Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2013-06 
May 30th, 2013

By Randall D. Larson

Eschewing the 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. It’s big and bold and elegantly powerful.   Interviewed days after the film opened, composer Brian Tyler unmasks his epic superhero score and offers a stark look its inner workings.


Q: You’ve proven your mastery of action film scoring in recent years – but this is your first super-hero score.  What brought you into IRON MAN 3 – and what was it that had attracted the filmmakers to you?

Brian Tyler: The cool thing about the entire Marvel family is that they are comprised of film score fans, and they really know their material. They were actually looking for something that would be a post-AVENGERS sound for IRON MAN, in that they wanted it to be completely thematic-driven.  There was a shift that needed to happen from IRON MAN 1 and 2, which had been more about a Tony Stark, billionaire/playboy kind of score meets AC DC; but now the stakes are much higher, it’s a post-AVENGERS world, now he’s actually a full-blown yet reluctant super hero.  So when they were looking for composers, [producers] Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard at Marvel and [music supervisor] Dave Jordan and [director] Shane Black were most interested in my thematic writing over my action scores, actually.  The scores that they talked about the most when I first met them was THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED and ANNAPOLIS.  Those aren’t usually the first that I hear about, but I’m glad they did mention those, and they really liked CHILDREN OF DUNE, so clearly they weren’t just looking at what movie grossed the most, they really liked the melodies for those themes and that was what they wanted to bring to IRON MAN.  That’s how I got brought in, and then they showed me the script, which I loved, and we went back and forth and really hit it off.

Q: As a fan of the super hero genre and super hero comics this must have been an exciting career for you!  Did this background give you an edge in understanding the character and format of the Iron Man mythos?

Brian Tyler: Yes, it did.  I go back to Tales Of Suspense and the early Iron Man comics and was very familiar with Aldrich Killian and The Mandarin and the lore [of Iron Man].  And so it was taking it from that perspective but also keeping in mind that the films had their own take on it, and I was a big fan of the films as well,  But that interest gave me the bedrock of really approaching the movie and trying to compose the music for it in a way that I would if I were a fan.  There are different approaches – there’s the motory, electronic, non-melodic chordal kind of scoring that you can do for super hero films, but for me, I really wanted to have a very clarified theme.  I love those other kinds of scores as well , but I thought this one could really have a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK kind of approach, with a longer brass melody that takes 16 bars to complete and makes an actual tune.  That was my approach, and in terms of this genre of film, it’s actually a rare approach.  It’s not really the way it’s usually done right now, but I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Q: You really have an ability to nail the hook of a heroic theme, and your anthem for Iron Man really makes you stand up and cheer when it blossoms in the film.

Brian Tyler: Thank you.  As a fan of films and film score music myself, there are those moments that I remember in just my movie-going experience – melodies when they finally come together.  It does take a while in IRON MAN 3 for it to come to full fruition – you have hints of the theme as the movie progresses but there are a few points where it really underlines the moment and gets to play in all its glory, and I’m just taking what I remember as a theater goer and those moments where I’ve stood up and cheered!

Q: What was your process of working up the theme, its melody, and developing it into a fully orchestrated motif?

Brian Tyler:  First I needed to sit down on my own at the piano and come up with a melody that I thought would work.  I was thinking, gosh, what’s this going to be?  Is this going to be strings or is it going to be brass or what?  Then I had to go through the stage of, okay, forget what instruments it is, you need a melody that you can sing that will really speak to Iron Man.  There were a few things I had to balance.  One was that he is a reluctant super hero and you need to give him that vibe, but there needed to be a strain in there that had the attitude of Tony Stark as a playboy/billionaire as well.  He’s a super hero but he’s winking all the time; he’s not like Superman where he’s just completely earnest.  He’s got a great heart but there’s obviously this great exterior that he exudes; he’s snarky and he has witty one-liners but at the times where he needed to step up, the music needed to be at that next level, heroic type of thing.  Having those at the same time is kind of difficult and I had to try out the balances for a while.  Then the theme that’s in the movie just came to me, and with that I felt that I was on to something, because I could play it soft and quiet, or soloistically, and it sounded really sad and isolated and lonely, but then if I did the exact same melody with brass, all a sudden it sounded triumphant and victorious, without having to switch up any minor and major harmonic trickery.  It actually remains a true melody.  Once I saw that that worked, then I felt we were off to the races and I was glad to see that Shane and the gang were into it as well.

Q: While the main theme for Tony Stark/Iron Man is instantly fun and exciting and heroic and maybe even a little bit flippant – you also reflect in the music the devastating effects the Mandarin’s attacks have on Tony and his self-confidence.  Would you describe the musical journey the score takes as it follows Tony through hell and back in the film?

Brian Tyler: Not only is this a post-AVENGERS world and the stakes are raised, but he has something that he cares about in this world now, which is Pepper Potts.  He never had any one that he cared about before besides himself, really... of course that did start in IRON MAN 2, but now they’re living together, he’s really committed to her, and the fact that [what happened in] THE AVENGERS affected him personally in a way that he’s got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he has anxiety, and he only feels comfortable in the suit – all these things make him even more human than he was in the first two movies.  Contrastingly he’s been elevated to a true world superhero, like on the level of Superman, and he kind of doesn’t really want that role, and yet he has to. So he’s become more human and more superhero in the same movie.  I think that’s why the movie is resonating with people and I think that’s why the movie allowed a score that has more of a superheroic tone to it.

Q: What was your thought process as far as following Tony through these various permutations, these peaks and valleys that he goes through during the journey of the film, how did you conceptualize that to work on a through-line?

Brian Tyler: The main theme was my starting point, but I knew I needed to have other themes that would fit other characters and also the moods of Tony.  There’s this investigative quality – almost a spy quality – to some of this movie as well, because he’s out of the suit and he needs to use his own ingenuity, so at times there are these strains of 1960 John Barry.  The music has to walk that line where he’s become like a shadowy figure, and at the same time he has this relationship with this kid – like he’s become a dad to this kid.  Again, he’s showing his humanity, he cares about this kid too and needs to protect him, and so there’s a theme there for them. But I had to map it all out!  I filled my studio with giant charts and pages penned up to the studio walls, crazy with arrows, it looked like some kind of psychotic BEAUTIFUL MIND gone completely wrong on the chalkboard!   Then of course with the Mandarin and Aldrich Killian’s character you have these dueling bad guys, and that ends up being very complicated, and I had to figure out to nest one theme inside the other, so it all makes sense in the end.  When you watch the movie a second time you may notice that there are a bunch of hints that I’m dropping along the way, but also making sure that there’s the necessary connection to have that kind of musical handoff.

All these things had to work together. I also wanted different keys for the different moods, so it had to work on a modular level, as well, just so the ear could handle it.  I was also anticipating that some of the action music was very challenging for the brass players, just from a technical standpoint.  I didn’t want to make any of them pass out by having things that are above their range!  I was at the very edge of the French horn range, and the very edge of the trumpet range at times.  So I’d be planning it all out: “Okay, if I start here at the beginning of the movie and I need to modulate up, so that by the time I get to action scene X I’m in the proper key for the perfect note that’s really a screamer but is easier to play than one half step up in this range of the trumpet.”  It was just a gigantic monster of a task to keep it organized in a way that would make sense as a whole.

Q: How would you describe your [more mystical/chordal] treatment of the film’s face of villainy, the Mandarin?

Brian Tyler: The Mandarin is a very tricky villain.  You’re talking about someone who is a quasi-religious spiritual leader/terrorist, kind of a Jim Jones Meets Bin Laden, someone who uses the modern age and YouTube and telecasting things as a way to cause more noise but be more hidden and have alternate identities and masks and all those things went into it. That’s why there’s a mishmash of music from all around the world, is not Western or Eastern or Middle Eastern, it’s like kind of a weird hybrid, just like The Mandarin himself.  He’s trying to be scary but really he’s nothing, in the film you have this identity situation with it, so I needed to have his music relate on many levels, not only just as a threat to the world and a threat directly to Iron Man, but how he relates to the Killian character, who’s also got an evil streak.

Q: I love the texture of the Mandarin theme, with all these various layers mixing together very well that really creates a unique palette for his character, especially in contrast with the more accessible melodic figures for Iron Man.

Brian Tyler: It had to feel like a completely different world, and it was just a careful balance of those different instruments, from the bansuri to the strange bowed instruments and all the voices.  I combined the boys’ choir with instruments that would never be heard in a concert with a boys' choir!  When you combine those things it could be at once off-putting but sometimes, in this case, I tried to make his theme reflect the way he thought of himself.  So there’s this threat there but I think the scary part of it is in the way the music is speaking to his ego, and it’s how he sees himself; it’s not like twisty, mustache-twirling bad-guy music, it’s more like, “I think I’m awesome, look at me” bad-guy music.

Q: How did you treat the important but subordinate characters like Pepper and Aldrich Killian, both of whose characters take interesting journeys in this film.  Were there any motifs assigned to their characters and the changes they undergo?

Brian Tyler: Yes. There is a specific motif that’s really for Tony’s relationships, so the melody goes with Pepper when it’s played a certain way, and then for Harley, the kid that he meets who becomes an ally, as well.  For Pepper, specifically, it evolves much more.  The first few times you hear it, it’s from a harp, and then it’s a really distant piano with wide open, super sparse orchestration, barely supported by anything, because Pepper and Tony are separated.  Then in the last few minutes of the movie, it all comes together, and it gets strings and French horn and everything.  Then with Killian, you see him developing the Extremis invention that he’s come up with, and interacting with The Mandarin, and all these scenes have minor and major components to them, within the same melody.  For me, that is musically like being on a rocky boat; you’re never quite sure where you stand, or you don’t feel like you have terra firma underneath you. The music’s always a little bit elusive and you can’t really lock onto it, so that of course makes also a lot more musical sense as it evolves into the very end of the movie when you have some revelations.

Q: Separate from the villain’s theme, you’ve got a mysterious theme representing a chemical process: the Extremis treatment and what it, in turn, does to create very dangerous villains.  How did you come up with this motif and how was it developed?

Brian Tyler: It really starts off on New Year’s Eve of 1999 in the movie, where Killian is on the rooftop waiting to meet Tony Stark yet he gets stood up.  He has this idea right then about Extremis and what it could be, and his idea sounds great, it’s something that can heal people and do all sorts of great regenerative things but it also is weaponizable. So the goal was to make a theme that sounds kind of enchanting and magical and has an almost science fiction tone to it; but when it’s played really, really low it sounds very tweaky.  There is a character named Savin who is the main henchman of Killian, and just like in the Extremis music, he’s played in ridiculously low registers, so it ceases sounding hopeful and becomes just death. It sounds very evil.

Q: Finally we have these massive battle sequences with tremendously exciting and cohesive musical engagements.  What was your technique in building the structure of huge action scenes like this, intertwining your themes, orchestrating the instruments, and making each sequential battle a unique and fresh musical treatment?

Brian Tyler:  With all of these sequences I find that there are acts within acts. The final part of the movie, which is really the third act, that whole giant action sequence, is a three act scene in itself. But then within those three parts, there are also three acts to each of those three acts, so it’s really like nine little acts, or nine chapters. So that’s how I broke it down, anyway – each of the groups of three acts had to be a rise and the fall unto itself, but then gradually moving all the way up, so it was like watching a graph that goes up over a long period of time, but has peaks and valleys on the way up; the overall movement is up, but it would go up-and-down and up-and-down and up-and-down as it went up - if that makes any sense!  There’s also some tragedy right in the middle of it and I also needed to open up the music to near silence for a while there… something that I always thought was interesting about some of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and the original SUPERMAN score was that at times, instead of modulating the key upwards for energy, it modulated downward and it felt stern and strong, and so at the moment that Tony has this particular tragic moment happen to him and he basically just goes into revenge mode, and through that whole action sequence I bring the energy up but go harmonically down, and it feels much more powerful – or more badass!   At least that’s what I was going for!  So that all had to be taken into account.  Then of course there’s the moment of all the different Iron Man suits show up, where we go into a big thematic reprise as well.  There’s a lot to grab onto.  That was like our Attacking the Death Star sequence kind of thing, where you’re going back and forth and you’re constantly having to make these touchstones between the different storylines going on at the same time.

Q: A fun thing about IRON MAN 3 is that it has no main title at the front, which gave you the chance to write that affectionately-retro “Can You Dig It” version of the main theme a la 1970s Saturday morning pop version when the main titles come up at the end of the movie.  How did that come about and what prompted this treatment of the music?

Brian Tyler: That was out of left field!  We wanted to do something really different and fun. There were a lot of influences like you mentioned, and also cop shows from that era, the main title sequences from things like SWAT and MOD SQUAD.  That was just an idea I had when I started working on a crazy version of the theme, really on a lark.  I sat down at the drums and I started doing this really fast, cop show beat on the drums.  I just started playing and I thought, “wow, could I possibly play the theme in a big band style, like a Bond band but with a surf 60s sound to it and a retro 70s vibe to it?”  And sure enough, it worked!   So I just started laying down some tracks; I played guitar, and piano and the drums and bass, and I started playing some vintage percussion, some Farfisa, these things myself, and then I thought “Wait a minute!  We could record orchestra over this, and we could do the whole theme!”  So it ended up evolving into that.  We got the London Philharmonic back and we struck up the band and recorded that end title.  It was literally the last thing I recorded for the movie.

Q: Now in great contrast you have JOHN DIES AT THE END, which reunites you with Don Coscarelli from BUBBA HO-TEP.  This is a wild and crazy movie based on a wild and crazy novel, I loved both. The score really accentuates the whole craziness of what’s going on.  How did you come up with the idea for the score and how did you work with Don to develop it?

Brian Tyler: Working with Don is great because he just says “Go!”  He creates these movies that have heart but are incredibly strange at the same time, and I love that angle.  Even though BUBBA-HO-TEP and JOHN DIES are very different scores, there’s a similarity on the surface that is really odd, but then you want to bring some heart to it.  I did want to be off-kilter and write and record in a way that was, at times, dissonant and strange and, at other times a throwback to part Spaghetti Western, and it even had a touch of some weird French scores from the early 1970s that I was listening to at the time.  And at the end of the day, some instruments seemed to crop up – the Spaghetti Western styled guitar with marimba and the cello were my go-to instruments.  I don’t remember why, but they just seemed to work!   With the time frame that we had, we really had no time to do it!  You could not second guess yourself at all, so we just dove right into it and tried to come up with something that would fit the very strange storyline of the movie.

Q: When I reviewed the soundtrack I described it being as if “the music has been conjured out of the soy-sauce addled brains of the protagonists or the other-dimensional experiences that have saturated those brains and spilled out in the sonic performances that make up the film score.”  It’s such an interesting sonic experience, that you get this idea that the listener is sharing some of these mind-enhanced experiences.

Brian Tyler: Oh yeah. With these musical anthems that go through, you’re going on this journey with them.  It’s almost like this weird LORD OF THE RINGS journey that they’re going on, with the time/dimension shift thing.  To reflect the influence of the soy sauce, when you hear the drug-induced, tripped out feel, a lot of the score is played backwards at that point.  It just gets really tweaky, but then it will snap back into doing something that’s very anthemic.  It’s like when Don directs, you really care about the characters and then you get thrown into this weird universe of tripping out at the same time, and you need to strike a balance between those two.

Q: Your latest score is for a thriller called NOW YOU SEE ME, a film that adds a new flavor to the crime thriller procedural by having the thieves be master illusionists. What challenges – and opportunities – did this score represent?

Brian Tyler: Complete freedom, because there’s, to my knowledge, no movie that combined the kind of hip retro troupe that is robbing banks and pulling off heists…

Q: It’s like OCEANS 11 with David Copperfield!

Brian Tyler: Yes!  And because they’re real deal illusionists, we wanted to evoke that there’s something to that, like there is like a magic unto itself that each magician of the Four Horsemen has as a different kind of skill set.  One’s kind of like a David Blaine guy, one’s kind of a Derren Brown mentalist, one’s more of a Copperfield, and one’s an escape artist. They all have their own thing, and then they come together to pull off this great heist in a bank in Paris.  There’s two aspects to the score then: you have this music that was written to feel completely magical, which has more of a feeling of HARRY POTTER and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, where harmonically you’re just in that magic key, or magic scale.  That’s contrasted with this retro, cool, vibe, something like Mancini in CHARADE combined with maybe a little bit of Bond combined with what CATCH ME IF YOU CAN was going after, diving back into that era - Mancini being my idol in that era, with maybe a little bit of Lalo Schifrin, and those influences came together.  So the score is two completely different styles on top of each other.  It was an impossible movie to temp, because what are you going to do?  Take a Lalo Schifrin track and then try to throw HARRY POTTER on top of it?  It doesn’t stick!  So it was a brand-new thing, and it’s very rare that you get something that had no frame of reference.  It was complete freedom.  I just went to work!

Many thanks to Dan Berry of Chasen PR, and to Brian Tyler for this glimpse behind the mask. - rdl


Varèse Sarabande Records recently celebrated 35 years of releasing film music with a special anniversary concert performed by the Golden State Pops Orchestra at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, CA. Conducted by Steven Allen Fox, the sold out concert featured music by some of Hollywood’s leading film composers including John Powell, Mark Isham, Brian Tyler, Jerry Goldsmith, and Alex North. The audience was treated to guest performances and celebrity soloists, including Hans Zimmer teaming with Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger for a special rendition of the end title theme from DRIVING MISS DAISY. Additionally, Oscar winning composer Michael Giacchino conducted the world premiere of his music from STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. The concert received a standing ovation. Prior to the concert, a special exhibition of original score album artwork by acclaimed artists Bob Peak and Matthew Joseph Peak was held at the Deco Art Deco Gallery. Following the concert, a VIP reception was held with over 250 guests in attendance.

Despite all the celebration during the 35th Anniversary event, not a lot of attention was drawn to just how and by whom Varese Sarabande was created, and how it began its journey to becoming the most prolific film music label in the world.  Taking a page out of history, I found an article I wrote back in 1980 about the early years of Varese Sarabande Records, which was published in the 6th issue of the newsletter format CinemaScore, before I took over the title as editor and publisher: 


The Story of Varese Sarabande
by Randall D. Larson
Originally published in CinemaScore #6, April 1980. 

Varese Sarabande Records, over the past year or so, has rapidly established itself as a major producer of high-quality soundtrack albums; both reissues of rare and long-sought-after soundtracks in addition to new releases of film scores neglected by the major record companies but well-worth preserving. In their honest concern for film music, coupled with a sense of business professionalism, Varese Sarabande has become a virtual horn-of-plenty for film music enthusiasts, and their prolific output promises to make available many film scores which otherwise would have been relegated to limbo. 

The company began in 1977, when Varese International Records (so-named for the modern composer, Edgar Varese) President Chris Kuchler merged his company with the then beginning Sarabande Records(so-named for the music/dance form) company of Tom Null, who became Vice-President of the new company, Varese Sarabande. The first issues of this label were primarily reissues from the now-defunct Urania and Remington classical catalogues. The titles were chosen for their value as highly sought-after titles in the classical collectors market. These early reissues led to the reissue of deleted material from other companies, which ultimately included the MCA/Decca catalogue, resulting in Varese Sarabande reissuing such soundtrack material as A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE (Miklós Rózsa), FOUR GIRLS IN TOWN (Alex North) , SAMSON AND DELILAH (Victor Young), THIS EARTH IS MINE (Hugo Friedhofer), SILENT RUNNING (Peter Schickele) and Themes from Classic Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (reissued from the Dick Jacobs album Themes from Horror Movies on Coral, without the narration and sound effects that marred the original’s listenability. 

Kuehler and NulI realized that, of their soundtrack reissues, the ones that were consistent best-sellers were those representing the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres. In order to develop further soundtracks along these lines, Varese Sarabande hired Scot W. Holton in the Spring of. 1979. Holton had a considerable background in, and knowledge of, films in the fantastic genres; he had collaborated with Robert Skotak in writing and editing Fantascene magazine in 1977-78, which specialized in in-depth production retrospectives of classic science fiction films; Holton was also a west coast writer for Starlog and Future magazines and had collaborated with Skotak in writing the book Fantastic Worlds, published by Starlog.  Holton joined Kuchler and Null in heading up Varese Sarabande, and these three remain the company principals to [this] date.  Holton is in charge of the company’s division producing science fiction/fantasy and horror soundtracks, and it is his role, primarily, to develop material that they feel will be marketable to the fantastic film audience – an audience, Holton believes, which has greatly widened (as far as soundtrack collecting goes) due in large part to the successes of the films and soundtracks of STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

A problem, Holton notes, that any legitimate record company must realize is that a primary consideration of any potential soundtrack project is the payment of the Musicians Union Re-use fee. This applies to all music recorded for films in the United States and England, and means simply that, if the music for a film is licensed out for production as a soundtrack album, the Musicians Union must be paid a gain for the “re-use of the music.”  Holton would love to produce albums for genre classics such as NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Walter Schumann), THE THING (Dimitri Tiomkin) , THEM! (Bronislau Kaper), CONQUEST OF SPACE (Van Cleave) and the complete Herrmann score for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but the re-use fee on these pictures is prohibitively expensive [fortunately, this has changed for the better in recent years. –rdl 5/2013]. The re-use fee, however, does not apply to reissued soundtracks: once it has been paid for an original soundtrack release, it is valid indefinitely. Given the limitations of their operating budget, Varese Sarabande has been somewhat restricted to reissues and original soundtracks of music recorded outside the U.S. and England, where the re-use fee does not apply. 

Having been a great admirer of Pino Donaggio for DON’T LOOK NOW and CARRIE, the first projects Holton brought to the company was Donaggio’s score for the then-current film, TOURIST TRAP.  This involved a relatively simple licensing procedure with the film’s U.S. distributor, Compass International Films, in which Varese paid an agreed-upon royalty per album sold, as well as an advance on an agreed-upon amount of albums that is paid prior to their being sold.  This is the common procedure for licensing most albums of film music, either from the film’s producers or its distributors, depending upon who has retained the licensing rights in their contracts.

TOURIST TRAP was followed by soundtracks for the popular films, PHANTASM, scored by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave, and George Romero’s zombie film, DAWN OF THE DEAD, with music by the Italian rock group, Goblin. Varese Sarabande’s record sales for these two soundtracks reflected the high box office grosses of their films, and they continue to be good sellers.  Based upon the growing interest in Pino Donaggio as a classically-oriented film composer, Varese Sarabande decided to go back after PIRANHA, a score he had written three years previous. It also has been a wise choice as the Donaggio market grows.   Holton has just recently completed negotiations for releasing Donaggio’s score for Brian de Palma’s new film, HOME MOVIES.

Based on the legion of fans for George A. Romero films, and the popularity of their DAWN OF THE DEAD soundtrack, Holton went back and arranged licensing for a soundtrack of Romero’s earlier vampire film, MARTIN, which had a progressive jazz score by Donald Rubinstein. Varese Sarabande also has a tentative agreement, as of this writing, to release the [library music] score for Romero’s first feature, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

The next genre film licensed by the label was Australian composer Brian May’s eerie and mood-setting score for the ESP thriller, PATRICK. May’s scores, like Donaggio’s (but with their individual styles applied), are in the general vein of those of Bernard Herrmann, and both composers seem to be building their own collector’s market.  Based on the success of PATRICK, Varese has subsequently licensed for album release May’s score for the forthcoming thrillers, SNAPSHOT (which will be released in the U.S by Group-1 with a title change [THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN]) and THIRST. They are currently negotiating for another film entitled MAD MAX.

Concurrent with all this, Tom Null had arranged for the reissue of various genre titles by Les Baxter, including THE DUNWICH HORROR, GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS, MASTER OF THE WORLD,  and newly-released on the Citadel label (recently acquired as a division of Varese Sarabande), CRY OF THE BANSHEE backed with Baxter’s television scores for various Edgar Allan Poe stories. Also on Citadel is Varese’s newly- remastered and repackaged Horror Rhapsody of Hans J. Salter [a compilation of various Salter classic monster movie scores], backed with HORROR EXPRESS by John Cacavas.

Citadel Records was established in 1976 by film music historian Tony Thomas, primarily for the purpose of issuing, usually from original acetate studio recordings, sound tracks of neglected scores by Max Steiner, Miklós Rózsa, Hans J. Salter, and others; in addition to reissuing soundtracks by Jerry Goldsmith, George Duning, et al. In early 1980, Citadel was acquired by Varese Sarabande, who began to reissue, in remastered and repackaged editions, various titles in the Citadel catalogue.  Those items formerly listed in the catalogue as “not licensed for public sale” remain so and will not be re issued by Varese, since many of those titles were licensed between Thomas and the composer on a limited, promotional composer basis and, as the phrase “not for public sale” indicates (despite the fact that most major soundtrack mail-order sources regularly stock the titles), were not licensed for commercial release.

Scot Holton explains the prevalence of fantastic films in the Varese catalog, pointing out that “genre films have a way of building their audiences over the years, whereas if one would consider for a moment the total output of Universal Studios over the years, it is largely forgettable, with the exception of the genre titles.”  However, Varese Sarabande is continuing to put equal emphasis on non-genre, mainstream films and composers.  Tom Null arranged for the licensing of Laurence Rosenthal’s scores BRASS TARGET and MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN, along with the Georges Delerue scores for A LITTLE ROMANCE and AN ALMOST PERFECT AFFAIR, Miklós Rózsa’ s FEDORA and Ennio Morricone’s BLOODLINE.

Other related projects headed by Null include the first issuing of Rózsa’s complete score for KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (scheduled for Spring 1980) and the reissuing of his scores for KING OF KINGS, BEN-HUR, and EL CID; and from the Colpix catalog, reissues of THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE DEVIL AT 4 O’CLOCK, BARABBAS, and 1,001 ARABIAN NIGHTS.

Varese Sarabande has, as well, entered the world of the audiophile market, and has issued two digital recordings of Morton Gould conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The first album was of Gould’s own compositions [Morton Gould Conducts Morton Gould, 1978], while the second was titled Digital Space and was a collection of themes and suites from a variety of films, including science fiction, westerns, and war pictures.  Forthcoming are Varese’s first two co-productions with Starlog Records (see CinemaScore #2 for a background article on this company): the first issue of Bernard Herrmann’s score for NORTH BY NORTHWEST, recorded digitally in London by Herrmann’s colleague, Laurie Johnson; and a second album consisting of Johnson’s music for his own films, THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, DR. STRANGELOVE, CAPTAIN KRONOS, and HEDDA.

Varese has also recently reissued, in stereo, the rare Leith Stevens score for DESTINATION MOON (see review this issue), and discussion is in progress concerning the possible issuing of his scores for WAR OF THE WORLDS and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE with Starlog Records.  The next science fiction title of a current film which Varese will issue will be Richard Band’s score for THE DAY THAT TIME ENDED, scheduled for Spring 1980 when the film is to be released.

With the currently-popular market for fantastic film soundtracks in mind – and not strictly from a commercially-exploitable standpoint (as the care and quality of the Varese product indicates) – the emphasis of the Varese recordings will continue to focus upon fantastic films, which have themselves been perhaps the most neglected of films to have had soundtracks issued in the past (an unfortunate turn of events resulting in the loss of many examples of this unique and special form of film music). Varese Sarabande has, therefore, done a great service to film music collectors in general – and to aficionados of fantastic film music in particular – by providing many of these current and not-so-current scores on record.  Kuchler, Null, and Holton all deserve our thanks for their concern, expertise, and craftsmanship in making available numerous film scores, and showing the more established record companies that there is a viable market for all varieties of soundtrack albums, including those of the fantastic genre. The mouth-watering projects forthcoming from Varese Sarabande will be anxiously awaited!


For more information on “The Real History of Varese Sarabande”, see also Bruce Kimmel’s article at: http://www.haineshisway.com/archives/003963.html



New Soundtrax in Review

BORGIA, Season II/ Eric Neveux/Silva Screen
French composer Eric Neveux assumed scoring duties on the second season of this French-German TV series (shown in the US on Netflix), dramatizing the rise to power of the Borgia family during the Renaissance, after his countryman Cyril Moran scored the dozen episodes of the first season in 2011.  (This is a separate series, albeit covering the same historical period and family, as the Showtime series THE BORGIAS, which also debuted in 2011, composed by Trevor Morris).  Silva Screen will have the soundtrack available on CD and digitally in the US on June 18th; it’s already had its UK/European CD and digital debut.  “This show has a fantastic balance between history and the fictional part of it,” Neveux said in a video interview posted to youtube by Silva Screen, “and as a composer this is extremely inspiring, because you’re dealing with this historical background and at the same time you’re just into crazy stories and violence and strong characters.”  Neveux was asked to focus his score on those characters, which gave him plenty of room to follow some of the extreme changes they’ve undergone during Season 2, particularly the journey of the enigmatic Lucrezia Borgia.  “For the music it’s great, because you can really follow the transformation of Lucrezia… Everything’s changing but you’re still a Borgia, so you play with both dimensions,” he said.  Neveux eloquent cello theme for Lucrezia, often supplemented by high choir, is sublimely articulate yet haunting.  Choir features frequently throughout the score, particularly in his operatic main theme, strident and rhythmic progression reflective of the self-confident swagger of the Borgia family.  Recorded in London’s Air Studios with the Philharmonia orchestra, the score is rich in acoustic resonance yet flavored with digital samples and electronic countertonalities.  “We have the density of the orchestra but we have also some great soloists,” Neveux explained.  “I wanted to play with some of those sounds. For instance we’re recording with viola de gamba, which is a Renaissance instrument…  It’s nice to have instruments like lute and viola de gamba, but I always try to use them mixed with more abstract and even quite contemporary sounds… It’s an ensemble, and the samples and the electronic parts are part of the ensemble… It’s composite music, and that’s something that I am sure is an interesting direction for the show.” There’s no actual Renaissance (source) music on the soundtrack; instead Neveux’s contemporary acoustic approach (even his digital material emphasizes acoustic samples) is provided, taking a very rhythmic and progressive stance, his nod to period music made through a purely string orchestra supplemented by percussion and spare woodwinds.  But his overall musical sensibility is more modernistic in its use of melody and rhythm, capturing a potent sense of drama through his orchestration while sufficient elements of harp, acoustic guitar, lute, and other recognizable instruments capture the occasional period familiarity to drape the score in subtle Renaissance textures.  It’s a thoroughly entrancing musical score, deeply textured from its plucked and bowed strings to its raps and pounds of large drums that give it a very contemporary cinematic drive.
www.silvascreenusa.com (UK: http://www.silvascreen.com)
You can watch the video interview with Eric Neveux at the BORGIA scoring sessions.

THE CROODS/Alan Silvestri/Sony Classical
Alan Silvestri’s music for this animated cave family dramedy is an uneven but ultimately enjoyable product. On the one hand we have some excellent moments of the composer’s powerful dramatic sweep, especially near the end of the score as the story draws to its earth-shattering climax, and some intriguing character-based music at the beginning as we get to know who and what everyone is.  It’s in the middle where the score bogs down into overly familiar and comparatively uninspired generic cartoon “antic” accompaniment, which doesn’t really give Silvestri a lot to do, musically. I haven’t seen it but the story seems to me like another clichéd potboiler from the Dreamworks computer animation factory (although it is co-written and co-directed by Chris Sanders, a capable Dreamworks vet involved with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, LILO & STITCH, and most of Disney’s ‘90s animation classics).  In any case, despite the mire of tiresome tracks midway through the soundtrack album (“Story Time,”  “Turkey Fish Follies,” “Going Guys Way,” “Grug Flips His Lid,” etc.), Silvestri gets to shine and dazzle with the sweep and orchestral fervor of “Piranhakeets,” (which I believe needs to be the name of a new Corman movie for SyFy) and the epic, choral-infused apocalyptic thrust of “Planet Collapse,” and the marvelous sonic action of “We’ll Die if We Stay Here,” “Big Idea,” and the festive resolution of “Epilogue,” all of which make the album a worthwhile purchase by themselves.  The album closes with straightforward renderings of Silvestri’s “Cave Painting Theme” and “The Croods’ Family Theme,” and a neat little source cue, the happy Mariachi of “Cantina Croods.”

DRAGON/Chan Kwong Wing & Peter Kam/MovieScore Media
Accompanied by a stylish soundtrack composed by Chan Kwong Wing and Peter Kam (THE WARLORDS), Peter Chan’s Hong Kong action adventure DRAGON (called WUXIA in Asian territories) tells the story about a martial arts expert who wants to start a new life but is hunted down by a detective and his former master. Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro are the main stars in the film, which won multiple awards at the Asian Film Awards and Hong Kong Film Awards (including the ones for Best Composer and Best Original Film Score respectively).  The orchestral score is quite attractive, mixing Asian instrumentation with modern musical aesthetics. It’s a textured rhythm-based work comprising seven tracks by Wing bookending eight by Kam; each composer take slightly different approaches using the same kinds of instrumentation but sharing no melodies between them. Wing composed the film’s central theme which recurs in several of his tracks, while Kam’s work tends to be more atmospheric and textural; “You Have To Die,” the most energetic of them, attains a persuasive and captivating rhythmic structure for strings and choir, punctuated by intonations of horns over the top.  Wing concludes the album with a strenuous “Father, This Is The End” a potent, dramatic 8:58 track that adds a strident electric guitar, briefly but distinctly near the opening, until his main theme take the fore and resonates fatalistically across the sonic field of battle.  DRAGON is a very harmonic score, with a pleasing breadth of timbres that carry its palanquin of melodically-shaped rhythm very nicely across its earthy soundscape.

HAMMER OF THE GODS/Benjamin Wallfisch/MovieScore Media
Now available digitally and set for CD release on June 2 (US) and June 10 (UK), this British Viking adventure film follows the current trend of epic historical gladiatorial action-adventures like the SPARTACUS TV series; in this case a gritty, muscular drama of a young man who becomes a brutal Viking warrior in order to search for his lost brother.  Wallfisch, composer of last year’s historical adventure score CONQUEST 1453, provides an edgy, modernistic, themeless textural score that retains a period sensibility in its percussive architecture and earthy timbres.  It’s drawn more from electronic rock performing acts like Skrillex and The Prodigy, which to say the least gives the historical film a decidedly nontraditional musical sensibility; but Wallfisch orchestrates these hybrid formulations to create an unusual and interesting approach. His earthy timbres may have more in common with contemporary Viking Metal than the organic sounds previously associated with the period in films, but the musical clash of steel and timber and shredded bone gives the film’s environment and its characters a coarse, unwashed warrior’s flavor that is somehow fitting in our post-300 film musical sensibility (although the Wallfisch’s revving electronic motors and thrashing, voice-boxed electric guitars of “Forest Fight” are a little off-putting even in this regard). More properly atmospheric are the low moaning male choirs over shimmering synths and cymbals (“The Search”) that characterize the guttural primitiveness of the setting, the bright electric guitar arpeggios that scamper over a bass of synth chords in “The Journey Begins,” the morose string figures that waft over the pulsing bass drive of “Determined,” and the drum-driven onslaught of “The Ambush.”  Some tracks, such as “The Stoning” and “Stories” are characterized more by the kind of sound design noted from modern horror scores than primitive adventures out of history, although they effectually serve to creep out these dramatic moments (at the same time, they are a difficult listening experience on their own here).  Legendary “Valhalla” is depicted by Wallfisch via low, tenuous chords and then whispery, disembodied female voices.  In “Warrior (End Titles”) the score unleashes its alt/metal influence with a raucous, savage hollering female vocal over a jarring, lurching, and harsh industrial groove.  It’s an interesting and unique film scoring approach, albeit uneven apart from film on this album – and likely not for every taste, but it does capture some impressive moments of grimy, heroic splendor at the end of its violent, mud-encrusted journey (“The Journey Ends” culminates the score with a relieved tonal resolution from gathering strings).  Wallfisch is to be commended for pulling together something new and avoiding trends in his score for this film, wielding instead a mighty Hammer drawn from diverse influences.

THE ICEMAN/Haim Mazar/Relativity Music Group
Inspired by actual events, Ariel Vromen’s THE ICEMAN follows notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon) from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men. Appearing to be living the American dream as a devoted husband and father; in reality Kuklinski was a ruthless killer-for-hire. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters had any clue about his real profession. Israeli composer Haim Mazar invested the film’s score with plenty of sonic ice, even while shaping the titular character’s remorseless duality.  The score had to capture the two aspects of “The Iceman’s” point of view – that of the cold-blooded killer and that of the family man.   “On one hand there was the grim, dirty, dangerous crime life: musically represented by a thick hybrid of pulsating electronics and orchestral effects that could burst and become violent at any moment,” said Mazar.  ”On the other hand the score needed to reflect his family life, [which] Ariel wanted to play with mostly strings and piano.”

But even when depicting Richard’s seemingly normal family life, the music still reflects a hint of the darkness that lies beneath the surface.  The piano theme is tenuous even at its most charming, reminding the viewer, even as his wife remains unaware, that Richard harbors a very dark secret.  Mazar said that he found two scenes key to defining the score.  ”The first was the scene when Richard and Deborah [Winona Ryder] have their first date, which was great for musically setting the family tone and the tone of their relationship,” he said.  “I also established a theme that was later used as their relationship progressed throughout the years. The second scene I scored was the scene when Roy Demeo [Ray Liotta] threatens Richard in the car outside of his home. Energy-wise that scene felt very tense, and I figured that if I could get the right tone for that scene, it would help me set the tone for the rest of the mob scenes.”
Born in the US and raised in Israel, Mazar discovered music at the age of 5, getting extensive classical piano training at the Givataim music conservatory near Tel Aviv, from which he graduated with honors. After moving to Los Angeles in 2008, Haim Mazar worked extensively with world-renowned film composer John Frizzell with whom he co-produced and orchestrated the epic score for Screen Gem’s film LEGION.  Mazar also worked as an orchestrator, music programmer and pianist for other titles including SHELTER, THE ROOMMATE, and the hit TV show THE OFFICE. He currently composes the music for MTV’s hit reality show TEEN MOM.

KILLER FORCE/THE CORRUPT ONES/Georges Garvarentz/Music Box
This pair of enthusiastic Eurospy scores from one of the unsung musical heroes of European film music have been rescued from oblivion by France’s Music Box Records in a limited edition of only 500 copies.  The Greek-born composer gives both Val Guest’s KILLER FORCE (a 1976 heist movie set in Africa, also known as THE DIAMOND MERCENARIES starring Telly Savalas and Peter Fonda) and James Hill’s THE CORRUPT ONES (a 1967 James Bondish spy movie set in China starring Elke Sommer, Robert Stack, and Nancy Kwan) a splendid European verve, with the former score reflecting the style of Lalo Schifrin in its action moments (“Main Title,” “The Diamond Robbery,” “The Chase” – lots of strings and horns over very active bass and drum kit) and plenty of syrupy romance, not to mention a trendy chorale pop song, with lyrics co-written by Charles Aznavour, “The Old Fashioned Way”). The latter film is very much of a 007 pastiche, from its sultry title song performed by Dusty Springfield to its frantic fluttered brasses, wild bongos and bass, with its main theme infusing itself into even the tautest of suspense tracks (“Torture Room,” for example).  It’s a complete Euro-retro delight and a must-have for aficionados of European/spy film music of the period.  Gergely Hubai provides informative notes about the films and their music in an 8-page accompanying booklet.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS/Michael Giacchino/Varese Sarabande
In his second foray into the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek universe, Michael Giacchino offers an effective and very satisfying follow-up to his first.  His approach reflects the growth taken by the youthful crew of The Enterprise since the adventures of the first film, and while his main theme continues to reflect the simplicity of the crew’s young and noble naiveté (and I love his theme for that quality), his new score reflects a bolder, somewhat more experienced yet still somewhat reckless crew.  “There’s a moment when the Enterprise is taking off, and they are going off on their mission, and I thought ‘This would be fun to bring back that similar moment from the first film,’ but it wasn’t working,” Giacchino told Etan Rosenbloom of the online ASCAP newsletter.  “It was too much of an adventure feel, and it was all about saying ‘Okay, well how do I do that same idea but in a darker way?’ It’s all about finding the right chords and substitutions that you are using with those melodies – and how did that alter the melody? It’s constantly trying to bend and twist things so you feel that theme from the previous film, but it’s being used in a different way. You have a different emotional response to it. If I had just used it exactly as it was, it wouldn’t have been the right emotional response that you would want for the audience. So it was about twisting things in a way to make it fit right.”

The score’s anthemic primary theme circulates throughout the film in various measures, and continues to serve its subject well, as does “Kirk’s Theme” from the previous film.  In “Warp Core Values” and “Buying the Space Farm,” in the film’s about face from the climactic moment in STAR TREK II, the music softens into an eloquent and dignified epitaph.  Giacchino’s action scoring (which occupies the bulk of the score) is massive and articulate, constantly symphonic, continually reoriented through statements of the main theme, while the aggressive material is nicely balanced through the use of the more elegantly poignant elements of the main theme.  Giacchino will frequently separate the A- and B-segments of his main theme to impart one or the other in moments throughout the score, mostly notably in “Warp Core Value” when a profoundly moving upsurge accompanies a defining moment in the story (part of the melody here also reprises “Labor of Love” from Giacchino’s first STAR TREK score, in which Winona gives birth to James T. Kirk aboard a medical shuttle while George Kirk sacrifices his life and the Kelvin to save her crew; which forms a poignant and heartbreaking juxtaposition with its use in INTO DARKNESS).  The score contains a couple of new firsts – it’s the first time since Cliff Eidelman’s STAR TREK VI to feature piano in the score (in “London Calling,” a posh cue that serves as a proper introduction to London of the 23rd Century, and in a more dramatic nuance in “Buying the Space Farm”), and it also contains a choral piece with choir singing entirely in the Klingon language (“The Kronos Wartet,” its title a clever play on the name of the famous string quartet).  A brief, and very sublime, quotation from the Alexander Courage TV fanfare pops up in “Sub Prime Directive” and again at the end of “Kirk Enterprises” as the ship soars off into the cosmos to commence its five year mission.  The blaring techno/dance tune “The Growl,” sung by Conway during the film’s end title, is included on the end of the US album as a “bonus.”  (Other international releases contain different “bonus” songs [see Wikipedia for details], as artists from six different countries were tagged to create end title songs to be heard during the long end credits crawl, and then appear on their region-specific soundtrack release.)

The Brooklyn-based multimedia group Fall on Your Sword, established by Englishmen Will Bates and Phil Mossman, continues to make its inroads with its rhythmic beats into film music.  Originally formed as a live progressive band, Bates and Mossman carried their instrumental style into films, most notably in the reflective 2011 science fiction drama, ANOTHER EARTH and the 2012 comedy LOLA VERSUS. For Alex Gibney’s WE STEAL SECRETS, a 2013 independent documentary film about the whistleblower organization called Wikileaks and its involvement in the collection and public dissemination of secret information, the group has found an ideal medium for its electronica/rock-based form of music making.  Without the need to support changing dramatic storytelling, Fall on Your Sword invests WE STEAL SECRETS with a mesmerizing sonic pallet that conveys an ongoing atmosphere of covert purpose and secret territories, giving the film a subtle degree of tension that befits its subject matter.  “I’ve been a fan of Alex’s work for a long time, so it was great to finally work together on such an important project,” said Fall On Your Sword founder Will Bates.  “Alex really wanted the music to have a cinematic edge to it. The score is very thematic and character-driven, like the film itself. Composing for a movie where the story was unfolding in real time was a unique experience.”  The score’s primary motif (“Post 9/11,” “Hackers,” “Adrian Blows the Whistle”) is a driving riff that provokes a string-generated pulse dappled by piano arpeggios, while elsewhere intriguing sonic ambiance and textured pads emphasize the revelations found in unearthing hidden secrets (“Gunship Video,” “First Release,”  “The Ecuadorian Balcony”).  This digital release is a very compelling musical excursion, providing a fascinating hybrid sound collage that becomes nearly as provocative a listening matter as the subject matter of its film.

/Shirley Walker/La-La Land
Shirley Walker’s third-to-final film score before her early death in 2006 was for Glen Morgan’s remake of the 1971 rats-at-large thriller, WILLARD, given new life through Morgan’s witty and contemporary direction and Christian Glover’s quirkily menacing performance as the titular ratmaster of vengeance.  This thoroughly delightful and festively ferocious score has remained unavailable until now, and it should be greeted with a cheer to see it finally presented in fine form after lingering among the rodents for so long.  Aside from its modernesque Gothic verve, Walker made musical history with WILLARD by creating a self-sufficient accordion section to her symphony orchestra, this enhancing the muscular timbre of her 90-piece orchestra with the piercing resonance of six accordion players whose enthusiastic multi-fingered performance enhanced the menacing presence of Glover’s co-star, Ben, the biggest of Willard’s army of rattus en masse.  WILLARD is essentially a monothematic score that operated through a number of variations on a theme for the titular character, which would change based on his interaction with the rats Socrates and Ben. The result may well be Walker’s finest score. Its Herrmannesque syncopations and Elfmanlike quirkiness really enhanced the feel of WILLARD and gave it a great deal of punch.  La-La Land’s thorough representation of the music on this album (26 tracks, 50:13) lifts the grate to reveal Walker’s fine score in the light of day, where its scuttling measures and unique musical grain shines profoundly even in their darkest rhythmic measures.  John Takis provides a comprehensive analysis of the music in his detailed and informative album notes.


Soundtrack & Music News

In support of the victims of the recent tornado strike in Moore, Oklahoma, film music book writer/photographer Phil Watkins has developed The Film Music Memorabilia Silent Auction Page, which runs only for a few more days until June 2nd.  “It was seeing the scenes of complete destruction that kick started my efforts into organizing a silent auction for the Red Cross Relief Fund to be run through my Passionata Film Score Photography page,” Watkins wrote on his web page. “Many emails, messages and phone calls later and I have been overwhelmed by the generous response from the film music community. And now I am calling out to the amazing fans of film music to help me out.”  The auction ends on Sunday, June 2nd, and there are no reserves for such items as signed soundtrack CDs and score sheets.  See: http://pwatki1.wix.com/passionata#!auction/c163u

The board of the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) has unanimously elected Australian-born Emmy-winning composer Ashley Irwin as President for the 2013-2015 term. A board member since 2008, Ashley has served on the Performing Rights Committee and been Chairman of the Seminar Committee for the last four years.  He succeeds veteran TV composer Dan Foliart in the office who is stepping down after 10 years of service.  Best known for his collaborations with Bill Conti, Clint Eastwood and his work on 17 Oscar shows, Ashley Irwin relocated to the US in 1990 after a successful career in Australian TV. His latest feature film, THE PARDON, was released in March and he has two more films scheduled for theatrical release later this year.

Henry Jackman has scored THIS IS THE END, the new comedy from the makers of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, in theaters June 12, 2013. Directed by Evan Goldberg, THIS IS THE END stars Craig Robinson, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Danny McBride, playing themselves caught in the shenanigans occurring during the apocalypse in Los Angeles. Jackman wrote the epic music recalling the grandiose scores of Hollywood’s Golden Age while imbuing them with a sense of parody and playfulness appropriate for the film.  His expansive score is complete with a full orchestra and choir to underscore the pending disaster.

Roger Bellon’s music from the award-winning film 12 STONES has been released via his record label, Bellchant Records.  Set against both the beauty and squalor of Nepal, 12 STONES lent itself to extraordinary visual storytelling.  Said director Sandy Smolan, “though the film is largely told through the voices of the Nepalese women we were portraying, the intent was to emotionally capture the remarkable transformation they were undergoing.   We knew that in additional breathtaking cinematography, we wanted a score that would to be an essential element in the storytelling, intimately connecting the audience with lives of these remarkable women.  Roger’s score created a wonderfully rich tapestry that incorporated ethnic music with thematic structures to perfectly capture the exquisite joy these women discovered as they became self-sufficient.”  The album is available digitally from iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and other digital music providers.

Eleven years after the release of À LA FOLIE…PAS DU TOUT (He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not), written and directed by Laetitia Colombani, its fabulous music score is now available through Canadian label Disques Cinemusique.  In this film, Audrey Tautou (AMÉLIE) plays a seemingly open and vulnerable lover. The falsely idyllic character of the story in its first half gives rise to a few light musical pieces which recall the exhilarating music by Yann Tiersen for AMÉLIE. However, the score by Jérôme Coullet soon highlights her obsessive nature of Angélique. “The main theme held on strings and piano reflects a romantic fervor and an entrancing dramatic mood,” writes the record label.  “As the plot progresses and the viewer is confronted with the pathological nature of Angélique’s passion, this main theme gains a dark and tragic dimension.”  Also announced from DCM is The Music Of Jorge Arriagada For The Films Of Philippe Le Guay, a premiere collection of music by Franco-Chilean composer Jorge Arriagada for three films of director Philippe Le Guay. Both albums are limited editions of 500 copies only.

Despite being cancelled six years ago by Fox, the popular sitcom ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT has been resurrected for a belated fourth season on Netflix.  Composer David Schwartz (DEADWOOD, NORTHERN EXPOSURE), who composed the music for the entire series, is back for the new season, and a movie to follow. Schwartz composes both the original score and songs for the series.  “The music for the series has always been eclectic,” he said. “From the signature Tahitian ukulele cues to the ultra mock-serious orchestra cues I always strive to do something unique with the music. Often it’s more about writing fun music … as opposed to funny music. And it’s so important to match the comedic timing and pace of every scene.”  Schwartz continued: “I really wanted the music to grow and hopefully expand on the first three seasons.  Season 4 was unusual in many ways. All fifteen episodes are interconnected. Different viewpoints of the same scene appear in multiple episodes. One goal was to be more thematic with the score and the characters. Longer episodes and scenes have allowed me to develop musical themes and ideas. ARRESTED can have a ton of music, sometimes 60 to 80 cues per episode!” The entire fourth season of Arrested Development is now available for streaming on Netflix. 
For more information on David Schwartz visit, www.davidschwartzmusic.com

Generating and manipulating music and sound effects defines sound design, a process that is common on TV and film productions nowadays. However The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was way ahead of the game in the 1960s. Brian Hodgson was a member of the Workshop working closely with the seminal figure of Delia Derbyshire. As the original sound effects creator for DOCTOR WHO he was responsible for the chilling Dalek voices and the powerhouse sound of the Tardis lifting off (created by running a back door key for his mother’s house along the bass string of a gutted piano and treating it electronically). His highly innovative techniques are fully on display on Silva Screen’s new collection of ‘special sounds’ that provided the background to DOCTOR WHO – THE KROTONS, broadcast in December 1968/January 1969. This soundtrack is now available on CD and digital download in the UK (with CD release in the USA on July 16); a Limited Run of 10″ Vinyl is also now available.

Emmy award winning composer William Ross has scored Lifetime’s contemporary version of the stage play and 1989 film, STEEL MAGNOLIAS, available now on DVD. Ross reteamed with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for the project; the three previously worked together on the Academy® awards broadcast. Starring Golden Globe winner Queen Latifah, Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad, Adepero Oduye, Condola Rashad, Grammy winner Jill Scott and Golden Globe winner Alfre Woodard, STEEL MAGNOLIAS is directed by Kenny Leon, chronicling the lives of six women in Louisiana as they support each other through life’s ups and downs, celebrating the true bond of friendship. Ross created a score using all stringed instruments to meld into the emotional arcs presented in the film.

Death Waltz Records, dark purveyor of horror film scores on pristine vinyl, have announced their first collaboration with the legendary Hammer Films: Harry Robinson’s score for TWINS OF EVIL, third film in Hammer’s acclaimed Karnstein trilogy, inspired by Le Fanu’s “Carmilla.”  This appears to be a reissue of the 2000 GDI CD release, here given a triple fold out pop up CD packaging, featuring exclusive cover art by Eelus and “exclusive sleevenotes” by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn (who also wrote the film’s history for the GDI release notes).  A vinyl version of the Death Waltz album is also available.

Back Lot Music will release Nathan Whitehead’s score for THE PURGE, Universal Pictures’ upcoming speculative thriller starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, on June 4, 2013.  The film opens across the country on June 7, 2013.  “Scoring The Purge was a fascinating and haunting exploration into what we value as a society and how far will we go in the name of greater social good,” Whitehead reflected. “Sonically, this was such a fun world to develop as I got to record and process a lot of strange sounds to create our own vocabulary for the score – everything from spring rattles and noisy toys to whooshing traffic and subway tunnels. Then working with this gritty, textural palette I aimed to tell two main stories musically: Will we survive the night and even if we do, what does this say about us as human beings? I found this combination of tense action and human drama to be so compelling and it was really rewarding to express that musically.”
See more on Nathan Whitehead at: www.nathanwhitehead.com

Blake Neely has scored SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA: A MISSION OF HOPE, a PBS documentary directed by Daniel Cohen, chronicling Col. Ilan Ramon, the first and only Israeli Astronaut, and his ascent into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Col. Ramon’s journey is both physical and spiritual, as he carries with him a miniature Torah that survived the Holocaust, an artifact representing a cross-generational journey through time and space, from the depths of hell to celestial beings. Neely’s score captures the gravitas of this historic act, and the nature of a journey undertaken by a single man that lifted the spirit, as well as acknowledged the past and future, of his entire nation.  The film premiered on PBS the same day as the 10th anniversary of the shuttle disaster, February 1, 2013.  Neely’s score mixes passionate strings, pulsing piano, and somber brass to create a sense of reflection and quiet majesty, evoking the hopefulness and profundity of Col. Ramon’s space flight. The score soars with a grace and finesse that brings to mind the dexterity and beauty of space flight. Neely’s score encompasses all aspects of the film, from the spiritual journey the ascent of the Torah represents to the space shuttle itself.



Games Music News

Game Art Connect Ltd presents a new live event series, Game Music Connect created for fans of music in games, aspiring and professional composers of all backgrounds and those interested in learning about the art and science of creating today’s cutting edge video game soundtracks. Featuring interviews and roundtable discussions with some of the world’s leading composers and audio directors in the video games industry, the first Game Music Connect event is scheduled to take place at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, London on September 9, 2013. Tickets for this unique edutainment day are on sale via www.gamemusicconnect.com

Composer Boris Salchow (Resistance 2&3, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time) swaps his baton and orchestra for Moog synthesizers and rare vintage audio processors as he reunites with Insomniac Games to score their new sci-fi video game FUSE published by Electronic Arts. FUSE thrusts players into the roles of four elite, covert agents each with their own Xenotech weapon and set of unique skills used to fight to protect mankind from a deadly alien energy source known as FUSE. Salchow’s original score blends analog electronic elements, adrenaline infused drums and musical sound design to provide a foreboding and rousing sonic landscape for FUSE’s dark futuristic setting and intense co-op action experience.  German-born composer Boris Salchow is classically trained but just at home in the electronic music world. Combining these two worlds he began his scoring career writing commercials, promos and prime time television series for leading networks in Germany. Now based in Los Angeles Salchow has composed for feature films and video games including the internationally-released action thriller 80 MINUTES, additional music for ELSEWHERE, and additional music for the Sony/Screen Gems’ teenage horror mystery PROM NIGHT.  Salchow ‘s music can also be heard in Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Sony’s Resistance 2, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, and Resistance 3. Salchow continues to write music for commercials, promos and trailers for some of the most prestigious brands in the world including Adidas, Audi, and Lamborghini.
Recently Salchow scored the feature film adaptation of the award-winning documentary series Germany From Above (Buena Vista International) recorded with a 70-piece orchestra and mixed at Babelsberg Studios in Berlin.  This visually stunning film is comprised of breathtaking aerial shots of Germany.  With only a few words from the narrator, the movie provided a unique opportunity to take the audience on an inspiring musical journey befitting the film’s grand scale. Germany From Above premiered with a special event at Germany’s largest movie theater, where Boris’ 90-minute score was performed live along with the film.  For more information on Boris Salchow, please visit www.borissalchow.com.

Sumthing Else Music Works, the premier label dedicated to licensing and distributing video game soundtracks, has entered into a multiple-title licensing agreement with indie video game developer and publisher Wadget Eye Games. Under the terms of the agreement Sumthing Else Music Works will license Wadjet Eye Games’ catalog for digital release on www.sumthing.com, Amazon MP3, iTunes, and other digital music services.
The deal announced today with Wadjet Eye Games includes the following titles:
The Blackwell Convergence Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Thomas Regin
The Blackwell Deception Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Thomas Regin
The Blackwell Legacy Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Peter Gresser
Blackwell Unbound Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Thomas Regin
Da New Guys Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Chris Moorson
Primordia Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Nathaniel Chambers
The Shivah Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Peter Gresser
Resonance Original Soundtrack 
Music Composed by Nikolas Sideris

For more information, visit http://www.wadjeteyegames.com and www.sumthing.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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