Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2012-5 
May 29, 2012

By Randall D. Larson


The growing popularity of “motion comics” – in which the artwork from printed comic books are loosely animated to tell the comic book story “in motion,” with dialog, sound effects, and music – has grown into a medium of its own over the last few years, with a number of popular titles released on home video – including BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SEASON 8, BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE, SUPERMAN: RED SON, and others.  Of particular interest is the WATCHMEN motion comic, released in 2008 to coincide with Zach Snyder’s WATCHMEN feature film adaptation, an excellent motion-comic interpretation of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ celebrated graphic novel, a massive alternate reality story of outlawed masked crimefighters, super heroes, society, and cataclysm.  Jake Strider Hughes directed the translation, which very nicely takes the original comic panels and gives them life through the motion comic process.  The WATCHMEN motion comic, which consists of twelve somewhat abridged 25–30 minute segments based on the twelve chapters of the graphic novel, shows how far the new form has grown since its relatively crude early days, with effective motion of both camera and scene components that effectively render the story’s dramatic arc as well as its ore subtler nuances and subtexts.  The story is well voiced by Tom Stechschulte, who narrates and performs all of the characters in the manner of an audio book, and does an excellent job.  The film is especially benefitted by a musical score from Lennie Moore’s score especially evocative in the breathtaking “Watchmaker” episode, where it thrusts its dramatic, epic atmosphere beneath the narration as Jon, Dr. Manhattan, weaves his timeless and timeshifting tale.  Moore gives the story much of its emotive vitality and expressiveness, aided by the voice performance and sound effects.
I interviewed Moore recently about his approach to scoring WATCHMEN in the motion comic medium, and his other film and game scores.

Q: I understand you studied at Berklee.  After graduating how did you break into the music business professionally?

Lennie Moore: After playing in various bands in L.A. and doing lots of day-jobs, I was referred to a film composer who needed a copyist on several films. I additionally met a TV/film composer who needed an orchestrator. It really all came down to word-of-mouth and a reputation that I knew how to write, arrange, orchestrate, and copy parts.

Q: Among your early work in films and TV was orchestrating and composing additional music for composers like Morgan & Stromberg, James McVay, and others.  How did this experience serve as a working training ground for your subsequent solo career in film music?

Lennie Moore: The names you mention, these are guys who have been lifelong friends. They are also some of the most generous people I've been fortunate to have the privilege of collaborating with them. When they needed additional music, they'd just ask me to do it which gave me a great opportunity to show what I could do and gain valuable experience. After consistently being someone they could rely on, it just expanded from there to co-composing and subsequently feeling comfortable being the lead composer on my own projects.

Q: I believe your first feature film credit was on RAW JUSTICE, a score you wrote with William Stromberg.  What kind of music was needed for that film, and how did the composing credit help you at this point in your career? 

Lennie Moore: That was a fun film to work on. Bill was an orchestral composer and the film needed a blues score in addition to orchestral cues. My degree from Berklee is actually in Jazz Composition so Bill asked me to co-compose on that score and I taught him how to write his first blues. I remember he was so excited when he played it for me it just makes me grin ear-to-ear thinking about the joy on his face. As it was set in New Orleans, we decided to have a good portion of the score be a southern blues band like what Otis Redding had with the Memphis Horns and Booker T and the MGs. We used a horn section, a rock rhythm section, Dobro, and Harmonica. All the orchestral material was MIDI (sample-based).
The composing credit was great. Every credit helps establish you as someone dedicated to working in whatever industry you're passionate about. From there I continued to gain work as a composer on several independent films, some MTV series and commercials as I continued to orchestrate and copy parts for other TV and film guys around Los Angeles.

Q: With OUTCAST you began scoring quite a few videogames, which has since become a very fertile field for music.  How did you find the musical needs for game scoring in contrast with that for films and television? 

Lennie Moore: I love game scoring! It's a more complex compositional problem than scoring for film and TV. Not only do I have to write dramatically, but I also need to write in a manner that will let the music work adaptively within the programming of the video game. It's very much like deconstruction followed by the game programming re-constructing the music for its final performance, based on what the player is doing moment to moment. After doing OUTCAST I was hooked. I get an enormous amount of enjoyment in scoring for games. I think it's because I just love solving puzzles and the kinds of challenges in creating adaptive music are totally thrilling to me.

Q: Several of your gamescores were based on popular movies like LORD OF THE RINGS and PRINCE CASPIAN, or on long-running franchises like DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and SONIC.  Was it a challenge stepping into a new game that had its roots in an established form, especially one like LOTR and the Narnia movie, that had well-established musical association?

Lennie Moore: I've been very lucky in this area. WAR OF THE RING had a music supervisor (Chance Thomas) who created themes for all the LoTR games that Vivendi/Universal was creating at that time. In addition to my creating themes that would be specific to this game, I had a bunch of thematic material to work with from Chance to weave into the score. On PRINCE CASPIAN, the principal composer Mark Griskey created all the themes and all I had to do was follow his lead and be supportive to him in making the score sound consistent between us. With D&D: DRAGONSHARD I had free reign to write whatever I thought was best and with SONIC AND THE BLACK KNIGHT the lead composer Richard Jacques supplied me with all the great Sonic theme material from the composers in Japan. I think all of these examples boil down to many projects with collaborative elements. My job in these situations is just to be a team player and kick ass.  In a nutshell, it's all about listening. Fitting into a particular franchise or genre is all about having the ability to analyze music in its various forms, styles and harmonic language and execute your craft well.


Q: How would you describe the psychology of a game score – how have you used music to engage the player in the game both mentally and emotionally, giving it a progressive drive throughout various stages of gameplay?

Lennie Moore: With most games the player is really much like a character in a play, acting a role, moving within an environment, making choices and acting upon them. My job as the composer is to bring them into the world of the game, to immerse them and emotionally connect them with the game environment. I use musical story-telling devices like leitmotifs, thematic development, and creating music that emphasizes (or sometimes de-emphasizes) the story-arc to keep the player engaged and transported within this other world. Another aspect of this is that game play is built on changes in what's called "game states". These game states are conditions within game play such as sneaking around, fighting enemies, jumping over obstacles or being scared out of your mind and adaptive music is all about creating content that responds to these changes in game states. The nature of video game music at its best is that it is built to progress with the player based on what they are doing in various stages of game play.

Q: How did you come to be involved in the WATCHMEN motion comic?

Lennie Moore: It started with an email. The director, Jake Strider Hughes, was a huge fan of my OUTCAST score and he wrote me wanting to get what he calls, "another Lennie Moore OUTCAST score" for his project. We met and spent several months talking about the direction he wanted from the music, doing budgets for live orchestra, and reading (and re-reading) the Watchmen graphic novel.

Q: Coming into the WATCHMEN project, what was your first inclination as to what the music needed to do – and what kind of music were you asked to write by the filmmakers?

Lennie Moore: Jake and I both agreed it would be thematic, and that there should be themes for each of the central characters along with a central theme for the whole series. It took some time to get all of the themes right. Some of my themes like Nite Owl were pretty spot on from the first draft but Laurie's theme kicked my ass until we finally got it right. The score was going to be a pretty good sized orchestra (50 musicians) and the style was more reminiscent of classic Hollywood scoring like that of Bernard Herrmann, even though I stretched this to include more modern elements like minimalism (a la John Adams) with the Dr. Manhattan material.

Q: How did the score’s thematic structure develop across the framework of the story’s dozen chapters? 

Lennie Moore: Frankly, I stole from Wagner! His leitmotif approach to operatic story-telling was the perfect way to inter-weave themes from the various characters in this complex story. The method of construction we used, mostly due to having a limit of 2 hours of music to be used throughout 5 hours and 12 episodes, was to compose several key cues for each episode while simultaneously creating general dramatic cues to be used multiple times in the various episodes. I called this the Irwin Allen approach, as this was the way they would score many of those famous 1960-70s TV series he produced such as LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL, LAND OF THE GIANTS and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. In using this approach, what ends up occurring is that the audience will occasionally hear the same cue in several dramatic situations in different episodes and magically, this can enhance the story arc as it is familiar sounding to the audience even though it's a different scene. This adds to the cohesion of the score.  The characters were personified by giving them unique themes and then inter-twining those character themes with the main theme over many cues, I could then create an emotional connection between all these characters, sub-plots, and the overarching story of the dystopia created by Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

Q: How did you want your music to embody the many subtexts and metaphysical nuances of the WATCHMEN story, while keeping it grounded in a fairly recognizable (albeit alternate) reality?

Lennie Moore: It all comes down to keeping it real. It has to be believable, otherwise you alienate the audience. Just like when a great actor infuses something likeable into a despicable villain it makes the audience want to keep watching. They can't turn their eyes away because they want to see what the character will do next. If the character is believably real then the audience can relate to them no matter what the fantastical situation is. As a composer I have to do this same thing. I have to be willing to freely experiment and explore all the musical possibilities without restriction, but I never leave the grounding point of emotionally connecting to the audience. We've all been in situations where we've watched a movie or played a video game where the music was just weird and unconnected to the story. Some composers might say you have to challenge the audience and I'm not against this at all. But it has to be the right music that is best suited for the project. It has to feel organic and keep the audience immersed in the story. Once you distract the audience with something that doesn't feel like it belongs, you've done a disservice to the audience and the project.

At least that's my opinion on it. I suppose you could say I'm a bit of a Romantic era holdout.

In the Watchmen Motion Comic, the key to the story in my mind is that all the superheroes (with the exception of Dr. Manhattan) don't really have any super powers. They're ordinary people who had come into fighting crime and they're unemployed! The conflicts that play out are between personalities - depression, losing a sense of worth, moral disagreements, fighting, conquest, falling in love. These are all human beings feeling fear and uncertainty. I felt the best approach was to create an interplay of emotion between the characters via their individual themes while keeping the overall tone generally dark and mysterious. As each theme works its way from one character to the next, the audience can sense some connectivity, that all of these characters have a role in what's going to happen. It's really a Romantic era operatic approach even though I incorporate some modern elements (like extended techniques for The Black Freighter, minimalist moments for Dr. Manhattan, or Herrmann-esque touches for Viedt).

Q: What do you find is unique about scoring the medium of motion comics?  Does the brevity of visual motion and reliance upon the illustrated frames and narration/voice performance offer a unique responsibility to the music? 

Lennie Moore: To me, motion comics are a slight variation from the graphic novel. Just like with a graphic novel, your mind has to fill in a lot of stuff in a medium like this. The way a comic is laid out creates a special flow in the story-telling. As you move from frame to frame you fill in the gaps with your imagination. In this same manner, I can add to the viewer’s fantasy by "filling in the gaps" musically. I'm also telling a story with my music and it's the juxtaposition of what the viewer sees in the animation, hears with the voice acting, and feels with the music that creates the whole experience of the motion comic.

Q: What was the WATCHMEN score’s musical pallet (synth/samples, live players) and how did you achieve the music?  Were there any special recording techniques used to give the music breadth across the soundscape?

Lennie Moore: The Watchmen Motion Comic pallet was a medium-sized 50-piece symphonic orchestra of 8 woodwinds, 10 brass, piano, harp, and strings. All the percussion was sampled in order to work with the budgetary constraints and also to give me more control in mixing. The recording techniques were a typical Decca tree with stereo room ambience mics and spot mics throughout the orchestra. The process was similar to most projects where I had creative direction from the director followed by composing, then rendering demo versions for approval or revision, next came orchestrating and preparing scores and parts for the recording sessions and finally recording/editing/mixing the masters for final delivery to the director.

Q: You are one of many composers who have contributed to the STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC video game.   What was the music pattern for this game and what was your part in it?  How was the music intended to fit within the larger STAR WARS universe in which the game belongs?

Lennie Moore: SWTOR was a huge undertaking: five hours of new music plus all the music from the films plus the game music from KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) I and II. Three freelance orchestral composers including lead composer Mark Griskey, Gordy Haab, and myself.  Two in-house orchestral composers from LucasArts (Jesse Harlin and Wilbert Roget II), three composers for the Cantina Music (Peter McConnell, Steve Kirk and Jared Emerson-Johnson).

My responsibility was to be part of the orchestral composing team. Each of us were assigned themes to develop for various aspects of the game design in addition to themes for the various planets you visit along with multiple variations of planet music and action-oriented cues. You'll hear a lot of my material when you visit the planets of Alderaan, Balmorra, and Coruscant along with creating the Jedi Order theme.

I actually have been playing this game a lot and what's funny to me is that all of my characters are Sith so I never hear my music! Most of the Sith thematic material was developed by my friend and colleague Mark Griskey. There must be some attraction with me and the dark side even though I can write a pretty theme. Only your shrink would know for sure.

The story for the game is set 3,000 years before the rise of Darth Vader. One of the great things that came about in developing the music for this game was that we were instructed to do our own thing while keeping in mind the legacy of the great John Williams scores from the movies. The carryover from the films was in using a similar instrumentation of a symphony orchestra and choir along with stylistic elements such as some of Williams’s harmonic language and tonal style. The best way to describe it is that it's like someone telling you, "Here's the Star Wars sandbox. Go play." I think this allows for the score to exist as a great addition to the legacy of this wonderful franchise.

Q: What’s coming up next for you? Where would you like to see your career take you from here?

Lennie Moore: I hate saying this as it's become too common nowadays. Currently, I've been working on several projects that are under non-disclosure including a rock album, a feature film, and two video games. Once I get the OK from the folks who hold the locks on the information highway, I'll let everyone know.

When I think about what's coming next, I have to look back and acknowledge how grateful I am for what I've accomplished to date. I've scored film, television, commercials, video games, worked with recording artists, written a wide variety of music for atom bomb documentaries, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, drama, LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR WARS, WATCHMEN, DIRTY HARRY, DISNEYLAND, HALO ANNIVERSARY, DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS - it's just astounding. Most composers go an entire career and maybe get to do one of these kinds of projects! I just feel honored and blessed.  As for what the future holds, I'm always looking for opportunities that will continue to challenge me as a composer. I love working with great people on amazing projects and that not only includes video games, but film, television, new media and working with recording artists. I really enjoy having a diverse mix of projects in all areas. Each of these industries has its own specialness and I love bringing the same level of quality and craft to every venture.
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For more information on Lennie Moore (and sound samples from STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC, see http://www.lenniemoore.com/



Jacob Yoffee’s intricately textured score for Bengali director Amit Ashraf’s 2012 action thriller, RUNAWAY, has been released to iTunes by Catapult Records.  The film is a compelling wild Western-stylized drama thriller film set in Bangladesh, about a man named Akbar, who is on the run from his family, and Babu, a dubious rickshawalla whose job it is to bring the unwilling runaway back.  Yoffee, who recently completed scoring the horror film CHILDEN OF THE CORN: GENESIS (see our interview about that in my March column here) and the family fantasy OLIVE, worked on RUNAWAY for 18 months, concocting an atmospheric fusion of modern and traditional ethnic instrumentation, including, sitar, tablas, Bansuri flute, vocals, Dohl drum, and live strings that serves up a very winning soundtrack and a likable listening experience on its own.  

“Amit’s concern was that I’d sound like a ‘white guy trying to write Bengali music,’ Yoffee said.  “Luckily the genre blending helped to alleviate some of that.   The music ended up being a completely unique sound.”  Ashraf has mailed Yoffee, who worked from his Southern California studio, a box of nearly three dozen CDs from local Bengali artists, both traditional and American influenced, to give the composer an idea of the type of local musical flavor he wanted.  “I also did my own research via the internet, phone calls to other composers, books, etc. – my usual research for any score,” Yoffee said.  “But the CDs were most helpful because that music isn’t available online and most of them were definitely homemade releases.”  

Yoffee spent several months transcribed melodies from the CDs, trying to soak up as much of the music as he could.  “Around that time I went overseas on tour and I stocked my iPod with all the music,” Yoffee said.  “When I got back I started creating sketches for Amit so we could find the right sound.”  His first task was to develop a primary theme – “something that was simple enough and felt both ‘Wild West’ and modern in a ‘filmic’ sense - and of  course would fit the story.”

Once he had some of his themes ready, Yoffee began contacting Indian musicians in LA as well as in Bangladesh.  “Luckily there is a strong community here, even an Indian music school program,” Yoffee said.  “Many of those musicians either recorded on the score or pointed me in the right direction.  The Sitar player, in particular, was a great guide for me in finding musicians.”

The film’s low budget did keep the scoring process somewhat in check.  Although most of the score is performed by live musicians, it had to be recorded ‘piece-meal’.  “In the end I think there were over ten different recording sessions that had to be mixed together,” Yoffee explained.  “Some of them were me going to the home of a particular musician and setting up my laptop/portable recording gear.  Many of these musicians didn’t read music so I would have to sing them their parts and have them record things in short segments.  In fact a lot of the ‘composing’ for this score was the editing, so to speak.  I would record thirty minutes of a solo instrument and then I would mix-and-match phrases as fit the film.  I quite enjoyed that – it felt like I had created a sample library of my themes that I could draw from for any given cue.”

The soundtrack album, which also includes one ethnic Bengali song as well as a modernesque Bengali hip-hop tune, is a carefully crafted mix of atmospheres and structured themes, evoking both the environment of modern Bangladesh as well as supporting the propulsive chase drama of the story.  Yoffee’s main theme, mostly heard from distorted guitars with a kind of Italian Western vibe, runs throughout the score, a bit subtly in “Politics” but then develops through a cluster of flutes and strings into a splendid crescendo in “Raj’s Showdown,” a thoroughly satisfying and rousing musical moment that Yoffee later reprises in the climactic track, “The Beach.”  “Journey Home” mingles the distorted guitars of his main theme with the jangling rhythm of sitar, tablas, and strings to generate a very engaging instrumental texture.  In “The Kidnapping, a rushing cadence of electric guitar over an intricate flurry of tablas builds to a propulsive driving vibe, while “Disaster in Dhaka” builds a potent psychological impact from drums and mercado strings.   The score also features tender moments of reflection as in “Babu Returns Home” and the poignant “A Father Abandons His Family,” as well as moments of sublime, heartbreaking beauty (the vocalise in the climax of “Torture”).

Here are a few videos that the director made of some of the recording sessions.  He’s blended them with the final soundtrack in some cases.  It’s pretty cool:

For a taste of the music, see these videos from one of Yoffee’s RUNAWAY recording sessions:
‘Journey Home’

(not featured on the soundtrack release)

Sample the score on iTunes here:

For screenings of the film near you, see the facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/RunawayTheFilm

The film will also be shown at this week’s Park City Music Festival. See: Festival: http://pcfm.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/runaway_jacobyoffee_pcfm2012


New Soundtracks Releases of Note

BATMAN FOREVER/Elliot Goldenthal/La-La Land Records
Elliot Goldenthal’s pervasive score for the third Batman film was slightly less dark than Danny Elfman’s approach to Tim Burton’s BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS which preceded it (befitting this film’s more family-friendly atmosphere).  While it retains some of the carnivalesque playfulness of Elfman’s music, Goldenthal wraps the score around a pervasively energetic main theme, whose melodic peaks and valleys electrifies the score with a thrilling energy.  In an expanded 2-CD reissue, La-La Land Records now adds an hour and 45 minutes to the original 1995’s release’s meager 44 minutes of score, proffering a full 2.5 hours across the albums two discs, enhanced by exhaustive commentary and explanatory track-by-track notes by John Takis set in a 24-page booklet nicely designed by Dan Goldwasser.  The album includes the 18 tracks from the original album remastered onto CD2, while the 36 tracks that make up the expanded score run across all of CD1 and about a third of CD2 in a roughly chronological sequence preferred by the composer.  The release also includes the bonus track, “Themes from BATMAN FOREVER” which was an edited suite of Goldenthal’s music assembled to serve as the B-side of U2’s single release of their End Title tune, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” and was not included on either the original score album or the simultaneous songtrack release.  A second bonus track, an alternate arrangement of “More Heists” in which Goldenthal emphasized Two-Face’s waltz theme rather than the Riddler theme as heard in the film version, is also included.  The enhanced track list allows the composer’s thematic variations to play out in many guises and interact in a more developed and nuanced presentation than in the original, abbreviated soundtrack release.  With extended releases of BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS already in their catalog from 2010, it leaves only the hope of a proper release of Goldenthal’s unreleased music from BATMAN AND ROBIN to complete a quartet of full releases of what is known as the Burton/Schumacher BATMAN films.

BATTLESHIP/Steve Jablonsky/Varese Sarabande
Steve Jablonsky joins up with multiple-hyphenate director Peter Berg for this summer’s big alien invasion thriller, BATTLESHIP, loosely based on the old two-player strategy game.  Selected on the basis of his TRANSFORMERS scores, Jablonsky brings the rhythmic timbre of those works to his score for BATTLESHIP, which houses a capable main theme that I like very much, introduced in “The Art of War.”  (bias check: I am a big fan of Jablonsky’s TRANSFORMERS scores).  This slowly-undulating theme serves to underline the honor, responsibility, and confidence of the commanders and sailors who are faced with an alien invasion on the high seas.  That theme is set in severe contrast to the motif for the aliens, which is essentially a jarring, pulsing tone based on the sound of an MRI scan (Berg had one done the day he met with Jablonsky, which gave him the idea).  Track 22, “The Aliens,” is essentially a 4:17 minute solo of this thematic tone; more often the motif if used as a rhythmic pulse within the action music or offset against the hero theme, where it is much nicer to listen to.  With these two themes contrasting against one another, the score develops as the conflict ensues between battleship and bombarding aliens.  Much of the action music is built around huge assemblies of industrial, metallic percussion, beginning around track 8 (“First Contact Part 2”); while likely very effective in the context of the film, these tracks leave a lot to be desired when listened to on their own, their foundry rhythm and blasting MRI throbs sounding interminably monotonous with very little variance, as if one were trapped in the boiler room of the Titanic without earplugs for 20+ minutes.  For my preference, skipping tracks 8-11, 14-15, and 23 let me concentrate on the score’s more pleasing heroic material, as with “Water Displacement,” “We Have A Battleship,” and “Battle on Land and Sea,” wherein Jablonsky lets his thematic anthem build a very potent sense of heroic defiance against the extra-terrestrial invasion.  A final theme, the poignant bagpipe melody for the troubled hero, Hopper, appears in “Silver Star” and the final eponymous track, where it closes the score with a reflection of those who served on the victorious battleships when the battle for earth began at sea.  Guitarist Tom Morello (formerly of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) is featured in “Thug Fight,” where he enhances a bombastic arrangement of Jablonsky’s main themes with some searing guitar soloing; he also supplies a track of his own, “Super Battle,” which is a meh straightforward rock instrumental.

Silva Screen has expanded its 2006 recording, Music from the Harry Potter Films, and its 2008 recording, The Essential Harry Potter Collection, by adding elements from the three most recent (and final) films into the mix, proffering a 2-CD selection of music from all eight films.  It remains an uneven mixture, however, with John Williams’ music for the first three films occupying all of the first CD (17 tracks), 9 tracks from Patrick Doyle’s GOBLET OF FIRE and five from Hooper’s ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, followed by only one track each from Hooper’s HALF BLOOD PRINCE and Desplat’s DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 and PART 2.  The latter three tracks are the only new pieces on this recording, the others are culled from the previous two releases.  The 2-disc 2008 album added music from the four films included in the single-disc 2006 album; rather than adding another disc, this new recording deletes some of the tracks from the early films in order to accommodate tracks from the three new scores.  While it’s reasonable that this “Complete” collection is John Williams-heavy, since his music for the first three films (adapted by William Ross for the second) defined the Harry Potter film franchise, the inclusion of a meager two-minutes each from HALF BLOOD PRINCE and the two DEATHLY HALLOWS scores, does not a “complete” compilation make.  All three of these final Potter films contained substantial original score material not drawn from Williams; the absence of more material from these final scores skews the collection toward a comparative overabundance of tracks from the first five films.  At the same time, it’s a magnificent recording, powerfully performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, and despite its inequitable selection it does offer an effective musical journey through the film series despite its curt finish.

EROE VAGABONDO/Francesco de Masi/Kronos Records
Kronos Records presents the premiere release of Italian composer Francesco De Masi’s score for EROE VAGABONDO (“Hero Tramp”), a 1966 Italian-Spanish drama which was actor Walter Santesso’s directorial debut.  The film, never released in the US, is a sentimental post-World War II drama with a number of Fellini-esque touches (not surprising as Santesso starred in Fellini’s celebrated LA DOLCE VITA [1960] and was naturally influenced by him when he turned to directing himself).  One of Italy’s most respected and influential film scorers, De Masi’s music for EROE VAGABONDO, composed between kitschy Eurospy thrillers like 1965’s AGENTE Z 55 MISSIONE DISPERATA and 1966’s thunderous Italian Western, 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO, is as soft and sentimental as the film’s poignant story.  Favoring acoustic guitar (played by noted Italian filmscore musician Alessandro Alessandroni) and viola, the score is a melodious one, far from the dramatic rhythms found in De Masi’s Western and adventure music.  The main theme is a sad melody for acoustic guitar over solo viola and strings, which sets up both a nostalgic flavor as well as an eloquent melancholia for the main character, a poor traveling salesman in provincial Spain whose love for an unfortunate girl provides a favorable resolution for his misadventures.  De Masi presents it in a variety of arrangements, as in “I Fuori di Noè,” a fragile interpretation of the main theme for guitar over subtle organ footsteps before ending in a heart-rending variant for strings and guitar.  The main character of Noè is represented by a more Iberian styled motif that captures the flavor of the rural Spanish countryside; it also is morphed into a nostalgic yet impassioned love theme in “L'Amore di Noè” and the redemptive “Romantico Noè;” and it’s this theme that ends the score in the rapturous finale, “Ricordo struggente.”  Other motifs include a pair of cues evoking the flavor of rural Iberia (the festive accordion of “Il Circo” and the expansive, jaunty pastoral of “Terra di Spagna” with its subtle reference to the bullfight), the humorous scherzo of “Il tango di Noè,” the baroque harpsichord measures that open “Il suonatore ambulante,” and the severe drama of “Feroce destino” with its strident string figures offset against Alessandroni’s delicate guitar plucking.   There’s also a straight-ahead mid-‘60s rocker in “Prigionieri di un swing” with its twisting sax, organ, and guitar riffing.  It’s a very pretty score with moments of serenity and touching articulation.  The album includes a 4-page booklet with brief but informative notes by Filippo De Masi, the composer’s son.

The UK’s Chandos Records has issued its latest “Film Music of” compilation, merging two noted British composers whose work spanned three decades worth of English cinema.  In a sparkling, dynamic recording from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Rumon Gamba, Arthur Benjamin is represented with three scores: the 9-minute-plus suite from THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (1953) is a sturdy, dramatic adventure score with plenty of punch and musical landscape; “Storm Clouds Contata” from Hitchcock’s original 1934 version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a towering operatic piece for mezzo-soprano, organ, and orchestra, full of splendid romance; while two dance numbers from 1947’s THE IDEAL HUSBAND are proper and festive.  Lucas occupies the second half of the single-disc release with music from seven film scores.  Most interesting of these are his music for the war films TARGET FOR TONIGHT (1941) and THE DAM BUSTERS (1954, the latter of which interpolates Eric Coates’ “The Dam Busters’ March” into the score, and the Rhapsody from Hitchcock’s STAGE FRIGHT (1950); each of these are highly dramatic and make for rousing orchestral renditions; Gamba’s arrangement of the STAGE FRIGHT Rhapsody includes material Lucas sketched out for use but which were nixed by Hitchcock, who wanted the score more subdued and held back; its presentation here is passionate and lovely.  Lucas rejoined DAM BUSTERS director Michael Anderson for 1957’s YANGTSE INCIDENT, based on the Soviet capture of a British frigate in post-WW2 China, and provided a cheerful March of his own.  Another war drama, 1958’s ICE COLD IN ALEX, featured both a splendid march and a fine love theme, while the 1953 documentary THIS IS YORK allows for some fine landscape musicality; and Lucas’ score for the creaky Victorian drama, PORTRAIT OF CLAIRE (1950) is largely based on a variety of classical piano pieces; the orchestral piece presented here, “Dedication,” is based on Schumann’s “Widmung” from the song cycle Myrthen, and is a very nice piece as well.

Canada’s premiere soundtrack label has released Les Premiers 45 Tours De Georges Delerue, a 26-track collection of some of Delerue’s early recordings that remain unavailable outside of those early French 45-rpm EPs.  Few of these tracks ever made it onto compilations.  This release is a splendid collection of music from the composer’s earliest days of film scoring in 1959-1960.  Culled from six EP singles which, in lieu of LP soundtrack albums, collected the core pieces of music heard in the films – about ten minutes usually spread over four to six tracks. DCM has preserved these EPs in their entirety on this collection, which includes tracks from LE BEL ÂGE, UNE FILLE POUR L'ÉTÉ (A GIRL FOR THE SUMMER), MARCHE OU CRÈVE (MARCH OR DIE), LES JEUX DE L’AMOUR, LE FARCEUR, and UNE AUSSI LONGUE ABSENCE.  The music captures the light classical lyricism that Delerue would express in even finer form later in his career; the ensembles are smaller, the fidelity isn’t as rich as later stereo recordings (the only sources available were the original vinyl EPs, which have been restored and mastered as best as possible), but the sound is more than acceptable for such old recordings, and the music (most of which has been unheard by most modern collectors), is wonderful. It ranges from sumptuous melodies, waltzes, a terrific trumpet blues from UNE FILLE POUR L'ÉTÉ, a jaunty, carnivalesque march from LES JEUX DE L’AMOUR, a splendid swinging blues number, “Stephen,” from MARCHE OU CRÈVE that could have fit Bullitt, and even a swinging rock and roll instrumental, Delerue style, from UNE AUSSI LONGUE ABSENCE.  This is definitely a must-have for Delerue fans.  A 12-page booklet (in both English and French language) provides brief notes on the films by Clément Fontaine.
For more details, see: http://www.disquescinemusique.com/DCM_132_A.html

THE MCCULLOCHS/SHIP OF FOOLS/Ernest Gold/Monstrous Movie Music
Among Monstrous Movie Music’s latest batch of ‘50s sci-fi movie scores (see my reviews of KRONOS/THE COSMIC MAN and ROCKETSHIP X-M in my April column) were two scores decidedly non-monstrous but decidedly welcome nonetheless. Both are straight dramatic scores from Academy-Award winning composer Ernest Gold.  THE MCCULLOCHS is one of Gold’s least known scores, for a 1975 semi-remake of John Ford’s THE QUIET MAN, set in Texaswith a distinctive kind of GIANT sensibility.  The music combines Americana, Irish melodies, Big Band, jazz, comedy, and other styles, and it was a score the composer was quite proud of.  Gold’s main theme is a very engaging one, embracing a Western movie flavor that would have fit any cattle drive led by John Wayne; but Gold balances it with a number of more modern pieces (including a pop-jazz “Drag Race” sequence), while softer, more refined musical elements support the family drama occurring at the story’s heart (“Get Out,” and the impassioned yearning of “Goodbye R.J.,” a very fine lyrical composition.  Cues are mostly short, totaling 39:35 minutes, and this includes about half a dozen source cues of limited interest, but it’s a pleasing score with a distinctive Golden Age sensibility.  Gold’s music for Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS (1965) was issued on LP by RCA in 1965 (reissued on CD by UK’s Artemis in 2000), but that release was a “concertized” re-recording of the score by The Boston Pops; MMM presents for the first time the original soundtrack conducted by Gold, including twice as many compositions as were on that out-of-print album.  The score features a Latin-styled main theme associated with the film’s setting in Mexico; the main title segues from this motif to Gold’s rapturous love theme, a soaring, romantic melody for strings and orchestra.  Aside from these motifs, Gold supports most of the film’s drama and its many characters with source music, carefully designed to support the mood of the scene in which it is heard; thus the majority of the album contains light dance music and such, which I don’t find quite as interesting as the more articulately dramatic themes (the main and love themes make brief reprisals in a handful of later cues), but it makes for a pleasing enough listen, and Gold’s original film performances are much preferred.  Both albums contain thorough liner notes by David Schecter about the films and their use of music.

MOMMIE DEAREST/Henry Mancini/La-La Land Records
Henry Mancini’s brooding score for this 1981 Joan Crawford bio-pic finds its world premiere soundtrack release.  A limited edition of 2,000 units, the album contains the score as heard in the film (14 tracks, 32:12, including 5 cues recorded but not used in the film), seven incidental source cues, and two alternate takes of score cues.   Desiring a classical Hollywood sound for the film’s score, Producer Frank Yablans first approached Miklós Rózsa but the Golden Age composer turned the offer down; Yablans then went to Henry Mancini, whose reputation for easy listening music and hit Hollywood tunes had made him a household name, albeit one that tended to obscure his talent as a dramatic composer (he’d had his start as a member of the Universal music department in the 1950s, contributing to programmers and monster movies).  MOMMIE DEAREST is a score rich in syrupy melody, the kind of false glamour and elegance that masked an underlying, abusive paranoia, painting a musical portrait of Crawford as both opulent Hollywood star and as dysfunctional parent (or, as the film portrays her, a kind of dual Jekyll and Hyde personality), built around an isolated and somewhat cold flute theme.  Thus, while elegant melodies abound, so do more dramatic, modernistic passages, such as the unused music for the notorious “No Wire Hangers” sequence, the hacking-down-the-garden-in-a-rage scene (“Battle Axe”), and the tense music when adopted daughter Christine mimics Joan’s abuse by railing at her dolls with mock anger (“Spoiled Children”).  In addition, subdued dramatic moments such as the unused track “Home Again,” and the recapitulation of Joan’s theme in a more eloquent manner at her funeral (“No More Pain”), wherein daughter Christine regards her mother with more sympathy, provide music with a deeper expressiveness than the pretty tunes.  Thus, the score is a fine example of Mancini’s gift for pleasant melodies as well as his skilled articulation in capturing the underlying dramatic and emotional tones of character and situation, and a very important addition to the composer’s catalog of recoding soundtrack releases.  The package includes detailed commentary notes on film and score by Jeff Bond (sans wool sweater) which really enhances appreciation of this noteworthy score.

PHASE 7/Guillermo Guareschi/Howlin' Wolf Records
Argentinian composer Guillermo Guareschi’s music for writer/director Nicolás Goldbart’s apocalyptic sci-fi/satire, PHASE 7, combines the use of live instruments and custom made samples to produce a synth driven score reminiscent of the great synth scores from the 80's.  It’s a fine fit for the director’s mix of horror, humor, gore, and social commentary for a novel end of the world film filled with fragile alliances and pitting neighbor against neighbor for resources and survival.   The score has a very likably nostalgic flavor for those pining for ‘80s b-movie music, and helps enhance the film’s ‘80s retro tone.  Taking his cue from Goldbart’s desire for an 80’s synth score, Guareschi “crafted the score adding also a contemporary vibe,” as he writes in the album booklet.  “The score is composed using a minimalistic approach with added layers of subtle synths and sampled custom-made sounds designed to install a sense of openness and dramatic effect against the claustrophobic drama with touches of apocalyptic parody, which the movie imparts.  In addition, processing various sound elements through tube-based amps and microphones helped to add a level of grittiness to the score.”  By adding live drum set and electric guitars to his synth-and-samples palette, Guareschi enhanced the score’s sonic structure and gave a sense of openness to the music’s final mix.  “The characters in PHASE 7 are quite passive, but outside, the end of the world is coming,” he noted.  “So the music needed to be at some points aggressive and big despite the calmness of the characters.”  While flute-ish synth lines soaring over the cheesy sound of Hammond organs render a tasty sheen to “The Neighbour,” furtive, John Carpenter-esque electronics slowly prowls closer in “Light Bulbs.”  An electric bass scurries across a bed of organ tones and wiry, sampled drums in “Explore,” sounding very like we’re exploring FORBIDDEN WORLD territory; a semblance also reprised in the finale, “Face the World,” which opens up a melody in the very likable style of Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  A neat piano concerto rendition of “Moonlight Sonata” morphs into a percussive electronica interpretation, as if Wendy Carlos was playing it on her Moog with a pair of ball-peen hammers.  A very cool Italian Westernesque lead guitar twangs its electrified notes through “No Life,” slowing at the end to a reflective, reverberated solo.  Chilled synth cries and burbling electronic pads soar like fireflies across the “Doomsday Garage,” which also reprises that reflected solo guitar motif.  “Blues in Phase” adds some very interesting musique concréte styled percussion on top of a bluesy electric bass (“Bug From The City” reprises it sans the industrial percussion), while the echoed taps of “Incidental Phase” capture a flavor of Harry “Friday” Manfredini against a pulse of synth and guitar arpeggios.  Guareschi’s strident electric guitar and sharp synth notes give the score a tenacious drive, while a cornucopia of favored electronica textures dapple the score and keep it sonically interesting at all times.   It’s a thoroughly pleasing score yet it doesn’t just rely on its retro characteristics to make it work; Guareschi has a fine knack for instrumental texture, sonic grain, and progressive rhythms and sound, and so the score is bright and shiny in its use of its nostalgic elements – the riffs never get stale and never ring false; they maintain a continuous forward motion and a clarity of sound that remains progressive and expressive.  Very nice.

PIRANHA 3DD/Elia Cmiral/Lakeshore Records
Released digitally this week and due out on CD on June 29, Elia Cmiral’s music for the bulging sequel to Alexandre Aja’s 2010 PIRANHA 3D remake is an excellent dramatic adventure score.   With FEAST series director John Gulager now at the picture’s helm, PIRANHA 3DD is a lavish mix of humor and horror, the delectable water park victims of the ferocious fish providing their own form of three-dimensional imagery as suggested by the film’s tongue-in-cheek title.  Cmiral plays straight man to the over-the-top silliness of the film, providing a score that is both heroically adventurous (“Theme from Piranha 3DD”) and strikingly serene (“Trident Aria” and its reprise, a la Lakme’s “Flower Duet,” in “Sheriff’s Redemption”).  “P3DD marks my fourth collaboration with Elia and quite possibly my favorite,” said producer Joel Soisson. “Having a composer of Elia's sophisticated genius rise to this level of inspired silliness is a bit like Dvo?ák scoring PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.  It just works, brilliantly.”  Added director Gulager, “The fact that his score plays it 'straight' only heightens the ridiculousness of a wacky movie like PIRANHA 3DD.  Suffice it to say there is a tasty aural candy throughout the score.”  On the soundtrack, Cmiral’s music sounds anything like music from a gnarly exploitation horror movie; it’s often elegant and placid, rich in unruffled determination.  Only when the ravenous schools of barbarous prehistoric piranha swarm onto their prey (“Eaten in Van,” “Struggle at the Pier,” “Depths of the Lake,” and “Battle for the Water Park”) does the score reveal its gore-infested horror conceit (the latter is an especially cataclysmic track for raging percussion, fatalistic strokes of violins, and heralding trumpet measures, a kind of submerged 1812 Overture-styled thematic display as fish and females face off to the death in the film’s splashy climax).  The final “Battle” track is also heralded by a vicious assembly of cyclical violin figures reaching hysterical velocity, in “School of Piranha,” sounding not unlike an elegant and wonderful string quartet played by raving madmen.  “From the first scenes of the movie that I watched,” said Cmiral, “I immediately recognized a great opportunity to write a very different score from any of the others in my career.” “I felt as though the score should enhance the ridiculousness as much as possible rather than trying to smooth over the mood shifts and flatten all of its ups and downs,” explained Cmiral. “Musically speaking, playing it ‘straight’ based on what happens on screen helped to give the film an enjoyable ‘over the top’ feel. My approach to select from a variety of genres turned out to work very well.”  The result is a fun and very effective score that works quite well on its own, continuing Cmiral’s ability to surpass B-movie formulae with music of exceptional depth and sensitivity.

ROSEMARY’S BABY/Christopher Komeda/La-La Land Records
While Christopher Komeda’s celebrated score for Roman Polanski’s winning occult horror film ROSEMARY’S BABY has been well-represented on both LP and CD, finding representative releases from Poland’s Polonia records in the late ‘90s and from England’s Harkit as recently as 2008, La-La Land’s new expanded soundtrack marks the score’s first American release on CD and its most definitive presentation.  While the Polonia and Harkit albums added several unreleased tracks to the score’s original 1968 12-track release on ABC Records, La-La Land draws from additional sources.  Not only do we have Dick Hazard’s re-recorded score music that made up the ABC Records LP release, and George Tipton’s two arrangements of the main theme, sung by the film’s star Mia Farrow (which were released by Dot on a 45-RPM single and one of them was also included on the ABC album), we now have for the first time the original film tracks, conducted by Jack Hayes at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in 1968.  These provide a wholly different perspective from the Dick Hazard arrangements which most of us have listened to on LP or CD over the last forty-four years.  The lullaby waltz sung by Mia Farrow remains the score’s most haunting component, contrasted against the strident chorale of the devils’ coven that is so often set against it.  The lullaby is provided in several instrumental variants associated with the happier moments of Rosemary’s pregnancy.  In addition for the duality of his primary motifs, Komeda also provided a number of jazz arrangements to evoke the modern environment; these tracks will later be deconstructed into far more fiendish arrangements once the intrusion of the Satanists into Rosemary’s happiness has commenced; few of these were replicated in the Hazard rendition, and are wholly new to this release.  Komeda, whose untimely death a year after completing the score deprived both the film and jazz world of a significantly gifted composer, created a brilliant mélange of music for ROSEMARY’S BABY, effectively contrasting the music of cheerful innocence with that of malevolent demonic incursion, set into a modern musical landscape which itself begins to be shredded by that wicked incursion; this new release allows it to be heard in both its original film form and its more popular commercial recording.  Accompanying the music is a detailed 24-page booklet with thorough notes on the film and its composer (by Scott Bettencourt) and on the music (by John Takis).

Soundtrack & Music News

Intrada Records has just announced the world premiere CD release of two significant Henry Mancini soundtracks from the 1960s: Stanley Donen’s Hitchcockian romantic thriller. CHARADE, and Howard Hawks’ widescreen African adventure, HATARI! Both of these releases carry landmark significance, as every Mancini album during this most famous period of his career (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, HATARI, CHARADE, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, THE PINK PANTHER) was heavily truncated and completely re-arranged with emphasis on pop tunes. Since record companies were looking for popular hits, Mancini usually re-recorded highlights of his scores to focus on the easy listening tunes – leaving off of the records virtually all of his dramatic scoring from these films. Now – finally – the complete music from these two marvelous scores are available. CHARADE presents the complete 77-minute soundtrack from the original scoring session elements made in London, all courtesy of both Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures. HATARI features Mancini's complete original recordings, presented mostly in stereo from Paramount Pictures scoring session elements (a few sections required use of mono stems to allow restoration of complete soundtrack).

Rolfe Kent’s amusing and superlative  acceptance speech after winning BMI’s Richard Kirk Award for outstanding career achievement has been posted to youtube;  to prolific composer Rolfe Kent at the organization’s 2012 Film & Television Awards.  The 6-minute clip is well worth watching:

Already available for download in iTunes, Marc Streitenfeld’s pervasive score for Ridley Scott’s ALIEN prequel, PROMETHEUS, comes to CD on June 12th from Sony Masterworks.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, final film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy about the angst-ridden Batman, will see its soundtrack take flight on July 17.  Music is again by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard.

Christopher Lennertz score for the coming of age film, GIRL IN PROGRESS, is available as a digital download from amazon and iTunes. 

SINETONE AMR has digitally released John Barry’s “Moods 1-2-3-4,” a 4-track, 8.8 minute EP containing a quartet of very cinematic “moods” in very Barryesque styles.   “These four compositions were originally released on a non-commercial 78 vinyl record from Chappel Library holdings,” explained Euroscore expert John Bender. “Mood 3 is a variation of John's Beat For Beatniks (on CD) while the other three cuts are unique and inedits. Mood 4 had parts A, B, C, and D on the 78 record. They are wonderful examples of Barry's earliest ideas of coloratura for cinema and display how gifted and potent he was - even from the very outset of his career.”

Henry Jackman’s score for ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER, based on the popular genre mash-up from Seth Graham-Smith, will be released on CD from Sony Masterworks on July 3.

AllScore of Germany is releasing the music from the German detective TV series SONDERDEZERNAT K1 (1972-1982) from composer Martin Böttcher.   Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) producer Harald Vock engaged Martin Böttcher, one of the most famous of all German film composers, to score the series. With his emblematic soundtracks for the Karl May films and contributions to the Edgar Wallace mysteries Böttcher had already created film music history. For SONDERDEZERNAT K1, the composer realized a “groovemonster” laced with layered effects which catapults the characteristic 1970s Böttcher-sound with great energy. To this very day it is one of the most popular melodies of German TV. It has always played a special role in the composer’s catalog; but there’s much more great music in the 23 episodes of the series: reaching from suspense tracks over beat, easy-listening, jazz, and bossa nova to even a disco funk vocal track.   Just in time for Böttcher’s 85th birthday on June 17, 2012, this CD collects 31 tracks from the TV scores.  The accompanying booklet comes with many colored photos plus liner notes in German and English language.

James Newton Howard’s score for SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN comes to CD on May 29 from Universal Republic.

On May 28th, Silva Screen Records will release the OST to Robin Hardy’s THE WICKER TREE.  The new film is neither a sequel nor a remake to Hardy’s celebrated 1973 film, THE WICKER MAN, but is intended as a companion piece which explores the same themes. It is the second part of what is intended to become The Wicker Man Trilogy.  The soundtrack will be a 2CD set featuring a score composed by John Scott and songs by Keith Easdale.

Composer Brian Ralston has completed his work on the film CROOKED ARROWS, a story about a Native American lacrosse team making its way through a prep school league tournament. The film will have a limited theatrical release on May 18th in some specific lacrosse focused markets, followed by a national release on June 1st.  Ralston conducted his score, performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra, which was recorded at The Bridge Recording in Glendale, CA.  The score is a richly resonant one with a striking main theme; its slow melody, low timbre, and progressive development is very moving.  See the film’s official website at: www.crookedarrows.com

Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel has announced his label’s newest releases, a pair of vintage ‘50s sci-fi scores and a superlative 1970s slasher movie score that has been aching for release for thirty years.  The first CD pairs the scores for I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE with that of THE ATOMIC CITY, the latter scored by Leith (DESTINATION MOON) Stevens.  The former film carries no credit for music at all, despite having a very effective score and quite a bit of it. The reason for the lack of a music credit is simple: In 1958 there was a musicians’ union strike. And so Hollywood studios had to go outside the United States and Canada to record music for their movies. In certain cases, especially in the case of the very low-budget I Married a Monster from Outer Space, they would re-record selections from existing scores that were owned by the studio’s publishing companies. Therefore, what we have is a score composed by Victor Young, Hugo Friedhofer, Aaron Copland, Franz Waxman, Leith Stevens, Daniel Amfitheatrof, Walter Scharf, Lyn Murray, Nathan Van Cleave, Roy Webb, etc.  “The surprising thing is how well it all works and how seamlessly it all plays,” Kimmel explains.  “Today, it would be called temp tracking, but back then it was born out of necessity and budget. The music, housed in the Paramount vaults, was in mostly excellent condition. A little wow and flutter on a couple of tracks was the only problem and we’ve left it as is because the music is so good and the problems only last for a few seconds.”  The Stevens ATOMIC CITY score as found nicely preserved on a set of acetates in excellent condition. 

Kritzerland’s second CD contains Dana Kaproff’s excellent score for 1979’s WHEN A STRANGER CALLS.  The film was Dana Kaproff’s second film score (his first was for Bert I. Gordon’s Empire of the Ants – previously released by Kritzerland).  No simple synth-and-piano slasher movie music this – the score is written for strings, prepared piano, and percussion.  “The music is relentlessly suspenseful – there are no pretty themes to lull you and give you security – just dread, pure dread, and then almost psychotic music for those moments when things, well, get out of hand,” says Kimmel.
For details, see http://www.kritzerland.com/monster_atomic.htm and http://www.kritzerland.com/when_stranger.htm 

Coming up from Tadlow Music is Notre Dame De Paris: The Music Of Maurice Jarre, a 2 CD collection of both rare and popular Film Music by Maurice Jarre, plus the World Premiere Recording of “Symphonic Dances from Notre Dame De Paris” , the Roland Petit ballet that Maurice composed the score for in 1965.  The music is performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus.
See: http://www.tadlowmusic.com

In addition to its laudable series of Georges Delerue releases, Canadian label Disques Cinemusique has begun reissuing rare soundtrack LPs from the 1950s.  Frank Skinner’s IMITATION OF LIFE launched the new reissue series, followed May 1st by Victor Young’s RUN OF THE ARROW and THE BRAVE ONE, a pair of intriguing and musically varied dramatic scores.  This week we have Frank Skinner’s, MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES and WRITTEN ON THE WIND combined on a single album.  The former, Universal’s biopic of silent film star Lon Chaney, came out on Decca in 1957, was reissued on LP by Varese Sarabande in 1981, but has not been issued on CD until now.  The score draws much of its inspiration from the classical repertoire, both for the arrangements and the melodies, an approach that suited Joseph Pevney’s black and white movie, which assumes a documentary look in recreating the life and career of the great actor and make-up artist.  Douglas Sirk’s melodrama WRITTEN ON THE WIND featured a main title song written Victor Young, whose melody is integrated into Skinner’s score without becoming too intrusive. 

In the midst of a busy release schedule which recently offered David Whitaker’s THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, Craig Safan’s TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME, and Andrew Belling’s STARCHASER: THE LEGEND OF ORIN, comes a notable re-recording of the Tangerine Dream score for Ridley Scott’s LEGEND. The album is produced and arranged by Brandon K. Verrett, featuring vocal performances by Katie Campbell.  The film score is quite controversial because the German electronica band was brought in to replace an excellent Jerry Goldsmith score that the studio didn’t deem marketable enough to attract the young demographic; despite the unfortunate an inevitable comparison between the two scores, Tangerine Dream provided one of the finest dramatic scores for LEGEND.  In this new recording, Brandon K. Verrett revisits the original scores and interpreted them as if they were written with today’s technology in mind.  “Our original intent was to take the conception of the original Tangerine Dream tracks and arrange them in such a way that they feel organic, earthy, and more contemporary while still capturing the essence of the originals…  In keeping with that concept, I decided that a more orchestral approach would likely solicit a visceral and appeasing response from listeners both familiar and unfamiliar with the original score. With that I also decided to utilize living, breathing instrumentalists.  So, on this album you will find violin, erhu, piano, guitar, voice, cello and a few other instruments coupled with synthetic textures all carefully molded to bring the album alive.”  (I am pleased to also note that I had the chance to write the liner notes on all four of these BSX releases, but I hope you will consider getting them anyway…!)

Alan Williams’ latest score, for the fun family film COWGIRLS N' ANGELS, is now available from iTunes and Amazon.

New titles for mid-June release from Perseverance Records include two soundtracks from J. Peter Robinson.  The first is a collection of scores from TV’s CHARMED, selected, re-recorded and edited by the composer. “During the selection of the cues, our main guideline was to represent the show's musical essence with all the memorable themes getting a nod from the second to the last season,” said Perseverance’s Robin Esterhammer.  Second is a limited promotional of Robinson’s thriller score for 2011’s SEEKING JUSTICE, a Roger Donaldson film starring Nicholas Cage as a husband who hired a vigilante group to settle the score after his wife is assaulted.  Third but not least is Music from the Edge by John Corigliano.  The acclaimed concert composer has written only four film scores (ALTERED STATES being the most well-known); this one, for Martin Campbell’s 2009 thriller EDGE OF DARKNESS, was rejected by the film's producer after the movie was heavily reshot and reedited, and replaced with new music by Howard Shore (read this article for details).  Perseverance is especially pleased to offer Corigliano’s unused score for the first time anywhere, courtesy of GK Films.

Capriccio has followed up their recent release of Gottfried Huppertz’s original 1926 score for METROPOLIS with another restored silent German film score.  BERLIN, DIE SINFONIE DER GROBSTADT (Berlin, Symphony of a Great City), a 1927 documentary produced by Karl Freund. The music, by Edmund Meisel, has been restored and performed here by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the direction of Frank Strobel.  The album is distributed by Naxos: http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=C5067

Blake Neely has scored the pilot show, ARROW, a modern-day retelling of notorious DC Comics’ superhero, Green Arrow. Neely scored with a full orchestra at the legendary Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage. ARROW is directed by David Nutter and stars Stephen Amell. “The directive was to make the music big and dark,” explained Neely. “Blake has done such an amazing job” stated co-producer Marc Guggenheim, “the whole project has been elevated by the use of a full orchestra and a critically acclaimed composer who consistently out does himself.”  The show is scheduled to premiere on CW later this summer.

Lalela Music Library is pleased to announce the release of the sixth and latest volume from their production music library.  Recent placements of music from Lalela include the international trailer for Dreamworks REAL STEEL, Playstation 3’s trailer for Resistance 3, promos for CBS’ AMAZING RACE, and much more.  The Zulu word for ‘listen,’ Lalela’s roots are in South Africa.  Founded by South African native/Los Angeles-based composer Alan Lazar, the company is proud to have offices in both countries, allowing them to offer premiere production music with a global inflection. All tracks are available exclusively through Lalela and its network of sub-publishers in 37 countries.  Says Lazar: “Library music is no longer a dirty word. Some of the best composers around now spend some of their time making sizzling tracks for production music libraries like our own. We pride ourselves on the quality and originality of our music.”  Lalela Music Library works with over 50 composers.  To preview selections from the Lalela Production Music Library visit www.lalela.com

Kronos Records is proud to present the CD premier of Francesco de Masi’s score for Fabrizio De Angelis 1984 action film MAD DOG. Featuring trumpet solos from Nello Salsa and harmonica played by Franco De Gemini, best known for his haunting harmonica playing on Morricone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.  The MAD DOG soundtrack was first issued on LP in 1985 by Beat Records and has become quite rare and coveted by collectors.




Games Music News

The soundtrack album to the long-awaited DIABLO III game has been released to iTunes.  The music, attributed to Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence, Neal Acree, Laurence Juber and Edo Guidotti, is awash with epic sweep, compelling vocalise and choral fervor, and stunning orchestral largess.

Overhaul Games has announced that Sam Hulick will be composing music for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.  Hulick is best known for scoring BioWare's epic roleplaying games Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and most recently,Mass Effect 3. His original compositions for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition will be featured alongside new gameplay content, complementing the games' acclaimed original soundtracks.  "The music of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II was a huge inspiration for me as a composer who was just venturing forth into the world of writing music for games. So to be able to travel back in time, so to speak, and score original material for the Baldur's Gate saga is a dream come true for me," said Hulick.  For all information regarding Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, visit www.baldursgate.com.  I’ll have an interview with Sam Hulick coming up in a forthcoming column.

Award-winning composers Jason Graves (Dead Space) and Kevin Riepl (Gears of War) have created an original score for Resistance: Burning Skies™, the first fully portable, true first person shooter experience only available on Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC (SCEA)'s PlayStation®Vita (PS Vita) handheld entertainment system. Developed by Nihilistic Software, Resistance: Burning Skies is the PS Vita debut of the popular PlayStation®3 (PS3™) computer entertainment system's first person shooter franchise, Resistance®. Graves and Riepl each wrote forty minutes of emotional, suspenseful and epic action orchestral music, delivering the most dynamic and thrilling score in the series yet.  Set in an alternate universe, Resistance: Burning Skies stays true to the franchise with unique 1950's Americana locations and hordes of returning and never-before-seen Chimera. _______________________________________________________________________________

Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine.  A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He now writes for CinefantastiqueOnline and has written liner notes for more than 70 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, Percepto, Perseverance, Harkit, and BSX Records.  For more information, see: www.myspace.com/larsonrdl  A massively re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique will be published this Spring, see: www.creaturefeatures.com/products/books/musique-fantastique/

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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