Scoring the Books: David Ullmann and THE BOOKSELLERS
Something New To Fear: Mark Snow on Scoring
Marvel’s THE NEW MUTANTS
Interviews by Randall D. Larson
• SNAPSHOTS: Soundtrack Reviews:
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933; Tiomkin/Kino Blu-Ray), ARMY OF DARKNESS (LoDuca & Elfman/Var?se), BETTY (Aska Matsumiya/Milan), DARK LIGHT (Holly Amber Church/Notefornote), IL DELITTO MATTARELLA (Werba/Digitmovies), DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1930; Frederick/Movie Score Media); FANNY LYE DELIVERED (Clay/Pull Back Camera), FANTASY ISLAND (McCreary/Madison Gate), HELL ON THE BORDER (De La Cruz/Filmtrax), I AM VENGEANCE (Greenhaus/Silva Screen), THE LAST PORNO SHOW/Devon Goldberg performed by Morricone Youth/Country Club Records – CD, digital, vinyl, THE LEGENDS OF ROBIN HOOD (DePasquale/Records DK), MASTER OF DEATH 2 (Honeyman/HIS), MRS. AMERICA (Bowers/Hollywood), MYSTERY MEN (Warbeck & Walker/La-La Land), ONE POTATO TWO POTATO (Fried/Caldera), THE RUNNING MAN (Faltermeyer/Varèse), SEAQUEST DSV (Debney/Varèse), SUSTAIN + SNARL (Hess/Hans Hess), Symphonic Sound Of Motown (Jolly, Foster/Silva Screen), THUNDERBIRDS (Barry Gray/Silva Screen), The Velvet Machine (Acree/Velvet Machine), VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (TV; Various/La-La Land)
Film Music Books
Music by Max Steiner - The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer/Steven C. Smith Soundtrack, Vinyl, & Game Music
Directed by D.W. Young, THE BOOKSELLERS describes Antiquarian booksellers as being part scholar, part detective, and part businessperson, with personalities and knowledge as broad as the material they handle. THE BOOKSELLERS takes viewers inside their small but fascinating world, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers.
As a collector of books myself, I found this documentary film uniquely fascinating, and thoroughly intriguing. The film’s expressiveness was aided in the jazz-inflected score by David Ullmann, whom I lost no time in contacting and arranging for an interview largely built around the question: how do you score a film about rare book dealers?
THE BOOKSELLERS is now available on DVD and is also streaming on amazon prime for rental or purchase.
Q: What’s been your background in music? How did you start out and what were your goals?
David Ullmann: I’m a guitarist and composer born and raised in New York City. My initial inspiration to create music was hearing The Beatles for the first time, when I must have been around 13 years old. I was so amazed by the sounds, songs and musicality of what they were doing. I didn’t then know exactly how, but I knew I wanted to live in that world of sound. So I started playing guitar. At first I was mostly into rock, and my early goals were really just to play in a band and perform alongside other people. I did start a kind of funk/rock band with some friends in high school, and we played at many of my favorite NYC venues, like CBGB’s and the Wetlands.
It was my first really serious guitar teacher who got me into jazz, and I became entranced. It seemed like an endless and fascinating style of music—I still feel that way about it to this day. So I moved from playing rock to becoming a student of jazz, really trying to understand it and become a better player. I’ll always love rock music but it’s been a while since I played in that scene.
My interest in jazz led me to getting my BFA in Jazz Performance from The New School and later a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies at New York University, both in Manhattan. At school I was able to take private lessons with great guitarists such as Wayne Krantz, Brad Shepik, and Adam Rogers, and also had the opportunity to work in the ensembles of jazz legends Joe Lovano and John Scofield, and be in the recording studio with both. I also led the group that won the 2018 Promising Artist Series, and had an amazing experience touring around Costa Rica. Coming to the present day, I’ve recorded four albums as a leader, and I’ve had the opportunity to play with some fantastic musicians both live and in the studio.
Q: From your career in jazz music and recording, what prompted you to get involved in film music for the films of D W. Young? What were your objectives when you began scoring for his films?
David Ullmann: I was introduced to D.W. through a mutual friend in 2007, when he was looking for a composer for his very first documentary, A HOLE IN A FENCE. I’ve always found film music to be fascinating—it’s the unseen narrator of the film, informing the viewer of the emotion, the motivation, and sometimes even the future of the characters within a scene. It’s also interesting on a musical level because the intention of the composition is to serve a different function than in a music performance. Something atmospheric or slower moving that might not work well in a live performance can be perfect for a movie scene. I’m really into those kinds of ethereal sounds, and I love making the connection between sound and something dramatic and plot-driven.
Q: Your opportunities scoring for Young have included comedy films, drama, a comedy horror movie, and several documentaries. How have you approached these musical experiences and what have you learned through the process?
David Ullmann: D.W. and I have now worked on several films together, and we’ve developed a really great method of collaboration. The first step—which is always the hardest—is to find the right feel and sound for the film. I’ll send him sketches to see what he likes, he’ll respond with suggestions and critiques, and we’ll go back and forth until we come up with the sound of the film. Sometimes those earlier sketches will develop into a totally different part of the film, but we experiment with a lot of different things. Some films tell you immediately what they need, like THE HAPPY HOUSE. We knew we wanted a horror-type soundtrack, but with some whimsical sections as well. This most recent documentary is similar in that we knew we wanted to have a series of jazz selections, as well as more atmospheric or mood-based music.
Q: What initially inspired your approach to scoring that unique nonfiction film? How does one approach scoring a film about books and booksellers?
David Ullmann: In speaking with D.W. in preparation for scoring the film, we discussed having a few of the characters represented within the music. Jazz seemed to capture a feeling of New York City in the present as well as in some nostalgic moments from the past. To me, the magic of books is that in opening them and reading, a person is transported to a different place without ever moving. I wanted to somehow capture that experience in the music. Another key aspect that informed the music was the booksellers and collectors themselves: they have so much affection for books and the beauty that they create, I wanted to somehow represent in music that almost spiritual connection.
Q: When scoring THE BOOKSELLERS, what was your style of musical placement—as far as where and when music was needed, staying out of the way of the speakers, and giving the various bookstores their own unique musical identity?
David Ullmann: D.W. had very clear ideas about where and when music should be used within the film, and I think he did a fantastic job of selecting those moments. I created a few variations of the themes in both the jazz and the non-jazz works that we applied in different scenes. There’s a solo Wurlitzer performance of one of the pieces that I think turned out really well. I also made some synthetic sounding pieces to complement the various literary styles that are discussed in the film.
Q: How did you musically treat the inevitable drama in the film where booksellers are asked how the internet is endangering the brick-and-mortar bookseller, and how digital readers are affecting the reading of books?
David Ullmann: In this case we used a piece of music that is emotionally transformed not by a change in the score but through the attitudes of the characters. It begins with what could be described as a mournful or nostalgic feeling as it accompanies the interviews, but then as the attitudes change the music begins to shift in the listener’s perspective. It starts to sound hopeful as the interviewees are expressing hopefulness themselves for the future of books.
Q: What was most challenging for you in scoring THE BOOKSELLERS?
David Ullmann: I think the most challenging parts were the opening and closing of the film. I conceived of it as opening and closing a book, but it was tricky to get the feeling exactly right. The opening has some beautiful shots of rare books, and I wanted to score those as if one was looking at a mountainside or a dynamic panning shot. I wanted to have it feel as if upon opening a book, you begin to be pulled into the story and the world created by the author. In the closing, we’re left with the feeling of having read the last page. I hoped to portray that moment of reflection at the end of the journey by the reader.
Q: What is your own relationship to books? Were there any kind of personal book-isms of yours that made the topic of this film score especially interesting for you to score?
David Ullmann: I love everything about books, and I always have. The way they physically look and feel, the promise and excitement of getting a new book, the quest to continue reading as much as possible. I don’t think I’ll ever stop collecting books about music, for instance. This personal affection was my inspiration for the score, going back to the concept of the “magic of reading.”
Q: Was there a particular musical moment of yours in THE BOOKSELLERS that you really felt pleased with, or that worked particularly well? How would you describe it, and how you got there, musically?
David Ullmann: I love the live jazz pieces we recorded—the players were fantastic and each one really gave great performances. I think the main theme that’s heard often throughout the film really captures the characters within the film, the feeling of the city and the unique spaces within the world of the booksellers. I had all those things in mind in that piece, especially capturing a New York vibe.
Q: Where do you see yourself going in film music—and in music in general—in the near future?
David Ullmann: I’m currently working on a few projects: a quartet recording as well as a quintet recording that are both in the post-production phase. I’m excited for both of them as they each have quite a different sensibility. The quartet kind of harkens back to a late 1980s sound, but as a jazz quartet; the quintet project is more of a straight-ahead jazz record.
I hope to work more with film, as I find it to be a challenging and exciting format for music. It’s always a privilege to collaborate with a filmmaker and augment the characters and stories as they come alive on the screen.
THE NEW MUTANTS is a horror film in the superhero genre, based on the Marvel Comics team of the same name. It is the last installment of 20th Century Fox’s X-MEN film series. Directed by Josh Boone (STUCK IN LOVE, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, the forthcoming 10-part miniseries of Stephen King’s THE STAND) from a screenplay he wrote with Knate Lee, the movie stars Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga. In the film, a group of young mutants held in a secret facility fight to save themselves. Filmed in 2017 and originally intended for release in April 2018, the film faced several delays for various reasons, finally being given an August 28th, 2020 release under Disney’s acquisition of Fox.
Originally, director Josh Boone had brought in his regular composers,Mike Mogis & Nate [Nathaniel] Walcott of the three-piece band Bright Eyes, to score THE NEW MUTANTS, but studio heads insisted in bringing in a seasoned film composer. They asked Boone who he would prefer. Boone replied, “If Mark Snow is available that would be great.” The studio concurred, and simply said, “See if he’s available and if he wants to do it.” He was, and he did, and thus Mark Snow came into the project as its official composer—although some of Mogis and Walcott’s music does remain in the film.
Q: What was your musical palette as far as creating the score for THE NEW MUTANTS?
Mark Snow: The first two-thirds of this movie is a horror film—it’s about these kids stuck in an abandoned asylum run by a wicked female doctor. Then in the last third, it becomes pure superhero music as these kids embrace their powers. So the first two-thirds was more of an ambient, synthy, sustained musical approach. There were some emotional cues in the first part where I had an orchestra doing fairly simple music, but I used live players. Then when things got going then it was blast-off full-blast 90-piece orchestra. That music was real, hard-core action/superhero stuff.
Q: So in treating this group as a whole, did you have a thematic or motivic orientation to the score that transforms with the group as the story moves forward?
Mark Snow: I’d say, from the non-tonal ambient electronic stuff to when the orchestra starts to get busy, it’s not really thematic music. The scenes that had horrific visual effects were just pure sound design music. There’s actually a love story between two of the girls, and in that case I composed some melodic music but that was all done electronically, because it was small and intimate. But as the kids grow into their powers, then it becomes more melodic, more in—dare I say—the big orchestra style.
Q: What would you say was most challenging in creating this score and its duality between electronics and orchestra?
Mark Snow: I guess it would be to make the total effect of the score have a kind of composed-through quality. I didn’t want to have the music be divided into obvious ambient sound design electronics here, and then suddenly over here more of an action-hero orchestral element. It was important to try and make that crossover as seamless as possible.
Q: I think the cycle of superhero films over the last few years has changed from having the traditional idea of the bold, Superman-esque orchestral type of super hero music, which is great, but with new directors and new kinds of stories coming out that have a different take on the superhero mythos, they need perhaps darker and more aggressive kinds of musical treatments beyond what had been the traditional superhero movie music. Where do you think NEW MUTANTS fits into this?
Mark Snow: The superhero part of it really needed a bang in this movie. It needed a real punch, and more of that traditional superhero sound—up to a point—to support the action. There were moments where I combined the electronics with the orchestra, and some moments where it was just full-out orchestra by itself. Interestingly enough, at the very end of the movie there’s a five-minute cue where the demon bear attacks everyone. For that scene I submitted both an orchestral piece and then a pure electronic piece, to see which one they preferred, and they went for the electronic one. After all that fire and brimstone of the orchestra they wanted it to have a more subtle, resolved ending. So it became very ethereal and sweet, but not necessarily with obvious superhero theme.
Q: Any final thoughts? I know it’s been a couple of years since you scored the film and it’s release has been prolonged by a number of things. Where do you feel this fits in as a part of your current musical work?
Mark Snow: I thought all the horror music and the transition to the superhero material was more unusual. When it was just full-blast superhero music I knew it just couldn’t possibly be any other choice, but that contrast from the beginning to the end, as it morphs along, I thought that was what made the project most interesting to me.
Q: Are you still scoring BLUE BLOODS?
Mark Snow: Yeah. That show’s been picked up for year 11. Amazing! I would have to go there every week to go over the music with them, but now with the virus that’s it, I just send it in! It’s cool although I did like meeting up with them and everything.
Q: How did you originally come up with your musical palette for the series?
Mark Snow: I initially came up with a sound for the show that worked great. It could be almost Coplandesque, where you have a simple bed and over it a very nice trumpet melody that doesn’t sound corny. That was a really good sound for the show. But there’s action too, short transition cues—and quite a bit of emotional music with woodwinds and strings and ambient things for suspense and mystery. But it was that singular trumpet that became the sound of the show. Or, as they say, the “Blue Bloods’ Trumpet.”
Q: Was that a hybrid score or all “out of the box?”
Mark Snow: Actually it was all out of the box except for one score which had to do with the 9/11 memorial, where they went there and there was a funeral of two or three police officers and I convinced them to hire a live performer for that score. It was actually only an Irish pennywhistle, but I was able to bring in a musician who came in with fifteen pennywhistles of different sizes. I had the melody for him and we tried out different sounds on the different pennywhistles until he found the one we liked the best. That was great—just perfect. But that was it. We never used an orchestra or an ensemble—aside from some live guitars here and there but that was only for the action stuff.
Thanks to Mark Snow for taking time out to discuss THE NEW MUTANTS and BLUE BLOODS with me. The digital soundtrack album for THE NEW MUTANTS has been released by Hollywood Records.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933)/Dimitri Tiomkin/Kino Lorber – Blu-Ray
Paramount’s lavish and effects-full black-and-white 1933 live-action film* ALICE IN WONDERLAND has been restored and presented on Blu-Ray by Kino Lorber. The film (ambitiously based on both Lewis Carroll’s books Alice In Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking-Glass) is noted for featuring composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s first major work in Hollywood (and his second feature film score, after 1931’s “Resurrection,” based on the Tolstoy novel). Tiomkin’s original soundtrack has never appeared on LP or CD, with the exception of a 1931 78 produced as a tie-in with the film (see YouTube link at end of review). Tiomkin’s music is festive and theatrical and influenced by somewhat familiar classical styles. His main theme is described in the Blu-Ray’s audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin as “a playful, whimsical piece however packed with unnerving sense of tension and mania. Something that will fuel the mood of the film and comment on Alice’s journey and her descent into a world that is completely cemented in nonsense.” The music emerges in the opening scene, where a bored Alice is daydreaming in the study of her family’s large house, and is comprised of innocuous classicism, dull and lifeless; once Alice has clambered through the mirror to the other side, Tiomkin’s music comes to life, and these scenes have near constant music, much of it very jaunty and spry, emphasizing the fantastic characters that Alice meets in her journey beyond the Looking Glass.
A solo violin melody reflects Alice’s occasional dismay—as in her being too big to fit through the little door into the garden or when she grows large again after eating pieces of the caterpillar’s mushroom. Tiomkin provides a number of set-pieces for various scenes and characters, from the clever and comic muted-trumpet motif for the Cheshire Cat, the wild concoction of strings and xylophone is heard during the Mad Hatter’s tea party, the regal march that accompanies the Queen of Hearts, and a scherzo of frenetic cartoon music used during the animated interpretation of The Walrus and the Carpenter as told by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. It’s an interesting work by Tiomkin, as magical and festive as Carroll’s wonderful story deserved; in lieu of the opportunity to listen to the full score on its own, Kino Lorber’s very fine restoration of this film allows Tiomkin’s music, albeit within the voice and sound effects track, to be enjoyed and appreciated as best as currently possible.
* [except for the Walrus and The Carpenter sequence, which was animated by the Harman-Ising Studio]
Listen to Tiomkin’s overture from a 1933 78rpm performed by Nathaniel Finston Orchestra, and a song based on Tiomkin’s theme, heard in the trailer but not in the film, sung by Sam Coslow:
ARMY OF DARKNESS/Joseph LoDuca & Danny Elfman/
Varese Sarabande – CD + vinyl
The soundtrack for Sam Raimi’s 1990’s classic ARMY OF DARKNESS film, originally released by Var?se Sarabande in 1993, has been newly-remastered by its composer, Joe LoDuca, for the vinyl release available on 2020’s belated Record Store Day as well as a new limited edition CD available only on the label’s website. The third film in Raimi’s original EVIL DEAD series, the score transforms the trilogy’s Kandarian demonic warfare from a backwoods forest cabin to the vast battlefields of 1300 A.D. Europe, where Ash (and his 1973 Olds) must battle, not a handful of nasty demons, but an entire army of vicious Deadites in order to retrieve the Necromonicon and find his way home. For this vast tale of Medieval Dead, LoDuca employed a large orchestra with choir, creating a grand, sweeping musical tapestry, but one that also takes time out for more intimate nuances of haunting disturbiana not to mention plenty of delightful medieval scherzos (“Ash Splits” and its consecutive “Little Ashes” are wickedly hilarious and I would best describe them as a kind of frenzied “Demonic Carl Stalling”). The score features a main theme by Danny Elfman, composed before LoDuca came onboard so that Raimi would have some music to accompany the film shoot. Elfman’s music is propulsive in its place, but ARMY OF DARKNESS is clearly LoDuca’s work, energized by the vivid scope of his orchestration and use of choir, his own moments of symphonic swashbuckler and manic liveliness, and his own bold and pervasive themes (in addition to his main heroic theme there is an absorbing rhythmic motif for orchestra driven by pounding drums and bridged by sparkling female choir—the latter is associated with the Deathcoaster that Ash builds by combining the remnants of the Oldsmobile with a steam engine to attack the Deadites). A passionate love theme and a number of comic motifs associated with various elements of the story abound, and a medieval flute motif is associated with the anti-Ash. Var?se’s new package is a limited edition of 1500 copies; the composer’s remaster gives the new release a splendid, immersive sound [it deserves to be played LOUD], and is definitely worth the upgrade.
BETTY/Aska Matsumiya/Milan - digital
This six-episode HBO series, directed by Crystal Moselle, follows a diverse group of young women navigating their lives through the predominantly male-oriented world of skateboarding, set against the backdrop of New York City. It is based on Moselle’s original 2018 teen drama film SKATE KITCHEN, and stars many of that film’s original cast. Filmed in New York City, BETTY (the term refers to a girl who skateboards) focuses on the group’s efforts to stand out in New York’s predominantly male world of skateboarding. Aska Matsumiya is an LA-based Japanese composer and producer who is known for scoring the Amazon feature film, I’M YOUR WOMAN and AFTER YANG (collaborating with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto). “Writing the music for BETTY allowed me to be in touch with a side of myself that remains youthful and raw and spontaneous,” Matsumiya said. “It was really so much fun and I tried to let that momentum carry the music.” She and director Moselle have worked together for a dozen years. In an interview for Variety on June 5th, Matsumiya said of scoring this film: “I had already created a sound palette with SKATE KITCHEN, which is dreamy and emotional. BETTY is the edgier, more driven version. I felt it was appropriate for the ‘Betty’ girls to have shoegaze-y, shiny guitar melodies, vulnerable and raw. But the girls only listen to hip-hop. We had to bring those elements in because that’s the rhythm to their everyday life. It has to feel like them. I added lots of trap beats to the score and we named our new genre ‘trap-gaze’.” I found the score for BETTY to be immediately engaging with its resonant mix of electronic and organic sounds, much of it mixed very loudly and thus giving the music a curious rawness, which can both be somewhat abrasive in its construction as well as being tonally very interesting. The score possesses a very interesting sound palette which embodies the personalities, exuberance, and challenges faced by the characters. Matsumiya’s electronic textures are bright and cheerful, but also exposes the bold, self-assured temperaments of the characters; some of the musical elements are processed to nearly approach distortion (the electric guitar in “Chinatown Quest,” “Feeling Blues Cloud,” “Strawberry Field,” for example), but I think that’s clearly a conscious choice on the composer’s part to represent the film’s vitality and the urban landscape in the music’s presentation. Other tracks, like “No Chill” and “No Jordon,” emanates with soft introspection—the former through sustained synthesis and just a hint of gamelan gong in the mix, while the latter creates a pad of sonic movement over which guitar notes meander thoughtfully. “Vibez” perhaps offers the most enthusiastic mood of delight; while the conclusive track, “Why Not Bambi,” proffers a pleasing sonic sense of fulfillment and achievement. I found that the score works very well with its visual topic and character interaction and makes for quite a captivating listen on its own.
Watch a behind the scenes video at the origin story of BETTY on YouTube here.
For more information on the composer, see https://www.askamatsumiya.com/
DARK LIGHT/Holly Amber Church/Notefornote - digital
Notefornote music has released a 24 bit/48k digital soundtrack to DARK LIGHT, composed by Holly Amber Church (THE TOYBOX, DOLLS, MOLLYWOOD, THE MIRROR WITCH). The 2019 film, currently available on Netflix, tells the story of Annie Knox who, following a split from her husband, the death of her mother, and a nervous breakdown, returns to her remote family home with her young daughter Emily. Soon Annie must take on a thought-to-be extinct humanoid race whose need to feast on human inner light makes them a very dangerous nemesis indeed. This intense score is the composer’s fourth collaboration with director Padraig Reynolds, and it’s an aggressive, spooky, and affecting work that keeps the viewer frequently on edge. The film’s storyline is mixed with a number of easily detectable flashbacks that conveys the backstory while moving the essential tale forward, and the music maintains tension and effective scares. With tonal impressions, scary processed sounds, and reverberating undulating patterns, Church creates impressive orchestral maneuvers via synths, and the score is a striking mix of broad orchestral synthesis and powerful synth resonances that chill, haunt, and shock the listener. There’s an especially gargantuan stinger chord that erupts from the whispering, apprehensive tonalities in “Paul Finds The Creature” which is as wonderfully scary as almost anything I’ve heard in genre film music lately—very nicely established, set-up, executed, and played out. From this point it’s full-on agitato as it’s a face-to-face chase and struggle between Annie and the creatures, and the final three tracks are sheer panic-driven fury, rising tonalities absorbing one another and hurled forth by wild, articulate arpeggios from the digital string section. As the conclusive “Facing The Dark Light” emerges with the score’s fullest ravaging ferocity in wholly tonal, coherent clusters and vivid orchestration, halting only in its last seconds with a final respite of peace, conveyed with the welcome harmony of a brief choral overlay, as Annie and her daughter are ultimately triumphant. And with relief, the music quickly fades into a dying echo.
For more information, see notefornote.
Listen to the score’s main theme:
IL DELITTO MATTARELLA (The Assassination of Mattarella)
/Marco Werba/Digitmovies – CD
This film traces the assassination in 1980 of Piersanti Mattarella, President of the Region of Sicily carried out by a neo-fascist on behalf of the Mafia, and Marco Werba’s score maintains a darkness and sense of foreboding that carries us through the drama. The score is performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Cilea di Reggio Calabria, and includes additional music by Maria Soldatini and Louis Siciliano. “In the score I wanted to retrace the climax of the ‘80s, with a style in line with Morricone’s music for LA PIOVRA and IL PREFETTO DI FERRO,” Werba told Soundtrax. “There’s a first rhythmic theme with an ostinato for the opening titles (which returns in a scene of the film and in the end credits), a Sicilian-styled theme, and a melodic/nostalgic theme for the character of Mattarella. Then there are a few compositions by Maria Soldatini and one by Louis Siciliano as well as a baroque aria by Purcell, taken from the opera King Arthur.” The album’s opening track, “L’Aquila” (The Eagle) immediately engages the listener with an obsessive rapid bed of four unchanging up-and-down piano arpeggios contrast against a slower, similar but timbrally different set of four notes from violins, growing in volume and force; midway through the violin part is taken by horns. It’s a highly provocative opening, immediately reinforcing a sense of drama and significance, and an excellent opener. “Corleone” (Lionheart), which follows, provides a darker, gentler and equally striking arpeggiated mix of low strings, electric bass, and piano. Along with these cues, the score’s thematic orientation provides a varied and enjoyable listening experience, from the simple, solo guitar of “Irma” to the hesitant, string interaction of “Sicilia, 1980” and the solo acoustic guitar over massed strings of the melancholy “L’Incontro 1 & 2,” while the morose theme for “Piersanti Mattarella” with its sorrowful weaving strings and, introduced midway through, beautifully sad flute melody, is quite affecting all on its own. “Omicidio Calcaterra” (Calcaterra Homicide) opens with a sustained tonality of violins before morphing into a heavy, grim reprise of “L’Aquila.” These seven cues form the basis of the score’s thematic configuration, and several of them are offered in alternate variations, as is the languid instrumental undercurrent of Purcell’s “What Power Art Thou”. Louis Siciliano’s string-driven title track develops from plain, severe strokes to, midway through, a luxurious melodic grace; Maria Soldatini’s three solo compositions range from a solo piano piece, “Il Grigio, il Verde’ (The Gray, The Green), orchestrated by Werba, a classically-driven violin “Niente Mare” (No Sea), and a distinctly beautiful string duet, “Pensieri” (Thoughts), while her collaboration with Luca Poletti, “Palme” (Palms) is a dazzling and energetic big band jazz piece which closes the album with enthusiastic, source music vitality. An excellent and varied work which is thoroughly likable on CD.
DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1930)/Jason Frederick/
Movie Score Media – digital
MovieScore Media celebrates the 100th anniversary of the acclaimed John Barrymore silent horror classic with the label’s first ever silent score release with music composed by Jason Frederick. Opening in captivating misterioso with “Main Title - First Transformation,” the listener is immediately drawn into the dark, dangerous, and sonically delectable world of Dr. Jekyll, with a variety of reverberating, processed sound elements, haunting piano fingering, and a hesitant, four-note descending keyboard motif which is echoed by percussive xylophone clacks and a spooky, wiry synth-choir amid weaving electronica patterns. It’s quite an impressive opening. The main theme is presented on harpsichord in “Introducing Jekyll,” giving it a period recognition but maintaining the creepiness of its inherent tonality. The main motif “forms the basis for the score, and represents both halves of the character, his nobility and purity of spirit balanced with the darker instincts he tries (and ultimately fails) to control,” the composer explains on the label’s blurb. “This theme is at the heart of the tragedy of Jekyll’s struggle, brought to life by Mary Felgate’s wonderful violin—lovely, lyrical and completely psychotic in equal measure when called for.” There are a couple of source cues, introduced via brief scratchy old-time phonograph static (“Lady Camden Waltz,” The Men’s Dinner”) which become mesmerizingly sinister pieces. A darkly wicked Gothic “Night Club” jazz cue is intensely attractive. “Hyde Finds A Place” is tentative and dappled in echoing arpeggios, growing into a disquieting piano refrain; a sensibility evoking further discordance in “Hyde Plunges Deeper—Nightmare” and in much of “The Demon Bursts Forth” although its titular activity is evoked shortly past the midpoint in a clatter of fuzzy keyboard pounding and glissandi. “Second Transformation—Hyde Attacks” carries the sonic conflict even further into a horrific racket that impersonates the struggle in a wild, dissonant array across which Jekyll’s four-note theme howls terrifically. “Jekyll’s End” concludes the proceedings with a dour keyboard reprise of the main theme, over which a grinding synth tone ratchets up into a final musical conflagration, through which the piano and violin motifs merge and slowly dissipate, like formula seeping out of a spilled vial. This is an absolutely fascinating sonic treat, a brilliantly conceived and executed horror score; its exciting discordances are fascinating in their construction, and the assimilation of the thematic elements colors the horror with revealed humanity and pathos. Its integrated palette of sympathetic melody, disturbing atonality, and clever impressions of period-flavored parlor music, provides a unique and fascinating treatment of its subject matter, and I’ll be eager to hear what Fredrick comes up with next—and it so happens he’s now working on two other classic horror scores to premiere in 2021 – WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933). For more details and background on Frederick’s score, see moviescoremedia.
FANNY LYE DELIVERED/ Thomas Clay/ Pull Back Camera – CD & digital
Shropshire, England. A woodland farm in the year 1657. Fanny Lye (Maxine Peake) lives a quiet Puritan life with her husband John (Charles Dance) and young son Arthur (Zak Adams), but her simple world is shaken to its core by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious young couple in need (Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds). An unexpected visit from the local Sheriff causes events to escalate that changes Fanny’s disciplined life forever. Despite some tonal disconnects in the film’s first half, I found this overall to be a captivating film with some surprising and unexpected twists in its second half, and by the end of its affecting denouement, it’s emerged as a thing of graceful consequence and staying power, beautifully filmed and presented with an exceptional cast. The music was composed by the film’s director, conducted by Anthony Weeden (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING), and recorded at Air Studios by Geoff Foster with featured performers including Grace Davidson, choir I Fagiolini, and recorder player Piers Adams of Red Priest. Clay proves to be a splendid composer of both orchestral and period musical material, and the score richly conveys instrumental folk music of the period (“Dressing Up,” “Medlars,” the choir-infused “The Ceremony,” “The Sheriff’s Rapture,”), along with a serenely beautiful melodic orchestral theme that possesses a welcome sense of Morricone within its persuasive fragrant low horn tonalities and gentle choir (“Old Soldiers,” “Second Morning,” “Minor Soldier,” and a very dramatic interpretation over militaristic snare drums in “The Truth.”). The third musical component is an array of bristling action music, which is powerful and also quite attractive in its orchestration—”Fight” is a terrific sonic battle between brasses, strings, and drums, rich in articulation; the ominous “Approach of the Sheriff” resonates dangerously with its darkly growling low brasses, rumbling snares, while “Retribution” contains a bit of all three elements. “The Plea” plays a mournful solo horn soliloquy until taken over by an extremely dramatic dirge for howling brass and choir in high agitato rising to a massive crescendo. The pivotal “Fanny’s Choice” is made with full orchestra and choir. The film ends with the beautiful vocalise of “Fanny Lye Deliver’d,” another lovely Morricone-styled composition that provides just the right note of fulfillment, followed by Clay’s Olde England rendition of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, played on period instruments driven by the gusto of a healthy male choir. Listening to the score on its own not only offers a remembrance of the powerful film but is a delight to listen to, offering a variety of captivating music on its own power; every track can and should be savored.
The soundtrack is available on CD and digitally via amazon and amazon.uk
Listen to the track “Fanny Lye Deliver’d” below:
HELL ON THE BORDER/Sid De La Cruz/Filmtrax - digital Sid De La Cruz has given an appealing score to the Western film HELL ON THE BORDER. Directed by Wes Miller (ATONE, RIVER RUNS RED, LILLY GRACE A WITCH STORY) and starring David Gyasi, Frank Grillo, Zahn McClarnon, and Ron Perlman, the film is based on the true life story of Bass Reeves, a legendary tough African American cowboy in the Wild West who became the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. Winner of the BMI Jerry Goldsmith Film Scoring Scholarship Award 2013, Sid De Le Cruz is a composer for films, video games, and concert music (see my review of his ATONE score in my November 2019 column). His music for HELL ON THE BORDER won best soundtrack at the International Action Film Festival Spain. De La Cruz described his score as an “Orchestral Western music but edgier.” In addition to the orchestra, he has included harmonica, acoustic guitars both nylon and steel string, electric guitar, mandolin, lap steel, alto flute, bass flute, and hip hop drums. “All this helped contribute to the western sound that we were going for,” De La Cruz told Soundtrax. Bass Reeves (Gyasi) is associated with an acoustic guitar motif, his adversary Bob Dozier (Grillo) is identified with an electric guitar theme, and the outlaw-cum-deputy Charlie Storm (Perlman) has a mandolin accompaniment. “The orchestra is included in all of these themes,” said De La Cruz. “That is what helps bridge these themes together for the film. Sometimes the themes are obvious and sometimes there are a little bit more hidden in the music.” The orchestral interplay between the acoustic themes gives the music a rich flavoring, while the plucked strings of all three themes integrates the characters sonically as the story progresses, and the music’s texture provides a good feel for the film’s time frame and environment. It’s an effective and very interesting score, its measured intensity and instrumental drive gives it a likability for listening while also augmenting the storyline with a fulfilling understanding. “I really enjoyed working on the score,” said the composer. “I love to make music that immediately takes you to a place and Western music definitely does that. It gives the picture and listener a sense of time and space. It takes them on a journey.” For more information on the composer, see a n interview with him at MovieMusicInternational.
I AM VENGEANCE/Greenhaus/Silva Screen – digital New from Silva Screen on July 31st is the digital soundtrack to I AM VENGEANCE, an action film in the style of Cannon films of the 80’s, originally released in 2018 with music provided by the British electronic quartet Greenhaus. “Combining synthetic and organic soundscapes, Greenhaus’ score perfectly fits the genre,” Silva Screen writes in their press announcement. “From New Wave and Electro to Post Punk and ambient, Greenhaus move seamlessly from tender to terrifying, graceful to jarring.” The band is along the lines of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze but, at least in this score, they’ve got a heavier style and include a powerful battery of drums that gives I AM VENGEANCE’s music a propulsive ferocity that generates a pleasing rhythmic beat. An arpeggiated electric guitar motif provides a haunting resonance of trepidation in quieter moments. The film director Ross Boyask says: “Greenhaus have created a bold, innovative, timeless score, blending pulsating, sometimes haunting synth sounds with acoustic instrumentation and ambient soundscapes that help drive I AM VENGEANCE and our anti-hero John Gold, along on his mission.” It’s essentially an instrumental rock score and, in terms of the soundtrack, it’s a pretty enjoyable sonic collage of electronic sounds driven by powerhouse drumming that provides some intriguing grooves, textures, and sound images. The last track, “Silhouette,” is a vocal and concludes the film/score with a likable sense of celebration.
MASTER OF DEATH 2 [Meister des Todes 2]/Ian Honeyman/
HSI Records - digital This is Ian Honeyman’s tenth collaboration with filmmaker Daniel Harrich and is a follow-up to the director’s 2015 film MEISTER DES TODES, which was based on his years of research into illegal arms deals. Although the film is a sequel almost all the characters are different, focusing on a large German company producing and selling weapons to regions of Mexico with increased levels of violence. “It takes place in the same world and follows the story of the first film, but takes on a different part of the story,” Honeyman told Soundtrax. “The new film is based on the true story of forty three students kidnapped in Iguala, Mexico. So I wrote almost entirely new music, but it lives in the same world—guitars, lots of instruments I’ve collected from around the world, and percussion here and there.” The main characters are Miguel, who survives the killing of his brother and seeks justice, and Sabine, whose deceased husband was getting out of the illicit arms trade when he died, and she travels with her lawyer from Germany to Mexico to gather evidence. The Mexico half of the score centers around one theme for Miguel played on handmade instruments, as he tries to get justice for his brother. The German side of the score is for orchestra and piano, and centers around a theme for Sabine and the conspiracy she uncovers. When she travels to Mexico the musical worlds combine. For the most part, the score is very upbeat, despite the threatening nature of the film’s storyline. Honeyman designed the score almost completely for acoustic and unusual instruments. “I focused on intimate, organic sounds using handmade instruments from around the world,” he explained. He makes sparing use of synths, focusing more on the interplay between his acoustic palette. “I created some of those sounds with an electric octave violin (same as a regular violin but plays an octave lower) or an acoustic one, with a good amount of processing,” Honeyman told me. “Other things that sound like synth pads were me strumming a harp and then taking away all the attack and compressing it a lot so it becomes very synth pad-y, and sound design tricks like that to build these sustained sounds out of organic ingredients.”
Along with the violin, Honeyman described using “bowed guitars, including bowing a squareneck resonator guitar, a 100+ year old hammered dulcimer, an inanga (wood and string harp from Rwanda), and whatever else I could find to bow around the studio!” Images of some of the organic instruments that he had available in his studio can be seen on his web site here.
Pensive, processed low strings create some very tense and shocking moments such as “Alex Dies,” while the very compassionate tones of “We’ve Been Spared” echo with sympathy and devotion. The percussion-base of “Welcome to Mexico” opens into a stimulating blending of some unobtrusive synth with piano (representing Sabine’s theme) and breaking into a drum-laden up-tempo rhythm piece for guitars and low strings, adding a bit of Miguel’s theme into the whole. The textured layers of “Hidden Documents” as well as “Church Heist,” capture the harmonic fusion of Sabine’s piano theme (in the former) along with ethnic woodwinds, hand drums, edgy synth reverberations; and acoustic guitar over a treat of hollow woodwinds and rough-edged synth flavorings (in the latter, which accelerates enthusiastically into a fast-moving and very pleasing tempo). “Police Chase” is a reflective rush of sonic cadences, cymbals, drums, that develops a terrific energy. It’s is a fairly short score, running a little over 20 minutes, but it’s a thoroughly agreeable work that engages the ears very nicely.
For more information on the composer, see his website https://ianhoneyman.com/
Watch a preview of the score via the composer’s YouTube page:
MRS. AMERICA/Kim Bowers/Hollywood Records - digital This historical drama miniseries, produced by FX and premiered on Hulu, examines how conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly led an unexpected fight against the Equal Rights Amendment movement during the 1970s. Created and primarily written by Dahvi Waller (MAD MEN), the great cast is headlined by Cate Blanchett as Schlafly and featuring Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, and Sarah Paulson as the fictional Alice Macray, a member of Schlafly’s team who begins to question Stop ERA’s cause. The 9-episode miniseries is loosely based on the historical record and does captures the essence of what transpired, the struggles and opposing viewpoints of each camp. Aside from Walter Murphy’s delicious disco parade “A Fifth of Beethoven,” which is used as the series’ main title music, Kris Bowers (WHEN THEY SEE US, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, BLACK MONDAY series) supplies an excellent and mostly understated score which is highly efficient and quite enjoyable on its own. With 34 tracks and 54 minutes of music, Bowers’ relatively short cues are proficiently managed to intensify certain moments in the film, establish mood, enliven talky sequences, and so on; more dominant in the series are the variety of period-accurate hit songs that flow across scene transitions and the like (they are properly not included on this soundtrack) and which are used to establish place and time. Bowers’ subtle background music lends the right energy, passion, pathos, and emotional substance for the story’s dramatic high and low points. The music is often discreet, maintaining a low profile, but gives the series the tone it needs.
Bowers’ main motif is introduced in “Take Notes,” a surge of fast-bowed strings given a clackity percussive counterweight, and recurs frequently in a variety of arrangements throughout the score. The theme displays an especially pleasing dynamic in “The Last Gasp of the Patriarchy,” while “Go All the Way” adds hand claps and arpeggiated piano filigrees to the main theme in a very appealing arrangement—a texture reprised in “Real Sisterhood/Into the Convention,” “Phyllis Spreads the Message” and “Phyllis Intersects Willie” with drums rather than claps. Another very effective element is a wash of sustained strings, growing and diminishing, which provides a very nice dramatic tonality: the provocative “Gloria Confronts Bella” begins with an ominous reverberating tonality that segues into a dark version of the main theme; “Women Cheer Shirley” is a tenuous, interactive string piece that begins slowly and then rises quite confidently; “Cold Turkey” is a somewhat mesmerizing tone poem for slow piano arpeggios over a brightly ringing synth pad; “Can’t Hold Her Hand” reprises the arrangement a while later. The energetic R&B laden “Battle Plans” is a rollicking rhythm section piece, with an organ assuming the lead, backed by saxophone, guitar, bass, and drums’ it’s a strident bit of energy that contrasts nicely against the bulk of the score’s fairly subdued configuration; “Alice Tripping” is a delight of neo-psychadelica as Schlafly’s ardent follower Alice, imbibing too much at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, stumbles into the opposition’s camp and finds sympathy with the ERA’s message; a recurring low-keyed steam whistle humorously acknowledges her less than sober disposition; a thickly arpeggiated piano follows through in “Alice’s Appeal.” The slow burn of “Tide Is Turning” reprises the main theme, developing with some hesitancy into cheerful appeal for team ERA. “Epilogue,” at 3:14 the longest track on the album, reverberates with just a hint of backward masking beneath the rising rhythm of gentle electric guitar, synth, and tom-tom into a positive summation of the goals and dedication of the movement. It’s a very appealing score, nicely presented; Bowers provides something of a thematic tone poem for the miniseries’ overview of ERA history [the amendment needed ratification of 38 states before Congress would consider it; an end tag on MRS. AMERICA notes that it wasn’t until 2020 that the 38th state (Virginia) ratified the ERA, but the measure still has not been taken up by Congress].
Listen to “The Last Gasp of the Patriarchy,” via Kim Bowers’ YouTube page:
MYSTERY MEN/Stephen Warbeck & Shirley Walker/La-La Land – CD
La-La Land’s latest edition of the Universal Pictures Film Music Library is this extensive expanded edition of the score to 1999’s superhero comedy MYSTERY MEN, starring Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Claire Forlani, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, and many other comic faves. The film followed a group of inept amateur superheroes who must try to save the day when a supervillain threatens to destroy a major superhero and the city. British composer Stephen Warbeck, fresh from his Oscar-winning score to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE the previous year, provided an orchestral score which has eluded a legit release for 21 years (only a song-album was issued to tie-in with the film’s release). Produced, edited, and mastered by soundtrack restoration expert Mike Matessino for La-La Land Records, he has filled the two-decade lapse with a fine double-disc presentation of the soundtrack, featuring Warbeck’s score on the first disc, and the additional music composed by Shirley Walker on the second. While the film was a comedy, both Warbeck and Walker composed serious music, allowing the comedy to work naturally on its own, while the scores energize drama, action, and superheroics. Warbeck’s is a little more classical in approach, while Walker’s score has more gusto, but she’d also had more experience in scoring action than Warbeck did at this point—he was then best known for his dramatic work for the British TV series PRIME SUSPECT and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE; but both are credible scores in their own way. In his extensive liner notes, John Takis explains how preview screenings had gone unwell and the film went into a fast overhaul to fix the alleged problems; Warbeck had already returned to London and, with ten days left until the film’s mix was due for delivery, Shirley Walker was called in to rework the score at light speed. She created a new main theme and energized many of the key action sequences, but also retained Warbeck’s “Captain Amazing” theme and several other pieces into what turned out to be a composite score. As Takis notes, the final cut of the film retained “more than half of what Warbeck had originally provided and the majority of Walker’s contribution.” Both scores are very good orchestral works, and both are credible endeavors, so it’s good to have them both presented for listening on the same album.
To sample music tracks or to order, see La-La Land.
ONE POTATO TWO POTATO/Gerald Fried/Caldera - CD
The Caldera label’s 36th CD release preserves one of composer Gerald Fried’s personal favorites. 1964’s ONE POTATO TWO POTATO (the title came from the nursery rhyme/children’s counting out game that was popular in years past) was one of the first films to explore an interracial relationship openly in cinema. The film was director Larry Peerce’s (THE BELL JAR [scored by Fried] GOODBYE COLUMBUS, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, TWO-MINUTE WARNING) first feature; he went on to direct much television during the ‘60s, including episodes of BRANDED, BATMAN, the miniseries HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III. “A white divorcée falls in love with and marries an African-American man,” reads IMDB’s synopsis. “When her ex-husband sues for custody of their daughter, arguing that a mixed household is an improper place to raise the girl, the new husband fights for his parental rights in court, fighting against a judge who represents the prejudices of the era.” Both Peerce and Fried were moved by the subject matter, and (spoiler) even though the film ends on a downbeat, both presentation and score evoke positive moods. For his main theme, introduced on this album’s first track, Fried used the meter and melody from the nursery rhyme song (“One potato, two potato, three potato, four!”) to create his gentle, homespun tune. It appears throughout the score in various arrangements and moods, and is even reprised at the film’s ending, despite the unhappy outcome of the movie’s conclusion. Fried chose this jaunty tune to represent the young child’s point of view; a child who has no say in the drama playing out by her parents and stepfather in the film. As the child is taken from the couple, Fried brings in his most cheerful rendition of the main theme, evoking the daughter’s inherent joy, happily unaware of the racial drama being played out beyond her understanding. Fried’s secondary theme, introduced in “Outcasts,” is a dour and despondent melody featuring reeds and flutes, light in sonority but weighty in its dramatic consequences; “Cold Reception” accompanies the unwelcome response given the newlywed couple by the new husband’s family—an attitude which, upon the birth of a son, will become acceptance. The slow cadence and the magnitude with which “Departure” carries the couples’ heavy emotional load upon receiving the courts’ verdict is powerfully heartrending, and one of Fried’s most emotive tracks. Fried avoided any kind of maudlin sentimentality in the score, which remains earnest in both the happiness of its wistful main theme and the compassionate, sullen despair of its second theme. While these two themes make up the majority of the score’s motivic interplay, there are also some “standalone” tracks that provide their own musical gratification; “Spotlight” evokes some light tension, while “Love’s Old Sweet Song” is a delicate slow dance featuring accordion and double bass, derived from a popular 1884 Victorian parlor song; “Hopscotch” presents the main theme in a jaunty, playful presentation, interpolating a variety of tunes into the mix, while “The Marriage” evokes the main theme in a tense, troubling treatment; “Shooting Games,” and “Show-Down Hoe-Down” are both string-led folk-styled tunes and are very appealing, interrupted slightly by comments from either of the themes. The score tracks conclude with a vocal rendition of the main theme/nursery rhyme sung by a pre-fame Alan Arkin along with a chorus made up of Gerald Fried’s four children. Then, as per the label’s usual m.o., Fried provides an audio commentary about the score, responding to questions from label producer Stephan Eicke (who also wrote the informative liner notes in the album booklet). The score makes for a very pleasurable listen; its main theme a pure delight and its more dramatic moments intense and affecting.
For more information, see Caldera
THE LAST PORNO SHOW/Devon Goldberg performed by Morricone Youth/
Country Club Records – CD, digital, vinyl
Premiering last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival and written/directed by Kire Paputts, THE LAST PORNO SHOW features first-time actors, exhibitionists, and obscure but beloved Toronto artists to tell “an unforgettable father-son story through the lens of obsession, pornography and identity crises.” Devon Goldberg (GOD’s COUNTRY, 2017) “has crafted a sweet, playful, and at times anthemic score, for the edgy dark comedy, which is performed by the live film score band Morricone Youth, with assistance from Cochemea Gastelum (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), Sean McCaul (Philip Glass Ensemble), Karen Waltuch (JG Thirlwell, Jim O’Rourke) and Scott Hollingsworth (World Inferno Friendship Society).” Morricone Youth is a collective of musicians formed in New York City in 1999 with the mission statement to compose and re-interpret “music written for the moving image,” known for their re-recording of Morricone’s DANGER: DIABOLIK among others. I haven’t seen the film, but Goldberg’s score is an utter delight with its roots in Retro Euro film music, ‘50s slow-dance surf ballads, light jazz, and smooth rock, based around an inviting main theme for twangy electric guitar, voice, bass, keyboard, and drums which had my attention at its first chord. The theme recurs several times in a variety of arrangements, and the performances throughout by Morricone Youth and the other players are intriguing and captivating, making for an extremely likable listen for both standalone tracks and for the intriguing variances of the theme and its engaging accompaniments. “Al’s Apartment” is a tense piece for vibraphone and keyboard; “Big Audition Tomorrow” is a mesmerizing vibraphone wash driven by hand drums, electric bass and guitar, and occasional dapples of electric keyboard; “Discovering Dad” is a harsh dramatic cue for low, cavernous synth throms over a heavy beaten drum pulse and various clustered incursions of keyboards and other percussive sounds. “TV Hump” is a clanky xylophone rhythm over harsh strings; “Gloryhole” is an interesting and somewhat psychedelically-treated assemblage of bizarre sound arrangements over a halting, declarative bass beat; and “Viewmaster” is a pleasing rhythmic track for keyboards that serves as a satisfying resolve prior to the end credits; it’s a simple treatment of a gentle riff that suitably adds an organ and drums in its second half. I found this to be a very enjoyable score that makes for a fine listen on its own.
“Director Kire Paputts had a specific sound in mind, but was much more focused on what he did not want for each theme and cue,” Goldberg said. “We discussed from the beginning a soundtrack release in conjunction with the film, which might have helped push the score into a more melodic and upbeat direction in telling the story. I assumed he’d want a dark, intense and maybe even heavier score based on the film's edgy content when, in fact, he preferred the opposite; a sweet, playful and at times anthemic score, to counterbalance the visuals on screen and represent the soul of the characters.” The albums are available via morriconeyouth.com.
THE LEGENDS OF ROBIN HOOD audio drama/
Jared DePasquale/Records DK – digital
Scoring music for audio dramas is finally becoming a recognized area of film scoring, just as video game music did a decade or two ago. With La-La Land’s release of Joe Kraemer’s score for the Doctor Who audio drama ESCAPE TO DANGER, and several of composer Jared DePasquale’s previous audio soundtracks making it into the marketplace, this subgenre of film scoring is finding its recognition. DePasquale’s energetic score for THE LEGENDS OF ROBIN HOOD, is definitely something to give a listen to. This is more than your typical book-read-to-you audio book, it’s a fully cast theatrical presentation with a narrator, sound effects, and DePasquale’s exciting score. Think of it as a dramatic action movie only without the visuals. “It’s scored in that ‘classic’ sense—with a John Williams, Michael Kamen, Howard Shore musical sense,” DePasquale said. The score is a solid action/adventure score, created with high quality digital samples that convey a convincing orchestral authenticity, with gleaming brasses, punchy percussion, flowing strings, and piercing winds. The main theme possesses a captivating melody, conveying the Robin Hood character in all his heroic honor and easygoing energy; and there are a number of subordinate themes or motifs that help convey the story beneath its dialogue. It certainly makes for fine listening on its own, and those in the mood for a new swashbuckling sensation for the ears will find THE LEGEND OF ROBIN HOOD a stimulating sensation, nicely separated from its narration, sound fx, and dialogue and enjoyable in its own merits. DePasquale’s massive climactic battle piece, “The Siege of Wrangby Castle,” is a tremendous cue, as is the following “The Wolf, His Foe, and the Final Fray”—turn the volume up and feel the massive tumult of rumbling drums, raging choir, gleaming brass, storming violins, and delicious orchestration. The score culminates in a shared heroism among Robin’s band—a serene reprise of Robin’s theme among victorious shouts of celebratory brasses. The score’s musical landscape is a rich and melodious journey, and a highly recommended listening experience.
Listen to or purchase THE LEGENDS OF ROBIN HOOD from AppleMusic/iTunes or Amazon.
For more details on the composer and his work on audiodramas and other soundtracks, see jareddepasquale.
THE RUNNING MAN/Harold Faltermeyer/Varèse Sarabande CD Club – CD
One of the two latest limited edition CD Club offerings from Varèse Sarabande Records is this expanded deluxe edition of Paul Michael Glaser’s THE RUNNING MAN (1987), loosely based on the Stephen King novel about a falsely convicted policeman in a dystopian America, set between 2017 and 2019, where convicted criminal “runners” must avoid death at the hands of professional killers in order to gain their freedom—kind of a roller-derby without skates. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, THE RUNNING MAN was composed by Harold Faltermeyer not long after the success of BEVERLY HILLS COP and TOP GUN. The original (1987) 17-track album has been expanded to 35 tracks, which includes additional music, unreleased and alternate cues. Faltermeyer’s Carpenteresque synth score captures an appropriate late ‘80s-wannabe-late-2010s rendering of our dystopian future with a prominent arpeggiated main theme for keyboard and plenty of dark synth arrangements, maintaining an ominous musical sound design. Beside the composer’s phalanx of synths, he acquired a Synclavier digital workstation for use on this score. In addition to his dystopiana material, Faltermeyer also identified the RUNNING MAN’s future with popular music of the imagined 2017/2019 period, and there are a number of catchy and fun “future kitsch” numbers roaming between the dark keyboard material. “I figured that in the year of 2017 there might be some Renaissance of disco,” Faltermeyer told Daniel Schweiger for the album notes [and sadly, there was, but it was called “Nu-Disco”]. “That’s why I kept these kinds of sounds rather light and cheesy for Captain Freedom’s character.” Several of the killer stalkers the Running Man needs to out-run are associated with unique musical motifs, from hockey stalker Subzero’s frenetic jangle of percussion synths and keyboard arpeggios to Dynamo’s “killer” operatic arias from Mozart to Wagner, which Faltermeyer engages with satirical enthusiasm. Buzzsaw is accompanied by a shredding electronic guitar motif, Fireball given a modern classical approach reflecting elements in Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite. Other cues of note include “Death March” [composed for the film by Jackie Jackson & Glen Barbee) which, despite its less than one minute length, is an exciting, adventurous pop melody used in the film as late-2010’s dancers strut their stuff during a breather between the running; “Fake Death” is a fast-paced marriage of synth chords, frenzied keyboard strokes, and riotous drum fills; and the strident drum-beat and keyboard maneuvering of “Broadcast Attack.” It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to this score, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to rediscover what a cool and collected futuristic score it remains. The music may be somewhat dated, but in this case it’s a good thing and part of its powerful charm. It’s all great fun, seriously tongue-in-cheek, and great to have in this expanded edition. THE RUNNING MAN is presented in a limited collector’s edition of 2,000 copies; see Var?se Sarabande.
SEAQUEST DSV/John Debney/Varèse Sarabande CD Club – CD
The second of Varèse Sarabande’s June Club releases provides an expanded soundtrack of music from the TV series SEAQUEST DSV (1993-96), composed by John Debney. Set in the then-future of 2018, when a political organization called the United Earth Oceans (UEO) is formed in response to the colonization of the deep blue sea, and where keeping peace among the various inter-oceanic conflicts is the grand, futuristic seaQuest DSV (“Deep Submergence Vehicle”). Varèse Sarabande has expanded the original 1995 soundtrack album to 58 tracks spread across two CDs (all but seven tracks from that original single-CD are included in this Deluxe Edition—unless they changed their titles—so don’t get rid of that previous edition yet). The new album was remastered from the original sources provided by composer John Debney; Disc One features music from the show’s pilot episode, while disc two features music from selected episodes from Season One curated by the composer. Debney’s main theme is a flowing, “seafaring, swashbuckling fanfare that winks at buccaneers like Erich Wolfgang Korngold,” as the composer describes it. At the beginning, it also harbors a hint of STAR TREK flavor in its gentle, wistful tonalities, and like that show’s music it contrasts quiet, dramatic scoring with frequent reprises of its powerful, splendid theme. SEAQUEST DSV’s main theme, in its own right, is a beautiful and engrossing composition that won Debney a second Primetime Emmy Award. The pilot score is fairly subdued compared to the larger scope of the following episodes, but it still has its share of great drama and propulsion—the eloquent “Damage Assessment,” the exciting “Bridger Returns,” “Battle Stations,” “Caught,” and the victorious “To The Ocean”—each one grand, eloquent, and propulsive cues rich in drama and excitement. Debney’s main theme is prominent throughout the first episode as the storyline and capabilities of the DSV are developing; its gleaming brass resonance is both powerful and comforting—it’s welcome in its many reprises in the pilot episode. “Hyper Probe” is a splendid underwater exploration cue, building a tremendous undulating pattern for strings, brass, and harp that beautifully encapsulates undersea exploration. The seven-minute “To The Bottom Of The Sea/A Tag To Bonnie The Bad Girl” starts out slowly and menacingly but culminates in a climactic resolution and drive.
CD 2 offers a bit more musical variety as it consists of selected tracks from six different episodes in which the musical needs were quite different from one another. From the “Brother and Sisters” episode, “Of Treasures In The Deep” and “The Discovery” are both lively exploratory cues with references to the seaQuest theme; “Mind Meld #2” is delicate and evocatively mysterious; “Big Tension” provides a bit of rhythmic woodwind and string interplay that grows into anxiety and then outright panic, orchestrally building across a riff of strings, brass, and snare drum; “Exploring the Depot” is sinewy, reflective, and very dark; and “Saying Goodbye” is a sad, elegant melody for oboe and strings, quite beautiful. Season 1’s Halloween episode “Knight of Shadows” opens tenuously with “Into the Ghost Ship,” lurching into action midway through before resuming the weaving low strings, piping winds, and rustling percussive of nervous anticipation; “The Possession Of Kristini” is eerie, reflective, pensive, and sonorous, ending with a gathering cluster of frightening sound; “Lukas Confronts Captain” meanders with strings, high winds and low bassoon, signifying danger and then erupting into sudden action; “The Forgiving” resounds with awakened clarity and rising exculpation in a very emotive cue. From “The Regulator,” “Vern Leaves” is a king of lighthearted scherzo; “Inside Us All” is a very pretty conclusion, gleaming with bright brasses and glowing strings. The episode “The Good Death” contains some very dramatic, active sonic elements with some splendid French horn passages and string charges in “Attacked;” the sublime acoustic guitar soliloquy “Cynthia” plays against passionate strings and winds; there’s a pleasing “heist”-styled cue for guitar, pan-flute, and light percussion in “Drug Store” and “Narrow Escape,” which runs through several following cues to a very satisfying denouement in “Cheo Checkmate” replete with a rousing statement of the main theme; the nine tracks from “Such Great Patience” are active and quite absorbing in their brassy rhythm, ending with an eloquent and evocative statement of the main theme. The album ends with the show’s End Credits” from the second episode, “The Devil’s Window.”
John Debney’s SEAQUEST DSV music is a welcome offering that, in its main theme and its various subordinate themes and moments of drama and adventure, deserves a spot beside the grand seagoing fantasy scores, and this collection of music from the show’s first season is sunken treasure finally brought to the surface. Hopefully music from its second and third seasons may be forthcoming in the near future. This edition is released in a limited collector’s edition of 1,500 copies. The deluxe set features eight pages of extensive liner notes from film music journalist Tim Greiving and from the show’s creator, Rockne S. O’Bannon. See Var?se sarabande.
SUSTAIN and SNARL/Hans Hess/
Hans Michael Anselmo Hess - digital These two 2019 scores, issued separately by the composer on Apple music/iTunes, offer a good glimpse of the composer’s recent work. Known for scoring the serial killer thriller, CLOWNFACE (2019), and the horror film CARNIVAL OF SORROWS (2018), Hess’s latest feature score is SUSTAIN, a drama film about a family trying to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives after a racially-motivated attack ends in tragedy, and the brother of the deceased, Kieran, moves from grief to seeking out vigilante justice for what was done. “Two distinct themes play against once another on this score—one associated with the suffering family and Kieran’s desire to right the wrong,” explained Hess. “The other theme has to do with the McKenzie brothers and their acts of thuggery.” Both are made of a similar musical palette, namely dark tonal synths or electronics. The score begins with the distraught family trying to deal with the aftermath of their loss, as textural layers of dark musical colors shade the soundscape. When the film switches to the brothers who committed the deed, Hess’s music turns a little darker, imposing a degree of guilt and menace, although maintaining an overall dark, despondent, and agitated sensibility. But once Kieran begins to act on his desire for justice, the pace picks up accordingly—tracks like “Kieran’s Wrath,” “Beating Up,” “Set You Up” generate some terrific action, while “I Am Free” returns to the quiet solitude, here giving a sense of bitter relief, with “On the Other Side” concluding the score with a powerful sonority of peace.
SNARL is a 20-minute long werewolf film that takes place in England in 1934, wherein a young man named Elijah has been captured by villagers and accused of being a werewolf. “Certain instruments from sections of the orchestra are related to characters and represent something about them,” said Hess. “Furthermore, these instruments have their specific themes/motifs—the cello is related to Elijah, and its theme represents his apparent innocence but at the same time hides some mystery about him. The brass, snare, and male choir is related to Clyde, his accuser. These instruments and the themes they play aim to represent the religiousness, righteousness, and sense of duty that Clyde displays. The woodwinds are related to the siblings Faey and Ben. Faey has her own theme being played by the duduk and the alto flute, and flute themes are related to Ben.” While Hess’s duduk theme represents Faye’s strength and determination, the flute and alto flute represent the fragility and helplessly of brother Ben. Hess is careful to intertwine the themes throughout the short film, just as the story revolves around the accusation of lycanthropy and if it’s true or not. “Not only melodic material and its evolution within the narrative is important, but also timbre,” Hess said. “Here, timbre also serves a signifier and leitmotif for characters.” SNARL’s thematic interaction is more complex than SUSTAIN’s—both are interesting but very different types of scores. They convey two unique approaches towards enhancing their storytelling. Hess’s current project rejoins him with SUSTAIN’s director David Hastings for the historical drama YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, intended for release in 2021.
Available on Apple Music/iTunes: SUSTAIN, SNARL
For more informant on the composer, see http://www.hansmichaelanselmohess.com/
The Symphonic Sound Of Motown/Evan Jolly (arranger),
Ben Foster (conductor)/Silva Screen - digital This compilation renders excellent classical arrangements of Motown hits. While this isn’t a film music release, it’s notable for being arranged by film composer Evan Jolly (THE CROWN, CATHERINE THE GREAT, THE SPLIT), performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted by BAFTA award-winning British composer Ben Foster (TORCHWOOD, DOCTOR WHO, THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!), and recorded at Abbey Road. And, frankly, the idea of symphonic arrangements of classic Motown tunes is a pretty groovy idea, no less attractive than symphonic treatments of Broadway musicals. As Silva Screen says, “This music would comfortably sit in concert halls.” Indeed – the powerful arrangements for large orchestra and choir are impressive and the sizeable sound, with its melodic base inherent within the original songs, presents quite a commanding sonic authority.
For more details, see silvascreenusa.
THUNDERBIRDS/Barry Gray/Silva Screen – CD + digital_+ vinyl Barry Gray’s music for Gerry Anderson’s THUNDERBIRDS TV series is Silva Screen’s third release in their new series of Anderson/Gray television music, following the UFO [reviewed August 2019] and SUPERCAR [reviewed April/May 2020] soundtracks. It is newly compiled, mastered, and designed by the creative team at Fanderson, the Official Gerry And Sylvia Anderson Appreciation Society. The album features 37 tracks from 19 episodes (series 1 and 2), including the show’s main theme and closing titles. The tracks were not programmed to follow the episode order but to achieve an integrated listening experience, and the best bits of Gray’s sixties’ soundscapes are here. The THUNDERBIRDS soundtrack is an effective time capsule as Gray’s music that veers into the British spy genre, Latin pop, exotica, urban jazz and military marches, and so on. Beautifully composed and conducted, the score reflects the moods of the scenes, from dangerous to romantic, no-nonsense to silly, fraught to fragile. THUNDERBIRDS required a variety of music—heroic, outer-spacey, romantic, exotic, adventurous, suspenseful, even source music for pop and lounge background melodies—all of which Gray accomplished with style. While there have been a number of previous releases of Gray’s THUNDERBIRDS music, both from the original TV series, the two motion pictures, and the revived CGI-animated series, Silva’s new offering, assembled by Fanderson, provides an excellent overview of the show’s most important moments and is a most welcome offering in their ongoing series. For more details, and full track listings, see silvascreen-usa or silvascreen-uk.
The Velvet Machine/Neal Acree/Velvet Machine Records – CD & digital After over two decades of making music for film, television and video games, The Velvet Machine marks BAFTA nominated composer Neal Acree’s debut as a recording artist. Fourteen years in the making, the album is an unexpected return to Acree’s roots and the realization of a long-forgotten dream. Ranging in influences from Tangerine Dream to Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Pink Floyd, The Velvet Machine is a collection of synth-driven anthems and cinematic soundscapes with an orchestral touch. I’ve found this to be an exceptional instrumental album with pleasing rhythms, beats, and some very captivating grooves in a pleasing mix of synths, vocalise, and live instruments. The last three tracks include those mesmerizing vocalise elements which are quite captivating (and here’s where the Pink Floyd/”Great Gig In The Sky” influence comes to the fore in a beautifully powerful manner with in Maiya Sykes’s vocals in “Alive” and “The Muse”). Uyanga Bold’s stylized voicings in “One World” are something to themselves, distinctly impressionable and unforgettable in the album’s powerhouse conclusion. This is truly an album to savor, its arrangements inspiring in themselves and evoking plenty of re-listening. For purchase links see velvetmachine.
Listen to the title track “The Velvet Machine” below:
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (TV Series)/Various/
La-La Land - cd La-La Land Records has bestowed us with this four-CD set with music from the 1964-68 science fiction TV series created by Irwin Allen, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Based on the 1961 movie of the same name, which Allen also created, the ABC series ran for four seasons, and featured musical scores from more than a dozen composers, both veterans from studio music department of the 1950s and up-and-coming composers getting their start in TV. Paul Sawtell had composed the theme for the 1961 film, as well as the rest of its score along with frequent co-composer Bert Shefter (that score was first released on CD by Film Score Monthly in 2001, with La-La Land issuing a slightly different edition in 2011). Sawtell adapted his movie theme into a new title theme for the TV series. As for the TV series music, GNP Crescendo Records released a 12-track CD of music from two episodes of the TV series in 1997 (Simply Vinyl reissued that CD on vinyl in 2001), but the new La-La land collection is the first really extensive release of the series’ soundtrack music. Produced by Jeff Bond and Neil S. Bulk, the assembly is both thorough and extremely welcome. It includes four CDs worth of music composed by Alexander Courage, Robert Drasnin, Jerry Goldsmith, Lennie Hayton, Joseph Mullendore, Nelson Riddle, Paul Sawtell, and Leith Stevens. Due to a paucity of music available from the 56-year old season 1 music tracks, this new release necessarily focuses on music from seasons 2-4. The array of music provided ranges from suspenseful action to sinewy misteriosos, gentle character music, and a wealth of variations on the main theme in the midst of dramatic orchestral activity. VOYAGE’s music tended to be brass heavy and light on strings, which gave the scores a powerful sonic dynamic and fit Irwin Allen’s mandate for “discordant music” and “percussive music” for its second season. Jerry Goldsmith’s only score for the series is his vivid, layered musical treatment for the second-season opener, “Jonah And The Whale.” He also composed a new theme for the series’ second season, described as “pure, unearthly science fiction music,” and only wound up being used on that first episode (his end title music was used here and in two other episodes), Paul Sawtell’s more familiar main theme returned to the show for the rest of its run. Goldsmith’s main and end title theme is included in La-a Land’s package, including an unused version of his end credits music.
Leith Stevens’ disarming score for “Time Bomb” merges splendid danger music with some percussive beats (“Checklist”) that ratchets up the tension as the crew follows procedures in launching the Flying Sub (which was first unveiled in this episode), and elsewhere introduces a cool, sultry nightclub jazz for a scene in “Litchka’s Apartment.” Lennie Heyton’s music for “And Five Of Us Are left” is a fairly subdued in its range, but catches a great opening cue with some splendid underwater suspense music; his score for “The Monster From Outer Space” possesses some marvelously energetic monster music. Alexander Courage’s music for “The Cyborg” includes a provocative monster cue in “Attacked” that also managed to incorporate a bit of the show’s title theme. In “Escape from Venice,” Nelson Riddle is able to wax lyrically in establishing the opening locale in “Va Bene” which suddenly turns sour with “Alice Shot.” Leith Stevens turns in an especially provocative energy in “The X Factor,” and Robert Drasnin composed a particularly appealing and mysterious score for the uniquely spooky episode “The Wax Men.” Joseph Mullendore’s contribution with “The Return Of Blackbeard” gave the Seaview an air of swashbuckling music in an unusually lighthearted episode. There’s much more as well to this splendid collection which adds to the label’s continued efforts of preserving the wonderful television music of the ‘60s. The 40-page booklet includes notes by Jeff Bond, introducing ach of the composers and describing in detail the music from each episode included in this package. Be advised this is a limited edition of only 1000 units.
New Soundtracks & Film Music News
Ennio Morricone – A Personal Remembrance
Ennio Morricone was the man who changed my life, literally. Hearing his music in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST on that thankfully restored TV edit in 1972, experiencing how its music worked and accentuated the drama, emotion, and dazzling spectacle of the visual storytelling of Leone’s cinematic masterpiece, its mix of electric guitar, honky-tonk, percussive aggression, and the pure serenity of Jill’s Theme—that’s my light-bulb moment; that started my lifelong passion of listening, collecting, and writing & talking about film music for the last 48 years, with no intention of stopping while I still draw breath. This score—and the hundreds of others of his that moved me and fed my passion for stimulating music, and then broadened my horizons into other realms and other voices of sonic storytelling—was my pivotal moment. I wish I could have met him personally to thank him for all that, but his music was the first epiphany that made me stand up, recognizing this was something special and uniquely absorbing. It has been a constant companion to my life ever since. Rest easy, maestro, and thank you for the gift of music that stimulated my ears and my heart for so long. - rdl
Emmy-winning composer and songwriter Billy Goldenberg died on August 3rd at his home in New York City. He was 84. A prolific composer for television, especially during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Goldenberg was known for writing the themes for KOJAK, HARRY O and RHODA, composing the pilot scores for NIGHT GALLERY and COLUMBO, and scoring such notable TV-movies as DUEL, QUEEN OF THE STARDUST BALLROOM (Emmy winner for music), FEAR NO EVIL, and also won Emmys for scoring the miniseries THE LIVES OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, KING and RAGE OF ANGELS. His feature film scores included THE GRASSHOPPER, RED SKY AT MORNING, THE LAST OF SHEILA, and Woody Allen’s PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. For more information on Goldenberg, read Jon Burlingame’s detailed obituary at Variety.
Bear McCreary’s first animated film score has been released from Sony Classical and Sparks & Shadows, after the film was held up for three years in “distribution hell.” ANIMAL CRACKERS has to do with a family that has to use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle. Surprise: the animal crackers turn the user into the animal they eat—and the box always remains full of an unlimited amount of animals, but there’s only one human cookie for each to change them back to their normal selves. McCreary describes ANIMAL CRACKERS as “the most insane score I’ve ever written!” That definitely makes it a must-have. Watch the official music video, which depicts scenes for the film interspersed with scenes from the 2017 recording sessions (and marvel at the wonder of McCreary’s kazoo-chestra):
The science fiction/horror film SEA FEVER is a co-production between Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, and the US and UK. The film premiered at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival last September, and debuted digitally from DUST, the popular multi-platform for binge watchable science fiction short films and other content from emerging filmmakers, last April. Read my in-depth interview with Swedish born multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Christoffer Franzén, known for his solo-project Lights & Motion, about scoring SEA FEVER at musiquefantastique.
Disney’s soundtrack album for live-action remake of MULAN, featuring the score by Harry Gregson-Williams will now be released on September 4 by Walt Disney Records. It was originally scheduled for release last March. In addition to Gregson-Williams’ score, the album will include the original song “Loyal Brave True,” performed by Christina Aguilera, and a new version of “Reflection”—written for the 1998 animated feature—also performed by Aguilera.- via filmmusicreporter
Intrada has announced the first-ever release of Jerry Goldsmith score for the 1973 Mafia crime thriller, THE DON IS DEAD. “Goldsmith’s score is brought to life by a full symphony, augmented by one solitary synth that provides prominent rhythm and color to key suspense sequences,” described the label. “Cues develop with synth device, strings, piano as mobsters work within garages, warehouses, other places. As graphic violence inevitably results, Goldsmith brings in entire orchestra with bursts of aggressive action music… In contrast are numerous sequences of suspense as well as gorgeous love theme. As a bonus feature, the album includes an arrangement of the love theme, recorded for but not used in final film, as well alternate version of lengthy title sequence. Booklet notes by Jeff Bond and a dramatic graphic design by Kay Marshall complete the package. The label has also released a limited CD reissue of David Newman score for popular franchise, BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, with a newly mastered 24-bit digital release also coming soon to digital streaming platforms. For more details, sample tracks, and to order, see Intrada.
La-La Land Records’ July offerings included an extended 2-CD edition of Ennio Morricone’s score for Don Siegel’s 1970 Western TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA; CD-1 showcases the full film score for the first time, including material that went unused in the picture and 37 minutes of previously unreleased music – sourced from three-and-six-track Universal Studios vault elements, with the 1970 Kapp/MCA soundtrack album, newly remastered, on CD-2. Also available is the soundtrack by Joe Kraemer to the Big Finish DOCTOR WHO Audio Adventure, ESCAPE TO DANGER, one of several Audio Adventures that Kraemer has scored for Big Finish, and one of the first to have its music preserved on CD.
For early August, the label released an expanded and remastered 2-CD reissue of James Horner’s CASPER: 25th ANNIVERSARY REMASTERED EDITION, with never before released material and additional bonus tracks on Disc 1, and the remastered original 1995 soundtrack presentation on Disc 2. The CD is a limited edition of 3000 units featuring in-depth liner notes by writer Jeff Bond and art design by Jim Titus. The second release for early August is Larry Groupé’s latest score for THE OUTPOST, which reunites him with director Rod Lurie (they first worked together on the provocative political thrillers DETERRENCE and THE CONTENDER in 1999/2000). The new film is a heart-wrenching saga of a small team of U.S. soldiers battling against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
And just announced on August 25 are limited editions (1000/c each) soundtracks of YOUNG JUSTICE – OUTSIDERS (2-Cd Set) with music by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion & Lolita Ritmanis, TEEN TITANS GO! vs TEEN TITANS, music by Jason Lazarus, and Devin Burrows’ (DEADHEADS) score to the big-screen horror/fantasy thriller THE WRETCHED, wherein Burrows unleashes a thrilling, nail-biting orchestral ride that buoys the film’s outlandish witch-driven scares as well as its brooding, haunting atmospherics and character-driven drama.
For info on these new releases, see Lalaland.
Tyler Bates has released a soundtrack to his score for FIGHTWORLD, the Netflix documentary series on martial arts and contact sports. Directed by Padraic McKinley, the film follows actor and fight fan Frank Grillo as he travels around the world immersing himself in the different cultures of this sport to understand its traditions and motivations as they are represented in the traditions of boxing, muay thai, lethwei, laamb and krav maga. Bates recorded his score at Capitol Studios in Hollywood with an all-star group of Los Angeles’ best musicians, who improvised all of the music while reacting to picture. The digital album is available at these links.
- via filmmusicreporter and asturscore
Raphaël Gesqua rejoins directors Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo, for whom he scored the provocative French horror thrillers AMONG THE LIVING (Aux yeux des vivants, 2014) LIVID (Livide, 2011), and ABCS OF DEATH 2 (2017; episode “X”), to score Maury & Bustillo’s forthcoming excursion into horreur, THE DEEP HOUSE. “Many years ago, I was fortunate that my professional path crossed the one of those who, driven by the same passion for fantastic cinema as mine, then offered me to accompany them on their emerging film adventures,” Gesqua told Soundtrax recently. “And even if some professional life hazards have prevented us recently, on LEATHERFACE and KANDISHA, from joining our artistic forces, I am delighted to start the adventure THE DEEP HOUSE which brings us together again today, for a new undoubtedly incredible experience.” The new film is scheduled for release in 2021. Gesqua has also finished scoring the feature film PREMIÈRE LIGNE (Front Line), directed by Francis Renaud.
Elia Cmiral’s score from the short film ALTERED MIND OF 20-20 is now available at some of major digital stores (Spotify, GooglePlay, Deezer, Medianet, and other sources to follow).
Paramount Music has released the digital soundtrack album for the supernatural horror thriller BODY CAM, composed by genre specialist Joseph Bishara (THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS, ANNABELLE, THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA). Directed by Malik Vitthal, the film stars Mary J. Blige, Nat Wolff and David Zayas and follows a police officer investigating a fellow officer’s murder who discovers an evil spirit targeting the cops in her unit, uncovering a sinister secret surrounding the shooting of an unarmed youth and its subsequent cover up.
A marvelous and creepy performance: The MIT Symphony Orchestra’s tribute to the art of film music presents the US concert premiere of Harry Manfredini’s FRIDAY THE 13TH Suite, a revamped score for the famed horror film now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. The virtual concert was originally scheduled to be performed as part of the MIT Sounding series on March 13, 2020—but that turned out to be the date MIT closed its campus in response to the COVID-19 crisis. That decision having come only a few days earlier, and with the students rushing to pack their things and make travel arrangements, the members of the orchestra chose to use what would have been their final rehearsal to video record the program in the empty auditorium. Watch the 13-minute concert performance now on Youtube.
The forthcoming Netflix drama THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME will be scored by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans (THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, THE LODGE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD SEASONS 4-5). The movie stars Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson and takes place in the 1960s after World War II in Southern Ohio, where compelling and mentally disturbed people suffer from the war’s psychological damages. The film debuts on Netflix on September 16th. Bensi & Jurriaans also recently scored Dave Franco’s Airbnb horror film, THE RENTAL, which follows two couples who begin to suspect they’re being watched in the house they rented. Lakeshore has issued a digital soundtrack, available here.
Austin Wintory has released a soundtrack to his first television series, called BIG DOGS and available on Amazon Prime and tubi. For more information see www.bigdogsseries.com. “BIG DOGS’ first season was my first official foray into television, and a joyous reunification (after two prior feature films) with directors/producers Tony Glazer and Summer Crockett Moore,” Wintory said. The story revolves around the NYPD’s thinnest hold on a crumbling, alternate universe NYC in which depression has truly sent society into a free-for-all. “Astonishingly, it doesn’t feel as far-fetched today as it did when we started. At the start, Tony gave me three things to consider when tackling the music: a modern parallel to the fall of Ancient Rome, a 1970s sense of urban decay, and a 1940s sense of bootleggers and speakeasies. It was pure bliss to experiment with that blend.” Wintory said that he wrote “a ton of music for it and culled down what I think are the highlights across all 8 episodes” for the soundtrack album. “The result came out to a solid 90 minutes of grungy, slightly jazzy, slightly psychedelic mayhem.”
The digital and streaming soundtrack is available via bandcamp; it also streams on Spotify.
Emmy-nominated Northern Irish composer Hannah Peel has created a darkly atmospheric soundtrack for THE DECEIVED, a four-part contemporary psychological thriller about lust, manipulation, and betrayal. To score the complex psychological drama, Peel drew on one of the masters of the genre as inspiration: “I’m a fan of Hitchcock and of course the incredible Bernard Herrmann scores that always leave a wonderful aural aftertaste. The obsessive romance of VERTIGO played on my mind a lot,” said Peel, “but THE BIRDS was my main grounding for inspiration. The use of field recordings and electronic manipulations created a unique soundscape. This really came into play for a lot of my audio source material, which I recorded on set. I spent a day on set recording sounds specific to the old house to be able to work into the soundscape of the score. Unnerving atmospheres from crystal cut glass, sub-bass creaks from the front door: with electronic manipulation they became a foundation for me to score the strings on top of.” The series airs in England on Channel 5; a digital soundtrack has been released by Silva Screen.
MovieScore Media has released Swedish composer Uno Helmersson’s powerful and beautiful documentary score, THE FIGHT FOR GREENLAND. With a strong focus on its Inuit protagonists, the film asks important questions about the Native population’s right for governing their own land, Denmark’s claims over the world’s largest island as well as important environmental issues that might affect the whole planet. “I am proud of being a part of such an important film about identity and the complexity of sovereignty,” Helmersson said about the project. “The timbre of the score is generally quite serene but yet powerful. It emphasizes the emotional imprint of struggling for your rights to your land and your identity.” For details, see MovieScoreMedia.
Listen to the track “Declaring Independence:”
WaterTower Music has released PERRY MASON: Season 1, the soundtrack to the celebrated HBO series which stars Matthew Rhys. The full first season of PERRY MASON is available to stream on HBO Max. The soundtrack album features an original score by six-time Grammy-winner, Oscar® nominated trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard, who is featured on several of the tracks. Blanchard’s prolific musical contributions were woven into the fabric of each episode throughout the show’s acclaimed 1st season. So much so, in fact, that nearly an album’s worth of music was released after each episode aired, culminating in this 72-track Season 1 soundtrack album. “PERRY MASON is an example of how like-minded people can come together from every aspect of the creative process to make something unique,” Blanchard reflected. “I look forward to collaborating again with these brilliant minds on Season 2.”
The first soundtrack album for the DC Universe/The CW superhero series STARGIRL is available from Water Tower Music, featuring original music from the series’ first season composed by Pinar Toprak (CAPTAIN MARVEL, KRYPTON, MCMILLIONS). The label also presents a pair of soundtracks from the first and second seasons of Jefferson Friedman’s scores to the animated HARLEY QUINN. [For more details on the music for HARLEY QUINN see my interview with Friedman here.] Also released is the first soundtrack from the fantasy series LUCIFER, featuring various musical performances from the show, produced by composers Jeff Russo and Ben Decter.
Lakeshore Records has released PROXIMITY, featuring the original music by Radio Wolf (Oliver Blair) and Parallels (Holly Dodson). This Canadian duo have previously worked together to create their singular blend of rock-pop songs that blend organic guitars, live drums, and synths. For info see Lakeshore. The label has also released the music from the third season of YELLOWSTONE, composed by Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian. Listen to the track “Herding Horses” from the YELLOWSTONE Season 3 soundtrack courtesy of Lakeshore’s YouTube page:
In other Brian Tyler news, the composer will be reteaming with director D.J. Caruso on the upcoming romance-drama REDEEMING LOVE. The movie will be released some time in in 2021. This will be the fifth collaboration between Caruso and Tyler.
Milan Records announces the soundtrack from the Netflix original series WHITE LINES, composed by Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL. The series follows a young woman navigating the island of Ibiza in the wake of her brother’s mysterious death. “It was a delight to dive back into my electronic roots and revisit some amazing Ibiza memories when creating the score for WHITE LINES,” said Holkenborg. “Though much of the music I made is not club focused, as they licensed a lot of original tracks from the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I think my work was able to capture some of the magic that makes club culture and the island so special. It was a really fun personal project to work on and I hope people love the series.” Milan has also released Spike Lee’s latest film DA 5 BLOODS, featuring music composed by Terence Blanchard. The film tells the story of four African-American Vets who return to Vietnam to search for the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the promise of buried treasure, while confronted by the lasting ravages of the Vietnam War “This is an amazing story,” said Blanchard. “Again, Spike Lee has found a way to take an American tale and turn it into a visually stunning, artistic work of art. In doing so, he has pushed me to reach farther in my orchestrations and in my thematic development. It was such a pleasure creating music to accompany a story that addresses our individual humanity and the immorality of the Vietnam War.”
Nainita Desai has been commissioned to write the music for UNPRECEDENTED, a unique series written and filmed in lockdown that responds to the radical way we have seen our world change during the coronavirus pandemic, featuring 50 of the UK’s most celebrated actors including Gemma Arterton, Lennie James, James Norton, Alison Steadman, Rory Kennan. The series is available on BBC in the UK, here. She’s also scoring the Netflix Original Series BAD BOY BILLIONAIRES and the Netflix Original feature documentary AMERICAN MURDER. For more information see her website.
Alexander Bornstein (FIRST TO THE MOON, THE SINISTER SURROGATE, DEADLY SWITCH) has composed the score for the new TRANSFORMERS animated series, WAR FOR CYBERTRON, which inaugurates a trilogy of new adventures and battles between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Read my interview with Alexander on scoring this new series at musiquefantastique.
Miriam Cutler has scored the documentary DILEMMA OF DESIRES, which follows a motley crew of unstoppable women, comprised of artists, educators, scientists, strippers and sex toy designers, who have made it their mission to dismantle internalized sexism and begin to repair the dissociated relationships many women have to their own bodies. The film premiered with a virtual screening at the 2020 AFI Docs Film Festival on June 21st. For details, see afi.com. Cutler has also completed scorning the documentary FLANNERY: THE STORIED LIFE OF THE WRITER FROM GEORGIA (2020), which examines the life, work, and legacy of American author Flannery O’Connor and, as you’ll hear, Miriam’s theme easily captures her singular sense of wit and rambunctiousness personality. – via Matt Osborne/Documenting The Score on Facebook. Listen to the score at Soundcloud.
Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer Michael Lira has scored the new Australian survival thriller, BLACK WATER: ABYSS (a follow-up to 2007’s gripping BLACK WATER). Lira’s previous score, the supernatural fantasy comedy NEKROTRONIC (2018), has recently been released digitally; the film is described as “a brain-meltingly insane sci-fi extravaganza from the twisted minds of the Roache-Turner brothers” (the makers of WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD). For this film, Lira composed a bombastic, old Hollywood inspired orchestral score, which was performed by The Sydney Scoring Orchestra and Cantillation Choir at Trackdown Studios in Sydney with Christopher Gordon conducting. The NEKROTRONIC soundtrack is available now on all popular digital stores and platforms.
George Fenton’s “The Piano Framed” is a selection of new recordings for solo piano of selections from Fenton’s film scores, including the never-before-digitally-released single from EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY, arranged and performed by pianist Simon Chamberlain. “It’s a very personal album to me,” says Fenton. “But I think actually the personal element extends to anybody listening, because we recorded in a very unadorned way – right close up to the piano. You can kind of hear every squeak and Simon breathing. It’s like you’re standing right next to him and he’s playing for you.” The album will be available digitally July 31st (pre-order from here) with vinyl and CD following on August 14th available via www.georgefenton.com. Watch a short video about the album on YouTube here; listen to the single release of EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY on Spotify here.
The British horror film THE UNFAMILIAR has been scored by London-based composer Walter Mair (CALL OF DUTY: MOBILE, FORMULA 1: DRIVE TO SURVIVE, BALANCE NOT SYMMETRY). The music incorporates original Hawaiian instruments combined with an instrument called “The Octo Bass”—a custom made double bass twice the size of an orchestral double bass. Metal tubes and chains were attached to the instrument’s body and strings to produce dark and evolving textures while some of the more intimate and emotional scenes in the film were live recorded with a string orchestra and string quartet. THE UNFAMILIAR released August 21st in the U.S. and will premiere September 11th in the UK. A soundtrack release is forthcoming.
Atresmúsica has released a soundtrack album for the Spanish thriller OFFERING TO THE STORM (Ofrenda a la tormenta) featuring the menacing and provocative film score composed by Fernando Velazquez. Directed by Fernando Gonzalez Molina, the film is the third and final chapter in the Invisible Guardian trilogy and follows Amaia Salazar as she is called in to investigate the death of a still-born baby girl and the arrest of the child’s father. The digital soundtrack is available amazon and other download marketplaces.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of one of the most important neo-realist movies ever filmed in Italy, Quartet Records has released a 2-CD soundtrack presentation of ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI (ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS), featuring for the first time the complete original score of the landmark collaboration between Luchino Visconti and Nino Rota. Following an operatic scheme, the music of ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI is one of the most radiantly beautiful scores composed by Rota, singled out by Francis Ford Coppola as one of the main reasons he hired Nino Rota to score THE GODFATHER. The low-key, sultry jazz score manages to depict Milan as a city of endless possibilities as well as cruel realities. The expanded score is presented on Disc 1 and the remastered original LP program plus unused alternates on Disc 2. Also from Quartet is the premiere release of Pino Donaggio’s music for Jean-Claude van Damme’s Middle Eastern action-adventure THE ORDER (2001). See quartetrecords for details.
Caldera Records’ latest release is Roy Budd’s score for the 1973 action film MAN AT THE TOP. “The composer devised a simple motif for the titular character which is introduced on a cimbalom and which recurs throughout the whole score,” writes label owner Stephan Eicke. “Apart from the Hungarian instrument, Budd employs strings, flute, piano, harp and percussion to create a tense atmosphere fitting for the film... For more details, see caldera.
Rónán Ó Snodaigh’s score for the 2010 documentary WILD JOURNEYS: IRELAND’S MOST REMARKABLE WILDLIFE TRAVELERS, has been transformed into meditative music on the movement of migratory creatures and is now available for sale from bandcamp here with all revenue going to Rónán today. It’s also on Spotify & Apple Music. Really beautiful, rhythmical pieces perfect for walking (or flying) or just chilling out to.
Millennium Media Records has released a soundtrack album for the biographical drama TESLA, featuring the film’s original music composed by John Paesano (DAREDEVIL, THE MAZE RUNNER, PENNY DREADFUL: CITY OF ANGELS). Starring Ethan Hawke, Eve Hewson, Hannah Gross and Kyle MacLachlan, the movie tells the story of brilliant, visionary Nikola Tesla as he fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy. – via filmmusicreporter
French Composer Olivier Daviaud created the original score to LITTLE VAMPIRE, a film by Joann Sfar in competition at this year’s online edition of Annecy International Animation Film Festival. “The idea was to avoid the trap of writing ‘ghost’ music for a ‘ghost’ film,” said the composer. “Since we wanted LITTLE VAMPIRE to be a great family adventure film, I included some Mediterranean folklore, Celtic and klezmer, peppered here and there with a large orchestra set-up. This combination reminded me a lot of the music from pirate movies that rocked my childhood and adolescence. I’m a big fan of ‘old-fashioned’ film music where we feel the breath of adventure and great emotions, and I truly hope that one will want to sing the themes after having watched the film!” The soundtrack will be released October 16 by 22D Music; the film opens on October 22. Sample some of Daviaud’s delicious music for LITTLE VAMPIRE here.
Miriam Mayer’s latest score is for the documentary KNOTS: A FORCED MARRIAGE STORY, directed by Kate Ryan Brewer (THE MURDER KING, PAINTING WITH FIRE shorts). Through a combination of in-depth interviews and creative visuals, this film explores the sinister truth about forced and child marriage in the United States through the harrowing experiences of those who have survived it. Watch the film’s trailer at Vimeo
The Netflix science fiction thriller PROJECT POWER has been scored by Joseph Trapanese (OBLIVION, THE RAID 2, INSURGENT). When a pill that gives its users five minutes of unpredictable superpowers hits the streets of New Orleans, a teenage dealer and a local cop must team with an ex-soldier to take down the group responsible for its creation. The film is directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman and stars Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback.
Florencia Di Concilio composed the original score to CALAMITY: A CHILDHOOD OF MARTHA JANE CANNARY, a film by Rémi Chayé. The Uruguayan composer created the original score to the film, blending bluegrass instruments with a symphony orchestra to musically accompany Martha “Calamity” Jane on her adventure in the American West. “The original score to CALAMITY needs to be both authentic and at the same time a symphonic reconstruction of an imagination, simultaneously supporting the story, the script, and the extremely singular aesthetics of the animation,” said Di Concilio. “That’s why—in one score—several genres coexist: a bluegrass formation (banjo, guitar, mandolin, violin and double bass), a rather experimental approach to sound composition combined with a conventional score for symphonic orchestra.” The entire soundtrack album will be released on October 9 on the French label 22D—preview samples of the score here
Watch the delightful French trailer for CALAMITY:
Terror Vision has released for the first time Nicholas Pike’s score to C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE C.H.U.D. (1989), the loose sequel to 1984’s s.f./horror film C.H.U.D. (stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller,” of course). The music audio is pulled from the original tapes. The vinyl edition has sold out, but a digital version is available through amazon. Terror Vision still has the cassette tape version available here
Scoring Records has released THE SUNLIT NIGHT digital soundtrack, with music by German-born, LA-based composer Enis Rotthoff. Set between New York City and the far north of Norway, THE SUNLIT NIGHT follows American painter Frances and émigré Yasha as an unlikely pair who find each other in the Arctic circle. Frances has arrived to jumpstart her career while Yasha has come to bury his father in the land of the Vikings. Together under a sun that never quite sets, they bury the past and discover the future, and family, they didn't know they had. Rotthoff received the German Music Author’s prize for his work as a film composer and earned a Jerry Goldsmith Award nomination for his score to Detlev Buck’s MEASURING THE WORLD. Read an interview with Rotthoff at FilmMusicMagazine. Rotthoff’s score for THE SUNLIT NIGHT combines a playful combination of string compositions with an infusion of contemporary sounds and 70s retro-elements. “We wanted to portray the inner journey of our characters with music,” described Rotthoff. “Instead of composing for the beautiful scenery in Norway we focused on creating intimate moments of inspiration and the beauty one experiences from the inside when feeling in touch with nature, oneself and other people.” The soundtrack is available from amazon here. The film can be seen on Apple TV.
Varèse Sarabande Records has released on CD the original soundtrack to DRACULA 2000, featuring the score by Marco Beltrami. The limited edition soundtrack was released on July 24 as a standalone record for the first time ever—with only 1,000 copies available. DRACULA 2000 made its official CD debut in Varèse Sarabande’s sold-out 2016 box set, “Little Box of Horrors.” The album was mastered by James Nelson from sources provided by Marco Beltrami. The label has also reissued Joel McNeely’s orchestral soundtrack to 1996 Lucasfilm multimedia project SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE, which included a novel, comic book, and video game). McNeely composed a full soundtrack which was recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, with John Williams’ STAR WARS theme, Imperial March, and “Carbon Freeze” cues included in the mix. Samples of the soundtrack were used in both versions of the Shadows of the Empire game, with the Windows version containing many of the full tracks. The label reissued the soundtrack on vinyl last May the 4th; now the album is newly available again on CD. See varesesarabande.com
Daniel Pemberton (SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, STEVE JOBS, BIRDS OF PREY) has composed the original music for the upcoming Netflix documentary RISING PHOENIX, which tells the extraordinary story of the Paralympic Games, from the rubble of World War II to the third biggest sporting event on the planet. The film premiered on Netflix on August 26.
Anime composer Kensuke Ushio has scored the newest Netflix action-thriller, JAPAN SINKS: 2020. The animated series is directed by Masaaki Yuasa and is based on the bestselling science fiction disaster novel by Sakyo Komatsu. In the series, after a major earthquake hits Japan, students Ayumu and her younger brother Gou begin to escape the city with their family and friends, facing extreme conditions as the Japanese archipelagos continue to sink. Milan has released the digital soundtrack, which is available at these links.
Music.Film Recordings & Varèse Sarabande Records have digitally released the soundtrack to the indie horror thriller BECKY featuring the original score composed by Nima Fakhrara (DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN, CRYPTO, THE SIGNAL). In BECKY, a teenager’s weekend at a lake house with her father takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts wreaks havoc on their lives. “With this score, I took everything to its limits using children’s musical toys, vocal screams, and deep vocal breathings to create the signature sounds you can hear throughout,” Fakhrara said of scoring the film. “I wanted BECKY to feel like a superhero origin story, and for the audience to experience the emotions Becky feels throughout her journey. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion kept pushing me to go wilder, and the score is the result of that.” Watch Nima’s “Behind the Music” video, where he gives a demonstration of the instrumentation he utilized on the score at YouTube here. The labels have also released Alex Belcher’s (21 BRIDGES, IO: LAST ON EARTH, EXTRACTION) score to MADE IN ITALY, as well as the romantic drama ENDLESS, scored by Todd Bryanton (RECALL, TIDELAND) and Nik Freitas, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer.
Nicola Piovani’s latest score, THE BEST YEARS (Gli anni più belli), Gabriele Muccino’s look at the story of Italy, from the 80s to nowadays, told through the life of four friends over 40 years of loves, aspirations, success and failures. A digital soundtrack has been released by Lotus Productions, which is available via amazon. Piovani previously scored Muccino’s THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME in 2018.
Kronos Records offers a Golden Age rarity with Bert Shefter’s score to Reginald Le Borg’s SINS OF JEZEBEL from 1953, the film about the biblical story of King Ahab (Eduard Franz) and Jezebel (Paulette Goddard), his young bride to be, whose name became eponymous with wickedness and shamelessnes. Shefter, known for his long collaboration with composer Paul Sawtell, has composed one of his grandest works here. This is the first time the soundtrack from this film has had a release in any format. The label has also announced a pair of noteworthy soundtracks from for contemporary movies: Kristian Sensini’s (HYDE’S SECRET NIGHTMARE, ROCKS IN MY POCKETS) score for the Slovenian political thriller, ALL AGAINST ALL (2019; Vsi proti vsem). The third album is the music for the hit Belgian TV series GINA & CHANTAL, scored by Joris Hermy (KATTENOOG, BAD DAYS, KOSMOO series). The Shefter score is presented in a limited edition of 500 copies, while the Sensini and Hermy scores will be limited to 200 copies each. All are set for release in late August/early September; for details and pre-orders, see Kronos.
Streaming on Hulu, THE GREAT stars Elle Fanning as a royal woman living in rural Prussia during the 18th century, who is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of her country when she marries an Emperor. The series is scored by Nathan Barr (CABIN FEVER, TRUE BLOOD, CARNIVAL ROW, THE AMERICANS). A digital soundtrack has been issued by Lakeshore Records, and is available from most streaming and download services. Also from Lakeshore is the digital soundtrack for the PBS documentary series ASIAN AMERICANS by two-time Emmy-winning composer Vivek Maddala. The four-and-a-half hour music score he composed reflects the series’ exploration of two centuries of immigration and civil rights experiences by Asian Americans in the U.S. Stream or purchase the score here.
WaterTower Music has released the digital soundtrack album to the FOX TV drama series PRODIGAL SON from Warner Bros. Television, which features score by composer Nathaniel Blume, who’s composed a number of episodes for The CW’s Arrowverse super-hero series in association with Blake Neely. PRODIGAL SON is about a criminal psychologist who helps the NYPD in solving crimes. Blume, who was recently featured as a standout composer in Variety’s“Music for Screens: 10 Composers to Watch” article last April, chose a unique approach to the scoring process, weaving sounds of surgical tools with traditional instruments. “We ran the gamut of instrumentation, utilizing everything from strings to surgical tools like bone cutters as percussion,” Blume explained. “The score for PRODIGAL SON was an absolute thrill to create, and a really healthy collaboration with the producers truly brought the drama to life.” The soundtrack is available at these links.
Holly Amber Church’s soundtrack album for Padraig Reynolds’ intense thriller OPEN 24 HOURS has been released on CD & digital platforms from Notefornote music, with a vinyl edition to follow. The film is about a paranoid delusional woman who sets her serial killer boyfriend on fire, and then a gets a job at an all-night gas station. The label has also released the original soundtrack to the Brazilian animated film TITO AND THE BIRDS, composed by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat. For more details, see notefornotemusic
The Japanese archival soundtrack label Cinema-KAN is releasing the original soundtrack from the classic Japanese dark hero movie THE GOLDEN BAT (1966, Ôgon Bat) composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi (THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER-HAIRED WITCH, GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL, GAMERA VS. GUIRON/JIHER/ZIGRA, KAMEN RIDER series). In addition to Kikuchi’s score, the album contains the film’s popular theme song, which was also used in subsequent TV anime series broadcast in 1967-68. Available via arksquare. For more details on the film and its soundtrack release, see musiquefantastique.
THIEVES OF THE WOOD is a 10-part historical drama set in the Flemish region of Aalst mid-18th Century. The adventure series tells the story of Jan de Lichte, a gang leader who fought against the Austrians and the French, who were then occupying Flanders. The unique musical duo Svínhunder, comprised of film composers Michelino Bisceglia and Hans Mullens experimented with tweaking and sampling of self-recorded sounds. They have blended soundscapes and strings to create an instrumental cinematic sound universe consisting of inventive themes and harmonies. Although the series is a historical drama, the music gives the necessary grim touch. All sounds—including the historical instruments—were recorded acoustically. Netflix has distributed the series.
Michael Giacchino composed the themes and Nami Melumad composed the score for cinematographer Brandon Trost feature film directorial debut, AN AMERICAN PICKLE. Seth Rogan and Sarah Snook star in this fantasy comedy about an immigrant worker at a pickle factory who is accidentally preserved for 100 years and wakes up in modern day Brooklyn. WaterTower Music has released a digital soundtrack for the klezmer-infused film score.
Wave Theory Records has digitally released the soundtrack to the action-thriller VILLAIN. The album features an original score by composers Aaron May & David Ridley. “Our task was to create a dark, gritty sound-world that would encapsulate the strong, but damaged character of Eddie Franks,” the composers said of their score. “While we were after an emotionally broad, contemporary sound to reflect his gravitas, we also needed to ensure that the music felt physical and organic in order to capture the urban setting of the film. The score subsequently centers around a palate that focuses primarily on the rawness of solo bass clarinet, with cello ensemble passages and textural electronics.” For details or to order, see wavetheoryrecords.
Composer David Russo (PENNYWORTH, NIKITA, THE TOMORROW PEOPLE) has released four new soundtrack albums for the Fox drama GOTHAM, which tell the back story of young Bruce Wayne, James Gordon, and other characters within Batman’s portion of the DC Extended Universe. Russo has selected choice tracks of his original music from the series’ second, third, fourth, and fifth season, which have not previously been available (in 2018 WaterTower Music released a soundtrack album featuring Russo’s & Graeme Revell’s music from GOTHAM’s first season). The albums are available to stream/download on Amazon, Apple Music, and other digital services.
-via filmmusicreporter <<which see for tracklist and additional details.
HBO Max will premiere the new 10-episode science fiction drama series on September 3. Created by Ridley Scott and Aaron Guzikowski, RAISED BY WOLVES series centers around two androids—Father and Mother—tasked with raising human children on a mysterious new planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task. The series is scored by Iceland-based electronic recording artist Ben Frost, who previously composed music for the supernatural drama series DARK (2017-20) and the horror drama series FORTITUDE (2015-18).
ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE HORSES, a psychological drama from Greek director Michalis Konstantatos (LUTON) has been scored by Belgian actress/musician/composer Liesa Van der Aa , whose score for 2018’s CARGO won best score at the Ostend (Belgium) Film Festival. ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE HORSES is a Greek/Belgium/Germany co-production about a family, in the wake of a disaster, move to a provincial seaside town to put their lives back together before returning to Athens, but Alice begins to realize that the plan may not even exist.
The soundtrack to REQUIEM, composed by Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan, will be out on Sept. 4th on CD and vinyl from Svart Records—pre-order from Svart here or from amazon or amazon.uk. Winning an Ivor Novello award for the Best TV Soundtrack in 2019, REQUIEM has been preserved and beautifully presented on lush vinyl and CD format. The film’s score hearkens back to the 1970s lo-fi soundtracks from BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and 1970s horror soundtracks. Scherrer recalls: “Natasha Khan and I spent some weeks in my studio coming up with themes and recording outlandish vocals and terrifying sounds. There is a cheeky element to the show, as well as a genuinely scary one. Together with a pastoral spookiness of the cello and strings themes started to give Requiem its own unique atmosphere. We experimented with deviant playing techniques and unconventional recording approaches, to complete a moody air of retro horror and pastoral spook.”
MovieScore Media continues its exploration of Spanish film music with RON HOPPER’S MISFORTUNE, a new orchestral score by Iván Palomares (EN LAS ESTRELLAS), filled with engaging themes and dark orchestral writing. The mystery thriller is about a beautiful young girl who returns to an old abandoned mechanical workshop in the middle of nowhere to meet her unexpected confidant, Ron Hopper, a mysterious being who has been anchored in the same place since always—but the mysteries of his existence reach far beyond his enigmatic nature and those who learn his secrets must pay the price… For more details see MovieScoreMedia.
Coinciding with the September 18th premium on-demand release of the Janelle Monáe-starring thriller, Milan Records announces the same day release of the ANTEBELLUM soundtrack with music by Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Roman Gianarthur. Best known for their work alongside Monáe as part of her Wondaland Arts Society, the production duo now bring their skills to the film world. Combining darkly dramatic, orchestral strings with contemporary textures and influences, the resulting 14-track collection is the perfect companion to the film’s nightmarish narrative. Listen to the “Opening” track at the ConsequenceOfSound website.
Mondo, in conjunction with Walt Disney Records, presents the premiere physical release of Ludwig Göransson’s complete Season One soundtrack to THE MANDALORIAN as an 8XLP Box Set.
This limited edition, one time pressing features music from all eight episodes, each pressed on their own 180 Gram vinyl disc, with original artwork by Paul Mann, and housed in a heavy-duty slipcase adorned with Mando’s mudhorn Signet. The release is a limited edition of3,500 units worldwide. Ships to addresses in the United States and other countries. $200. Note: this is a pre-order and is expected to ship in November. Limited to one copy per person. For more details and images of each of the disc sleeves, see Mondo.
Varèse Sarabande Records announces the vinyl release of XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS: LYRE LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE, which will be available on August 7, 2020. The first-time vinyl release of the original soundtrack to Season 5’s beloved musical episode, “Lyre Lyre, Hearts on Fire,” includes songs sung by cast members. The score portion of the soundtrack is attributed to Emmy®-winning composer Joseph LoDuca, who scored the entire Xena series. The LP packaging includes a double-sided picture disc in a clear sleeve with a full-color folded insert. Pre-order from varesesarabande.com.
In partnership with VICE Music Publishing, Waxwork Records presents the debut double LP release of DARK SIDE OF THE RING. The television documentary premiered in 2019 and lifts the veil on professional wrestling’s shrouded past, revealing the brutal and often tragic consequences of a life lived in the squared circle. The pulsing series music is a synth driven, electronic score by accomplished film and video game composers Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon Macpherson. MacNeil is the founder and guitarist of Alexisonfire. He also served as frontman of the UK punk band Gallows. Andrew Gordon Macpherson is a producer, composer, and filmmaker who has worked with numerous artists. The vinyl soundtrack is expected to ship July, 2020. See waxworkrecords.
In 2016, Paul Leonard-Morgan began working with Academy-Award winning director Errol Morris on a string of projects, including the Steve Bannon documentary feature AMERICAN DHARMA. Favorably characterized as “gripping,” “rousing,” and “sinister,” Leonard-Morgan’s score for AMERICAN DHARMA adds a dramatic tonal charge to the film’s unsettling subject matter, enveloping Morris’s incisive interrogation of Bannon in tenebrous suspense. Assembling a construct of ambient industrial and orchestral flourishes, Leonard-Morgan interlaces a deliberate, undulating sonic texture to acutely critique Bannon’s malignant brand of masculinist demagoguery that the film seeks to expose. The score makes its debut exclusively on vinyl, exclusively from Light in the Attic – see details here.
Mondo, in partnership with Lakeshore Music, presents Emile Mosseri's score for the Amazon Original Series HOMECOMING: SEASON TWO. While Season One used existing cues from classic films such as VERTIGO, CARRIE, and THE THING to highlight the show's noir elements, with Season Two director Kyle Patrick Alvarez expands the story into a larger world, and in doing so asked Mosseri (THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO) to provide an original score. Its central theme, “Calico,” is a woozy, off-kilter piano motif that builds over time, adding piercing strings and subtle distortion that’s both familiar and disorientating, with other elements of the score is varied in tone but cohesive – certain cues remind of classic Bernard Herrmann and Wendy Carlos.
COWBOY BEBOP the Original Series (1998-99) has been released on vinyl for the first time from Milan Records, now available form Light In The Attic in LITA Exclusive Color Vinyl, transparent clear with black/blue/pink splatter 2LP - also available on black 2LP. Composed and performed by Yoko Kanno and the band Seatbelts, the music of COWBOY BEBOP is one of the signature elements of the series. The energetic jazz-infused pieces rip and roar across the stars and are as indispensable as the crew of the Bebop themselves. See LITA.
Lakeshore Records released composer Jeff Russo’s STAR TREK: PICARD score back in April on digital download and streaming services, but now they’re returning to 2399 with a special collectors’ edition of the first season’s soundtrack in Borg-errific green vinyl. Due to beam down on October 9—just days after STAR TREK: PICARD lands on Blu-ray—the two-LP special release will include 26 of the first season’s tracks across both records, each pressed from galactic “Trans Green Splatter” vinyl coloring. See LakeshoreRecords. – via TrekCore
Film Music Books
Music by Max Steiner -
The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer
Steven C. Smith
Oxford University Press, Hardcover, 2020
496 Pages | 109 photos, 18 illustrations. $34.95
During a seven-decade career that spanned from 19th century Vienna to 1920s Broadway to the golden age of Hollywood, three-time Academy Award winner Max Steiner did more than any other composer to introduce and establish the language of film music. Indeed, revered contemporary film composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman use the same techniques that Steiner himself perfected in his iconic work for such classics as CASABLANCA, KING KONG, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SEARCHERS, NOW, VOYAGER, the Astaire-Rogers musicals, and over 200 other titles. And Steiner’s private life was a drama all its own. Born into a legendary Austrian theatrical dynasty, he became one of Hollywood’s top-paid composers. But he was also constantly in debt--the inevitable result of gambling, financial mismanagement, four marriages, and the actions of his emotionally troubled son. [-from the publisher’s website]
Steven C. Smith is the author of A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann (1991) and is a four-time Emmy nominated journalist, writer, and producer of over 200 documentaries about music and cinema. His thoroughly researched biography of Max Steiner is divided into five parts, covering in detail:
Where Steiner came from (“Part One: The Little Prince” – chapters 1-2)
What brought him to the USA via London from his native Austria (“Part Two: The Wanderer” –chapters 3-5)
What brought him to Hollywood via Broadway and how the arrival of David O. Selznick and Steiner’s scoring of SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION (1932) set the stage for everything that would follow in film music and Steiner’s major part thereof (Part Three: “The Apprentice” – chapters 6-10; chapter 8 covers KING KONG in great detail and the part Steiner’s music played in its success; Chapter 9 covers working on the debut Astaire/Rogers musical FLYING DOWN TO RIO; Chapter 10 covers John Ford’s THE LOST PATROL, which earned Steiner his first Oscar nomination for music)
Steiner’s mastery of film music (Part Four: “Emperor” – chapters 11-23; 1935-1952; SHE, GONE WITH THE WIND [and losing the Oscar to THE WIZARD OF OZ], NOW VOYAGER, CASABLANCA, disappointment at a concert performance, opening for Sinatra, and rude critics, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, his third Oscar, THE BIG SLEEP, Divorce and remarriage, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, KEY LARGO, JOHNNY BELINDA, THE FOUNTAIN HEAD, WHITE HEAT, etc.)
Twilight years, end of the studio system, work scarce, family difficulties (Part Five: “Twilight of the Gods” – chapters 24-26; THE CAINE MUTINY, THE SEARCHERS, completing Victor Young’s CHINA GATE, A SUMMER PLACE, Max’s son’s suicide, Disney’s THOSE CALLOWAYS, Max’s final score, The Max Steiner Music Society is launched, Max’s death, remembrance, posthumous honors.)
Through the chapters on film music, Smith includes a very thorough listing of the “film scores to which Steiner contributed significantly as a composer during the years covered in each chapter.” In addition to all of this, Smith explores Max’s private life in detail, how it configured with, contrasted against, and affected his working life, and he covers nearly all of Steiner’s film scores. This is a fascinating and intricately detailed biography which adds plenty of new insight and closely examines the masterful movie music of Max Steiner. As with Smith’s earlier Bernard Herrmann bio, this is a must-have for any proper library of film music/cinema history books.
Smith closes his book with:
“To the general public, he is a forgotten figure. To cineastes, he is a historical footnote.
“But to any viewer watching a movie scored by Max Steiner, he remains a living presence. Everyday, somewhere on the planet, his work transports audiences into worlds larger than life in their heightened emotion, yet instantly relatable in their expressions of joy, pain, and romantic fulfillment.
Italian publisher VLG and Studio V have unveiled their latest visual epic, DARK RENAISSANCE. Penned by international bestselling author Matteo Strukul—the Italian Master of Historical Fiction—and scored by award-winning composer David Logan (ROSA, X-MEN: MUTANT ACADEMY and ASTEROIDS video games), the title blends RPGs, period pieces, and graphic novels together to depict the adventures of a Venetian mercenary who must uncover the shocking secrets hidden behind the scientific, artistic and cultural achievements of the 15th century Renaissance. The game is set to release in 2021. Take a glimpse at Studio V & VLG’s twisted DARK RENAISSANCE:
Austin Wintory mixes Celtic fantasy with sizzling electronics and a generous helping of Peter Hollens’ vocals in the genre-bending Music Kit COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE. A Music Kit is an in-game item introduced as part of the October 10, 2014 update to add new and custom music for COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE. When a Music Kit is equipped, the in-game music is changed to include custom tracks from various artists and composers created exclusively for GLOBAL OFFENSIVE. “What a privilege to be part of Valve’s insanely popular competitive shooter,” Wintory wrote. The Music Kits for COUNTER STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE – BACHRAM are available to listen or download on Wintory’s bandcamp page.
SQUARE ENIX® has revealed that Emmy Award winner and three-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur is scoring the music for OUTRIDERS™, the highly anticipated upcoming RPG-Shooter from People Can Fly, the developers of GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT and BULLETSTORM, and Square Enix External Studios, the minds behind SLEEPING DOGS® and JUST CAUSE®. “As a composer it’s always extremely exciting to be involved in building new worlds and telling new stories,’ said Zur. “It was a lot of fun blending heavy orchestral soundscapes and futuristic musical sound design for this rollercoaster sci-fi adventure.”
Watch a behind the scenes from the recording sessions:
Materia Collective has released Cris Velasco’s soundtrack to Phobia Game Studio’s CARRION. Published by Devolver Digital, the game is a subversion of the sci-fi/horror genre, putting the player in control not of the human survivors but rather of the monster attacking their facility. Velasco’s 25-track album captures CARRION’s creeping dread and otherworldly terror with darkly atmospheric music punctuated by moments of violent intensity. “The score to CARRION is unlike anything I’ve written before,” said Velasco. “While there are still melodic moments of grandeur and even beauty, the majority of the score is quite dystopian. You play as the monster in this reverse horror game. No one gets out alive, and the music won’t let you forget. The score is the monster’s inner dialogue. It should fill you with dread, helplessness, and the feeling that an unknowable malevolent entity could take you at any moment.” For more details, see https://materia.to/carrion.
Composers Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi have collaborated on the score for the new videogame, GHOST OF TSUSHIMA. Featuring an open world for players to explore, the game revolves around one of the last samurai on Tsushima Island during the first Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274. The soundtrack has been released digitally and on CD by Milan. Of the soundtrack, Eshkeri says, “GHOST OF TSUSHIMA is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody.” Added Umebayashi: “When I was composing for GHOST OF TSUSHIMA, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai.”
Read a detailed interview with Eshkeri about scoring the game at Spitfire Audio.
Listen to the track “The Way of the Ghost:”
A second soundtrack EP for ASSASSINS CREED VALHALLA, titled “The Ravens Saga,” has been released, featuring seven new tracks from the game by Jesper Kyd, Sarah Schachner, and Einar Selvik. Check out the album on AppleMusic or Spotify. The game itself launches Nov. 17 on Playstation, Xbox and PC.
Kazumi Jinnouchi’s (HALO 5: GUARDIANS, HALO 4, w/Neil Davidge) thrilling and heroic soundtrack to the new IRON MAN VR game has been released digitally by Hollywood Records.
1812 recordings has released Daniel Pemberton’s score to the 2019 videogame KNIGHTS AND BIKES, a cooperative action-adventure game inspired by THE GOONIES and SECRET OF MANA. The digital soundtrack is available via amazon and other sources. – via daniel-pemberton.com
Mondo and Hollywood Records announce the release of Bobby Tahouri's original score to the 2020 game MARVEL’S AVENGERS. The game allows players to take control of earth's mightiest heroes in an all-new original playable story. Crafting original music for these iconic characters is no easy task, but Tahouri (RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER) has composed an epic, sweeping score deserving of the massive playable roster of Marvel heroes. The game will be available on Playstation, Xbox, and PC this September.
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.