Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2013-05 
April 30th, 2013

By Randall D. Larson

THE CALL stars Halle Berry as a Los Angeles Police 9-1-1 dispatcher whose close call from a killer takes her from the console to the streets.  The film is unique in that it focuses on a 9-1-1 dispatcher – an unheralded but absolutely essential component of the public safety response – as its central protagonist.  While not without criticisms, it’s a taut thriller, quite engrossing in its suspense and excitement from beginning to end.  Berry is natural and believable in the role, and since she’s the focus of almost every scene, it’s a performance that really makes the film (in preparation for her role, Berry sat along in a Dispatch Center to see and hear how calls were handled and how the dispatchers interacted, and her performance is well informed by this research.  Well directed by Brad Anderson (best known for having directed 2004’s THE MACHINIST as well as producing and directing several installments of the science-fiction TV series FRINGE), credible set design of a large-municipal 9-1-1 Center (although liberties are taken by the magical capabilities of some of its technology), and a creepy, tension-building electronica music score by veteran film composer John Debney in a welcome return from scoring romantic comedies to generate a searing undercurrent of apprehension throughout the movie.  Debney’s score for THE CALL covers a wide breadth of sonic territory, from pounding industrial techno to soothing piano-and-string-based interludes. The dread created by Jordan’s past trauma is conveyed through Debney’s surging sound design, and as the story propels us to its very suspenseful conclusion, he uses an array of musical styles from pulsing industrial techno and manipulated musique concrete to create textural atmospheres that keep viewer and listener alike on edge.

Q: I’ve been listening to your music for THE CALL. It’s very interesting!

John Debney: It’s certainly different, isn’t it?

Q: How to get involved in this film?

John Debney: We are frequently given opportunities to meet with directors and I met Brad Anderson.  I'm sure I was one of many composers he met with, and we sort of hit it off right away. I really loved what he was saying in terms of his description about the kind of score he wanted, and I gave him some my thoughts. And a few days later I got the call that he wanted me to join him on this thing, and it was fantastic.

Q: What were your initial thoughts about the music?  What elements of the picture did you decide you should anchor your score on?

John Debney: I knew one thing going in: Brad and I both wanted to create a score that was different in nature, certainly different than I had done previously. I had kind of gone over similar territory last year writing a score for a film called ALEX CROSS, a more edgy, electronically-tinged score.  Brad wanted that kind of thing, but he also wanted the score to have some organic sounds, such as found-sounds – taking mundane sounds and the treating them and then making them into something altogether different. So we both had a definite desire to jump into that a little bit and try some different things, and that’s really what I did. I started out by writing this Main Title with some different organic and manipulated sounds and bass tones. I just started putting things together and one thing led to another.  It was just out of the desire for me to create something different, that I hadn't done before.

Q: It sounds to me like the texture of the music and its electronic underpinnings suggest the computerized, technological world in which Berry’s character works – the percussive clicks and clacks and all of that… It sounds like you’re in a 9-1-1 Center! Was that intentional or did it just come about that it reflected on that kind of sonic image?

John Debney: You know, it was kind of a byproduct of it all. We’d talked about it – Brad specifically did not want the sound canvas to interfere with the actual 9-1-1 hive – they call it the hive in the movie – so when we would create certain pulses and certain ambient rhythms, it had to work in concert with what was going on in that room, because it really read was full of lots of sounds.

Q: Much of the film is set in that one place, despite the intercutting with exterior shots.  We’re in the confines of “the hive” with the dispatchers facing their screens and interacting with unseen callers and field units, yet you managed to energize these sequences so it doesn’t feel static or stationery.  The music gives energy to those moments…

John Debney: Yes!  You've happened upon something that we really knew we had to achieve, which was just that, because a lot of this film takes place in this hive and also the trunk of the car where Abigail is stuck for much of the movie. Brad was keen on the idea of keeping just enough energy in the underpinnings to keep it flowing along, and I think he was absolutely correct. There were times when he would have me do pulses when my normal tendency would be maybe not to go there, but we did and I thought it was to great effect.

Q: While much of the score is ambient and textural, is there in fact a thematic or motif element to the score?

John Debney:  There is a motivic element to highlight the emotional arc of the story: the relationship between Halle’s character and Abigail's character. We needed to have a bit of a connection theme, and that was what it ended up being called, the “Connection Theme.”  It wasn't a theme, per se, it’s a progression of chords with a light piano ostinato underneath it all. It was, by design, non-thematic and yet there was an emotional quality to the chords and the way they progress.  Brad wanted just that and not a traditional theme, and I think it works very well that way. There are those moments of the show where we have to really highlight the emotional connection between these two women, and that's when the more string-like or orchestral elements come through, and I think it really heightens the narrative at that point.

Q: There’s a lovely moment of orchestral sympathy in “Message to Mom” that really diverts from the textural sound design and suddenly pulls at the heartstrings.

John Debney: I'm glad to hear you say that. That was exactly what we were hoping, that amidst all this chaos and these textural designs that you all of a sudden morph into a little more elegant orchestral/organic sound, and I think it worked pretty well. There are about two or three spots in the movie where we really can dwell a little bit on it, and offer a more orchestral sound, and that's what we did.

Q: During the first two thirds of the film, before Jordan goes out into the field, you're still building tension and there's a palpable communication of the dread embodied by Jordan’s past trauma when this new call comes in, and you really feel that. What was your intention as far as coupling your score with Halle's remarkable performance to really see what's going on behind that microphone and inside her head?

John Debney: You've touched on it, Randall: I thought Halle’s performance was really, really fantastic and really smart and nuanced.  Through her eyes and her performance that you can feel the pathos, and the weight of the mistake she made earlier in her career that might have cost someone their life, and I thought her performance was just wonderful.  Therefore it really made it a little easier for me to highlight that, because I didn't have it to really push a lot with the music. But, yeah, in essence we’re always musically hinting at the dread of it all, the fate of it all, and hoping against hope that things will turn out okay, and that was why the music really had to always keep the listener on edge.

“I really didn't want to be traditional in any respect, with the exception of those emotional moments.  I wanted it to be really, really just gnarly.  Gnarly is a good word to describe it!”

Q: How would you describe your technique in creating the score’s unusual timbre and how you integrated your electronics with the acoustical elements?

John Debney:  I think the biggest, overriding note to myself was that I wanted the music to be jarring.  I wanted it to be deeply unsettling and disturbing – that was really the main criteria.  Sonically I wanted it to be of a certain timbre, I didn't want it to be terribly rangy.  I wanted it to be very high end and very low-end with some interesting colors in the middle. I really didn't want to be traditional in any respect, with the exception of those emotional moments that we spoke about.  I wanted it to be really, really just gnarly.  Gnarly is a good word to describe it!  Brad many times wanted to pull back a little bit!  He'd hear a piece for the first time and sometimes it would just be so aggressive that we really had dialed it down a bit.

Q: Where did you find your found-sound elements and how were they manipulated it electronically to fit into the score’s texture?

John Debney:  There was a lot of tapping. We would tap on metal, we would tap on wood, and we would tap on the bodies of acoustic guitars just to get a kind of hollow rhythm sound.  I used these sounds quite frequently.  I would de-tune them quite low or quite high just to get it in a range that made it murky and disturbing.  So there is a lot of slamming of doors, slamming of piano tops, or we would put down the pedal of the piano and just hit [the strings] with a ruler to get this big huge massive assaultive hit.  And then we would manipulate it. Sounds can be just mundane, but once you manipulate them they can turn into other things quite rapidly.  It can really be a surprise what you can do with them.

Q: In the film’s final third you’re almost entering horror film territory when she goes into the hideout and it gets very scary and the music just kind of amps up that dread that you hinted at earlier in the film. How would you describe that kind of sound design that you created for these moments?

John Debney: That was exactly what we intended to happen.  Once we get into the lair, the bad place, Brad really wanted the music to amp up and just get more insane, really – to highlight the insanity of our killer, and therefore it gets very nasty. I used a lot of knife sounds where we bowed the knife and you hear this sort of metallic sound.  I also did a lot of reversing of sounds, to highlight Michael's insanity.  We turned sounds around and reversed them and you get these weird sweeping attacks.  It's a very dense, thick soundscape there, and I might add that our wonderful head sound designer, Lon Bender, and I worked together very closely, and [his team] did some terrific soundscape design in this lair.  It's a great effect.  We would trade off at times between music and sound effects – sometimes we played together and a lot of times you really be hard-pressed to know what’s music and what is sound design, it was that integrated.  I was really, really pleased about that.

Q: What kind of team did you have to get this done? I do notice that Clay Duncan is credited with additional music…

John Debney: I really had two terrific guys, Clay Duncan and Justin Burnett, who are just fantastic.  They helped me design the stuff and did a lot of the sample work and sound design work. They were both integral to the team on this film, so it was really the three of us creating textures and sounds.  We worked very hard together on this thing.

Q: How long did it take to develop and realize all that?

John Debney: Well, we didn't have enough time!  I really felt that we could've used another month, but all told it was about two to three months of intensive work from start to finish, with the holidays smack dab in the middle, which was a drag, because we lost two weeks there. It wasn't a great deal of time but I think that, when all is said and done, it was a fun journey.

Q: Other than the time element what would you say was most challenging about this assignment?

John Debney: I think it was the sheer amount of music. There was a lot of music in this film, about 82 or 84 minutes of music and it’s mostly very complicated music. Doing a score like this, in many ways, is much harder than doing it truly orchestral score because you're dealing with sound design, you're dealing with the creating of sounds and textures, and therefore a lot more time is spent in the production end.

Q: What kind of process did you undergo to translate the score into the soundtrack album?

John Debney: It was, honestly, rather difficult to hone it down because there are a lot of very atmospheric pieces that I thought were pretty fun pieces to listen to, however I realize that, as a listening experience, the ambient music can get a little repetitive. I tried to hone that down enough so that the listener gets an essence of what the whole score was – ambient and then at times very jarring and very dense and very edgy, and then in places it's very thin and atmospheric.  I trying to blend and have enough of each thing in there just to get the flavor of all.

Q: I think it's very interesting because the album takes the listener on a journey of its own…

John Debney: That was the intent. I wanted to put it in show order which I think sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't matter, but in this one it did matter.  With this music, we needed to start at a place and then go through the process and then in the end, the last few cues, you really do feel the horrific nature of the events.

Q: Now you are working on BROKEN HORSES, the first Hollywood film of Indian director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who did 3 IDIOTS  – what can say about this?

John Debney: It's a wonderful film and he's a wonderful director, and we’re having a ball. I’m just starting on it.  It's a drama about two brothers and the love between them when they have to deal with a really bad guy who complicates their lives.  It’s got some stellar performances. I purposefully wanted to do another dramatic film, I didn't want to immediately jump into something lighter.  This film just spoke to me and I lobbied to get it and I'm overjoyed that I'm doing it.

Q: Any inclinations yet as far as where you'll be going musically?

John Debney: Not really yet. I know one thing for sure and that is Vinod is a very big proponent of themes and so there will be a number of different themes in the movie. He does want a sort of timeless quality to it all which I think is great, so it won't be necessarily a terribly exotic, modern score, but I think nonetheless it will be a very thematic score.

Q: I see you’re also set to do some biblical features coming up in 2014... 

John Debney: They haven't been shot yet, but it's wonderful that I was hired very early on both these films. One director is a guy I've worked with before on THE STONING OF SORAYA M, and the other one is by a friend of mine, a producer who I haven't worked with before, and she's been trying to get me to commit, which I did and I can't wait. They're supposed to start shooting both of them within the next month or so.

Q: They both sound interesting because they're taking elements that have not been previously explored cinematically from the early life of Christ.

John Debney: I think they're both going to be excellent. Both scripts are great and… who knew?  You don't plan these things in life all the time, yet they sort of come to me, and I'm thrilled because I am a man of faith and think it will be fun to re-explore that whole genre and maybe bring something to the world that might mean something. I'm really quite excited about both of them.

Special thanks to Alex May at Costa Communications.  John Debney’s soundtrack music to THE CALL is available digitally and on CD from Lakeshore Records.



Monstrous Movie Music’s first foray outside the monster film genre is the new release of the music for THE TALL TEXAN, a 1953 Western programmer directed by Elmo Williams and starring Lloyd Bridges and Lee J. Cobb, about a group of travelers who band together to search for gold on Indian burial grounds who face danger from hostile Indians and from greed within their group.  The movie contains a fine 1950s-styled score by Bert Shefter (1902-1999), composed a few years before he hooked up with Paul Sawtell and the two of them became a legendary team scoring sci-fi movies like THE FLY and KRONOS and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE.  The music is straightforward and simple, with leitmotifs for all the major characters.  Two folk tunes, “Yankee Doodle” and the sea shanty “Blow the Man Down” become themes for two of the characters (performed orchestrally rather than in their traditional folk style). The score also contains some absolutely terrific fight music, splendidly orchestrated and with an intense amount of thematic interplay throughout. 

“Shefter’s writing wasn’t meant to provide subtext, but rather to enhance the drama appearing on screen,” David Schecter writes in the album notes.  “Therefore, while there’s a bit of Mickey Mousing, it doesn’t come from the action, where it might call unnecessary attention to itself. Rather, it derives more from the characters, a technique that seems to work better.  So, instead of the music rising in pitch when somebody ascends a hill, when the camera moves from one character to another, their respective themes are sometimes heard.”  It’s a rousing and aggressive score in a kind of modernistic Americana flavor, both representative of the style of 1950s action film scoring and yet showing a sophistication that demonstrated Shefter’s musical New York City roots.   For more information on the CD release, see www.mmmrecordings.com

I had the opportunity to interview Bert Shefter about THE TALL TEXAN in July, 1989, for what became an aborted attempt to release the score by another label (the interview never got published).  Here’s what he had to say:

I saw the picture and [Bob Lippert] wanted to know what style I would write, and I said I thought Aaron Copland would be best.  Even though it was a Western, I would write an Americana type of score, and that’s what I did.

It’s an old fashioned story with a modern touch of music, that’s what I think.  It wasn’t corny like some of them were. I wanted to do it very originally, not like other Westerns, like Tiomkin or the other guys.  I wasn’t familiar with them anyhow; I came from New York, and being a partner with Morton Gould, we orchestrated a lot of things in the Western [idiom] like country dances and things of that sort, and so I was very well aware at that time of Aaron Copland.  Since then I’ve scored a lot of Western television shows, like CHEYENNE, SUGARFOOT, LAWMAN, but they were a different style altogether. I didn’t write them in the same manner because I was with Paul Sawtell then, and he had a style that we joined together.  But those earlier films like LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES and THE TALL TEXAN, they were all in my [own] style.

It has a very Western flavor – a Western feel of a chase. You’d have the Indians chasing, and you’d have the Indian theme, which would be very easy to do with the strings and woodwinds, but I used horns and brass that would give you that feeling of Americana.  I doubled the woodwinds and strings and also the horns.  The Indian chase in THE TALL TEXAN used horns in 5ths, and that gave me that Aaron Copland style.  The harmony in THE TALL TEXAN was much more modern. The harmony was strictly ahead of its time for a Western.

I had a theme for each character.  I had an Indian theme, so when the Americans were digging for gold and the Indians were trying to drive them off, I used an Indian Theme and a Cowboy Theme.  I’d use a character’s theme for whatever was happening, whether he was galloping or running away on a horse, it was like a chase, but it was his theme in that chase music.  Whether it was a fight, a chase, whether it was stalking, whatever the situation of the film, I used that theme, and then [if two characters were interacting] I would use the other theme as a counter theme.

THE TALL TEXAN was my first Western and my favorite. I’m very proud that I was able to start with something that was foreign to me at the time.  I didn’t write a cowboy song, though; I wrote Americana – descriptive music.  Taking Aaron Copland as an example, with the use of horns and brass, I thought I captured it very well.  You couldn’t say it’s Aaron Copland, I didn’t use any of his [tunes], I used just his style of harmonization. That score was one of a kind.  I never used that style any more.  I did other Westerns, yes, but not in that style.  What I did after that was regular Western type of music from around 1850 or something.  It was a very simple type of Indian-Cowboys music with fights and love themes. I would create an Indian Theme of my own, I would create a Cowboy melody, and I would intersperse them. 


New Soundtrax in Review

AFRICA/Sarah Class/Silva Screen
This television production is another astonishing nature documentary from David Attenborough and BBC Earth. It features incredible hi-def footage of wildlife and environments in Africa, some of which have never been shown before (the world’s largest underground lake, deep within Dragon’s Breath cave far beneath the arid Namid desert, and the isolated, blind catfish subsisting in its fossil waters; black rhinos gathering en mass at a night time watering hole, a full-blooded fight between two desert giraffes over a lone female, etc.). The camera set-ups, camera movement, aerial photography, intimate close-ups, intensifying slo-mo, etc are amazing, and the high-def sequences they capture are just breathtaking, enhanced by a gorgeous, emotive, and often inventive score by Sarah Class, which has been very nicely preserved on disc by Silva Screen.  Class embodies each mesmerizing hour-long episode of the six-part series with music that is as ethereal, majestic, exciting, serene, and sensuous; as captivating as the breathtaking presentation of the images.   There is no real running theme throughout the score, but rather a variety of impressions for each of the episodes segments; but there is a similar sense of grandeur in a few of the tracks that share a similar character of expression – “Journey of the King Fish,” “Beauty of Aguillus Sands,” “Shimmer of the Flower Fields,” and “Rwenzori Mountains” are simply awe-inspiring pieces of music and, again, very much the stimulating equal to the jaw-dropping images captured by the photography teams.  For the night time rhino sequence, for example, a tentative, inquisitive pattern from piano over a sustained shimmer of strings opens into a warm, hospitable familial theme as rhino socialization is witnessed for the first time “Under the Stars.”  The fight between the two bull giraffes is slyly set to the accompanying resonance of a twanging slide guitar, de guello trumpet, and clear reflections of Morricone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, thus evoking the sensation of an Italian Western showdown between two very long-necked antagonists.  “When I was asked to write the score for the BBC AFRICA series, the brief I was given was that it had to be many stories with diverse themes for each film,” Class explains in a note in the album booklet.  “I wanted to draw the audience deep into the African landscape and feel the emotion of these incredible stories.”  Class’s score indeed expresses the emotional sense of discovery and awed amazement that the images these crews have captured, enriching the viewing of AFRICA as not a passive watching of moving images, but of actually experiencing the passage of incredulous landscapes, fragile ecosystems, and enchanting living things that may soon have passed out of living experience altogether.

Composer Lorne Balfe rejoins the Assassin’s Creed game franchise for his third score in the expanding video game series.  This new downloadable content (DLC) spinoff of the third series of the game explores an alternate reality in which George Washington goes mad with unlimited power, foregoing Presidency to rule as tyrannical King. In this alternate world, assassin Connor never became an assassin (with or without a creed) and must endure new trials and acquire the skills he'll need to take down a possessed Washington and win freedom for his land once and for all.  “Working with the Ubisoft team was a joy,” said Balfe. “Their openness and enthusiasm for experimenting pulled away all musical restrictions, allowing us to create a new and exciting level of experience for the player.”  Balfe’s Remote Control Prods roots are evident in the new game’s primary theme, a swelling rhythm piece for an epic brass melody over a bed of mercado strings and pounding drums; a familiar stylistic tonality but one that opens the game with a bristling sense of epic adventure.  From there a bit of period music is intoned from pipes and then moving into choir and orchestra in “Ratonhnhak« ton,” introducing Connor’s historical incarnation and giving him a wondrously voiced and thoroughly engaging central theme. These motifs join with others and a number of variations of each that makes for a very pleasing, interactive, and extremely cinematic soundtrack.

BEYOND REANIMATOR/Xavier Capellas/Screamworks
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brian Yuzna’s 2003 cult movie BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, Screamworks Records has reanimated for its world premiere Spanish composer Xavier Capellas’ exciting orchestral score for the film. Taking a nod from Richard Band’s score for the original 1985 film score, Capellas revitalizes Band’s main theme, which itself was an affectionate riff on Bernard Herrmann’s PSYCHO theme, in a lavishly delightful crimson spray of over-the-top orchestration.  He gives the low-budget horror comedy a massive symphonic backdrop which nicely overplays the on-screen absurdity, adding some drum loops to the orchestra to give it a more modern momentum.  For the most part, though, the music plays straight man to the film’s horror hijinks, and the result is a very pleasing and enjoyable – and happily overstated – orchestral suspense and action score. It’s a lot of fun.

BIOSHOCK INFINITE/Garry Schyman/Irrational Games
Garry Schyman (whose game scores for the Destroy All Humans and BioShock video game franchises were highly laudable) has provided the original score to the latest BioShock game, BioShock Infinite, newly released by Irrational Games. Not available yet as a standalone release, Schyman’s soundtrack is exclusively available in the Ultimate Songbird and Premium Editions of the BioShock Infinite game. The score is very different mixture from that of the first two game scores in the series, in view of the new game’s earlier time period and setting (1912, in a city in the sky), and the soundtrack is a mix of light and airy classical pieces, sorrowful laments, and extremely jarring percussion fight scenes, plus some source music from old time radios such from piano standards, an Irish jig, and the patriotic war-preparation march, “The Readiness Is All Around.”  These narrative tones are all extremely different from one another, but form a fairly cohesive mix, although the heavy, noisy, clattering and jarring nature of the combat music is difficult to listen to on its own, although likely makes terrific and driving accompaniment for gameplay.  “I am writing music that fits a particular scene or moment or activity (like combat),” Schyman said in an interview for forbes.com.  “The way one writes music, at least the way I write music, is I’m working on a particular focused piece of music right in front of me, the scene or the setting, the in-game cinematic, whatever it is, so I’m not really thinking of those qualities. I’m really thinking of what music does this moment or in this part of the game need.”  Thus, tracks like the multiple variations of “The Battle for Columbia” and the standalone “The Songbird” range from assaultive drum poundings with very chaotic and even horrific violin figures entwining about it like barbed wire wrapped around shrapnel to a rather interesting jagged presentation of cello piece that might have been performed by early Apoclyptica.   The light classical pieces are delightfully and vigorously old timey, and the darker lamentations like “Family Reunion” and the invigorating but shadowy weaving violins of “Doors” can be dismally sorrowful and weighty.  “Visually in some respects it is the polar opposite of BioShock which is dark and dank and claustrophobic,” Schyman said.  “Infinite is bright, sunny and with open space, blowing wind and clouds. So visually and environmentally it’s just the opposite and of course that’s going to influence the feel of the music.” 
The album includes three versions of the gospel song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” as heard in the game; one of which, a crystal clear rendition sung by voice actors Troy Baker (Booker DeWitt) and Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth), is unique to the album. 
Read the full interview with Schyman on BioShock Infinite here

EVIL DEAD/Roque Baños/La-La Land
Fede Alvarez’s potent and credible remake of Sam Raimi’s iconic cabin-in-the-woods terror tale, EVIL DEAD, is supported by a graceful, stimulating, and frightening score by Spanish composer Roque Baños.  No stranger to horror cinema, Baños scored Jaume Balagueró’s provocative horror films TO LET (2006; Para entrar a vivir) and FRÁGILES (2005; Fragile) and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s INTRUDERS (2011).  Like those scores, the music for EVIL DEAD benefits both from subtle, spooky nuances and outright explosive, convulsive musical onslaught, enhancing the film’s growing sense of unease until the ultimate outbreak of pure demonic horror occurs, and then it’s balls and batons to the wall as Baños unleashes his onslaught of orchestral measures (rhythmic chord progression, dissonant conflagration, sympathetic reflections, relentless propulsions of advancing attack), vibrant strains of choir, and claustrophobic washes of synthetic sound design.  A low, oscillating, arrogant siren sound is used effectively as a scary motif in several tracks, which seems drawn from Raimi’s iconic demon’s perspective rushing-through-the-forest-to-the-cabin shots, which Alvarez so affectionately recaptures in his new version.  Elsewhere a moaning horn or woodwind takes the sinewy cry as an ostinato of imminent and onrushing danger and painful destruction.  “Fede and I spent a lot of time searching for the most ‘evil’ sound we could get out of the orchestra and the choir,” Baños wrote in a note in the album booklet.  “First we found a theme, a very spooky one that we loved, but that still was not the sound we were looking for.  We used all kinds of rips, ramps, scratches, whispering, shouting – but nothing convinced us it was the sound of true ‘evil.’  I then remembered during my first week of composition on EVIL DEAD, I couldn’t sleep so well; I had nightmares and I was hearing sirens outside my house all night, which I hated… That was it!  The ‘evil’ sound was just a siren.  I tried it the next day in some scenes and it worked greatly.”  The motif takes a bit of getting used to as an ostinato on the CD, but it’s malicious tenor character manages to personify inbound evil in a blazing, Code 3 manner pretty well.  The album’s journey into dark mysterioso and further through chaotic sonic terror makes for an evocative and scary listen by itself on a dark night.  Play it loud. 
(Note: La-La Land’s deluxe CD edition of the soundtrack features more than 25 minutes of additional music not present on the digital download release).

I’M SO EXCITED/Alberto Iglesias/Quartet Records
In addition to the label’s archival presentation of notable Hollywood and British film scores, Quartet Records also keeps up a current catalog of notable contemporary European film scores, of which Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias’ latest collaboration with director Pedro Almodóvar, Spain’s most popular and internationally successful filmmaker.  2013’s I’M SO EXCITED (known in Spain as Los amantes pasajeros/the fleeting lovers) is his latest film and Iglesias’ ninth score for the director.  Taking its English title from the old Pointer Sisters’ song featured in the movie, the movie is a romantic comedy taking place aboard a plane that is about to crash (never accuse Almodóvar of boring scenarios).  Iglesias’ score is a cool mix of lush romantic melodies and attractive, often sultry jazz.  His compelling main theme, introduced in “El Bello Durmiente,” opens with a hint of Bernard Herrmannesque swaying strings before morphing into a cool jazz riff for those same strings over a light drum beat; “Blanco” lays a pattern of menacing string patterns over a bit of bongo exotica; “Las Confidencias del Estafador” reprises the humid menace of the main theme over more bongos with an added clarinet melody; its cadence and swaying, progressive style reminds me a bit of Claude Bolling’s STAVISKY in a vague way.  “Esto Es Cosa del CNI” emits a powerfully suspenseful air of whispering winds, piercing keyboards, and a growing apprehension of strings, while hand drums, muted rhythm section horns, and drum-kit cymbals give the tension a bit of style.  “¿Qué le pasa a Hugo?” is a particularly attractive rendering of the main theme for clarinets and strings over bongos in a moderate pace that is both jazzy and apprehensive.  There is a casually energetic string workout in the suspenseful progression of  “Aterrizaje Inminente,” and the main theme returns and is resolved in the conclusive “Pasarela de tripulantas.”  It’s an extremely pleasant listen in both its dramatically romantic measures and in its provocative array of smooth jazz imparted within the dramatic cues as well as in standalone tracks (“Piano Bar” and the two “Extra” tracks that conclude the album).  Iglesias is a master at both and his music here is captivating and mesmerizing.  In addition to the title song, three songs by other artists are interspersed with the score tracks on the album.
Head over to Quartet’s web site to check out some sound samples.

IRON MAN 3/Brian Tyler/Marvel Music/Hollywood Records
Eschewing the “heavy metal” (get it?) guitar-infused elements of Ramin Djawadi’s IRON MAN and John Debney’s IRON MAN 2, Brian Tyler scores his most visible film to date with a thoroughly orchestral and compelling heroic score. While the omnipresent mercado string underpinnings that seem to be de rigueur on all big action movies are extant beneath his powerful, anthemic main theme, they resonate effectively enough and don’t distract by their familiarity from where he’s taking the score.  It’s big and bold and elegantly powerful. 
“We all wanted this score to have a deeply thematic component with a strong melody,” Tyler said. “We felt that the story would lend itself best to go classic and use the orchestra as the main voice of the music, with horns and trumpets singing the new Iron Man theme in a strong way. I conducted the London Philharmonic at Abbey Road in order to give the score a sound that felt powerful enough to live up to its name. In the end we went for a score that echoed the classics of super hero film history with a few surprises like a wild 1960s style main title piece that was an absolute blast to record.”
Tyler has a terrific knack at coming up with an irresistible hook to his themes, and what he’s given IRON MAN 3 is a noble brassy theme, five notes elevating, dropping briefly, and elevating again, sonically gleaming like the red and gold suit worn by Tony Stark as he soars into the clouds; the melody rises out of an effervescent cluster of strings and muted drums to emerge full-throated, drums now beating heartily, backing instruments confident, choir intoning in support; it’s exhilarating and thrilling it its melodic and harmonic structure, yet brawny in battle and orchestrated with percussive muscle and brassy iron.  In contrast are a pair of themes for the terrorist villain Mandarin and the Extremis treatment that becomes a weapon in his hands.  Mandarin’s theme is a progression of shifting string tones that converge into a threatening melody, dark, brooding, festering, given propulsion by another series of mercado strings to emerge into a sinewy melody that literally grimaces with arrogant condescension.  Texturally, Mandarin’s theme is made up of combined semblances of religious chanting, meditative moaning, gamelan gonging, whispered breaths and hollow, exhaled woodwind sounds and high, melisma-like flute filigrees, especially as it is developed in “Another Lesson from the Mandarin,” all underlining the metaphysical entities that have merged so malignantly to form his character.  For the Extremis treatment, Tyler creates a light, choral ambience to suggest the mixture of science and alchemy that seems to have come together in this substance; the motif’s quietude is closely linked to the more energetic action material that surrounds (and is literally caused by) it.  Tyler has described Extremis as a type of future science that “feels like magic,” and thus has given its musical treatment a subtle spiritual ambiance, a characteristic that also carries over into the Mandarin theme in darker, more malevolent residence.  There’s no real difference between Tony Stark’s music and Iron Man’s music, in “Stark” it’s the same theme, since Iron Man has no secret identity to hide behind; at the same time, Tyler does take advantage of those few moments when Stark removes the mask to reveal his own insecurities to wax reflectively in the music (as in the weary, despondent strains of “Isolation,” for example). 
As the story develops, Tyler’s treatment of the Iron Man theme changes. What began as a fun and slightly off-handed heroic motif that fits the metal man as well as it does the sarcastic Tony Stark, as the intensity of Mandarin’s attacks on Iron Man wears down the super hero, and as Iron Man loses some of his snarky self-assurance, the music also loses its grin.  Tyler gnashes the theme’s gravitas with heavy choir and full-on, explosive orchestral maneuvers, and only when Iron Man emerges triumphant will the theme breathe easier and regain its carefree attitude.  All of these ideas merge especially well into the score’s heavy action moments, and as much as I stand up to cheer when Iron Man’s theme soars on its own, I find that it’s the action tracks like “Attack on 10880 Malibu Point,” “Heat and Iron,” and the ultimate triumph of “Battle Finale” that the score lives up to Tyler’s purposeful musical architecture and passion for what he’s doing.  With massive spiraling funnels of aggressive sound entwining, exploding, receding, and blazing anew in a controlled sonic cataclysm, bolstered by carefully networked orchestration that remains subordinate to imposed interchanges of melodic restatements of theme, IRON MAN 3’s battle music is symphonic rock and roll and an exhilarating experience for the ears.   The album ends in a special treat, “Can You Dig It (Iron Man 3 Main Titles),” in which Tyler interprets his main theme as if we were watching a 1970s Saturday Morning cartoon version of this very IRON MAN, a snarky, twanging, grinning, rock-and-roll tease enacted for the sheer fun of it by Tony Stark’s own musical alter-ego: Brian Tyler. 

JOHN DIES AT THE END/Brian Tyler/La-La Land
Speaking of Mr. Tyler, just previously Brian rejoined director Don Coscarelli (BUBBA HO-TEP) for this wild and quirky fantastical horror story, severely condensed from David Wong’s (Jason Pargin’s) refreshingly wild and quirky novel the same name. The story, in its most basic form, has to do with a pair of college dropouts/paranormal investigators who discover a new street drug called soy sauce, whose effects send users across time and dimensions, often returning as something less than human.  There’s lots more going on, however, and Coscarelli even in distilling the book (which essentially tells three connected adventures embodied within a supremely entertaining first-person narrative) has added plenty of book elements in passing; it turns out that many of these really make no sense unless you are familiar with the novel, and yet they add to the craziness of the story without totally demeaning its coherency. Brian Tyler offers a score that, as with BUBBA HO-TEP, is a splendid amalgamation of disparate parts, crafting music that is as wild and quirky as the film – and, like some of the book elements that abound out of context in the movie, not all of it makes musical sense away from the film, but the result is an enjoyably freaky musical ride.  “The score for JOHN DIES AT THE END is a combination of acid ecstasy and mushroom overdose, and that’s just way too cool,” said Coscarelli, interviewed by writer Daniel Schweiger (who has a cameo role in the film’s early scene at the Chinese restaurant) for the album’s liner notes.  Added Tyler: “You could say that JOHN DIES AT THE END is a score where you hear my first impression, unlike the bigger films I do where everyone wants to throw in their two cents.”   Tyler emphasizes a kind of rock-and-roll electronica sound design vibe to characterize the post-modern doper punks who are at the heart of the story and drive its relentless oddity quotient as they explore the nether dimensions (and its expelled formerly-human cargo back on Earth), jumbling trashing guitars with gamelan percussion, dark orchestral maneuvers, retro ‘70s keyboards and backwards performances, rapturous choirs, reprocessed sound textures and aural feedback, the ringing ambiance of Opium Dens, the blurred aural consciousness of the seriously stoned, and pleasingly simple plaintive folk melodies from some far barely remembered past – often all in the same cue.  Because of the nature of the story, it’s not as cohesive as much else in Tyler’s film musical oeuvre, and yet it’s a wonderful thing all the same.  It’s as if Tyler’s music has been conjured out of the soy sauce-addled tweaker brains of the protagonists – or the extra-dimensional experiences that have saturated those brains – and spilled out into the sonic performances that make up the film’s score.  A solid electric guitar theme – as, again, with BUBBA HO-TEP – adds a congealing motivic coherency to the score, embossed by choir in “Our Quest,” which also becomes a laconic anthem for our heroes, David and John, as well as telegraphing the mentorship of their mysterious benefactor, Marconi.  “In order to have that trippy, drug-induced fervor, the score also has to be earnest and heartfelt in a way that will balance the rest of it out,” said Tyler, who recorded many of his instruments in lo-fi mono to add a kind of organic unpretentiousness to those moments that are more down to earth.  “Through all that, melody is there to wrap your brain around the music,” Tyler added.  “Otherwise it would all sound like a drug trip, which is something we definitely didn’t want to do.”

NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON/Annette Focks/Alhambra
Alhambra Records of Germany has released this very poignant orchestral score by composer Annette Focks, an impressive German composer who has been very active since the late 1970s and is best known in her country for the highly regarded score to 2006’s FOUR MINUTES.  The new picture is an introspective drama starring Jeremy Irons as buttoned-down Swiss Professor named Gregorius who quits his job and embarks in a journey to find himself.  Focks’ score is primarily reflective, thoughtful, and very poignant, emphasizing solo instruments and small ensembles to evoke the personal awakening experienced by the professor in his journey.  The score is constructed around a pair of themes – a melancholy motif for piano that describes the lonely life of the aging teacher, and an expressive main theme for the movie that emphasizes the fulfilled life of a poet, Amadeu, whom he meets in his travels; the professor’s yearning for such a life is expressed in the lyricism of the main theme which contrasts against the more intricate fragility of his own motif.  As Gregorius journeys toward and into Lisbon in search of meaning from his own past, Focks’ score represents the passion and humanity of his excursion, the longing that has set it off, and the eventual fulfillment he achieves at journey’s end, punctuated by more aggressive, percussive-driven material (“Terrible Memories,” for example) heard during flashbacks as Gregorius find meaning in examples shared from Amadeu’s own past.  Meanwhile the use of a Portuguese guitarist in several cues references the environment through which Gregorius passed and in which he finds a degree of understanding. Early cues like “Travel to Lisbon” and the title track develop from very austere solo piano beginnings into fully emotional treatments with a large string section and persuasive enhancement from winds which is quite moving.  The music thus takes its own journey and finds its own accompanying redemption, which affords the listener a compelling and very satisfying experience apart from the film.

OBLIVION/Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese/Back Lot Music
It’s interesting to hear director Joseph Kosinski talking about how he chose electronic duo M83 to write and perform what he has described as “an original score for an original film” for his new sci-fi epic film, since the score is almost entirely composed of the kind of music we’ve heard in dozens of other epic sci-fi, fantasy, action spectacles over the last half decade or so.  Shadings, flavorings, and impressions of Zimmer, Jablonsky, Tyler and the like abound very clearly throughout this score, and while it works quite well in the film to maintain a powerful and weighty atmosphere, it does so in an entirely familiar way, rehashing nuances, drones, sonic interactions and musical techniques that have become formulaic albeit demanded by filmmakers in film after film.  While the score is extremely effective in the film at supporting its sense of epic isolation, awakening and discovery (particularly through a heavy synth chord sustain that works like of like a tonal ostinato to suggest the awesomeness of what has happened to the Earth; particularly notable in “StarWaves,” “Temple of Our Gods” (which reaches an effective climactic epiphany with church organ and choir) and, with a compelling rock beat added, in “Earth 2077” and “Fearful Odds”), the majority of the music, as supportive as it is in the film, is familiar territory.  Mercado string stirrings lend their chugging, rhythmic underbelly to tracks like “Hydrorig” and “Crater Lake” and “Ashes of our Father” and many more, with slow-moving chord patterns progressing over them – arguably the most flagrantly over-used (albeit effective) musical concept heard in big action films since the turn of the millennium.  Hear it again in a softer, sympathetic rendition with a subtle borealis of choir in “You Can’t Save Her.”  Rhythmic downstrokes of synth over more mercado strings appear in “Retrieval,” and again, with some additional percussion effects, in “Drone Attack” and “Losing Control,” while the same string technique rustles beneath the StarWaves motif in “Revelations.”  “Return to Empire State” imposes some interesting horn chords over the other elements, with “Canyon Battle” developing its rhythmic ambiances, punctuated by drums and heavy horns, into a powerful uprising crescendo that unfortunately erupts in a cacophonic jumble of bland pounding keyboard notes that sounds for a moment like your cd player’s laser tracking got stuck on a speck of dirt. Rock and roll drumming is displayed as unruly action matter in amidst the synths and strings in “Radiation Zone.” Hear a slamming dissonance of percussive pounding strokes in “Knife Fight in a Telephone Booth” repetitively hammering away amongst raucous flavors of synth and what sounds like some rather cool flutter-tongued trumpets (at 2:12).  
It’s not really surprising that Kosinski would bring onboard an electronica band to provide the OBLIVION score, as he did the same with French duo Daft Punk on his previous film, TRON: LEGACY.  He reports he got the idea of using M83 years ago when he first got the notion for this kind of film and brought Gonzalez onboard when his idea became greenlit as a movie.  The score’s actual attribution is somewhat confusing on the multiple credit spots on the album – it’s composed in collaboration between M83 (an electronica duo consisting of Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau [who apparently is only a performer here as he has received no composer credit]) and Joseph Trapanese, an orchestral composer and arranger who had worked with Daft Punk on TRON: LEGACY and with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda on THE RAID: REDEMPTION; he also scored the animated spinoff series TRON: UPRISING.  The score album closes with a very good End Title song, a synthy-driven rock anthem sung by Susanne Sundfør which, while intruding somewhat on the elegant orchestral conclusion of “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death” as we shift into the End Titles, provides a bit of cheerful energy as we’re exiting the theater.
I’ll say it again – OBLIVION is a very powerful score in the film and works very well to support the movie’s developing dramatic structures and contextual environment, and there are some very likable elements (I am especially fond of the closing score track, “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death,” an expressive and poignant denouement for the film’s rather emotional conclusion, comprised of growing strains of piano, strings and synth). I enjoyed the film and felt its elements worked together very well to form an exciting and engaging post-apocalyptic story with multiple twists and turns that played out very likably.   It’s only regrettable that so much of the score is, intentionally or not, derived from elements frequently displayed in many, many other films of the same type, and much of that similarity is what diminishes one’s enjoyment of the music on its own.
For a short video on making the score, see

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN/Trevor Morris/Relativity Music
Trevor Morris emerges from the eras of history, where he’s been noted for his rich scores for TV’s THE TUDORS, THE BORGIAS, VIKINGS, and the feature film THE IMMORTALS, to provide a big contemporary action score for KING ARTHUR director Antoine Fuqua’s action epic about a terrorist attack on the White House.  Morris embraced the concept and brought his melodic and orchestral sensibilities (that imparted so much passion and soul to those historical dramas) to bear on a credible depiction of modern terrorism.  “Antoine allowed and encouraged my musical concept of being both un-apologetically orchestral and (dare I say) ‘old school’ in its melodic approach,” wrote Morris in a note on the digital album booklet, “and at the same time create something 2013, something hybrid, modern, something “now.” To my ear, that blend is what makes the score to OLYMPUS so unique…  We found our way to a blend of aleatoric orchestral ‘tension strands’ over beds of deep, dark electronic layers to create the feeling of being captured and held hostage in a bunker that was designed to be a safe haven. It gives the feel of constant unease and pulsating pressure that won’t let you go.”  The result is a large-scaled and soulful epic action score that breathes with humanity even while evoking the devastating impact of a terrorist attack.  Morris’ action material is largely within the form of most big action movie scores – controlled dissonance, a rustling mercado-styled low end, percussive-formulated rhythmic propulsion punctuated by staccato, repeated slams of synths, symphs, and drums. To his credit, Morris makes it work within his own context, building a viable sonic world around those standard action movie riffs and investing the overall material with the heart and soul of character and emotional resonance. Out of the titanic orchestral maelstrom of “White House Air Attack” and “White House Ground Attack” swells an emotive semblance of empathetic strings half way through the latter cue and the sorrowful trumpet epitaph of the succeeding “Olympus Has Fallen,” and thus a resonance of human feeling and honest grief emerges from the roiling black smoke and flames of White House Armageddon, joined by choir and gathering into a rising cluster of pain and sorrow. In this manner, Morris evokes passion and sympathy for both character and circumstance that transcends the aggressive music of the attack and gives it meaning.  In the same way an innocuous, mundane event like that encountered in “Rocky Road Ice Cream” implies with its poignant, piano and string resonance the simple human pleasures that exist even within the most dissonant of terrors, or the introspective reflections of “Any Regrets” or the pain of “Death of the First Lady.”  It’s these human feeling that Morris conjures into action, in cues like “Triage.”  The core of his music – which seems to be the message of the film as well – is found in the resiliency of humanity to overcome trauma despite its pain and its loss.  The score, in this sub-context, serves as the film’s Greek chorus even while in a purely functional level it supports the film’s visual violence (“Stage Coach Crashes,” “Air Attack,” “Ground Attack”), struggles to contain and combat the assault (“Olympus Has Fallen,” “P.E.O.C. Incarceration”), and the heroic measures taken by those who fight back (“S.E.A.L. Helicopter Incursion,” “Mano e Mano,” “Daybreak/We Will Rise”).  Morris paints a human face to the devastation and evokes the human spirit throughout film and score, and that makes for a stimulating and satisfying musical presentation in CD.

PAIN & GAIN/Steve Jablonsky/Varese Sarabande
Based on a true story, PAIN & GAIN is a hard-hitting action film that follows a group of bodybuilders who engage in a campaign of kidnapping, extortion, and murder in Florida.  Starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, director Michael Bay brought in his usual composer Steve Jablonsky, who had provided the sonic adrenaline for Bay’s TRANSFORMERS trilogy, to provide the score.  The score is heavy electronica with a variety of synthed and sampled sounds without much melody, providing an active rhythm structure that identifies character by vibe and electrifies action through raucous industrial gear-gamming sonic movements, thrashing guitar impulsion, and metallic pulsating rhythm.  Lighter tracks such as “14 Minutes” provide a kind of Thomas Newmanesque vibe to the caper, which is carried through in the electric guitar vibe of “I Believe In Fitness,” a nicely expressive cue in which the central core of the music can be found – men with passion for life. In this case, life with brawny muscles: “I’m Big” and “So Buff” are more reflective variants of the same chimey motif.  “Sun Gym” is a cool bluesy guitar riff that gives the gum where the bodybuilders meet its own sunny character.  The brusque action material is just that, whereas here Jablonsky identifies the heart of the characters, which despite their ethical and honesty-challenged shortcomings, are passionate about body-building as a character trait.   These tracks, which include the quirky pulsating riff of “Supermen” (accompanying the characters’ slo-mo hero walk), provide the heart of both score and movie, around which the less-interesting-to-listen-to action material circulates fairly formulaically.  “Du Bois” personifies Ed Harris’ character with a pleasing rhythm progression in Jablonsky’s more familiar style and cadence, Johnson’s “Doyle” is reflected with a mixture of the jangly “I Believe in Fitness” keyboard motif given the larger scope of the “Du Bois” progressive drive, concluding the soundtrack with an eloquent rising rhythm that reflects his character, and it’s in these cues, not the noisy, foundry rhythms of the action cues, that give the score its appeal on the soundtrack album (now available digitally, the CD version will be released May 28th.)

THE SALAMANDER/Jerry Goldsmith/Prometheus
In the latest collaboration between England’s Tadlow Music and Belgium’s Prometheus Records (and the second in their Jerry Goldsmith series of new and complete score recordings) comes this lost score from 1981.  The film, poorly distributed and much maligned, was Oscar-winning film editor/music editor/music supervisor Peter Zinner’s sole directorial credit, based on semi-fictional account of intrigue and corruption in Italian politics of the 1970s.  Zinner’s experience in editing and music supervision had brought him into contact with Goldsmith, although they had not actually worked together, and he was able to attract the composer to the project in between working on CAPO BLANCO and OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT and MASADA.  It was a prolific period in Goldsmith’s career and he invested THE SALAMANDER with a fine action score centered on a first-rate four-note main theme for horns and trumpets.  He also provides a lyrical love theme for winds and strings that holds up against nearly any of the composer’s romantic melodies.  The score’s action material is driven by a snappy three-note rhythmic figure that interacts continuously with the main theme throughout the score.  Action tracks like “The Car Chase,” “Assassination Attempt,” and “Death of the Surgeon” are pristine Goldsmith, while tension-building cues such as “Island Adventure” and “Car Bomb” invigorate the soundtrack with their percussive and sinewy timbres.  Subtle instrumental techniques add an interesting color to the busy score, such as the bit of harpsichord and piano interplay that texturizes parts of “Dante Runs Upstairs” and the occasional use of an accordion to convey a subtle environmental orientation, particularly in its presentation of the love theme in “Dante and Lilli.”  An absorbing choral piece, “Funeral: Requiem For a General” reflects somewhat the choral work Goldsmith was doing in the OMEN series at the same time and adds an interesting and unique flavor to the score in this scene.   With no soundtrack ever released, the music tracks unavailable, and the original music scores lost, orchestrator Leigh Phillips was called in to reconstruct the entire score “by ear” from watching and listening to a Czech DVD presentation of the movie.  Phillips has done a magnificent job in recreating the score and ensuring it represented the Goldsmith touch as it had in the movie; Nic Raine takes the City of Prague Philharmonic through a vibrant performance of the score, as well as a pair of concert suites from two very compatible Goldsmith action scores that were similarly much better than their movies, THE CASSANDRA CROSSING and RANSOM, to fill out the album due SALAMANDER’s relatively short length.  Thorough album notes by Frank K. DeWald outline the history of the film and the architecture of Goldsmith’s score with solid musical detail, while Tadlow’s James Fitzpatrick discusses the origin of this new recording.

SHE DEMONS/THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER/Nicholas Carras/Guenther Kauer/Monstrous Movie Music
Headlining Monstrous’ latest batch of 1950’s B-movie scores is this pairing of two deliciously iconic ‘50s sci-fi scores from a pair of unsung heroes of the decade’s waning years of horror music.   Both films are wonderfully absurd, both feature alluring but alarming female antagonists (a woman disfigured through Nazi experimentation in SHE DEMONS, a marooned alien in SHE MONSTER), and both feature excellent and supportive orchestral scores that allow their silly cheesiness to become fun entertainment for an hour or so.  Nicholas Carras, who studied with and arranged for George Antheil and David Rose, scored three films for Richard E. Cunha in the late 1950s, of which SHE DEMONS was the first and best (the other two were MISSILE TO THE MOON [a remake (why?!) of CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON] and FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER). Central to the SHE DEMONS score was a variety of “jungle music” that emphasized the tropical island setting through ubiquitous pounding exotic drums offset by blaring brasses and flailing violins that reflects not a little a bit upon Max Steiner’s KING KONG “Jungle Dance.” Plenty of 1950s styled mysterioso meanders through the score as for strings and woodwinds figures build up the viewer’s unease; much of the music is generic in style, increasing tension (“Tension,” “Suspense,” “Hiding”) or supporting romance (“Subterranean Smooch”) but serves its purpose well.  In contrast with the primal drumming, an elegant horn theme also accentuates the tropical beauty of the beach se­quences (“Ambushed on the Beach”).  “Fight” is an exciting action cue for full orchestra, allowing each of the primary sections its part in accentuating the fray, while percussion drives them all forward; “Nazi’s in Pursuit” is more fatalistic in its dirge-like string rhythm; “Mona’s Face,” “In the Tunnel,” and “Final Battle” provide a terrific climax to the score as tension music and jungle drumming face off against the distorted visage of the titular monster until rage is conquered and all is, again, right with the world, allowing Carras to reprise his elegant romantic island motif for the “End Title.”  Carras continued scoring films into the 1960s with HONEYMOON OF TERROR (1961), and Ted V. Mikels’ THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968, as Nico Karaski). 
Like Carras, German-born composer Gene (Guenther) Kauer began scoring films in Hollywood in the late 1950s, and has a fistful of superior B-movie sci-fi/horror creds tucked into his baton.  1957’s tedious THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER (whose best attribute is its iconic and seductive poster image*) was his first score, and it’s a very active score that gives the somnambulent film’s more energetic moments a degree of dramatic potency.  The film’s mix of sci-fi and crime drama (kidnappers confront a gorgeous alien woman whose spaceship crash lands on Earth) is nicely supported in the score; the lethal lass is depicted by a blaring, four-note monster theme (the score’s equivalent to Herman Stein’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON ostinato), while the actions of the gangsters who kidnap a rich socialite and take her to the country (where their encounter with Galactic Gal will occur) are covered by a rich assembly of agitato strings and shrieking winds.  When the space ship lands, Kauer creates a cluster of arrogant brass chords, sultry violin figures, and frantic woodwind piping that escort the astounding woman from her ship and off into the woodlands.  Raging chords of brass offset against quick piping bursts of squeaking winds and violins give a splendidly exciting exchange as the gangsters confront the alien lady.  The film’s tedium is enhanced by the fact that there is very little action in the film – it essentially boils down to a lethargic alien lady wandering around the woods battling forest creatures and inept crooks, which didn’t give Kauer a lot of activity with which to generate really exciting music; but he managed to punctuate his more incidental material with some effective dramatic moments (“Mountain Accident,” “Jeep Escape”) which allows the music to breathe, and he found many opportunities to bring forth his She Monster’s theme, energizing even those scenes when the Shimmering She was doing little besides shuffling along the forest trails.  Kauer’s score was recorded in Germany by the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra without the opportunity to perform directly in sync with the film (which was still being edited at the time), so the music was recorded “wild” to Kauer’s manuscripts which meant that some musical hits weren’t always precisely in sync with the footage.  Additionally, Kauer’s music was further savaged during film’s final editing which rendered it as misshapen as the She Demons’ face in the Carras-scored movie.  It was chopped up and badly savaged to fit the film’s post-post-production final cut, which makes this soundtrack recording the only proper way to really appreciate what Kauer wrote for the movie (Monstrous’ David Schecter discusses in detail his authoritative and comprehensive liner notes.  He also points out how Kauer’s SHE MONSTER music was later appropriated for THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS (1961), serving as much of that film’s score [only Al Remington and Sound Mixer Irwin Nafshun received music credit for music in that must-not-see movie]).

*  (Don’t miss reading Tim Lucas’ retrospective appreciation of this poster in Video Watchdog #158. )


SINBAD/Christian Henson/MovieScore Media
Premiering in the US on Sy-FY in June, 2013 but broadcast in the UK on Sky1 last year, this anachronistic adventure of SINBAD stars newcomer Elliot Knight in the title role and LOST star Naveen Andrews as his nemesis, supported by an original score composed by Christian Henson. MovieScore Media, having released his five of his previous scores, offers SINBAD on digital now, with a CD release to follow in June coinciding with the show’s US TV debut. Henson’s music is a hybrid mix of primarily orchestral sensibilities, adopting film music aesthetics for his action material and a basketful of ethnic colors to evoke the necessary Arabian sound.  There are the usual mercado string effects and lot of heavy drums but to Henson’s credit he isn’t so much mimicking previous formulae but immersing his score in a pallet of sound that embraces those familiar colors and much more in order to evoke an overall soundscape that is quite appealing and fresh.  A main theme nicely evokes an Arabian flavor while intoning a reflective, heroic melody that is quite uplifting; it’s slow pacing and purposeful development into a an eloquent crescendo is powerful and emotive.  The score’s effectiveness can largely be attributed to Henson’s intricate instrumental textures, which blend and blur together very nicely to achieve very interesting musical sounds.  “Scroll Burning” adds a pleasing, wafting synth choir on top of its shuffling textural base which offers up an immersive wash of intriguing sonic colors.  A very interesting didgeridoo sound looms up in the first part of “Take Me,” and I love the Morriconesque character of the harmonica that emerges after the set-up in “Sailing Away,” resonating confidently amidst a turbulent jumble of string patterns and aggressive drumming; a declarative descent of harp arpeggios leads the track into the main theme, stated eloquently from synths and strings; probably my favorite track on the album.  “Escape to Freedom” intones the main theme’s melody very nicely on a high-end synth keyboard, which gives it a striking, almost piercing quality in contrast with the horn performance later in the track.  “Girl Walks Into Sea” prompts a strident, assured rhythm at its start, submerging into lapping gestures that swell with tranquil patterns of strings and choir intonation.  “The Build Up” is another fine progressive rhythm track which sets up and carries out a nice musical, well, build up. “Sinbad Saves Tigger” (the digital album track list spells it “Tigger” a la WINNIE THE POOH, but according to the film’s cast and character list, it’s Tiger” – dashing all hopes of a unique genre mash-up) is a well-worked out action piece which might almost be described as swashbuckling-techno – in a good way.  Henson’s horn theme runs throughout the track, which is sparingly spiced with ethnic flavors, over a kind of industrial electronic drum pattern punctuated by synth whooshes and reflective oscillations before moving into a tabla-driven dance in which the horn theme leads, cavorting through a crowd of drums, finger-cymbals and a low-end synthesized pulse; the resonance the track achieves is very appealing.  The earlier “Rooftop Chase” adopts a different but equally well-crafted amalgamation of components.  Elsewhere, Henson’s music is quite sublime, as in the lilting passages of “Your Brother,” “I Don’t Have A Brother,” and the expressive revelation of “Stowaway;” his use of ethnic instruments throughout is subdued and supportive, coming more to the forefront, reasonably enough, in source cues like “Bar Chat” and “Fireside Chat.”  There’s also some rather gratuitous raucousness in action cues, such as the grating electro-percussion throbbing of much of “Fight” and the repetitive jabbing string strokes in “The Game” and “Fight and Shadows” which almost takes on the counterproductive style of a discotheque remix (“The Opening” also devolves from its elegant opening into this noisy splattering of synth rhythm pads), but once the “Fight” is taken out and the “Shadows” come wafting in the resonance is much more appealing and atmospheric, reprising the cool mysterious textures of “Scroll Burning.”  “Fight and Rescue” and “Another Fight” both begin with the same whapping melee but then hold together more interesting musical structures with, in the former, statements of the main theme from a synth keyboard and, in the latter, a running Arabian flute entwined through it;’ both attain a more refined overall vibe than the plaintive drumming of “Fight.”  Almost all of the album’s cues are progressive and changing, ending up in a far different character from where they began, which makes the score a particularly engaging listen on disc, apart from its visual counterparts. 

STAR CRAFT II: HEART OF THE SWARM/Glenn Stafford, Neal Acree, Derek Duke & Russell Brower/Blizzard
The soundtrack to this expansion pack for Blizzard Entertainment’s military sf strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is available digitally through iTunes.  The same composers have extrapolated their score from the main game into an effective and very likable presentation for the expansion.  The StarCraft II game revolves around the conflict between humans exiled from Earth and two uncompromising alien species; Wings of Liberty focused on the Terrans campaign for survival while Heart of the Swarm focuses on the alien Zerg, a super-species of assimilated life forms (a forthcoming expansion pack, Legacy of the Void, will focus on the second alien species, the Protoss, which have advanced mental powers).  The music is a mixture of gaming action propulsion and eloquent atmospherics; on disc it’s the latter elements that provide the most pleasurable listening experience, such as “Fire in the Sky,” a cool rhythm progression that builds to a satisfying climax midway through, then segues into an effective pattern of haunting textural sound design.  I am especially fond of Neal Acree’s music heard in the first quarter of “Collateral Damage,” which develops a low, slow rolling timbre underneath higher, working figures that is especially cinematic in tone. “Stronger” contains some impressive choral and ethnically-voiced atmospheres over the top of a strident percussive base, very nicely orchestrated and realized.  The more dissonant strata of the percussive battle tracks like “Heart of the Storm” are energetic but less interesting to listen to; although most tracks are a mixture of various elements (and the work of each of the composers) and circulate between gameplay and atmospherics.  “Phantom of the Void” and “He Had It Coming” both contain some stimulating synthesized textures and sound design; “Phantom” moves forward into a progression of growing rhythm chords, while “Coming” meanders through an appealing variety of sound environments, from softly wafting flute melodies over rolling snare drum to clear-toned cello figures, persuasive horn measures, and a final gathering of ethereal choir, violins, and brass that entwines together into tighter strands and ends in a chugging, propulsive denouement.  A swaying kelp forest of flowing choral strands, embellished by light pickings of electric guitar and a staple bottom rhythm of roiling percussion gives “Ascension” a remarkable sense of redemptive configuration, bridged by drum-driven atmospherics and twanging Tangerine Dream-esque bass synth beats that give it a cool momentum into its final guitar and piano interaction.  “Whispering from the Stars” ends the album with a consistently growing pattern of menacing-cum-awesome chord steps that culminate nicely.  The album’s tracks are sequenced without gaps between them so the album as a whole makes for a fascinating sonic journey through the dangerous and awesome realms in which the game exists.


Soundtrack & Music News

In memory of Jess Franco, who died on April 2nd at the age of 82, I'm pasting an excerpt from Musique Fantastique Book II (delayed but forthcoming) which discusses his own efforts in film music. RIP to a unique filmmaker who enriched European cinema fantastique. -rdl

As an inconsistent and controversial auteur, Jess Franco’s inclination toward exploitative eroticism, especially in his more recent films, has tended to discount his effectiveness as a stylish and creative director, but his use of music has been especially noted by fans and foes alike. Franco was a musician himself, so his ear toward the coupling of music and image was especially fertile. He has said that he approaches his films like a jazz musician, which may explain some of the stylistic mise-en-scene felt in his films, and why he frequently includes extended musical sequences and night club scenes in his movies. “I come from the music hall,” Franco said in a 2010 interview. “I was a jazz player and composer before all other things in my life. I like jazz music, I like popular music. For me it was normal and not a special effort to introduce those elements in a film. And I like it – its ambiance. Not for a commercial reason or anything. I like the nature of the night, of jazz or popular music together. Elements that work very well for cinema.”
Using his own name or a pseudonym, Franco has also helped compose music for dozens of his films, such as softly surreal psychedelic rhythms of VAMPIROS LESBOS (1970), the harsh, reverberated piano chords and organ inflections of THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973), or the gritty, jazz-rock infusions heard in LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN (1998). “I [do] think films are a matter of collaboration,” Franco told an interviewer from Horror Garage. “Many times [when] I made almost everything by myself [composing the music is] just a quicker way – I have not to explain what I want. I just do it.”
“In many of the great Franco films sometimes the music is carrying almost everything in the film,” said writer and composer Stephen Thrower. “He puts an enormous amount of emphasis upon the music, and music’s one of the least definably of the arts in its effect, and one of the most immediate… It’s a very powerful artistic medium and he uses it to the utmost in his films.”
His music in one of his most strikingly surrealistic films, VENUS IN FURS (1969; aka PAROXISMUS), was provided by British rockers Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann, both of the original Manfred Mann Band. The music is nearly wall-to-wall, as Tim Lucas put it in Video Watchdog, “and the accumulation of its alternatively feverish and coolly iridescent tonalities becomes truly hypnotic. The emotions aroused by the music, in fact, go a long way towards supplanting the linear qualities lacking from its sensually shapeless, dreamlike structure.”
- Randall D. Larson/Musique Fantastique 2nd Edition, Book Two (forthcoming)
For more information, see www.musiquefantastique.com

Mychael Danna, Academy Award™ winner for LIFE OF PI, will be the Honorary President of the Festival Internacional de Música de Cine, which will be held for the second year in the Province of Córdoba, from June 23-30, 2013. Danna has enthusiastically accepted the relevant appointment as Honorary President for 2013, a position held last year by composer Mark Isham and in the seven prior installments in the city of Úbeda by Brian Tyler (2005), John Frizzell (2006), John Debney (2007), Bruce Broughton (2008), Patrick Doyle (2009), Michael Giacchino (2010) and Bruno Coulais (2011). In addition, the festival announces several other appointments, including Moviescore Media’s Mikael Carlsson to the position of Concert Musical Producer.  Composer and conductor Arturo Diez Boscovich will serve as music director for the Festival; for the past several years, Diez Boscovich has been working closely with the festival as conductor.  He is also the composer for the animated short film Fuga, which recently won an award from the Malaga Film Festival.

Hans Zimmer’s score for MAN OF STEEL, the new Superman movie, will be released in two formats on June 11th from Water Tower Music.  Besides a standard CD 18-track release, a Deluxe Edition will also be presented, housed in a special embossed steel case containing 24 score selections, and giving buyers the ability to access multiple videos showing an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the music.

Varese Sarabande will release Michael Giacchino’s score to STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS on May 15th.

GNP Crescendo will release an Expanded Edition soundtrack of the STAR TREK: TNG episode, “The Best of Both Worlds,” in mid-May, exact date to be confirmed.

After years of being out-of-print as a CD, Alex North's original, unused score for 2001: SPACE ODYSSEY is once again available digitally from iTunes

Randy Newman's score for Disney’s MONSTERS’ UNIVERSITY, the sequel to MONSTERS INC. will be released on June 18th from Walt Disney Records.

BMI will present the Richard Kirk Award for outstanding career achievement to prolific composer Cliff Martinez at the Company’s 2013 Film & Television Awards on May 15th.  The private event will also honor the composers of the past year’s top-grossing films, top-rated primetime network television series, and highest-ranking cable network programs.  BMI bestows the Richard Kirk Award to composers who have made significant contributions in the realm of film and television music. As the 2013 honoree, Cliff Martinez joins a prestigious list that includes David Arnold, Rachel Portman, Alan Silvestri, David Newman, Thomas Newman, Rolfe Kent, Christopher Young, George S. Clinton, Harry Gregson-Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Michael Kamen, Mark Mothersbaugh, Danny Elfman, Alan Menken, Mike Post, Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and John Williams.  “We are particularly delighted to be honoring Cliff Martinez this year because he is currently at the top of his game and we have all worked with him since SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE, which was the inception of his career as a film composer. He will also be our first Kirk recipient who is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” said BMI Vice President, Film/TV Relations Doreen Ringer-Ross.
For more details, see bmi.com

Composer Bear McCreary announces the launch of Sparks & Shadows, a new boutique record label that will release soundtracks primarily composed by the Emmy-nominated composer.  The first four releases from the label will include two albums for DEFIANCE (the Trion Worlds videogame and the SyFy television series), DA VINCI’S DEMONS (STARZ, BBC) and the upcoming featureEUROPA REPORT (Magnet).  McCreary, listed by Io9 as one of the ten most influential science fiction composers in history, was recently named a “Secret Weapon” by WIRED Magazine.  “I value the soundtrack album experience, because score records are what first led me down the path to becoming a composer,” explained McCreary.  “I was a fan and collector long before I became a professional musician.  I have always looked for ways to deliver my original scores to fans so they can have the same experiences.”  Sparks & Shadows will release two soundtracks of McCreary’s music for the groundbreaking multimedia science fiction epic DEFIANCE, the first attempt to launch a new franchise in both the television and videogame mediums. The game score was released on April 2nd, the TV series soundtrack album will be available for pre-order late May, and will include both original score and songs. For the collectors, a limited edition combined multi-CD set will be released in late summer, featuring exclusive liner notes and bonus tracks. DA VINCI’S DEMONS will be available digitally to coincide with the season one finale in June (a digital single of the main theme was released April 12th), with a limited edition CD, with exclusive bonus content, is planned for the summer.  The soundtrack for the upcoming feature EUROPA REPORT will be issued in August; the movie is a science fiction thriller that explores the first manned mission to Jupiter’s mysterious moon. McCreary’s evocative score will feature string orchestra, solo piano and heavy synthesis.  “I am fortunate to have collaborated with La-La Land Records and other labels to release over fifteen albums,” McCreary said.  “While many of these important relationships will continue, Sparks & Shadows has been formed to push boundaries further.”

Intrada has announced its new world-premiere soundtrack releases for this week: First is David Newan’s score for the action film FIRE BIRDS (1990), kind of an army helicopter version of TOP GUN starring Nicolas Cage, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sean Young. “Newman propels [his score] with military musical muscle courtesy large array of brass, percussion, then adds layer of high tech electronics on top,” said Intrada’s Douglass Fake. The album features the complete score mastered from crisp digital two-track stereo session mixes courtesy Touchstone Pictures. Also available is Henry Mancini’s 1962 score for DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, Blake Edwards’ unrelentingly grim look at a young couple descending into alcoholism. With Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick in Oscar-nominated portrayals, film allows despair, tragedy to imbue uncompromising story right up to its unforgettable conclusion.  While the film’s main theme has been a mainstay on compilation and Movie Themes albums since the movie’s release, the full score has never been released until now.  “Beautiful variants on the main theme are balanced with intense, dramatic low string-dominated cues for the grimmer portions of tale,” said Fake. “Elsewhere, signature Mancini tunes in upbeat style add further layers to classic score.” Intrada’s release is presented from the complete mono tapes (as mixed for picture) in crisp, clean audio, all courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures & Henry Mancini Estate and includes the famous Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini title song.

Kritzerland’s new release for this week is a world premiere of George Duning’s score THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, a 1960 adaptation of the book and stageplay.  “The film score is filled with Duning’s incredible gift for melody, starting with his stunning main theme and working its way through some of the best dramatic scoring Duning ever did, right up there with PICNIC,” noted Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel.  James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn wrote a song for the film called “Suzie Wong (The Cloud Song),” which Duning uses as a secondary theme throughout the score. There is some source music, a mix of Duning originals and classic standards.  “The score has a lot of variety and perfectly blends the picturesque visuals with the human drama, capturing every emotion and every scene perfectly,” Kimmel said.  “SUZIE WONG is one of Duning’s finest achievements.  For this release, we have Duning’s entire score, which we’ve put in film order because it plays so beautifully that way. We’ve kept all the Duning source music cues in the film sequence because they’re really part of the fabric of his score.  In the bonus section, we’ve put the source music cues that aren’t by Duning, along with the LP version of the main title and a few other alternates and odds and ends.”

Spanish composer Lucas Vidal has written the score for FAST & FURIOUS 6, latest film in the car-chase/caper movie franchise.  A songtrack album has been announced for release on May 21; no word yet on a score album.

The Cinemagic Film Festival has awarded Hans Zimmer with the Cinemagic Award for Contribution to Film and Television. In an event held in Los Angeles, participants in the festival, which includes young film makers from the US and Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, were given a tour of Zimmer’s Remote Control Studios in Santa Monica, after which they presented him with his award.

HAMMERSMITH IS OUT! Dominic Frontiere's dynamic and psychedelic score for the 1972 movie is finally released on CD and available for pre-order from Quartet Records.   So is WOMAN TIMES SEVEN, the first CD appearance of the classy Riz Ortolani score for the 1967 Vittorio De Sica comedy

Last month composer Colin Aguiar received the award for “Outstanding Achievement for a Theme Song in a Comedy” at the LAWebfest for his work on the provocatively funny web series, FRIENDLY CONFINES. Aguiar’s award-winning theme song sets the tone for the show’s shenanigans as the plot lines follow the personal and professional ups-and-downs of three young minority women with clashing personalities who share a small Los Angeles apartment. Both Aguiar’s theme song and the mockumentary-style web series itself have caught the attention of the nation’s digital enthusiasts, receiving critical praise for its honesty and originality. Aguiar also recently scored the short CHECK OUT, which he recorded with the help of the LA Children’s Chorus, and the critically acclaimed short, ROSIE TAKES THE TRAIN, which was honored at the 45th Annual World Fest International Film Fest in Houston, TX.

Geffen Records has quietly released a 20th Anniversary expanded version of John Williams’s soundtrack to JURASSIC PARK, but only to iTunes and Amazon MP3.   It’s unusual that no CD release is being offered, considering the reputation of the film and its score.  The digital release includes the original album sequence plus four previously unreleased bonus tracks (11 mins), with remastered sound throughout.  An earlier defect that caused a couple of drop-outs on the iTunes release (the ends of “Remembering Petticoat Lane” and “Jurassic Park” Gate are both missing 4 second of audio at 11 seconds prior to the end of the track) has apparently been fixed. 

Composer Michael Wandmacher brings his industrial and electronic music chops to THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD.  Michael Wandmacher’s scores frequently deal in sound design as much as classical orchestration. His trademark electronic, melodic style has been employed in the horror-film genre on previous films including MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, PIRANHA 3D, and CRY WOLF. Describing his music as “Bernard Herrmann meets Megadeath,” his scores draw as much from classic Hollywood film music as they do from metal. Wandmacher commented, “I would love to do a 120-piece LORD OF THE RINGS epic with a choir, but I would also love to do a score where someone hands me three boxes and a tin can. Either way would be fun for me.” This ethos translates into the score for THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA, where wails of percussion and the droning of finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard creep through the scenery.

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) had  announces that composer Elliot Goldenthal has been inducted into the NYFA Hall of Fame, along with author and co-director of the Acquavella Gallery Michael Findlay, filmmaker Mira Nair, and visual artist Fred Wilson. The NYFA Hall of Fame was created to both honor the work of artists to whom NYFA provided critical support early in their careers and recognize philanthropists and patrons of the arts who have had an impact of the City’s cultural community.  www.nyfa.org.

Mark Isham’s music for the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 has been receiving plenty of acclaim lately. Isham created a score that "stands on its own, like a symphony," as described by writer/director Brian Helgeland. The first African-American baseball player of the modern era, Robinson’s struggles and triumphs are represented through Isham’s thematic score, which is available digitally only along with a soundtrack album of period and baseball songs used in the film. Isham is currently scoring ABC’s hit series ONCE UPON A TIME, currently in its second season.

On May 11, 2013, Varèse Sarabande Records will host a 35th anniversary concert with a performance by the Golden State Pops Orchestra at the Warner Grand Theatre at 478 W 6th Street in San Pedro, CA. The concert will feature special performances by composers Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, John Powell, and John Debney, as well as the music of Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North and more. The Deco Art Deco Gallery will host a free exhibition of Varèse Sarabande film art by renowned artists Bob and Matthew Peak the day of the concert. Deco Art Deco is located at 731-741 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro, CA. Ticketing information can be found at http://www.gspo.com/season.php.

La-La Land Records announces new releases coming Tuesday, May 7, 2013:
Shirley Walker’s cinematic masterpiece, WILLARD (the 2003 remake starring Crispin Glover), makes its world premiere debut on cd courtesy of La-La Land Records and New Line Cinema. This bizarre, eclectic, and brilliant horror score is filled with some of the best music Walker ever wrote. Any score that features a half a dozen or so accordions and makes them sound as frightening as Herrmann’s strings from Psycho gets a thumbs up in our book. Sadly, the uber creepy rendition of BEN, as performed by star Crispin Glover, was not available for licensing. Liner notes by John Takis include an exclusive interview with director Glen Morgan.
Also coming up is Jerry Goldsmith’s Western score for BANDOLERO!, starring James Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, and George Kennedy. Produced by Nick Redman and Mike Matessino, with Matessino handling remastering duties, this long out of print score makes its way back into the film score collecting spectrum with some improvements over the past releases, including a fun extra bonus track of the Main Title sans the whistle.

The Direct TV original series, ROGUE, marks Canadian composer Jeff Toyne’s debut into American television.  Toyne comments, “It's been an absolute thrill to work on this production! The taut storyline, the great look, and the fine performances have all inspired my music. I'm lucky to be a part of such a wonderful collaborative team.”  The score soundtrack to ROGUE is scheduled to release sometime after the season finale.  The release date is yet to be determined.

Disques Cinemusique Records has released Georges Delerue’s exquisite score for Jean-Loup Hubert’s 1991 film LA REINE BLANCHE (The White Queen), starring Bernard Giraudeau, Richard Bohringer, Jean Carmet and Catherine Deneuve in the title role.  One of the very last films he scored, Delerue (1925-1992) delivered a main theme played at the accordion that expresses the sense of melancholy that haunts the main characters. This recurring air, which unfolds slowly, as does the pace of life in the village, is given a few interesting variations as the plot progresses and the dramatic issues become clearer. Elsewhere, one can find some similarity with the strings’ music Delerue composed the year before for the romantic comedy JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. There is above all a breathtaking theme heard in a crucial scene, when Deneuve puts the white dress that helped her win a beauty contest two decades earlier.   www.disquescinemusique.com/

Kronos Records presents the original complete score of the 1969 TV mini-series I FRATELLI KARAMAZOV (The Brothers Karamazov), composed, orchestrated and conducted by maestro Piero Piccioni.  This is the first time this title is released on CD. Selected, restored and digitally remastered by Claudio Fuiano exclusively for Kronos Records; this 2CD set carries 52 tracks for a total running time of 137 minutes and is limited to 500 copies. The score is rich in highly dramatic, epic and melodramatic motifs, which are the perfect score to Sandro Bolchi's TV adaptation of Dostoyevsky's final novel by the same name. This is one of Piero Piccioni's most beautiful and intense works. Definitely destined to sell out very quickly, so act now and preorder your copy before it is too late.  The label has also announces the soundtrack to LEONTINA, director Boris Peters Leal's first feature length documentary of the same name, sharing his grandmother Leontina’s story.  The music is composed by the very talented Chilean composer Jorge Aliaga; Jerry Goldsmith Award "Best Composer of the Year" 2011 award winner and recently nominated for the very prestigious Altazor Award in Chile for his soundtrack of LEONTINA, who provides a really beautiful, deep and very personal score.  In the composer's own words "Making Leontina's soundtrack, is to get closer to the humanity of a beautiful woman who has managed to deal with adversity in life with courage, strength and sweetness." This CD is strictly limited to 300 copies.
Music samples at www.kronosrecords.com/catalogue.html



Games Music News

At the 11th annual awards ceremony that took place during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last March, game composer Winifred Phillips won a Game Audio Network Guild Award for her music score for the Assassin’s Creed® III Liberation video game (Ubisoft®). The Game Audio Network Guild Awards ceremony was held on Thursday, March 28th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  The "Main Theme" music of Assassin's Creed III Liberation won the Game Audio Network Guild Award in the category of “2012 Best Original Vocal Song – Choral;” Phillips composed the entire score for the video game, which was released for the PlayStation Vita in October 2012.  In addition, Phillips’ music for Assassin’s Creed III Liberation was nominated for a Best of IGN Award, a GameSpot Special Achievement Award and a G4TV X-Play Award. Phillips received a "Best Composer of 2012" Award from GameMusic.net for her music for Assassin's Creed III Liberation. Also, both Higher Plain Music and Artastic Gaming have honored the music of Assassin's Creed III Liberation with a "Best Soundtracks of 2012" award.

Bear McCreary has composed the music for both the new Trion MMO game Defiance and the corresponding SyFy TV show.  The Defiance video game score is currently available digitally through all major providers (see further info on McCreary’s Sparks & Shadows music label, in Soundtrack & Music News above).  11 See Bear’s blog for Bear's extensive notes about the game here:

Water Tower music has released the score to Nether Realms’ Injustice: Gods Among Us! on iTunes.  The soundtrack features the work of composers Christopher Drake, Rich Carle, Dean Grinsfelder, Dan Forden, and Cris Velasco & Sascha Dikiciyan.  “The music of Injustice: Gods Among Us! is a key component of the game’s experience,” noted Nether Realms in a note on the digital album booklet.  “We were fortunate to work with a team of composers who are not only great musicians, but also great storytellers. Through months of dedicated effort, they brought focus to the game’s auditory landscape, helping build a world worthy of Injustice’s legendary DC Comics characters. During game play, the music underscores the action: capturing in notes, phrases, and rhythm players’ epic conflicts. During the game’s story, the music provides crucial texture to the characters’ emotions. It adds mystery as the game’s heroes are thrust into a parallel dimension. It lays bare Superman’s grief as he mourns his beloved Lois Lane. It conveys the heroes’ melancholy as they achieve victory only through tragic sacrifice.”

Retro Game Music!  Independent record label 010101 Music is releasing Paula Agnus Denise - Best of Amiga and CD32 Video Game Music. This exclusive compilation album consists of remastered tracks and new remixes of tracks, including five previously unreleased tracks, from Commodore Amiga and CD32 video games released during 1989-1994 such as Alien BreedApidyaBattle SquadronCannon FodderPinball DreamsShadow of the BeastSpeedball 2 and Turrican 2. Featuring a mix of electronic music styles ranging from acoustic to hip-hop and rock to trance, Paula Agnus Denise is scheduled for a worldwide CD release on May 6th 2013 to retail outlets, and for digital download at Amazon MP3, iTunes and other digital music sites.  North American physical and digital distribution of the 19-track album is handled by Sumthing Distribution and will be available for digital download at www.sumthing.com.  For more information on 010101 Music, visit http://www.010101-music.nl

In other retro game music, composer Jack Wall reports that his first ever video game score, for the seminal 1998 sim Flying Saucer, has been made available through iTunes by Lost in Sound Records.   For music samples, see http://jackwall.net/flying-saucer-original-game-soundtrack-1

Following the huge critical and commercial success of the record-breaking 2012 release ‘Halo 4 Original Soundtrack’ by award-winning producer and composer Neil Davidge, Microsoft, 7Hz Productions and 343 Industries have announced the release of ‘Halo 4 Original Soundtrack Volume 2’, now available and featuring more expansive orchestral/electronic opuses which comprise a 20-track digital release, containing all the key themes from the game that we weren’t able to include on the first volume.  11 of the tracks are composed and produced by Neil Davidge with a further 8 by 343 in-house composer Kazuma Jinnouchi. The soundtrack also includes Kazuma's new interpretation of Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori's iconic "Never Forget" from Halo 3.  The tracks on Halo 4 Original Soundtrack Volume 2 are presented in chronological order as they appear in the game, to help bring the listener right into the heart of the Halo 4 experience.

Austin Wintory’s music to Monaco: What's Yours is Mine, a downloadable stealth action video game developed by Pocketwatch Games, is now available on Wintory’s web site, either as a bundle with a bonus album of remixes or individually. 

Cris Velasco, one of the most sought-after composers in the video game medium, provides the original score for Relic Entertainment, Inc.'s Company of Heroes™ 2, the sequel to the acclaimed strategy game.  Recorded with world-class orchestra musicians and choir from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary, Velasco's score for Company of Heroes 2 majestically captures the solemn heroism and human tragedy of the Eastern Front conflict during World War II. “I approached this score from the very beginning as more of a ‘Symphony for the Eastern Front’ rather than a typical game score,” said Velasco. “The music sets out to convey the horror of war and the determination of the Russian soldiers.”  Company of Heroes 2 is scheduled to be released for PC on 25th June 2013.

Sumthing Else Music Works has released the original music score from Dead Island Riptide, the upcoming installment in the multi-million selling zombie action RPG franchise developed by Deep Silver. The soundtrack includes 25 tracks from composer Pawel Blaszczak's haunting original score which combines cinematic electronic and experimental industrial sounds, piano and other acoustic textures. 

Classically trained multimedia composer Olivier Deriviere (Alone In The DarkOf Orcs And Men) has crafted a unique, electronically manipulated live symphonic score for the upcoming action adventure video game Remember Me developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Capcom. Deriviere's dynamic emotional score is intricately woven throughout Remember Me's innovative 'memory remix' gameplay experience and immersive futurist story. Olivier Deriviere's interactive musical score for Remember Me features live orchestra that has been digitally processed and manipulated with multiple layers and effects to create a futuristic - but entirely organic and acoustic - musical palette which reflects game avatar Nilin's memory loss and the reconstruction of her memories throughout the game.  Deriviere's score dynamically reacts to the player's moves during gameplay and contains hidden messages about the story.   Remember Me will launch on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in North America on June 4 and across Europe on June 7, 2013. For more information and music samples, see http://olivierderiviere.com/


Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine.  A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He has written liner notes for more than 120 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, FSM, Perseverance, Silva Screen, Harkit, Quartet, and BSX Records.  A largely re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published: the first of this four-book series is now available.  See: www.musiquefantastique.com

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe and Kelsey Kennedy

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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