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Randall D. Larson's SOUNDTRAX

November 5th, 2007

By Randall D. Larson

This week’s column features an interview with composers Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker about their eclectic scores for Rendition and Totsi, and about the process of collaborative film scoring and integrating world music into the film score.  We also review the scores to Bee Movie, Superman: Doomsday, Transformers, Atom Nine Adventures, and others.


RENDITION: An Interview with
composers Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker

When an Egyptian terrorism suspect “disappears” on a flight from Africa to Washington DC, his American wife and a CIA analyst find themselves caught up in a struggle to secure his release from a secret detention facility somewhere outside the US. In Gavin Hood’sRendition, the new political thriller from the director of 2005’s South African street crime drama, Tsotsi, composers Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker provide a compelling and atmospheric soundtrack utilizing a variety of ethnic instrumental textures including such Arab instruments as the duduk, qanon, ney, santur, violin and oud against a bed of atmospheric strings, pads and drones, all existing amidst an overlying orchestral ambiance, performed by a 48-piece string orchestra recorded in Burbank. TheRendition soundtrack is available from Milan Records, which also released Tsotsi.

Both composers began their careers in music in their native South Africa, arriving in Hollywood in the mid 1990s to become involved in film scoring. Hepker has been noted for scoring the Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch and other TV documentaries, while Kilian has scored such films as The Skulls III, Bone Daddy, and a number of TV movies and series episodes. Soundtrax recently interviewed the composers, who also scored Tsotsi, about their efforts onRendition and their outlook on the collaborative filmscoring process.

Q: What was your background in music and what led to your involvement in the film music business?

Mark Kilian: My background in music was mostly jazz and world music. Doing film scores is not something I really grew up with –I was looking at a future of playing in bands and doing that kind of work, but when I started studying composition at University I started becoming much more interested in film scores through that. I came here in 1994 and took the film scoring program at USC. I was hired out of school by Chris Young and worked for him for three years or so. And then started doing my own stuff, and just slowly built it up from there.

Paul Hepker: I started playing the piano when I was 2 or 3 years ago and did the intense classical piano thing, up until I was about 12 or 13. I had a music scholarship to high school and then I was going to study medicine at university and ended up doing psychology and dropping out of that and started playing in pop bands around South Africa. And then I got involved in musical theater, I was musical director on a lot of big national productions there, and so I was devising shows and working on existing shows, and the same sort of thing, the dramatic side of musical theater was an introduction to that. At the same time I was performing a lot, I toured with Johnny Clegg in the 90s, I was his keyboard player for a while and toured with him, and when I was in Europe in the 90s. I’d done TV commercials in South Africa but it wasn’t something I was really pursuing until I came the States. At that stage Mark was getting into the film industry and so when I came here I started doing odd jobs – playing piano on peoples’ scores and doing orchestration and some music editing. I was an assistant for Dan Licht and I started writing some themes for the films that he was doing. It wasn’t a calling, per so, to be a film composer, although it’s a great way to put all of your other talents into play – working musicians, working with drama, and experimenting.

Q: When you first got involved with Tsotsi, what was your first take on what kind of music that you felt were needed for the film?

Mark Kilian: we didn’t go down the traditional route on Tsotsi, or on Rendition, actually, because we were involved from the beginning. We actually flew to South Africa while they were filming. So it was a case of hanging out on the set and talking to Gavin and the editor and so of organically building this idea of what the music needs to do before we even put a stick to a drum or a finger to a piano, as it were. And then, at that point, I think we started out wanting to use found sound. That’s something I learned a great deal from Chris Young about, trying to use the world around you in terms of musical languages. So we just raided my dad’s garage and got a bunch of instruments and put some weird things together, like a deck chair with a string, and just experimented for weeks, building lots of ambiences and textures and sound. And then we took it from there and started formulating the rest of it.

Q: A deck chair?

Paul Hepker: A common garden or beach chair that doesn’t have the canvas on it; we just screwed screws on the end and then strung it with guitar strings and bowed it! We used wine glasses and homegrown instruments like that. Pieces from car engines, that kind of thing.

Mark Kilian: Hubcabs, fenders!

Paul Hepker: Gavin and the producer, Peter Fudakowski, always had a desire to use kwaito music of South Africa, which was going to be part of Tsotsi’s character…

Mark Kilian: It’s a South African version of rap, basically.

Paul Hepker: Rap, hip-hop kind of thing, yeah. And then once the character of the baby is introduced when Tsotsi steals the baby and leading up to him giving the baby back to the family, we realized there was another voice that needed to come, which was more primal, and we started using choir and Vusi Mahlasela, who’s a singer on the soundtrack, we used that as an element to start progressing out of the quieter and the violent kind of rap/hip-hop music into something that was much more natural and nurturing.

Q: How did this collaboration evolve when you came in to score Rendition?

Mark Kilian: The process is basically that we write something and show it to him. We might go through that process a great deal of times before something’s working for him, but we’re just experimenting. By the of the first preview, the editor’s put together a temp score that’s mostly our stuff, because we’ve been feeding them the ideas all along.

Paul Hepker: The editor [Megan Gill] would occasionally cut a scene with some music that she’s found, in a traditional sense, some bits and pieces of a score, and we’d use that as an indication of where she was going, and sometimes that was just a spark for a kind of a way of realizing how they wanted to play with or against a scene. So that gave us a good indication, but often they’d also temp the thing with music that Mark and I had written for other projects, or for Tsotsi. There was a very collaborative element even when she was putting together the rushes in Morocco; we were kind of involved before it was even edited.

Q: You were on set during filming?

Mark Kilian: We’d gone to Morocco during filming, and we were recording some Moroccan musicians there. We came back here when they started our process of editing all the stuff we recorded there, finding what worked and what didn’t and what we liked and what didn’t. And then we started doing the same thing we we’d done on Tsotsi, which is raiding the garage and finding things we could make sounds from. It this case it was more making sounds from the stuff we recorded in Morocco and various ethnic instruments that Paul and I both have here. And Gavin is organically a part of that, all the way through, as he was in Tsotsi.

Q: On Rendition, what’s the element of the film that you especially wanted to form your score around?

Mark Kilian: Immediately we realized it was going to have to be an Arabic or Middle Eastern influence or even Far Eastern influence. I also think we didn’t feel like it had to be exactly or authentically Moroccan or Egyptian or wherever it was going to end up being set, but we needed that influence in the same way that we used South African influences in Tsotsi. But we also wanted it to be organic, so once we delved into that material, we tried to have the rest of our composition tools as it were coming from that organic world, of those instruments and those scales and those harmonies and that type of writing.

Paul Hepker: We made a conscious decision with Gavin not to go, for the Washington scenes, not to go traditional kind of French horns and snare drums sound. Gavin definitely wanted it to feel like that world of Middle East has already kind of imposed itself on this society here, so there wasn’t this distinct separation between those two themes, the West and North Africa. We tried to integrate those, in a sense, in the way that the characters on that stage were having an influence on the characters back here, and the calling, so there was a unified approach to the score. And then threading through it was this idea that Gavin always had in the back of his mind, that Rendition is a form of a lament, so he fell in love with the sound of the duduk, when we were still in Morocco we had a piece playing on headphones, playing for the producers, for the actors, and all that stuff, he’d felt like he had found a voice for the lament side of it, and that was the duduk, and that threads through the story. The duduk theme starts the film and then it pops up and runs in its completion right at the end, so that’s a thread that runs through it.

Q: On the surface level it sounds like a very atmospheric score but when you begin listening to it and paying attention, you can really tell the way you’re crafting these themes and motifs to really comment on what’s going on in the film’s subtext.

Mark Kilian: In fact, actually just talking about it in an interview we did a little earlier, where I’m not sure if the guy really got that aspect of it, because it isn’t just an ambient score with some rhythm. There’s a lot of thematic thinking in the way we’ve put it together. It doesn’t come across as a big thematic Hollywood score, by any means, but it is very well thought out in the way it’s put together, thematically speaking. It hasn’t got the themes on big, soaring violins. They could be textures, they could be compartments, and so forth.

Q: What’s your co-compositional process when you’re working? You created this score, for example, with your own distinct musical personalities and yet have come up with something that’s very much of a whole.

Mark Kilian: We do bring different musical abilities and sensibilities and experiences to the table. We did work slightly differently on Rendition than the way we did on Tsotsi. On Rendition we worked out of one studio on one workstation, and we would in essence talk about a scene, look at the scene, and there’s this great sense of freedom between us. Paul would pick up an instrument and go off and make some melody on it, and I would maybe grab a microphone and say, “oh, that’s really cool if we did it this way, what if we recorded it like this and then put it in?” And then maybe I’d grab something and say “let’s try this on top of it,” and so it’s a very organic process where we really are kids in a sandpit, just playing with things and throwing them up at the wall and seeing what happens. Inevitably there’s a lot of stuff that we throw out and we edit between us, but we don’t feel too afraid or too vulnerable to let anything happen. So that’s a very free space.

Paul Hepker: Just to kind of expand on that, with our differences I think that we each play two persona in the situation, so if you can create a safe place for the other person to go off the handle, to try something, and then what you do is you add a non-judgmental, non-critical perspective of like, “well, perhaps this is a bit much” or maybe “we can take that and modulate it.” As creative people, we all have the artist and we have the judge and the critic and the cynic. Sometimes when it’s just yourself, there can be a bit of a short-circuit in the process, like in fear of going down a road because it might take too long or whatever, but having another person in the room who’s happy to take on that role and create a channeling, if you want to put it that way, it raises the productivity level, because there’s a sense that there’s always somebody who’s keeping an eye on where we’re at and what needs to be done, and the time constraints.

It’s a little bit actually like in pop music, with bands, it’s a little but like, there’s always an artist and a producer, and when we’re working together, we’re never really both the artist or the producer at the same time, so we swap those roles between us, and that works pretty well. There are, of course, times when we both end up being the artist, and then you get carried away by the process, which is, as Mark said earlier, talking about it as a sandpit, it’s really one of, we’ve got all these instruments that we may not be proficient at in a technical sense, we couldn’t go and do a concert for an hour and a half and entertain people on it, but for the purposes of ten or fifteen seconds of recorded material, we can get stuff out that is enough to get us to the next level where we can work with that, and incorporate it or expand on it. Or we’ll hire the guy who can play it properly!

Q: What was more of value to you on the Rendition score, doing the improve/jam thing or actually writing down notes on paper? Did you have that kind of a process, or was it more let’s just pick up the instruments and see where this takes us?

Mark Kilian: That’s basically where it is, because I think Paul and I both experience music as performers, first and foremost. So we’re always jamming something! But the pencil and paper thing is something that is necessary, and we only employ it when it is necessary. We don’t feel like we’re that kind of composer that has to have the orchestral pad in front of you and you have to put everything down note perfect before you can finish – it’s not like that at all. The creativity is the most important thing and everything that needs to support that creativity whether it’s writing something down or whatever it may be is in service of that creativity, ultimately.

Paul Hepker: There were scenes, for instance, when we had the other vocalist come in or the duduk player, where we had to put that down into a physical space, where it’s not something that you want to play them, there’s something that we’d write down and we’d structure melody and a theme and we’d develop that, but it was always based on what we’d come across through the process of creating it, and sometimes if there was a necessity to solidify it, and once we’d put it on to that realm, onto that physical paper realm, then there was tweaking and discussing melodies and “I think it should go like this” or “I think it should go like that.” But we were always aware of how that was going to be echoed throughout the score and also it responded to what we’d already put down in the score. Sometimes it had already floated to the surface to the point where you could actually write them out or transpose them or put them in different forms, reharmonize them. That happened simultaneously.

Mark Kilian: It was a very fluid process, and a lot of give and take, because if you write a melody down and get a singer or an instrumentalist in, you’re probably not going to be surprised by anything. But if you don’t put the melody in front of them and just play them the music and say “what would you do over this, just roll with me,” the chances of your being surprised are so much greater.

Q: What kind of time frame did you have from when you first got involved?

Paul Hepker: Just short of six months. It was a very luxurious schedule for a composer. We were in Morocco in March, recording, and then Gavin had a ten-week shooting schedule – the first preview was probably six weeks into that, and actually by the time we had the first preview, Mark and I had written between eighty and ninety percent of the score, and that’s what they screened at the preview. So we got a long way very quickly, and then there was the obvious changing stuff and trying a different take on something and developing it. But a lot of the themes we went back to what we’d had in that first screening; there was a lot cool stuff that stayed the same and didn’t change.

Q: Based on the result of that screening, what kind of changes did you have to make? Was that mainly in timings, or were there also changes in approach?

Mark Kilian: The timings changed on every cut, but that’s not such a huge creative concern. But things did change. There were many key scenes that we tried in different ways with very different musical solutions, and we’d go back and forth. In some cases we’d like certain parts of one and prefer certain parts of another take, and then sort of meld them together. It’s something that you’re not really allowed to do and don’t have the luxury of doing on a 6-week schedule.

Paul Hepker: The biggest things that happen to the story telling is that there’s a kind of a timeline device that, after the first preview, some people felt it could have been clearer. So there was a big story shuffle to try alternative versions of exposing what was happening – scenes are shuffled and that affected us. That changed a couple of times and they ended up going with the one that they thought worked best, which was very close to what they had originally.

Q: To what extent was the acoustic music in Rendition manipulated electronically via samples and patches to create the score’s overall ambient vibe?

Mark Kilian: We did that all ourselves. For example, if we needed a drone or a pad, normally you’d pick up a sample on a synthesizer or something, and instead we’d take a little bit of a ney flute we’d recorded in Morocco, for example, and then make a pad out of that, or made a drone out of that. We did that exclusively, so there are no patches or samples at all used in Rendition.

Paul Hepker: Nothing retail! And the same in Tsotsi. Nothing over-the-counter. It’s kind of an unspoken rule that Mark and I have. We create everything from scratch for the project. That’s good because we still have separate careers and it’s nice to know that the stuff we do together belongs in that realm and it’s not, “oh, you’re going to take this, that we’ve both invested in, and use it as a theme for my own TV show, or whatever.”

Q: Between Totsi and Rendition the two of you scored a film called The Bird Can’t Fly. What was that project about?

Mark Kilian: It’s a Dutch director, an avant-garde theater director by the name of Threes Anna, it’s her first feature film, shot in South Africa. It’s a story she wrote and we did a score in it that I think bears our mark but is somewhat different to what we did in Rendition and Tsotsi, a little more organic, a little less textural motivated.

Q: What kind of music did you provide for that film?

Paul Hepker: Once again, we used a lot of ethnic instruments. There was some harmonium, a lot of flutes, some slide guitar and bass, lots of percussion, some big marimbas that Mark had bought in Africa. But the big difference was that we didn’t really process those and make a lot of synthesized, atmospheric ambient patches, we pretty much used a lot of them as it, just performance-based, so it wasn’t as manipulated and there wasn’t as much of an electronic sound to the score.

Mark Kilian: It was a much smaller sound. I think you can relate it to classical music – it’s more of a chamber group.

Paul Hepker: It’s more intimate, yes.

Q: So where do you go from here? Are you going to continue to collaborate and work on individual projects?

Mark Kilian: That’s basically our deal. We both have our career but we also have this collaboration. We’re up for a couple more as a collaborative thing but we’re also up for other things, individually as well.

Many thanks to Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker for taking the time to discuss their work in detail – and to Allie Lee at Chasen & Company and Beth Krakower at CineMedia Promotions for arranging the chat.

For more information on the composers, see:


This Week’s Recommendations

Rupert Gregson-Williams (brother of Harry) has provided an exciting and eloquent score for Bee Movie, the latest anthropomorphic animal feature animation from DreamWorks.  The soundtrack, released last week by Sony, features more than a dozen score tracks, plus The Archies’ 1969 bubble gum, “Sugar Sugar” stuck in the middle of the CD, and a new version of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” nicely performed by Sheryl Crow set at the end.  The score is terrific, a full-blooded heroic and swashbuckling orchestral score that gives the CGI movie much of its larger-than-life dynamic.  Tracks like “The Pollen Jocks” are brimming with honest bombast while the score also serves to humanize the anthropomorphic apiformes that populate the story (“Barry Flies Out,” “Assault on the Honey Farm,”).  It’s a simplistic approach but a very accessible one, a score that proves to be as enthusiastically enjoyed as it is found to be predictable and formulaic.  And the latter attributes, while true, are not to the score’s detriment – it is extremely likable, a soaring heroic and romantic score that’s as colorful and effervescent as the film it accompanies.  Rupert proves to be very capable with the large-sized orchestra and choir (Lorne Balfe, Halli Cauthery, Michael Levine, Mark Russell, Ryeland Allison, and Heitor Pereira are all credit with “additional music” on the CD minutiae) and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable musical escapade.

La-La Land Records has released Robert Kral’s mighty super-hero score for Superman: Doomsday, Warner’s new direct-to-DVD animated feature film based on the award-winning Death of Superman comic book trilogy. Composer Robert J. Kral (TV's Angel, The Dresden Files and The Lost Room) brings the Man of Steel to spectacular new heights with a score bursting with thrills, chills and emotional drama.  With a main theme that’s every bit as powerful as Kal-El himself, Kral provides a massively heroic and powerful work that is very nicely captured on CD.  Like Lolita Ritmanis’ thunderously magnificent theme from Warner Animation’s Justice League of America (the best super-hero theme on TV, bar none, and one that really, really needs to be issued on a CD like this), this music far surpasses its comic book roots and serves as a stalwart and eloquent composition that sums up the Man of Steel in both his might and his vulnerability.  (BTW: For an excellent interview with Kral on his Superman Doomsday score, see: www.soundtrack.net/)

John Ottman’s score for The Invasion, producer Joel Silver’s reimagining of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is an effective modernistic score, nicely preserved on CD from Varese Sarabande.  It’s a modernistic and atmospheric score, very rhythm based, rich in mysterioso and persuasive spookiness, essentially orchestral but with a provocative underlying reliance on electronic textures and pads that breathe just below the surface of symphonic melody and tonality, just like the malevolent alien organisms that slowly corrupt and assume humanity in the film.  Ottman does a masterful job at replicating that same sensibility in his music, as his “electronisis” gradually overtakes the score’s orchestral organicness, resulting in a pod-score of frightening elegance (the early cue, “All Aboard,” is an excellent example of this musical assimilation, as is, of course, “Mid-Transformation.”).   There’s plenty of integrated dissonance (“Subway/Blending In,” “Census Taker/Search On A Whim,” etc), while more ambient atmospheres build a creepier, sustained environment (“Warning Wendy/Taster’s Choice,” “Hit and Sit/Dropping Off Ollie”).  A more subdued theme for the main characters (“Carol and Ben Plot,” “I Need You/I Already Slept”) give the score more of a human focal point (BTW the dual titles of each cue suggest the score was made up of short bits which have been effectively combined into more listenable pairings on the CD).  The original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a potent and powerful allegory of paranoia; subsequent versions have examined more literal elements of the story, but the core has always been one of deception, betrayal, transformation, and substitution.  While this film may have diverted from the original storyline with more of a 28 Days Later influence and marred by its own ham-fisted self-correlation to politics and Iraq), Ottman’s score remains engorged on those original elements and the music retains an effective and disturbing charisma that goes through its own subtle transformations from the initial routine (“Life Goes On”) through the integration of the organic with the electronic, and out the other side as something changed and different.  Ottman nicely embodies these elements into a sonic atmosphere that works well for the film and resonates thoughtfully if disquietingly on CD.

Film Score Monthly has issued a lavish 2-disc restoration of one of Franz Waxman’s richest historical scores, the 1954 biblical epic, The Silver Chalice.  Previously only available on CD as one disc of the ultra-expensive Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection CD re-recording (originally issued on LP in the 1970s), FSM’s edition is the first ever release of the original soundtrack recording.  A kind of variation on Fox’s The Robe, Warner’s Silver Chalice told of a Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself, and the spiritual affect the assignment has upon him.  Waxman’s score is drawn from liturgical influences but is equally compelling in its human drama, enriched by the composer’s yearning love theme, his mysterious filigrees for the film’s pagan villain, and his picturesque musical delineation of ancient Rome.  The CD comprises essentially the complete score in mono (the stereo masters are long-since lost, but the mono recording is as acceptably full-blooded as mono gets), with some alternate and unused cues. 

Warner Bros records has released Steve Jablonsky’s score for Michael Bay’s massive live-action comic book, Transformers.  I was never a fan of the original cartoon or the toys – I always thought they were a bit silly, although I guess if I was younger during the 80s they might have been just wonderful.  At any rate, I had no major preconceptions about the concept when I saw the video, unlike others who may have been put off by some of the changes made in translating the concept to the Big Screen.  I thought the film was grand fun – terrifically exciting with lots of humor and some breathtaking CGI fx, bolstered by a beautifully compelling score by Steve Jablonsky.  A far cry from the composer’s subtly disturbing works for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jablonsky takes a page from The Day After Tomorrow and provides an expressive overarching theme for Transformers that captures both the intricate heroism of the Autobots as well as the earth-shattering predicament that brings them to our midst.  The mighty French-horns, stridently stroked strings, and reverent tones of choir give Jablonsky’s main theme a characteristic of cosmic import, a paean for humanity while enriched with the slow-mo hero-walk of mighty warriors come to save us all.  I love this theme and this score completely.  Far from playing up the intricate organic manipulation of metal and plastic that might be suggested by the titular concept, Jablonsky’s score is rooted in shared humanity, valiant gallantry, and commitment to doing right, while his lower tonalities for the evil Decepticons bristles with a darker malevolence and synth work that suggests their inner mechanics.  These two alternating motifs balance the score, and much of the bombastic musical conflict that derives between their on-screen battling is comprised of an integration between these two motifs. 

In a comic book hero movie of another style, Hungarian emigrant composer Robert Gulya’s score for Atom Nine Adventures, Christopher Farley’s low-budget 2007 throwback to sci-fi serials and 50s b-movies, has been released by MovieScore Media.  The score, which quite belies the film’s low-budgetness, is a vibrant and vivid composition, built around a heroic main theme.  That theme and its central (appropriately) nine notes, thunders and bellows lavishly across the cinematic soundscape, the perfect sound design for the film’s old-fashioned storytelling.  Sampled choir gives the music a potent energy that adds to the film’s b-movie reality, as does the composer’s penchant for surging heroics and hefty swashbuckle.  Performed by the Budapest Symphony, the score embodies a largess that is well worth attracting attention, and is nicely and importantly preserved on CD and digital download by MovieScore. 

One of Bruno Nicolai’s snazziest Euro-spy scores, Missione Speciale Lady Chaplin (aka Operation Lady Chaplin), is among the new batch of restored Italian filmscore releases from Digitmovies.  The 1966 Alberto De Martino film was yet another Italian take on 007, of which Nicolai has been no stranger (OK Connery: Operation Kid Brother, Agente Speciale LK - Operazione Re Mida, and the like).  Mixing jazz, 1960s Europop, and lounge musical influences, Nicolai’s score swings and shakes in the finest Eurospy tradition.  From the 60’s poppish Prologo (with its introductory electric bass descent that’s right out of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”) to the boisterous and brassy tunefulness of “La Missione Inizia”, the syrupy strings of “Sensuale, Ma Letale” to the raucous “Lady Shake”, the finger-snappiness of “Sulle Sue Tracce” to the energetic organ and bells of “Inseguimento,” this is a score that rocks.  Despite its heavy use of blaring brass and electric bass, Lady Chaplin is essentially a symphonic work built around the dance-hall rhythm central to its main theme.  Frequent variations and reprisals of the main theme keep the score focused, while furious, brassy action cues like “Spy Chase” provide plenty of musical action; the latter displaying some clear 007 Barryesque-influences in its latter portion (the Barry influence is also felt in “Nel Fondo Dell’oceano,” heard during the film’s underwater sequence).   Preserved from the original mono master tapes, this is another worthy restoration of a notable Italian film score.


2007 Film & TV Music Award Winners Announced


The winners and first runner-ups for the 2007 Film & TV Music Awards have been announced.  Christopher Young’s score for Spider-Man 3, one of the only major winners not to have been released commercially on a soundtrack CD, was voted the best score for a dramatic feature film, with Marc Shaiman’s Hairspray winning for best comedy film score,  Howard Shore’s The Last Mimzy for best science fiction film score, John Powell’s Happy Feet for best animated feature film score, Sean Callery’s 24 for best dramatic TV series score (also best TV theme), Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin’s Heroes for best science fiction TV series score, Jay Ferguson’s The Office for best comedy television series score, and George Fenton’s Planet Earth as best TV documentary score. 

The Film & TV Music Awards are voted on by members of The Film & TV Music Academy, which includes over 4,000 members of the industry worldwide.  The Film & TV Music Awards is the largest international peer awards program exclusively for the film and television music industry with awards given in 33 categories that focus on the art and craft of music for film and television. While the majority of the awards are given for composing for film and television, many related crafts are included in the awards program including contracting, conducting, orchestration, music preparation, music editing, music supervision, score mixing, performing rights, agents, and more.

Members of the industry are nominated by Film & TV Music Academy members, and the top five persons in each category from the nominations phase are voted on by the members.

For a full list of winners and runner-ups, see: www.filmtvmusicawards.com/winners.php


Broughton’s Harry and the Hendersons finally gets a CD Release

Intrada has announced a limited edition (3000 copies) release of Bruce Broughton’s oft-sought score from Harry And The Hendersons as its Special Collection Vol. 52.  When composer Bruce Broughton was offered the assignment to score the 1987 Universal/Amblin production Harry And The Hendersons, he had already delivered several major scores for some big screen tales: Silverado, Young Sherlock Holmes, and The Boy Who Could Fly. This along with several episodes of Spielberg's Amazing Stories was solidifying Broughton as a key player in the Hollywood composing scene. For the film, director William Dear suggested a gentle, humanistic approach to the music, emphasizing the kind and displaced soul of Bigfoot (Harry). Harry is removed from his forest home by the Henderson's after they hit him with their car and bring him to their suburban home where nothing but mayhem follows. As Dear comments, "I wanted the music to take you on this fantasy ride, to be scary at times, and then light and lyrical like a film from the 1940s. It was important for the score to bring out the 'heart' in Harry." Broughton delivered on that vision -- a symphonic score rich with emotional themes and enchantment, but also featuring plenty of big, adventurous music for the outdoor adventures – the kind of writing Brought excels at.

While Broughton's music matched what the filmmakers wanted, their vision on the placement of music did not. Director Dear felt there was too much of it and only about half of Broughton's score ended up in the film. Additionally, many cues were tracked into different places within the film. And while Broughton did compose an end title, the Joe Cocker song "Love Lives On" appeared instead – although it had the advantage of being based on Broughton's melody.

With this release, not only does Harry And The Hendersons make its premiere on CD, but it is greatly expanded from the original LP program, featuring over 40 minutes of music not heard on the original, truncated LP. Presented here in digitally remastered, crisp stereo sound is Broughton's score as originally intended. And like Harry himself, finally understood.


Film Music News

Composer Elia Cmiral turns up horror-fying scores for The Deaths of Ian Stone and Tooth & Nail, two of eight films featured nationally during After Dark Horrorfest 2007. Along with its partners AMC, Regal and Cinemark, After Dark Horrorfest 2007 runs over the course of one week, including two weekends, on over 300 screens across the United States from November 9-18th, making it the largest commercial film festival in the world.  This unique festival is the first of its kind, premiering “8 Films to Die For,” celebrating the horror genre by showcasing films that run the spectrum of horror from thrillers to gore to the supernatural. Cmiral’s score adds to the mystery in The Deaths of Ian Stone. The film produced by Stan Winston and Brian Gilbert with whom Cmiral collaborated successfully on Wrong Turn, is the tale of a young man hunted by an evil presence, forced to die every day until he can solve the mystery of his own life. Filmmaker Mark Young’s Tooth & Nail uses Cmiral’s music to tell the post-apocalyptic tale of a group of survivors followed by a savage band of cannibals.

Other After Dark Horrorfest 2007 films and their composers include Nightmare Man (Christopher Farrell), Crazy Eights (Olivier Glissant, Chuck Hammer, and Nick Nolan), Unearthed (Joseph Bishara), Borderland (Andrés Levin), Mulberry Street (Andreas Kapsalis), and Lake Dead (Mark Petrie).
For more information on After Dark Horrorfest 2007, visit the official website at www.horrorfestonline.com

James Newton Howard is slated to score The Great Debaters, a drama based on the true story of professor Melvin B. Tolson who inspires students to form the school’s first debate team in 1935. Denzel Washington directs and is playing the part of the professor. The film will come out during Oscar season, on December 25. Also, according to his agency, Gorfaine-Schwarftz, Howard will score Mad Money, a comedy scheduled for release on January 18, directed by Callie Khouri (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) and starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes.  –via filmmusicweekly.com

Emmy nominated composer Chris Lennertz (Supernatural) has scored Alvin & the Chipmunks, the upcoming holiday release based on the popular animated characters.  Part computer animation and part live action, the feature stars Jason Lee as David Seville, defacto father to the mischievous trio. 

Harry Gregson-Williams will join the X-Men franchise in 2009 with his score for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Directed by Gavin Hood (Rendition, Tsotsi), who succeeds Brian Singer and Brett Rattner who directed the first three films, this fourth X-Men feature focuses on the mutant Wolverine, who seeks revenge against Victor Creed (who will later become Sabertooth) for the death of his girlfriend, and ultimately ends up going through the mutant Weapon X program.  The film is scheduled to premiere on May 1, 2009. Gregson-Williams’ other upcoming films include G-Force and Jolene.

The latest release from Film Score Monthly includes the first release of the complete Ennio Morricone score the 1966 Burt Reynolds Western, Navajo Joe, which featured a distinctive vocal refrain later used in the score for Election.  FSM’s second November release pairs two sexually themed '60s films. Sex And The Single Girl presents the LP tracks from Neal Hefti's score for the film version of Helen Gurley Brown's famous book, starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Henry Fonda, while The Chapman Report presents the LP tracks from Leonard Rosenman's score to George Cukor's drama, based on an Irving Wallace novel inspired by the Kinsey report, about four women (played by Claire Bloom, Jane Fonda, Glynis Johns and Shelley Winters) and their sex lives.

Our friends here at Buysoundtrax have releasing a limited edition (1000 copies) soundtrack to the 2006 horror film, Driftwood, scored by William Ross (Ladder 49, Tuck Everlasting).  See the home page for more details.

Mark Isham will once again work for director Gary Fleder, for whom he previously scored Kiss the Girls, Don’t Say a Word and Impostor. Isham will score Fleder’s new film, The Express, a biopic about NFL star Ernie Davis whose career was cut short by leukemia. The film stars Rob Brown as Davis and a supporting cast of Dennis Quaid, Clancy Brown and Charles S. Dutton. It’s scheduled to premiere on October 10, 2008. Isham is also doing the score for Frank Darabont’s new film, The Mist, based on Stephen King’s short novel. Isham scored Darabont’s previous film, The Majestic, but has never scored a true horror film despite a filmography that includes around 100 motion pictures.  –via filmmusicweekly.com

Recently, composer David Newman recorded his score to the upcoming Martin Lawrence comedy, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Roll Bounce), the film is about a successful talk show host (Lawrence) who takes his fiancée from Los Angeles to the South to meet his dysfunctional family.  Conducting the 70-piece Hollywood Studio Symphony, Newman's score was - in a word - "sassy".  It had a fun attitude about it, realized through the use of hip-hop drum loops, kickin' grooves, organ and electric guitar.  Adding some Southern flavor were harmonica, country fiddle, and lots of guitars and bass.  For a report with photos on the scoring session, see: www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1086

Prolific Japanese composer Kenji Kawai’s latest score, for Mamoru Oshii’s latest live-action feature, Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden, a sequel to Oshii’s 2006 Tachiguishi Retsuden.  The soundtrack has been released on CD by Geneon, featuring a blend of rock, classical, and pop styles.  Also available in Japan on the StarChild label are Kawai’s score for Oshii’s first two live-action features, Akai Megane (The Red Spectacles Special), featuring unreleased music and new songs; and Stray Dog.  Oshii, perhaps best known as an anime director for the Ghost in the Shell features and others, has worked frequently with Kawai on his films.

British composer Laura Rossi, who wrote the acclaimed scores for Shooting Shona and London to Brighton, is providing the music for The Cottage, a horror comedy written and directed by London to Brighton helmer Paul Andrew Williams. The film stars Andy Serkis, Doug Bradley and Jennifer Ellison, is produced by Pathé and scheduled to come out next year.

Interested in New Zealand film music?  I recently came across a web site that has a whole bunch of MP3 sound files from film music from the land of Kiwi and sheep – including lots that’s never been released on CD.  Take a gander at: http://www.nzvideos.org/soundtracksamples.html


Games Music News

Jesper Kyd has composed and produced a dark and distorted soundtrack for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men™, a gritty, character-driven third person action shooter from the creators of Hitman (which Kyd also scored), IO Interactive. Kyd’s intense cinematic score is a cohesive and hard-hitting combo of scar-edged melodic soundscapes and subversive action-driven grooves that portray the twisted and emotionally driven story of the two lead characters, Kane and Lynch, a flawed mercenary and a medicated psychopath – forced together but hating each other every step of the way. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC Games for Windows in November, 2007.

To achieve the right kind of musical tonality for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Kyd’s foreboding and graphic score is as relentlessly intense and unforgiving in its attitude as the violent rage of Kane and Lynch on their destructive path of redemption and revenge. Delivering a masterful mix of melodic and sublime atmospherics, explosive electronic beats intoxicated with musical distortion and strewn with hardcore industrial guitar sounds, Kyd pushes the immersion factor and displays the main characters’ flaws, anger and pain in his echoing themes embedded with haunting vocals, heavily processed synth ambience, ethnic instrumentation and other multi-layered sounds.

For more information, visit www.jesperkyd.com and www.myspace.com/jesperkyd

Randall 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 from the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He now reviews soundtracks Music from the Movies, Cemetery Dance magazine, and writes for Film Music Magazine and others.


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