Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2013-09 
October & November, 2013

By Randall D. Larson

Brian Tyler and The Dark World of THOR
An interview with Brian Tyler on musically treating Thor in a post-Avengers world.

Plus Film music on Vinyl, Film Music Books, and the latest News from the world of film and game music.

Brian Tyler and The Dark World of THOR
Edited transcript for Soundtrax

Brian Tyler’s music for the second THOR movie is a grand and engaging score, powerfully based on melody, harmony, and instrumental interaction, with a terrific hero theme.  Tyler’s approach is informed both by the first THOR movie and the character’s experiences in THE AVENGERS, allowing him to color the character’s experience and growth into the new story, which largely takes place in Asgard, home of the Norse gods.
I had the opportunity to chat with Brian Tyler on Nov 1st about his music for THOR: THE DARK WORLD as well as SLEEPY HOLLOW and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.

Q: Coming into the world of THOR – what were your initial thoughts as far as the kind of music the film needed?

Brian Tyler: The idea behind THOR had origins similar to that of IRON MAN 3 [see my interview with Brian about that score in my May 2013 column) in that THOR THE DARK WORLD and IRON MAN 3 are both post-AVENGERS, and so there’s a number of marked differences between the vibe of the first THOR movie and this one.  This THOR movie takes into account that it is post-AVENGERS and there has been this imbalance and huge attack perpetuated by his brother Loki; what that does to the music is it propels the story and the character of Thor into a more developed area.  In the first movie, Thor is essentially a powerful mythological figure but he doesn’t know how to wield his power quite right; he has all the right intentions and he wants to defend Asgard, but he hasn’t matured into knowing how to use his power properly.  THOR 1 is also very much a fish out of water story because Thor is on Earth most of the time.  This new movie flips the bill.  Since his falling out with his brother Loki, who has been imprisoned, now Thor has become a fully realized super hero.  He’s a mythological god who is heir to the throne, and so he has a whole different air about him, and the music needed to reflect this. It had to have an epic quality that also was reflective of the fact that most of this movie takes place on Asgard, which has an epic feel to it that is different than being on Earth.  The tone of Asgard is almost that hybrid of future and ancient – it has an ancient civilization, Roman/Greek god kind of thing with swords and sandals and that kind of vibe, but it’s also science fiction in the sense that you have space ships and you have very futuristic artillery.  So the movie had these two really epic vibes to it that were not part of the story of the first movie, so musically it had to really make a change to go along with this new scope.

Q: Were you asked to refer at all to the music from the first THOR to tie the films together?

Brian Tyler: It was something that was undecided when we started, because the movie was still being filmed and edited; it was still taking shape.  Initially I was planning on it and thinking about how to do it, because I really loved the first score.   But then it became more apparent that there needed to be a division between Thor the boy [first movie] and Thor the man [second movie].  What was completely appropriate and worked in the first movie was not a good fit with the new Thor film – having nothing to do with the quality of the music, which was perfectly tailored to the first film.  In this film, we’re also dealing with Odin more, and the story line starts five thousand years in the past, so it’s got a whole different feel to it.  Also, you now have a fully-fledged story with Jane and Thor and the romance between them and the difficulty that brings because, where Thor was on Earth in the first film, now Jane is on Asgard in the second, and that needed to have a kind of pageantry and tragedy to the music.  There are some grey area aspects to this film that makes for great drama, the villain of Loki being someone that you love to hate, and in a way you hate to love him!  All the characters have become much more complex and so there’s a tone there that needed a new take.

Q: When you first sat down to begin writing this score, what was your starting point?

Brian Tyler: The starting point for me was… Actually it wasn’t even Thor, it was writing a piece that would reflect all of Asgard and the family that Thor is from – of music that would reflect Odin and Thor and Frigga and the actual place, the Rainbow Bridge, the Bifrost…, all these things had to be encompassed in the music. So I took it from a more impressionistic standpoint.  I wasn’t really writing music directly to picture but from what was inspirational about watching it.  In developing music for Asgard, I wrote a 12 or 15 minute piece, and during that process it suddenly became clear to me: ‘wait a minute, this could be the Frigga theme…, this could be the romance theme, and, oh wait, this has to be Thor!’  And then, interestingly enough, one of the more alluring, quiet moments in the score that didn’t have any bombast, it was actually a harp solo, ended up becoming Loki’s theme. It was very counterintuitive to what you would normally think of as a villain theme, really stern with a lot of low brass.  Instead, we went with this very kind of alluring, beautiful but slightly off-kilter harp solo.

Q: And that fits him psychologically because he’s kind of psychotic anyway…

Brian Tyler: Right.  He’s someone who is constantly strategizing, and is quietly plotting the demise of everyone around him, with the exception of his mother, who he loves deeply, and that is his soft spot. So his music needed to reflect that there actually is emotion and possible redemption in the character of Loki. He’s one of the more interesting characters that I’ve encountered in this movie.

Q: Looking at a blank page, so to speak, how do you begin to conceptualize a super-hero theme like Thor’s, as far as finding the right notes, the right energy, dramatic flexibility, and the right harmonic and orchestrational structure?  How does it begin in your imagination and come out onto the page and into the sound of an orchestra?

Brian Tyler: I’m always melody first, so on something like THOR I would start sitting down and thinking about different harmonic scales and what seems to fit.  I’d be thinking of something that has a fable/mythological feel, one that feels ancient.  It’s like I need to more or less reduce the tool kit, musically.  Instead of having an extremely complex classical harmonic structure, I’d need to go with music that would feel at its heart could have been folk tunes from way back when.  And then, for Thor himself, I’d be looking for something that has a heft and a pageantry, because he is royalty also.  It’s interesting – we’re merging two things that are almost musical opposites.  The actual weight of the Thor character just seemed to call out for an orchestral thunder, no pun intended, to accompany his physical size and also his clever wit.  I ended up going with orchestra with a heavy dose of brass; choir is very present, and the percussion was definitely pre-classical – most of the percussion is a little bit more medieval, a lot more leather than snare.  I wanted to go with a palette of everything recorded with the microphone, all live music as opposed to going with a hybrid, reimagined score along the lines of DARK KNIGHT or something like that.  We were very much in the camp of what could be recorded in the room at Abbey Road, so much that the score could literally be plopped in front of an orchestra and we could do a concert with it. It’s that kind of old-school.  And I do feel that that was the right way to go.

Q: Of all the superheroes in Marvel’s pantheon, there’s only one who really is a god, and that’s Thor.  So you’re dealing with him as an entirely different kind of entity and a couple steps above your average super human.

Brian Tyler: Oh, for sure.  That’s why as big and buff as the IRON MAN 3 score was, you can see how the conceptual difference between the characters equates to a sizable difference in the kind of epic scope that these two scores have.  THOR is much more epic, because it has to be; you’re talking about a humanity to Tony Stark that is so part of his character.  He is a superhero because of his brain and because he was able to make a mechanical suit that makes him a superhero.  Thor is, yeah, literally a god and that’s why not only the orchestration but the melodies tend to lend themselves to a heroism that a conventional person couldn’t handle. You can imagine playing the Thor theme over even the most heroic, noble human and it would sound like too much.  It was fun, because how often do you get to write music for a character who can actually handle god music?

Q: In contrast, how did you treat Jane musically?

Brian Tyler: Jane had to have a sense of melancholy to her, because she’s fallen in love with him.  Talk about someone from the wrong side of the tracks!   You’re talking about someone from Midgard, a mere earthling, falling in love with a god, and so there is always a sense of music feeling a little bit out of reach and of never having a resolution.  There is a sadness to it in that she can’t shake him, and in a way the theme works both ways, because it’s how he feels as well.  Of course that’s one thing we have in common with this family of gods – you know, parents disapprove!

Q: Who was the soloist for Jane’s theme?

Brian Tyler: There are two vocalists.  Azam Ali, who sang on my CHILDREN OF DUNE score, sings on Jane’s theme, and Tori Letzler also sings in other parts of the score.  They’re both fantastic and they both have their unique sound.  There’s a very significant scene in the movie that utilizes those themes about half way through the movie.

Q: Which orchestra did you use to perform the score?

Brian Tyler: Primarily it was the Philharmonia of London, which is Esa-Pekka Salonen’s orchestra.  There’s few things more intimidating than the bus showing up with all the gear that says “The Philharmonia” on the side and “Resident Conductor: Esa-Pekke Salonen” in big letters!  He was the L.A. Philharmonic conductor in residence for years, and I was always a big fan of his.  Then there was another session where we used the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which I’d used on both NOW YOU SEE ME and IRON MAN 3, and I know all of them very well.  Both are fantastic, world class orchestras.  These aren’t particularly easy scores to play, right off the bat, but these people are so musical, they really killed it.  I recorded the score at Abbey Road in what I call the STAR WARS room.

Q: How did you delineate the world of Earth and that of Asgard in the score?

Brian Tyler: The music does get a little more groovy on Earth, especially when you’re dealing with the team of scientists who are Jane’s friends; they’re a little bit goofy and they’re fun and there is a comedic relief to it, so there is music that goes with them zipping around urban London trying to figure out the physics of what’s going on in the story. We do have an opening of a portal, there is an invasion, and we do have the dark elves, who are the grand villains, being a threat to Earth, and Thor having to come here to defend Earth against this onslaught – in that sense, there, I just brought Asgard to Earth.  The turf had changed and it happens to be on Earth, but they are fighting as if they [were on Asgard], owning Earth at that point, and the buildings are just things that get in the way of their fight. So for epic battles and things like that, I went with the music that I’ve established earlier for the dark elves, which is extremely locomotive-like and has a sense of pure evil.  One of the Thor themes is a combination of that nobility and hope with a sense of still being the underdog in this situation, and that music is heard as well, when the film is on Earth.

Q: By the time you came onboard did you work with the director or the producer(s) to formulate the score?

Brian Tyler: I worked with all of them. I met Alan [Taylor, director] really early on; he’s awesome and had a definitive vision for the movie that I think comes through.  I’ve worked with most of the rest of the team, the producers and the Marvel people, before, and we have a shorthand [way of communicating].  The music supervisor is Dave Jordan, who I’ve worked with before, and my team of music editors are on board, Steve Durkee, Joe Lisanti and Kyle Clausen.  But with these movies there are obviously a lot of people involved.  [Executive producer] Craig Kyle is part of the Marvel team and is intimately involved with the story, and of course Kevin Feige, who is the head of the operation there, is a true film connoisseur/fan and artist.  It’s a different kind of thing than you find at most studios, in that we’re talking about people who really understand film – it’s a home of filmmakers who are also true film fans; they didn’t just fall into this, they’re doing it because they love it. So it’s been a great experience working with them on these last few movies.  It’s been nice to work with people who, while they’re driving their car, they listen to film scores!  There’s very few people, with the exception of music executives at studios, who when you say “name that score!” they’ll actually nail it! 

Q: I understand that, as part of this process, you also scored the new Marvel logo for the front of the movie?

Brian Tyler: Yes!  The Marvel Studios Fanfare!  I was really so honored that they asked me to do that.  They wanted to brand the studio with music as far as having a proper studio logo at the beginning of all their movies [versus the Marvel Comics flipbook logo used until now].  They just said, “Let’s write something that can represent what Marvel is all about.”  I’d gotten this book from Marvel that Dave Jordan had given me, and it is the complete history of each character’s origin since 1939 beginning with The Human Torch, and, instead of looking at any particular film or watching all the films again, I based the logo music on what was in that book.  I wanted the music to be a chronicle of the origins, history, and present day of Marvel all in one.  It’s the Marvel Universe, representative of all the things that are part of that.
[sample the new Marvel Studios fanfare here. It will also be included as track 25 on the THOR: A DARK WORLD soundtrack album from Intrada.]

Q: You’re also scoring for the SLEEPY HOLLOW TV series, and you composed its main theme.  For this interesting mixture of past and present – how would you describe your approach to coming up with a main theme and then extrapolating that into the episode scores?

Brian Tyler: The first thing that I sat down to work on was the main theme.  It had to have a sense of mystery, intrigue, and mischief, which was a fun aspect to Ichabod Crane’s being out of time. We didn’t want to go for a giant, over-the-top kind of sound, and I co-composed it with Robert Lydecker [a member of Brian’s music team]. We were thinking about it one day, and I just said, “You know what, maybe we should do this kind of baroque.  Instead of making it try to sound big through artificial means, let’s intentionally go with a trio of cellos and solo violinist, and then surround them with a dulcimer played live, and then some percussion and maybe a little piano here and there.”  It’s really an eclectic group, kind of how they scored shows during the ‘60s at Paramount, where you’d get these groups together, you’d get a sound palette, and you’d constrain yourself to a number of instruments and then have that lead you.  There are certain things that we’re doing in this show that are clear – there’s a lot of chromatic movement and devilish kind of melodies and notes that move up and down, and there’s modulations… all that stuff is well and good but I think the sonic quality of the show comes from the limitations that we’ve put on ourselves in terms of instrumentation. I really think the small string section speaks for the devilish nature of a tale like Sleepy Hollow.

Q: In addition to coming up with the main theme, have you scored some of the episodes yourself or have you done as with TRANSFORMERS PRIME, create the vibe and then have Robert carry it on from there?

Brian Tyler: It’s a bit of both.  I did the pilot and then as the episodes have gone on it’s been hand-in-hand with a lot of it.  Some things he takes on and some things I take on, and sometimes it’s a collective effort to let us see what works.  The good thing is that we have this template of themes that have been established, and we can do all sorts of variations on that and treat it like a movie that takes place over a much longer period of time, so we can pick up from everywhere.  In other words, we’re not going for the approach of scoring each episode completely different, each one its own little mini-movie.  We see it as more of a large, longer [single] movie.

Q: I think it’s cool that, as busy as you are doing big feature films, you still have time to do some of these interesting TV series, which I imagine gives you another outlet for some new kinds of musical opportunities.

Brian Tyler: Oh yeah, it does.  It was the same when  I did Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag [videogame] not too long ago, doing gypsy music for that!  For me I just really enjoy doing different kinds of music.  I love the modern electronic music scene as well, and we’re going more into that with the FAST AND FURIOUS series; there’s some really interesting music out there that has its own integrity and that keeps it interesting.  I really do love all these different genres of music, and I can’t help myself but move around and try out different things.  Sometimes it’s remixing on DJ Dex and sometimes it’s a baton and conducting an orchestra. It just depends on the project.

Q: Where are you now on TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and EXPENDABLES 3?  Are those still in process or have you finished either of them?

Brian Tyler: No. With NINJA TURTLES, which is the only one I can speak to at this point, it’s being edited now and I’m at the thematic-writing stage of it.  That’s going to be really cool.

Q: What’s the challenge there – you don’t have an iron suit and you don’t have an Asgardian god, but you’ve got these wise-cracking reptilian warriors.  If anyone can make ninja turtles sound epic and massive it’s Brian Tyler.

Brian Tyler (laughs): They are massive!  They have a lot of weight to them, and they have a strength and a power that is more dangerous than people think.  This film is taking it, literally, what if they could do what they do in what we grew up with, animation-wise and comic book-wise.  What happens when that is actually put into the physics of the real world.  So I think that’s really a key thing that’s going to make it great.

Special thanks to Dan Barry at Chasen & Company for facilitating this interview.
Brian Tyler Photo by Joanne Leung.
The soundtrack CD to THOR: THE DARK WORLD will be released by Intrada Records on November 12; a digital release from Hollywood records was issued on November 5.


New Soundtrax in Review

BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS (gamescore) /Christopher Drake/WaterTower
Following up on his superlative score for the two-part BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS animated film, Christopher Drake launches a Gothic assault for this video game spinoff.  Arkham Origins is the successor to the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City video games, which had been composed by Ron Fish and Nick Arundel. From the visionary mind of David Cage, director of the award-winning game Drake was unfamiliar with the previous Arkham games, but since Origins was a prequel he did not feel the necessity to reference their music in this game.  “This is a prequel Batman who's a lot younger,” Drake said, interviewed by Jesse Brukman of Rolling Stone*. “He makes more mistakes. He's a bit more pissed off. We wanted the music to represent that. When you're a composer for Batman there's kind of a dress code. It has a certain sound to it. Whatever I do there's a DNA to Batman music. But because it's a prequel, I had a little more freedom. The previous soundtrack had a much more elegant, traditional orchestral score. For Origins, I wanted it to be more electronic.”  The result is a heavily layered, heavy percussive, driving action score that retains its Gothic/Gotham City sensibilities through its sonic assault.  Its orchestral sound is rippled through with electronic elements, sometimes tearing through the acoustic sounds like scattering fibers, elsewhere creating shifting strata of sonic textures or bottom-end padding.  The sound is pretty thickly textured, ranging from furtive tension chords (“Snake in a Box,” “Night Patrol”) to the very heavy and drum-beaten “angry” action music (“Black Mask Escapes,” “Killer Croc,” “Assassins,” “Deathstroke,” “G.C.P.D.,” “Merchant Bank Escape,” “Hallucinations”).  “Most of [the music] is in cinematics, and that’s traditional scoring like I would do in a movie,” Drake told Rolling Stone.  “But then there’s the actual in-game music, and that’s really fascinating. Let’s say Batman is walking into Blackgate. . . the music is done in layers. One layer is the moody layer of walking in to the prison, but then Batman is being stealthy, so there’s another layer that gets activated – what we call a tactical layer – and that might sound like synth pulse to give it some excitement. Then, if you’re in a fight, there’s a third fight layer that gets added. The fourth layer is an all-out combat layer with drums and orchestra. Every layer can all be subtracted or added.”  Thus Arkham Origins can be a pretty hefty, raucous listening experience away from the game; because of the necessities of the gameplay, much of that music sheds any subtlety and proceeds with pretty forceful propulsion.  But through all of that Drake still captures the graceful nuances of brave and bold heroism, such as elegant anthem that rises up near the ends of “Croc Arrest” and “You Would Save… Me?” (and their variant in “I Have Left Enough Life in Him for Some Final Words...If You Hurry”) or the powerful, synth-infused chords that rear up like daring stanchions in “”The Night Before Christmas” and “The Bridge” – as well as and the elegant dignity of “Allies.”  The album also includes an except from Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” which we could have done without; its familiarization, easy availability elsewhere, and tonal incompatibility with the score proper music makes it pretty unnecessary on the album.  As for the score, Drake continues to exhibit a strong handle on scoring the Batman, and I’m pleased to see that these scores have been made available, albeit via mp3s and CDRs on demand.  
[Related news: Christopher Drake posted on Facebook last week that “My score for Batman Arkham Origins charted in the top 20 in the Classical FM Chart for the United Kingdom. According to the twitter poster, this is the first time a video game score has charted in the UK.”]  Hat’s off to Mr. Drake!
*To read Rolling Stone magazine’s interview with Christopher Drake about this score, click here.

BEYOND: Two Souls (gamescore)/Lorne Balfe/Playstation
From the visionary mind of David Cage, director of the award-winning game Heavy Rain, comes a powerfully emotional experience in BEYOND: Two Souls, “a singularly unique psychological action thriller delivered by A-list Hollywood performances by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe” for PlayStation® 3.
The soundtrack was originally to have been composed by Normand Corbeil, who died of pancreatic cancer in January, 2013.  Lorne Balfe was brought in to replace Corbeil as the game’s composer, with Hans Zimmer joining him as music producer in August.  The 16-track soundtrack was released digitally on October 8th (although I haven’t found it offered on Amazon of iTunes yet); only 4 of the tracks are included on the game’s Special Edition release.  Acclaimed for his film scores (IRONCLAD [see interview in Sept. 2011 column], MEGAMIND, THE SWEENEY, SALINGER [see review in Sept 2013 column] ) as well as his music for games (Assassin’s Creed III, reviewed Nov. 2012), Balfe’s ability to traverse the compatible media of film and video games continues to result in outstanding gamescores, of which this is a stellar example “Games are just the same as films.  You start off with stills or the actual artwork that’s drawn inspiration to them,” said Balfe.  “People ask is it a film or is it a game.  There is no difference, not to me.  You could sit there and watch it as a film.  The way to musically tell the story is the same process.”  BEYOND: Two Souls is centered on questions about what happens after death; the player assumes the role of Jodie Holmes through 15 years of her life (ages 8-23) on a journey to discover the true nature of Aiden, a disembodied entity and her constant companion throughout the story.  The score is very much a Zimmer-styled score, but built around Balfe’s own sonically exhilarating thematic base.  Balfe is careful, however, to keep his themes from becoming repetitious and redundant during long term gameplay, introducing them more as atmospheres and developing them in very singular ways as the story goes on based on the skill and choices made by the gamer.  Opening with “Jodie’s Suite,” an absolutely sublime and heartfelt melody for strings and voice that represents the game’s main character, BEYOND: Two Souls is instantly compelling, musically.  “Dawkins’ Suite” is equally engaging, melancholy cello over arpeggios of harp that opens up to full violin section with affecting eloquence and grace. “Aiden’s Theme” is a mysterious, synth-whistle melody, suitable for Jodie’s disembodied companion; midway through it segues into menacing variant for cello and strings suggestive of the realm from which he had come.  These themes, and other motifs and flavors, rarely reappear in the same form, but develop as the gamestory and gameplay does; on disc the music is simply beautiful throughout; its shifting arrangements and layered textures make it continually interesting, creating an atmosphere of serenity, supporting the story concept’s spiritual quest and the non-linear method by which the story is told.  With Jodie’s timeline shifting throughout the gameplay, it’s largely up to the score to maintain coherency of character; the music shifts tone and complexity to reflect the characters age and environment, but it clearly resonates with the character of Jodie, keeping her perspective front most in both score and storyline.  Action material, such as “The Infraworld,” is propulsive and percussive, as large drums thunder beneath a sonorous interpretation of Jodie’s theme, bridged by Zimmeresque mercato strings that drive the gameplay progressively onward.  Even if you’re not a gamer (as I am not), this is a score very worth having; it’s a magnificent musical production in every way.
Click here and then page down to watch a video interview with Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, discussing what it took to breathe musical life into BEYOND: Two Souls.

BONAPARTE EN EGYPTE/Maximilien Mathevon/Plaza Major
Maximilien Mathevon’s score for Ghislain Vidal's docudrama for French television, BONAPARTE EN EGYPTE, is now available as a digital download on iTunes and elsewhere.   The film, Mathevon’s latest collaboration with Vidal (he had scored the director’s historical series, THE TRIALS IN HISTORY(Les procès de l’Histoire).  Mathevon was in a good place to score this depiction of Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign of conquest into Egypt; less than a year ago had scored a 10-part French TV series about NAPOLEON, and Vidal’s TRIALS had included an episode about the French military leader.  Mathevon’s score is straightforwardly symphony, avoiding clichéd use of French of Middle Eastern music, focusing on melody-based accompaniment highlighting the brass that gives the score a vivid flavoring of adventure with a slight militaristic coloration.  Subdued choral, string, and percussive accompaniment lend the sparkling horns full support in instrumental texture.  “From the beginning, it was agreed that I would make a very minimal use of authentic ethnic elements,” Mathevon said. “Instead, the music would refer to a romantic and sweeping style, which also gave me the opportunity to be very thematic. And there are lots of themes and motives in this music: A main theme, Bonaparte’s theme, the English theme, the ‘Mysterious Egypt’ theme, the French army motif, the Mamelouk army motif, and yet others!  I really had a great time composing this colorful and sometime refreshingly ‘over the top’ music!”  The result is an optimistic and graceful composition that bathes the soundscape in driving melodies, pleasing rhythms, and the confidence with which Napoleon set off on his journey of conquest.
For music samples, see: http://www.maximilienmathevon.com/bandes-originales-albums.php

BOUNTY KILLER/Greg Edmonson/Lakeshore
Greg Edmonson (TV’s FIREFLY, video game series Uncharted) has provided a fine score for BOUNTY KILLER, director Henry Saine’s futuristic action thriller.  The film takes place in a future in which corporations have taken over the world’s governments; their thirst for power and profits led to the corporate wars, a fierce global battle that laid waste to society as we know it. Born from the ash, the Council of Nine rose as a new law and order for this dark age. To avenge the corporations’ reckless destruction, the Council issues death warrants for all white collar criminals. Their hunters: the bounty killer.  Edmonson characteristically takes an acoustic approach, mixing a studio orchestra recorded live in Nashville with featured country/folk and ethnic soloists.  This provides a rather refreshing approach to the post-apocalypse action genre which has been dominated by synth-percussion and massive drum battering for several years; it also reflects the dry desert landscape across which much of the film plays out.  Edmonson still provides plenty of percussion but he refrains from doubling the drums with industrial synths, as is also much in vogue, and so gives the score much more of a primitive/earthy/dusty texture, and yet the score has plenty of propulsion and gravitas when it needs it (“Fight At Harry’s” with its light drumming intermixed with rapid-fire string figures, all amidst a punctuation of twanging Jews’ harp, slide and reverb’d electric guitars, Native American flutes, and scraped percussion).  Softer, more lyrics moments favoring strings and supported by ethnic flutes, offers poignant refrains or feminine contrast to the bristling action music (“Second Sun,” “The Kiss,” “Mary’s Army”).  “Training Day” covers a montage sequence with a neat mix, progressing through a desolate soundscape of twanged Jews’ harp, bird caws, brusque tom-tom drumming, and tolling bells before opening into a very cool countrified guitar lick that introduces a bold and brassy hero theme that wouldn’t be out of line in a 1970’s Western TV show.  “Airstream Escape” also traverses the drum- and string-based action riffing to reprise the same melodic theme, which provides a very nice hero moment.  Edmonson opens “Jimbo” with voices of a heavenly choir before bridging with a sparkling, super-hero esque brass fanfare and ending up with jangly, reverb’d guitar strumming and drums, dappled by flute peals as he action resumes anew.  The album also features a pair of southern rock tunes, Clarence Murray’s husky song, “Let’s Get On With It,” and Loren Gold & James Renald’s bluesy instrumental, “Granny Chainsaw” (which BTW would make a cool title for an exploitation movie.).   “It was a complete joy to write the music for BOUNTY KILLER,” said Edmonson. “The Nashville orchestra played their hearts out with beauty and great emotion. The rowdy action cues rock big time – and of course the Los Angeles musicians are never less than spectacular.”  BOUNTY HUNTER is far from the exploitation film score its promotional material might suggest (despite some environmental and visual similarities to the latter MAD MAX films), and Edmonson’s score is definitely worth a listen as well.  The music speaks for the landscape and the Americana that was lost decades before the story begins, and grounds the story’s conflict and action in the grit and dust of the earth that remains, while ringing each punch, shot, and chain-whip with an acoustic organic flavor of Old West justice.

CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW (game)/Oscar Araujo/Sumthing Else
Sumthing Else Music Works has released the original soundtrack from the action-adventure video game series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The original musical score was released October 29th on CD and digitally. In addition, an extended Director's Cut version of the album, available exclusively from www.Sumthing.com, includes twenty previously unreleased tracks.  The epic original score, composed by Oscar Araujo and recorded with the 120-piece Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, has received numerous accolades including 2011 'Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media' from the International Film Music Critics Association.  The Castlevania videogame series, created and developed by Konami, was developed and launched in 1986 and has since spawned nearly three dozen separate games (in 2008, the game franchise earned "Most Games in an Action Adventure Series", "Largest Number of Platforms for One Series” titles in Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition).  The games are centered on the Belmonts, a clan of vampire hunters and their fight against Dracula; Lords of Shadow, released in late 2010, was a major reboot of the game series, focusing on Gabriel Belmont's quest to defeat a malevolent force known as the Lords of Shadow and revive his wife. The player controls Gabriel in 3D environments as he uses melee skills to defeat enemies and solves puzzles to move through the game (it’s already spawned two sequels, 2013’s Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, and Lords of Shadow 2, due in 2014).  With epic orchestral flourishes and Howard Shore-like, full-throated choral crescendos, Araujo’s music is vast and captivating.  It provides a fluidly symphonic and somewhat Gothic-romantic soundspace over which the gameplay prowls, with surging choruses and vast orchestral maneuvers progressing with the player’s activities and confrontations throughout the game.  Not being familiar with the games in the franchise, I can’t say if Araujo has drawn from any of the themes or motifs used by previous composers in the series, but as a standalone experience, his score for Lords of Shadow is a powerful work, a vast orchestral/choral journey through haunted night skies over lands were fanged evil holds power, and members of good like the Belmonts treat at their own risk.  It’s scored with broad strokes, given poignancy through passionate moments of vocalise as in “The Maze Garden,” and results in a thrilling and masterful score on album.

THE CONJURING/Joseph Bishara/La-La Land
With one of the most potent horror scores of 2011 for James Wan’s ghost story INSIDIOUS, Joseph Bishara rejoins Wan for this year’s most potent and honestly scary haunted house film, THE CONJURING, in which a husband and wife pair of paranormal investigators try to help a family being besieged by a demon in the big country house they’ve just moved into.  With a background in industrial rock and a near exclusive filmography of scoring horror features since 1998 (11 of 13 feature films are horror, as are two of three shorts scored), Bishara favors a hybrid sound-design style of horror scoring and has become extremely adept at crafting potently frightful scores using synthetic sound, voices, escalating tones and gritty, percussionistic, found sound.  The musical design of THE CONJURING is extraordinarily potent and immersive.  Bishara’s sonic impressions become the shape of things lurking in the shadows, faces suddenly visible in the dark, things making noise and moving just beyond the periphery, and the infestation of a demonic presence within the skin.  The music wraps itself around the storyline and the character interactions like an ethereal presence, unseen but solidly felt, creating a stunningly affecting sonic palette that creates both apprehensive atmosphere and relentless panic-propelling aggression.  The scariest horror score of the year, Bishara’s impressive and expressive sonic passages conjure up chilling resonances and the voicings of malevolent entities in the dark, maximizing the intensity of Wan’s directorial articulation and creating an unsettling musical pattern when listened to on its own. 

DA VINCI’S DEMONS/Bear McCreary/Sparks & Shadows
Bear McCreary’s new CD label has done a splendid job preserving his score for this historical fantasy TV series, offering substantial music from the first season’s eight episodes across two discs.  Opening with his Emmy-Award winning title theme, a gorgeous working of intricate violins figures over a rolling rhythm of beaten drums, McCreary immediately suggests adventure, intrigue, elegance, and mystery.  “There’s a musical heritage and a culture there that I really wanted to represent,” McCreary said in our interview included in my previous column. “I just adored researching renaissance music and texts and old vocal pieces and even used some original music from the time period.” (see my last column for interview with Bear McCreary that discusses DA VINCI’S DEMONS.)  The main theme often surges in like format into the episode scores, bearing a consistent and welcome energy and groove; elsewhere it’s reprised through soft flutes, floating like sparrows through Florentine skies, evoking the signature essence of the score in McCreary’s characteristic style; like CAPRICA’s Graystone Theme, the “Landing” motif from EUROPA REPORT, the internal lyric of his DEFIANCE main theme, and other striking melodic epiphanies, his melody soars from time to time and seems to evoke a kind of omniscient perspective on what is happening below.  The score focuses on Viola Da Gamba and drums, with ethnic flutes, baroque trumpet, harps, bassoon, occasional choir, and hurdy gurdy (played by McCreary) making frequent guest appearances for flavoring.  This not only accommodates the show’s time period but allows for a fusion of historical instruments with subtle stretches of bottom-row synths and modern rhythmic characteristics to give the music a potent and slightly edgy sensibility, while also maintaining a consistently interesting and pleasing texture through its chosen instrumental palette.  For the most part, the melodies receive a modern treatment (occasional exceptions is the melodious theme for the Medici family, which is adapted from an actual piece of music composed in the 15th Century by Lorenzo De Medici himself and the tender harp theme, “Lucrezia Donati;” but even these are is given differing treatments which roam far afield from their historical origins.  The score thus possesses an enriched sonic landscape and timbre with continually engaging melodic structures that focus viewer with story, environment, and character.  An outstanding score in all respects.  Included with the package is 12-page booklet containing short notes from the composer, show creator David S. Goyer, actors Tom Riley, Blake Ritson, and James Faulkner who provide unique insight into the production of the score.

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7/Murray Gold/Silva Screen
Available in a limited digi pack version and a limited gatefold wallet version (see here), Silva Screen’s eighth DOCTOR WHO soundtrack release offers a 2-CD feast of marvelous melodic themes comprised from the thirteen self-contained stories that make up the new series’ seventh season.   Gold has been noted for bringing a substantial amount of emotive melody and orchestral resonance to the current DOCTOR WHO incarnation (2005+), and Series 7 is no exception.  Featuring mostly all-new thematic material for full orchestra and choir, Gold’s music for DOCTOR WHO is still some of the best and most engaging dramatic music on television.  Gold has largely chosen a different musical format for each of the season’s thirteen stories [the digital promotional release I received didn’t come with album notes or itemize which tracks go with which of those thirteen episodes, so I’m at a loss to explain further], but as the album progresses there are definitely different flavors within a series of tracks, from the urgent string propulsions of “Towards The Asylum,” the carnivalesque festivity of “Take A Ride On Tricey,” not to mention the Wild West twang of “Make Peace/Welcome to Mercy/Out West/Gunslingers” and the sparkling trumpet resolve of “Our Little Town’s Prosecutor.”  There’s the delightful rhythmic underbelly and revved-up electronica of “Cubes/While We Waited” with their subtle whistled melodies, and the rich Americana crescendo of “New York New York” and very subtle inflections of Gershwynesque saxophone, the vivid melody of “Melody Malone,” and the anthemic, rhythmic crescendo of “Together Or Not At All The Song Of Amy And Rory.”  We also have the somewhat Carl Spalling-ish humoresque of “Monking About,” the journey from dark menacing tension to the applause-worthy reprise of the Doctor’s theme in “Spoonheads” and the gentle fragility of the spritely “Clara.”  Oh, and the slightly James Bondian trumpet work, rhythm, and rocking beat of “A Turbulent Flight” and choral-inflected pop effervescence of “Bah Bah Biker.” On Disc 2 we have the splendid operatic/symphonic/vocal/choral interaction of “God of Akhaten,” “Never Wake,” “The Long Song,” and “The Speeder,” the electronica groove of “A Machine That Makes Machines” and its related tracks, the lavish symphonic splendor of “The Dream Of Cyberia,” the vivid bombast of “The Impossible Girl” and “Cyber Army,” and the profound poignancy of “A Secret He Will Take To His Grave.”  The paucity of familiar thematic material allows this album to be especially fresh, while the occasional revisitations of signature motifs are allowed to stand out and really make an impression.  It’s a great mix of music, beautifully rendered (Ben Foster continued to orchestrate brilliantly). In addition to the 74 tracks on the two discs, a pair of bonus tracks, “Glasgow” (a vigorous Scottish march interwoven with delicate fiddle and flute figures) and “Whisper Men” (a haunting, song-song mysterioso) are available for individual purchase exclusively from iTunes.   Once again, Gold provides Timelord-worthy in his ability to shift styles on a wriggling sentient dime and give the wide-ranging travels of the Tardis the proper variety of music necessary to keep it constantly changing, always in action, and forever displacing time and space.

DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?/Pino Donaggio/Quartet
Last of three films that Donaggio scored for Dario Argento as director, 2005’s DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? is a mild-mannered giallo murder mystery thriller filmed for Italian television.  The pairing of Donaggio with Argento is an obvious one that picks up where the two left off after their early 1990’s collaborations (after TRAUMA and TWO EVIL EYES), but Argento has said he felt the rock-inspired material of Goblin and Claudio Simonetti better suited his films, except for more lyrically styled films such as these.  Donaggio’s music has matured since his fluidly-lyrical, saturated strings style of the 1970s for De Palma an others; here he has provided a vivid, lyrical sonority in his finest style that fits the Hitchcockian flavor of the picture, suggesting Herrmann’s violin writing while adding his own choral sensibility on top of it.  A florid love theme accommodates protagonist Gulio, a film student who, REAR WINDOW-style, suspects neighbor babe Sasha has committed a murder with all manner of Hitchcockian nuances (“Bloody Hammer”); the theme also accompanies his girlfriend Arianna at her most amorous (“Young Lovers”), while a Stéphane Grappelli-styled violin jazz motif accompanies them when they’re acting more playful before and after (“The Yard”).  Donaggio’s sinuous chord progressions from strings, moving into tremolo patterns and rising exhalations of brass, all dappled by pensive triangle and low bassoon warbles, creates a marvelous and classy suspense as we anticipate the murder of Sasha’s spiteful mother, where wild, see-sawing string figures accompany the act itself as she is repeatedly bashed over the head.  Elsewhere, a cute synthpop riff with female voice lends a pleasing airy vibe to “Peeping Eyes,” and Donaggio’s more angular action music (“Runaway in the Rain,”) merges cacophonic industrial guitar peals with severe violin strokes in a kind of post-punk take on Herrmann’s PSYCHO driving theme.  Other tracks (“Quotation,” “Homage to Hitchcock”) are more faithful to Herrmann’s Hitchcock vibe, especially the fluid VERTIGO nuances in the latter track.  It’s a pleasing score that provides plenty of dramatic, threatening edge (with Argento limited on what he could show, visually, in this TV movie, Donaggio provided much of the sonic gravitas) as well as the signature lyrical melodies Donaggio is so well known for.

ENDER’S GAME/Jablonsky/Varese Sarabande
Gavin Hood, the last-director standing in a long line of prospective talent to bring Orson Scott Card’s brilliant science fiction novel (written back before his religious leanings created so much controversy) to the screen, has done the book right.  His movie is a solid and wholly satisfying big screen interpretation of Card’s novel.  Some wonderful performances and screenwriting keep the focus on the human drama of the storyline, while terrific visual effects and striking sound design sustain the spectacular futuristic environments that support the drama. Steve Jablonsky turns in a very fine score that gives the drama much of its propulsive punch and eloquent spirit.  Jablonsky characteristically writes in the low-timbre that I am particularly fond of, and which I felt resonated so well in his TRANSFORMERS scores; he envelopes the drama in a kind of fatalistic mood that is continually progressive, driving inexorably toward the film’s ultimate climax and even more significant coda, where it becomes much more than an outer space war movie but assumes makes an impassioned statement concerning conflict and compassion.  In so doing, Jablonsky’s music reflects the story’s sense of urgency – it is almost constantly in motion, progressing forward, apprehensive and purposeful.  As well, the music (arguably) becomes the film’s spiritual conscience, evoking Ender’s inner feelings as he grows into them (perhaps making its most firm musical statement, standing beside an incensed Ender, a low choir invoking his conflicted feelings, in “The Way We Win Matters”).  The music propels the film’s awesome effects sequences into things of chaotic beauty, even while the score’s languid progression evokes a sense of import over and above what we’re seeing on screen.   Whether with his teenage competitors in the Battle Room or, commanding a handful of selected subordinates in the final test of Command School, the music supports the scenes not by matching action assumes a higher dimension, suggesting in its cadence and emotive sensitivity that we’re witnessing the growth of a profound leader whose import is yet to be realized, and whose importance is to become legendary.  In this sense, with its ascending solo violin elegance set above the score’s primary rhythm figures, “The Battle Room” remains one of the most poignant and meaningful compositions Jablonsky has yet composed for films, but the score as a whole captures many of these characteristics.  While his use of underlying mercato strings in tracks like “Final Test” may be overused in the big action films of the day, he brings these elements to the foreground where they become the battle drum driving the young computer tacticians at Ender’s command to focus and play the game to triumph.  As horns and a ringing, metallic pulse gathers the motif to its climax, the cue draws a straight line through the chaos of the battle and the tension of the sequence to build a tremendous sense of excitement and purpose; the score throughout is reflecting Ender’s perspective; it’s Ender’s emotional and psychological understanding and resolve that directs the score. Even in its more mysterioso moments, such as during Ender’s experiences in the “Mind Game” device he plays during his free time, the music reflecting Ender’s confusion with its dreamlike quality and the message it seems to convey to him; in “Mind Game 2,” it becomes nearly nightmarish, only resolving with a soothing choir as meaning and relevance become clear to him in “Ender’s Promise,” and the cue ends with a rising epiphany of understanding and Ender’s personal decision on how to proceed.  This leads into the coda, “Commander,” where Ender takes on a new role and finds redemption (which is described in detail in Card’s follow-up novel, Speaker for the Dead).  It’s a massive orchestral work, broadly played and textured, and capturing much of the inner thought and meaning of its story.  I’m finding Jablonsky’s effort in scoring ENDER’S GAME to be, ultimately, a completely satisfying and breathtaking work.  In addition to Jablonsky himself, his music team including lead orchestrator Penka Kouneva and orchestrators Alain Mayrand and Larry Rench are to thank for making the music sound so rich and full on screen and on the album!

FEAR/Henry Mancini/Quartet
1990’s FEAR was a score Henry Mancini especially enjoyed composing at the time, and he was eager to discuss it in one of our next interviews; but sadly he fell ill and passed away before we could do so. Along with 1985’s LIFEFORCE, FEAR gave Mancini a welcome chance to compose the kind of music he was not universally known for nor frequently offered; as the reigning master of easy listening records and soundtracks, Mancini had learned his cinematic trade as a member of the staff music department at Universal Studios, contributing to such far-from-easy-listening scores as THIS ISLAND EARTH, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE MONOLITH MONSTERS and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US, not to mention a riveting chiller score for 1962’s EXPERIMENT IN TERROR and 1967’s WAIT UNTIL DARK; and FEAR gave him the opportunity to revisit that kind of music, although in more subtle variations.  A thriller about a psychic investigator, FEAR allowed Mancini to pull out his old toolbox from the dusty pantry and engage in some honestly spooky, shuddery, and shocking music, evoking fear instead of festivity.  He also gave into electronic instruments in a big way for the first time.  Eschewing themes for the most part, Mancini’s score – released for the first time earlier this year by Quartet Records – seethes, scrambles, stalks, and springs, full of fear-inducing atmospheres, panic-stricken rhythms, and creepy suspense music.  There’s still a few gentle tunes here, impeccable “easy” source tracks like “Jack’s Tune” and the jazzified “Low Life,” but otherwise this a potent scare score that is just as potent as any orchestral horror score of the day.  Quartet’s release, supported by comprehensive liner notes by Gergely Hubai, is particularly significant in allowing this singularly chilling Mancini score to emerge from the shadows.

LA MULA/Oscar Navarro/MSM-Kronos
The joint venture of MovieScore Media and Kronos Records has released the original score by Spanish composer Oscar Navarro for Michael Radford’s LA MULA (The Mule).  Based on the novel by Juan Eslava Galán, LA MULA is the story of a soldier who finds a mule on the battlefields and travels through the country, set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.   As described in The Guardian, “It is a story of love during war and of a stubborn, long-eared, four-legged animal that wanders through the battlefields of Spain's bloody civil war in the 1930s.”  The film earned its star Mario Casas the Best Actor award at the 2013 Festival de Málaga de Cine (Málaga Film Festival).  “This movie is about friendship, loyalty, and love,” said composer Navarro. “There is a scene that almost made me cry when I saw it the first time and I think it is the key to the whole movie. This scene speaks about… losing a friend in a war that nobody wants to participate like the Spanish Civil War. You can lose time, you can lose money, you can lose your freedom, but losing your best friend in a stupid war or a member of your family is one of the most painful parts in a war.” LA MULA is composer Oscar Navarro’s first feature film (after scoring more than 15 short films since 2008; LA MULA earned him a second nomination from the Hollywood Music in Media Awards for Best Album Navarro drew from his Spanish background for the music.  “I used a symphony orchestra principally, but there are some parts that I wanted mix typical instruments from the Spanish culture like the Spanish Box, the castanets, a Flamenco voice and a Spanish guitar with the orchestra. This mix was really interesting and worked really well in the movie.”  The score captures an interesting duality, as the film has a lot of humor as well as pathos, and both re elements that the score captures in distinct contrast.  The music’s cheerful, wistful personality is set in contrast to the story’s setting, recognizing the humor extant in the characters while elsewhere emphasizing the terrible cost of warfare on the characters (“Planes de future” and “Te echaré de menos” are especially poignant in this regard, with “Muerte del Alférez” as its most profound moment).  There’s a jaunty buoyancy to the marches and melodies that contrast with the more serious elements resonating within the music.  “I think the use of a symphony orchestra helps a lot to create different moods,” Navarro said.  “The solo violin and cello used in different parts of the movie mixed with the sound of the orchestra gives to the scene more drama.  The mix of the Flamenco Box, Tuba and harp/harpsichord helped to increase the comic moments in some of the comedic scenes.”  In its two-fisted mix of cheerful and disconsolate music, the score effectively covers the notion of finding kinship, contact, and loss in the unwanted and violent milieu of the battlefield.  With musical references to flamenco and Spanish marches, Navarro’s score is quite affecting and humanizing, and a welcome listen on its own.

Decca Records has released the QUEEN OF CARTHAGE,featuring the original score composed by Brian Byrne (ALBERT NOBBS), which is a lovely and somewhat haunting score favoring piano and strings.  In addition to the original score, Byrne wrote the haunting end title track “Waltz With Me Under The Sun,” performed by Kristina Train.  Also featured on the album is “Dido’s Lament,” performed by Danielle DeNiese.  “Kristina Train is probably one of the finest young singers around just now. Although she's has youth on her side she sounds like a classic soul voice that always was,” said Byrne. “The score is mostly based on the melody for the song ‘Waltz With Me Under the Sun’. That was the first thing I wrote for the film and it just seemed to work as a theme throughout.”  Byrne’s wife Kasey wrote the song’s lyrics.  QUEEN OF CARTHAGE stars Shiloh Fernandez (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Oscar nominated actress Keisha Castle-Hughes. The film follows an American drifter who discovers a New Zealand singer and develops an obsession for him.  Byrne’s delicate, close-miked piano melodies invoke an intimate perspective of the main character, as well as an aloofness and tenuousness about the drifter that makes for interesting musical portraiture.  In addition to the song performed by Kristina Train, the album features “Dido’s Lament,” by Henry Purcell.  “Mardana Mayginnes (the director) told me that the only music he listened to whilst writing the script for QUEEN OF CARTHAGE was ‘Dido's Lament’ by Purcell,” he explained. “Although the lament does not appear in the film, I knew from the outset that a classical soprano would be part of the orchestration palette. I had worked with Danielle DeNiese on a classical album (Tales From The Walled City) that I released through Decca US. Danielle was the natural choice to perform on the soundtrack.” DeNiese also performs as the featured female vocalist on the score tracks, representing the voice of Amos’ sister.  Aside from the two songs, which bookend the album, the tracks are all from Byrne’s underscore, there’s no abundance of the New Zealand singer’s tracks to intrude upon the intricate flow of Byrne’s score, which resonates beautifully across the album; occasionally enhanced by DeNiese’s voice

SALEM’S LOT/Harry Sukman/Intrada
In this world premiere release from Intrada, one of the best horror scores of the 1970s finally emerges from behind the full moon to prowl with vicious rage across your stereo soundscapes.  Harry Sukman, who’d been a member of the Paramount music department in the 1940s, gave us his swan song (this was his last score; he died in 1984) with this terrifically aggressive action-horror score for this 1979 miniseries, the first based on Stephen King’s novel of vampirism in rural America.  With a splendid main theme based on the medieval Dies Irae, that favorite chestnut of horror movie music, Sukman defines the might and malevolence of the vampire character both in anticipation of his appearance and finally when he does show up, bald-headed and sucking on Max Schreck curving fangs.  Sukman’s use of the durable Dies Irae as an active, muscular terror theme is similar to Gerald Fried’s use of it in 1958’s THE RETURN OF DRACULA or Leonard Rosenman’s in 1977’s THE CAR – a vibrant, breathing, hungering motif (first heard as such as “Holy Water/Main Title #1”, although when it’s introduced in “The Church,” is carries the subdued, menacing malevolency of Wendy Carlos use of it in Kubrick’s THE SHINING. The Dies Irae is only a small part of the score, of course, and Sukman imparts a variety of thematic ideas and suspenseful compositions to give SALEM’S LOT the feel of a full-blooded and classic horror score.  As Daniel Schweiger notes in his thorough album notes, “For a story about the invasion of an old-school European vampire, Sukman’s music is rooted in the already decades-long tradition of scoring fog-filled cemeteries, foreboding castles and wolf cries over a full moon, then transporting that sense of dread to Maine via stabbing percussion, church organ, creepy bell glissandos and shivering strings.”
Especially notable is a crashing call-and-response from motif brass and organ not unlike the two-note main theme Bernard Herrmann used in MYSTERIOUS ISLAND.  First heard in “Holy Water/Main Title #1,” it’s a striking declarative orchestral shout which heralds the rolling rhythm of the “Dies Irae” that follows. That declaration is reworked into a theme for Straker (James Mason), the businessman who arrives in Jerusalem’s Lot to prepare a home for the vampire, Barlow; his motif (“Straker”) is insidious, evil, and sneeringly self-serving and pugnacious, which also morphs into a sinewy suspense motif (“House #1” and “House #2”) comprised of Theremin-like electronics, twinkled piano keys, blares of brass, and tremolo violins.  A pretty romantic theme for keyboard and strings is provided for Susan (Bonnie Bedelia), love interest for David Soul’s everyman hero, Ben Mears.  All of these elements and more are brought to bear on this potent and often thrilling horror/suspense score, one of the best genre scores of its decade.  Intrada has given it a full two-disc treatment, with seven alternate versions included as bonus tracks at the end.

WYATT EARP (expanded)/James Newton Howard/La-La Land
Hearing La-La Land’s expansive 3-CD edition of J N Howard’s score for this Kevin Costner Western saga reminds me of what a damn fine score this is.  With an eloquent and very human melody for its main theme, which resonated with the legendary size of the man as well as the vast landscapes on which he trod – and reflected is own failures and inner troubled – Howard has crafted a moving, broadly conveyed Western score.  Coming out in 1994, the score is part of a group of significant Western scores to emerge in the first half of the 1990s – DANCES WITH WOLVES, LAST OF THE MOHICANS, SON OF THE MORNING STAR, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER – and especially 1993’s TOMBSTONE – being among others that have attained a well-regarded stature.  WYATT EARP retells the story of the latter in a much fuller, historical dramatic bio of the famed lawman who tamed his share of the wild west.  Howard’s palette is appropriately Americana symphonic, with grand, sweeping gestures and intricate, folky fiddles, fluid violins and winds for the more restrained moments of reflection, all held together by that splendid main theme.   The original soundtrack CD issued in 1994 by Warner Bros contained 23 tracks and an hour’s worth of music. La-Land Land, in the label’s 250th release, extend the score’s presentation over two discs, with a 3rd disc featuring bonus cues (synth mockups, alternate versions) and source tracks (funeral procession variants), as well as the original soundtrack album edits from 1994.  Vividly remastered by James Nelson and produced by Dan Goldwasser with supervision from Howard and producer/star Kevin Costner, the extended format allows gives this superlative score the broad sonic canvas it deserves.  Album notes by journalist Tim Grieving supplied comprehensive background details on the making of both film and music.  Largely regarded as one of the finest Western scores in many decades, this limited edition (3000 copies) should be an essential item in any serious soundtrack collection.

Soundtrack & Music News

The inaugural Middleburg Film Festival in Middleburg, VA honored Mark Isham as the recipient of their first Distinguished Film Composer Award. Isham was bestowed the honor at the Salamander Resort on Friday, October 25. Said Middleburg Film Festival Founder and Board Chair Sheila C. Johnson, “A musical score has the capacity to elevate a scene, stir emotions and transform a film. Mark’s talents lie in his ability to compose music that is organic, seemingly simple in form, yet profound in impact… We at the Middleburg Film Festival are privileged to have such a remarkable artist for our inaugural award.” The Middleburg Film Festival awards ceremony included a special concert by the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra performing a selection of Isham's most memorable scores including his Oscar-nominated music from A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, as well as pieces from DOLPHIN TALE and 42.

Alan Williams reports that his soundtrack CD to PATRIOTS OF FREEDOM (reviewed in my July 2013 column) was awarded a Global Music Award for best Original Score.  Have a listen at the composer’s new website, www.alanwilliams.com

Howard Shore’s soundtrack to THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG will be released by Water Tower Music on December 10th.  While I’m not finding news of a regular digital of CD release, Water Tower has announced the Special Edition CD soundtrack, which includes twelve extended score cues, bonus track, liner notes by Producer and Director Peter Jackson, extended liner notes by Doug Adams with interactive orchestral sketch signed by composer Howard Shore, packaged in a 2 CD hardcover DigiBook. A digital edition is also available for pre-order on iTunes.

A new website has been called The Media Musician Database, which is dedicated to giving credit to the talented artists who perform on the soundtracks to film, television, video games and other new media.
The Database is being updated on a regular basis. See:

Composer Marco Beltrami brings his horror franchise expertise to CARRIE, the latest remake of the horror movie classic based on the Stephen King novel. Directed by Kimberly Pierce (BOYS DON’T CRY), CARRIE stars Chloë Grace Moretz (LET ME IN, KICK-ASS) as the tortured teen pushed into using her supernatural powers to wreak havoc on her bullying peers and overbearing mother.  Rather than the haunted-housed-frights type score commonly heard in horror films, Marco Beltrami created music that focused on Carrie’s emotional turmoil, as did Pino Donaggio in the original and Laura Karpman did in the 2002 TV remake, although it’s a gentle approach we haven’t heard in horror films for a long time.  Beltrami, understanding that such an approach is the proper and necessary one, commented, “I’m working from the girl’s perspective and less of a horror picture. To me it’s like a coming of age story for this girl. Even though she has this possession or superpower, she’s almost like a force of nature.”

Perseverance Records has issued a collection of the best music from the video game series Silent Hill. In addition to 16 score tracks, this collection features the song "I Want Love" with vocals by opera star Romina Arena.  All tracks are composed by Akira Yamaoka, a Japanese music producer and former composer of soundtracks for the Japanese game developer Konami. The compilation features scores from Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill: Homecoming, Silent Hill: Zero, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.  All tracks have been newly arranged, produced and performed by Edgar Rothermich, noted for his acclaimed 2012 recreation of BLADE RUNNER [on BSX Records].  “Many of these themes are available for the first time outside of Japan, as these soundtracks used to be available only as expensive Japanese imports,” said Perseverance’s Rob Esterhammer.

Rattle Records has released New Zealand composer David Long's evocative score to director Leanne Pooley's mountaineering documentary BEYOND THE EDGE. The film recounts Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's daunting expedition to be the first to reach the summit of Everest. Long's score beautifully matches the film's edgy personality, all the while catering to its sense of adventure into a seemingly unknown, starkly remote and foreboding landscape. Details of the soundtrack, music samples and even behind the scenes notes about the score by the composer can be found here

Composer Daniel Pemberton brings experimental and orchestral sounds to his score for The Counselor, the new Ridley Scott crime-thriller. Starring Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem, the film follows a lawyer in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.  Pemberton pushes the boundaries by combining original sound design with traditional orchestration to tackle the grittiness of McCarthy’s material. Pemberton also recently scored Ridley Scott’s upcoming Showtime drama The Vatican.  The score album is now available digitally, with a CD release from Milan Records on November 11th on Milan Records.

Kritzerland’s latest limited release is a pair of Jerry Lewis comedies whose soundtracks have never before been released.  Leigh Harline’s score for 1960’s VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET, in which Lewis played an alien visiting Earth, is “a treasure, beginning with a melodic seven-note main theme that is impossible to get out of one’s head once it’s been heard,” notes Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel. “Harline makes liberal use of the Theremin and keeps the comedy in the film plowing forward with his clever and infectious musical hijinks. There are a few nice source music cues, too, and the whole thing adds up to an entertaining and buoyant score.”   1957’s THE DELICATE DELINQUENT was originally meant to be the Martin and Lewis follow-up to HOLLYWOOD OR BUST, but when the partnership went bust the film was quickly retooled as a solo vehicle for Lewis, with the Martin role going to actor Darren McGavin. The scoring assignment fell to someone relatively new to film composition, a young wunderkind named Buddy Bregman. “Bregman’s score is an undiscovered gem,” writes Kimmel.  “His themes are tuneful and his scoring expert. The score starts out with a bang with the exciting main title – all bongos and drums and percussion until the dynamic orchestra enters with its propulsive rhythms and its jazzy pyrotechnics. There follows a lovely, bluesy theme for saxophone and orchestra and that’s followed by the main theme, a truly beautiful melody that will appear throughout the score, along with more of the big-band, jazzier stuff.   Bregman never plays up the comedy – it’s a straightforward score and it’s one of the reasons the film holds up well today.”  
This is the world premiere release of both scores, taken from tapes housed in the Paramount vaults.   
See: www.kritzerland.com/visitPlanet_delinquent.htm

Howard Shore’s score for Tim Burton’s macabre biopic ED WOOD is being reissued, remastered, and slightly expanded on Shore's own label, Howe Records.  See: http://howerecords.com/

Music Box Records has released L'INDIC (1983), a detective story featuring a lovely romantic score by Michel Magne, enhanced by the use of the bandoneon played by the famous accordionist Gilbert Roussel. For the action and suspense sequences, the composer embellishes the ambience with the use of percussion conjoined with grave tones from piano or flute. Two other scores are also presented here for the first time on CD. For UN ANGE AU PARADIS Magne composed a refrain with several variations accompanying scenes that were at once romantic and burlesque. LE COMPLOT tells the story of a “plot” aimed at liberating one of the generals of the O.A.S. during the Algerian War. Michel Magne wrote a somber and melancholic theme with an oppressive female voice and a plaintive harmonica. 
For more info and ordering, visit Music Box Records. – via soundtrackcollector.com

Silva Screen Records has released DOCTOR WHO - THE SNOWMEN / THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW AND THE WARDROBE, Murray Gold’s immaculately crafted soundtracks to the 2011 and 2012 Doctor Who Christmas specials.   Also new from Silva is Elba presents LUTHER - songs & score from series 1, 2 & 3, featuring music from the popular BBC crime series, starring Idris Elba in the title role as a dedicated but obsessive police officer.  With its mysterious theme, Paradise Circus by Massive Attack, opening each episode the series also utilizes a play-out track that fits the atmosphere of the story. This release features many of these songs including music from Robert Plant, Suede, Marilyn Manson, and Nina Simone, as well as episode scores ranging from darkly menacing soundscapes to elegiac dreaminess by composer Paul Englishby (AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK).
To see Idris Elba talk about the album please click here 

MovieScore Media-Kronos has also released Adrian Sieber’s score to the German film LOST PLACE, which tells the story of four teen-aged GPS treasure hunters in search of their well-deserved loot in the Pfaelzerwald, Germany. While hiking in the forest, the group comes across an abandoned US military radio tower station, a sad reminder of the Cold War and the divided Germany. It turns out that station used to be the part of a secret military program with horrible side effects – and now, it’s mysteriously operational once again…  Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Sieber’s ominous score creates an aura of dread and mystery in the abandoned forest, carefully adding elements of the supernatural and unknown when the mysterious tower station comes to life. The varied orchestral soundscape ranges from the eerie "Camp in the Woods" to the epic "Redroom" and rounds off with the uplifting, hopeful "Farwell and Epilogue". The 43-minute score program is rounded out by a selection of songs appearing in the film.

Coinciding with the theatrical release of the film in United Kingdom, MovieScore Media and Kronos Records releases Irish composer Liam Bates’ high-octane action score for LAST PASSENGER, an intense genre movie taking place on a speeding London commuter train. Influenced by some of the most stylish and effective of Jerry Goldsmith’s action scores from the 1970s and 1980s, Bates has composed a truly exciting, dark and interesting orchestral score that will attract fans of classic action film scoring. Director Omid Nooshin wanted a score “unrepentantly musical and expressive, a throwback to a bygone era of thrillers which inspired my movie in the first place.” Hence, the orchestrations features an emphasis on brass and percussion with a lot of agitato string writing in the rhythmic writing, juxtaposed by reflective melodic themes. Film music surprise of the year?

Turkish composer Rahman Alt?n’s music for his country’s official submission for the 2014 Oscars, THE BUTTERFLY’S DREAM, is available on iTunes from Do?an Müzik Yap?m Records.  See: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/butterflys-dream-original/id733299523

Varèse Sarabande has released Mark Mothersbaugh’s score to LAST VEGAS. The film stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as four friends in their late 60s who reunite for a wild bachelor party in Vegas for Billy (Douglas), the last remaining single member of their group. 
The LAST VEGAS soundtrack features 20 tracks of Mothersbaugh’s jazz-infused original score. Steenburgen, who stars in the film as a sultry lounge singer, performs five songs featured on the soundtrack including “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and “Only You.”

On Dec 10th Varese Sarabande will release Roque Baños’ music for OLDBOY, which opens in theaters on November 27.  A reimagining of Chan-wook Park’s provocative South Korean thriller, OLDBOY tells the story of an advertising executive who is mysteriously kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on a path of revenge to discover who orchestrated his bizarre punishment, with bizarre and twisted results. In capturing the fall and rise of a crushed, innocent man in OLDBOY, Baños wrote and scored the film in under a month’s time, and conducted it with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra in Slovakia.   Spike Lee tapped Baños based on the composer’s mesmerizing work in EVIL DEAD. While contemporary string textures were one of the prime instrumental highlights in EVIL DEAD, for OLDBOY Baños relied upon electronic instruments in creating looping rhythms, which he then combined with strings, brass and percussion.  Two main themes are used throughout the score; one for the suppressed protagonist and the second for the acerbic villain Adrian Pryce (Sharlto Copley). Says Baños, “Adrian’s theme is dark, but also sad because of his past. Joe’s theme has a touch of epic given his heroic rise. It’s not an entirely epic theme because it has touches of emotion and revenge.  Hitting the emotion was key as OLDBOYfollows the transition of a man who has been confined for 20 years who then becomes more serious. He finds a lot in his life.”

SImon Boswell’s score Richard Stanley's 1990 science fiction film HARDWARE will be reissued in early December on the composer’s own new label, Flick Records.  Reactivated, re-edited, remastered, the release will be a limited edition, double vinyl album with gatefold sleeve and a new Graham Humphrey's illustration across both inner faces. Liner notes are by director Richard Stanley. A double CD will also be available.  Web site under construction.

Christopher Drake’s score for BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is available on a special edition CDR/on-demand from amazon and digitally from iTunes, with both previous individual releases combined.

Fox Music has released the soundtrack to the romantic comedy ENOUGH SAID digitally via iTunes.  The soundtrack features the original score composed by Marcelo Zarvos (THE WORDS, TV’s RAY DONOVAN).  “This was my second collaboration with [director] Nicole Holofcener,” said Zarvos.  “The score had to navigate a delicate balance of the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film with instrumentation ranging from a small folk ensemble to orchestral. A master of blending comedy and emotion Nicole really wanted the music to feel unified … but not too traditional.  The score gradually shifts from percussive melodies to a more intimate and lyrical approach. We introduce a waltz and even a slow bluesy bossa while cues get longer and deeper, with fuller orchestrations.”

Back Lot Records has released the soundtrack for Universal’s new action/horror feature DEAD IN TOMBSTONE, featuring new music by Hybrid, a UK-based electronic music group.  “From the outset, DEAD IN TOMBSTONE was perhaps a genre of film we hadn't been associated with before,” Hybrid comments. “Director Roel Reine wanted us to deliver a contemporary score for a traditional film with a unique twist and we reveled in the challenge. This film has possibly been the most enjoyable project we have worked on to date which pushed us to re-invent a western score which would hopefully withstand the test of time."  Danny Trejo, Anthony Michael Hall), and Mickey Rourke star in this supernatural gangland revenge thriller, now available on DVD/BD.

Composer Dominic Lewis brings his experience collaborating on animated features such as HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, PUSS IN BOOTS, WRECK IT RALPH, and KUNG FU PANDA 2 to Relativity Media’s FREE BIRDS. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler and Woody Harrelson, FREE BIRDS is the story of time-traveling turkeys looking to change history and keep turkey off the Thanksgiving menu. Recommended for the project by composer John Powell, with whom Lewis collaborated on HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, Lewis worked closely with director Jimmy Hayward to create a score that split the difference between the pilgrims of 1621 and the 21st century turkeys who try to change their eating habits. A score album is available from Relativity Music.

From France comes a massive box set entitled Michel Legrand Anthology, weighing in at 15 CDs plus a 72-page booklet filled with rare and unpublished photographs. CD 1: I Love Paris / Legrand in Rio CD 2: Legrand Jazz / Michel Legrand Big Band Plays Richard Rodgers CD 3: Tribute to George Gershwin CD 4: Stan Getz Communications '72 / Bud Shank plays Michel Legrand CD 5: Arrangements and original songs CD 6: Michel Legrand sings and plays / Serenades twentieth century CD 7: Michel Legrand & Jacques Demy CD 8: Jazzic in Classic (unreleased album for harp and orchestra) CD 9: Symphonic Works CD 10: International Cast CD 11: Musicals CD 12: Cartoons CD 13: Tribute to Alain Delon CD 14: Michel Legrand & Joseph Losey CD 15: American Movies 

ICON Trailer Music announces their first commercial album release with Dawning Promises.  Featuring the impactful music that audiences have come to expect from trailers, Dawning Promises combines the sounds of a live orchestra with choir to produce an instrumental-based high energy and exciting album.  ICON Trailer Music was founded by veteran film and television composers Joel Goodman (TV’s AMERICAN EXPERIENCE) and Frederik Wiedmann (GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES).  “Initially our focus was to produce music specifically for motion picture advertising - i.e. film trailers,” said Goodman. “Everything we did was catered towards the professional market. But when we put our music on YouTube, we noticed an immediate reaction from a very active and passionate trailer music fan community.”  It was this response that led the two to create Dawning Promises. Wiedmann explained, “While growing our catalog, we had a lot of requests from fans about an official album. So we decided to release our first commercial album, with tons of never heard before thematic epic trailer music.  The great thing about trailer music is that every single piece that we create is an epic journey,” said Wiedmann.  “Each track tells a unique story that might be different for every listener. Listening to this music is an experience.”
See: http://icontrailermusic.bandcamp.com (those who purchase the album directly from the IconTrailerMusic site will also receive, as a special bonus, the sheet music to a brand new piano arrangement of the first track on the album, “A Legacy Uncovered”).

Italy’s Digitmovies continues to explore the territory of the Italian Peplum by issuing as volume XXV the complete edition in mono of the original soundtrack by Angelo F. Lavagnino for the 1959 movie GLI ULTIMI GIORNI DI POMPEI (“The Last Days of Pompeii”). Although initially directed by Mario Bonnard; but when he fell ill, the film was completed by Sergio Leone, for whom this was his directorial debut (previously he had been assistant director or director of the second unit). Out of respect for Bonnard the young Leone with did not want to appear as co-director in the credits.  At the time of the film’s release no soundtrack album was issued, but in 1984 C.A.M. issued a 33 rpm LP in their limited edition Phoenix series (PHCAM 03) with 15 tracks (in fact the “Main Title” was repeated at the end of side B so that we have left in their place only 14 tracks which end with the “ Finale “). The same material has been re-released on CD in 1995 (CAM 493273-2) and more recently on CD CAM / Sugar (Sugar 24). “For our CD we had access to the master tapes of the original session in mono masterfully conducted by Carlo Savina which allowed us to locate about 22 minutes of extra music,” said Digitmovies’s Claudio Fuiano.  With a total duration of 62:57, Lavagnino’s music can be heard in all of its glorious sweep, where love themes alternate with dramatic motifs, sometimes macabre, sometimes mysterious, as ideal background for the sad fate of the people of Pompeii.   Also announced this week from Digitmovies are CHE FINE HA FATTO TOTÓ BABY?, a comedy score from 1964 by Armando Trovajoli, POVERI MA BELLI, 1957 a comedy score by Giorgio Fabor, and UN DOLLARO BUCATO (One Silver Dollar), a 1965 Western composed by the late Gianni Ferrio, totaling 53 minutes including nine previously unreleased tracks, including a symphonic version of the main theme song, and three rare stereo mixes.
See https://www.digitmovies.com

From GDM comes Nino Rota’s IL FURTO DELLA GIOCONDA, a 1978 TV miniseries (aka The Theft Of The Mona Lisa) along with Ennio Morricone’s  IL VIZIETTO / IL VIZIETTO II (1978; LA CAGE AUX FOLLES I and II) and VITE STROZZATE (1996; Strangled Lives).

Newly released from Beat Records of Italy are NIENTE ROSE PER OSS 117 (Piero Piccioni, 1978 Eurospy movie aka OSS 117 Double Agent), BON VOJAGE (Piero Umiliani), IL PAESE DEL SESSO SELVAGGIO (aka "The Man From Deep River," 1972; Daniele Patucchi), and Nico Fidenco comedy scores for 3 SUPERMEN CONTRO IL PADRINO (aka "Supermenler") (1979;) and CHE CASINO CON PIERINO (1982).

Saimel of Spain has released Armando Trovajoli’s variegated jazz scores for IL VICHINGO VENUTO DAL SUD (The Viking Who Came From The South) along with 1978’s L'UCCELLO MIGRATORE together on one disc.

The Emmy Award-winning and very popular sitcom ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT finally receives a soundtrack album from Varese Sarabande on November 19th.    Composer David Schwartz selected his songs and score from all four seasons of the show, with a heavy dose of the original madcap songs and its signature ukulele tunes.  The soundtrack features exclusive extended versions of several key songs including “Balls In The Air,” “Getaway” and “Shot By Love.” Also included are fan favorites “Big Yellow Joint,” “Fantastic 4 (medley)” and “Motherboy.” According to David, these are the songs ARRESTED fans have been clamoring for.

German composer Max Richter has scored the British/Irish science fiction thriller LAST DAYS ON MARS, which combines hard science â la EUROPA REPORT with rage virus horror as the spaceship crew exploring the surface of the Red Planet falls prey to a virus discovered on the planet.  The film, currently available for rental on amazon and iTunes, has a limited theatrical release in the US set for December 6.  Richter, who was nominated for Breakout Composer of the Year in 2008 by the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA), has scored nearly three dozen films and shorts since 2003, including WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008), the speculative drama WOMB (2010), and CITIZEN GANGSTER (2011).

The latest release from the Brigham Young University Film Music Archive is the soundtrack from Walt Disney’s least-known live action features, 1965’s THOSE CALLOWAYS, composed by Max Steiner (his second-to-last film score, although the final one, TWO ON A GUILLOTINE, preceded CALLOWAYS into theaters by just weeks).  Steiner’s score is lyrical and majestic, with many moments of humor, tenderness and danger. This CD presents the complete score as composed by Steiner, and the songs composed by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, presented in full stereo, mastered from the three-track magnetic recording sessions preserved by Disney Studios, and a couple of songs not previously released in any form.

Currently available digitally, a 2-CD collector’s edition of Bear McCreary’s DEFIANCE TV and game scores will soon be released by Sparks and Shadows.  The composer has created a rich sound environment for this post-invasion-apocalypse series, which weds the worlds of the TV series and the video game into a planned and shared musical symbiosis.  For the first time in history, a TV show and a game will exist concurrently in a shared universe, influencing and impacting the other.  Be sure to check out the label’s release of McCreary’s score for EUROPA REPORT, and outstanding and moving science fiction movie recently released on DVD/BD.
See: http://sparksandshadows.net/

A soundtrack to the latest Robert Rodriguez/Danny Trejo exploitation movie, MACHETE KILLS, has been released by Morada Music, featuring music by Rodriguez and Carl Thiel.

The new partnership of MovieScore Media and Kronos Records has released the music to LAST PASSENGER, a runaway train thriller directed by Omid Nooshin and starring Dougray Scott.  Onboard, the last remaining passengers of a commuter train must work together if they want to survive what seems to be their last journey together.  The film opened theatrically in the UK on October 18, 2013.  Tagging along for the ride is the exciting music by Liam Bates (GHOSTWOOD, EARTHBOUND) which seems to be a character in its own right. “The music for a movie which is literally on the move, required particular attention to element, of rhythm” explained the composer. “This element, which was laid out with strongly defined pace and carefully marked tempo transitions, would become the back-bone for the steadily rising tension in the film, leaving the melodies to draw out the emotion surrounding the characters and their interplay.” The music also features an assortment of curious percussive sounds, including (but not limited to) metal piping of various length, nipple gongs and plate bells.   The soundtrack had a digital release date of October 21, 2013, followed by a physical release date of November 19, 2013.

Superheroes!  The latest release from John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops, showcases some of Hollywood's grandest musical scores and builds on the Orchestra's great recording legacy with an exciting mix of favorite superhero themes from yesterday and today -all bathed in the rich, signature sound of the Pops. This action-packed collection, featuring themes from SPIDER-MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, SUPERGIRL, IRON MAN 2, THE AVENGERS, and a few more – with a special 'appearance' by Adam West – pays tribute to the anthemic creativity of Hollywood's most accomplished and acclaimed composers.

Composer Joel Douek has announced a full slate of fall releases starting with Sir David Attenborough’s RISE OF ANIMALS, the latest documentary produced by the renowned British filmmaker and naturalist.  Hailed by The Sunday Times as “engrossing”, RISE OF THE ANIMALS is currently showing on BBC2. RISE OF ANIMALS marks Douek’s 7th collaboration with Attenborough, an association that has yielded fine scores for FLYING MONSTERS 3D, GALAPAGOS 3D, KINGDOM OF PLANTS 3D (co-composed with Elik Alvarez and Freddie Sheinfeld), FIRST LIFE and the recent UK release MICRO MONSTERS 3D (also co-composed with Alvarez and Sheinfeld).  Douek has earned several awards for his works including Best Documentary Score at the Park City Film Music Festival (FLYING MONSTERS 3D) and the GoldSpirit Award for Best Score for Documentary at the 2013 International Film Music Festival of Córdoba, Spain (KINGDOM OF PLANTS). Douek also scored Jessica Biel’s horror thriller THE TALL MAN, which was released on soundtrack CD last month by Screamworks Records.


Film Music on Vinyl

Silva Screen’s 1993 re-recording by Kenneth Alywn/Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra of Franz Waxman’s seminal horror score, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, has been reissued on vinyl for the first time ever by UK’s Music on Vinyl (the promotional material labeling the release an “OST” is a misnomer as this isn’t the Original Sound Track; however it is an outstanding and faithful re-recording in terrific sound from a large orchestra).  The first pressing, of 1000 hand-numbered copies of slime-green vinyl, has sold out, but new pressings on black vinyl remain available.  The package includes a movie poster as well.  The label also offers soundtrack issues on vinyl of Vangelis’ ANTARCTICA and Paul Leonard-Morgan DREDD (2012), among others.
See: http://musiconvinyl.com/releases/Ost/Bride_Of_Frankenstein

Mondo TEES has just released John Carpenter’s legendary soundtrack for HALLOWEEN as a double LP pressed on 180 Gram black vinyl (with randomly inserted Orange vinyl) cut at 45RPM for optimal sound quality. The track listing contained within, the most comprehensive there is, has never been released on vinyl before, and features amazing brand new artwork by Phantom City Creative. See:

Death Waltz Records’ latest vinyl collector reissue, scheduled for release on November 18th – John Carpenter’s music from ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, shows to be sold out already on their web site.  The album features exclusive art by Jay Shaw, a poster and an 8 page fold out booklet with sleeve notes by composer director John Carpenter, star Austin Stoker and essays by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander and composer Clint Mansell.  Next in line are vinyl albums of Francesco De Masi’s NEW YORK RIPPER and ROOM 237 by Jonathan Snipes & William Huston are scheduled for release on November 28th in UK/Europe/Asia, and on December 5th in North America.  The label’s previous release of John Carpenter’s THE FOG (“Blake’s Gold Edition”) on vinyl remains available, while vinyl issues of 2013’s EVIL DEAD by Roque Baños’ and MANIAC (Blood-Splattered Flesh Edition) by “Rob” cannot be shipped to the USA (on vinyl from Unseen Forces) or France as the soundtrack has been licensed to other labels in those countries.

See: http://deathwaltzrecordingcompany.com/


Film Music Books

Pendragon Press has released A Dimension of Sound: The Music of The Twilight Zone by Reba Wissner.  The book is a thorough examination of this seminal TV anthology show’s use of music – through which many composers, including Jerry Goldsmith, Fred Steiner, Nathan Van Cleave, and others began their film musical careers, and others, including Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Leith Stevens, Leonard Rosenman, William Lava and others found a place for continued challenging work after the end of the studio system that occupied most of their careers.  Featuring an introduction by Tommy Morgan, whose distinctive harmonica playing made it into several TZ scores, including “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” performed entirely on solo harmonica, Wissner offers individual chapters to the show’s four primary composers (Goldsmith, Steiner, Herrmann, Van Cleave), while covering less frequent composers in a chapter of their own.  Very well researched, the author covers the subject in terms of its dramatic effect on the storytelling as well as from a musical perspective, with numerous score samples.  An earlier chapter covering the techniques of composing and recording for the show includes some examples of timing notes and other charts the composers had to work with.  An appendix offers a very valuable index of in which episodes original cues were later reused throughout the series.  This is a fine book for those interested in how this influential series utilized music while also offering an understanding of the ways in which music - both original and stock – can be used in an anthology series.  The subject matter is both timely and extremely pertinent; the influence of what TWILIGHT ZONE and its composers did with music continues to be felt in the more musical-savvy of today’s television programming, and the use of music across the show’s five season remains a textbook example of how music can be used to enhance and interact with what is happening on the screen and felt through its storytelling.


Games Music News

Composer Lorne Balfe (SALINGER, Assassins Creed III, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and Giants,) returns to the Skylands with the soundtrack for Skylanders: Swap Force.   The soundtrack is currently available digitally through the usual providers.  “Working on Skylanders is like being on a sugar rush for three months straight!” said Balfe.  “We are so happy to have been a part of another great game by Activision.”

Celebrated French composer Olivier Deriviere (Remember MeAlone In The Dark) has created a unique musical score for Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Freedom Cry, the latest chapter in Ubisoft's historical action-adventure open world video game series. Set in the Caribbean at the dawn of the 18th Century, Freedom Cry is a stand-alone story about Adéwalé, a former slave-turned-assassin who attempts to save his enslaved people in Haiti. To immerse players in the game, Deriviere's sweeping emotional score features performances by a world-class symphony orchestra as well as live drums, a cappella soloists and choir performed in the tradition of Afro-Haitian ancestral music. Although no date has yet been announced, the soundtrack will be available for digital download on iTunes and other digital music sites to precede the release of the game (also unreported as of yet).
Click here for link to some music samples on soundcloud
(see my interview with Oliver Deriviere in my October 2008 column and my review of his Remember Me gamescore in my July 2013 column)


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 has written liner notes for more than 120 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, FSM, Perseverance, Silva Screen, Harkit, Quartet, and BSX Records.  A largely re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published: the first of this four-book series is now available.  See: www.musiquefantastique.com

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe.

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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