Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2012-1
January 30, 2012

By Randall D. Larson

studying music in Salzberg and Vienna.  As a member of the pioneering electronic band, Tangerine Dream, for five years during the 1980s, Haslinger contributed to four very successful albums and a number of films, including Kathryn Bigelow’s NEAR DARK (1987).  After leaving Tangerine Dream in late 1990, Haslinger released a trio of solo albums and scored two animated sci-fi shorts on his own, PLANETARY TRAVELER (1997) and INFINITY’S CHILD (1999) for Jan Nickman.  He secured a position as a programmer and orchestrator for Graeme Revell, helping the composer achieve the effective textures and stylish atmospheres to such films as SPAWN (1997), PITCH BLACK (2000), RED PLANET (2000), and TOMB RAIDER (2001).  By 2000 he had established himself as a film scorer and was building a reputation for composing scores that incorporated electronics along with robust classical sensibilities.  His music for the 2003 action-horror film UNDERWORLD allowed him to really flex his electronic energies in a brooding world of grim fantasy, while his scores for Paul Anderson’s DEATH RACE prequels have created high-octane music through a fusion of industrial rock and electronics.  Haslinger went on to score the third UNDERWORLD film, RISE OF THE LYCANS, and the just-released fourth picture, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING. I spoke to him the week after the new film’s opening and discussed at length his work for the series and his scores for other dark fantasy subjects.


Q: Your background in electronic music obviously goes back to your work with Tangerine Dream and their scores to films like NEAR DARK.  What is your view of the evolution of electronic music in film scores, which have moved from pure synth scores to a thorough integration of electronics and orchestral music?

Paul Haslinger: A lot of things have changed.  I think the problem of trying to come up with something new and original gets more difficult with the increase of options that the composer has.  That works against coming up with something original.  Even in the early days of electronic music, the limited means were part of what helped create some of these legendary works. Looking at Tangerine Dream, it was before my time when some of the earlier milestones were set, and they were doing it with an even more basic set up, and it was part of what created that scene. Today, it's totally the opposite, you have every means at your disposal, you can pick any language for any style or any color of music, but I don’t think that necessarily makes it easier to come up with something original.  You actually have to try harder to come up with something original.

Q: What can you tell me about Tangerine Dream’s score for NEAR DARK and how it evolved?

Paul Haslinger: This was I think only the third or fourth film I was working on as part of Tangerine Dream, and it was Kathryn Bigelow's first film of course.  In those days in Berlin, the wall was still up, but directors just loved coming to Berlin; it was this enclave that had its own rules. The typical procedure for Tangerine Dream’s scores in those days was that directors would come to Berlin, hang out for a while and work with the band (we had a big studio in Spandau), and then finish the score together. And that's what Kathryn did. She was very nervous since it was her first film, and it was definitely a labor of love, as it was for everyone involved.  It was just a very exciting, adventurous project. Keep in mind that compared to what I'm doing now in working with orchestras; this was, again, very limited.  People came to hire Tangerine Dream for a Tangerine Dream score, everybody knew what that was.  So we were operating in a very limited space, but within that limited space we had a lot of fun.  The two scores that stand out, for me, from that time are NEAR DARK and MIRACLE MILE.  Those are the two scores where a few factors just came together just right to produce something that has stood the test of time.

Q: When you were scoring NEAR DARK, what was the band’ scoring process?  Did you improvise at the computer watching the film or how did that work as far as getting the tracks down?

Paul Haslinger: Again, it was very basic compared to today's standards.  Even the synchronization in those days was little more than basic; we had some means to sync up computer software to video but that was about it.  You went about writing a score pretty much the same way you went about writing an album, you developed pieces, and a lot of these cues were still mixed at the console, meaning you just assembled layers and layers of material and in the mix is where you shaped the cue.  This was what brought Mike Oldfield and Tangerine Dream into the film field with a new way of creating music, because previously it was all preconceived: you had a theme or a melody and everything derived from that melody. The fact that you didn't start from that point, but you started from a studio approach, using the studio as an instrument, was a novelty in those days, and that's how I believe Mike Oldfield and Tangerine Dream made their mark early on, because they just approached it from a different angle.

Q: Your score for the first UNDERWORLD film was an effective fusion of rock and roll electronica and carefully textured misterioso.  When you first came into the project, what kind of musical approach were the filmmakers’ asking for, and how did the score develop from there?

Paul Haslinger: That was another situation where it was a first-time director, Len Wiseman.  He had come up with the concept and story, and he was also a graphic artist, so he would draw the film as part of his presentation to Lakeshore.  He knew very well what he wanted but he didn't have the full language to express it, so the process was basically me figuring out what he was looking for.  It became pretty clear to me early on that his frame of reference wasn't classical or traditional film music but it was the bands that he was listening to, and out of the love of bands like Tool and A Perfect Circle came his understanding of what worked well for him in film.  That ruled out a lot of traditional orchestral vocabulary that might normally be used, and it was my process then to work with him and figure out what are the parts that he doesn't want and where the parts that he does want.  He did want cinematic scope and a big, epic quality score but one that was applied in a very specific way. That was our process on this project, and we came out with what I would say was somewhat of a peculiar mix and one that I would tweak slightly if I had a chance to do it again.  I think we overdid it on some aspects, but at the time it was a very exciting project to be involved in and it was an adventure to go through it all.

Q: One of the things that struck me about the score, which I mentioned when I reviewed the soundtrack album, is that you are scoring the film in traditional Hollywood cinematic terms but instead of using an orchestra you are using electronics and a rock band.

Paul Haslinger: Originally “symphonic music” stood for larger ensembles that you coordinated in some fashion.  With the invention of recorded media, people discovered that you can use studio-recorded media also for creative matters.  It was a necessary expansion to include this, and so at that point the old symphonic rules go out the window and new rules come into play.  The evolution of “dub music” is another example where music would be approached from a completely different angle.  Pieces were, in essence, created at the mixing desk, and that's a new thing. And since then, it has moved onto the computer, and it's really the computer software where these decisions can take place. The reality now is some people still write with pen and paper and there are moments when that works for me better than the computer, and then there's other things that you can only do on a computer. It's a pretty wide spectrum, but to me it has never sense to limit symphonic music to just that of a traditional orchestral setup. And the same applies to film music.

Q: Music should always embrace the modern technology, whatever it might be.

Paul Haslinger: Yeah. I'm not the first one to come across it. If you look at Edgar Varese, he experimented with sirens and whatnot. It's always… You're at that borderline with noise and music. You know when Stravinsky wrote Le sacre du printemp [Rite of Spring], everybody was enraged about what brutal noise that was, but in hindsight it was a revolutionary piece of music, so it's hard to assess this when you're in the moment.  Obviously as a composer you’re just giving it a shot and a few years later you'll come back to it and you'll either go, “oh that was a waste of time!” or “Yeah there were some interesting bits in there!”

Q: How did the numerous heavy rock and metal songs affect the placement and development of your score in UNDERWORLD?

Paul Haslinger: Not at all.  They were essentially two parallel developments. I know Danny Lohner, who was putting the song albums together, really well by now; we've become really good friends, and I have a huge deal of respect for him and he likes my stuff, so were very much on the same page.  On each of these projects we're occupying different parts of the universe.  I work in a functional setting – I'm working inside the movie and trying to make the movie play as well as possible, whereas he is part of the merchandise, if you will, and he's trying to create an outside product, the song soundtrack, that helps the overall franchise but also stands on its own feet and will do well as an album. These albums have a pretty strong fan base by now, so it's like a band, within the context of the UNDERWORLD franchise.

Q: Is there a thematic architecture in your score for UNDERWORLD?

Paul Haslinger: Len Wiseman never responded to any kind of traditional thematic approach. I noticed that on the first UNDERWORLD and stayed away from it. There are, of course, different ways you can approach or define a theme. I like to call them signatures more than themes anyway, because if you look at a Bernard Herrmann score or a Steve Reich piece you can't find a traditional theme and yet there is something that you will remember and very much registers with people, so it's a little hard to pin it down that way.  Or let's say you go into ethnic music, where it will be hard to define a functional theme in some of it. That being said, UNDERWORLD was always a combination of very moody and very hard hitting sections.  There are these long stretches where people talk or exchange meaningful glances, that sort of mood space that calls for a specific type of musical register, and then when the action hits it hits really hard and it hits in a way that somebody who grew up with music videos and lives in the now has a relation to; it doesn't seem like a stylized, old-fashioned action approach. So what has to hit hard when it hits hard and when it goes moody it has to be moody in a way that would work in the context of an album of any of these bands I was mentioning.  A big sweeping melody just wouldn't work in this stylistic context, so it is more minimal, it is more reduced, it has more to do with a Brian Eno approach for music than it has with a traditional ballad or and emotional theme or something like that.

Q: What happened with the second film that you did not compose its score?

Paul Haslinger: Yeah, a lot of people have been asking me that!  The first UNDERWORLD was somewhat of an unexpected success and afterwards Len had a lot of people and a lot of input coming his way as to how he should do the second one.  There was some talk that on the first UNDERWORLD he had a lot of help from the other people involved because it was his first film.  So he wanted to prove with the second one that he could do it all on his own and with different people. There is a longer story there, but in essence, at the end of the second UNDERWORLD, they put the "Eternity and a Day" cue from the first UNDERWORLD into the two key emotional scenes in UNDERWORLD 2, and I think by the end of the project he sort of had come full circle and if he could have changed it probably would've changed the music, but it was too late in that process. So he brought me back in UNDERWORLD 3. We have a great working relationship, it's just that – and I’ve seen this myself or with other people in Hollywood – sometimes people just need to complete a full circle until they come back to something that worked in the first place.  UNDERWORLD 2 seemed to be one of those exercises.

Q: Coming into the third film, UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS, how did you approach this score, being that the film is a prequel to the first one?

Paul Haslinger: Not only is it the prequel, it's a period piece, so it was pretty clear that heavy electronica would really not be the first thing that comes to mind! I remember going into the first meeting with Len and Patrick Tatopoulos, the director, and I asked how they wanted to approach this, given that it's a period piece? Len said “I want to hear a certain type of drum because to me this the sort of primordial drum signifies this kind of Dark Ages time.” So we took a percussive/somewhat ethnic approach with lots of flutes and wind instruments, just anything that wasn't too cliché ridden, and came up with this dark ethnic percussion that worked reasonably well in this context. 

Q: What was your starting point on UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING? 

Paul Haslinger: I was still working on the THREE MUSKETEERS score in Germany. I was in the studio in Berlin and had a Skype conference with the two directors who had just finished shooting UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING.  I liked their previous work as directors and they told me they wanted the UNDERWORLD language but sort of in a new rendition.  We had a really good conversation and it developed kind of naturally from there. I was back in the US about a month later and I sat down with them and planned it out.

Q: How did you tie in the music with the previous scores while giving the fourth film its own musical flavor?

Paul Haslinger: A sequel is always a blessing and a curse. First, it's a chance to do something better than you did in the previous project.  But you're also more confined than with something that starts from scratch, because it still has to be within the same UNDERWORLD universe. The third part of it is that you have new directors who come in with new ideas.  They also want it to look different and to be an evolution and you do not, under any circumstances, want it to be a step down from the previous one! You want to at least be on the same level and if possible try to push it up a level, so that's always a big challenge with sequels. We see our fair share of these every year; some of them work great and some of them work so-so and some of them don’t work at all.  The odds are always the same. You have to try extra hard with sequels just because of the expectation.  You’re starting where the other movies were and you have to top that.

Q: This score again demonstrates a mix of heavy rock energy for the chase/battle scenes and poignant dramatic music associated with Selene and what she’s going through.  How has the influence of rock and roll music, or at least the heavy rock beats found in the AWAKENING score, become more accepted in modern film scores as an element serving film music’s dramatic purpose? 

Paul Haslinger: I think it comes with the audience. As the audience has changed, the acceptance has changed. “Rock” is also a very broad term these days; it could mean a lot of things.  I think for the UNDERWORLD films it’s actually industrial rock that served as the backbone; the sensibility of the franchise is really in industrial rock. Now if you look into industrial rock you have stalwarts like Tool and Nine Inch Nails and that is what's in the current consciousness of the audience. They generally are very well-liked bands, people like their kind of energy, and if they hear that kind of energy in the context of a movie score they don't mind it – they actually enjoy it and they find it more current than, let's say, a percussive energy as it would be used in a traditional symphony orchestra.  Today, if you hear industrial rock in a trailer or the context of a movie or on TV, it's not like you would be surprised or astonished that that's used. It's become part of the language and is used in more or less effective ways and it's become something new in application, at least in the context of the overall film scene. But, just like the studio situation has changed with how bands produce albums and how they get their rhythms produced, the same thing happens in film, just under different circumstances and with different functionalities, because at the end of the day it still has to support the movie.

Q: I wanted to ask about your score to the remake of PROM NIGHT, which was less of an action horror film that a creepy, scary slasher movie. How would you describe your score to this film?

Paul Haslinger: I think you're the only person who remembers that! PROM NIGHT was a Screen Gems film, and Screen Gems has a process with these movies where they go through a pretty extensive temping process. What comes out of the temping process is sort of a stylized approach were elements of sound and music are already pre-formulated to have a certain effect.  I always think of that as having two sides: there's a good side to that because it can be a focusing device for what you're trying to do with the music, but of course there's also a limitation which is that you don't have carte blanche.  You have to follow a certain framework. PROM NIGHT was one of those films that I think was effective on the design level in that the architecture of it was working and the psychology was working and effective, but on the music side it's not a project that I remember and go, “yeah, there was a particularly interesting bit in there.” It was a job delivered but it doesn't stand out for me.

Q: I loved your edgy, aggressive guitar-laden score for DEATH RACE, another remake. How did you develop your approach to this score?

Paul Haslinger: DEATH RACE was definitely a peculiar project. Paul Anderson had been looking around and got people to demo for the job. I was one of the people who demoed for it and apparently he liked my demo the best, and I got the gig.  Then it became a license for me to really go further into, using your term, the rock-influenced or rock-inspired way of producing a score.  Now, looking back at the project I have to say some of these experiments in DEATH RACE worked better than others but what it did accomplish was to apply these methods of arranging and writing score cues but doing so in a completely different language.  In this case it was through a lot of synth and guitar work as well as a lot of percussion/drum work, with some orchestral overlays with it as well. In that context it was a very functional score.  It’s also one of two scores produced with engineers who are mostly doing records: on CRANK I had James Murray and on DEATH RACE I had Joe Barresi.  Joe had just done the last Tool album, I think it was – so here's where the circle closes with the Tool influence on UNDERWORLD! Most of the feature pieces in DEATH RACE were pretty much produced the same way you would produce a record.  I remember we went to Universal to test some of the cues and it was obvious that the sound effects were more than aggressive.  As you know, half of the film is car racing, explosions, and machine guns!  Chris Jenkins, the sound re-recording mixer, test-ran some cues and he looked back at us and said “you just have to make it louder!”  [laughs]  Now if you say that to Job Barresi who makes a living making bands sound great and aggressive that of course is a huge challenge for him! So we produced what I think was the most aggressive mix I've ever delivered on any movie.  After the movie was released, Joe went to a theater to check it out and we talked a few days later and I asked what he thought about it, and he said "Man! That movie was loud!” This is a guy who's done rock 'n roll for the last 30 years and he thought it was loud!

Q: Your guitars and synths in the DEATH RACE score aren’t clean but seem to reflect the industrial grit and grain of the prison yard and its deadly automotive competition.  How did you devise the textures of this score?

Paul Haslinger: There was a conscious effort to distort pretty much everything on DEATH RACE. The danger with distortion is that if you use too much of it, everything turns into mud, so you have to use just the right amount which is the key to every rock album in that area.  Today, pretty much everything you hear is to some degree distorted, it’s just a matter of how the distortion is used and which type of distortion is applied. On DEATH RACE I remember coming across the fact that I needed riffs and melodies and I needed an instrument to voice those.  I decided on synth but I wanted the synth to not sound synth-clean or techno or electronica; I wanted it to sound a little rough around the edges and that's where that type of lead sound application came from, for the most part it's distorted synth lines.

Q: Would you mind discussing THE WOLFMAN and describing how you got involved and what happened in that scoring process?

Paul Haslinger: WOLFMAN was one of those Hollywood projects where there are a lot of people involved in a process and they can't agree on a shared vision. When I joined the fray the movie had already been in postproduction for, I think, two years, so I was at the very end of this whole process at which point the various parties hadn’t been able to find one way of finishing this movie. I don't want to go too much into details about it but I was chosen by one of the parties to create a score for the movie that would make it more attractive to younger audiences. That's what I did and then apparently the decision was made that they wanted to be more of a classic movie rather than one directed toward younger audiences and that's what was eventually released. For me, it was a job like any other. There was some good music that will never see the light of day that was produced for it but that's how it goes.  As long you get compensated for your work, I don't mind that that's part of this inexact process that happens in any creative sphere when you try things out.  Ultimately somebody will have to make a decision and say this is how we’re positioning this movie, and that's what they decided for this one.

Q: I'm assuming that Universal owns the music so there's no chance of it ever appearing someday like an alternate score or unused score album?

Paul Haslinger: I don't think so.  It was pretty contentious, at the time, between those parties, and I think they're just happy that the project is over!

Q: You’ve also scored the X-MEN WOLVERINE video game, latest of several gamescores you have done.  How do the needs of interactive game scoring compares to that of linear filmscoring?

Paul Haslinger: Very different. Games are a whole different animal. You have parallels of course, and the parallel is that it is still a functional frame; you’re filling a function and you have to understand that function in order to understand your place in the project.  The other parallel is that you have to try to come up with interesting stuff. It doesn't matter what the context is, you either find something interesting and unique in it or you don't.  Of course it's for a different application and a different playback situation.  You write film scores for a big theater, and you write game scores for a small game console – a typical videogame set up.  But the big difference has to do with the 3-D story architecture of most games, meaning of course that it's not fixed, the music has to be adaptable to play for something new. You have to think about music architecture more than in a traditional score. For me this is the most exciting aspect about it.  That all being said, every game has cinematics, and this is why they hire a lot of Hollywood talent. The cinematics are these fixed pieces that set up different parts of the game, or provide an intro to the game or are heard during the end credits, and for those they do want cinematic qualities. They want it to play like a big movie opening or like a very cool trailer. So there is a meeting of the two worlds where for certain aspects of the game they really want and need the same specific qualities that you go after when you are writing for film.  For the gameplay side, they need people who understand the non- linear architecture of a game and can engage with that and work within that reality. To me, it's a great counterpoint to film work. You're generally working with a room full of programmers which is a good change from going into a meeting at a studio! 

Q: Is it a challenge when the game is an adaptation of an existing movie like WOLVERINE, with its own distinctive score?

Paul Haslinger: You know, I brought it up with the WOLVERINE game, and the word was always no. Even though it is part of the same franchise, they didn't want a tie in; they wanted them to stand on different feet, somehow. I was hired for WOLVERINE following the release of DEATH RACE. They actually took the whole company to the first DEATH RACE screening and they came out and told me, point blank, “Can you do something like that for this game?” So, from the get-go, it had nothing to do Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for the WOLVERINE movie – which by the way I hugely admire. It's one of my favorite scores of his. In general we have a lot of respect for each other and get along just great, so it was not in any way my not wanting to take his score as a reference, it was just never approached that way. It was always treated as a different project, a different animal. The film was a little more general audience friendly, and they wanted the game to hit harder and satisfy a gamer crowd, which apparently needs more violence!

Q: If you return to score the inevitable fifth UNDERWORLD film, where do you think the score might go from here?

Paul Haslinger: It's hard to say! What will they let us do is also part of the question. The longer a franchise like this goes on the more you also have a franchise protection mechanism kick in, where they want to make sure people who go see another one of these movies really get what they want to get. But, we'll see. Of course, it's part of my biography at this point, and I care about it.  I want it to do well and if they would do another one I'd be thrilled to be involved and try the same exercise again; try to go at it again and hopefully push it up another step.

Q: You've obviously seen a lot of development since you started with Tangerine Dream back in the 80s, in terms of technology, in terms of what's acceptable or what's the norm in scoring films. Where do you think all this will be going in the future? How will technology continue to be relied on as a tool for artistic expression in cinema?

Paul Haslinger: That’s hard to say because I don't think it is just technology. I also think there's a business model that's changing.  The amount of music that is being created for music libraries these days, and how popular that model is just from an economic standpoint, raises certain questions. You might also say there's just too much music out there right now, and it's a little exhausting for audiences.  I think we’re in a transition period right now, I just don't know what it's transitioning to or even if it will transition to something or if it will just dissipate and flatten out a little bit. I guess that’s the pessimistic way of looking at it. But I think the danger definitely exists that people will just create more and more music and it'll get less and less interesting and flatter and flatter; it'll all sound more alike.  That’s the thing that we have to be conscious of and try to work against. To me, the natural thing would be for people to adapt, and somebody will come up with a new idea and is usually something simple. If you take the example of Apple Computers, you have a similar process where this was something that was inaccessible to most people but then somebody, Steve Jobs, had this idea to simplify the interface design, and it clicked into something else. I think we have to have something like that in music, a reboot if you will, where it clicks into something else because if we just add stuff, add instruments and colors and reverb and whatnot it'll just get fuller and fuller and, like I said, it sort of flattens out.  We have to find something else that allows a fresh approach.  But this also has to do with audience response, and these are all unknowns, so I'm just hoping to see things shift into something new.  Right now I think we’re just looking at massive amounts of music and there are definitely some gems in there, artists like James Blake and Burial, or film composers like Antonio Pinto. But from my point of view the gems typically don't get that much traction. I'm hoping this will change, and it will change for the better.

Q: What do you have coming up next that you can talk about?

Paul Haslinger: Next project is the next RAINBOW SIX game for UbiSoft. I had a chance to work on a previous title in this series, Rainbow Six Vegas, about 5 years ago. So I know most of the sound people involved and look forward very much to making some noise again with them. Also part of the project is Ben Frost, and I'm excited to be collaborating with him on this. 

Thanks to Beth Krakower for facilitating this interview.


New Soundtracks Releases of Note

ANIMALS UNITED/David Newman/Perseverance
This German animated feature (aka Konferenz der Tiere) is based on a satirical book by the beloved German author Erich Kästner (Emil and the Detectives, Lottie and Lisa, aka THE PARENT TRAP); the movie updates the author’s original pacifist orientation (it was written as the Cold War heated things up after the end of WW2) to an environmentally conscientious message relayed by the four-footed victims of economic downfall who unite in order to defeat a common enemy: we human beings.  David Newman came into the project when its producers were seeking a Hollywood film scorer with a background in animation to give an energetic and emotive score for their film; Newman has accomplished his with the same eloquent vigor he brought to scores for the animated films ICE AGE, ANASTASIA and THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, as well as such live-action cartoons as SCOOBY-DOO, THE CAT IN THE HAT, and THE FLINTSTONES.  Newman’s soundtrack was issued in Germany by Königskinder Music, but the 16-track album only contained nine score cues, the rest being songs; Perseverance has displaced the songs and provided the entire score (50 tracks, 1:06:41) without interruption (the downside of their licensing agreement is that they can’t sell/ship their album to European customers).  Due to the nature of the film, a lot of these tracks are short (.5 to 2 minutes) but listened to as a whole they converge to form a fine musical journey as the animals stand as one (on hind legs) to reach a unified victory against their environmentally-unfriendly adversary.  Several cues are in excess of 3 minutes (one is nearly 6 minutes) allowing for plenty of motific development within those tracks.  The score roams the family-friendly dramatic territory from animal antic accompaniment to moments of affecting melodic grace (as in “Socrates Tells His Story,” male chorale in “Valley of Death,” and the concluding track, “Animals in New York”), full orchestral action drive (Billy Gets Chased by Hunter,” “Water Shortage”) to resplendently understanding (“Tales of the Humans,” a poignantly sentimental piece that runs 5:47 and featured choir with orchestra), victorious (“Dam Break” which also includes a bit of ethnic Africana in its climax), and thrillingly climactic cues like “Animals United (Parts 1 and 2)”.  The music is thoroughly invigorating and the score is highly expressive in Newman’s finest form.  The album packaging include through commentary by writer Gergely Hubai and a note from the director/producers.  www.perseverancerecords.com

BACK TO GAYA/Michael Kamen/MovieScore Media
When Michael Kamen passed away suddenly while working on music for the German animated fantasy BACK TO GAYA in 2003, the score was completed by a team headed by Kamen’s long-time associates Steve McLaughlin (producer/recording engineer) and Christopher Brooks (producer/music editor), who complemented Kamen’s unfinished sketches for GAYA with unused music from previous film projects as well as with additional music composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Andrew Raiher.  The music is a vivid orchestral fantasy score, delineating the environment and enlivening the characters in delightful musical colorations.  The film tells the story of creatures known as Snurks who face imminent danger as someone has stolen the magic stone without which Gaya is doomed; two Snurks, Boo and Zino, in typical LOTR fashion, embark on an exciting and dangerous journey to recover the stone. The music is flavorful, painting the film’s animated landscape with colorful swatches of orchestral melody grandiose and poignant, often embellished by subtle choir.  It takes the listener on a musical journey of adventure through moments of danger, trepidation, and absolute joy.  The score is very well constructed, which is both a tribute to Kamen’s initial ideas as well as the efforts of his music team that completed the score in his absence; there’s a sense of melodic and harmonic unity even though much of the music necessarily came from diverse projects. It’s well tied together and carries a through line of musical development that keeps score and story on track.  The picture may be an animated pastiche of familiar family fantasy elements, but the music is as complex, harmonically and motifically, as anything Kamen composed; standout dramatic tracks include “The Professor,” which drifts purposefully from its menacing introduction, through the fragile poignancy of soft strings playing with intimate sensitivity, and back into worrisome apprehension as the strings turn dark and dangerous, those soft lines becoming discomforting grunts of cello and sighs of high violins; the confident cheer of “The Race;” the fervent and anxious incentive of “Manual Targeting,” and the grand calamity of “The Vortex” with its massive blend of cyclonic musical forces drawing ever-tighter.  The excitement of the latter is renewed in many of the score’s other action moments like the well-integrated roils of furious orchestration in “Rat Chase,” the exuberance of “Flying” and “Night Flight,” and the stomping progression of “Robot Chase.”  Some of my favorite moments are more subtle ones, such as the poignant piano notes that emanate out of the sea of strings and winds midway through “Switched On,” affording an especially affecting acoustic moment carried through by the chorus of flutes that escort the cue to its closing measure of violins, the exciting effervescence of “Fireworks,” and the thrilling recapitulation of Kamen’s themes in the finale, “We’re Free,” (and reprised in short form in the closing “Back To Gaya” track).  Performed by Kamen’s favorite orchestra, the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the score sounds especially marvelous (“All the principals of all the great London orchestras had come to play, and had brought their best instruments,” McLaughlin said. “The musicians loved Michael, and they’d come to pay their respects”).  In honor and memory of the late composer, MovieScore Media will share a portion of revenues generated by the album with Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which was founded by Michael Kamen in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.

BIG MIRACLE/Cliff Eidelman/Varese Sarabande
One of my favorite Cliff Eidelman scores is his expressive music for 1997’s FREE WILLY 3, which I felt especially exemplified his gift for sweeping melodic structure and harmonic sensitivity that resulted in a deeply-felt composition.  2012’s BIG MIRACLE sees Eidelman embrace another story of animal rights and compassionate humans.  TV veteran Ken Kwapis (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, BERNIE MAC SHOW, THE OFFICE, etc) directed this rescue adventure inspired by the true story of a news reporter recruiting his ex-girlfriend (a Greenpeace volunteer) on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming Arctic ice.  This is a flavorful score that tugs honestly at the heart strings with a gentle emotion as it glides through the waters of corporate indifference and domestic politics to embrace the shared dedication of an unlikely coalition of Inuit natives, oil companies and Russian and American military that choose to set aside their differences and help free the whales.  Eidelman invests the score with impassioned drama as his orchestrations move across the soundscape with graceful dignity, just as they churn and fret with forceful yearning as the story’s more dramatic obstacles threaten the trapped cetaceans, such as the worrisome “We’re In Trouble Out Here” and the climactic, mounting velocity of “The Russians Break Through.”  The score is completely straightforward without a moment of corny emotionalism; moments like the crescendo in “Answering the Call” and the glorious majesty of “Freedom” are quietly breathtaking, surging forward with an authentic emotion, and the score’s journey from its tentative beginnings to its victorious finale is completely rewarding.  The music envelopes the feel-good movie with sincerity, and makes for a gratifying listening experience on its own. 

Available via digital download (a limited number of CDRs were produced for the 2011 Fright Night Film Fest), 2M1 has released the soundtrack music to DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, a 1981 made-for-television suspense/horror film directed by veteran novelist Frank De Felitta (author of Audrey Rose).  It is considered the first feature length horror film with a scarecrow as its centerpiece, in a story of an innocent man killed by a lynch mob who returns as a scarecrow to reap justice upon his slayers.  The music, by TV composer Glenn Paxton, is a spooky cornfield of discordant phrasings and eerie textures, generated primarily by synth, piano, violin, and percussion.  It’s a minimal score that crafts a potent sense of claustrophobia and apprehension, culminating in a ferocious climax.  Paxton’s Main Title music very effectively sets the stage for this terror tale, as severe strokes of solo violin slice across a low terrain of synth tonality; creepy piano plunks and percussion raps sound hesitantly, while echoed percussion (reflecting perhaps the style of Manfredini’s FRIDAY THE 13TH ostinato of the year before) and a fragment of piped melody along with stronger synth chords give the film’s opening a strong sense of unresolved anxiety, which Paxton will continue to embellish as the story plays out.  A country-rock instrumental personifies the lost dude, Bubba (“Bubba’s Not Gone”), echoed briefly but tellingly in “The Scarecrow Appears,” before the menacing synth lines absorb it completely.  And what would a rural horror score be without a wood chipper?  Paxton accompanies “The Chipper” with a chilling sustain of ominous synth sinews that convey a speechless sense of growing horror as one of the miscreants clings desperately to a handhold above an unexpectedly-activated wood chipper just below him, crying for help… rapid arpeggios of pianos and ruthless pounds of percussion increase as the man’s panic rises, escalating to a ferocious dissonance of all these parts as he loses his grip and plummets into the rending machinery below; a severe pronunciation of piano and synth chords resolves the sequence decidedly. Another frightening scene, in which a character panics and locks himself in a grain silo to escape the scarecrow, is accommodated with the violin strokes from the Main Title processed with severe tremolo to create a nightmarish feeling of growing terror and entrapment as the silo’s conveyor belt is turned on, burying the man beneath acres of heavy grain.  “Scarecrow Justice” concludes the film with another potently progressive culmination of dissonance, as the final member of the lynch mob receives his comeuppance from another piece of farm machinery, the music plowing its way to a huge crescendo of dark triumph.  (There is a noticeable tremolo in the synth lines on several tracks but this appears to be intentional in the composer’s sound design and not part of an erroneous wow in the recording, as other sustained instrumental lines remain fluid and clear.)
Soundbytes: www.2m1records.com/darknight

FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY/Ennio Morricone/La-La Land
Ennio Morricone’s sublime score for Roland Joffe’s 1989 wartime drama about the development of the atomic bombs that ended World War II, and have threatened global destruction ever since.  Morricone’s score is saturated in poetic tragedy, grafting onto the film the same kind of elegant romanticism tinged with heartbreak with which he invested Joffe’s THE MISSION.  This is a war movie score unlike most other war movies scores, largely because Morricone grasped the film’s conscientious subtexts that waft above the film’s simple portrayal of historical events.  Also, this is a film without military battles and heroic invasions; it’s a film that examines the ethical psychology and reflects the events of 1945 from the modern lens of 1989. Morricone’s music exemplifies this spirit and engages the director’s viewpoint in a skillfully expressive way, while crafting music of persuasive beauty and grace.  The score has its moments of dissonance, but they delineate psychological issues as much as difficulties with the bomb development process – infestations of pizzicato violins, elongated crystalline sustains of high strings, and the like; and it has its moments of militaristic masculinity (the theme for Paul Newman’s General Groves strides across a bed of flailing snare drums, but rather than a proud, confident melody, the theme itself is a cluster of piping trumpets and flutes, as if suggesting the false confidence and ambitious ego of the character).  It’s a beautifully harmonic and fluid composition that has long awaited a soundtrack presentation.  This double-disc premiere soundtrack proffers the film score on disc 1 (20 tracks. 63:40), with period source cues and alternate score tracks on disc 2 (19 tracks, 40:29).  It’s a fine production of an excellent score, nicely designed by exec album producer Dan Goldwasser and supported by a 24-page booklet with comprehensive and engaging commentary notes by Dan Schweiger.  Digital mastering by Mike Matessino serves the score very well.

FRANTIC/Ennio Morricone/FSM
Roman Polanski hit on Ennio Morricone to provide the moody yet melodic score for his 1988 suspense-thriller, in which Harrison Ford played an American doctor who plunges into a seedy nightlife of drugs, murder and international espionage while searching Paris for his wife, who vanished upon their arrival. Elektra Records issued a soundtrack album in 1988, which has been out of print for many years; much of the music contained on that album wasn’t actually in the picture at all, while other selections were significantly altered.  FSM’s expanded release provided both a remastered presentation of the contents of the Elektra album (including the song by Simply Red, “I’m Gonna Lose You,” that opened it) and the premiere release of Morricone’s complete score as actually heard in the film.  The score begins with a mix of Morricone’s characteristic breezy orchestral pop, reflecting the romance and excitement the couple expects to find in France, but them soon descends into a sobering journey of sinewy suspense, nourish intrigue, and anguished lament as Ford’s character engages in his journey through the Parisian underworld in search of his wife, aided by a friendly but disadvantaged street girl.  Action pieces are largely developed around electric bass, with horns and strings embodying the character’s anxiety; Morricone mixes these elements into an elegant score that sparkles in contemporary sophistication while clearly keeping the character’s emotional psychology always in mind.  An accompanying 16-page booklet, designed by Joe Sikoryak, features detailed analytical commentary notes by Lukas Kendall, although the tracks are discussed collectively in film order, not album order, so it takes a little shuffling of pages to match your reading with your listening.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS I-VI/Harry Manfredini/La-La Land
All 1300 copies of this six-CD box set sold out as quickly as a descending hatchet blade, and many of them just as fast found a home on the secondary market as copies proliferated for high cost on eBay and elsewhere.  It’s a shame that a large print run wasn’t possible, as this is one of the most significant genre film score releases of the year.  Harry Manfredini’s music for the iconic slasher movies has become equal to the stature of Jason, Mrs. Voorhees, and slashing blade puncturing young flesh as a representative component of the film series.  A 45-minute, 4-track 1982 LP from Gramavision (re-released by the label on CD in 2005) meagerly represented the scores from the first three films.  Until now, the initial six film scores have eluded a proper score release in the soundtrack market for many years (the seventh and eighth films were scored by Fred Mollin, who had composed the spun-off TV anthology series, filled out with some library tracks by Manfredini, who returned for films nine and ten, JASON GOES TO HELL and JASON X, which have been released on CDs by Edel and Varese Sarabande, respectively).  La-La Land has really done a superlative job on giving these scores their due in this fine set, which includes the full and mostly unreleased scores for all six original FRIDAY THE 13th films (more than five hours of music), even including all of the music for parts 3 and 4, which were largely compiled by re-using Manfredini’s tracks from the first two films, for a thorough listening experience of their scores.  The music is strikingly fresh (parts 1 -5 were pulled from Paramount's original music stems, the only source material located; Part 6 therefore has a better sound dynamic as it was remised directly from the composer’s original tapes, but all of it is satisfyingly acceptable), constructing a brilliant musical design for anticipation, terror, and shock that kept audiences on the edge of their seats as the mysterious killer stalked and slashed its way across cabinloads of fresh, nubile teens.  While all six of the films are drawn from similar roots laid down in the first film (especially its haunting, processed vocal chant, “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma,” standing for Mrs. Voorhees’ cries, “Kill her Mommy!”), Manfredini developed the thematic structure as the scores went on (with of course the exception of the mostly tracked parts of films 3 and 4), which makes the film’s journey across all six films an extremely interesting listening experience.  There’s so much more to the music than stalk-and-slash accompaniment; even while that necessary musical manipulation is present, Manfredini crafted the scores with intriguing instrumental combinations and unusual textural structures, creating a sound world that is as relentless, otherworldly, and shocking as the events and grim assailant featured in the films.  La-La Land has designed the package in a handsome heavy slipcover which accommodates two 3-CD jewel cases as well as the 40-page booklet, nicely designed by David C. Fein and featuring thoroughly comprehensive notes by composer/writer Brian Satterwhite, describing the history and legacy of the films and their scores.  The initial greedy eBay listings offering the set at multiple hundreds of dollars have fortunately dissipated and I counted a couple dozen offered on eBay tonight for no more than twice the original asking price of $69.98.  It’s still a hefty amount but at least copies can still be had for those thirsty to pick them up.

THE GREY/Marc Streitenfeld/Lakeshore
In THE GREY, director Joe Carnahan (SMOKIN’ ACES, THE A-TEAM) tells the story of an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks whose plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Battling mortal injuries and merciless weather, the survivors have only a few days to escape the icy elements – and a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt – before their time runs out.  The score by German-born, BAFTA-nominated composer Marc Streitenfeld (AMERICAN GANGSTER, ROBIN HOOD) has been released by Lakeshore, now available digitally and on CD on February 21.  The music is a subtle wash of icy tonality, evoking both the desolate terrain and dire straits of the crash survivors, as well as various visions of memory encountered by the marooned men.  It’s primarily an ambient score interlaced with drifting tonalities that resemble the movement of shifting ice floes or icy mists, although its focus is on the human interactions more than the evoking the environment, although the two do seem to go hand in hand in the film.  As a listening experience it’s a little austere, dramatically, although Streitenfeld’s atmospheres do tend to get under your skin after a while. The score establishes a desolate mood and develops it across the film, punctuated by occasional intense dissonances like the hammering drums and moaning synths & winds of “Lagging Behind” and “Eyes Glowing” which captures a superlative evocation of doom, or the panicking percussion discordances of “Running from Wolves” at which time the movie becomes an thriller with the unfortunate wolves cast as the monsters.  Beyond those moments, the score accommodates a fairly forlorn mood, as if the oil-rig men have already accepted their fate even as they endeavor to survive, with “Alpha” as a sublimely moving emotional peak.

THE INNKEEPERS/Jeff Grace/Screamworks
The eloquent fragility of Jeff Grace’s latest spooky horror score has been preserved on digital and CD by horror film music label Screamworks.  The film reunited Grace for the fifth time with director Ti West (THE ROOST, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, TRIGGER MAN, THE LAST WINTER) in a dark story about a haunted hotel and attempts by two employees to decipher the mystery behind the lodging’s disturbing past.  Grace’s score is typically atmospheric and ambient, exuding a quiet sense of apprehension while avoiding the kind of sound-design patternesque that characterizes a lot of modern scores in the horror genre. The score’s recurring element is a floating membrane of tonality that exists in many of the tracks, portrayed in different ways but with a constant sonic shape, a corporeal chord progression drifting like ectoplasm through the quiet corridors and gathering additional timbres and associative sounds in its wake; its layered strings hover across a forsaken soundscape of shifting tonalities embellished by barely discernible choral intonations (“The Pendulum”), occasionally coupled with an enigmatic air of sympathy (“Clare’s Room” with its insistent ringing of high end synths on top of the acoustics) or dappled with a recurring metronome of light piano (“The Story of Madeline”).  Unexpectedly, the music will surge into a powerful mélange of forceful, cyclical string figures propelled by commanding pounds of timpani and growing tempi within the supporting orchestra (“The Garage,” “The Pendulum Breaks”, “Claire Falls”).  Grace continues to serve the genre well through this score, which generates a palpably ominous mood of foreboding through its sonic environment.  Severe tremolos of violins create tangible shudders in the listener across a heavy mist of sustained high strings, while other string lines intersect the sinewy strains as further webs of sound fall across, through, and away from his base sound.  Horns infiltrate the progressive sustains with unhurried emanations of pulsing sound. Its tenuous melodic phrases and sonic grain creates a scary atmosphere that is quite evident on the album alone (example: “Right Behind You!”).  Grace’s “Epilogue” ends the score with a beautiful eloquence, while “End Title Suite” reprises the marcato action material to launch into a very satisfying recap of the score’s major elements, allowing the former string progressions to finally achieve melodic fulfillment in a four-note figure that rises confidently midway through, until dropping off to allow the score to resolve with a return to its earlier ambient misterioso.  Grace won the festival trophy for 'Best Musical Score' at 2011’s Screamfest for this score.  The CD edition of the score is limited to 500 copies in its initial run, with the digital release available via the usual online sources.

ONE FOR THE MONEY/Deborah Lurie/Lakeshore
The five pop songs that headline Lakeshore’s soundtrack album give way on track 6 for the first of 21 score tracks by Deborah Lurie, who offers this witty action comedy starring Kathleen Heigl, Jason O’Mara, and John Leguiziamo, a fresh and feisty vibe.  Scored primarily for guitars, keyboards, and drum-kit, it’s bright contemporary flash.  Within this musical orientation, Lurie manages to convey effective dramatic inflections that serve the film well, such as the menacing pulse of “One More Dead,” the friendly and bass-heavy pop riffing of “Steph Tails the Truck,” the confident, rolling R&B of “Mr. Earling,” and the hectic action drive of “Gruesome Discoveries.”  Lurie uses a percussion effect that sounds very much like finger snaps to lend a recurring pattern to much of the music, and that light, snapped beat becomes the cohesive nuance that ties the score’s riffing groove together.  It’s fun, undemanding, and quite pleasing.

REAL STEEL/Danny Elfman/Varese Sarabande
For a film oriented around the concept of the simple tabletop game Rockem Sockem Robots (while actually based on a Richard Matheson short story), Shawn Levy’s REAL STEEL delivers a feel-good movie made of iron and steel with some spectacularly choreographed effects scenes (a mix of CGI, practical effects, and real animatronic ‘bots) with a fine cast and a splendid, steely score by Danny Elfman. John Gatins has developed a satisfying plot that, despite its essential ROCKY-with-Robots scenario, contains some honest relationships placed a few years in the future after human boxing has been replaced with far more extreme robot boxing.  These aren’t the little motorized lawnmower ‘bots of TV’s BATTLEBOTS but the oversized humanoid robots of cyperpunk sf and anime.  Elfman’s score is able to shoulder its way through a bunch of rap and rock songs (which are available on a separate songtrack album from Interscope) to really embellish the story’s warm heart with an engaging score.  The action/battle moments are occupied by fairly typical slams of rockem, sockem percussive/brass/synth, but through it all Elfman’s subtler, humanistic melodies are woven, which personifies the human element behind the battling cyberbots and exemplifies the heartening father-son relationship that is restored through the competitive robot boxing process.  Aside from the brass and electronically-infused percussion, Elfman employs acoustic guitar runs (“It’s Your Choice,” “Safe With Me,”), gentle female voice (“Why We’re Here,”) or both (“Bonding,” “Parkway Motel”), and a lovely string-and-piano wistful family theme (“Safe With Me,” “You Deserve Better”) to underscore the father-son reunion which is the film’s real story (as well as the developing romance between Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly’s characters, as well as the film’s underlying Americana vibe.  The score’s main hero theme (“Charlie Trains Atom,” “Atom Versus Twin Cities,” the second half of “You Deserve Better”) reflects both the restored sparring robot Atom and the young lad who restores both Atom and his ex-boxer father’s dignity. The configuration of the main theme’s first six notes recall the opening tune of Neil Diamond’s song “Shiloh,” which is initially a slight distraction and certainly coincidental, but Elfman takes the melody elsewhere after that and formulates it into an energetic, cheer-inducing victory anthem as underbot Atom wins round after round against the bullybots, culminating in the happy triumph of “People’s Champion.”  It’s also arranged into a variation for acoustic guitar, set among the family theme and voice melodies, in the poignant “Taking A Beating.”  I found REAL STEEL to be an unexpectedly very good movie with terrific action, effects, and a true heart.  Danny Elfman’s score augments its dignity and emotional grounding with a fine score that honestly conveys its sense of family affinity and celebration.



Soundtrack & Music News

Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards were announced on January 24th. Here are the music-related nominations:

Best Original Score
THE ARTIST – Ludovic Bource
HUGO – Howard Shore
WAR HORSE- John Williams

Best Original Song:
Man or Muppets from THE MUPPETS – Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
Real in Rio from RIO – Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown and Lyric by Siedah Garrett

For a full list of nominations, click here. The Academy Award ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 26, 2012 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.
– via, with thanks, to http://filmmusicreporter.com


Golden Globe Awards for 2011 have come and gone, here are the nominations and winners in music:
Best Original Score – Motion Picture

THE ARTIST - Ludovic Bource (winner)


W.E.- Abel Korzeniowski




HUGO - Howard Shore


WAR HORSE - John Williams


Best Original Song – Motion Picture
W.E. “Masterpiece” – Madonna/Julie Frost/Jimmy Harry (winner)
GNOMEO & JULIET “Hello Hello” – Elton John/Bernie Taupin
MACHINE GUN PREACHER “The Keeper” – Chris Cornell
ALBERT NOBBS “Lay Your Head Down” – Brian Byrne/Glenn Close
THE HELP “The Living Proof” – Thomas Newman, Mary J. Blige, et al


The Annie Awards have also been announced by the International Animated Film Society.  Winners will be announced on Sat, Feb 4th.  The music nominees are:

Music in a Television Production
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR – Adam Berry, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle (Nickelodeon)
THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL - Ben Locket (Cartoon Network Europe)
PREP & LANDING: NAUGHTY VS. NICE - Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino (Disney)
PIXIE HOLLOW GAMES - Joel McNeely, Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda (DisneyToon)
THUNDERCATS - Kevin Kliesch (Warner)
ROBOT CHICKEN - Shawn Patterson, Zeb Wells (Adult Swim)

Music in a Feature Production
PUSS IN BOOTS - Henry Jackman
RIO - John Powell, et al
WINNIE THE POOH - Henry Jackman, et al
See http://annieawards.org


Frederik Wiedmann’s score for GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES has been nominated for an Annie Award (Best Music in a TV Show). See my December 30th, 2011 column for an interview with Wiedmann about this score, and others.

Film music history was made as John Williams surpassed Alfred Newman's all-time music-nominations record when the 84th annual Oscar nominations were announced last week by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Williams, who will turn 80 on February 8, received his 46th and 47th nominations for two Steven Spielberg films released in 2011: WAR HORSE and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN. Newman's record of 45 had stood for more than 40 years. Williams has five Academy Awards to date, three of them for Spielberg films. Williams is now the second most-nominated individual in the history of the Oscars, behind only Walt Disney with 59. Read Marilee Bradford’s full story at:

At the Education Through Music Los Angeles 2011 annual fundraiser gala, composer Christopher Young was honored with the Shining Star Award. The award was presented by Jon Amiel (director of ENTRAPMENT, THE CORE, CREATION and others).  At the gala, a special film was shown in honor of Chris gala, featuring a small handful of the many composers who have studied under or worked for him. The composers featured: Gerard Marino, Deborah Lurie, Gernot Wolfgang, Jasper Randall, Christophe Beck, Marco Beltrami, Christopher Lennertz and Jim Dooley. Charlize Theron appears courtesy of BMI.

Directed and Produced by Austin Wintory with cinematography and editing by Adam Shell, the video has been posted on youtube, and I encourage all of you to have 5 minutes and have a look, it’s an admirable tribute to one of the coolest guys in Hollywood, who has influenced more modern composers than you might suspect.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97xv5jxwBAQ

Intrada’s latest release through their new Disney association is the formerly unreleased on CD score by Randy Newman for TOY STORY 3 (Disney issued a digital album last year with 15 score tracks and 2 songs).  Intrada’s premiere CD replicates that digital album but in the crisp, full dynamic of CD.  Newman offers a flavorful score rich with colorful Americana, rousing excitement, gentle nostalgia, and warm sentiment, and included Newman’s theme song "We Belong Together" as well as a Spanish-language version of "You've Got A Friend In Me" that features in the storyline. Intrada’s album packaging includes brief notes from the composer and director Lee Unkrich.

Kritzerland has announced its first new releases for 2012: THE MOLLY MAGUIRES, a big-budget drama from Paramount Pictures, with powerhouse stars and a brilliant score by Henry Mancini.  Kritzerland’s release also features the discarded score by Charles Strouse.  “We are thrilled to present the entire score as recorded by Mancini, newly mixed in superb sound, and which features several cues that were left off the original album,” wrote Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel. “When the tapes were pulled for THE MOLLY MAGUIRES, we were delighted to find that the tapes for Charles Strouse's original score were there - after a disastrous preview, it was decided his score would be replaced. It's fascinating to hear Strouse's completely opposite approach to the one Mancini would ultimately take.”  Also announced are a pair of ‘50’s b-movie scores from Albert Glasser combined on a single release, INVASION USA and TORMENTED. INVASION USA was made in 1952, when the Commie scare was in full bloom, the film is a nightmare (literally) vision of WHAT COULD HAPPEN HERE. “The film is indescribable in its weirdness and exists in a whole other movie universe, wrote Kimmel. “It is a completely unique and classic B-movie.”  1960’s TORMENTED is a “wild, weird and wacky movie,” made by Bert I. Gordon, a tale of death and jazz and love and a nasty female ghost come back to haunt and torment.  “Since the film's leading man is a jazz pianist, Glasser naturally wrote a jazzy score - but this is not your normal jazz,” noted Kimmel, “this is TORMENTED jazz - jagged and crazy and somehow perfectly capturing the visuals of the film!”  The Glasser CD is limited to 1000 copies only.
Hear samples at www.kritzerland.com

Tribute Film Classics Highlights is a low-cost sampler collection of tracks from recent Tribute Film Classics releases of fully symphonic renderings of classic, unreleased soundtracks from cinema’s Golden and Silver Ages. Highlights on the sampler include music by Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, with William Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
including tracks from the forth-coming 2CD release of ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN AND ARCENIC AND OLD LACE by Steiner. “Tribute Film Classics was created with a mission to record deserved scores in complete renditions – including music that may have been omitted or edited in the final film – that have been either ignored or survive in less than pristine condition. The label is dedicated to the preservation of classic film scores, and our goal is to create a collection of new recordings that we hope will perpetuate the specialized art of film composition.” The compilation will be available for ordering in early March 2012.  

Christopher Young will score the upcoming horror thriller SINISTER. Directed by Scott Derrickson, for whom Young scored the 2005 chiller THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, SINISTERstars Ethan Hawke as a journalist who travels with his family around the country to investigate gruesome murders, with perilous results.  - via http://filmmusicreporter.com (<- click for more details)

Upcoming on Feb 13th from Varese Sarabande: BLACK GOLD (James Horner), THERE BE DRAGONS (Robert Folk), followed on Feb 21st by SAFE HOUSE (Ramin Djawadi) and DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (John Ottman), with Joe LoDuca’s SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE coming on March 20th.

Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack to the police drama RAMPART, available digitally now and on CD on February 14. The film stars Woody Harrelson as a ruthless LAPD cop who crosses over the line one too many times.  The soundtrack mostly features songs with four tracks of score by Dickon Hinchliffe, a founder member of the British band Tindersticks who began scoring films in the early 2000s.  His music for RAMPART is built out of layered synths and guitar notes, reverbed highly to create a mesmerizing and claustrophobic atmosphere.  “When I wrote the music to RAMPART my aim was to engage in the emotional intensity of Woody Harrelson's character Dave Brown – his feelings for his family, his mounting paranoia and rage,” Hinchliffe explained. “The music is stark, formed by electric guitars that are at times melodic, but constantly on the verge of feedback.  I wanted the music to feel like it could go out of control at any moment like Dave Brown."    

Lambert Academic Publishing has published Elliot Goldenthal's Final Fantasy: A Discussion on Mixed Harmonic and Orchestration Techniques applied to Film Music, by Eneko Vadillo, a former composition teacher and author/scholar in music.  Vadillo’s research is based on an aesthetical-theorical analysis of the FINAL FANTASY score giving an insight into the composer’s compositional methods applied to the screen.  The author discusses the composer’s approach in scoring for fantasy/suspense genre of films, focusing on the mixed harmonic and instrumental techniques to match with the imagery of these films, blurring the lines between concert and film both music and composers.
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2M1 Records will release the original soundtrack for 2084, composed by Wojciech Golczewski for the 2009 thriller directed by George Blumetti, starring Betsy Baker, Jaimi Paige, Matthew Alan, Grady Lee Richmond and Billy West. The film has to do with a killer virus that threatens humanity, focusing on the impact on civilization and culture in the wake of the pandemic.  Also coming soon from the label is Christopher Farrel’s music to the 2010 crime thriller, ONE IN THE GUN.

Paul Leonard-Morgan is scoring the upcoming comic book adaptation DREDD, based on the same Judge Dredd comic book series that spawned the 1995 movie version that starred Sylvester Stallone and was scored by Alan Silvestri. Leonard-Morgan is best known for his score for last year’s surprise box office hit LIMITLESS. – via http://filmmusicreporter.com

Read Ain’t It Cool News’ resident soundtrack commentary Scorekeepers’ Top Ten film scores of 2011 at http://www.aintitcool.com/node/53027

Sidestep over to Filmmusic Reporter to read a multi-part report on last week’s 2012 Sundance Film Festival, with a focus on film musical matters: http://filmmusicreporter.com

The voting period for the 2011 International Film Music Critics Awards has begun with the mailing of official ballots to the 56 voting members of the group. Members will be making their choices in 15 categories intended to recognize the best film, television and video game music written in 2011.
The nominees for the 2011 IFMCA Awards will be announced on Friday, February 10th, 2012, and the winners will be announced a little under two weeks later, on Thursday, February 23rd, three days prior to the 84th Annual Academy Awards.   http://filmmusiccritics.org/


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 now writes for CinefantastiqueOnline and has written liner notes for more than 70 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, Percepto, Perseverance, Harkit, and BSX Records.  For more information, see: www.myspace.com/larsonrdl  A massively re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique will be published this Spring, see: www.creaturefeatures.com/products/books/musique-fantastique/

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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