Feature Interview: The Ghost Stories of Frank Ilfman
AMORE E LIBERTA, MASANIELLO (Werba/Rosetta), ANCIENT ALIENS (McCarthy, et al/La-La Land), THE BANNER SAGA 3 (Wintory/T-65b Records), CARNIVAL OF SORROWS (Hess/Promo), THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX (McCreary/Sparks & Shadows), CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Tyler/WaterTower), CRAZY RICH ASIANS songtrack (Various/WaterTower), DESTINATION WEDDING (Ross/Lakeshore), DRÔLES DE PETITES BÊTES (Coulais/Quartet), GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE (Hattori/Toho), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 1988 Series (Schifrin & Jones/La-La Land), THE NINTH PASSENGER (Glasgow/Fourteen Kings), Q – THE WINGED SERPENT (Ragland/Kronos), SHOCK AND AWE (J Beal/Varèse Sarabande), LA SORCIÈRE/THE BLONDE WITCH (Glanzberg/Disques Cinemusique), TIMELESS (Duncan/Varèse Sarabande).
Book, Soundtrack, Vinyl, & Game Music News
From the moment an eight-year-old Frank Ilfman was given Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, the seed was sown – the ambitious, budding musician had his heart set on a career in film music. With an unwavering desire to achieve his goal, Ilfman has successfully dedicated himself to performing and understanding music. He studied trombone and piano at the Jaffa Conservatorium of Music in Tel Aviv and as a young teenager was playing lead trombone with the Tel Aviv Dixieland Band. However, the tenacious young composer became frustrated and bored with the structured methods of the Conservatorium and was eventually asked to leave for playing truant – Ilfman wanted to be more imaginative with how he created music, so went it alone. In 1984, during a visit to Berlin, Ilfman got introduced to German composer Klaus Doldinger, who happened to be scoring THE NEVERENDING STORY at that time. A visit to the film’s recording sessions made Ilfman fall deeper in love with the art of film music and commit fully to his ambition. He worked on his first television production, when he was just 17 years old, with composer Jan Hammer on the acclaimed television series THE CHANCER, starring Clive Owen, and since then has scored more than forty films and numerous television shows. Among his most acclaimed scores is the 2017 horror-drama GHOST STORIES, which was nominated for best score at this year’s Music + Sound Awards, and which comes to Blu-ray and DVD on Sept 4th.
Q: GHOST STORIES is an anthology film, based on a play that didn’t have music. I understand the filmmakers wanted to maintain somewhat the tone of the play and yet expand it a little more musically.
Frank Ilfman: Yeah. I went to see the play with Andy [co-writer/director Andrew Nyman] about four or five years ago and it just had sound design. It didn’t have any music or anything like that. But it left like a very big impression of how they constructed all of the elements of sound during the emotional bits and then the scary bits. The play had a really special essence about it. When we got to the film, obviously, some of it had changed. It’s only three stories from the play that were used. It’s not really a horror film, it’s more like a supernatural mystery movie, and we wanted it to have that essence of the British movies or TV series from the ‘60s and ‘70s, like THE WICKER MAN or TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, and THE ARMCHAIR THRILLER, those kinds of things. That’s very British on one side, but still universal. And then we wanted to somehow capture the essence of what the play gave without being too mainstream or too corny about the scares. There’s a twist at the end, so we wanted the music to emphasize the scares, but not have the audience anticipate them. We needed to keep that kind of emptiness going, or to use the silence as they had in the play. The play, as I mentioned, no music, it just had effects, but a lot of it was based on silence and that’s something we tried to concede during the scary moments of the movie. So the idea of the music was to lead the audience in a certain direction, almost to the edge, and then let them drop into the silence and let their minds do the rest. It was more trying to get the music to be a psychological element when it came to the scarier parts.
Q: What were some of your first musical concepts when you began working on the film?
Frank Ilfman: I wrote a number of musical suites prior to filming, because they wanted to play some of the music for the actors while they were shooting. From there, I would be sent dailies to watch and expand my suites and see what works and what doesn’t work. They started doing an assembly while they were still filming, so we went hand-in-hand to see what works. There was a lot of music written to the movie, probably nearly 2 hours, and then we had a lot of test screenings and we saw what’s actually working, what wasn’t working. Part of it was “how did this work in the play and how we make that work in the movie?”
We wanted a main theme for Goodman, who is the main character who will connect all the dots. Each story has its own theme and its own certain sounds, so built a puzzle of all the themes and then took it all apart and reconstructed it as I went along with the movie when I began scoring to picture. For Alex’s character, who’s tormented by a demon, I used choir. We experimented with all kinds of vocals, some in English, some in Hebrew; we wanted certain things, certain phrases, so we had time to find the right ones and how they were going to work. We had time to experiment and we had time to do sampling and come up all kinds of sounds that can help the sound designer and that would not clash, where in a normal movie you will not have that much time and they would take the music down in the mix and push the sound design up.
As they were shooting they were editing the pieces together so I would be sent an assembly to watch and I would have free reign to modify or rewrite the music as necessary. I’d send that music to the editor, so he could start laying music in. Then watch what he was putting in and how it was working. It was very laid back, in that we had loads of time to get everything right. We were very lucky; usually you get three weeks or something and then they say “ok, here’s the cut, start laying it out.”
The GHOST STORIES soundtrack is available on CD from Varese Sarabande Records. Listen to a bit of the track “The Allerton Suite” on their web site here.
Q: It sounds like the time you had allowed you to really meld your score to the skin of this film…
Frank Ilfman: There were certain elements that were very clear and Jeremy and Andy were very hands-on about what they wanted with the music. They knew what was going to work and what was not going to work, so they were very hands-on, but in a very laid back way. In one sense I was very lucky because when I saw the first assembly, the movie was mostly temped with my music from BIG BAD WOLVES and other films that I did. So it was much easier to approach it, but the main thing was to write the theme prior to shooting. We couldn’t use those early suites I’d composed in their original form, but I did record the suites entirely for the soundtrack album. Those suites are not fully represented in the movie because we decided not all of that music would work and I changed some things.
Q: How did you treat the shock elements of the film, musically?
Frank Ilfman: There were certain things that were lending themselves to that. I remember we had one screening where the sound designer layered a lot of groans and such, and literally kind of flattened everything. After that we took everything out and left it just as silence, and then we decided to let the sound and the mind do that work instead of having the music tell you what it’s gone to be. Every time we had a scare, there are elements within certain scenes that you have a few stories that come one after the other and we found if you put music there it’s actually flattening everything that’s already bringing you to a certain height and there only a limit to how much further you can push. So the idea with the music was that we’ll draw the audience in, and then there’ll be something in the sound design that will take the music out (almost like you would do in the theater play, instead of just fading it). So you’re already in the space; the music has already gone out but you’re already in the scene, and then you get the scare. It’s almost like you have a flat surface and then a drop, and then again it’s a flat surface, as if you are saying, “Ok it’s safe now…” and then bang! – another drop. This way we manage to construct several layers of dynamics with different climaxes in a scene where you have several scares.
Sample some additional cues from GHOST STORIES on the composer’s web site here.
Q: You scored one episode of ABC’S OF DEATH 2 , which was the “F for Falling” episode, about an Israeli soldier stuck in her parachute in a tree in Palestine territory. What can you tell me about scoring that and how did the limitations of providing music for a 5-minute film in that anthology series?
Frank Ilfman: That was with Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the guys from BIG BAD WOLVES and the same sound designers. The story was not a horror story, it was more of a thriller [A female Israeli soldier is discovered stuck in her parachute in a tree by an armed Palestinian youth. In another life the pair might hit it off as friends or lovers, but in this one they’re forced by circumstance to be enemies at first sight.] It was almost a pre-lay for their next movie, ONCE UPON A TIME IN PALESTINE, which we’re doing next year. The idea was that it takes place in Palestine, but we wanted to give it a kind of Western feel, so we recorded banjos and the like. It has that kind of comedy Western feel to it, but then you have more of the tense music. It’s actually very similar to GHOST STORIES or BIG BAD WOLVES; it’s very melodic, and even when you have dissonant music there’s always some melodic parts to it, because Andy & Jeremy and Aharon & Navot are very big fans of melodic music, proper themes, and such. F FOR FALLEN has a theme, actually, which you hear at the end when we pull back from the tree.
Related Story: Read my interview with Andre Roessler and Isabel Greiwe about creating a unique piece of signature music for THE ABC’S OF DEATH 2, which is heard over the main titles and used as interstitial music in the title cards announcing each new alphabetical chapter.
Q: Speaking of BIG BAD WOLVES, what can you tell me about your approach to scoring this film and enhancing its storyline and suspense?
Frank Ilfman: Aharon & Navot and I became very good friends during the first movie I did with them, RABIES . That was a rescue job, funny enough. So the first approach with BIG BAD WOLVES is, ok, we have several characters and they’re all in the same space throughout the movie, so it might be a bit confusing to have several themes. Also, it’s almost like a fairy tale, so we decided that what the movie needed was a big, major theme, and then a few small motifs for some of the characters. But the main theme would be what we’d use the most throughout the movie. I started with them prior to shooting, but I didn’t get a script – I would get maybe a synopsis and we’d have a lot of chats, and they’d send me references, that kind of thing. Then I would start writing themes and sending them over; they would listen to it and they would tell me, ok this one we like, this doesn’t work, this we like, and we can expand this and try with this. So the first thing we had was the theme of the film – we had a few revisions of it until we felt it was finally nailed. Once they started editing and putting the theme in certain places, I would get a rough cut and I would start scoring certain scenes. Sometimes they would take the music and edit it themselves, and then we’d go over and see what needs changing. So with them it would be a very early start with finding the right theme, and once we have that doing the orchestration and the technical aspects of putting the scenes together is fairly easy. Writing the themes is always the hardest part.
Q: What experience did you have with them on RABIES (2010)?
Frank Ilfman: I only had two weeks to score RABIES! They had another composer who didn’t work out, and then I got introduced to Aharon and Navot through Ronen Nagel, a good friend of mine who was the sound designer on RABIES (later he did CRIMINAL and BIG BAD WOLVES). He introduced me to them, and I sent them some music of mine, and they began replacing the temp score with my music and saw that it was working. So they asked me to fly out to Israel and work with them on the movie. Nobody had ever done a horror movie in Israel before. When you look at it compared to BIG BAD WOLVES, it’s a different film; it’s almost like a student film compared to BIG BAD WOLVES, but that movie had something unique. It had loads of characters but the main character, which you think is actually the killer, is not even seen in most of this film; it’s all about the psychological and emotional elements within the other characters and there’s all of these twists. We didn’t have a lot of time so it was just like sampling a lot of weird instruments and using those to create textures and sounds. It all takes place in a forest, so I tried to incorporate these sounds within the sonic environment of the forest. There’s a lot of electronic percussion and weird metallic sounds that conveyed the psychological aspects of the characters. So I literally flew from England, and the next day I was setting up, and then I started scoring Reel One within two days of arrival. Then within two weeks we were mixing about 100 minutes of music! They’re very hands-on and they know what they wanted but, because of the lack of time, they had to let me do my own thing.
Q: THE FERRYMAN (2007) is another horror fantasy. What was that experience like for you?
Frank Ilfman: I got to do FERRYMAN because I did a film called NEMESIS GAME (2003); it was another case of my replacing a composer that they were working with for a couple of months and it just didn’t work out. I was on holiday and I had a call from the music supervisor saying they needed to have a new composer and could I fly in to London do the score for the movie. I asked if I could fly in on Monday, which was four days later. He said no they need me to fly in today because they were doing the mix on Monday. So I just packed everything, flew in, and scored the movie within four days! I got really sick after, but I did the rescue job. That was NEMESIS GAME, and the score was nominated for an award [“Best Contribution to a Soundtrack” at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards]. When it came to FERRYMAN, which was a New Zealand/American co-production and they needed a UK composer; the producer remembered me from NEMESIS GAME so they rang me up and asked me if I could score their new movie. I had a chat with the director, who was still in New Zealand at the time… it had something to do with an ancient ghost that transferred from person to person with mythological artifacts, so my idea was to create some sort of motif for the artifacts and then a motif for the body transfer and certain things. And then we had the main character, the Ferryman, and he needed a theme, but these were the three main themes. The editor was a guy named Nigel Galt, who was Stanley Kubrick’s editor, and he’s very good at how to use music and do music editing, and we had long chats about how to approach certain things. I think this was the director’s first horror movie – he’d done mostly romantic comedies before – and Nigel was very helpful in approaching music in a more psychological way. So I worked very closely with him on that score, and I also learned a lot from him. We recorded the orchestra first and then did a lot of strange musical effects which we recorded separately, so when we got to the mix they had a lot of control over the musical effects, which they could just incorporate when they needed to.
Q: You did a post-apocalyptic thriller in 2014, ANOTHER WORLD. How was your music used to enhance the environment as well as the film’s moments of suspense and horror?
Frank Ilfman: The filmmakers were friends of friends and they had another composer who did the music; I was brought on board to help produce it a little. But it didn’t glue together the way they wanted so I wound up writing a few pieces as well. I came up with this concept to make the music more industrial – we wanted to have that kind of sense of dreadness, even without the orchestra, so we literally distorted everything – guitars, violins, brass; everything that we recorded was distorted to give a sense of dread. So I didn’t have a lot of involvement with that movie; it was fun to do because it was taking all the distortion plug-ins and hardware that we can find and then just run everything through them and see what we could come up with. My role was more in producing it, I would say, than actually scoring it.
Q: Moving away from ghost stories and supernatural fantasies, what can you tell me about scoring THE ETRUSCAN SMILE?
Frank Ilfman: It had a premiere in Berlin yesterday, and I think it’s going to come out next year. That was a pretty big film, it’s got Brian Cox, Rosanna Arquette, Thora Birch. The film takes place in San Francisco and in Scotland where Brian Cox’s character is from. He’s a very rough Scottish guy so we wanted the music to reflect some sort of a Scottish element, but not too much. So it was more about giving the music certain small Scottish motifs that the orchestra can play, but without the bagpipes or the fiddle or any of those. I was writing it at Air studios. I had a room upstairs there, and we had four or five recording sessions. We had a lot of changes in the edit, so every time I recorded a few scenes with the orchestra, we go back to edit and rerecord the scenes for the changes they’d made. It was literally two months of a lot of changes in the cut and a lot of rerecording. But that music is very emotional; it’s almost like a romcom/coming of age drama. I’ve been lucky with the movies I’ve been doing that because they always want something that’s thematic, and that’s the background I come from. It’s always about the melody and a proper orchestra.
Q: You’ve also avoided becoming typecast, because you’ve done so many different kinds of things. Another favorite of mine is DOWN THE DEEP DARK WEB which is a really interesting documentary score. How did you work with the director to come up with that approach?
Frank Ilfman: I’ve known the director for many years. He’s a documentary filmmaker, and every score we do is a little bit different. The one we did before was called SHADOW IN BAGHDAD which is about the spies in Baghdad back in the 1970s and I did a lot of research into Iraqi music. When he came up with this one and we started chatting about what we would do for the score, I thought the thing that would lend itself to the film was doing an electronic score, but not like John Carpenter and all these classic approaches that people take today, like with STRANGER THINGS, but let’s try and do something more along the lines of what they used to do in ‘80s electronica with sequencers, the kind of thing I grew up around, with Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk and Vangelis. Not the horror approach or the dark ‘80s but a score created with that ‘80s style. So it was almost like having too much fun doing it, with all my analog synths and effects. It was literally like creating an electronic album of my own that has nothing to do with the movie. It was like creating an album and then layering that onto the movie rather than writing it to the movie. I think that’s why the soundtrack works so nice because it’s almost like an album.
Q: Your latest score is for the Danish mystery thriller, ROBIN. What can you tell us about this film and how you created your score for it?
Frank Ilfman: Swedish director Antonio Tublen, whose first film LFO (2013) was a big success, asked me to score the film. ROBIN is a very dark psychological thriller that tells the story of a young woman claiming to have witnessed a murder. As the police investigate it, they can’t find anything proving her story. Robin is convinced that she’s the next victim and starts her own investigation to figure out what really happened – trying to find the murderer before he finds her. As she comes closer, the truth is finally revealed along with severe consequences that will change everything.
We had many discussions about what direction we wanted the music to have and what its role should be in the film. On one side we wanted the music to portray the dark and menacing feeling of the person who hunts Robin and the psychological aspect of it, but we also wanted to convey also the fragile side of her traumatized personality, while keeping the audience guessing with the twists as the story unfolds.
We decided not to have a large-scale score for this film but keep a more intimate feel, so I came up with the idea to score it for electronics, piano, and a string octet, which I recorded at a very old studio in London called RAK, using 60s and 70s analog gear to capture the sound we were after. The electronics were used to create the more menacing feel with different sounds that I sampled and manipulated, while the octet played Robin’s character, portraying her inner voice. It’s always a great challenge to write for such a small group, where everything is very exposed and you can feel every player’s breath and touch with their instrument. The film will be released next year with a soundtrack album to follow.
Thanks to Ray Costa and Costa Communications for facilitating this interview.
AMORE E LIBERTA, MASANIELLO/Marco Werba/Rosetta Soundtrack Records
Marco Werba composed a poignant and dignified score for this 2006 Italian historic drama, which tells the true story of Tommaso Aniello d’Amalfi, better known as Masaniello, a Neapolitan fishmonger who became leader of the revolt against the rule of Habsburg Spain in Naples in 1647. The film’s director, Angelo Antonucci, was impressed by Werba’s score for IL CONTE DI MELISSA, which also takes place in the 17th Century, and brought him onto the project but asked that noted composer Francis Lai create a love theme that would be central to the score (the film’s English translation is Love of Freedom). Werba, a master of sumptuous, orchestral melodies himself, relished the opportunity to orchestrate and integrate Lai’s theme into his own score for the movie, which also features three of Werba’s own exquisite themes; the combined integration of the four themes is quite impressive. Performed by the Bulgarian Symphonic Orchestra, the score favors horns, piano, guitars, and flutes over a delectable bed of strings, along with selected usage of the orchestra’s choir. It’s a richly nuanced performance that is instantly likable and affecting in its serene harmonic interaction. CAM had originally released a small number of promo copies which quickly ran out; the new European label Rosetta arranged to release the soundtrack in a newly-mastered edition. The package includes an 8-page booklet with background notes by Frederic Torres as well as Werba, who describes his experiences scoring the film (the notes are in both English and Spanish).
For more information, including sample tracks, see rosetta soundtrack
Werba has posted on his youtube page two scenes from the film which feature “Masaniello’s Theme (Love of Freedom)” and “Revolt and Madness Theme.” Watch below:
ANCIENT ALIENS/Dennis McCarthy & Others/La-La Land – cd
La-La Land Records, Prometheus Entertainment, and History Channel present the original score to the television series ANCIENT ALIENS, which for twelve seasons between 2009 and 2018 examined planet Earth’s biggest mysteries with exciting musical drama and suspense. The series’ spellbinding scores have been a key component of the show’s investigations. This release assembles some of the program’s score highlights and is loaded with thrilling cues from such composers as Dennis McCarthy, Allan Paul Ett, Jeffrey Hayat, Kieran Kieley, Michael Keely, William Ashford, Logue Ihn, Patrick O’Neil, and William Pearson. The participation of McCarthy, known for his 18 years of television STAR TREK scoring, provides his expertise on driving, progressive music, while the others – all TV/film music veterans of at least a decade or more’s experience – contribute a variety of atmospheres, melodic interludes, sonic tension, and the like. All of the album tracks are credited to at least two composers, suggesting that the tracks were either all composed in collaboration or, more likely, the tracks are comprised of a variety of shorter cues composed individually and joined together. In any case, the music is a quite engaging mix of synths and samples, and it’s all propulsive, coherently orchestrated, exciting work that makes for a fulfilling listen on its own.
For more details and sample tracks, see: la-la land records.
THE BANNER SAGA 3/Austin Wintory/ T-65b Records - digital
Hot on the heels of last month’s release of his Norwegian game score for PODE [see last column’s Game Score news, or just watch a sample video here], Austin Wintory’s third and final Banner Saga game score soundtrack has been released to his Bandcamp page and other digital music sources. The Banner Saga is a fantasy tactical RPG developed by Stoic Studio and published by Versus Evil. Taking place in a fictional world inspired by Norse mythology and Viking culture, the game tells the story of the player’s caravan as its members combat a warlike race named Dredge. Wintory’s highly textural orchestral/vocal score for these games draws from Icelandic voicings and Norwegian musical styles. The score, performed by the London Studio Symphony, is clearly a vital component of the gameplay, energizing the story and its interactive battles and character nuances. Wintory’s harmonic timbres give the game’s sound much of its grit and sonic realism as its low horns, trudging percussive patterns, and deep vocalisms enrich the verisimilitude of the environment and its peoples. As the curtain opens on this game, the caravan is facing desperation as a pervasive darkness is saturating the world and the outlook is pretty bleak for the exhausted survivors; a feeling Wintory saturates into the brooding texture and fatigued cadence of his opening musical pieces. But, like the previous game scores, Banner Saga 3 is a progressive journey as players experience the savagery of battle, depths of despair, and finally muster a courageous push toward victory at the saga’s conclusion. On its own in this generous soundtrack assembly (79 minutes of music), the score’s low, sonic grain befits the orchestral pitch and the fatigued condition of the caravan, yet it moves forward with passion and determination, leading the group on to a very satisfying denouement. For its musical journey alone, taking in all three scores, Wintory’s Banner Saga bolsters the magnificent world and the mighty, heroic yet intrinsically human characters whose personalities, interaction, and adventures are the soul of the game and the appeal for the player. His music enlivens the land and the travelers as well as the struggles and victories they undergo and persevere against, making The Banner Saga as a whole a gloriously epic musical fable of ancient civilizations and honorable communities of men and women struggling to overcome the threats of wicked adversaries. “It’s difficult to know what to say about this game or franchise after spending the last six years basking in it,” Wintory wrote on his Bandcamp page. “To call it one of the best experiences of my life is certainly accurate, but it’s more than that. Few projects have ever catapulted my personal growth as an artist more than these have, and the 3rd title probably the most of all.”
Watch this mix of game cinematics and scoring session clips:
And head over to youtube to enjoy this very cool look at the soloists whose voices and musicianship flavor the Banner Saga so superbly, here.
For more details, to sample some of the tracks, or to order, see Wintory’s Bandcamp page.
CARNIVAL OF SORROWS/Hans Michael Anselmo Hess/Promotional – cd
Hans Michael Anselmo Hess is an award-winning Brazilian-born British film composer based in Bristol, UK. Since 2014, Hans has been commissioned to work as a film composer for different media productions on a regular basis. He recently completed scoring Alex Bourne’s feature horror film CLOWNFACE, about a deranged serial killer who terrorizes the residents of a small town. CARNIVAL OF SORROWS is a new horror film directed by Mark Adams involving fictional demonologist and supernatural investigator Gabriel Cushing in a tale drawn from classic British horror, ‘80s macabre fantasy, and contemporary supernatural investigation narratives. As Cushing and his partner delve deeper into the disturbing past of a supernatural Carnival they “find frightening portents of its future while with each step they fall further into a world inhabited by demonic clowns, freakish living dolls, and other twisted creatures” (-filmfreeway.com). Hess’s score opens with a carnivalesque lullaby that is given a slightly eerie tinge; growling horns and heavy drums at high volume soon replace the delicate tinkling at the cue’s start, surely a sign that this is no friendly carnival visit we are about to undertake. The motif continues into the next track, “Jenny’s Torment,” and reappears as a recurring motive throughout the score in a variety of arrangements that are often used to set up spookier dissonances that follow – “Welcome to My Carnival,” for example, adds a hefty chorus and ultra-low and reverbed piano arpeggios to the lullaby mix, while “The Clown” emerges out of the lullaby music to describe the demonic clowns in a heart-pounding progression of wicked melodies and rhythms that quite potently exude an tonality of inherent malevolence. A powerful forewarning of violence is conveyed in “Tenebris Auditorium,” using deep, growling synth chords combined with heavy low brass, giving the moment a tremendous sense of apprehension. “These two pallets of sounds play the theme of the demon’s name,” Hess explained. A similar motif, created from slowed-down and enhanced cello figures, gives “Let Them In” its surrealistically dangerous authority; “Seven Sacrifices” is an immense cloud of sound design, rising synths and low bass rumbles, eerie voicings, pounding drum beats and more, which morphs into a web of disconsolate string lines before being driven by those recurring drums into sonic oblivion. There’s a lot going on in this score, and the music grants the listener a disturbingly anxious journey through its hellishly fearsome festivals. There are 43 mostly short tracks on the album, totaling 1 hour 40 minutes of music. It’s quite a compelling score which fits together well. Hess is quite adept at conveying the sound of symphonic instruments via a virtual orchestra, and his sound design is enhanced by a variety of synths, pads, and sonic effects.
A number of Hess’ soundtracks are available for purchase from his web site. CARNIVAL OF SORROWS will be available on CD in September – check the composer’s web site for work-in-progress news; it will be updated when the CD is available – or check my September column. This just in, CARNIVAL OF SORROWS won “Best Score” at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Awards.
Listen to Hess’s track “Jenny’s Torment” from CARNIVAL OF SORROWS:
THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX/Bear McCreary/Sparks & Shadows – cd
This is a scientifically absurd but quite engrossing science fiction thriller that follows up and serves as a kind of link between both CLOVERFIELD and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (a semi-sequel that takes place shortly after the events of the first film). Set before, during and after the events of the original CLOVERFIELD, the film follows a team of astronauts who are left stranded in space after they perform a test of their enormous particle accelerator that unexpectedly shifts them into another dimension, where bad things happen (a fourth film, tentatively titled OVERLORD and taking place during World War II, is now filming for release later this year). Bear McCreary (who also scored 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) has composed here what may be his finest orchestral film score since 2013’s EUROPA REPORT. From its introductory overture, McCreary’s score is a ferocious one. Fully orchestral (recorded with a 90-piece orchestra), predominantly aggressive, claustrophobically tense, rhythmically propelling, and creepily sinewy, the score keeps the focus on the emotional drama, the increasing level of danger affecting the cast, and that cast’s character interaction (and off of the wonky science). The soothing, emotive “Ava’s Theme,” provides harmonic beauty and welcome musical respite for the lead character in between all the distressing peril in its warm chorale comfort. THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a compelling work on disc and a commanding musical treatment that may well prompt the listener to stand up and air-conduct along with the music (or maybe that was just me…). The CD insert features notes by McCreary about the scoring process of what he describes as his most technically difficult score to date. “Even the film’s frequently used Main Theme… was deceptively difficult,” he wrote. “Quick string phrases required extreme precision from every member of the orchestra. The frequent rhythmic gaps instantly revealed any performance errors… And the Main Theme was a breeze compared to the Shepherd Theme… with its rapid ‘particle wave’ effect in the strings. At the climax… I even added an extreme tempo acceleration to it, but the tireless orchestral musicians never faltered [and] the long, sustained chorales of the intimate Ave Theme… challenged the world class singers.” McCreary has successfully made the jump from television composer to feature film composer and this complicated and sophisticated work ought to be a must-have in any comprehensive soundtrack collection.
Autographed copies are still available (exclusively) through La-La Land Records.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS/Brian Tyler/WaterTower Music – cd and digital
Brian Tyler’s latest score is a wondrous mix of elegant, heartfelt romantic music, traditional Asian music, and wildly propulsive old school big band jazz. The result is one of the year’s most engaging and spirited scores that bursts with life and love and fills Jon M. Chu’s delightful romcom with an air of honest passion and swing-band dance-floor excitement that is as affecting as it is dazzling. “Jon and I wanted to really make a splash with this score in a way that touched upon the classic film style of the great romantic comedies of old Hollywood with the charisma and beauty of Asian culture,” explained the composer. “The idea of combining the spontaneity of jazz with the scope of classic orchestra was a dream. That kind of musicianship on hand combined with such a wide sonic palette enabled me to represent both the sophistication of the crazy rich characters in the film as well as the deep emotional resonance of the central love story. The jazz music provided a fun wild throwback tone and the strings brought the main themes to life in a way that articulates both the love and loss in relationships - familial and romantic.” In addition to Tyler’s primary themes, the splendid “Love Theme” and his main swing number, introduced in “Text Ting Swing,” several subordinate pieces provide delicious romantic airs, including the piano-and-string motif introduced in “Astrid and the Earrings,” the enchanting “Arrival in Singapore,” which circles back to segue into a quiet rendition of the love theme, the thoughtfully pensive “Choices,” and the sumptuous rhythmical ebb-and-flow of “Cousin Eddie and Cousin Alistair,” the introspective ringing gongs over strings in “Family First,” the carefree whistling over sax, snare, and strings in “Lunch on the Goh,” the decisively panic-driven “Running Away,” and the comforting resolve of “Because of Me.” Other splendid large orchestra/big band numbers include the eloquent “Rainy Nights in London,” the wildly delightfully Mancini/Schifrin-esque “Shopping Spree,” and the joyous reprise of “Text Ting Swing” in the closer, “Jubilee Bop.” Tyler has eagerly embraced the new opportunities found in the film and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable and emotive and crazily rich score that can surely be counted among his best work.
Watch a scoring session video from CRAZY RICH ASIANS posted on Brian Tyler’s youtube page:
CRAZY RICH ASIANS songtrack/Various/WaterTower Music – cd and digital
Kudos to director John M. Chu and music supervisor Gabe Hilfer for setting up one of the most stimulating and creative songtrack collections I’ve enjoyed in recent years. Following the release of Brian Tyler’s score album, WaterTower has issued a thoroughly entertaining and infectiously fun mix of songs used in the film. The album contains 14 of them, ranging from performances in nightclubs and parties attended by the film’s characters, as well as songs heard over dramatic scenes in the film. Especially likable are uniquely Asian-language/styled covers of classics like “Money (That’s What I Want)” (sung in Mandarin Chinese by Malaysian singer Cheryl K, and later in English by Cheryl K and Awkwafina), Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (sung by Japanese–American singer Kina Grannis), Coldplay’s “Yellow” (sung by Katherine Ho), and Madonna’s “Material Girl” (sung by Sally Yeh). Especially striking are Jasmine Chen’s “Give Me a Kiss” (sample it here), Grace Chang’s “Wo Yao Ni De Ai,” an absolutely delicious take on the jump blues classic, “I Want Your Love - I Want You To Be My Baby” (sample it here; a second, more formal version is also included, from a different scene, by Jasmine Chen), “Do You Understand” by Lilan Chen, and VaVa and Ty.’s brilliantly marvelous mix of hip-hop and Chinese opera in "My New Swag" (sample it here). And much more. The covered songs are given an irresistibly catchy sound and arrangement to fit the Chinese language of the film. The digital version of the song soundtrack is available now; a CD version is promised on Sept 28th (order it here from amazon).
DESTINATION WEDDING/William Ross/Lakeshore – digital
William Ross’s latest score is for this endearing romantic comedy that reunites Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, A SCANNER DARKLY, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE) in a skewed tale of the socially awkward Frank (Keanu) and Lindsay (Winona) who meet on their way to a mutual friends’ destination wedding in California’s Paso Robles wine country. They soon discover they have a lot in common: both hate the bride, the groom, the wedding, themselves, and most especially each other. While their snarkiness isolates Frank and Lindsay from the other guests, the weekend’s events conspire to repeatedly force the unlikely pair together. Guess what happens? Ross’s score is a pleasant and likable one providing the frothy niceness the story necessitates and turning in lots of a very pleasing music in the process. His main theme and subordinate tunes captures a rather Chaplin-esque air, comprised of the style of infectious melodic coloration one might expect to hear in LIMELIGHT or SMILE. A number of the cues are derived or adapted from recognizable tunes given an especially appealing sunniness which plays against the dour grumpiness of Lindsay and Frank; then it plays along with their growing romance once it finally blooms. In one perspective, the score might be taking the place of the wedding band, going through a quaint repertoire of tasteful and danceable tunes for the guests. In so doing, Ross carries the central falling-in-love-in-spite-of-themselves storyline quite nicely, with gentle piano, acoustic guitar, and accordion doing most of the melodic heavy lifting. The soundtrack’s opening number, “Photosynthesis,” is quite a grabber – a double bass-led piano blues that lets the bass rhythm and light snare drum take the first half of the track before the light jazzy piano melody sneaks in; I defy any listener not to automatically nod in step with that rhythmic bass pulse. There’s also a jaunty St. Louis Blues variation in “Frank Snoring,” introduced on solo trumpet and plucked guitar, which is then taken by accordion over strummed acoustic guitar; its tune is quite provocative. Ross catches the right mood every time and gives the couple just the kind of melody that plays straight man to the film’s mild comedy, creating a very entertaining musical treatment.
DRÔLES DE PETITES BÊTES/Bruno Coulais/Quartet Records – cd
This soundtrack came out last December but I didn’t have a chance to listen to it until recently. A colorful anthropomorphic animal movie, known in English as Tall Tales from the Magical Garden of Antoon Krings, is a French-language animated fantasy about a cricket named Apollo who is a swindler, and as such he quickly disrupts life for the populace when he arrives at the village of small animals; as a consequence this cheating chirper is soon charged with the kidnapping of their queen on the eve of her jubilee. Bruno Coulais (MICROCOSMOS, LES CHORISTES, CORALINE), provides a delicately enchanting orchestral confluence around the scoundrel Apollo’s activities that ranges from fragile melodies to dance hall numbers, engaging misterioso and propulsive action; it is brimming with interactive leitmotifs for every major character and is refreshingly bright and colorful, while maintaining a purposeful focus on the story and the character arcs. Most enjoyable.
GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE/Takayuki Hattori/
Toho Records - cd
The 33rd film in the Godzilla franchise, the 31st Godzilla film produced by Toho (distributed in the US on Netflix), and the second entry in current anime trilogy. It is a sequel to 2017’s GODZILLA: PLANET OF THE MONSTERS and is co-directed by K?bun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita. The first animated film dealt with members of the remaining human population returning to Earth after having been exiled for 20,000 years to avoid the havoc caused by Godzilla and other kaiju, only to find that Godzilla is still there, and has never stopped growing. The second film continues the story as the human explorers, recovering from their defeat by the gigantic Godzilla in the first film, discover a new species of indigenous humanoid creatures called Houtua (surviving descendants of the humans) who have a strong spiritual connection with the planet and worship a mysterious giant egg. The animation is quite amazing and gives the film a thoroughly grand quality to its spectacular charisma. Takayuki Hattori (GODZILLA 2000 and the 2017 animated movie) returns with the film’s orchestral musical score, which is suitably muscular in nature with the harmonic weight of a full orchestral sound. The music enlivens both the slower-moving planning moments of the film’s first two-thirds, as well as propelling the furious action of the film’s extended and explosive final battle with equal measures of support. The composer provides some intriguing ethnic and vocal textures for the film’s earlier moments of exploration and discovery, some brooding, dramatic motifs as conflicts arrive between the humans who have stayed behind in their transport spacecraft, those who have stayed on the planet to face Godzilla, and the alien race of Bilusaludo which are allied with the humans. Hattori provides an interesting bit of business, reflecting an enlarging misterioso when they discover the remnants of MechaGodzilla, whose nanometal remnants may give them a decisive advantage over Godzilla; there is also a very sweet piano, flute, and strings love theme, “Haruo and Yuko,” which offers a respite from the dramatic and battle music. Then the score gears up as the film’s entire third portion consists of a massive battle between the humans and the awakened Godzilla, which prompts the score’s most propulsive, spectacular, and massively melodic orchestral/electronic rhythmic action music. The story ends with a meaningful spoiler as the hero learns that there is a greater threat than just enormous Godzilla, which along with an earlier tidbit, gives us two delicious hints of what the third film of the trilogy, GODZILLA THE PLANET EATER (due on Nov. 9th, 2018 and with a score by Hattori) will have in store. The score overall is a superior work in the Godzilla canon, as powerful if not quite as solemn as the kind of depths frequently tread by Akira Ifukube, and it’s musical journey from start to end on this album is very invigorating and pleasing. (The CD single, featuring the song “The Sky Falls” sung by Xai and heard in an earlier trailer for the movie, is not included in this album.)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – the 1988 Series/Lalo Schifrin & Ron Jones/
La-La Land Record – cd
Having already provided a comprehensive 6-CD box set of music from the original 1966-1973 Paramount espionage TV series, La-La Land Records focuses on the 1988-1991 revival series in this 2-disc set. Lalo Schifrin returned to the new series to provide a somewhat more percussive and electronic arrangement of his original M:I theme. He also scored three episodes himself and contributed a number of new themes along with the newly-arranged main theme and “The Plot” from the original series. After that he brought in a young protégé named Ron Jones, already known as one of the primary composers for Paramount’s STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, who scored six episodes (assisted on one by Velton Ray Bunch and Jerry Grant) and then served as music supervisor for the remainder of episodes, most of which were scored by John E. Davis. This collection includes music from all of Schifrin’s and Jones scores, along with full and abridged versions of the main and end title themes from the series. Jones’ scores are distinctive from Schifrin’s in that they’re a little more overtly electronically-based, but his use of Schifrin’s themes keeps them closely oriented to the traditional M:I sound design. The episode scores’ use of jazz, pop, and electronica musical idioms properly adhere to the show’s musical format, while providing a fresh take on the new series which is appropriate and pleasing to listen to as an alternate, but not too far distant, variation on the original series’ sound, and the album makes for a very likable listening experience.
THE NINTH PASSENGER/Scott Glasgow with Theron Kay/
Fourteen Kings Music - digital
Composer Scott Glasgow has released his latest score, THE NINTH PASSENGER, on his personal label, Fourteen Kings Music. The film begins as an industrial espionage thriller that takes place on board a luxury yacht until it suddenly takes on a horror film semblance as an unknown presence emerges to pick off the others, one by one. This is a replacement score in which Glasgow was hired to compose and record a new score from scratch – within ten days. Due to the short time frame, Glasgow brought in a former student from one of his university lecture classes, Theron Kay, to help out, knowing Kay was up for the challenge. “I decided that Theron should take on the espionage story line arc while I worked on the ‘monsters’ side of the film,” Glasgow wrote in his digital liner notes. “I gave Theron some musical building materials with a theme and some reoccurring chords, as well as a couple of my own sounds with musical directions to work with.” The film’s producer had previous success with the 2014 horror film IT FOLLOWS, and wanted a similar type of synth sound to the music for this film. The score works well and creates a compelling listen on its own, creating a firm amount of tension from two sources – a variety of insistent synth pads supplemented by highly reverberant, ringing tonalities and voicings on Kay’s part, and the stronger, more effusive textural sound designs created by Glasgow and heard once the film has shed its mainstream thriller guise and unleashed its supernatural entity upon the hapless yacht partiers (moments ferociously enlivened via Glasgow’s multi-dimensional and musical layered designs). Both components are highly compelling and merge together nicely to create a consistent sonic anxiety that feeds from the anxiously worrisome into the harrowingly horrific.
Watch the film’s trailer on IMDB here.
Q – THE WINGED SERPENT/Robert O. Ragland/Kronos Records – cd
Robert O. Ragland was an excellent yet sadly undervalued composer who composed the music for a number of fun B-movies in the 1970s, including THE TOUCH OF SATAN (1971), THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972), ABBY (1974, aka BLACK EXORCIST), William Girdler’s GRIZZLY (1976) and PROJECT KILL (1980), but my favorite has always been his surging monster music for Larry Cohen’s nostalgic 1982 B-movie, Q – THE WINGED SERPENT. The film featured a fine cast (Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, and Richard Roundtree), great stop-motion special effects by animators David Allen, Peter Kuran, and others, and all of it was held together by Ragland’s compelling and traditional monster movie music. It’s an evocative fantasy score featuring a memorable main theme for female soprano (mimicking a Theremin-type sound) doubled by high synthesizer notes over a lower bed of churning electronica and bridged by rapid, fluttery woodwinds and strings. This splendid theme, which is often used most effectively during Cohen’s perspective shots of the Quetzalcoatl creature flying above and between New York’s concrete forest of skyscrapers, is balanced by some punchy brass and synthesizer chase music, the two motifs frequently interplaying among one another. While the bulk of the score is comprised of some terrific action and suspense cues, the composition is impressively held together by those primary motifs. Ragland effectively captured the same kind of affectionate homage to 1950s B-movie music that Cohen and his special stop-motion effects team tried to evoke in the film itself. Originally issued on LP with a 21-track program by Cerberus Records in 1983; it was reissued by CAM of Italy in 1996 (adding an extra track by essentially repeating the main title at the end). Kronos has now reissued the soundtrack in an expanded program of 40 tracks, including the two songs and many previously unreleased cues, allowing Ragland’s variations and different nuances and treatments to be heard in full force. Highly recommended – but the CD is limited to 300 copies which are selling fast, so don’t wait too long.
For more details, to order, or to sample some of the tracks, see www.kronosrecords.com/KG30.html
SHOCK AND AWE/Jeff Beal/Varèse Sarabande - cd
In 2003, the White House administration made a case for the invasion of Iraq. The facts didn’t add up, and only one team of journalists got the story right. SHOCK AND AWE is the true story of these journalists, and what it is like to hunt for the truth when the stakes are life, death, and American democracy. Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal’s music for the Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS provided a very real pedigree for scoring such a real life political drama, which Varèse Sarabande has now released as a soundtrack CD. There’s a little bit of his HOUSE OF CARDS rhythm and hue discernable in his SHOCK AND AWE music, although in actuality Beal found himself more influenced by John Williams (especially his score to Oliver Stone’s JFK) as he conceived and developed the score. “Legendary director Rob Reiner used archival footage of George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld, to chilling effect, much like Oliver Stone did in JFK,” said Beal. “I imagine that SHOCK AND AWE is a bit of homage to his work; orchestral, harmonically complex, and using the tropes of ‘patriotic music’ trumpet, brass, drums, but with a sense of loss, gravitas and ache.”
Given the strained relationship between the press and politicians the past few years, the message of the film became very timely. “Rob started making SHOCK AND AWE before the 2016 presidential election, By the time we were in post, Trump had won the presidency, and we all felt the message of the film was even more important and relevant, given the current debates about ‘fake news’ and objective facts.”
The score is richly harmonic and carries an air of the inevitable – as unhurried, forward-moving rhythmic structures resonate above fast-moving Mercado string maneuvers, suggesting the ongoing confluence of power, influence, and self-importance. “Our film celebrates the real life journalists heroes who were striving to debunk the false information of Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ used to justify the 2003 Iraq War, in the wake of 9/11,” Beal described. “Even though our film is essentially a docudrama, it also plays very much like a political thriller â la ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN and I wanted to write a visceral, suspenseful, and emotionally invested score.”
LA SORCIÈRE (THE BLONDE WITCH)/Norbert Glanzberg/
Disques Cinemusique – cd, digital to come
Composer Norbert Glanzberg (1910-2001) migrated from his native Poland to Paris during the Second World War where he became a prolific composer for popular singers like Edith Piaf. In parallel, he worked as a composer for the screen, writing about thirty film scores from 1938 to 1968. LA SORCIÈRE (The Blonde Witch aka The Sorceress), from 1956, remains the best known. The film is about the idyllic relationship between Laurent Brulard, a French engineer assigned to a construction site in Sweden, and the young girl Aino, who lives in the forest with her aunt, and who is accused of being a witch by the superstitious villagers. Glanzberg makes the most of the tragic story with a 19th Century fashioned orchestral score rich in bright colors, delightful scherzos, and a memorable love theme for flute and strings, with a touch of minor keys as the influence of the devout condemn Aino on behalf of their own sacred piety. The album contains Glanzberg’s original recording of the sung love theme (“Chanson de Aino”), salvaged from the film itself with the relevant background sound effects but nonetheless quite lovely; while the rest of the score has been elegantly and authentically recreated digitally by Robert Lafond. The score as a whole is a delightful and agreeable mix of light and fanciful melodies, despite the story’s bittersweet romance. Many of the cues assume dancelike formats of one kind of another, giving the score, until the end, a beautifully positivity. A bold main theme sounds from a trumpet in the opening titles (“Générique La Sorcière”), while the love theme is elegantly introduced in “Arrivée de Laurent au village” (Laurent Arrives in the Village) and reappears in several guises, including the vocal song of “Chanson de Aino.” One of Glanzberg’s most attractive themes appears in a waltz format, introduced in “Le rapprochement” (The Rapprochement), reprises in the second half of “Thème d’amour et poursuite” (Love Theme and Pursuit) and again in “Les oiseaux en liberté”/Freedom of the Birds). Another provocative waltz that plays over a café scene is “Valse au café.” “Escapade en ville” (Getaway to the City) is another infectiously lively cue. The tone shifts perceptively with the more disconsolate and dramatic “Retour au village – Rivalité” (Return to the village – Rivalry); even a reprise of the love theme receives a dark and bittersweet formality in “Tu seras ma femme” (Will You Be My Wife), while film and score conclude with “Attaque des villageois – Final” (Attack of the Village – Finale). To fill out the album, the label has included the full content of the 5-track soundtrack EP release to LES BATELIERS DE LA VOLGA (Prisoner of the Volga), a drama that Glanzberg scored in 1959. With its Russian setting, these tracks consist of choral or solo sung Russian folk songs, with the main theme reprised in a melancholy orchestral variation. While I found the orchestral renditions primarily of interest (the vocals less so), the album as a whole is a striking introduction to the music of Norbert Glanzberg, whose command of captivating melodies and orchestration to be quite impressive. Disques Cinemusique’s 38-minute CD presentation is available in a limited edition of 500 copies, and includes an 8-page booklet with liner notes by the label’s producer Clément Fontaine. A digital/streaming edition will be made available by the end of December.
To order or listen to sample tracks, see https://www.disquescinemusique.com/dcm-377
TIMELESS/Robert Duncan/Varese Sarabande
Robert Duncan (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Season 7, CASTLE) scores the on again/off again NBC series about a team that attempts to stop a mysterious organization from changing the course of American history through time travel. The album features music from a number of the show’s episodes, although Duncan has grouped the tracks by location and timeline (i.e., “Louisiana, 1934” and “Pennsylvania 1754”) rather than by the actual episode titles (i.e., “Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde” and “Stranded,” respectively), which can be a mite confusing if one is correlating music to episode. Duncan’s main title sequence is not included for the simple reason that it only lasts 5 seconds; instead his longer arrangement of the same theme for the End Credits, at 33 seconds, concludes the album nicely. Occasionally Duncan will infuse an episode score with the marcato string motif from his main theme for moments associated with the team or their time-traveling technology. The varying episode scores make for some excellent musical treatments, although Duncan, scoring the drama rather than the locale or time period, maintains a consistent orchestral sound and refrains from using ethnic or period music. But it does mean that the varied situations call for a variety of dramatic music, and this recording is full of sturdy and enthralling dramatic action music. That quality is further enhanced – and unusually for a TV series – by having the music performed by the renowned City of Prague Philharmonic, and is thus of especially high quality.
Film and TV composer Neil Argo has died in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter on August 2nd. “His résumé included DYNASTY, BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 and MELROSE PLACE as well as the PBS documentary program WILD AMERICA,” wrote reporter Mike Barnes. “Argo also did music for MELROSE PLACE, THE COLBYS, HOTEL, BURKE’S LAW and HEARTS ARE WILD — like DYNASTY and 90210, shows from Aaron Spelling’s production company — as well as for a new version of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and MACGYVER.”
Barnes’ quotes WILD AMERICA’s producer Marty Stouffer, who said in a statement: “Neil had the ability to cut to the core of a scene in a surprising and touching way. And he could express universal emotions that we really hadn’t picked up on as yet.” Argo was the main composer on WILD AMERICA, with additional composers brought in to help. Kronos Records issued a soundtrack of Argo’s music (and others) from the series in 2016. Other scores of Argo’s that were preserved on CD include the 1997 TV documentary, SKELETON COAST SAFARI and the 2008 crime thriller, P.J.
Argo was a very affable gentleman and a friend to many on Facebook. I was honored to have been asked to write the notes for his WILD AMERICA soundtrack CD and to have shared many emails with him in recent years. RIP Neil. – rdl
SoundTrack_Cologne 15, this last August 22-26th, has delivered the following awards: The winner of the European Talent Competition (WDR Filmscore Award) is Ben Winkler (he wins a one-day recording session of one of his own compositions with the WDR Funkhausorchester), with Anna Krstajic receiving an Honorable Mention and Susanne Hardt a Special Mention. The competition participants were tasked with creating a new world of music and sound for a muted short film. Other awards included Celia Artacho Ruiz, who received the Prize for the Best Sound Design; and Mateja Stari? won the Peer Raben Music Award with her music for the film, THE BOX.
During the award ceremony composer Craig Armstrong (SNOWDEN, MOULIN ROUGE!, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) received SoundTrack_Cologne’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The members of the jury were Torben Seemann, Sound Supervisor, Mixer and CEO of Chaussee SoundVision, composers Joseph Trapanese and Mathieu Lavoie, and director Olga Chajdas. Since its very beginning the European Talent Award is a central event of SoundTrack_Cologne.
Composers Max Aruj and Steffen Thum have created a musical voice to the world’s largest yearly pilgrimage in the desert, Burning Man, for Director Ryan Moore’s short documentary film, IGNITE. Emmy nominated and Grammy winning composer Lorne Balfe, served as the film’s score producer and consultant. Aruj and Thum were introduced to Moore through Balfe, who composed the director’s previous documentary, MANNY (about legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao). “Ryan’s desire for the music was toevoke a feeling of awe and wonderment; this led us to use a largely orchestral palette,” explained Aruj. “Burning Manis a uniquely emotional journey for every participant, which we are portraying in a musical arc. Modern electronic sounds became useful for us to create textures that reflect the harsh environment of heat and dust, that become an unlikely home to people from all over the world.” Thum adds: “We were fortunate to record live strings and brass at Synchron Stage in Vienna. Expressive string melodies and brass fanfares became the heart of the score, giving a feeling of grandeur, reminding one of romantic classical concert music. We are blending these traditional colors with modern synthesizers. During a scene in the film, we see wild cage fighters next to people falling in love. Capturing opposites like these are a key element in IGNITE.”
Aruj recently composed the score for N’cee Van Heerden’s O.I. and Michael Reilly’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, starring Whoopi Goldberg. He also served as score producer for Lorne Balfe’s THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING. He is the composer of Well Played Studios’ Virtual Reality gaming platform RIPPLE EFFECT. Thum recently scored Matt Routledge’s MANIPULATION and the upcoming TV series’ MACHIAVELLI. He additionally served as score producer for Lorne Balfe’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT and GEOSTORM, and contributed additional music to National Geographic’s TV series GENIUS: PICASSO and iTV’s MARCELLA. As frequent collaborators, Aruj and Thum’s joint scoring credits include Netflix’s IBOY (starring Maisie Williams), the upcoming thriller WARNING SHOT (with David Spade, Bruce Dern), TAKE THE SHOT, and Warner Bros.’ short RESURRECT.
In a story posted Thursday by Film Music Reporter, Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has been named as composer for the upcoming and as-yet untitled Joker origin movie, based on Batman’s arch-nemesis from the DC Comics. Guðnadóttir has been scoring films since 2007, and worked closely with Jóhann Jóhannsson on projects including 2015’s SICARIO; she recently scored its sequel SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO after Jóhannsson’s unexpected death last January [see my review and commentary on her score in my last column].
The Joker movie is said to be set in Gotham City in the early 1980s, and centers on how the popular comic book villain and Batman nemesis The Joker came to be. Joaquin Phoenix stars in the title role, alongside Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, and Marc Maron, with Todd Phillips (WAR DOGS, THE HANGOVER, OLD SCHOOL, STARSKY & HUTCH) who will direct the film based on the DC Comics character. The film is scheduled for an October 4, 2019 released through Warner Bros. Pictures.
As the SHARKNADO franchise surfaced last week for a final entry with THE LAST SHARKNADO: IT’S ABOUT TIME on August 19th, the Musique Fantastique web site celebrated with an exclusive Sharknado Score Retrospective featuring a look back at the six films in the series – and their scores. From Ramin Kousha’s music to the first film, and The Asylum’s own Chris Ridenhour and Christopher Cano (and their team) taking the musical reins for the last five films in the colossal carcharodon continuation, the film scores have established an epic, propulsive, and thematic blend of digital and live orchestral accompaniment that gave life to even the most preposterously absurd situations any comic-epic ever flung out of a tornado full of sharks. For the momentous occasion, Musique Fantastique has joined Chris’s Ridenhour & Cano for a comprehensive examination of their musical journey through the SHARKNADO infestation and safely (we hope) out the other side.
Read the Musique Fantastique Sharknado Score Retrospectivehere.
Ian Hultquist (LOVE AND BANANAS: AN ELEPHANT STORY, ASSASSINATION NATION) has scored A.X.L., the new movie about a top-secret, robotic dog created by the military to help protect tomorrow’s soldiers. After an experiment gone wrong, A.X.L. (Attack, Exploration, Logistics) escapes and develops a special friendship with a kind-hearted outsider who rescues him and finds a way to connect with him via A.X.L.’s owner-pairing technology. Together, the two develop a special friendship, including facing off against the scientists who created him and who will do anything to get him back. Lakeshore Records has released a digital soundtrack on April 24th. Reportedly Apple Music will issue an exclusive version with bonus tracks. (See my review of Hultquist’s CLINICAL soundtrack in my April 2017 column.)
Lakeshore has also released John Debney’s new score, for the sports-related EA videogame, LONGSHOT: THE HOMECOMING. The digital soundtrack is available from amazon, iTunes, and other digital music sources.
Watch a video featuring samples from Debney’s score:
WaterTower Music has released the soundtrack to the science fiction action thriller THE MEG, directed by Jon Turteltaub (known for the NATIONAL TREASURE movies), and featuring a fine musical score by Golden Globe- and Grammy Award-nominated composer Harry Gregson-Williams. “For THE MEG, I set out to create a memorable recognizable sonic motif which follows the mystery of the great Megalodon - something robust in nature, which acted as a kind of warning call and instilled an immediate sense of fear and suspense when signaled,” said Gregson-Williams. “In search of this sound, I stumbled upon the conch as an instrument of musical focus. Its call was both distinctive and ancient, and I felt it offered a voice to the vast terror of a concealed underwater world.”
Note-for-Note Music has reissued the long out-of-print 2009 La-La Land Records premiere CD edition of Michel Legrand’s score for Robert Fuest’s 1970 film of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. “When the wonderful folks at La-La Land Records initially released this score in 2009, my first thought was interesting choice,” wrote the label’s Bryon Davis. “[I] never saw that adaptation of this classic story, but I LOVE Michel Legrand. When deciding what releases to add to our 2018 slate, this was one that we felt needed to be reissued. It’s such a beautiful, haunting and moving score, one we feel is among his best and most unheralded.”
For details see notefornotemusic.
Soundtrack.net has reported that Gabriel Yared’s score for THE HAPPY PRINCE will be released on September 21 by Plaza Mayor Company.
Sony Classical will release Alexandre Desplat’s score for OPERATION FINALE. The MGM film brings to life one of the most daring covert operations in modern history. Starring Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac and Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, the film vividly captures the ingenious and brilliantly executed mission to capture Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. “Writing a score for the abduction of Adolf Eichmann has been a tremendous challenge,” Desplat described. Director Chris Weitz “and I tried to bring the audience into the mind of the Mossad squad, struggling to succeed in one of the most famous chases of a Nazi official; a criminal with no regrets or remorse whatsoever, hidden in Argentina. Organizing the train transports of Jews throughout Europe and supervising their systematic killings in villages or forests were some of Eichmann’s tasks. The music I composed tries to modestly capture these elements of tragedy and madness. A group of 10 percussionists leads the London Symphony Orchestra into a Mephistophelian dance.” The soundtrack is now available for streaming, download, and on CD. MGM will distribute OPERATION FINALE theatrically on August 29.
In additional news, Alexandre Desplat will be returning for a rare sequel outing with THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2. Desplat dug up a fabulously jazzy and fun score for the first movie, and it shouldn’t be difficult to assume he’ll do the same with this. The film is scheduled for release on June 7 next year.?
Charlie Brigden, filmscoreweekly
Making its debut on Paramount Network this past June, the limited-run television series YELLOWSTONE chronicles the Dutton family, led by John Dutton (Kevin Costner), who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. Amid shifting alliances, unsolved murders, open wounds, and hard-earned respect – the ranch is in constant conflict with those it borders – an expanding town, an Indian reservation, and America’s first national park. The orchestral score by Brian Tyler has been released digitally and on CD by Sony Music. On his musical contribution to Yellowstone, Brian Tyler says, “It has been incredible working with amazing director Taylor Sheridan on this project. His artistic vision encouraged an unbounded approach to composition. The visual canvas and thematic narrative of Yellowstone inspired me to create music that is intimate, tragic, and impressionistic in ways I have never before thought possible. I worked with so many phenomenal musicians from around the world ranging from the London Philharmonia Orchestra to superb soloists on viola, cello, and fiddle to capture the human soul behind the story. I strove for composing music that would support the complexity of the story and its characters. The tone of the music needed to reflect melancholy, joy, regret, intensity, revenge, love, tragedy, and beauty all at the same time. The music echoes tones throughout by use of thematic melody that feels it is at the heart of an epic yet intimate saga, while at times creating atmosphere that pushes the boundary of where music and sound converge. Taylor created a magnificent world and music was a central part of his overall vision to give Yellowstone a unique identity.”
Get YELLOWSTONE on cd or digital here.
A recent NPR interview focused on composer Jocelyn Pook (EYES WIDE SHUT, THE WIFE) makes for a very worthwhile read, here.
– via tweet from Tim Greiving.
Marco Beltrami has scored his first documentary and it looks to be a film that will get its audience’s palms sweating and their hearts thundering in their chests. The documentary, FREE SOLO, is directed by world-renowned photographer Jimmy Chin and award-winning documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. Following up their collaboration on the rock climbing film MERU (2015), FREE SOLO tells the story of one of rock climbing’s most dynamic personalities, Alex Honnold, as he makes his attempt to scale the world’s most famous vertical rock face: Yosemite’s 3,200-foot El Capitan peak…and he does it as a free solo climb without a rope or net. The film will be premiering in September at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.
Watch the film’s trailer here.
BMG has digitally released the soundtrack to PAPILLON, by Emmy-nominated composer David Buckley. The film is a remake of the highly-regarded 1973 adventure drama, based on the international best-selling memoirs of Henri Charriere. “As soon as I was offered the job, I re-watched the original and listened to Jerry Goldsmith’s score,” Buckley explained. “I knew how much audiences loved his score (myself included), but I knew it would not inform what I was going to do on this new version. We knew we wanted something different for our film, but it was initially unclear what that should be. I was fairly certain that the score did not need to overtly comment on the violence and brutality already graphically displayed on screen; if anything, it would be useful to offer a counterpoint to that. And at that point we had the idea of making a boy choir a feature of the score. To that end, I was very pleased to be able to enlist Wells Cathedral Choir in England, one of the finest cathedral choirs in the world. In addition to the choir, I used organ, viola da gamba, solo cello, electric trumpet (often with the trumpeter singing through the mouthpiece) and electric violin. And to round this out, I used a full string orchestra.
“I would consider this score to be my closest thing to an ‘art score.’ I’ve worked on many thrillers and action films over the years, and quite often the job has been about providing pace or tension or pure adrenaline. With PAPILLON, I felt more than ever that the score could be its own character. Working on a remake is inherently tricky as the new will always be compared with the (revered) old. I think the beauty of this new film is that it will bring a classic to a newer audience.”
Hans Zimmer has signed on to score the upcoming superhero sequel WONDER WOMAN 1984. The film is directed by Patty Jenkins, who previously helmed last year’s WONDER WOMAN original movie (scored by Rupert Gregson-Williams) and stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal. The movie follows the title character as she comes into conflict with the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 1980s, and finds a formidable foe in the form of the Cheetah.
Spike Lee’s latest joint BLACKkKLANSMAN features music by longtime collaborator Terence Blanchard. Back Lot Music has released a digital soundtrack album of Blanchard’s mostly orchestral score. Available from iTunes and Amazon, and other usual sources.
Rosetta Records has released Jerome Levy’s score for the Asian ghost film, THE HOUSEMAID, for Vietnamese-American film director Derek Nguyen. The movie is a romantic horror film rooted in the ghosts popular in much of Asian folklore. “Jerome delivered a score that was frightening yet beautiful,” said Nguyen. “The music is so emotionally true to the characters in the film. It really enhanced its emotional core.”
“When I watched the film for the first time, I never questioned the fact that the estate was, in fact, haunted,” Leroy said. “The way the story is structured - and even though Linh, the titular character, doesn’t believe it at first -Madame Camille’s existence as a ghost is pretty much a fact. She has such a creepy yet compelling backstory! That really helped me, because I never felt that I had to ‘sell’ her - the film already did - so I could then focus on other important elements in the story. In a way, the story’s supernatural elements are not the focus, but rather the common thread making all those other elements work seamlessly together. Musically, I tried to follow that lead.”
For details, and sample tracks see rosetta soundtrack.
Watch an official music video for Leroy’s THE HANDMAID score (the youtube page will also link to other tracks from the score):
Alan Williams’s score for the 2017 documentary film TOXIC PUZZLE: HUNT FOR THE HIDDEN KILLER has won the Award of Excellence for Best Score at the Accolade Global Film Awards. Directed by Bo Landin and narrated by Harrison Ford, the film focuses on diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s, which are on the increase; scientists believe environmental toxins can trigger the disease in a gene/environment interaction. The film is a medical and environmental detective story in which documentary filmmaker Bo Landin follows ethnobotanist Dr Paul Alan Cox and his scientific team around the world as they hunt for the hidden killer.
Classical music label BIS Records of Sweden has released a two-CD set of Jeff Beal’s “House of Cards Symphony,” a long form symphony adaptation of his Emmy-award-winning music for the Netflix TV series. Beal has expanded his expressive score into ten thematic movements which fill the first CD. “Each of the ten symphonic movements is built around a thematic ides or character,” noted Joan Sapiro in her notes on the Symphony. “Rather than arranging these in a purely linear order, the symphony draws its own musical arc through the emotional and dramatic landscape of the Underwood’s Washington drama. The orchestrations and material have been expanded and developed to utilize the power of the full symphonic ensemble, while the core instruments of the HOUSE OF CARDS soundtrack remain: the electric bass, guitar, operatic voice, and flugelhorn.” This release, which includes SACD surround, SACD stereo, and CD stereo mixes on the same discs (which play on both CD and SACD players), was the idea of BIS Records’ founded and managing director, Robert van Bahr, who was quite taken by Beal’s soundtrack for the series. He commissioned Beal to compose a “Flute Concerto” based on elements of the score, for the virtuosic Sharon Bezaly. To complement the concerto a selection of music from the series was agreed upon, but with five seasons worth of installments to choose from, this quickly grew into a large-scale House of Cards Symphony which at 83 minutes takes up an album all on its own. So now the decision was made to record and present a lavish release, with three further works: “Six Sixteen” for guitar and orchestra (performed by Grammy winner Jason Vieaux), “Canticle” for strings, and a brand new “House of Cards Fantasy” for flute and orchestra. The music is performed by the internationally acclaimed Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the composer himself. The album is available via Naxos.
Varese Sarabande announces a limited-edition release of Gary Chang’s 1986 score to FIREWALKER. This long out-of-print soundtrack is making its debut on CD. Gary Chang’s score has been described by the L.A. Times as a “seductive, Latin-tinged score especially helpful in getting you in the escapist mood.”
Also new from Varese is a CD reissue of Nino Rota’s final score, the 1979 romantic adventure HURRICANE, previously issued on CD only in Europe back in 1995 from Alhambra, and long out of print. The score mixes elegant romantic orchestrations along with period jazz and is a lovely work.
And the label has released Trevor Yuile’s (ORPHAN BLACK) soundtrack for INTO THE BADLANDS, Season 2, which follows on their release of David Shepherd’s Season 1 soundtrack last April. The Yuile score album features 22 tracks of score and four songs from the season.
Harry Gregson-Williams is set to reteam with director Niki Caro on the upcoming live-action movie adaptation of Disney’s MULAN. The movie is based on the 1998 animated classic (scored by Jerry Goldsmith) and tells the story of a fearless young woman who masquerades as a man in order to fight Northern Invaders attacking China.
MARVEL RISING: SECRET WARRIORS, a new animated film premiering simultaneously on both Disney Channel and Disney XD on September 30th, is scored by Dynamic Music Partners, the expert composing team of Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis, and Kristopher Carter who are known for their stirring, muscular scores to animated super hero movies and series like BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE, TEEN TITANS, and many more. Walt Disney Records and Marvel Music have released “Born Ready,” an exclusive new single performed by Dove Cameron (DESCENDANTS 3, HAIRSPRAY LIVE) which is the theme song to the film. Here’s hoping a score album will follow as well, since the Dynamic Music Partners have been pretty consistent about having soundtrack CDs issued.
For more details, see musiquefantastique.
Film composer (THE LAST STARFIGHTER) Craig Safan has premiered a music video for “I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing” from his myth-inspired Sirens album. Safan’s music resonates with the Aegan sea spray of Greek legend. Sirens is an original composition, but his film music expertise certainly has been an influence. As with his 2015 album Rough Magic, Safan traveled back to the home of these ancient myths and, “visited the Aeolian Islands, exploring caves and ancient quarries, recording the natural sounds and the unique echoes and reverberations of each.” All to transport the listener through eons of myth to the heart of the first epic of western civilization, as easily as one would stroll to the neighborhood bar. Safan lures you to, "Close your eyes, let the present drop away, and dive into the world of Sirens, Odysseus, and your forgotten past.” Sirens is available through Varèse Sarabande.
Watch the video:
Lakeshore Records and Fangoria Presents have teamed up to release the soundtrack to PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, which features an original score by legendary Italian film composer Fabio Frizzi (Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND). The soundtrack was issued digitally on August 17th with a vinyl version forthcoming. Says Frizzi: “I started working early in film music. It was the beginning of the 70s, Italian cinema was very prosperous, and there were productions of all kinds. I remember that the common element among them was enthusiasm, a deep love for what is called the seventh art, and is for many producers, directors, screenwriters, and workers first of all, a passion. It’s been a long time, but Cinestate involved me in this new adventure, which has had many points in common with my early experience in film music. In each one of them I found that atmosphere, that enthusiasm, that strong passion for cinema. And I immediately felt at home. This score is dedicated to my brother Fabrizio, with whom I shared 60 years of fun and hopes.”
Read more at Musique Fantastique.
For more information read Daniel Schweiger’s very detailed interview with Frizzi about this score in Film Music Magazine
Italy’s Beat Records has just announced five brand new releases that will be available on the 10th of September:
BELLO, ONESTO, EMIGRATO AUSTRALIA SPOSEREBBE COMPAESANA ILLBATA (1971, A Girl in Australia) – a beautiful romantic comedy score by Piero Piccioni, expanded/remastered reissue.
LA CARICA DELLE PATATE (1979) – an adventure film about the rivalry between two children’s bands, scored by Francesco de Masi, First CD Release.
SONO SARTANA, IL VOSTRO BECCHINO (1969, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death – an Italian Western scored by Vasco Vassil Kojucharov
MUSIC FROM ROGER A. FRATTER MOVIES – collection of film scores by Massimo Numa.
THE BEYOND COMPOSER’S CUT - LIVE IN AUSTIN – live performance recording of Fabio Frizzi concert.
Sony Classical released a new album, James Horner The Classics paying tribute to iconic composer JAMES HORNER(1953-2015), available everywhere now just days ahead of what would have been the celebrated musician’s 65th birthday on August 14. The Classics is an all-new collection showcasing Horner’s greatest works from TITANIC, AVATAR, TROY and BRAVEHEART, to name a few. The vivid collection of back-to-back blockbuster hits brings together Horner’s unmistakeable movie themes, re-imagined in arrangements especially written for some of our top musicians including internet sensations The Piano Guys; cello wizards 2Cellos, and TinaGuo; outstanding guitarist CraigOgden; Classic BRIT Award-winning saxophonist AmyDickson together with leading harpist, LaviniaMeijer; acclaimed violinist LindseyStirling and exceptional piano discovery AlexisFrench. This eagerly-anticipated album pays fitting tribute to the much-missed composer by spotlighting Horner’s musical versatility and absolute mastery of the genre and presenting an array of key themes from his magnificent scores.
In celebration of the new album, renowned cellist Tina Guo has released a striking music video to accompany her arrangement of the theme from the 1985 Ron Howard-directed film COCOON. “It was a huge honor recording the Avatar and Cocoon tracks on this new album,” Tina said. “All of James’ music is gorgeous and the new arrangements for cello and orchestra created for this CD to commemorate his amazing life and body of work are gorgeous – I’m just humbled to have been a small part of it!” The video itself is a highly conceptual visual that captures both the essence of the film as well as Tina’s signature storytelling style.
BuySoundtrax has reissued Patrick Gleeson’s STAR WARS, an electronic realization of themes from John Williams’ STAR WARS as performed by electronic music pioneer Patrick Gleeson on an eMU synthesizer. Originally recorded in 1977, Gleeson used what were, at the time, state of the art synthesizer systems to electronically recreate John William’s iconic score. The music is presented in both 24 bit WAV and MP3 files. The album includes a PDF booklet with the original LP notes by Gleeson. “I got together with two friends of mine, both of them great arrangers in my opinion, and we discussed possible ways of reorganizing the original score,” Gleeson wrote in his album notes. “We all felt that if we were going to do the music at all we should do it in a completely different way - our intention never was just to put out a ‘cover album’ of the original music, but to provide a completely different kind of musical experience.”
Patrick Gleeson is also known for his work in jazz music with Herbie Hancock (he brought synthesizers to Hancock’s ensemble in 1972) and as a film composer (THE PLAGUE DOGS, etc.)
Check out Patrick Gleeson’s STAR WARS and sample some of the tracks here.
Sub Pop records is releasing a song soundtrack to RICK AND MORTY, the critically acclaimed animated hit comedy series on Adult Swim that follows a sociopathic genius scientist who drags his timid grandson on insanely dangerous adventures across the universe. Ryan Elder’s Theme song and a variety of original and licensed songs will be released in virtually all media on September, including vinyl, CD, digital, and cassette. All formats – all feature 26 songs, 24 of which are from the first 3 seasons of the show, and 18 of which were composed by Ryan Elder specifically for the show. The album also includes songs by Mazzy Star, Chaos Chaos, Blonde Redhead, and Belly, all of which have been featured in the show, as well as two new tunes from Chad VanGaalen and Clipping inspired by the show.
The vinyl edition also includes some unique extras: a deluxe, double LP box set that will include “portal” colored vinyl housed in a box with an etched plexiglass window with LED lights which make the etching glow. The box also contains a custom poster, a patch, a sticker, and a bonus 7” single (featuring an extended mix of the screaming sun from the 2nd season finale.)
The soundtrack can be pre-ordered from Amazon
Listen to the Rick and Morty Theme Song:
Death Waltz Recording Co., distributed by Mondo, presents the soundtrack to the film SUMMER OF ‘84, a killer ‘80s-throwback of BMX, mullets, and serial killers from the people who brought you TURBO KID and featuring an amazing original score by Le Matos. Taking familiar tropes from the history of electronic music (John Carpenter, Daft Punk, Tangerine Dream), Le Matos infuse the soundtrack with so much energy and originality that they end up being totally singular in the world of electronic music. SUMMER OF ‘84 features dizzying electro joints, super chilled ambient pieces and straight up horror-soundtrack scares! Pressed across 2XLPs on 180 Gram BMX Blood Splatter vinyl (Silver and Red Splatter), this is an essential score for fans of synth soundtracks. Note: This is a pre-order. All orders containing this item will not ship until early November 2018. $35. See: www.mondotees.com
Varese Sarabande announces the first ever LP release of John Carpenter’s GHOST OF MARS soundtrack. Carpenter composed all the music, but hired an all-star band to perform it. Guitar heroes Steve Vai and Buckethead, thrash-metal originators Anthrax, Robin Finck, (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N Roses) and Elliot Easton (The Cars) are among the musicians that have sold millions of albums in their other projects. Carpenter has had a major resurgence as an artist/composer in recent years with sold out tours and the release of two studio albums, Lost Themes (2015), and Lost Themes II (2016). A newly recorded anthology of his movie themes was released in 2017. GHOST OF MARS is the latest in a string of LP albums from Carpenter films receiving well-deserved new attention. The black vinyl release is limited to 500 copies; each LP will be hand numbered on the jacket. For more details, sample tracks, and to order, visit varesesarabande.
Marvel Music/Hollywood Records has released Marvel’s RUNAWAYS Limited Edition Vinyl soundtrack album featuring 12 licensed song tracks from the Hulu Original Series. The LP is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and features collectible artwork from illustrator and comic artist Jen Bartel. The album also includes two tracks, Marvel’s Runaways Main Title and “Gert’s Lullaby,” by film and television composer Siddhartha Khosla (the score album is available digitally).
Mondo has released an exclusive colorway edition of the vinyl song soundtrack to MARVEL’S RUNAWAYS. A webstore exclusive, this album, limited to 500 copies, is pressed on Pink Marble vinyl. $25
Mondo Music, in partnership with Marvel, also presents the vinyl soundtrack to the Netflix original series MARVEL’S THE PUNISHER. Tyler Bates (DEADPOOL 2, ATOMIC BLONDE) has crafted another excellent score that is sinister, yet darkly romantic, featuring excellent guitar work and an explosive undercurrent of real drums and electronic synth that make his compositions so unique. Featuring original artwork by Greg Ruth and pressed on 180 Gram White with Black Striped vinyl (also available on 180 Gram Black vinyl). $25
One Way Static Records presents their second pressing of Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY) original 1981 soundtrack by Roberto Donati. Originally released by OWS in 2014, that vinyl edition went quickly out of print, making this new pressing a boon for collectors who missed it the first time around. Donati has written music for films in various genres including Italian comedy, erotic, western & horror. Like many of the Italian cannibal films, the CANNIBAL FEROX soundtrack’s use of funk guitar, bass, rock piano and synthesizer makes for a fun yet still formidable sound. Its 1970s recklessness with an ‘80s sensibility is perfect for a film that rides the line between the two decades. Surprisingly funky and light-hearted, then again: there are cues which are genuinely mean and foreboding, serving as an essential piece that makes the film a pulse-pounding inferno of death. OWS’s release features the original 1981 score + 4 bonus tracks, is available on black vinyl and two color vinyl variants to choose from, and includes an insert containing exclusive and extensive liner notes by Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Roberto Donati and Robert Kerman. For more details and sample tracks, see onewaystatic.
There have been a number of books focusing on the history of film music published in the last ten to twenty years, each overview providing its own perspective and summation of where film music began and how it has affected cinema since the dawn of the silent era. Some have focused on composers, some on how musical scores have changed across the decades, others have been organized around how various cinematic genres have been treated musically. Kenneth LaFave favors the latter format, and as the most recent book to cover the whole of cinema music it is of special interest as it analyzes film scoring up to the very near present, at least a decade further than most other historical examinations have gone by virtue of being published a decade or more in the past.
La Fave covers American films specifically, leaving a detailed analytical history of European, Asian, and worldwide film music trends, composers, and history still somewhere in the future. But La Fave is quite thorough in his compact inspection of Hollywood/US based film music, and his narrative is wonderfully readable, devoid of academic stylisms and copious score reproductions that can hamper understanding of more scholarly-focused works by those not possessing the ability to read music or understand musical terminology at an academic level, as is required by many very good books on this topic. As La Fave writes in his introduction, “This book is not offered as a scholarly last word on the art of writing music for the cinema… It is, rather, a set of observations on the history of that art and some of its major practitioners, a look at how they worked and why the music they wrote sounded the way it did, along with some hints about how to appreciate their music in the context of film.” By examining film music as an experience, rather than as a scholarly study, the author stays true to the status of film music as an emotional encounter, one to be felt as much as studied as a science or a craft.
In its relatively short space of 200+ pages, La Fave provides plenty of detailed observation which will likely prompt further study and exploration (“the text reflects my own tastes and particular interests,” he writes, concluding his introduction. “Beyond that, readers are advised to explore film music on their own, using this book as a guide.”). Beginning with the not-so-Silent-Era, La Fave inspects the origins and developments that brought movie music into its own as a form of collaborative art. Chapter 2 surveys film music’s first generation, paying particular scrutiny to Max Steiner and his KING KONG score as the archetype of thematic film scoring of the early decade. Chapter 3 moves into mysteries, thriller, and film noir with a look at films like SUNSET BOULEVARD, TOUCH OF EVIL, and CHINATOWN before settling in to examine Bernard Herrmann in some detail, particularly VERTIGO and PSYCHO. Next we have a look at music in epic, exotics, and war, including THE LION IN WINTER (the author’s avowed favorite John Barry score), Jarre’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and RYAN’S DAUGHTER, Nino Rota’s GODFATHER scores. A chapter on “Cowboys and Superheroes” discusses the wide range of these two genres, with the former going over the work of Tiomkin, Moross, Bernstein, Alfred Newman and Morricone, and the latter quite briefly assessing Elfman, Christophe Beck, and Hans Zimmer’s roles in developing music for the heroic musclebound. Science fiction, drama, comedies, romantic comedies, and the use of theme songs and jazz in film scores, and more bring the book to a close, all with a very informed, engaging narrative. It’s a book that beckons to be read and furnishes a pleasing analytical overview of its varied topics. Highly recommended for its readability, broad scope of coverage, and its relative brevity, which indeed, as intended, stimulates the reader to embrace what the book has to offer and launch into additional study on one’s own with further resources.
What does it take to write music for video games? Hear from five of the industry’s top composers as they share their experiences and discuss the craft of scoring music for video games. The 2018 PAX West composer panel "Maestros of Video Games" takes place Saturday, September 1st, 2:00pm-3:00pm at the PAX Sasquatch Theatre, Sheraton Seattle Hotel (2nd Floor), and will feature the following A-list composers:
Inon Zur: Fallout 76, Fallout 4, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Prince of Persia.
Jack Wall: Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2.
Brian D’Oliveira: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Batman: Arkham Knight, Papa & Yo, Tearaway.
Jesse Harlin: Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mafia III, Yoku’s Island Express.
The panel will be moderated by Emily Reese, award-winning radio host and producer of LEVEL with Emily Reese" podcast.
Following the panel, join the composers for a meet & greet/autograph session at the Westin’s Cascade Ballroom from 3:30pm-4:30pm.
For information on PAX West visit: http://prime.paxsite.com.
Anthem, Bio-Ware’s new science-fantasy online multiplayer action role-playing video game, will be scored by composer Sarah Schachner (ASSASSIN’S CREED: ORIGINS, THE LAZARUS EFFECT, ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY). The game is being developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game is slated for a worldwide release for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 22, 2019,. Players will assume the role of a Freelancer, one of a group of people who leave their civilization to explore the surrounding landscape. For more details – including a short behind the scenes video and a free download of the Valor Theme, see Bio-Ware’s blog here.
Sumthing Else Music Works Announces Second Vinyl Pressing of Award-Winning Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack. This limited edition second pressing of Michael McCann’s iconic near-future video game score went on sale August 17th. The soundtrack album combines many of the almost 200 tracks created for the game into a 70-minute journey through the heavily atmospheric and oppressive world of Deus Ex. Set during a time of great innovation in augmentations, but also a time of chaos, conspiracy and a new social divide, McCann’s transhuman-inspired score reflects the dark and beautifully visualized world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, fusing various musical styles and thematic elements including cybernoir, futuristic renaissance and electro-symphonic ambience. This second edition double vinyl release is presented in a specially designed gold foil inlay album cover and gold colored vinyl, and features two bonus tracks: "Deus Ex: The Fall (Menu Theme)" and "Sarif vs. Unatco." Also available on CD and through iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play and other online retailers worldwide, Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s second vinyl pressing is expected to sell out quickly.
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.