German composer Reinhold Heil and Australian composer Johnny Klimek began working together in the mid 1996s. Both had been successful rock musicians on their own. In Germany, Heil produced records and was in a popular band called Spliff in the early 1980s, whose lead singer was Klimek’s brother Alf. In 1983, Alf rejoined his siblings Johnny and Jayney, in their home in Australia to create a family band. When Johnny moved to Berlin in the early 1990s to work in the techno underground scene, he became reacquainted with Reinhold and the two began working together on some original music. In 1997, German musician/filmmaker Tom Tykwer was in the process of making his movie WINTER SLEEPERS when he asked Klimek to engineer the film’s trailer. When he found out Klimek was working with Heil (“As it turned out, Tom was an old fan of mine – he was 15 when I played onstage with Nina Hagen in 1978!” Reinhold said) he asked the two of them to collaborate with him on scoring the film (half of the music was already done via licensed music). “We did that in my studio,” said Heil. “We all sat together and we were all working of course with VHS cassettes and that was a complete pain in the ass, but that was our first job together in 1996.”
Heil and Klimek have continued working with Tykwer on nearly all of his subsequent films, from the acclaimed RUN LOLA RUN in 1998 and the sublime PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER in 2006 to the Golden Globe- and Oscar-nominated score to 2012’s CLOUD ATLAS. I had the opportunity to interview Heil just before New Year’s, discussing the highlights of his career in film music and talking in length about the approach the three of them took on composing music for the multifaceted fantasy film, CLOUD ATLAS.
Q: What kind of musical background have you had?
Reinhold Heil: I have actually a fairly wide background. I attended Berlin University of the Arts (back then it was called the Music Academy), although not to become a composer but actually to study classical music production. That involved piano, music theory, ear training, and score reading, although I have to say I never had the desire to really become a classical music producer, it was just one of the very few courses that was combining technology and music and I felt that was the perfect combination for me. I wanted to be a sound engineer and do sound design. I wanted to understand synthesis and be able to produce music in any way, shape, or form; of course the same time I wanted to hold my musical skills. So I was already making choices that very much pointed away from the classical music, which of course is now something that I regret because I got back into the whole orchestral flow when we started doing movies that required that!
Q: How have you and Johnny brought your background in classical, electronics, rock, and new wave music into the world of films to give yourselves a unique voice in film scoring?
Reinhold Heil: With my mixed background I have a more solid understanding of music than somebody like Johnny, who came from Australian pop bands, playing the blues and rock 'n roll and getting into electronics from that angle. But Tom also has a classical background because he learned piano all the way through to the end of high school when he was 18 or 19. He didn't continue to study music after high school but he is definitely fairly solid with music. So we each have these different levels of educational background and that makes it interesting.
In the beginning it was difficult because people really thought that we were just these techno-guys, because RUN LOLA RUN was our claim to fame and we had made that very consistent choice while scoring the film of using electronica music, so we used that style but we actually made an effort to score the movie rather than taking electronica music and cutting the film around it. We were doing what a film composer does, developing the music along the scene. We always do it the hard way!
Q: You started out with the techno/electronica for RUN LOLA RUN, but then you come up is something that so serenely beautiful for PERFUME, and then now with CLOUD ATLAS, there's a wide range of music so you're not locked in being pigeonholed like a lot of composers wind up being.
Reinhold Heil: I'm not sure if this is such a good thing, because if you look at how you have to market yourself, I think you're confusing people more than anything! We’ve actually had a hard process with movies like PERFUME or CLOUD ATLAS; it's a very relentless process of developing the music even before the movie is shot, doing an orchestra session, and then taking the material from that session and basically creating a temp score without even having seen the film in order to create suites that are then sent to editorial and they can then start using the music is written for this film specifically as temp music and thereby avoiding the use of external third-party temp music. It doesn't mean that the temp love isn't still there, because sometimes once the movie is shot and they’re in the cutting process and you try to improve on things that you’d done before the movie was shot, but by then the filmmakers have gotten attached to that and you are no longer able to improve because they’ve gotten so attached to the rough layout.
There’s actually quite a bit of rough layout left in CLOUD ATLAS, because we weren't able to finalize it in the fresh session that we always do towards the end of the post production – we’ll replace a whole bunch of things and of course there is always new material being written in between to fill out the score. So we replace some stuff and try to make it sound better, but the filmmakers go "You know what? Somehow emotionally it's not as effective…" Cues like "Death Is Only a Door" [in CLOUD ATLAS] end up being pretty much the layout from the year before, and some people can tell. They’ll write something like, "The recording is kind of filthy!" I saw that on a comment on Amazon about the soundtrack album. There were a whole bunch of very positive reviews and then the one guy was saying "I love the music very much, but there are all these stage noises and the recording is just not perfect,” so he gave it a 2-star review because it wasn't as technically fit as the big Hollywood scores are. CLOUD ATLAS was a $100 million movie, but it should have been a $200 million movie. We were working on a much lower budgetary level than a $100 million movie normally operates at, and that means there would be more time and more postproduction of the recordings. We didn’t have the conditions to go into a wonderful Los Angeles scoring stage and work with the best musicians in the world, or go to London to Abbey Road or to Air Studios and work with the musicians there. That costs more money than we have for these kinds of movies, so we have to burn the midnight oil with whatever we have instead.
Q: What kind of a challenge did CLOUD ATLAS pose for you as far as developing your score from point A to point B in a film that doesn’t run linearly but shuffles the time frames and settings around?
Reinhold Heil: We had to develop some ideas that were originally rooted in the period of the individual stories. But we also knew that they were going to intercut between those different time periods, and it was going to be pretty drastic at some points, such as the montage-like sequences where it cuts every few seconds and you’re in a completely different world. It was clear to us that we had to be the glue, meaning we couldn't just jump in with the editing jumps, we had to hold it all together. Because the screenwriters (our three genius directors) had set the structure, the way they cut between them was all very, very premeditated. Even if you look at the set design, the framing of the objects during the transitions from one story to the next, they’re always amazingly intelligent and you get so much to discover on repeated viewings. So that was always there, and we had to come in with one piece of music that would actually be able to cover all these different time periods. We had to let go of the idea that the music should always be in the period, it has to sometimes clash. That makes it interesting, of course. If you look at a 20 second excerpt from the movie by itself, you may think the music isn’t working because it’s not totally fitting the picture, but in the context of the movie, the music is carrying over some of the energy and stylistic impression from the previous scene, which it then carries into the next scene, even though by itself it wouldn't really work. That’s actually cool because the other parallel story that's going on is still palpable because you can feel it through the music.
The music is definitely adding another dimension that otherwise wouldn’t be there. This whole thing of the six stories merging into one film, which was the declared ambition of the filmmakers, needed to be helped by the music and that was an amazing challenge, but it was also amazing fun once we found out that it was actually working the way we had anticipated it would. We also had to restrict ourselves to the number of themes and try to apply certain melodies repeatedly into very different situations. There is a theme which is sort of the third main theme, we named it after the mountain that Zachry and Meronym climb in story number five but later we changed it to "Eternal Recurrence" because that's an over-arching theme of the movie itself. That “Eternal Recurrence” theme is always heard whenever the story gets propelled forward. It doesn't matter in which era you are, but when it cuts to another story the same momentum is happening there. The dynamics and energy of each story are synchronized in a way so that there is an over-arching flow of ups and downs that cuts across each story, and makes it into one entity.
Q: How much preplanning to that take on your part to have the music to all that?
Reinhold Heil: I don't think there was too much preplanning actually. As I said, we had to limit ourselves to just a few themes. When we came out of PERFUME we said, “Well, that was a great score, but it doesn't have that LAWRENCE OF ARABIA kind of epic one-theme that dominates the score from beginning to end.” It actually has a tiny little motive that happens in many of the different themes that are happening in PERFUME, so there is a relationship between the themes but it's more molecular. It's not like there's one theme or two themes that actually use it, there's like eight or nine. It's actually somewhat insane! At least there was only one story to tell! But afterwards we were talking and, although we didn’t want to do it again all differently, but we realized it would be better to work with less themes on a film like that. On CLOUD ATLAS we pretty much did that. We wrote the “Cloud Atlas Sextet” which is part of the story. We wrote the Atlas March and both of them as musical pieces don't happen all that often in the film, but their melodies are interwoven in every other cue. You have the Atlas March and the Sextet all over the film. And then you have the Eternal Recurrence, which is that driving, rhetoric theme with the bass riff that goes through. After that, you have a whole bunch of electronica and you have a whole bunch of ‘70s oriented rock 'n roll, and all of that is prepared in the manner of suites that have lots of ups and downs.
So it was really a puzzle putting it all together and seeing which of those pieces worked with which segment of the film. I don’t mean segments within the six different stories, but there’s a segment where we have five or six minutes in which we’re constantly cutting between Luisa Rey being chased by the killer and Adam Ewing being poisoned by evil Dr. Goose on the ship, and the music that was used was tailor-made for the 70s political thriller story but actually also covered the other story quite nicely. And then the skiff chase where Sonmi and Chang escape from the safe house and it intercuts to 1936 and Frobisher is sitting at the piano and Ayrs comes in and they have this argument – it's the same piece of music that's happening. It keeps the tempo and the momentum of that chase scene, which is a really big action cue but then dynamically it goes way, way down so you have this interesting tension going on during that Frobisher/Ayrs scene with a piece of music that would never have been chosen to score that moment, because he keeps the momentum of the chase going on in the background and then it cuts to Dr. Goose and Ewing and it builds up again and then it hard-cuts back into the future into the chase with Sonmi and Chang where it comes back in full orchestral action style. So the same piece of music covers those three stories and it does it in a really unique way which is only possible if you make the movie like this! I think we really entered some uncharted territory with this, because even if you look at movies with multiple storylines, like Altman’s SHORT CUTS or like CRASH, in this case it's even more extreme because the stories are in different eras with different protagonists very far away from each other.
Q: In CLOUD ATLAS how does the music shift either texture or medium for the different time frames and that is a movie naturally increased velocity of these different things came together the music became more of one form?
Reinhold Heil: There was an intense phase of two months where they were getting their bearings from the [rough] edit, taking a four-hour assembly and turning it into a two hour and 45 minute film. I was actually kind of the music editor; I was in Berlin before everybody else on the team came. We were beginning to figure out how to place the different scenes and there were clearly spots opening up where music needed to be written, so we were creating new material. We were even writing most of the source music ourselves, and we were using the Sextet theme specifically for the first music pieces. One of the early edits started jumping between the stories too much and people were getting confused – these were people who worked on the film! They would worry, “oh I don't know if people will be able to follow it,” so they recut it in a way that began with the title passage clearly indicating where this is going, [introducing] the six different stories before settling into the story in 1850, which is stays with for five or six minutes before jumping to the next story. The first half-hour to 40 minutes is the most like the book in that it tries to give you an idea of where you are and who you are dealing with and what the issues are in each of the six stories. That part ends at the moment where Chang extends his hand into Sonmi and says "You have a choice, either you stay here and the DNA sniffers will be on to you and you will be excised, or you can come with me." In an interview Tom described it as that actually the moment where you have understood the premises of the six stories and now you, as an audience member, you are invited to follow us on this crazy trip, or else just walk out of the movie theater! It's just a really nice moment in the film, and the music picks up and gains momentum – soaring melodies start happening and you're on your way. I always love that moment when I see the film again. Until that moment there were definitely still considerations of sticking within a certain style for each of the six different stories, but from then on out everything was all open.
Q: How do you describe your process of integrating the electronics with the orchestral music?
Reinhold Heil: It's easier now in that our mockups, with samples, have improved so much over the last year. Technology has grown so much that you can already have that mixture from the get-go. You can mock-up orchestral timbres and you have electronic timbres right next to them and they coexist in our heads very peacefully. I don’t know how the audience feels about this way of combining the two, but I think people have gotten used to it, since many other people do the same thing. It’s not something that happens after the fact, it actually happens right away. Often we use orchestral timbres and we sound design them and we create collages that are kind of electronic but not really, because they have their basis in organic stems. It’s almost a weird way of dealing with orchestra, but then there’s real orchestra playing as well, so it goes to and fro in a kind of process that evolves, and because we have an early recording session, that makes it easier, because we already have orchestral timbres, textures, performances that we can deal with. We can even turn them into little electronic bytes and use them in a very remixy/electronica kind of fashion. Then we come back [with another orchestral session] and have the orchestra play to that, so it’s a very organic process. It’s not something that’s artificially created toward the end of the whole production.
Q: In CLOUD ATLAS, what was the nature of your collaboration with Tom and Johnny? What strengths does each of you bring to that mix?
Reinhold Heil: The strength that Tom brings is an unbelievable amount of energy and melodic talent, and of course the grand vision. Being so closely involved with the filmmaker at every stage of the game makes it so much easier for Johnny and I to not stray too much, and not having to try too many things before something sticks, since we’re getting his immediate feedback. Also, because we’ve worked with each other for 16 years, there's a lot of nonverbal communication and anticipation of what the other person can do or will potentially do. As a trio, we collaborate very much on the same level but Tom calls the shots because he is the filmmaker. It simplifies a lot of issues that might otherwise exist if you just throw three people together into a room and say: make a score. Johnny is very much a rhythmic oriented, groove oriented person, but maybe 12 years ago there was more of that separation – he was doing more of that and I was doing the orchestrations, voicing, chord progression, and general harmonization while Tom did the melodies and the overarching conceptual stuff. Now, that distinction is actually going away and everybody is growing as a composer – everybody has learned a little bit of everybody else's specialty. That makes it more interesting and gives the combo of the three of us a stronger voice, because there's a certain common denominator that happens when we are together. That doesn’t mean that everybody loves what everybody else is doing as we are working, but the common denominator is what defines the style of the three of us.
Q: How was the “Cloud Atlas Sextet” developed? It is used both a piece of source music we see being composed on the screen, and as a continual thematic reference in the dramatic portion of the score?
Reinhold Heil: When we were working on the “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” we were talking about the 1930s with the merging of avant-garde music, which is like what Frobisher was going to do, and then Ayrs was a guy who's coming out of the 19th century and maybe a little bit modernist in the way Richard Strauss would have been, but still more conventional than Debussy or Bartok would've been. Johnny didn't have that background upbringing whereas I went to music Academy and Tom's just a sponge for everything cultural. So in terms of writing this on-screen [source] music it was more Tom and I struggling with that idea of having to come up with a piece that, on one hand, is a modernist thing for the 1930s and on the other hand it goes on through history after being forgotten and into the future where it become this ubiquitous piece of music that has almost religious connotations. That was a really hard struggle at the beginning because we really tried to do something that sounded like modern chamber music, yet we weren’t getting something that would become that super beautiful piece that could potentially be so successful and ubiquitous with the masses in the future. At some point we just abandoned the requirement that David Mitchell had made in his novel and we just wrote this beautiful melody which was mostly Tom's idea; I harmonized it and turned it into a classical piano piece that sounded something like very old Schumann, Satie, or Debussy. Then we orchestrated it for choir and for string orchestra; we even did some chamber versions of it, and that would be more Tom than me. Then at the same time Johnny was working in another room on another workstation and he came up with a whole lot of music for the sci-fi story. For the Luisa Ray story, the whole 1970s thing, I had a lot of inspiration because I'm the oldest of the bunch, I actually grew up in the 60s and into the 70s and so I was literally there when all that stuff was happening. I brought in a whole bunch of albums that the other guys didn’t know; for example the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma became very inspirational for Johnny. So we always exchanged ideas. Sometimes it was just by throwing each other ideas and sometimes just by sitting together and taking turns at the keyboard and adding new things onto each other's ideas. It's a looser form of collaboration.
Q: I also want to say congratulations on your Golden Globe nomination for the score. I think the score deserves that and I hope you'll be recognized for what you've done there.
RH: That's definitely more recognition than we've had before, so we’re already pretty happy about that. The sad part about it is, given the extremely intense and high-quality competition that's out there, it's still probably a long shot that there could be an Oscar nomination [this interview was conducted prior to the announcement of the Oscar nominees]. But the Academy has just changed its rules for reasons that are probably reasonable for the Academy's experience of the past five or ten years, and they've allowed only two people to be eligible for an Oscar in the score category. They upped the song category from three people to four, and then lowered it from four people to two for the score category. We had submitted the film with three composers, knowing that it was actually breaking their rules, and we were expecting the Academy to turn us down and make us ineligible because we couldn't imagine who we could take off. They were saying, “Well take Tom off, because he's the director, the screenwriter, the producer, he's in other categories,” but we simply couldn’t do that. They have no idea how integrated our process is, and even if he would get 11 other Oscars it would still be an awful situation to take him off of that submission. But then, instead of turning us down and rendering us ineligible [for consideration to be nominated], they just took his name off anyway. We put all three names on it and they took Tom's name off and now Johnny and I are in the running and it feels extremely awkward. I think the problem will go away on January 10th [if] five other scores are nominated for an Oscar! As much as I understand and respect the rules that the Academy has established and the reasoning behind it, we're just very unusual in our way of working, and that's why it's kind of sad to be hitting us this way. [as it turned out, CLOUD ATLAS was not nominated for an Oscar.]
Q: I wanted to ask about PERFUME, a score that is so serenely beautiful. How did the three of you develop that score to, more or less, flavor the film with music that evoked the scent of the perfume?
Reinhold Heil: We were trying to do that, although I had the feeling that we failed in an elegant way to do that. I don't think it's really possible! Of course, there's an aesthetic theory behind it – E. T. A. Hoffman, a German romantic from the 19th Century, discussed what is called synesthesia where the different senses merge and I can smell something blue or I can see something bitter. It's a very romantic concept to make music that evokes a scent. Perfume is this totally ubiquitous novel, I think it’s the most successful German novel of the second half of the 20th century; it's much more important over there than it is here. So it was a hugely stressful thing to think about having to do this. It was definitely going to have to be lush and orchestral, and that wasn't necessarily what we were known for then. We started writing in May of 2004 – the movie came out in September of 2006. We didn’t work on it for two and a half years, but we started early to begin to get a feel for it. It was the first time that we actually did a recording session right away. We wrote for about 4 to 6 weeks, then went to New York where we had some friends who had a group called the Absolute Ensemble and we had them play the layouts we wrote. They are very much into contemporary music, and with 15 musicians it’s like a large chamber ensemble. We did a lot of experimentation with textures, and it was a huge learning experience to see what we could do with orchestral instruments that we weren't really trained in. Then we mixed those things together.
The film wasn’t even shot for another year. In spring 2005, Tom called us and said “We have to record choir.” I said, “Tom, I understand that we want choir but we record that at the end because everybody records choir at the end when you have the orchestra. Why record the choir before?” He said he wanted to have choir recordings when he was filming on the set. So we had another intense writing session in Berlin in March of 2005 for two and a half weeks. We booked the choir through a conductor friend (who also worked on CLOUD ATLAS), Kristjan Järvi. We wanted the Estonia National Choir but they wouldn’t do it without having the music first, so we went to one Baltic state down and went to Riga and recorded with the Latvian State Choir. We recorded a whole bunch of choir music, some of it very experimental and some of it very straightforward it. The choir sang it a cappella, without any clicks, so it was not 100% satisfactory but we had our main themes. I did a whole bunch of very classical arrangements of these choirs, sort of in the Bach tradition, so in the big orgy at the end of the film it, called “The Crowd Embrace,” it's the melody that Tom wrote with my orchestral arrangement. Another a cappella choir piece comes right afterward called “Lost Love.”
All those choir things were all recorded in March 2005 without any reference whatsoever, before the film was shot. There was never another choir reporting. It was complicated process of keeping those choir recordings and synchronizing them with orchestra recordings a year later in 2006 when we secured the Berlin Philharmonic to perform the score for us. They orchestra also played without a click because you just don’t take one of the best orchestras in the world and put headphones on them for the first time! Earlier, after the movie had been shot, we had recorded with another orchestra in East Germany with the idea of having a demo that we could experiment with even more, modifying the textures of the orchestra. So we had all these different stages and at the end we put them all together. This is where I think I got my Master’s Degree in music editing! (In Germany, you never have a music editor, there's no such job description). Therefore, I sat down at the end of this and married all of the elements together in May and June of 2006. That was the end of that process!
Q: A year prior to that you worked with George Romero on LAND OF THE DEAD, which is certainly a darker and more brutal film and score. What you tell me about working with him on that picture?
Reinhold Heil: Well, we were huge fans of his and we thought it would be great to work with such a movie legend. We had a meeting with him in Toronto and saw a cut of the film, and then we had another meeting with him in Los Angeles and the third time we saw him was at the premiere. So it was the opposite of this close relationship we had with Tom, and it was a challenge because originally they had planned for an October release in 2005, and then Universal decided to change that and release it at the end of June or early July. So, all of a sudden there wasn’t going to be even the slightest orchestra sessions, and we had hardly any time to finish the score, so we exchanging a lot of e-mails with QuickTime samples. There a lot of interaction with George, but his feedback was good; it was always about being more shocking. It would've been even greater had we had a chance to really sit with him more often, because is really a cool guy.
Q: What was your technique for creating musical accompaniment for horror in LAND OF THE DEAD?
Reinhold Heil: In the beginning it was all very electronic and there was a lot of sound design that we did. We do our own sound design – nowadays, you can buy almost anything you can imagine on prefabricated samples, but we tried to stick to our own things. I remember, for instance, using an old autoharp, scraping the heck out of it and sound designing that material. We start out at the beginning of the movie, where it's kind of hovering, using a lot of organic sources whether it's orchestral or just that autoharp, and as it becomes more of a military thing, that's where more conventional action sequences come in. I think we did reference RUN LOLA RUN quite a bit – it's a little bit more orchestral than that, but rhythmically speaking I think there was a similar kind of groove going on (the cue titled “Mall Slaughter”). And then towards the end, there is the massacre where a lot of people get killed by the zombies because they can no longer escape, and there's this sad piece with a solo cello that I wrote. Because of the deadline restrictions we never got to record that with real musicians; it’s a sampled cello and sampled string section that you’re hearing, and not on a very high level of mocking up to real orchestra. That piece is going to haunt me – I heard it played on the XM radio station Cinemagic, right after three pieces from John Williams’ HARRY POTTER score – and the piece of music that you heard right after it was that sad cello piece with the really bad mockup! I heard it while I was driving on the 101 from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and it just hit me and I said I'm never going to do that again! Even if I have to take my own money I’m going to have to have a real player for music like that!
Q: You also scored the remake of the j-horror film ONE MISSED CALL. What were your experiences in creating sonic horror and sound designed for that film?
Reinhold Heil: With ONE MISSED CALL we were hoping it was going to be more of a Hollywood interpretation, but the director really wanted to do version that was close to the Japanese original. Now, I personally didn't find the Japanese original very scary, and I thought the remake could be more intense if we veered in a different direction, which we did, but at the end of the day after working very hard we took a lot of that out [at the director’s request], and a lot of the music wasn’t mixed as loudly as we intended. That’s the filmmaker's prerogative, of course; I think we had a different feel than the filmmakers wanted. That was our first real horror film, even before LAND OF THE DEAD. Again, we’d made a bunch of live recordings first – we recorded a violinist and had him play some riffs and some really crazy scraping things which we used for sound design, along with a lot of metallic percussion and weird concoctions that we collected and we used as stingers during the horrific moments. It was like a lesson for us in horror scoring. We weren’t super conceptual about it, but we wanted to intensity those really jumpy horrific moments, and see what we can do with our repertoire of sounds and musical approaches.
Q: What you think musically augments horror… is there one style or texture that works better than another?
Reinhold Heil: I don't think so. I like the idea of horror, but at this point I don't find horror movies all that horrific. I find them gorier, which is actually less interesting to me. ALIEN is my favorite horror movie of all time, it scared the shit out of me, and the score is one of my all-time favorites, it's so thick with atmosphere, but it's not necessarily also horrific. During the first hour where nothing scary happens, it sets the stage out there in space – the loneliness, the mysteriousness, the anticipation of something horrific about to happen, the sense that they're all doomed – that's the stuff that I'm interested in. I don't watch that many of the new horror movies… PARANORMAL ACTIVITY didn’t scare me – I almost wish I was more religious because then maybe they would! The fear of God is something that helps; back in the ‘70s when I saw ROSEMARY'S BABY or THE OMEN or THE EXORCIST I was no longer a member of the Catholic Church but I still had it sitting in my bones, which made these movies work for me. They actually scared me. I'm not sure if that would still be the case today, so I think that's the dilemma. Now, people are scared of terrorism and stuff like that, but I think it's becoming more difficult to make something really scary in a movie. This is actually something I'd be very interested in working on and doing it more electronically. I still think that's not been fully explored.
Q: Of course in the earlier days of your collaboration with Johnny, you still scored a number of films and TV shows on your own, for example the 4-episode German TV series, DELL & RICHTHOVEN.
Reinhold Heil:DELL & RICHTHOVEN was a situation where we had to go to Germany for six months to work with Tom Tykwer on THE INTERNATIONAL. We have a team of assistants, and only part of the team was able to go to Berlin and work there; the rest was left behind. So I had this offer to score this TV series, and I wrote a whole bunch of themes for it before I left for Berlin. The director and producer were in Berlin and I was able to have meetings with them I between working with Tom and Johnny on THE INTERNATIONAL. With those themes approved, I threw the work back to an assistant who was left behind in my studio in Santa Barbara, and he was able to work on the score and actually make some money while I was gone. So it’s a financial issue for our team, and I’d rather not say, “I’m going to Berlin and you’re on your own for six months; I prefer to be able to acquire some work and write a bunch of themes, and then have the people be able to still work while I'm away.
Q: You also scored some films on your own in Germany in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.
Reinhold Heil: That stuff in the ‘80s was with my old band, Spliff; this was when we were still using magnetic tape and timing cues with a stopwatch and really not knowing what we were doing! And then in the ‘90s, most of the stuff was happening right before I left for the USA. I did WINTER SLEEPERS together with Johnny and Tom, and I did another movie in that same year with the film student, it was her final work.
Q: I wanted to also ask you about that series you did DEADWOOD, which is a Western but a very dark Western. How would you describe your approach to that show?
Reinhold Heil: This also started with sound design. It was the biggest surprise ever when our agent called and said there is this Western series, and we said “Really? You have this electronica guy from Australia and that German semi classical/rock musician/producer doing a Western?!” And he said, “Yeah, but they don't want Spaghetti Western music.” And I said, “Oh, too bad! I would've loved to do that!” David Milch, the creator of the show, didn’t want any music. He had a Shakespearean level of screenwriting and dialogue in that show. They had worked with two different composers already, the title theme was written [by David Schwartz], and they had started licensing music. They got this famous [guitar] piece, “Iguazu,” by Gustavo Santaolala, a fantastic piece of music, which I think had been licensed for the first time by Michael Mann for THE INSIDER. They licensed that, and they didn't really know where to go, and HBO more or less forced them to hire a composer because weren’t going to do it completely without music. So they sent us the Gustavo piece and they sent a piece by Ry Cooder which was taken from TEQUILA SUNRISE, and I was so totally cool, because I like Ry Cooder. But when I looked at the series – Deadwood, South Dakota, 1867, the frontier, the complete lack of law and order, survival of the fittest, whoever is the most violent is ruling, and then slowly the development of law and order is coming in, but it’s becoming corrupted, and all of that – I thought it was an amazing project for television. I absolutely loved that idea and the way it was executed. If they didn’t want a Spaghetti Western-style score, we had to invent something different. So we couldn’t come in with an electric guitar, it had to be acoustic. I never had the confidence to play the guitar until I became a film composer, and by 2004 I'd done a few things with it. I had this beautiful acoustic guitar which I tuned it into an open tuning so no matter what you did with your left hand, even if you just strummed it, it sounded cool. I took a slide and improvised for half an hour with that open tuning, then I changed that open tuning around a little bit and improvised some more and created a bunch of audio material that was acoustic guitar. It wasn't played particularly well because I'm not a good guitar player, but because I use open tuning and the slide, it gave us something that was working – like a musician expressing himself in an unfamiliar way. So I sampled it and put it in a looping program and mangled those acoustic guitar performances into soundscapes that could become like tapestries that were just hovering there in the background, creating a thick atmosphere without any changes. Then we sprinkled other instruments on top of it, and that was pretty much the concept. Once we had found that, the show runners were began using a few of those. And there were occasionally the cues where we had to generate some momentum and do some fingerpicking or things like that, where we were very definitely inspired by Gustavo's work.
Q: AWAKE was another TV series you did recently, a compelling and interesting fantasy story [After a car accident takes the life of a family member, a police detective lives two alternating parallel lives, one with his wife and one with his son. Is one of his "realities" merely a dream?]. How did you and Johnny approach then music to that series?
Reinhold Heil: Somebody else had done the pilot but when it got picked up they were looking for other composers. They had us demo some stuff, and we got the show. Three months later we started working, in the fall of 2011 or so. We started writing themes and giving them to the show runners. We didn’t have anything to work from except for the pilot, so we used that to develop some themes. Some the show runner liked and others he didn't like, so there was a constant to and fro, which is usual for television. Once we found the musical language he liked, we came up with our main themes and began developing the score from that. I’d done a few similar things on DEADWOOD, although it wasn't as atmospheric. On AWAKE it was more rhythm guitar oriented with more harmonics. As I said I’m limited in what I can do on acoustic guitar, but I love starting out performing on something acoustic, or having somebody else perform on something acoustic, and then working with that in some sort of electronica approach, so that it becomes fresh and contemporary but at the same time it has the organic nature and the emotion of the real performance.
So I did some of that for AWAKE, and of course we did a lot of things that were more groove oriented, because the show had a huge component of the police procedural even while it was all about magic and weirdness and transitioning from one reality into another. There was definitely an attempt made to help them with these transitional moments, doing a sound designy music that shifts from one reality to the other. Whenever a musical element was trying to indicate this shift form one reality to the other, we tried evoking an emotional transition which didn’t always work. There are a few occurrences where we clearly delineate the transition from one reality to the other, but most of those transitions were so subtle that you aren’t sure what it was, so we began using sound design instead of music. That was an interesting challenge.
Q: You recently scored an Australian film for Stuart Beattie called TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN, which I thought was a very cool, RED DAWNish kind of film…
Reinhold Heil: Yes, it's very RED DAWNish. Stuart used to be very successful screenwriter, he's Australian but is here in LA now. He came to us with this very Australian project – there was a series of seven young adult novels that are very popular in Australia, and he turned that into a movie. They were hoping to turn into a franchise but, because Australia is such a small market, the first movie would've had to work outside of Australia, and it didn't. Within Australia it was a complete box office smash, and we won an AFI [Australian Film Institute] award for our score, but I don't think they’ve scheduled a sequel because it didn't really catch on in the States or anywhere else. Because people felt it was totally like RED DAWN, they have the original movie to compare it against and there was also the new remake, so wasn’t much space in the market for this product over here.
Q: The film uses a lot of folk and rock songs as background music; how did you skirt through the songs in this film to provide score when it was necessary?
Reinhold Heil: We actually have our main theme established in a very, very minimal version at the very beginning, the “cold opening” where the girl videotapes herself after all the events have happened and then you jump back to the beginning of the story. There's an acoustic guitar playing a very minimal version of the theme, and then for the next twenty minutes of the film you have no score whatsoever. You have one song after the other, because everything is happy-go-lucky. It establishes the group of young people in going camping for the weekend for the outback of Australia, and when they return the war has started. So for the first twenty minutes you don't have any score after that little bit at the beginning, and then as the enemy planes fly over and nobody knows really what's going on yet, that's actually the first piece of underscore. Slowly then, the score takes over and there are no more songs towards the end of the movie. It was a simple contrast of songs to evoke the sunny world that still okay, and then as soon as the darkness falls the score takes over.
Q: What was your approach to creating that sort of pulsating, rhythm riff that energized the kids’ attempts to regain their community?
Reinhold Heil: I wrote an action piece, and Johnny, who loves to just dissect the stuff that I do, took a lot of elements from it and changed it around quite a bit and came up with his own pulsating thing. It’s using orchestra but, again, is informed by that kind of RUN LOLA RUN energy. I did two cues with that theme, and then elements of it became the basis of most of the rest of the score, when it wasn't the lyrical, sad melody. The music for the destroy-the-bridge scene with the gasoline truck at the end, that's all based on that but it Johnny's take on it. That's a really cool section of the score, I think. There are a lot of open fifths without very much of a harmonic progression but a lot of sort of riffing. It's almost like using the orchestra like heavy metal guitars, just riffing, which just seemed to fall in place and was working in the movie. Again, there was always a lot of experimentation.
Q: Now you’re working with Stuart on his new film I, FRANKENSTEIN? Again here’s a horror thriller but one that is using an iconic creature from the classic movies of the past. How have you and Johnny treated the Frankenstein monster in this film?
Reinhold Heil: We worked a little differently on this one. We were still writing themes by ourselves and both of us contributed themes for different aspects of the movie, but then we split up the cues and I worked on a bunch of cues using his themes when they were appropriate, and Johnny was doing the same thing with mine. That was a different exercise for us, where we were doing different parts of the score in our own way. Partially, the reason for that is that we have also decided to do movies separately from each other; we will continue working together, hopefully with Tom and with certain directors who like us or who we worked with before. Johnny and I are completely willing, able, and prepared to do projects together, but we also want to try doing them separately. Being a team of two composers can make certain things easier, the pressure of a TV series, for instance, or overlapping projects could be easier that way, but it can also be a challenge especially if you're not working at the top level of the budget.
Thanks to Beth Krakower/Cinemedia for facilitating this interview.
ANY DAY NOW/Joey Newman/Lakeshore
Joey Newman is a third generation film composer of the famed Hollywood musical Newman dynasty. A drummer, conductor and orchestrator, he got his start working in television, co-composing with Emmy®-winning composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. For five years, Joey composed the orchestral score to NCsoft’s Lineage, one of the biggest online role-playing games in history. Directed by Travis Fine, ANY DAY NOW is inspired by a still-relevant true story from the late 1970s in which a gay couple takes in an abandoned teenager with Down Syndrome only to have their unconventional living arrangement disputed by authorities. “Travis wanted the music to be simple and poignant,” said Newman. “We both agreed that the instrumentation should be a variation on the jazz trio that [the character of] Rudy sings with. That way we could weave smoothly through the songs and source in the film, yet still be distinctive.” Newman first tackled the scene where Marco (the boy with Down syndrome) wanders the streets (“The Wanderer”). “I did this to lay down and develop the musical foundation that I would be using throughout the film,” he explained. “Marco has a 3-4 note motif wandering theme - played on piano - that ends up weaving into the relationship he has with Rudy and Paul, his partner. It's somber and has a yearning quality to it.” The score is by necessity a quiet one, dominated by piano and string bass, with an occasional atmospheric aroma of synth wafting through, as in the pensive “Once Upon A Time.” As the story moves from familial comfort (“New Home,” “Gifts”) to the threat of disunion and abandonment, the score echoes with feelings of yearning, communion, and disheartened hope (“Taken Away,” “A Plea for Custody,” “Losing Marco,” and the passionate cry of the closing track, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”). ANY DAY NOW is an intimate and thoughtful score, and, divorced from its movie on CD or download, makes a very pleasant listen on an overcast day.
BOND FOR ORCHESTRA/Carl Davis, Philharmonia Orchestra/CDC
This new recording of noted film composer Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra through 25 tracks of marvelous James Bond movie theme music is the latest release from the Carl Davis Collection, the composer/conductor’s new label devoted to issuing his scores and performances. Back in 1997, Davis released a Bond album in Interscope called “Carl Davis Conducts James Bond Themes,” featuring orchestral interpretations of a dozen Bond themes from DR NO’s “James Bond Theme” through GOLDENEYE, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This new recording with Philharmonia is a much more vivid interpretation, featuring vibrant solos from Guy Parker (trumpet) and Pavel Šporcl (violin, whose running of the melody line from THE SPY WHO LOVES ME’s “Nobody Does It Better” is a delight). The sonic range is much more dynamic on this recording, which covers more than twice as many scores, including themes from every 007 score through QUANTUM OF SOLACE (including the unofficial 1967 CASINO ROYALE and 1983 NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, and two themes from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE). I think it’s rather Interestingly that Davis has chosen David Arnold’s proper theme song from TOMORROW NEVER DIES, “Surrender,” to cover, rather than the Sheryl Crow track foisted upon the film by the studio. For that, I salute you, Mr. Davis. The album is not purely a symphonic interpretation as the 1997 CD was, as guitars, drumkit, and the aforementioned trumpet soloing are quite prominent, but neither is it in any way an “easy listening” album either. Fans of the Bond music and film theme performance should enjoy Davis’ capable interpretation of these venerable tunes for full orchestra, as they resound impressively with symphonic prowess embellished by the effective pop influences that molded the original compositions. The release includes a 16-page booklet with bios of Davis and the principal players and an essay, “Bond and I” by Davis.
For more information on the DCD, see: www.carldaviscollection.com/
This 2009 zombie film is a creepy and somewhat disturbing tale of two high school boys who break into an abandoned factory and discover an imprisoned woman who cannot die. Being high school boys, they make her their sex toy until one of them has ethical issues about doing so; but by then the other kid is too far into it and has invited some high school jocks to participate, and the game quickly spins out of control from there to end up in a most appropriate resolution. The indie film is embellished by a fine score from Joseph Bauer, who has lending potent musical support to low budget horror indies like BRUTAL and BLACKWATER VALLEY EXORCISM since 2004, as well as scoring the current super-hero/holiday comedy ELF-MAN. Bauer brings a sense of sophistication to these films with finely crafted scores that belie their low budgets and small ensembles with effective and creative musical designs. DEADGIRL is an atmospheric score built from acoustic sound elements treated mostly non-melodically, although there are a few melodies that arise from time to time lending a peculiar warmth to the film, and often imparting a sense of sympathy for the unfortunate living dead girl who is the object of the crueler boy’s incessant need (the poignant piano and voice melody in “Fate,” reprised in “Daydream,” the haunting “Makeover Waltz,” and the somewhat redemptive “Showdown” and “Big Decision”). More active moments like “Deadgirl Fights Back” and “Revenge” are driven by slamming beats, reflective synth tonalities, miasmic clusters of strings, and rhythmic, cathartic progressions of percussive elements that careen the music forward, while “JT and Rickie” is a claustrophobic, cacophonic assault of orchestral discord, rushing out of the speakers like the bellowing scream of a roaring dead thing. Play it loud. www.moviescoremedia.com
ENNIO MORRICONE IN COLOUR/Box Set/Bella Casa
Compilations of older Ennio Morricone scores have become something of a cottage industry, with dozens of “Best of” and generic or topical compilations – “Lounge Morricone,” “Sacred Morricone Scores,” “Psycho Morricone,” “Morricone Giallo” and so on, approaching ad infinitum. Few of these compilations contain music not already easily available elsewhere, and the same is true of Ennio Morricone in Colour, the title of which I guess means that these are scores for films released in color? Rather than compiling themes or excerpts, this collection, which comes courtesy of well-respected British archive music compiler Cherry Red in association with Bella Casa, pairs eight Morricone scores from 1969 and the 1970s across four CDs, each presented in mini-LP sleeves (one CD per sleeve/two scores per CD) housed in a sturdy box, which also contains a 12-page booklet with detailed track and album information and 2-pages of intro notes). They are the original Cinevox album tracks and not mediocre re-recordings from infamous besmirchers of great movie music like Solisti e Orchestra Del Cinema Italiano (can you utter their “Complete Spaghetti Westerns” while regurgitating your pasta?), and respected producer Claudio Fuiani’s involvement in a supportive capacity is likely enough cred to justify this repackaged set’s value. Here, we have the original album releases, with some bonus tracks from subsequent reissues, from METTI UNA SERA A CENA, FORZA G, L’ASSOLUTO NATURALE, ANCHE SE VOLESSI LAVORRE CHE FACCIO?, BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, IL GATTO and IL GIOCATTOLO. All of these scores have been issued in one of more editions since their original LP release which likely makes the box set unnecessary for most collectors, but for those starting out this may be a good way to gather eight excellent Morricone scores from his surging ’70s period, with a few bonus tracks added to half of them. They are mostly pop-oriented scores for comedies or romantic dramas, except for the two Argento giallos (BIRD and FLIES), but they also include some of the composer’s finest tracks of the period: the splendid martial pop main theme from L’ASSOLUTO, the whistled “Tramonto” from ANCHE SE VOLESSI, the enthusiastically quirky main theme from IL GATTO (and its own reprise of the L’ASSOLUTO theme in “Ofelia E Il Prete”), the sublimely poignant oboe melody in “Una Tenera moglie” from IL GIOCATTOLO, the pop title and tense “Croce a’amore” from METTI UNA CERA, the faux but very earnest Spaghetti Western deguello “Come un Western” from FORZA G, the breezy main theme from BIRD, and free-form suspense riffing from FOUR FLIES. Sound quality is comparable with Cinevox’s expanded edition CDs, and this makes a handsome and reasonably priced (amazon marketplace sellers are offering it for $29) set.
GANGSTER SQUAD/Steve Jablonsky/Varese Sarabande
While set in 1949, this colorful retelling of events surrounding the LAPD’s efforts to take back their nascent city from one of the most dangerous mafia bosses of all time, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), features a thoroughly contemporary action score. Steve Jablonsky transforms his large-scale sci-fi vibe into the inner city and comes away with a dynamic modernistic take on this historical police procedural. Originally Carter Burwell had been set to score the film, but reportedly the studio didn’t want a period approach but instead wanted the score to sound more like Hans Zimmer (every studio’s preference these days, it seems); thus when Jablonsky came in he pretty much knew the kind of score he was being asked to write. Actually, pairing a modern, high-action vibe to a noir period cops-and-gangsters movie is an intriguing idea, and Jablonsky seems to make it work in this instance, intensifying the period action with a hyper-realistic present-day dynamic. It’s an energetic score, for sure, although parts of it on first listen tend to sound like every other modern action score out there, primarily comprised of drums and low instruments beating the action faster and faster with repetitive riffs and drones, with virtually all of the music in the same low register (there’s barely an instrument resonating above a low baritone range anywhere in the score) which adds to the apparent sameness of much of the score’s sound; and I’m becoming tired of the studio-mandated use of drum-driven repetition as a substitute for musical development and contrast in score after score. Repeated listens of GANGSTER SQUAD, however, bring a heightened appreciation of what Jablonsky’s is actually doing here: while the structure falls within a recognizable Zimmeresque vibe, and much of the action is indeed driven by relentless poundings of taikos and tom toms, the score overcomes this by capturing a very interesting textural tone that fits the concept of the story and the noir aspect of its visual images.
The main theme, introduced in “Welcome to Los Angeles,” is not so much a theme as a busy rhythm pad for stroking strings, piano, and a jangly dulcimer which lends a really interesting sound to the motif, and will allow it to be recognized in the midst of other riff-derived action material. It’s a very effective motif to embody the company of law enforcement officers who oppose Cohen’s criminal undertaking, the flicked guitar/dulcimer strums, which recollect the theme to TV’s HELL ON WHEELS in its constant thrumming vibe, adds a lighter grain to the omnipresent darkness of the score’s percussive texture which surpasses its here’s-what-you-asked-for Zimmeresque drive and gives the motif a likable welcome when it’s reprised, as if it’s simulating the rapid clomping of the Squad’s leather feet stamping across cold pavement as they rush to thwart the plans of the wicked-minded. Jablonsky offsets the Squad’s theme with a dark and menacing cadence for the mob boss, introduced in the opening track, “My Name is Mickey Cohen.” Like the Squad’s theme, it’s more of a layered, riffed motif than a developed theme, but this does allow the two motifs to effectively intersect and interact throughout the score; in “You’re Talking to God,” Cohen’s motif is backed with incessant percussion rattles as if someone is banging wooden planks together. “You Can’t Shoot Me” create an active atmosphere, Jablonsky’s main theme running constantly underneath it, while peals of reflective harmonica gleam amidst the Squad theme in “War for the Soul of L.A.” Elsewhere, the score’s texture suggests the inventive instrumentation of Morricone’s THE SICILIAN CLAN or THE UNTOUCHABLES, both welcome antecedents in this context. Jablonsky generates a good bit of tension in “Chinatown” with the increasingly heavy imposition of Cohen’s theme on top of the Squad’s running riff, and the result is a very good cue that develops a quite strong bit of anxiety even on its own. Other tracks, though, simply recirculate the Squad’s theme with little noticeable variance. The exception is found in the concluding track, “Gangster Squad,” which I found to be the most interesting cue on the album: a rather Morriconesque variation on the Squad’s theme that counterpoints the percussive snare-and-piano riffing with some intriguing string figures and compelling muted trumpet figures inset between the driving rhythm, which is quite likable. There is a soft arrangement of hushed strings in “He Can’t Have You” which is later reprised in “I Was Just Hopin’ To Take You To Bed” and concluded in “Union Station;” like the main themes this isn’t a melody but an atmospheric vibe, a swaying modulation of tentative strings generating a bit of human warmth for the characters. It may have been Jablonsky’s intention that, by avoiding melodies and providing rhythmic pads and near-ambient patterns of tonal elements, the score would mirror the heartless ethos of the gangster and the undistracted, focused drive of the cops, or it may simply be that this was his way of complying with the mandate to “make it more like Hans Zimmer.” While the heavily percussive, drone-and-beat approach to the action cues does get a bit tiresome on repetition, Jablonsky’s skill at imposing massive downbeaten orchestral tones within the structure of rhythm-based propulsive riffing (as exemplified by the persistent slicing violin strokes and massive downward horn blasts in the climactic track “The City of Angels”) elevates the score above the formulaic norm. As that track, in fact, ends, the clouds seem to part and a rise of French horn assume the fore in, at last, an ascending, heroic figure of victory. The Gangster Squad stands tall as mob corruption has been swept from the City of Angels.
GREATEST VIDEO GAME MUSIC 2/London Philharmonic/X5 Music
You have made it to Level 2. This second helping of outstanding video game music has been compiled and blessed with an earnest performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, produced and conducted by Andrew Skeet, who were responsible for 2011’s first volume. Seven tracks from popular games such as Assassin’s Creed – Revelations, Elder Scrolls, Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, Mass Effect 3, Halo, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy VII, Diablo III, Batman: Arkham City, and others – composed by Lorne Balfe, Jeremy Soule, Kenta Nagata, Christopher Lennertz, Sam Hulick, Clint Mansell, Daniel Pemberton, Masato Nakamura, and others are given a rich concert performance treatment, favoring thematic melodies and sweeping orchestral arias and the like. It’s terrific music to begin with, and the LPO’s performance gives it an added symphonic dimension which is quite pleasing.
THE HOT POTATO/Guy Farley/MovieScore Media
MovieScore Media’s fifth album with British composer Guy Farley presents a very elegant film music homage to the great caper scores of the 1960s and 70s. The 2011 movie stars Ray Winstone, Colm Meaney, and Jack Huston, takes place in London's East End during 1969, reportedly based on real events, as two chancers who 'find' a lump of Uranium and crisscross Europe to find a buyer. Guy Farley – himself a big fan of the film scoring aesthetics of that period – immerses himself in the world of John Barry, Ron Grainer, Laurie Johnson, Henry Mancini, and even a peck of jazzy Nino Rota/Fellini in the track “30 Million Dollars.” The album is a thorough delight, as bits of pop, jazz, and Eurospy vibe abound. Farley absorbs these influences and turns out a score that accurately references them while crafting together a score very much of his own, wielding a delicious spin on the retro caper movie score that takes itself completely seriously while evoking the style of the period to a terrific “T.” With a jaunty main theme that would have been at home in any PINK PANTHER movie, Farley is off and running, his main theme’s underlying riff making a splendid undercurrent for suspense and action sequences like “It Ain’t Gold,” while the composer applies numerous variations to it throughout the score, such as the muted trumpet interpolation in “Snow In Bruges,” the catchy jazz version in “Hitman and Headlines,” and the mix of strings, xylophone, brass, and orchestra in the end track, “Theme from The Hot Potato.” The score is brimming with reverbed vibraphone, striking xylophone, sparkling rhythm section, cozy blankets of strings, elegant piano melodies, and erudite harpsichord arpeggios, … all of which musically mime the adventures of the quirky protagonists. A gentle flute melody sets “Bliss and Bruges” off with a warm flavoring (a splendid melodic theme later reprised in “Its Low Grade” and in the conclusive “We’re Alright”) before emerging into an accordion-led arrangement suggestive of the historical Flemish town. “Car Chase” bristles with the jazzy accelerations of Mancini and Schifrin while sporting frolicking statements of the main theme en route. “The Man from München” dallies with the main theme in several variations, from whimsical to a stately, confident assertion midway through. Danger chords sway amidst “The Twins” and “Geiger Counter,” both of which radiate a tonality of tension. “A Roma” proffers a momentary swelling travelogue before it ends, all too prematurely, to allow the aforementioned “30 Million Dollars” its chance to swing and sway with its momentary flavoring of a Rota-esque JULIET OF THE SPIRITS vibe for just a few minutes. But, as already noted, Farley’s score is far more than just a catch-the-stylistic-references game; it holds together very nicely and allows Farley to engage his love of music from this period within a framework of his own design, and it makes a thoroughly enjoyable listen. www.moviescoremedia.com
THE HOUSE ON CARROLL STREET/Georges Delerue/Music Box
Twenty years after BULLITT, director Peter Yates directed this moody, Hitchcockian cold war thriller starring Jeff Daniels and Kelly McGinnis, set in the 1950s, to mixed reviews and ultimate failure, yet many have found its style and scope agreeable (myself among them). Appropriately, Georges Delerue merges his own intimate melodic sensitivity with a somber Herrmannesque mystique throughout this score which antes up the Hitchcock atmospheres that Yate instilled in his film. The strings-heavy score is mostly a mix of romantic music as the two leads gradually find each other (he is a squeaky clean FBI agent, she a former magazine editor fired after refusing to give names to a 1951 House Un-American Activities Committee, and now has discovered a spy ring while working a new job) and opulent Hitchcockian suspense and action music (“Break-In” bristles with tension-building interaction between strings and winds, especially in the use of cautionary horn phrases that reflect elements Herrmann used in VERTIGO and the brooding string progressions of “Hide and Seek” provide anxious moments of evasion as the heroes out maneuver the baddies following them; the vividly suspenseful “Bookstore” and “Elevator’s” propulsive slashing violins make one wonder how much of PSYCHO’s windshield wiper music was in Yates’ temp track). All in all it’s a fine score, its Hitchcock/Herrmann leanings work well and retain enough of Delerue’s own musical personality to sound fresh in this context. As Daniel Schweiger notes in his liner notes, “There’s a lush, romantic vulnerability that inhabits Delerue’s work for THE HOUSE ON CARROLL STREET, recalling the longing that Bernard Herrmann applied to any number of Hitchcock heroines, men-deprived women for whom investigating a murder ultimately reaped romantic rewards. Yet Delerue takes any sense of optimism out of his own Herrmann-esque homage…” One of many significant Delerue never to have gotten a timely release, Music Box Records presents the score for the first time (the theme only was included in a Varese Sarabande’s “London Sessions Vol. 4” compilation) in this 14-track (two of which are bonus source cues), 36:44 minute release. Don’t let the album’s brevity bother you – this is all the score there was (except for source music at a wedding scene), and it’s very well presented here. Delerue recorded the score at London’s Abbey Road Studios in order to take advantage of the fine British string players he favored, and the music has a broadly expressive sound quality throughout. http://www.musicbox-records.com/en/
LOS ANGELES, 1937 (unused CHINATOWN)/Phillip Lambro/Perseverance
Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score for Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir thriller CHINATOWN was not the originally intended score for the picture. Polanski would have had his Polish friend Krzystof Komeda score the film, as he had ROSEMARY’S BABY and most of the director’s earlier films; but Komeda died suddenly in 1969 and Polanski lost his friend and composer. When he came to CHINATOWN, Polanski discovered a classical LP that composer Phillip Lambro had done, and found that its mood fit his picture perfectly. Polanski got in touch with Lambro and brought him into the production to write an original score. Lambro finished recording his score, both Polanski and producer Robert Evans were very pleased, and Lambro was working on some additional cues when that oft-repeated event happened: a preview screening attended by a mostly teenaged audience didn’t respond to the film positively and studios do what they usually do in such cases – blame the music and toss the score, hoping a new musical approach will save the day. Lambro’s close working arrangement with Polanski over to months to develop the kind of score the directed wanted ended with the director reluctantly having to abandon his music. While Goldsmith’s exceptional effort, conceived, written and recorded in ten days to meet a premiere deadline, has been duly admired, his basic approach wasn’t that much different from Lambro’s (after Jerry quickly talked Robert Evans out of having him write a nostalgic score based on 1930s pop hits to fit the bill). Fortunately, an arrangement Lambro made with Paramount, who wanted to use part of his excised music in the film’s trailer (Goldsmith’s moody score wasn’t exploitable enough for trailer use, they said) left the music’s publishing rights in Lambro’s name, which meant he could have it released, so long as Lambro didn’t use the CHINATOWN name. Thus this release by Perseverance runs with the title “Los Angeles, 1937,” which is the period in which the film takes place. But it’s CHINATOWN indeed, all 45-minutes of Lambro’s originally recorded score, supplemented by those two concert pieces that had attracted Polanski to him in the first place.
Lambro’s best piece is his Main Title track, which also bears the closest similarity to what Goldsmith wound up doing (Jerry reportedly never heard Lambro’s main theme but instinctively felt the same approach was right). Opening with a mysterioso from a Chinese gong (the composer’s nod to the film’s title, which Polanski always referred to as “a state of mind” rather than a physical place in L.A.*), a sultry trumpet melody ensues over a rhythmic piano riff, evoking both the 1930s jazz era and the dark, smoky, menacing atmosphere in which the story exists. Lambro’s music for Chinatown, the place, rustles with Oriental textures and atmosphere (“Welcome to Chinatown,” “End Titles”) and works well in this context (although it was roundly criticized at that fateful preview screening). A sensuous love theme (“One Night with Evelyn”) for Jake (Jack Nicolson) and Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) is jazzy and seductive, while the suspense cue “Finding the Captive” bristles with percussion – piano, woodblock, vibraphone and drums – settling into a tremendously suspenseful ambiance. “Orchard Chase” (a sequence Goldsmith left unscored) is a terrifically aggressive attack from piano and slashing percussion that would have relentlessly intensified the car chase. Lambro’s orchestration – bits of wood block, ratchet, scraped percussion, dizzying string circulations, are remarkably powerful. The other tracks are for the most part very discordant, atonal assemblages of acoustic sound design – reverberating percussion, eerie, squealing violins, which create a tightening sense of tension and suspense throughout the film. Perseverance’s release of this unused film composition, limited to 1000 units, is a revelation that in no way diminishes the power and intensity of Goldsmith’s superlative composition, but hopefully sheds some light on the significant craftsmanship of Phillip Lambro, whose Hollywood career suffered with low-budget (but no less musically significant) scores after his rejection by Paramount. To paraphrase the statement given to Jack Nicholson at the end of the film, as if it explains all, “It’s Hollywood, Phil.” Which may, indeed, explain it very accurately.
* “I told Polanski, ‘there’s nothing about ‘Chinatown’ in this movie!” Lambro told me a few years ago. “He kept saying ‘well, it’s supposed to be a state of mind.’ What did that mean?! I was the one who influenced Polanski – I said ‘go down and do a montage where Faye Dunaway, they all meet down there in Chinatown,’ and I think it’s about 57 seconds. He finally agreed with me and went down and shot the scene, so I put a little Chinese music there. Goldsmith didn’t know [all of this], he said he couldn’t believe it – ‘Lambro wrote Chinese music!’ Well, he only heard that [one] cue! That’s all they played for him!”
Spanish composer Fernando Velázquez returns to the horror field (his scores for DEVIL and THE ORPHANAGE are among the genre’s best scores in recent years) with this eloquently haunting composition. A master of emotional expressiveness, Velázquez’s score for THE IMPOSSIBLE (also released by Quartet) is now being heard in theatres. Exec-produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Andrés Muschiettiin his feature-film debut, MAMA is a supernatural thriller that about two little girls who disappear into the woods the day their parents are killed; years later, when they are rescued and begin a new life, someone or something seems to have come out of the woods after them. Velázquez’s score, performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra & Chorus under the composer’s baton, focuses on the girls who are at the heart of the haunted mystery, contrasting their youthful innocence with the darker patterns of unseen entities that intend them harm. It’s a delicately atmospheric score comprised of various motifs and orchestral patterns, supplemented by provocative choral elements; the Main Title music is a dizzying, melodic waltz-like arrangement of surging winds, lilting melody from the strings, and powerful accentuation from the choir, whose combined undulations ebb and flow splendidly. “Helvetia” is a mesmerizing seven-minute exercise in tonal, orchestral sound design. Introduced by a tender piano melody, strings lead the piece into a brooding mix of highly reverberated percussion, tremolo violin patterns that bounce around the soundscape, introducing a field of arpeggiated horn notes and sliding strings, the piano reintroduced as if from a distance, shards of melody colliding with raging clusters of winds and horns in aggressive stabs amid pensive tonal elements; it’s almost the equivalent of synthetic sound design but is purely acoustic, a journey from tranquility through hell and back into serenity at the end. Other tracks follow suit with very interesting textures and sonic interaction, but always maintaining a unity of harmony and tonality. The soft piano and violin interlude that opens “What Happens Now” is shattered by a horrific dissonance of stirring strings, played like the devil himself in a conflagration of huge, fast, shivering attacks, seguing into eerie measures of violins, woodwinds, and bitter intonations of brass, ending in a teasing sing-song voice amid dark string sustains and a final discordant coda from everything. Don’t listen to this one alone in a darkened house. “Voices for the Other Room” mixes girl’s voices in a spooky mélange over reflections of bright, sustained strings and a rolling thunder of pounding drums. “Scare and Lucas Wake Up” and “Last Hypno” are further potent blends of fragile tonalities set in jolting contrast to massive, surging quakes from full orchestra and entwining tendrils of snaking strings; the latter ending in a persuasive rhythmic series of piano and string figures moving very, very quickly. “Good Night” is a gentle respite, reprising the piano melody from “Helvetia” and moving into a sublime solo violin variation; but all is not yet over (or safe): we still have the aggressive clarity of “Mama Fight” and the 13-minute conclusive construct that is “Final Reel” to taunt our taste buds with further sonic nightmares, both built of that same potion of interactive orchestral sound patterns that now achieve an even higher sense of fear and fright. “Final Reel” concludes the score in epic measure, with tonal torrents of harmonic effusion gushing into the night air in huge declarative waves, each voice of orchestra and choir joining in a massive accretion of sound, firstly aggressive and finally redemptive, at last culminating in a liberating lyric of soft strings and a full symphonic reprise of the main title melody in soothing resolution. Like the best horror films, the best horror scores take the listener on a journey, from melody and harmony through aggressive constructs of discord and soul-scaring sonic intersections of violent disharmony, and finally back into harmonic melody, resolving with the assurance that the journey has been worthwhile; that the dark crypts of dissonance have been meaningful for we have emerged the better for our excursion. Velázquez’s score to MAMA is surely among that species of cinematic soundscape; it is a brilliantly conceived and executed horror score brewed from frightening flavors that, throughout, remains potently cohesive without ever descending into uncontrolled cacophony. There’s a purpose in every measure, every small sound that contributes to a unified configuration, and the composer’s sure-handed management of these elements constantly preserves its unity and prevents it from spinning wildly into sonic disarray. See http://www.quartetrecords.com
LA MIGLIORE OFFERTA /Ennio Morricone/Warner Music Italy
This new release – issued for download only via Amazon in Europe (not yet available in North America; however word has it that a CD release is forthcoming from Warner Music). The film, known in the US as THE BEST OFFER, is an English language romantic drama directed by Morricone’s frequent collaborator Giuseppe Tornatore (CINEMA PARADISO), and has to do with an eccentric art auctioneer and his obsession with an heiress/collector. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Donald Sutherland, and Sylvia Hoeks. Recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, the score is very fine, although it’s a fairly subdued string-driven work, which composer has been favoring in recent years. The music is soft and melodious, reflective and nostalgic, almost entirely performed on strings in groups varying from solo to quartet to full section, dappled by unusual textures whose brief appearance in the score’s instrumental pallet makes them especially striking in the midst of timbres almost otherwise purely of strings. The score’s title theme is a wistful string motif, a noticeable variant of “Deborah’s Theme” from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, based on the same essential framework but treated differently; the end result is still a lovely piece, setting the format most of the ensuing score will follow, although its actual melody is only rarely reprised. There is a delightful violin duet in “Un Violino,” featuring some intricate interplay amidst fragments of the main theme. The strings get a particularly anxious workout in “Un Cancello” (A Gate), roughly playing off each other in growing strains. A subtle harpsichord underlies the coarse interplay of violins that dominate “Nevrosi Fobica” (Phobic Neurosis), delineating a disturbing psychology in its networked musical patterns. Reflection is a continual musical element in the score, heard from voices reflecting of one another, strings mirrors other strings, and so on, but the clearest example of this is heard in “Alta Villa” (High Villa), in which a glass harmonica gleams as it plays the melody over a brushing of tremolo violins, morphing into a striking solo cello that plays the cue out. “Il Vuoto Dentro” (The Empty Inside) lays down brooding patterns of strings, crisscrossing one another slowly and somberly, as a lower, underlying wash of strings progresses through a tense melody. A piercing violin solo emanates out of the contemplative string bed in “Le Vuote Stanze” (The Empty Rooms), creating a striking contrast in pitch interplay, while “Inspiegabile” (Unspeakable) creates a captivating tone poem out of melodic fragments and growing patterns that almost yearn to be connected but remain spatially separated. “Ritratti d autore” (Portraits of an Author) is cut of the same cloth, its sparse splinters of melody undecidedly contemplative. The standout track is the 8-minute “Volte E Fantasmi” (And Sometimes Ghosts) in which long-time Morricone voice artist Edda dell’Orso interacts with a number of other vocalists, alternating between dell’Orso’s characteristic melisma and the kind of arpeggio singing up and down the scale that was heard in some of Morricone’s scores of the ‘70s and ‘80s although its presentation here is wholly new. Set against the voices is a quickening bass line and reflective shards of winds and strings. It’s a fascinating performance and an enthralling long track, showing that the octogenarian composer can still pull some surprises. Another intriguing vocal track is the stark “A Quattro Voce” wherein four voices rise like steam to meld together in a rising confluence of vocalise. A strident string quartet mirrors those superbly enunciated voicings in “Senza Voice” (Voiceless) with a very coherent and shared resonance. The opening two tracks are reprised at the end, and provide resolution to the score. The title piece remains pensive but ultimately assured, its melody finishing with confidence and contentment. “Volte E Fantasmi” concludes the soundtrack in a 5-minute recapitulation (presumably for the End Credits?), with the glass harmonica lending a striking new voice to the mix, its high register mirroring (again: reflections) the timbre of the female vocalise that surrounds it. This is a striking score in many ways; it ought to be celebrated the way a new John Williams score often is. Morricone’s music may be less actively dramatic in his eighth decade that it was in years past, but he continues to find ways to make music that is both serenely beautiful and richly articulate, with fresh nuances of character, texture, and interplay discovered with each new listening.
RED DAWN/Ramin Djawadi/Sony Masterworks
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Big action scores these days tend to share the same essential style – synths slashing along with pounding drums in a propulsive beat – and it’s a tiresome technique which can be found in score after score after score. This is likely the fault of filmmakers who continue to ask for the same kind of music as the last blockbuster action movie, so we’re getting rehashes of the last rehash of the previously rehashed action score. The action moments in RED DAWN fall in line with this and embark on the same essential beaten rhythm track as all of those others, but to Ramin Djawadi’s credit, there’s enough human interest invested in this score that it doesn’t suffer from the formula as much as other recent scores have. RED DAWN is still a hybrid fusion of symphonics, synthesizers, samplers, and drums – lots and lots of drums – to accompany the film’s depiction of a young group of patriots fighting back when they find their town under enemy occupation. No comparison is necessary with the score to the original 1984 film of which this is a remake; it’s a different entity and deserves to be examined in its own context. Tracks like “Invasion,” “Jed’s Death,” and the 8:24 action centerpiece “Follow the Wires” are probably tremendously exciting within the film but on disc they are pretty generic and interchangeable – same style, different movie. The score’s more interesting and less imitative tracks are those covering the film’s quieter, intimate, and heartbreaking moments of score – such as “Execution,” when the kids witness the slaying of their captive father by the invaders; the reflective “What Do You Miss?” that accompanies a quiet conversation among the kid rebels; the tender “Brothers,” an airy synth melody line flavored with strings; the pretty melodies for “Erica” and the wistful “Surveying the Damage;” the sobering synth of “Daryl’s Sacrifice;” and the eloquent “Wolverines” theme, soaring for strings over tribal drums, is quite stirring, and is nicely infused in some of the action scenes, like “Victory,” to give the ubiquitous percussion pounding action material a nicely heroic sensibility. “A Marine and His Rifle” is a powerful, swelling track and “Finale” concludes the score nicely with the Wolverine Theme reprised victoriously in an upsurge of rhythmic melody and exuberant pounding of drums.
Soundtrack & Music News
Acclaimed British composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, NICOLAS AND ALEXANDRA, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS) died peacefully on Christmas Eve 2012 after a long, distinguished and varied musical career. The composer is known for his many concert works, his love of jazz and for his contribution to film music. Jon Burlingame has posted a thorough tribute to the composer at the Film Music Society web site.
German film composer Rolf Wilhelm (DIE NIBELUNGEN, VIA MALA) reportedly died on January 17 at the age of 85, according to the German wikipedia page and the Filmmusicjournal Fmj Facebook group. While not well known outside of his native country, he was often referred to as “Germany’s John Williams,” having scored many of the country’s most classic films. He was noted for his classical orchestral approach.
See the runmovies.eu website for an archival interview with Wilhelm from 1986 that I published in my final issue of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal.
Mychael Danna’s score for Ang Lee’s remarkable film LIFE OF PI has won best score during the Golden Globe Awards held a couple weeks ago in Hollywood, beating out nominees Dario Marianelli (ANNA KARENINA), Alexandre Desplat (ARGO, which won for best picture), Thomas Newman (SKYFALL), Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil (CLOUD ATLAS), and John Williams (LINCOLN). The title song to SKYFALL, written by singer Adele and Paul Epworth, won best song.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out its Awards on Feb 24th; the Oscar nominees for Best Score are:
Mychael Danna (LIFE OF PI), Alexandre Desplat (ARGO), Dario Marianelli for ANNA KARENINA, Thomas Newman (SKYFALL), and John Williams (LINCOLN).
Jon Burlingame notes in his Variety article on the nominations that LINCOLN’s nomination is John William’s 48th nomination for an Oscar.
Varese Sarabande Records has been sold to the Cutting Edge Group, a company in London that provides and invests in music for the screen, and its partner Wood Creek Capital Management. In an announcement about the sale, Varese Sarabande said, “We will continue to celebrate film music history and all of the composers who have made us what we are. Joining with our friends at Cutting Edge, we will forge new frontiers to release and promote the best film music of today, with even greater support and reach. This will ultimately include amplified activity on all fronts, including original film soundtracks, recordings, live events and more! Varèse Sarabande's 35th anniversary year will be historic in many ways and mark an exciting new beginning for us.”
Read the report in the New York Times.
Roque Baños is scoring the remake of EVIL DEAD. While Sam Raimi’s seminal classic of 1981 hardly needs to be remade, the trailer for the 2013 remake, directed by Uruguay-born director Fede Alvarez, looks pretty potent and creepy.
Composer Christopher Tyng returns to the hallow halls of Pearson Hardman Law Offices to score the return of the second season of USA Network’s SUITS. Tyng also recently scored the seventh season of Comedy Central’s FUTURAMA, available now on DVD. Also, for the first time the FUTURAMA main title theme by Tyng is available on iTunes. Christopher Tyng also has developed the Grow Music Project in an effort to “pay it forward” to deserving artists on the rise. Five selected applicants will win a free three-day session at Tyng’s world-class Star Hill recording studio in Santa Barbara; Tyng will work with the winners to develop, engineer, and professionally produce one of each band’s original songs, while providing the environment and resources to allow for the “birthing process” of competitive professional singles.
Jeff Rona has scored the submarine war thriller PHANTOM, which premieres Feb 26. The film stars Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner, and tells the story of a Soviet submarine captain attempting to prevent a war. Rona is said to deliver a mysterious and suspenseful score. At times hypnotic and eerie, then again energized and action pact, the score beautifully captures the tension between the main protagonists and the agonizing dilemma faced by the submarine’s captain.
Bear McCreary is scoring the latest historical figure-cum-action hero, DA VINCI’S DEMONS, a new TV series created by David S. Goyer, writer of BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and the upcoming MAN OF STEEL film. “Expect a sweeping, orchestral score laced with character themes,” McCreary said. Take a look at the show’s trailer:
John Debney had scored the Steve Jobs biopic JOBS, premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs and is directed by Joshua Michael Stern; the film relays the story of Steve Jobs’ ascension from college drop-out to one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 20th century as the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple, Inc. Debney previously worked with Stern on the film SWING VOTE, which starred and was produced by Kevin Costner. jOBS will be released in theatres nation-wide in April.
Scott Glasgow is scoring the upcoming horror sequel HATCHET III, which picks where HATCHET II left off, as a young woman sought revenge on the monster that killed her family while they were fishing in Louisiana swamp country. The film marks the directorial debut of BJ McDonnell who served as a cameraman on the first two HATCHET installments. The creator of the series, Adam Green, has written the screenplay and is executing the ArieScope Pictures and Dark Sky Films production. The previous two HATCHET movies featured music by Andy Garfield. – via filmmusicreporter.com
Christopher Lennertz has scored IDENTITY THIEF, a new crime comedy coming to theatres on February 8, 2013. This filmmarks Lennertz’s second collaboration with director Seth Gordon; they previously worked together on HORRIBLE BOSSES. Lennertz recorded the majority of the IDENTITY THIEF music at his new state-of-the-art recording facility – Sonic Fuel Studios – in El Segundo, CA. Lennertz reteamed with several HORRIBLE BOSSES musicians including Jane’s Addiction Bassist Chris Chaney; Earth, Wind and Fire Keyboardist and Music Director Myron McKinley; and Beastie Boys Keyboardist Money Mark. Lennertz also recorded with a full orchestra at Warner Bros. legendary Eastwood Scoring Stage in Los Angeles, CA.
Award winning composer Mark Isham is teaming up with multi-Grammy award winning songwriter and executive producer Alicia Keys to score THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE, premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by George Tillman Jr., INEVITABLE tells the story of two inner-city youths left to fend for themselves, starring Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, and Jeffrey Wright. Mark Isham has previously worked with Tillman on MEN OF HONOR.
Kronos Records and MovieScore Media will jointly release a soundtrack album to FOUR ASSASSINS, a 2012 Hong Kong/USA coproduction about, well, four assassins who meet in a hotel suite to resolve unfinished business. The film is described as a tense drama set in the cosmopolitan world of Hong Kong. The music was composed by Andre Matthias, who in the director's own words "boldly used haunting flutes, stirring strings and deep percussion to heighten the character’s expressions and reflections. The way his artistic score blended Asian cadence with Western symphonic sound was brilliant. It was an unpredictable fusion of eastern passion and western sensibilities." The CD is limited to 300 copies and will be issued on February 19; the first people (the number not specified) to preorder this CD will receive as a bonus an autographed booklet by composer Andre Matthias.
Sound samples available here : http://www.kronosrecords.com/catalogue.html
The album is also available digitally from MovieScore Media http://www.moviescoremedia.com
Composer Daniel Licht has written an article called "The Art of Writing a TV Score" for Huffington Post, describing his experiences scoring the TV series DEXTER. Read it here.
Lakeshore Records will release a soundtrack album of Antonio Pinto’s music for the action thriller SNITCH. The album will be released physically on March 5, 2013 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon. A digital release is expected in late February.
Composer Atli Orvarsson has scored the new NBC series CHICAGO FIRE, an edge-of-your-seat drama that portrays the dangerous yet rewarding lives of the firefighters, rescue squad, and paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51. CHICAGO FIREis executive produced by Emmy award-winner Dick Wolf (LAW & ORDER), and the series’ creators, Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, are the writing team behind 3:10 TO YUMA. In addition to scoring CHICAGO FIRE, Orvarsson recently scored Paramount Pictures/MGM’s HANSEL AND GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS, an edgy, action-packed reinvention of the classic fairytale. Orvarsson also scored the dark drama/thriller A SINGLE SHOT starring Sam Rockwell, and he is contributing music under Hans Zimmer to the Zack Snyder Superman reinstallment MAN OF STEEL. CHICAGO FIRE airs weekly on Wednesdays at 10/9c.
French label Music Box Records has announces three new releases scheduled for February 5: ROBINSON AND MAN FRIDAY (1981; Vendredi Ou La Vie Sauvage), an original television soundtrack composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre; a pair of scores by Éric Demarsan on one disc: ATTENTION, THE KIDS ARE WATCHING (1977; Attention, Les Enfants Regardent ) and THE INDISCRETION (1983; L'indiscrétion); and a pair of scores by Georges Delerue on one disc: THE CONFORMIST (1970; Le Conformiste) and LITTLE GIRL IN BLUE VELVET (1978; La Petite Fille En Velours Bleu).
MovieScore Media horror score sub-label Screamworks Records has released Christian Henson’s music to STORAGE 24, a science fiction thriller where the horrific story takes off when a military plane with highly classified contents crashes in London. Henson, who won the 'Best Musical Score' trophy at Screamfest for BLACK DEATH (available on CD from MovieScore Media), has recently written the score for another sci fi feature, the award-winning GRABBERS as well as features such as TRIANGLE, SEVERANCE and THE SECRET OF MOONACRE (reviewed in my Sept. 2010 column). Henson's contemporary score for STORAGE 24 features eerie atmospheric writing, engaging action tracks and handsome, effective themes that recall the writing of Hans Zimmer while retaining the unique voice of Christian Henson.
Intrada has announced its two latest releases as: a world premiere release of Basil Poledouris’s muscular action score for FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER (1991), a John Milius actioner set during Vietnam war. Intrada presents the entire score from the original Dolby SR-encoded two-track stereo session mixes, courtesy Paramount Pictures. Two alternates appear as extras. Additionally, a world premiere of the complete trailer music by John Beal is included. The second release is another world premiere, Lalo Schifrin’s music for the Clint Eastwood Western, JOE KIDD (1972), directed by John Sturges. “Schifrin’s flavorful western score [is] one of his most exciting, evocative soundtracks…” noted Intrada. “The main theme is tentative melody with somewhat muted harmonies underneath [and the] idea grows in considerable strength during course of score. Dynamic action cues get spotlight numerous times as well.” Intrada presents the complete score from pristine condition multi-track stereo session elements courtesy Universal Pictures.
Howlin' Wolf Records has released the soundtrack to TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE by composer, film producer and long-time Albert Pyun collaborator Tony Riparetti. TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE is the long-awaited sequel to Pyun's directorial debut THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982), and stars Kevin Sorbo, Whitney Able, Victoria Maurette, and Lee Horsley. The score leads you on a musical journey in classic Tony Riparetti style and flair, fusing modern techno, percussion, Spanish guitars, and chanting with classical orchestrations. The pressing is limited to 500 copies. The label has also released IN THE NAME OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hungarian Film Composer Róbert Gulya (ATOM NINE ADVENTURES). The film is a fantasy adventure tale about two teenaged fans of Sherlock Holmes who investigate the mysterious disappearance and transformation of local children using the sleuthing skills of the famous detective and his partner Dr. Watson. Bernáth's film pays homage to classic youth fantasy/action/adventure tales like E.T. and THE GOONIES.
Varese Sarabande will release Thomas Newman’s score for SIDE EFFECTS on Feb. 19. David Buckley’s score for PARKER, a contemporary action thriller with Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, was just released digitally, with a CD following on Feb 5. Steve Mazzaro’s music for the Sylvester Stallone actioner BULLET TO THE HEAD also comes out on Feb 5, on CD, as does Varese’ USA premiere release of Bruno Coulais’ celebrated 1996 documentary score for MICROCOSMOS.
Kritzerland’s latest releases include Patrick Williams’ score to the 1979 prequel film, BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY YEARS. “Williams wrote an eclectic score, playful, beautiful, filled with adventure and bravado, tenderness, and gorgeous melodic themes,” said Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel. “It works perfectly in the film, complementing the visuals, the comedy, and the drama, a real old-fashioned honest-to-goodness film score by a master composer.” The second release is George Duning’s music to the 1962 Dean Martin/Lana Turner bedroom comedy, WHO’S GOT THE ACTION? “Duning wrote instantly memorable themes and WHO’S GOT THE ACTION? is full of them,” Kimmel said of the film’s frothy and fizzy score. “Duning’s main theme uses a five-note motif that matches the syllables of “Who’s Got the Action?” and it sets the tone for the rest of the score, which is quirky, lushly romantic, effervescent, and just plain memorable.” Each release is a limited edition of only 1000 copies.
Columbia Music Entertainment of Japan has released a mouth-watering 10-CD box set of music by noted Japanese composer Shunsuke Kikuchi, whose tuneful music has graced the films of GAMERA, KAMEN RIDER, and DRAGON BALL movies, including the eerie horror film GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1967), GENOCIDE (1968; aka WAR OF THE INSECTS), and Nobuo Nakagawa’s stylish SNAKE WOMAN’S CURSE (1968). Regrettably, only one of the Kikuchi Shunsuke 50th Anniversary CD-BOX’s 283 tracks contains instrumental film music (an action track from 1980’s GAMERA VS BARUGON), the other 282 tracks are all sound-alike songs mostly from the kid-friendly shows the composer worked on. It’s a very thorough collection for those who like the songs, but those hoping for a decent collection of his score music will be disappointed. The box set is available on amazon.com
Quartet Records presents the premiere release of Philippe Sarde’s score for the 1994 art mystery UNCOVERED. About a young art student (played by Kate Beckinsale in one of her first feature film roles) who discovers a clue to a murder mystery hidden in a medieval Flemish painting. Sarde’s score is based on a colorful mixture of influences, ranging from laid-back jazz pieces for the exotic city of Barcelona to tense, Medieval-flavored cues for the century-spanning mystery. From the soprano sax to the viola de gamba and the glass harmonica, Sarde uses a number of unusual instruments to make the score a real standout in his 200+ title filmography. The album contains the entire score specially edited by the composer himself for optimal listening experience. The richly illustrated 12-page booklet contains liner notes by Gergely Hubai, discussing the film and the score.
Sony Classical will release Marco Beltrami’s score to the upcoming action sequel A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD on February 19. Beltrami returns to the franchise after composing the third film, 2007’s LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. Sony Music has just published a “first listen” of the soundtrack, including two full tracks (available here), as well as audio clips from all the other tracks on the album, which can be checked out after the jump. – via filmmusicreporter.com
MovieScore Media has released a soundtrack from the hit Norwegian movie 90 MINUTES (90 minutter), starring Aksel Hennie (MAX MANUS, HEADHUNTERS), composed by Henrik Skram, performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. “The score is a mesmerizing listening experience where transparent writing for strings and melodic piano themes form the backbone of the soundtrack,” said MSM’s Mikael Carlsson. MovieScore Media's digital album also features a new recording of Puccini's famous aria, 'O Mio Babbino Caro', featuring soprano Eszter Magyari.
Lakeshore Records has released Focus Features 10th Anniversary: A Collection of Film Scores digitally with a CD available in stores on January 29th. The collection celebrates the 10th anniversary of the worldwide studio that makes original and daring films. Over the past decade, Focus Features’ movies have spotlighted the work of acclaimed film score composers, including Gustavo Santaolalla, Dario Marianelli, Danny Elfman, Alberto Iglesias, and the late Elmer Bernstein, all of whom are included in the album, along with Jon Brion, Howard Shore, Marcelo Zarvos, Bruno Coulais, Nathan Johnson, and Paul Englishby.
George Shaw has scored FRIEND REQUEST, a genuinely creepy supernatural short film about a woman who blindly accepts a stranger's friend request... only to discover that he is more dangerous than she can possibly imagine. The soundtrack is now available to purchase as a digital download from the composer’s web site (as are many of Shaw’s other indie movie scores, including a stirring epic music compilation, Spoiler Alert. Shaw’s music for FRIEND REQUEST combines haunting piano, sinister orchestral textures, and otherworldly electronic ambiences; the soundtrack includes alternate versions not heard within the film, with several bonus tracks feature horror music written for other projects. Watch a behind-the-music video about the score on youtube or watch the entire 13-minute movie here. Highly recommended.
Silva Screen will be released a new soundtrack from the classic DOCTOR WHO series, THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI. This is the episode showing the regeneration of the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) into the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker). It was broadcast in March 1984 and in 2009 the episode was voted the best in the history of the series by fans. The music is by Roger Limb and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who have become legendary for their innovative work in electronic music. The 25th of March 2013 will see this seminal soundtrack released for the first time on CD and Digital Download. ____________________________________________________________
Film Music Books
Italian journalist Mauricio Dupuis has written a digital booklet entitled Jerry Goldsmith: Music Scoring for American Movies, which is currently available for download in Italy, and shortly will be available on amazon.com for the Kindle.
This essay represents the first organic study about Jerry Goldsmith and his work for American films. The study examines some aspects of film music composition (orchestration, relationship with directors) in relation to such movies as PLANET OF THE APES, PATTON, CHINATOWN, THE WIND AND THE LION, THE OMEN, LOGAN'S RUN, ALIEN, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, POLTERGEIST, GREMLINS, LEGEND, TOTAL RECALL, BASIC INSTINCT, L.A.CONFIDENTIAL, and HOLLOW MAN. An appendix takes a look at the composer’s “rejected scores” as well as an overview of the composer's catalog of works. The book is in English, and runs 201 pages.
The author: Mauricio Dupuis was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1974. He has a degree in Musicology in Cremona, a branch of the University of Pavia, Italy. He also works as a literary curator for Italian publishers. Among his works: the Italian editions of "Mr Arkadin" by Orson Welles, "Porgy" by Dubose Heyward, "Rebecca and Rowena" by Thackeray and "A Start in Life" by Balzac. He is currently preparing an essay on music in film noir.
Garry Schyman will compose the score to Bioshock Infinite, the forthcoming third game in the first-person shooter Bioshock series. Schyman, who scored both the previous games (Bioshock in 2007 and Bioshock 2 in 2010), reported on his Facebook page that “I can honestly say that this is a stunningly beautiful and fascinating game unlike anything ever made. It has been exciting to be a part of it and I'm very proud of my score.” Bioshock’s creative director Ken Levine made the announcement on his community page at Reddit.com, adding that Garry’s “score is very different from the first two games, yet very much guided by the same aesthetic principles. We were lucky to have him and I can't wait until you get to hear some of his stuff. He's working in a different, sparer style, but it's awesome." The game is scheduled for release on March 26.
GameMusic.net has made its video game music nominations for 2012, with each of its four judges selecting five nominations in three categories (Composer/Album/Song), which have been posted here. In the Best Composer category, all four judges nominated Austin Wintory, whose score to Journey has been reaping acclaim internationally and was among two of the judge’s choice for best album; three nominated Jake Kaufman for best composer and two nominated his score to Double Dragon Neon for best album. Motoi Sakuraba was nominated by three judges for best composer and his score to Kid Icarus nominated by three (not all the same three). Gravity Daze (aka Gravity Rush) was nominated by all four judges for best score, although unusually its composer Kohei Tanaka received zero nominations in the composer category; a peculiar discrepancy that exists in many of the choices for composer and album. Other notable nominations for best composer among the four judges include Winifred Phillips, Jesper Kyd, Cris Velasco, and others.
Digital Trends has posted an interesting interview with composer Winifred Phillips, whose score to Assassin's Creed III Liberation has been gaining a lot of deserved attention (see my review in my November column). “Trevor Anderson asked me some great interview questions,” Winifred posted to her Facebook friends. “We discuss some of the creative and technical challenges that were involved in composing music for games.” Read the interview here.
Neal Acree has scored StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, an upcoming expansion pack to the military science fiction real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and part two of the planned StarCraft II trilogy. Take a look at the opening cinematic from the game, which includes some of Neal’s score:
For more, see http://www.nealacree.com/project-sc2_hots.htm
The Game Trailers web site has announced its own game awards for 2012, with Mass Effect 3 winning best Soundtrack of the Year. The game features the music of Sascha Dikiciyan, Sam Hulick, Christopher Lennertz, Clint Mansell, and Cris Velasco. See a video of the music award after the forced commercial here.
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