address those in the score, and then manipulate your themes to cover those moments?
Alan Silvestri: There were some of those moments, for sure. I remember working on the cue for the scene in which the team’s being told that one of their own has been killed. It was very minimalist and it was moving to all of the different team members as they are being told over an intercom or on radios. They’re all in different locations on the ship, but they’re all hearing this news and each of them are going through their own processing of it. The cue is so completely different than the bulk of the music in the film, which has a lot of pulse, a lot of drive and all that. This is very, almost serene, almost like there’s a fatalistic aspect to it. I wouldn’t really say there was tension, but just a very different sensibility. But, then again, if the film is well made and the characters are well drawn, you just have to follow how they are, how things feel, and that will guide you to finding something appropriate, musically.
Q: What was your biggest challenge on scoring THE AVENGERS?
Alan Silvestri: There was certainly a challenge from the aspect of sheer labor. So much music! And big music! You didn’t want one moment to be looked over; you really wanted to seize every opportunity for every twist and turn, to bring something to it.
Another challenge was: sitting behind in the shadows on a film like this, there is always the awareness that “this is going to be a huge movie.” The fan base of this movie alone is such that this is going to be some kind of media event. On a lot of movies that are being made, they’re magnificently done, with great stories, great execution, great effects, all of that – but you don’t ever really know how it will be received. There was just something about this movie because of the dedication of the fan base that you knew that the attendance of this thing was going to be from another world. And so that’s always sitting back there. You know that you’re working on something that’s going to go through that, it’s a phenomenon even before you’ve started, and that can be a challenge, in a sense. You recognize that but you have to put that aside and you have to go to work, and you have to do what you think is best. In addition, there was the need for thematic diversity in the film, and you had to find the places where you can do that and still have it feel like it was all part of one fabric. So all of those things, you have to find the equation that makes sense and work.
Q: It’s also got a fan base that can be very critical if they don’t like aspects or it doesn’t meet their pre-held expectations. I don’t know if that carries into music, but I would assume there’s a sense of obligation, certainly on Joss’s part…
Alan Silvestri: Absolutely. It’s a huge obligation for Joss, and therefore it’s something that Joss, as the writer and director, can really disappoint people if he doesn’t get this right, and of course, what he has to carry on his shoulders of naturally down to everyone. We’re all aware that our Captain has this insanely huge responsibility. I think that affects everybody. You want to help him, but you also realize that, jeez, I’m just some small cog in this machine here…! And that is a challenge, just personally, for everyone.
Q: Would you be able to say anything about why you weren’t able to score AVENGERS 2?
Alan Silvestri: I can comment on what I know, which is I wasn’t asked to do it. Beyond that, all I could say in terms of a comment would be that, if you look at the scope of this franchise and if you think about the responsibility of the studio, of the filmmakers, of the director, of everyone, then you have to say—at least I say—they have to do what they think is best for their film. They have to make the best decisions they know how to make. So whatever the reasons were, the decision was made that I would not be invited back, and you have to be okay with that, because it’s a huge undertaking. I’m sure they made the best decision they could, and I was not part of that film, so that’s just how that happened.
Part 2: Alan Silvestri Scoring THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR & ENDGAME Interviewed by Randall D. Larson on May 12, 2019
Q: How did it feel coming back into THE AVENGERS after scoring the first film but not the second?
Alan Silvestri: It felt great. I had a really great experience with Joss, with Kevin Feige and the Marvel folks on the first one, and so to be invited back on INFINITY WAR was fantastic. That was the third film that I had done for Marvel, and it just felt very comfortable to be back with everybody.
Q: Was it a given that you would also score ENDGAME at that time, or was that not thought that far ahead?
Alan Silvestri: Actually it was thought very far ahead! That call came to me directly from Mr. Feige and it was well in advance of beginning INFINITY WAR. In that call he asked me about doing both, which was unbelievable.
Q: When you and the directors began talking about music for the film, what kind of things were discussed and what kind of musical feel they were looking for?
Alan Silvestri: They were very clear right from the very beginning that they wanted an orchestra score. They knew they wanted a score that would have the size and the scope of the images they were hoping to capture, and they kept using the word “operatic.” They wanted me as the composer to not be afraid to explore a kind of very expansive and dramatic approach to the film. That’s where we began—and that turned out to be what they shot and was their sensibility right through both films.
Q: How would you describe your theme for Thanos and his minions, thematically, in both scores?
Alan Silvestri: Thanos was bigger than life and he was really driving both films as the adversary, so he certainly deserved his own thematic approach. That was really developed in INFINITY WAR and because he continued to be the bad guy right till the bitter end we felt very comfortable with continuing his thematic treatment and sensibility from INFINITY WAR into ENDGAME.
Q: And like most big villains, he thinks he’s doing the right thing, so he’s got this personal integrity while serving as the person-of-evil. How would you describe his musical identity in both of these films?
Alan Silvestri: You’re absolutely right. He is a very three dimensional character, and that’s one of the things I loved about working with him. He was doing what he thought was right; he knew something had to be done in the universe, he knew he was the only one who could and would do it, and he was very clear about that. Certainly we approached him as being a very dark, sometimes ruthless, dangerous character, but there was something also very passionate about him and what he was trying to accomplish. So there’s the dark, low brass component to his musical character; at times there are these very rapid background settings, because he’s also very intense and persistent, and there are very often in his thematic treatment these very lyrical string lines that were supporting this passionate effort he’s making.
Q: Did you have a special treatment for the relationship between Thanos and his two daughters, which have been an interesting plot point through both of these films?
Alan Silvestri: I think so—not so much in specific thematic notes, but more in the way we would play moments between them. There were many times, certainly in INFINITY WAR, where Thanos is talking to Gamora and he treats her as his family; he wants her to love him, he really feels that he’s done good things for her and has been a good father, if you will. So as we saw in INFINITY WAR, he cares a lot about her, and if it had not been genuine, he would not have gotten his hands on the stone. He needed to have sacrificed something he loves and it was proof that he really did love her. So, again, letting the score ride along with the narrative of the film, there were many times where we played their relationship very warmly, in a sense, because as far as Thanos was concerned that’s how he felt about his daughter.
Q: What was your technique to map out the score and the themes? Did you have to plan ahead to figure that out where exactly various themes should go into ENDGAME as you were scoring INFINITY WAR, or what was your process there?
Alan Silvestri: As I recall, there was no direct concern about ENDGAME while working on INFINITY WAR—and by that I mean during INFINITY WAR, though it clearly leads into ENDGAME and has this sense of continuity, we also were acutely aware of the fact that it had to work on its own. So the primary mission with INFINITY WAR was to have this be a complete expression, cinematically. Of course, many fans were feeling a heightened anxiety, it seems, with INFINITY WAR, and really were disappointed that they were going to have to wait a year for that continuation, but it still had to feel like something that was, in a sense, complete. And then the thematic material that had been developed always sits there as a possible resource, going forward. But you really don’t know exactly how you will revisit those resources until you’re actually working through the film.
Q: How about your scoring of the battle music in both of these AVENGERS films? Your integration of various themes into the furious action music and the orchestration is striking in these cohesive yet dynamic pieces of action scoring.
Alan Silvestri: There’s so much action and so many story points that themes you have heard in an earlier AVENGERS film, maybe something associated with a specific character or a specific turn of events, that moving the thematic material around to highlight the many narratives that are going on within these battle scenes can help define what’s happening in these newer films. When Thor or Iron Man are engaged in a battle, it’s so active and such a feast for the eyes, that moving the thematic material helps define all of these places, as does changing the pace. Of course you’re also trying to keep things interesting so that you’re not just there blasting away. You know that, sound effects wise, they have to modulate all of this and musically we’re trying to do the same thing.
Q: How large was the orchestra and were these last two also recorded at Abbey Road?
Alan Silvestri: Yes they were recorded at Abbey Road and I think our orchestra on ENDGAME was somewhere in the range of 95 players.
Q: How long did you have to score ENDGAME and how did the length of that film affect that process?
Alan Silvestri: I’m not sure exactly when I started it; it actually had some overlap with the end of INFINITY WAR. I know we recorded over 200 minutes of music, and I wrote well over that amount. So there’s just a lot of music. In these kinds of films, in general, and ENDGAME being three hours long, it was a tremendous amount of music.
Q: Any final thoughts about your experiences in scoring THE AVENGERS?
Alan Silvestri: The miracle of course is that somebody even gets an opportunity to write 200 minutes of music for a 95-piece orchestra! The thanks for all of that has to go right back to Joe and Anthony Russo and Kevin Feige and Marvel. They wanted a “big” orchestra score for these films and there’s so much pressure on filmmakers going into a project like this. There are so many times where filmmakers embark on the making of a film and, of course, everyone is doing their best and, lo and behold, the film is successful and it becomes a hit, and that’s a tremendous thing. With these AVENGERS films, all four of them, really, the filmmakers always knew from the beginning, going in, that these were going to be films that Marvel fans were going to be greatly anticipating. So there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the filmmakers, of all four AVENGERS films, to deliver the goods to the fans. And it’s easy to see how much pressure there would be, which I can only attest as the composer, working on these. But I felt a tremendous amount of support from all of them, and I felt a tremendous amount of daring as well. Despite all the pressure they were undergoing, I saw the filmmakers continuously make what I thought were daring decisions and choices, and trusting themselves—and their fans. We all had to go the extra mile for the fans and in a sense really respect and honor them, and we knew if we always kept that in mind we would be okay—and I think the reception of ENDGAME has showed us that that’s just what has happened.
Special thanks to Dave Bifano for facilitating these interviews and to Alan Silvestri for taking the time to talk to me about these scores.
BIRDS DO IT, BEES DO IT/Gerald Fried/Caldera records - cd
While best known for having scored Stanley Kubrick’s early films, many episodes of STAR TREK the original series, and the 1977 mini-series ROOTS (portions of which were composed by Quincy Jones, both of whom won Emmy Awards for their music), Gerald Fried started out during film music’ Silver Age, beginning in the early 1950s and has been continuing well into the 2010s. Fried’s score for 1974’s documentary film about reproductive habits in the animal kingdom, BIRDS DO IT, BEES DO IT, received an Oscar-nomination for best music. Composed under an exhaustive deadline, Fried came up with a an inventive way of scoring the film – he would score the human beings shown in the film with tonal themes while scenes with animals would be less thematic, less organized, but still tonal; insects would be portrayed via electronics and/or percussion motifs; while amoebas and their ilk would be represented by synthesizer sounds. As a result, the score’s sonic configuation is a unique and eclectic mix of musical media that proffers a fascinating listen as a series of tone- (or non-tonal) poems characterizing the distinctive look, sounds, or behavior of the creatures – from buffalos and lions and frogs to spiders and snails and maggots. The contrast between the creepily electronic (“Aphids,” “Fight Aftermath/Wasp Embryo”) and the majestically orchestral (“Chimp Lullaby,” “Elephants and Lions”) and diverse nature in between makes for a very fine and thoroughly delightful listen, bookended by the glittering “Flowers Opening” at the start and the elegant “Waltz of the Grebe” at the conclusion. Highly recommended!
For more details, including sample tracks, see caldera
THE FAREWELL/Alex Weston/Milan - digital
In this amusing and uplifting tale based on true events that happened in director Lulu Wang’s own family, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai (Grandma), has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai-Nai herself. To assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad. Complications result. A former music assistant to composer Philip Glass, Alex Weston began scoring short films in 2012, recently moving into feature films with the science fiction drama H., the zombie thriller FAIRFIED, and the crime drama LAST SUPPER. His score for THE FAREWELL is as delicate as the tenuous lie kept from Nai-Nai by the family, very nicely exemplified by voice, cello and violin throughout the score. “We didn’t want the music to feel Chinese,” Weston said in an audio interview posted at the wbur Website. “The main sound of the score is… based on classical music, in a very traditional sense—we used Vivaldi as the temp, and Haydn and things like that. While the story is so specific to China we didn’t want to pinpoint it just to that region.”
The score clings to the personal storyline that is presented endearingly in the film, becoming quite emotive in places. It’s constructed around “The Lie Theme,” which is heard in several places from voice, cello, and pizzicato violin; a secondary theme is that for Nai-Nai herself, a sturdy, spirited theme also for voice over pizzicato. The voices that accompany both themes are by performed by Michael Kilgore, a very high tenor whose soprano-like presentation fits the female-centric personalities around which the story revolves and gives the score a unique vocal tonality
that is just enough off to render it awkward, and thus very effective for the family scenes. Kilgore’s voice is doubled on “Changchun,” accompanying himself in delicate harmony over cello that welcomes Billi to China’s Jilin capital city, where Nai-Nai lives. Other highlights of the score include the stately string quartet number, “Umbrellas,” the poignant “Hotel Best” for solo cello and female choir, “Pathetique,” a jazzy number for female voice and double bass over an a capella choir, which is resolved in more formal fashion in “The Family;” and an affecting mix of strings and close-miked piano called “Ye Ye.” There are three songs used effectively in the score—Leonard Cohen and Patrick Leonard’s “Come Healing” beautifully sung by Elayna Boynton, giving Cohen’s gravely-voiced original an effervescent femininity that fits the film’s personalities; Giuseppe Giordani’s 1783 aria, “Caro Mio Ben,” sung by Hera Hyesang Park, accompanied by director Lulu Wang on piano, and an exuberant rendition in Italian of Pete Ham & Tom Evans’ “Without You” (“Senza Di Te”) partially sung by Fredo Viola, with the cast providing the concluding final chorus in English a la karaoke style. THE FAREWELL is a short soundtrack of 26 minutes, but despite its relative brevity it is a very striking and absorbing work which I find very pleasing.
For more details on the composer, see www.alexwestonmusic.com
FOR SAMA/Nainita Desai/Milan Records - digital
This new documentary film is an intimate journey into the female experience of war. The story of Waad al-Kateab, a Syrian camera woman who’s documented the last five years of her life in the Syrian civil war—through the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married, and gives birth to Sama, all while conflict rises around her. “FOR SAMA is certainly one of the most unique and important films I have ever been involved in,” said British composer http://www.nainitadesai.com about scoring the movie. “Working with the two directors, Ed Watts and Waad Al-Kateab, who filmed, produced, and lived through the uprising, I felt this extraordinary responsibility to do the film and Waad’s life story justice; to tell the story through music in the most true and authentic way possible. Being involved in the edit for 18 months writing from a very early stage, I wrote a huge amount of music with a sound palette encompassing electronics, sound design, and orchestral elements with a touch of ethnicity.”
The score is sobering in its tempo and tonality, its instrumental palette comprising mostly Middle Eastern instruments, portraying through their evocative timbres the disconsolate experiences of the characters. It’s gloomy and melancholy but it’s also spiced with colors of determination through the clear, familiar tones of a grand piano in tracks like “Student Protests” and, especially, “Remain Strong,” which resonates universally with meaning and clarity. Desai’s music is absorbing in its sonic texture as well as the emotive substance woven into its orchestration and melodic character.
To order or listen to the album, click here for options. Watch the film’s teaser trailer below:
GHOST HOUSE/Rich Ragsdale/Howlin’ Wolf - cd
Howlin’ Wolf Records’ latest scare score release is director/composer Rich Ragsdale’s music for GHOST HOUSE, a 2017 thriller about a young American couple who go on vacation to Thailand only to find themselves haunted by a malevolent spirit after naively disrespecting a Ghost House. Ragsdale’s atmospheric and turbulent score is a mix of orchestral elements, recorded by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, 1980’s styled electronica in the manner of Carpenter and Goblin (“A Trip To The Country” nails it) along with some modernistic, scary sound design (“Entering the Ghost World”) and cool gravelly vocal ambiances performed by monks chanting in a Thai temple (eerily effective in “Temple Showdown” and fearfully potent in “Ritual”). Solo voices are also used very effectively, with a female vocalise woven through the opening track, “Welcome to Bangkok.” Mysterious string lines over hushed sinews of strings in “Mountain Trek, River Demon,” which ends in a delightfully unexpected stinger. The orchestral power resonates especially well in “To the Temple,” with ragged, massive steps that pound through the soundscape; while “Ghost House Graveyard” summons up a spooky semblance of synths and symphonics. “Julie’s Possession” is a nice mix of the orchestral and the electronic, as is “Love Theme (Coitus Interruptus)” with the electronics barging in to affect the second half of the title. Overall, this is a multifaceted score which conforms to the film’s mood, style, and setting while respecting and reflecting the underlying folklore of the country in which it occurs. The album concludes with a haunting vocal track written and performed by singer/composer/orchestrator Sherri Chung (BATGIRL, RIVERDALE, SUPERGIRL). Howlin’s 4-page booklet includes notes from the director/composer about scoring the film. It’s an effective score and a fun listen on its own.
Sample some of the tracks, or order the cd, at howlinwolf.
THE INFORMER/Brooke Blair & Will Blair/Varèse Sarabande – cd
The composing team of brothers Brooke and Will Blair, currently noted for scoring the Sundance Channel’s drama series THIS CLOSE (now entering its third season), have composed very persuasive score for THE INFORMER, a crime drama directed by Andrea Di Stefano, better known as an actor, in his second directorial credit. The film is about an ex-convict (Joel Kinnaman) working undercover who intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison. The movie co-stars Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen, Common, and Ana de Armas. The film was scheduled for release last February, but was pushed back, first to August, and now it’s set for a worldwide release in January 2020. The score is an absorbing and reflective composition that maintains a dark and edgy ambiance over the story as it progresses, using a small orchestra of strings, flute, and percussion, with a six-voice choir intoning over the end credits, as if offering a sense of consolation for what the characters have been through. The music consists of very slow cadences, imposing a tone of despair that runs throughout the film with only momentary respite (a bit of light occurs at the end of “Imagine Someone Hurt Them” but otherwise not until the end of “Central Park” does the music uplift and allow a positive respite, leading into a spiritual redemption via the choir over the closing credits). But that journey the characters take through darkness is what gives the score—and, I’ll wager, the film—its impact and strength; and I found the score thoroughly compelling throughout, its mood captivating and real. I’m all the more eager to see how it plays with the film when it opens next year.
For more information on the composers, see www.blairbrothersmusic.com
LOVE, GILDA/Miriam Cutler/Lakeshore Records - digital
Lakeshore Records has released the original soundtrack to the acclaimed CNN Films Documentary LOVE, GILDA, written by Emmy-nominated composer Miriam Cutler (THE HUNTING GROUND, RBG). LOVE, GILDA honors the life and legacy of the late Gilda Radner and has received wide critical acclaim since premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary recently garnered two Primetime Emmy Award nominations in the “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special” and “Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special” (for Miriam Cutler) categories. It’s unusual in that it is narrated by the lady herself—weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies, and diaries read by modern day comediennes inspired by Radner. “Working on LOVE, GILDA with director Lisa D’Apolito was a wonderful and heartfelt experience,” said Cutler. “Who wouldn’t want to spend time in Gilda’s world? I was a fan of her during the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Even better, Lisa found her way into Gilda’s story through her powerful work with Gilda’s Club – a healing support network for people and their families affected by cancer – created by Gene Wilder and friends to honor her memory. Once Gilda absorbed her diagnosis, she asked: ‘How can I make cancer funny?’ And then she set out to heal her own spirit and share what she learned with others. This film honors that legacy by bringing Gilda back to life and sharing more of her story. I tried to reflect the intimacy of the film with my music. Once I was able to feel a musical approach, it was a pleasure to let it flow out. Ukulele was the key!” Cutler captures Radner’s energy, enthusiasm, and sense of fun beautifully with an exuberant score that accommodated instruments known for their simplicity and sense of humor, like the ukulele, handclaps, and breezy tempos that pop, while more down-to-earth violin phrases evoke the more serious side of funny Gilda. This is very much a score of personality, of capturing the zest of a lady whose disposition and character overcame her illness despite the unfair victory of death. Cutler’s score evokes all of that and makes missing Gilda somehow bearable because the music contains so much of her; it brings her back to us for a short, wonderful time.
Purchase/Streaming link: http://smarturl.it/LoveGilda
MINUSCULE: MANDIBLES FROM FAR AWAY
/Mathieu Lamboley/Music Box Records – cd & digital
Known as A MINUSCULE ADVENTURE in its UK release, this is a cute animated family adventure about a ladybug who gets trapped by accident in a cardboard box being shipped to the Caribbean. The insect’s parents set off to find him and bring him back home. The film is Hélène Giraud and Thomas Szabo’s sequel to their 2013 MINUSCULE: VALLEY OF THE LOST ANTS (which Lamboley did not score), but like it, MANDIBLES is also a mix of live-action photography and CGI animation, placing the insectile characters into real Caribbean landscapes. The film is completely without dialogue, giving Lamboley’s score the task of helping convey feelings, interaction, and danger. Known for scoring the French films SISTERS IN ARMS, TERRITORY OF LOVE, and RETURN OF THE HERO, Lamboley composed a delightful orchestral score, nicely performed by the Orchestre National d’Īle-de-France and the Children Choir of Francis Bardot, which gives the ladybug’s adventures a wonderful sense of size and scope. It’s a highly melodic action-adventure score in what the label properly describes as the Williams/Giacchino style, which means it’s full of energy, excitement, and fun. The score is thoroughly enjoyable away from the film on CD, full of energy and enthusiasm; standout cues include the Herrmannesque “Mantula Persecución,” a rousing 3-minute track that ranges from moody chord progression and soaring Theremin (perhaps sampled Theremin) into a bit of Caribbean dance, shuffling into dangerous action and concluding with a bit of Korngold-esque classic action music. The spider attack is followed by an equally energetic melodic action cue, “Bulldozer.” Aside from the energetic music, there are also several moments of poignancy (“La petite coccinelle” especially sounds out) and a sublime closing track, “Les adieux” that ends in a tender resolve of classical piano sophistication.
The CD is sold out at the label’s site, but is available in the US from Amazon
, and worth a purchase, I’d say, if what I’ve described suite your fancy.
Have a listen to “Mantula Persecución” from the MINUSCULE soundtrack:
OPEN BOOK/Nikolay Martynov/Keep Moving Records – cd
Russian composer Nikolay Martynov, author of numerous concert works including symphonies, ballets, and operas, also composed some thirty film and television scores during the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. OPEN BOOK (Otkrytayakniga) is a nine-part TV mini-series from 1977 based on a novel by Russian author Veniamin Alexandrovich Kaverin that’s considered a classic of the Soviet era. Few scores from Russian TV survive, making this release an especially interesting one, made all the more attractive by its fine sound and eloquent orchestral performances. Only the music from the first half of the series were located (26 tracks from Part 1 through 4, which had been broadcast in 1977; the final four episodes were filmed the following year and televised in 1980, but have apparently been lost. Martynov’s music rings of classical Russian orchestral music, powerfully performed by the Leningrad State Philharmonic and the Choir of the Leningrad Chapel. “Rain” in particular resonates with Russia’s classical tradition and could almost be a parade march, as does the male chorale of “For the Shores of Your Far Homeland” and the mixed chorus of “Endless Fields.” Other tracks are highly dramatic and tense (such as the disturbing ringing ambiance of “The Death of the Mother,” the progressive suspense evoked by “Rayevsky,” or the Morricone-esque “Slander” with its unique scraped-percussive beats and its use of various woodwinds against a constant progressive drum-beat). OPEN BOOK is a compelling and rather modern score rich in orchestral and choral layers, while still evoking the musical heritage of history. A very likable score and a rare glimpse into Soviet film music of the period. The package includes informative liner notes by Gergely Hubai who discusses the film and its score, based on an all-new interview with the composer. The CD is available in a limited edition of 300 copies. To order or to sample music from the album’s track list, see keepmovingrecords.
PLANET OF THE APES Original Film Series Soundtrack Collection/La-La Land – cd
From Jerry Goldsmith’s unique mix of primitive sound structures that first echoes across the main titles of 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES through the harmonic orchestral resolution of Leonard Rosenman’s last track of 1973’s BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, this original five-film science fiction saga has had some memorable and intriguing musical touchstones. Those initial ten piano notes increasing in tempo until bridged by the downward moan of a bass slide whistle, then opening into a louder array of primitive, acoustic, and percussive instruments gathering closer together: the opening moments of a film—and a score—like none other, have launched a quintet of films that would create a lasting iconic saga of science fiction cinema, leading to a television series, an animated cartoon series, a poorly-fared remake in 2001, and ultimately launching a three-film (possibly more) reboot in 2017; a significant legacy but the original five remain a thing to themselves. The music for that original quintet is likewise unique and daring, springing forward from Goldsmith’s masterful example in the 1968 film as he first delineated with music the strange odd world of 2000 years hence, to lesser but still very effective scoring treatments. Leonard Rosenman’s music for the first sequel, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970), began close to Goldsmith’s primitive percussion style before taking on a darker and more feral edge, providing an ideal backdrop for the sequel’s mix of mutant humanity, simian malevolency, primitive awakenings, and leftover technology. Goldsmith returned to score the third film, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971), in which two of the apes escape from Earth’s destruction at the end of BENEATH and journey back to a 1973 Earth. Goldsmith set the period by mixing in ‘70s-styled rock percussion with his action music, and also adding bass guitar, sitar, and lots of steel drum riffs, with a light pop vibe accompanying the surviving apes’ experience in the midst of, to them, ancient human society. Jazz musician Tom Scott, then working in television scoring, came in to score CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971) largely following Goldsmith’s original example, but sadly severe recuts throughout the film including a whole evisceration of the original, dramatic ending distorted much of the purposeful development of his score, not to mention the coherency of the film’s originally intended ending. Rosenman’s BATTLE started out with rhythms of savage fury as the film explores the new dynamic of intelligent apes coexisting with intelligent humans but then drifted into more rhythmic flavors, largely replacing primitive instrumentation with standard, but inventively orchestrated, symphonic timbres. La-La Land’s five-box set is nicely remastered by producer Mike Mattesino and, to my ears, sounds crisper and with a more striking clarity than previous releases. Having all the original APES scores together along with the commentary details is also a fine way to explore and appreciate each individually while seeing how they function as a series whole. Mattesino writes an introduction to the set in a separate booklet that also contains each CD’s tracklist, while veteran soundtrack commentator Jeff Bond, co-author of Planet of the Apes: The Evolution of the Legend, provides details on the making and scoring of each of the films in booklets included with the individual CDs. The label has again produced a lavish and comprehensive limited edition package. While there’s no previously unreleased tracks to savor, it’s valuable in its remastered sound and in bringing all the original Apes movie scores together under a single cardboard roof.
For details, see lalaland.
POLTERHEIST/Umberto Gaudino/Tadah Media Limited – digital
This independent film is an intriguing mash-up, inserting a ghost story into a modern English heist movie, as if Guy Ritchie somehow wandered into Tobe Hooper’s POLTERGEIST. The ensuing POLTER-HEIST is the directorial debut of David Gilbank, and while it’s not a perfect film it is a fair amount of fun to watch as some cockney gangsters have to retrieve stolen gang cash from their boss and return it to the bigger boss it was stolen from, except that they’ve managed to kill him before he can tell them where it is. So they find a psychic medium who can contact their dead boss and find out where he’s left the loot, except that the boss manages to possesses the medium and renders havoc upon their comfortable gangland underworld. Umberto Gaudino, an Italian composer working in various media music for several years, makes his feature film scoring debut with POLTERHEIST, providing an entertaining and effective score that fits the film’s dual identities pretty well. His heist music is properly bestowed where needed and his modern club music (“The Polish Nightclub”) is right on the money. There’s proper chase music (“Gunshots in the Car-park”), and a very strong melodic theme for the decedent boss, Frank, (“I’ve Never Been a Winner”) which crops up every so often. It’s multifaceted score that plays straight man to the film’s comedy as well as aligning its spookery in equal measures, and makes a fun listen on its own. Order it digitally from amazon
or iTunes. For more details on the score, see my interview with the composer on scoring POLTERHEIST at musiquefantastique.
REMNANTS/Austin Wintory/T-65b Records – digital
Every composer, and indeed every artist in general, faces rejection as a necessary albeit unfortunate part of working for other people. One of the toughest things a media composer has to face is rejection—a hopeful demo fails to garner an assignment, an opportunity falls by the wayside. Austin Wintory has decided not to equate rejection with failure, but to embrace the unsuccessful occasions and make lemonade out of them. Wintory has collected 38 of his unbought demos, and put them on an album to share with his fans. It’s a wild and crazy mix of styles and musical personalities, but it’s all good stuff and the availability of Remnants is something worth celebrating. The tracks are quirky, dramatic, eloquent, making for quite an invigorating listen. Wintory properly does not identify which projects these dismissed demos came from, so rather than playing needless comparison games, one can simply sit back and enjoy the music. What a great idea! Purchase the digital album from Wintory’s bandcamp page, here.
REND/Neal Acree/Materia Collective - digital
Neal Acree’s (REVELATION, OVERWATCH, WORLD OF WARCRAFT: WARLORDS OF DRAENOR, STARCRAFT II) latest gamescore is for REND, a team-based survival game set in a dramatic universe of Nordic myth. Acree explores the fantasy landscape with evocative, textured layers of integrated sound from fascinating ethnic and historic instruments, spicing them with the massive harmonies of Bulgarian choirs, provocative melodies and intimate phrasing, conveyed via the prowess of the City of Prague Philharmonic and the uniquely compelling vocals by Einar Selvik and Celica Soldream. “As the players start out in the afterlife with nothing and have to craft survival tools with the elements around them I found myself reaching for older and less refined sounding instruments like the hardanger fiddle, hurdy gurdy, viola da gamba, and nyckelharpa,” explained Acree. “The resonant qualities of these instruments gave the feeling of ancient machines built out of wood and string. In the end this score isn’t about one place or one cultural influence. It borrows from cultures around the world and gives them an otherworldly setting.” The score’s depth of harmony and multiple strata of interactive tonalities and haunting reverberations make this is a truly amazing and immersive sonic experience. Order as download, CD, or 2XLP vinyl from Bandcamp or download from iTunes.
Related: See my review of Neal’s REVELATION game score in my June 2016 column.
THE SPY WHO FELL TO EARTH/Robin Schlochtermeier/MovieScore Media - digital
MovieScore Media’s latest release in the genre of documentaries is THE SPY WHO FELL TO EARTH with music by award-winning German-British composer Robin Schlochtermeier (RETREAT, THE SPY WHO BROUGHT DOWN MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS). Written and directed by Tom Meadmore, the Netflix documentary deals with an ambitious historian who tracks down the world’s greatest spy, inadvertently setting in motion the events leading to his mysterious death. “The score for THE SPY WHO FELL TO EARTH was written first and foremost to help support the story elements of the documentary” explained Schlochtermeier. “These include the conflict between Egypt and Israel, journalist Ronnie Bregman’s obsession with the enigmatic Egyptian spy Ashraf Marwan, Marwan himself, and the Secret Services. The director, Thomas Meadmore, also gets his own thoughtful and open-ended theme, as his line of questioning deepens into author Ronnie Bregman’s personal motivations. Musically the score draws on a rich tradition of espionage thrillers for its driving rhythms and unconventional time signatures. There are also some nods to Middle Eastern culture with some Darabuka and the Bendir drum rhythms. The score is quite action-packed for a documentary, with even a tense war scene underscore!” The result of all this is indeed a powerful and persuasive score that frequently elevates the documentary feature into the level of a period spy thriller. The instrumental choices are often quite unique, enhancing the orchestral flavorings with some interesting sounds and shapes, building a vivid atmosphere over which the story, charged with tension and subterfuge and presented with a variety of percussion-driven rhythms and some surprising changes in treatment along the way, becomes quite captivating. The score’s album mix is really well done, with each layer of Schlochtermeier’s instrumental palette clearly positioned for maximum clarity and timbre. Play it loud or via headset and you’re right in the room with the musicians.
View MSM’s video featuring a suite from the score:
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO Series 2/Ben Foster & Nick Foster/
Silva Screen – digital; cd & vinyl to follow
Silva Screen Records releases THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO – Series 2, Ben and Nick Foster’s BAFTA-nominated soundtrack to the iconic TV series, on August 23. The CGI-animated series, based on the classic Gerry Anderson “Supermarionation” series from the 1960s, features synths, various electronics, and live orchestra, following Anderson’s composer Barry Gray’s heritage of employing a vast array of brass and percussion for the original series. With 77 tracks (comprising music from 19 episodes, main themes inclusive), there is a lot of music here (the CD version will have two CDs) and all of it is tremendously engaging. Their score for the second series (2017-2018) is every bit if not more orchestrally exciting and dynamic than the first series, with huge orchestral gestures, thrilling, heroic runs, and all manner of striking melodies and variations on all the above. The multitude of arrangements of Barry Gray’s main theme, energized through the Fosters’ broad orchestration for large orchestra, are more than welcome; it’s such a stimulating piece and there are plenty of interesting sonic textures for various characters, villains, settings and situations, such as the massive choir rising up in “I Am The Mechanic” from the episode “Up From the Depths” and its counterpart, “The Mechanic Fights Back” from “Powerplay;” the reverbed vibes in “An Anomaly In Space” from the episode “Impact;” the dreamy, alluring choir in “Atlantis” and its reprise amidst splendidly arranged agitato and adventurism in “Lost Kingdom” from the episode of the same name; the superbly paced propulsion and countermelodies of “Chased by Reptiles” from “Attack of the Reptiles;” the fun futuristic electronica of “Hoverbikes” from that titular episode; the dazzling, driven drums, choir, and orchestral maneuvers that spell chaos in “Eruption” from “Volcano;” the emotive eloquence of “Redemption” from “Brains vs Brawn;” the engaging shifts in tempi in “Go 4 it Gordo” from “Hyperspace;” the tremendous synth and brass effects of the climax of “If I Could Turbine Time” from “Clean Sweep,” and more. There’s so much to enjoy and marvel at in these scores, each one a thing of great scope, of cinematic prowess and earnest drama, action, and celebration. This album contains music from the show’s second series (season), and follows on Silva’s previous “Volume 1” and Volume 2” releases of music from the first series. With the third season having just concluded last month, perhaps a fourth soundtrack featuring music series 3 will soon be among us.
Details will follow at http://www.silvascreenusa.com/
For tracklist by episode, see here. Related: see my interview with Ben and Nick Foster on scoring THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! in my June, 2016 column.
UFO/Barry Gray/Silva Screen – digital; cd & vinyl to follow On September 13th, Silva Screen Records will release UFO, the long awaited release of Barry Gray’s freshly remastered score for Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1970 live action series, and the first release in a “series newly compiled, mastered and designed by the creative team at Fanderson, the Official Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Appreciation Society.” Moving away from the signature brass-and-percussion militaristic sound which he used heavily on SUPERCAR, FIREBALL XL-5, THUNDERBIRDS and others, Gray produced for UFO a jazz tinged period score, grounded in the lounge style. The softer sound fit the live action performances and elegant character interactions, while more low-keyed suspense ambiances and mysterioso patterns kept the storyline menacing and engaging—and of course there’s plenty of action although it’s treated in a little more subdued manner than in Gray’s previous, brassier, shows. The main theme proves to be very adaptable into keyboard-heavy lounge, drama, and romantic settings and is quite enjoyable in those multiple guises. Featuring 17 tracks from ten episodes—plus main and end titles and a standalone S.H.A.D.O. theme track—this release remains a “shadow” from Fanderson’s previous, members-only, multi-disc releases but is a most welcome widespread release, and makes the prospect for further Gray/Anderson compilations coming from Silva via Fanderson quite exciting. As a bonus track, Silva has included the rock instrumental “Trampoline, by the Spencer Davis Group, from the episode “Ordeal.”
Alf Clausen, who composed the music for THE SIMPSONS for 27 years, has filed suit against Fox alleging that he was fired due to his age. Clausen, 78, was let go in 2017, when he was informed that the show was “taking the music in a different direction.” The suit stated that “this reason was pretextual and false. Instead, Plaintiff’s unlawful termination was due to perceived disability and age.” Clausen scored more than 560 episodes of the show, dating back to 1990. He conducted a 35-piece orchestra, composing songs, play-ins & outs, dramatic cues, and innumerable variations on the iconic Danny Elfman “Simpsons” theme. He was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards for his SIMPSONS work, and won twice. After he was let go, Clausen was replaced by Bleeding Fingers Music, a music production company co-founded by Russell Emanuel, Hans Zimmer, and Steve Kofsky. For more details, see Variety.
Women Warriors: The Voices of Change is a live-action concert performed by Orchestra Moderne NYC featuring the music of renowned Hollywood female film composers. The event will be held on Friday, September 20, 2019 at 8:00 pm. Presenting 800 years of women fighting for human rights and equality, this 80-minute interactive symphonic experience features historical visuals of activists from past to present day. This world premiere defines today’s multimedia concert experience with its social and cultural relevancy. Conductor and Producer Amy Andersson teams with composers Nathalie Bonin, Miriam Cutler, Anne-Kathrin Dern, Sharon Farber, Mandy Hoffman, Penka Kouneva, Starr Parodi, and Lolita Ritmanis, who together have created a rich and cinematic orchestral experience. For information and tickets see lincolncenter http://lincolncenter.org/show/women-warriors-the-voices-of-change
Sony Classical has released the soundtrack album for the animated sequel THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2, which features the film’s original score composed by Heitor Pereira, who previously scored THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE in 2016. (FYI: See my related interview with Pereira about scoring the first ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE in my April 2017 column.)
Milan Records has announced SUCCESSION: Season 1 with music by Academy Award-nominated composer Nicholas Britell (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, MOONLIGHT, THE BIG SHORT). Britell was recently nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for his main title theme to SUCCESSION. The soundtrack features music from the critically acclaimed HBO series, which was nominated for a total of five Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series. The show, which recently returned for its second season on August 11. “I am so excited to be releasing this music from Season 1 of SUCCESSION,” said Britell. “The score features a juxtaposition of strings, winds, brass, pianos, odd electronic textures, 808 bass, and hip-hop beats. From the earliest stages of working on the show, I hoped for the music to have a sense of old-world gravitas, while also feeling strange and - at times – absurd.”
Also from Milan is the soundtrack to the new ULTRAMAN, a Netflix Original Anime Series based on the popular and long-running Japanese animated and live action franchises. The gorgeous score is composed by Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi. Stream or download it from these sources.
Marco Beltrami joined with Russian film composer Anna Drubich to score the horror thriller SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, which premiered on August 9th. The movie is based on the book trilogy by Alvin Schwartz, originally published between 1981-1991.
Sony Music Masterworks announced it has acquired Milan Records, an international leader in film and television scores and soundtracks. Founded over 40 years ago by Emmanuel Chamboredon, Milan Records has released the soundtracks to renowned and critically acclaimed classics such as DIVA, GHOST, BACKDRAFT, BENNY & JOON as well as recent hits including THE REVENANT, DEADPOOL, CHEF, UNDER THE SKIN, BIRDMAN, MIDSOMMAR and HEREDITARY. Under the agreement, JC Chamboredon, Senior Vice President, Milan Records and son of Emmanuel Chamboredon, will continue to run Milan Records, reporting to Mark Cavell, Sony Music Masterworks U.S. Label Head and COO International. “The acquisition of Milan Records, under the leadership of JC, underscores our commitment to soundtracks, further developing important relationships on the West Coast with both film studios and composers,” said Cavell.
Ron Goodwin’s final score, the Dutch animated fantasy VALHALLA, has been given a deluxe soundtrack treatment on CD via PlantSounds, which presents a 30th Anniversary Edition of the soundtrack that includes never before heard demos by Goodwin as well as the world premiere release of music from VALHALLA’s 10-minute pilot, composed by Bent Hesselman and Jussi Adler Olsen. The album is now available for pre-order; shipping is expected to commence on August 26th, with the album also available on streaming sources beginning on September 1st. For more details, see plantsounds.
La-La Land Records, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Archie Studios, and WaterTower Music announce the limited edition CD release of CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA – Original Television Score Season One, featuring music score highlights from the first season (2018) of the acclaimed supernatural drama series. Composer Adam Taylor (THE HANDMAID’S TALE, I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW) unleashes an exciting musical soundscape that harnesses all the beloved series’ drama, fun, thrills, and chills – all of it reverberating with a delightful touch of the macabre. To sample tracks or to purchase, see the tracklist at lalalandrecords https://lalalandrecords.com/chilling-adventures-of-sabrina-original-television-score-season-one-limited-edition
Invada Records and Lakeshore Records will co-release MONOS, featuring original music by Ivor Novello Award winner and Academy Award®-nominated composer Mica Levi (JACKIE, UNDER THE SKIN). The soundtrack will be released digitally worldwide—internationally by Invada Records and in North America by Lakeshore Records—on August 30. Directed by Alejandro Landes (PORFIRIO), the film is a survivalist thriller starring Julianne Nicholson and Moises Arias. It opens in select theaters Friday, September 13.
Composer and documentary specialist Gil Talmi (FORGOTTEN ELLIS ISLAND, FOOD CHAINS, CHAVELA, MAN ON FIRE) scored THE GREAT HACK, which explores how a data company named Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit vote.
Talmi composed the score using a unique combination of modular synths and orchestral elements to convey the motifs of technology and human elements within the story. This highly evocative music is a sonic exploration of what it means to live in a data driven world in which we are continually being called to examine our rights as pawns in corporate and political ecosystems. The compelling film is now showing on Netflix. Watch the trailer:
The CW’s new science fiction/action series, PANDORA, is being scored by Joe Kraemer and Penka Kouneva. Kraemer, best-known for scoring MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION, THE WAY OF THE GUN, and THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT, is the show’s lead composer; and he scored the first and last episodes on his own, working closely with PANDORA’s creator and writer/show runner Mark Altman, his collaborator of 15 years. Kouneva, noted for scoring indie films, video games, and a NASA theme park, was brought in by Joe to help out as a co-composer. The score for PANDORA is composed in an orchestral and hybrid-orchestral style that captures the science fiction/action/drama storyline with engaging themes and innovative modern and timeless textures. For more details, see the story at musiquefantastique.
In additional news, Penka Kouneva has scored the visually poetic Eskimo drama, ÁGA, which is currently making festival rounds. The Bulgarian film, directed by Milko Lazarov, is about Nanook and Sedna, who live following the traditions of their ancestors on the snow-covered fields of the North. Their traditional way of life starts changing due to melting ice and animals that begin dying off. When Sedna’s health deteriorates, Nanook decides to fulfill her wish; he embarks on a long journey in order to find their daughter Ága, who has left the icy tundra a long time ago due to a family feud. For details and to watch the film’s trailer, see bigworldpictures.
My interview with Brian Tyler on scoring the short-lived but acclaimed DC Universe series SWAMP THING, was posted to musiquefantastique a couple of weeks ago. Tyler describes in detail his approach to scoring the series and his score’s thematic construction. – rdl
Listen to SWAMP THING’s main theme via youtube:
Marvel Music and Hollywood Records will release a new soundtrack album for Marvel’s Netflix original series JESSICA JONES. The album features selections of the original score from the show’s third and final season composed by Sean Callery (24, HOMELAND, BONES, INHUMANS). Callery’s music for the series’ first two seasons have been released have previously on these labels.
Composer Abel Korzeniowski (BATTLE FOR TERRA, THE NUN, PENNY DREADFUL, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS) will be scoring the forthcoming Showtime original series HALO. Developed by Kyle Killen (MIND GAMES, AWAKE, LONE STAR), the series is based on the hit video game of the same title. Otto Bathurst (2018’s ROBIN HOOD, HIS DARK MATERIALS, BLACK MIRROR, PEAKY BLINDERS) is set to direct. The series will begin shooting later this year in Budapest and is scheduled to premiere in early 2021.
– via filmmusicreporter
James Edward Barker, best known for his iconic film scores in LEAN ON PETE and MARA, has a new film in the works titled, THE COURIER. This project is by far his most involved work to-date, as Barker is not only composer but also co-writer and producer of this action film, starring Academy Award Winning actor Gary Oldman, Dermot Mulroney, and Olga Kurylenko, who portrays the courier “whose daily deliveries are interrupted when she discovers her latest package is a bomb aimed at the witness of a crime lord’s murder. She then embarks on a race against time to save the target from corrupt CIA agents and Russian mercenaries.”
The composing duo of tomandandy return to the world of 47 METERS DOWN, the gripping shark thriller which they scored in 2017, by scoring the new sequel, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED. The new movie follows the diving adventure of four teenage girls exploring a submerged Mayan City, who become lost in the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out as their air supply steadily is dwindling and they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly great white sharks.
Stephen Endelman’s latest score is BOTTOM OF THE 9TH, a new film starring Joe Manganiello, Sofia Vergara, Denis O’Hare, and Burt Young. Premise: After serving 17 years in prison for a violent mistake he made in his youth, a once-aspiring baseball player returns to his Bronx neighborhood. A digital soundtrack has been released by Lakeshore Records.
The second season of AMC’s THE TERROR, titled THE TERROR INFAMY, takes place on the west coast of the United States during World War II and has to do with an uncanny specter that menaces a Japanese-American community from its home in Southern California to the internment camps and to the war in the Pacific. Season 2 is composed by Mark Korven (THE WITCH, AWAKENING THE ZODIAC, IN THE TALL GRASS); the series’ first season had been scored by Swedish composer and audiovisual artist Marcus Fjellström, who sadly died in 2017.
Shudder, AMC’s subscription video on-demand service featuring horror, thriller and supernatural fiction titles, has delivered the first trailer for its new TV series CREEPSHOW, based on the CREEPSHOW films by Stephen King and George A. Romero. The new series is created by Greg Nicotero, executive producer of THE WALKING DEAD. The series is being scored by composer Christopher Drake, known for scoring the HELLBOY animated series and numerous animated movies based on DC comic characters, such as BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES.
Disques Cinémusique presents the digital music album to the 1963 Greek drama THE RED LANTERNS (Ta Kokkina Fanaria), composed by Stavros Xarhakos. Directed by Vassilis Giorgadis, the film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Xarchakos remains a revered composer and conductor in his country; author of 42 albums and 21 soundtracks for film and television, he has collaborated with Werner Herzog (SIGNS OF LIFE) and the BBC (miniseries THE DARK SIDE OF THE SUN). His score for THE RED LANTERNS offers a great variety of rich themes, including dances and songs performed on the screen; a feeling of melancholy and dramatic tension emerge from the whole, perfectly reflecting the universe of this film centered on the lives of a few prostitutes in the city of Piraeus. THE RED LANTERNS is somewhat the opposite side of the joyful and carefree universe portrayed in Jules Dassin’s NEVER ON SUNDAY.
Sample or buy the digital album on Apple Music here.
Lakeshore Records has released the YELLOWSTONE Season 2 soundtrack, featuring original score by Brian Tyler. The album is now available digitally on amazon.
Watch the score preview:
Intrada has released a 76-minute premiere CD soundtrack to Christopher Young’s VIRTUOSITY, a 1995 science fiction crime thriller featuring a complex electronic and powerhouse orchestral score, which has never had a commercial soundtrack release until now. Intrada’s release includes informative notes by John Takis. For more details and to sample racks or place an order, see intrada
The second season of the superhero show TITANS is scheduled to premiere on the DC Universe streaming site on September 6th. Composers Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner scored the first season and both are now at work scoring the second season. “I’m thrilled to be writing music for Superboy again, 30 years down the line,” Kiner, who scored the 1988-90 SUPERBOY TV series, told Soundtrax. “This new season has been so much fun, and I’m very excited to be doing themes for the new characters, especially the world’s deadliest mercenary, Deathstroke.”
For more details on TITANS, see DC Universe.
AFTER THE WEDDING is a remake of a 2006 Danish drama film about a manager of an orphanage in India is sent to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he discovers a life-altering family secret. The new film, directed by Bart Freundlich (THE MYTH OF THE FINGERPRINTS), stars Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup and Abby Quinn. Mychael Danna composed the score, which Music.Film Recordings and Varèse Sarabande are releasing (digital came out Aug. 8; CD comes out Aug. 23). “The music for AFTER THE WEDDING explores the sound of our suppressed past boiling up into our present, in a time and place not of our choosing,” said Danna about his score. “I chose the Indian Bansuri to portray the calm surface of the present, which is disrupted by the urgent and turbulent emergence of a string octet, initially wild and violent. As the story progresses, the two opposite musical poles find a meeting place of truth and honesty, where both, the songs of the small orchestra and Bansuri, coexist and create new music together.”
The label has also released a digital soundtrack to THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON; its Americana-based soundtrack features new and classic songs from Sara Watkins, Gregory Alan Isakov, and The Staple Singers, among others, as well as a score composed by Zach Dawes, Jonathan Sadoff, and members of folk band The Punch Brothers. A CD version of the soundtrack will release on September 6th.
Quartet Records presents the long-requested expanded release of the masterful score by Philippe Sarde for GHOST STORY, directed by John Irvin in 1981. Based on Peter Straub’s 1979 novel, the film stars Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. It follows a group of elderly businessmen in New England who gather to recount their involvement in a woman’s death decades prior when one of them suspects her ghost has been haunting him. Sarde’s score is recognized as one of his most important works and one of the best soundtracks of the eighties. Using a melancholy, haunting main theme, a beautiful and obsessive love theme, and a gothic orchestration with some touches of Bartók and Stravinsky, Sarde was able to build a solid and coherent “symphony of horror.” The CD is available in a limited edition of 3000 units.
In addition to GHOST STORY, Quartet is also offering Sarde’s score for Roman Polanski’s 1976 horror tale, THE TENANT in an expanded, remastered edition. This film was the first collaboration between Polanski and Sarde, who was only 28 years old when he composed the score. The music featured a complicated orchestration that required an unusual arrangement of the orchestra. The use of crystal harmonica gives the score a disturbing and bleak character. For more details, see www.quartetrecords.com.
The Omega Productions Records, the French label that brought us such unique horror scores as MARTYRS, ZOMBIE LAKE, GHOSTLAND, THE LIVING DEAD GIRL, and others in their “French Horror” collection, has launched a new collection, “French Love.” Issued for the first time on physical media is the soundtrack to the erotic drama L’AMOUR À LA BOUCHE (1974) composed by Yan Tregger. “Resulting from a close collaboration between the composer, director Gerard Kikoine, and The Omega Productions Records, this edition contains all of the collected music on CD, with a 12 pages booklet containing bilingual internal notes of the composer,” wrote the label. “Composed in full pre-disco period in the corridors of Montparnasse 2000, the soundtrack oscillates between nervous beat, funky strings, Gainsbourg sounds, and more intimate compositions inherited from a fantasized Italy.” A vinyl edition is available in black 150gr pressing, with bilingual notes in its gatefold.
For more details, see omegaprods.
The team of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (BIRD BOX, GONE GIRL, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE SOCIAL NETWORK) are scoring the forthcoming WATCHMEN superhero drama television series, based on the DC Comics limited series of the same name created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The new series is set to premiere in October on HBO, and takes place in an alternate contemporary reality in the United States, in which superheroes and masked vigilantes were outlawed due to their violent methods, but some of them gather around to start a revolution while others attempt to stop it. The series is said to embrace the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel while attempting to break new ground of its own.
The soundtrack to Netflix’s dark comedy series, BONDiNG, is out now digitally on Lakeshore Records, featuring score by Adam Crystal (STRANGERS, THE DAWN WALL). The series stars Zoe Levin (RELATIONSHIP STATUS) and Brendan Scannell (HEATHERS TV Series) and is about a New York City grad student moonlighting as a dominatrix who enlists her gay BFF from high school to be her assistant. The soundtrack is available now: [Download/Listen].
Award winning composer Ben Bartlett’s latest is the poignant score to VERA, a top-rated ITV drama based on the bestselling books by Ann Cleeves. BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actress Brenda Blethyn stars as the eccentric but brilliant DCI Vera Stanhope. Unconventional and unglamorous, Vera faces the world with her caustic wit, guile and courage and what she lacks in charm she makes up for in wisdom and insight. Bartlett’s soundtrack perfectly complements the atmospheric Northumberland landscapes that the series is set in. The score for VERA is full of musical miniatures that have become part of the fabric of the show, and some of the dramatic highlights have been selected for the album here. Silva Screen Records has released the VERA soundtrack, which is available digitally and on CD – see amazon.uk.
One Way Static, distributed by Mondo, presents THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, the original motion picture soundtrack, limited to 300 copies, in solid brown vinyl along with several color vinyl variants and complete with insert containing rare pictures and exclusive liner notes. Actor David Hess composed the soundtrack for the 1972 film, which was Wes Craven’s writer/director debut. “Hess’s work here contains some beautiful songs, the discovery of which, for some, may be in stark contrast to the brutal displays of sadism and violence for which he was known to purvey onscreen. The fact that Hess could perform as both the poet and the monster, is a testament to his skill as an artist,” write the label. “The soundtrack to THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a brilliantly unique and diverse mixture of farcical comedy, poignant, reflective folk music and instrumental experimentalism. Hess constructed a wonderful counterbalancing entity, which serves only to accentuate the impact of the movie.”
Back by popular demand for its 30th anniversary, the original soundtrack to HEATHERS from director Michael Lehmann with music by composer, David Newman, is being re-released on “very” neon green vinyl. The LP soundtrack will be available starting August 23rd, 2019 and is available now for pre-order at varesesarabande.
La-La Land Records presents on vinyl THE ORVILLE – Original Television Soundtrack: Season 1, music by Bruce Broughton, Joel McNeely, John Debney and Andrew Cottee. This deluxe 2XLP presentation contains the astounding orchestral score highlights from the first season of the acclaimed hit television series, mirroring the content of their CD release from last January. “Thematic, dramatic, suspenseful and full of heart and wonder, these soaring episode scores are vital to THE ORVILLE’S missions, as its ship’s crew, both human and alien, face the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the problems of everyday life,” described the label. The 2XLP 180 gram, white colored vinyl presentation is mastered for vinyl by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, manufactured by Erika Records, and is art designed by Dan Goldwasser, with liner notes by writer Jeff Bond. See lalaland.
Mondo presents the premiere vinyl release of Danny Elfman’s score to the film that lit the fuse – 1996’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Available for the first time on vinyl in a 2XLP package pressed on 180 Gram translucent red vinyl. Featuring liner notes by Brian Satterwhite. Now available from Mondo. From the first to the latest – Mondo also announces MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT: music by Lorne Balfe from the original motion picture soundtrack, 2XLP. Pressed on 2X 180 Gram plutonium core vinyl; also available on 2X 180 Gram black vinyl. This first pressing features a limited Flexi disc featuring an unreleased remix.
Caldera Records’ Stephan Eicke has completed a new book, The Struggle Behind the Soundtrack, which is now available on Amazon or direct from the publisher, McFarland. The book examines the current conditions under which composers in the film industry have to work. Eicke has spoken with many insiders whose insights are included in the book, among them composers such as Alan Silvestri, Klaus Badelt and Rachel Portman, editors such as Oscar winner Walter Murch, sound designers such as Oscar winner Randy Thom, directors such as Bruce Beresford as well as several musicians.
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.