Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2015-2
July 20th 2015

By Randall D. Larson



  • Lorne Balfe and TERMINATOR GENISYS
  • Soprano Karen Hogle Brown on vocalizing for films and soloing on AVATAR

Soundtrack Reviews

A.I. (expanded; Williams), ADMIRAL (T.Morris), AWAY & BACK (W.Ross), BACKLIGHT (Malo), BIG ASS SPIDER! (Torjussen), BURYING THE EX (LoDuca), DAREDEVIL (Paesano), DESERT DANCER (Wallfisch), DRAGONHEART 3: SORCERER'S CURSE (McKenzie), THE GAME (Pemberton), JUPITER ASCENDING (Giacchino), MAN ON A SWING/THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (Schifrin), THE MISSING (Scherrer) , SOUTHPAW (Horner), TOKAREV (Eyquem), ZOMBEAVERS (J. & A. Kaplan

I must apologize for the lateness of this column – I had to take a sabbatical for a few months in order to keep up with back-to-back album notes work as well as several book projects that all came together around the same time. I’m hoping to make up for lost time and catch up with pending reviews by running columns a little shorter with more concise reviews and news items while focusing on timely and in-depth interviews, thus allowing the column to appear more regularly. Thanks for your patience – and for reading Soundtrax! - rdl

Directed by Alan Taylor, TERMINATOR GENISYS returns to the Oscar® winning Terminator franchise to take familiar characters in a new direction. When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: to reset the future.

With the movie building from 1991’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, including shot-for-shot recreations, Lorne Balfe’s score needed to honor the tradition of the past Terminator films while adding bold, new music to fit the action and emotions of GENISYS. Producer David Ellison says, “This is the largest scale Terminator movie that’s ever been made. There are bigger action sequences in GENISYS than any prior Terminator film.” In addition to propelling the action, Balfe’s score needed to tap into the film’s emotional core as it explores themes of freedom and guardianship. “The score contains everything but the kitchen sink. It’s a hybrid score, and although there are these massive action cues, there is a hell of a lot of emotion,” stated Balfe.

Interviewed the week before GENISYS’s opening, Balfe discussed his ideas, experiences, and challenges in scoring this new TERMINATOR film, as well as other recent scores.


“We start off the film with a nod to [Brad Fiedel’s] theme, and then we move on, because there’s a bigger story, musically, to this film, and it’s the concept of fate and hope.”

Q: What first brought you in to score TERMINATOR GENISYS? How did you become involved?

Lorne Balfe: Hans [Zimmer] is the music producer on the film, and we had just finished a show called A.D. One of the things that Hans does very well is that he knows how to team people up. I do a lot of action music mainly because of video games, but this film is the exact opposite because even though it is a big action film, there’s something more important to it. There’s the concept of fate and hope, and a deeper story, ironically enough, between Arnold and the Sarah Connor character, which hasn’t really been strongly developed until now. So I think it was the concept of the emotion and this underlying story telling that had to happen, why I ended up being brought in. And then it just kicked off, for about two or three months, which is quite a short period of time.

Q: TERMINATOR GENISYS ignores the last two Terminator films while building directly from TERMINATOR 2. Were you, or were you asked to, the reflect musical mythos of the previous two films in your new score? 

Lorne Balfe: When you start something that’s part of a franchise, the first thing you have is the conversation about the themes – “Are you going down the route of using the themes or aren’t you?”  Some people don’t, some people do. Now when you watch this film, especially scenes like Griffith Park, it is very obvious that it is an homage to T2. And musically, I did exactly that. We spent ages trying to recreate the same sound that was used by Brad [Fiedel] in those scenes, and also using the iconic theme. The two iconic themes from Brad, the Main Theme as well as the Terminator theme, haven’t really been used in the last couple of films. Now, this one isn’t a sequel and it’s not a prequel; it really has its own identity. We start off the film with a nod to the theme, and then we move on, because there’s a bigger story, musically, to this film, and it’s that concept of fate and hope. We try to use the old traditional themes when it’s going to be the most effective, and not just simply because we can. You automatically get this feeling of nostalgia when you watch the beginning of the film; you get introduced to a hint of the original theme. And obviously then at the end, because, my goodness, you want that feeling when you walk out of the cinema! And it’s been a very hard adventure, because always when you start something, I think sometimes you’re too clever for your own good, and you’re going ‘how do I reinvent it?’  Things don’t necessarily have to be reinvented – a ham sandwich is perfectly good!  I think we spend a lot of time with the orchestra and a lot of time sonically doing different experimentations with the original theme, and when it comes down to it, it is so powerful when it is played just on a piano. When you hear those three notes, it’s a beautiful, emotional cue. So it’s all very experimental. That’s the great thing about what we do – you work as a team; it’s not a case of you’re by yourself. We would have meetings nearly every single night and play through ideas, and just like the film you see the progression of it.

Q: What are the new elements you’ve brought into the film’s musical design?

Lorne Balfe: There are quite a few. There’s the whole connection with Sarah and The Guardian, Arnold’s character – that has its own new theme. There’s the Kyle and Sarah theme, which wasn’t a strong storyline before and now it’s kind of continuing, especially with the John Connor theme, so there’s many new themes. That’s one more progression, but also I’d like to think there is obviously a nod to the past. I tried very hard to be loyal to that, especially with some of the electronics, but also add something new on top.

Q: What’s was most challenging about writing that fate and hope theme?

Lorne Balfe: The biggest challenge was simply trying to musically write a piece of music that represented that concept. I lost count how many times I rewrote the “Sacrifice” cue!  Ironically David and Alan always said that was the pinnacle cue and it was going to be the hardest cue, and it was, because the only way to know if it was going to work was to sit back and watch the whole thing and see if the development worked the way we intended. That’s always a very difficult thing - if you write a song, you know after maybe 40 seconds when you get to the chorus if it works or not. We’re waiting for over an hour to see if this kind of development is going to work! So that was a very tricky thing because, again, the audience has to feel that relationship between The Guardian and Sarah Connor. It’s very easy to go the wrong way and make it melodramatic, and that’s disrespectful to the audience, really. One of the benefits of having test screenings or watching it work with other people is you see the reaction, and you can see if things are working or not.

Q: What’s been most challenging about scoring TERMINATOR: GENISYS?

Lorne Balfe: The biggest challenge on it, to me was, two things – trying to musically write a piece of music that represented the concept of fate and hope. The “Sacrifice” cue probably I wrote that… I lost count how many times I rewrote that scene, and it was the biggest challenge, and ironically David and Alan always said that was the pinnacle cue and it was going to be the hardest cue, and it was, because the only way to know if it was going to work was to sit back and watch the whole thing and see the development that was there. That’s always a very difficult thing. If you write a song, you know after maybe 40 seconds when you get that chorus, you know if it works or not. We’re waiting for over an hour to see if this kind of development is going to work! So that was a very tricky thing because, again, the audience has to feel that relationship between The Guardian and Sarah Connor, and it’s very easy to go the wrong way and make it melodramatic, and that’s disrespectful to the audience, really – and that’s the joy of working on films because, before it ever gets seen, you can have a test screening or you watch it work other people and you see the reaction, and [whether] things are working or not.

Q: Percussion has always been a big sonic element of the original TERMINATOR scores, but they’ve never sounded as massive as what you’re thundering in GENISYS. Would you describe your use of heavy drums in this score?

Lorne Balfe: I would describe the fact that Alan Meyerson, who mixed it, managed to truly, in a Spinal Tap way, get it to an 11!  It really is a fantastic sounding mix. Forget the writing – it just sounds great!  And also it competes against visually what you’re seeing, which is always a very hard thing. I worked in quite a lot of films to do with robots, and it’s always a hard challenge, because you write something and you use percussion, and then you have to get high frequencies so you involve metal with it, but the character is a robot – it’s got metal, strangely enough! – so it’s got to be doing its own rhythm, so it’s a very difficult thing to figure out, because naturally when you see a T-800 on the screen, you need to know what that’s going to sound like whilst you write around it.

Q: What was Hans Zimmer’s role as executive music producer and how much influence did he have on the direction of the score?

Lorne Balfe: Hans is, firstly, a fantastic composer – the world knows that. Secondly, though, he’s a great filmmaker, and he’s able to look at the bigger picture. When you’re working on a film like this, the composer has one point of view and then the director has another point of view, and what was great was just being able to have somebody be in the middle and look at the bigger arc. It’s a very difficult film, because you need to be able to relate to Arnold’s character, and that’s very hard to do. Emotionally, I hope people get that.

Q: How closely did you work with director Alan Taylor and producer David Ellison in spotting the film and through the process of integrating the score to the visuals?

Lorne Balfe: Probably the closest I’ve ever worked on a project in my life. I met them on a Friday; they came back on Monday and I had written all the themes, and we sat down and listened to them. From then on, for about four weeks, we simply met every single night and they would stay late, going through things. Something I learned on this film is that people don’t understand how invested the filmmakers are in a film. They live and breathe this project. When you read a bad review about something, it’s like, do you think somebody intentionally sat down to make rubbish?  No, strangely enough, there are a lot of people working on it believing in what they’re doing. That makes something the most enjoyable thing, when you’ve got people really 110% committed to this film. They live and breathe the world of TERMINATOR. If a scene didn’t work, you simply rewrote it. They’ve been immersed into this world for three years, and I’ve simply been invited into it for the last four months.

Even though an orchestra recorded it in London, there’s another stage after that of manipulating the orchestra recording, so at times you may think you’re hearing something electronic but you’re not.

Q: Your score is a thickly-orchestrated hybrid of acoustics and electronics and choral and other sonic elements. How were these elements created, and what was your technique in integrating them into the score as it captured the film’s story arc?

Lorne Balfe: The most difficult thing about this score was when you sit down and you have a blank page – well, you have a blank computer screen – and you’re staring at it and there are no notes on it!  Then you start writing. That first 24 hours you’re panicking and you’re in fear that what you’re doing is just not going to be understood or make any sense. You then start experimenting with the colors, because I knew that we wanted to have a nod to the past, and especially T2, so there’s a lot of sonic material that relates to that. Then we had to bring it to the future, but also make it timeless. I didn’t want the score to sound out of date in another year or two – I wanted to match what you’re looking at, but, in ten years’ time, you’ll be able to watch the film and still have fun with it. Even though an orchestra recorded it in London, there’s another stage after that of manipulating the orchestra recording, so at times you may think you’re hearing something electronic but you’re not – it’s the same with the choir. I was trying to use a lot of old sounds from emulators and Fairlights, so it starts out sounding like a real choir but then it’s not – it’s been manipulated. Those were the synths that would have been used at that time – and where you heard it you said “Wow! That sounds real!” and now it sounds a bit old fashioned; so it’s been taking it and manipulating it.

Q: While the score is powerful with massive action cues that accelerate the excitement and augment the film’s visual prowess, they are laced with emotional layers of great poignancy. What’s your technique in creating this kind of expressive layering?

Lorne Balfe: When it’s an action scene, if there’s jeopardy to do with the main characters, we need to feel connected. If I see an action scene and there’s a potential chance of Sarah Connor dying, I’ve got to feel invested in it. The music can also just remind the viewer of that connection, because it’s very difficult with action scenes to always have that feeling of why-we’re-going-to-feel-upset-when-they-die. It’s a very tricky thing, because what’s interesting about film music is that percussion obviously works, but then you can watch fantastic cues in HARRY POTTER and STAR WARS where there isn’t a lot of percussion and the music can be played very slow, even though it’s an action scene. So it’s about experimentation. We always kept monitoring it and making sure that when possible we weren’t missing a potential beat that would remind the audience that there’s an emotional connection there.

Q: There’s a flavoring that I’ve heard in in recent years where you’ve got a very busy layer, whether it’s marcato strings or it’s drums doing this very busy stuff, but then either on top or below you’ve got this very slow cadence of rhythm, or melody – the contrast just makes it more than just an action cue, it seems to put the soul into that moment of action. You’ve done a bit of that here on the GENISYS score.

Lorne Balfe: Yeah. What’s interesting about that is that not every idea starts off that way  There’s a couple of scenes that we did where we have that texture but there’s melodies on top, and then when you get to the dub stage you find that you’re competing against new layers that you hadn’t necessarily heard the week before. It’s the same when we’re writing – you’re looking sometimes at scenes that aren’t finished, especially with animation. So even up to the last minute you as a composer have got to have quite a good imagination to know what’s going on. Sometimes you can strip the layers down and end up removing melodies, removing counter melodies, and you end up with a backing track. It wasn’t necessarily written that way, but that’s what ends up in the film. Even up to the last day of that dub, things change and interesting accidents occur.

Q: What challenges did you have in working within and around the sound effects and deciding at which moments the music would have its say, and at which times the effects would dominate the mix?

Lorne Balfe: It’s always a continual challenge right up to the end. We’re all working at the same time, which makes it very difficult. I could be writing the middle of the film on Monday and they could be working at the end. I don’t write a score in order – I watch the film and sometimes I’ll write a cue at the beginning, then I’ll go to the end and write a cue… everybody works in different processes. Also, the other thing is that you may figure out a concept near the end that you didn’t necessarily have at the beginning, or a better development of the theme. So you work in different order, and that’s why it’s very important with film music which, again, I don’t think a lot of people fully appreciate, is the concept of music editors. I was very fortunate to have Alex Gibson on this film. It’s really a case of understanding that not all the music that’s been written is going to end up in the film, and not every orchestration is going to end up in the film, because it’s all got to stand up against each other. Sometimes action scenes are played without music – sometimes you sit there and after it’s all been recorded you go, “Gosh, I need a break from the music or the sound effects” and then you play around with it. I think that’s an exciting thing about film music – if you wanted to be a purist and just have a piece of music that you think was perfect – don’t write for film, because you’re part of a team and it’s got to work together!

Q: That idea of teamwork has become noticeable just in the amount of people getting credited in the bigger films, and you’ve got these new positions such as “composer of additional music” that we’re seeing…

Lorne Balfe: That job’s always existed – what’s happened is that the terminology has changed. If we go back 20 years, people didn’t necessarily hear the finished product before it got recorded or some composers would simply watch the picture and write a melody line and a chord progression and that’s it. It was then the job of the arrangers and the orchestrators to make it sound the way we now hear it, with countermelodies, ostinatos, woodwind runs, percussion… so ironically the jobs have always been there, they’re just changed. The one main thing that is definitely changed is the concept of the team, because filmmaking, the edit of that film can change in 24 hours. Now before, when people cut film, that was very different. Every slice and every cut, there was a hard nose decision regarding it, and it’s a different beast now. If we write that score, they may have a screening there days later and one of the important things to do at that screening is they ask the audience about the music, and if that music is to an old cut, it’s of no use! So the size of the team is so important because that’s how the deadlines are achieved now.

Q: I want to ask about a few other recent scores. You returned to animation with HOME, a sci-fi fantasy comedy adventure. What musical challenges and pleasures did this film provide for you?

Lorne Balfe: I came off PENGUINS, which was another animation, and it was pretty difficult also, because there’s a [pre-existing] world to it – it’s part of the MADAGASCAR world. So you have to keep some of the musical rules and keep to that. HOME was a whole new concept because there is no musical world for it. There are fantastic songs written by Stargate [Tor Erik Hermansen & Mikkel Storleer Eriksen] and sung by Rihanna. The interesting thing was trying to create something that matched the world that Oh [the main character] was living in, and matched the colors of this film. I always have great fun on animation, because the images are changing constantly. One single facial expression can make you laugh or cry. I had a wonderful time on it. There’s a great scene, the Eiffel Tower scene, which was just a great cue to write, because originally the cue was written as a kind of fast bolero cue and then in the last minute, on the day of scoring, the producers and Tim [Johnson] the director, and I were all just sitting there and we just thought, let’s try something different, and I started calling some of the top session musicians in London and getting a progressive rock band together to play with some orchestra on to. It’s a great little journey.

Q: You brought the sound of epic film scoring to THE BIBLE and its sequel, A.D. – how would you describe the musical concept to this modernistic telling of these bible stories?
Lorne Balfe: The producers, Mark [Burnett] and Roma [Downey], never talked about THE BIBLE or A.D. as a TV show. I think what’s interesting now with what’s happening musically, it’s like when people say “Wow! It’s a Hollywood score!” I don’t know what a Hollywood score is nowadays!  It’s so diverse. 30 years ago you kind of knew what that Hollywood sound was, but now it could be anything, it could be a minimal score, it could be a large orchestral score; it’s technically still “a Hollywood film.”  So the sound has changed. So we looked at it and talked about the fact that instead of thinking of it as a TV show, we purely looked at it as a story being told, and that was it. And a lot of THE BIBLE and a lot of A.D. wasn’t written to picture; it was written with scenes in mind, because they were still filming. I know that one of the hardest scenes in THE BIBLE was the Crucifixion, and that was definitely written to picture. With a lot of the other scenes, we’re talking to the directors and the editors about what would be good, what do they need, what is missing?  It’s very difficult with the subject of THE BIBLE and A.D. to do individual themes for each character – it would be crazy!  Characters are changing constantly and you’d never keep up with it!  Ironically, it kind of relates to TERMINATOR, because with TERMINATOR we knew that we wanted the musical world of hope and fate to be referenced throughout the whole film, because that is what the story’s about. So with THE BIBLE and A.D., instead of concentrating on “a theme for Jesus” and so on, it was the concept of a higher being, a spirit, and that helped a lot. And then by doing that, and not writing to picture, you automatically start thinking in longer arcs, which then makes it sound like it’s from a movie. You also see the [story] themes, even though the episodes aren’t finished, and they’re epic, they’re big, so naturally you write big, and sometimes you don’t. I never sit down with an agenda, because I’m trying to translate what is in the director’s head, and sometimes a 60-piece orchestra can make somebody in the audience cry, but then three notes on a piano can be as powerful. It’s funny, some people will say “well, that’s music’s bland, there’s no emotion in it” and my goodness, there will be someone else who’ll sit there crying… and that’s the joy of music. If it was so easy, everybody would do it, and everybody would nail that emotion! It doesn’t work like that!

Q: You continue to have opportunities to score a variety of films without getting pigeon holed. Do you find these continual shifts in tone and style refreshing or schizophrenic, challenging…?

Lorne Balfe: I’m so used to it. I think it makes it fun, and at the end of the day, to me, it’s just not meant to be a job. I never looked at it as something that was a nine-to-five situation, because it’s not. Sometimes it’s a lot more than that – I think on SHERLOCK HOLMES we’d be at it for two or three days straight with no sleep!  If you’re working on something like PENGUINS, for example, you’re working on it for maybe a year and a half. Now you’re not working on it every day, because the animation’s not ready or the point of view is changing, so what happens a lot is that you end up on multiple projects sometimes, because films aren’t finished, or the direction changes, and the same with games. I’m working on another Skylander game now, which is a children’s game, and sometimes there’s nothing to do for three months because the game isn’t finished yet and I’ve caught up. What’s interesting is, even if you’re doing a romantic comedy, you learn a new ability to tell a story, and that helps you whether it’s a horror film or a drama or a comedy. It’s another learning process, and I think that once you stop learning you’re trouble.

Many thanks for Albert Tello at Costa Communications for his help in facilitating this interview, and to Lorne Balfe for his generous sharing of his perceptions and experiences on these films.
Lorne Balfe photo by Peter Oso Snell. TERMINATOR: GENESYS photos © and courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions



While working on an album notes project on which she sang, I had the opportunity to interview singer Karen Hogle Brown a few months ago. She’s soloed and sung in the choir on several film scores and she happily shared her passion for singing, for science fiction, and for vocalizing in films with me. Among the films she soloed on was AVATAR; after the recent death of James Horner, her fond memories of working with him on that score are especially bittersweet.

Q: How did you start getting involved, from working in the opera to singing on film scores like AVATAR?

Karen Hogle Brown: My opportunities to sing on film scores came mostly through the choral work that I did with L.A. Master Chorale. My love for film music started in college – I was very much into film scores and loved that kind of music and got everything I could get my hands on. But then I started doing some recording work and that led to a couple of contacts out here. For us singers it’s really about the contractors in town – knowing them and making sure they know you, what you can do, and being able to rely on you. It really helps to have those personal contacts, and also being in the Master Chorale, it’s such a well-known group for what we do, that if they want a particular type of singer and they know that I’m in that group, that’s been a huge plus. Contractors can just hire you and know that’s what they’re going to get.

We’re also a group that sings together a lot, so while studio musicians are great about coming together and putting together a product very quickly, I will say it helps a great deal if you are singing with people you sing with all the time. You just know how to position yourself and how to finesse things – and that’s half the battle.

So it helped me that I was doing that. But also, in college, a film score composer named Brian Ralston hired me to do my first solo work on one of his films. It was a neat little movie called NINE TENTHS. There are only three people in the cast, and when this female character is trying to decide what’s to be done about something, that’s when I am singing, to give her a voice for those emotional moments. So I had that on my credits as well.

Q: How did you become involved in AVATAR?

Karen Hogle Brown: I was first hired as a soloist for that film. I was doing a concert for the L.A. Chamber Singers, and James Horner’s engineer heard me at that concert. When he heard me do some crazy high-floaty stuff his engineer just called the choir director and said “I need the tall blonde!  Who is that and can I work with her?!”   So I got this mysterious call to come to this house in Malibu to sing some things, and lo and behold there’s James Horner!  It was a very interesting experience, because there were many different kinds of solo voices used in that recording, and often times they were used on top of each other. I do a lot of high, floaty stuff but then there’s another voice along with me that has this very earthy quality to it, so it conveys this loss of innocence when you combine the two together underneath what’s going on in the movie at the times I am singing. But then I also got to do the choral sessions, which were just a hoot. We were taught Na’vi and how to pronounce those words and sang a lot of that. It was really fun.

Q: How close did James Horner work with you in getting the sound he wanted for the soloing?

Karen Hogle Brown: Very closely, although it was mostly through his engineer. He trusts his engineers so much that he lets them go, but he’ll speak up when there’s something he feels he’s not quite getting. And then there was the problem that James Cameron kept re-editing the film, so James Horner would come in and say “ok, now we’re going to do this a little bit longer!” because every time they change the film he had to change the music, so he had me do many different versions.

Q: With AVATAR, you’re dealing with a fantasy/science fiction environment that’s totally unreal. In that respect, was it a challenge coming up with the right kind of vocal tone you needed to convey for the strange landscapes, environments, or characters?

Karen Hogle Brown: Not really. We’re still working with people who can tell you at least what’s going on. Even if it’s a sci-fi film, what we love about the sci-fi films is the humanity there is within them. I’m a huge STAR TREK fan so it’s just like, the weirder things get with aliens and whatever, it always comes back to the human element. That’s what we’re trying to go for more than anything else: finding the human interest at this point in the film and simply going for that. The approach is the same, regardless of genre or it being on another planet with tall blue aliens: what is my point of interest and how to I tell the story?

Q: What other films have you worked on? 

Karen Hogle Brown: I did a couple of Disney films recently. I worked on FROZEN which was really interesting.

Q: Tell me about FROZEN. What did you do with that?

Karen Hogle Brown: I didn’t do the production songs, but I was on the soundtrack. What was really interesting was that we did have to sing in Old Nordic because there’s a coronation scene where the choir is singing, and it was fun to be coached in that, because that’s not a normal language we’re used to performing in. We were voiced along with a Norwegian folk choir, so they were doing their thing and we’re doing these other things that complemented them. The composer is using all-female voices right at the very beginning to start telling the story of the two sisters.

I worked most recently on the new X-MEN movie and on GODZILLA. That was crazy and fun because most of that was a lot of CGI that wasn’t yet finished when we had to record. But on both of those films there were a lot of sung effects also – different freaky sounds that would be mixed in with the orchestra. Those were both really fun scores to sing on.

Q: What are some of the strangest scores or vocal interpretations you’ve had to do for films?

Karen Hogle Brown: AVATAR is right up there, having to learn Na’vi. That was very specific. It was like a real, living, breathing language that they created. We in the choir are very good at mimicking, and we have a working knowledge of the romance languages and we know how to pronounce French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish pretty much at the drop of a hat. We read and have a little bit of working knowledge of Russian and some things like that, and some rules that we can at least start with, but here we were starting totally from scratch, having to learn the vocabulary and the syntax of it. We would sit there and they’d go, “it’s not pitu, it’s pith’tu!” and then we’re going, “what?” It just took us a while to catch up. But that’s also one of the things we’re trained to do, is to really hear the difference in phonetics in what they’re trying to achieve. Once we got it we were good.

Q: In a film score such as this, how many rehearsals do you get to do?  I know with orchestra they may have a rehearsal or they may just site read their way through the performance. How is it when recording the choir?

Karen Hogle Brown: We sight-read through it. Usually we have our music right in front of us, if there are certain specific things to tell us – like how to pronounce Na’vi! – we’ll take a little bit of time to go through that, but generally if there’s a thing or two we have to rehearse, they’re rolling anyway to get their levels, so by the second or third time we’ve done it we’re certain in the way it sounds. But there’s also other interesting things that we do, like sweetening or doubling, and things like that – doubling is if you have a thirty voice choir and we sing it again, it sounds like we’re a sixty-voice choir when they combine the tracks. With sweetening, sometimes they’ll have you sing it again to double it, but when you do you will sing a different part so it doesn’t sound exactly the same. And we usually get a bump in pay for those specific things. But in any case it’s usually rolling by the second time we do it, so there’s not a lot of unrecorded rehearsal time.

Q: Anything else that comes to mind about your work for films?

Karen Hogle Brown: I guess the one thing that I find very funny is that a lot of people add voices to a score to give it that human element, and yet when we show up to sing they actually want us to sound like their MIDI patch!  I’ve always found that to be a strange thing. I mean, yes, we’ll sing cleanly and sing in tune and all of that, but also, it’s okay, the tiny imperfections are what makes it sound human, so we’re going to sing legato a certain way that a MIDI choir file is not going to be able to do. So that’s just been my biggest pet peeve – composers who really expect for you to sound like that. We’ve had to do it, “okay, we get what you want, we’ll do that,” but you’re just missing out on a huge opportunity here. Let the imperfections come through, let it sound human and give a little bit more drama to the singing in that way.

Q: That makes it more organic, and like you were saying, it’s that human element that links the audience with the characters that you’re supporting in the film.

Karen Hogle Brown: Exactly. And likewise when I was working with James Horner on AVATAR, there was a take where we’re both kind of sitting there looking at each other – “what do you think?”  “What do YOU think?” – and I said, “to be honest, I think it was perfect, and it was soulless!”  And he’s like, “I totally agree! Let’s do it again!” I’d sung it perfectly, but I was so worried about being perfect that it lost its emotional heart.”

Q: Unlike the orchestral musician who will pick up an instrument and play, your instrument is part of you. Does that make it easier or more challenging to perform expressively?

Karen Hogle Brown: It’s definitely easier to express one’s emotions, but you also have to be working with people who are acquainted with the human voice and are okay with that. My favorite people to sing for are the people who know what a human voice is going to do at a given moment and let us do our thing. Most humans are used to expressing themselves with their voice in one way or another, so for us it is an even more immediate connection between our souls and our sound.

Click to hear a sample track from Brian Ralston’s score for the 2006 romantic thriller, 9/TENTHS, featuring
Karen Hogle Brown.  Courtesy of Brian Ralston,
with thanks.

For more information on Karen Hogle Brown, see


Snapshots: New Soundtracks in Review

(expanded OST)/John Williams/La-La Land

John Williams’s wondrous score for Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. (a picture originated by and largely influenced by the filmic style of Stanley Kubrick) receives a welcome expanded presentation on this 3-CD set. The score is some distance from Williams’s action writing; it’s a quietly reflective and often serene musical accompaniment for David, the cybernetic boy who longs to become real and regain the love of his human mother. His theme is tentative and elusive throughout the score, appearing in fragments as he journeys to find his meaning; the theme becoming gradually warmer and more fully expressed as David begins to find emotional expression. There are several other themes running through the score (a “lost” theme for David’s abandonment; a mechanistic robot motif, a theme for the Blue Fairy, who David believes will answer his questions, etc.), but the score’s main theme is for Monica, the boy ‘bot’s mother. One of the composer’s loveliest melodies, this too is heard in fragments and brief treatments, settling down and then drifting off again, but continuously at the forefront as the focus of David’s search. When it does reach its bittersweet fullness in “The Reunion,” Williams expresses the journey’s fulfillment through an expressive and intimate full-scale treatment of his theme for piano and orchestra. The theme is also rendered as a vocal melisma in “What Dreams Are Born,” vocalized by Barbara Bonney, and sung by Lara Fabian in its lyricized song version, “For Always.”  Williams colors all the primary themes with human emotion, presenting them mostly in tentative fragrances, emphasizing David’s yearning and his search for humanity, but saving their musical fulfillment until the end when David and Monica are rejoined one final time in “The Reunion,” which allows the film’s main theme its fullest rendition, first for piano, and then with the full orchestra. As Jeff Bond describes in his thoroughly comprehensive album booklet notes, the score in some ways reflects Kubrick’s treatment of music; The opening track, “Cybertronics,” contains traces of the icy vibe of Khachaturian’s “Gayne Ballet Suite” that Kubrick used in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and crystalline, suspended voicings and strings enhance the “Journey Through the Ice” sequence in similar Kubrickesque terms, while also reflecting Williams’s own more avant-garde approach to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. It’s a somewhat unique score in Williams’s musical pantheon, and one richly deserving of the enhanced treatment given it in this new release.

ADMIRAL/Trevor Morris/Riva Media Prods
Trevor Morris’ penchant for bringing sonic energy and large sonic dimension to period films (TV’s THE BORGIAS, REIGN, THE VIKINGS) serves him well in this 17th Century historical drama from the Netherlands (originally titled MICHIEL DE RUYTER, after the Dutch naval hero whose story is depicted in the movie), which has been released digitally to iTunes (it’s not currently offered on amazon). This is Morris’ sixth film for director Roel Reiné and by far the biggest one. Incorporating a large live orchestra and choir, Morris flavors the narrative with an engaging melodic sonority that breathes a sense of depth and dramatic gravity into the saga. A powerful chorus of strings, driven by heavy drums and brass and embellished by a commanding overlay of choir, energizes the action and sea battles, while a poignant mélange of piano, choir, and soprano solo inflects the poignant theme for Anna, De Ruyter’s wife, which along with The Admiral’s theme forms the core of the musical design. Morris grasps the historical significance of the story and colors the music with layers of impassioned authority while not failing to ground De Ruyter in the poignant emotions of the common man. It’s an affecting, inspiring score – Morris considers it to be “one of the most powerful scores I have ever written for any movie I’ve done” – and among the year’s best new scores.

AWAY & BACK/William Ross/Momentum RLP
Released digitally in both Mp3 form and, exclusively from Momentum, in uncompressed 44.1Khz, 16 bit high definition audio, William Ross’ Emmy-nominated score for Hallmark Hall of Fame is AWAY & BACK (2014), a story about a widower (Jason Lee) raising his three children alone on a rural farm. When a swan dies and leaves its brood to be hatched without her, the family finds solace in raising the cygnet; a prickly but cute ornithologist (Minka Kelly) arrives to help, causing some further conflict in the family. Ross’s compassionate orchestral music spreads wings around the family and their story, focusing on the absent mother as its thematic core as the characters find solace, purpose, and eventual redemption in her memory. In contrast with this theme, Ross’s woodwind motif for the orphaned swans conveys their predicament as it begins to reflect the family’s own healing. A very simple, Coplandesque Americana melody is identified with tomboy daughter Frankie, the film’s main protagonist, through whose experiences the audience becomes immersed into the story. There are also moments of humor, mischief, and danger that are driven by specific uses of marimba, slide guitar, or minor-keyed theme variations (“Frankie is Gone” and its counterpart “Wrong Trail” are especially provocative cues for driving strings and insistent piano figures), but the overall tone is soft and sympathetic; strings, gentle winds, and piano. As an emotional journey from bereavement to healing, the score is an impassioned and delicate accompaniment, a poignant rendering of pain endured and given over to a place in memory and new beginning; forming a very graceful and affecting musical experience.
For purchasing information, excellent album notes by Tim Grieving, and sample tracks, see:

BACKLIGHT/Nuno Malo/Kronos Records
This is an absolutely sublime orchestral/choral score. Portuguese composer Nuno Malo has demonstrated a particular gift for passionate melody and harmony in previous scores [see my review of 2014’s NO GOD, NO MASTER in my December column], and this latest score is also hauntingly serene. Fernando Fergato’s BACKLIGHT was the number 1 box office movie in Portugal for 2010. Filmed in the US, this Portuguese production tells the story of several characters, each of whom are facing a crisis in their lives, who are impelled towards an uncharted desert lake where they have the opportunity to save each other. Malo reflects the mystery and oddity of the concept as well as the humanity of each character’s situation with exquisite melodic atmospheres that float across the soundscape in compelling harmony, combining orchestral instrumentation with electronic components. As with the storyline, the score develops until it resolves in a profound confluence of vocal, synthetic, and orchestral harmony. The album, released in a limited edition of 500 copies, makes for a wondrous and evocative listening experience on its own.
For music samples, see:

BIG ASS SPIDER!/Ceiri Torjussen/Audio Network Ltd
This up-and-coming Welsh-born Hollywood composer-to-watch has provided a fully live-orchestral score for this horror comedy that plays a straight edge to the film’s comic schtick, ramping up its fun level and making it all the more humorous by playing it straight. But more than simply playing musical straight man to an over-the-top monster spider, Torjussen has also composed a downright excellent score, with exciting and nicely orchestrated action/battle cues and an engaging main theme that has a dominant martial semblance to represent the stalwart men and women who courageously put their lives on the line to defend Earth from angry megarachnids; well, a down-on-his-luck exterminator and an equally luckless hospital security guard, at any rate. Their heroic exploits in evacuating the life out of the spider are given the full military treatment as well as, and when the oversized eight-legger is finally subdued in “Black Spider Down” they’re given a noble, triumphal theme all their own (expanded in “Black Spider Extended”). Torjussen’s sturdy main theme sparkles in orchestral splendor, its seven-note melody possessing the character of a classic Hollywood movie theme and holding the frantic action music cohesively together. The album was released as a limited composer promo, but copies can be found on eBay and are worth snatching up.
For more information on the composer, see

BURYING THE EX/Joseph LoDuca/Lakeshore
Lakeshore has released both Joseph LoDuca’s deliriously charming score for Joe Dante’s new horrormedy, and an EP of songs featured in the film. The score album also includes the infectiously raucous song “Poison Love” by Electroillusion, which was featured in the film’s trailer. A mix of screwball comedy, romance, and zombie horror, the film tells of a twenty-something’s romance with his dream girl that takes an unexpected turn when his dead ex-girlfriend rises from the grave and thinks they’re still dating. A frequent dabbler in musique d’horreur, LoDuca has journeyed from the grisly humor of Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD series, through the ethnically-enhanced sound world of Hercules, Xena, and those guardians of sacred myth, the Librarians, up to his recent sonic excursions with Spartacus, and has always done it with verve and a marvelous instrumental audacity. BURYING THE EX is equally lavish in its inventive orchestrations and sardonic musical prowlings. “There were a few key steps I needed to dance along with this horror/comedy mash up,” explained LoDuca about his work on BURYING THE EX. “The first was to stay true to the grand history of genre music, while making the actual scares truly scary. Finally we needed a magical, seductive, doomed-love theme for our protagonists. What better than a Gypsy violin? This is highlighted wonderfully by Aaron Ashton’s virtuosic display on the Main Title.”  Along with those violin strains of classic Universal horror music, the main title emerges into full LoDuca territory with inclusion of a haunting crescendo of choir and full orchestra (an alternate version without the violin intro is included as well, but pales by comparison). The balance of the score is painted with affectionate colors that range from spooky black and sparkling whimsy, to brilliant shades of heartfelt sincerity. Instrumentally imaginative and sonically exuberant, LoDuca’s BURYING THE EX is a very pleasing musical romp in the grave.

DAREDEVIL/John Paesano/Marvel Music
For their gritty, dark urban take on Marvel’s blind superhero Daredevil, which debuted on Netflix earlier this year, the filmmakers wanted a contemporary sound rather than the anthemic heroic orchestrations of other heroes in Marvel’s pantheon. John Paesano, who emerged after several years scoring shorts, documentaries, low-budget features, and TV with a large-scaled orchestral score for THE MAZE RUNNER in 2014, came to their attention and was brought on board to compose the series’ music. His score for DAREDEVIL’s first season is especially dark, as blind lawyer Matt Murdock is wrestling with his inner demons, his past, and keeping his identity as a violent masked vigilante secret from his partners.  For the bulk of the first season, he isn’t technically Daredevil; he’s resisting, fighting, and learning to become what will eventually define him. With a provocative visual design for the show’s title sequence – suggesting how things might “look” to a blind man using his enhanced other senses to “see,” Paesano delivers a rhythmic main theme with a ringing keyboard riff over synth effects and a compelling series of violin figures. From there we have a mix of poignant, reflective atmospheres associated with Murdock’s past and how that adds to the conflict he is feeling in the modern day – and dark, electronic riffs and rhythms that convey the dark territory of crime-ridden Hell’s Kitchen, where Matt’s team practices and his fists mete out justice. Percussive fight scenes are quite brutal, constructed with a loud volume that augments the crunches and socks of hand-to-hand combat. The show’s main villain, Wilson Fisk, is given an intriguing sympathetic ambiance that matches the series’ depiction of him – a vicious brute yet a sensitive, sophisticated individual whose romance with an art museum curator is one of the finer dramatic arcs of the season; a slight twinge of ambient jazz from electric bass and reverbed keyboard lends a dark underscore that reflects the character’s darker underpinnings. As the first season’s arc draw to a close, Paesano gathers the score’s darker elements and at last the music develops in heroic resolve as Murdock fully embraces his Daredevil persona, donning the recognizable uniform of the character for the first time, and at last a hero is born.

DESERT DANCER/Benjamin Wallfisch/Varese Sarabande
Set in Iran, DESERT DANCER is a true story that follows the brave ambition of Afshin and Elaheh who defy the governing regime and, at risk to their lives, form an underground dance company. Walfisch’s music, in accompanying both the dance sequences in the film and the drama within and without the dancing company, is a work of intense beauty and elegance, drawn from Western orchestral elements as well as hints of the Iranian heritage of the characters and their locale. Cimbalom, along with voice and ethnic woodwinds, colors the environment and the growing affection the leads have for each other, while growing choirs of strings punctuated by piano and poignant violin soloing offers an emotive intensity that is elegant and highly affecting. The album includes the dramatic score as well as Wallfisch’s music for three extended dance sequences featured in the film, especially created for the movie as a collaboration between Wallfisch and award winning choreographer Akram Khan.

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 8/Murray Gold/Silva Screen
Silva Screen has released the music from DOCTOR WHO’s eighth series, Peter Capaldi’s first as the 12th Doctor, in a splendid 3-CD package (if you got one of the first 5000 copies it included a slipcover and a 16-page booklet of very cool retro episode posters painted for The Radio Times by Stuart Manning). The album is a thorough serving of music from the 8th series’ dozen episodes spread over 2 CDs, with music from the 2014 Christmas special (“Last Christmas”) occupying the third disc. The music is a little more mature than in past seasons, likely reflecting a somewhat older and more serious doctor in comparison with the previous three on the new series. The 12th Doctor’s theme, “A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme)” arguably has the largest cinematic sound of any of the Doctor’s themes, even more than 11’s “I Am The Doctor.” But it sounds fantastic; it’s a huge orchestral piece driven by a large drum section that carries an epic melody across a rapid sea of blistering strings. It carries us into Zimmer territory with its use of marcato strings beneath a graceful, 2-note power rhythm, but it’s highly effective and gives Capaldi’s Doctor a latent power very nicely expressed musically. This theme is carried through into most of the episodes, as is Clara’s whimsical theme (introduced in Season 7). The album features the 8th Season’s more percussive arrangement of Ron Grainer’s original series theme, while the episode music is highly varied due of course to the diverse nature of the stories, but it’s hugely orchestral and rich in expression and emotion, as has been Gold’s particular proclivity across all eight seasons. The music ranges from the electronic textures for “Into The Dalek” and “Kill The Moon” to swashbuckling symphonics in “Robot of Sherwood,” the mischievous light classicism of “The Caretaker,” the alternatingly free-spirited and furtive caper music of “Time Heist,” the wondrous adagio from the “Listen,” and the epic renderings of the two-part series finale, “Dark Water” and “Death In Heaven” (with its demented waltz theme for Michelle Gomez’ delightfully over-the-top Missy – and of course the enchanting whimsy of “Last Christmas.”  Of particular interest is the last track on CD2 (“The Majestic Tale of) An Idiot with a Box,” in which Gold arranges “Twelve’s Theme” in the manner of Matt Smith’s “I Am The Doctor” theme, adding a strident rock beat to the signature piece. It’s magnificent music throughout with a tremendous sonic dimension and dynamic with Silva’s fine muscular mastering. As with the last few CD releases, the Series 8 soundtrack includes an extra track on the digital download edition, an instrumental version of “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the cabaret song that British pop singer Foxes sings on board the train in “Mummy on the Orient Express” (The song is a 1920’s style cover of the Freddie Mercury song from Queen’s 1978 “Jazz” album). The song, which isn’t as essential as the exclusive downloadable score tracks from the 7th series album, can be purchased individually from iTunes, Amazon, and Silva Screen.

DRAGONHEART 3: SORCERER’S CURSE/Mark McKenzie/Varese Sarabande
After Mark McKenzie’s previous, fully orchestral score for the second DRAGONHEART film, he proves equally adept in the synthetic environment and provides a score of melodic eloquence and orchestral depth. “DRAGONHEART 3 was enormously rewarding to compose,” said McKenzie. “Action pictures provide a wide pallet of dramatic creative and musical opportunity: tense moments, fights, magical happenings, action, triumph, sorrow and love; it’s all there.” McKenzie reprises his DRAGONHEART 2 theme and charges forward with a compelling, powerful work that really delivers the goods despite its sampled orchestra (just three examples: “First Attack,” “A Knight Is Sworn To Valor,” and “Battle to the Death” are all brimming with sonic dimension and orchestral prowess), so don’t let the fact that it’s a synth-and-samples performance dissuade you from experiencing an honestly thrilling and authentically-sounding fantasy-action score. The focus in this score is on motif-infused battle action, but McKenzie does find opportunities for eloquent reflection, as in the introspective “One Rejected Knight,” the renewing “Desires Can Spoil A Dream And A Heart,” and the tender “Goodbye My Friend.” There is also an emphasis on Celtic influences on this score from both pipes and chorus, which contrasts nicely with the traditional symphonic base of the music. “Shadow Hopping” adopts the flavor of a Celtic dance. The album is available digitally from Back Lot Music and on CD from Varese Sarabande. Mark McKenzie has been rightfully noted for his intimate, melodic drama scores like THE LOST CHILD, THE ULTIMATE GIFT, and THE ULTIMATE LIFE, but hopefully his DRAGONHEART 3 score may remind filmmakers to bring him on board more action films as well.
For more details on the composer and the DRAGONHEART 3 score, see:
Sample some of the DRAGONHEART 3 music in this youtube suite: 

THE GAME/Daniel Pemberton/MovieScore Media
Rejoining director Niall MacCormick after 2013’s COMPLICIT, Pemberton’s score for this Cold War spy thriller (a British six-episode TV series) is a vivid score that evokes the sound of such British espionage films as THE IPCRESS FILE, combining orchestra with a strident, up-front array of piano, acoustic guitar, and drum kit – even a cimbalom flavoring a few moments of dark menace. Performed on the soundtrack by the City of Prague Philharmonic, the strident, angular score is thickly orchestrated and enmeshes the listener into a multifaceted sound world of untrustworthy colors – bass flutes, prepared piano, an out-of-tune trombone, and unusual sampled sounds such as the noise of an oscilloscope, all of which coalesce to keep the listener uneasy, even while the music communicates these feelings through a seemingly comfortable jazz rhythm and beat. The album makes for a provocative listen on its own, its sense of dimension enriched by the depth of the orchestration, which keeps the music’s shifting shades constantly interesting and pleasing. I’m especially eager to hear what Pemberton has to offer in his score for Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., which makes its debut in August.
For a recent interview with Pemberton about THE GAME, see this page at

JUPITER ASCENDING/Michael Giacchino/
Varese Sarabande, Sony Classical

A thoroughly captivating and sophisticated work, Michael Giacchino’s score for the Wachowski’s ambitious but critically unpopular science fiction epic (probably the most reasonable review I’ve read in that regard is this one) was released last March by Varese in the US (following February releases by Watertower in the UK and by Sony in the European Union, all with the same musical content; however, Varese’s release bestows us with an expanded booklet with session photos and a page of composer’s notes). Giacchino, who first collaborated with the Wachowski’s on SPEED RACER, was asked to write and record the music prior to filming, which allowed the actual score music to be played during filming. Final adjustments were made in post-production to ensure a proper fit of the pre-recorded music to the finished picture. All this gave Giacchino a large sonic canvas on which to work relatively free of creativity-hampering minutiae, while using notes supplied by the directors of situations and character descriptions as his inspiration. “I found it incredibly liberating to work without the constraints of timing,” Giacchino wrote in his album notes. “I was able to completely and purely write what I thought the themes were, without the stress of making them fit into a specific sequence. It really opened up a new creative process for me. The result is as close to a free-form symphony for orchestra and choir that a science fiction score will get, albeit one that remains intrinsic to the original concept and scene outline of the film it was composed for.” The album presents Giacchino’s original 4-movement suites that were presented to the Wachowski’s before filming, and the final cues as molded and formed to fit the film’s final edit. The music is massively elegant, a bravura piece of work that develops purposefully en masse, then drifts apart to convey nuances of character, developing destiny, and the conflict between worlds. Its presentation across two CDs is appropriate and necessary to allow the music, both in its original suite state and its individual, final-cut-worthy cue assembly, to develop with its composer’s natural instinctiveness, and afterwards more closely linked to its scene-specific apportionment in the final film. Along with his splendid scores for TOMORROWLAND (enchanting and wonderfully Williams-esque), JURASSIC WORLD (reflecting the franchise’s original theme while dominated by an eloquent and sizable new theme of his own and plenty of aggressive dinosaur music), and INSIDE OUT (a cornucopia of dazzling emotive motifs in vivid conflict and harmony), this has been an incredible year thus far for Michael Giacchino; JUPITER ASCENDING, no matter what you may think of the film it accompanies, is a superior science fiction accompaniment, one of the finest scores of the year, and one of its composer’s best so far.

Lalo Schifrin/Quartet

Two soundtracks by Lalo Schifrin are presented for the first time in this single album presentation of two complete short scores. 1974’s MAN ON A SWING was a suspense thriller about a small-town police chief (Cliff Robertson) investigating a murder and the self-described psychic (Joel Gray) who offers help, but who seems to know more than he lets on. Schifrin’s score is straightforward, favoring avant-garde subtleties and reflective tonalities, etc., that lend a palpable uneasiness to the film as it plays out. I usually don’t care for random source cues being imposed upon an album of dramatic film music, but in this case it’s Schifrin, it nicely contrasts against the dark-toned serious music, and it’s so good that his fully-developed jazz source cues, for nightclubs, radios, and other recognizable sources within the film, preside as highlights of the album. A potent satire, 1967’s THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST tells the story of a psychologist (James Coburn) assigned to the POTUS, until the paranoia associated with such a sensitive government position causes him to run away, wherein he becomes the target for international spies eager to gain the presidential knowledge in his possession, or the means to silence him forever. Schifrin’s long sought-after score is a frenetic mix of jazz-pop, lounge, spy/suspense music, patriotic anthems, and wonderfully much more. Just the main title itself shifts through half a dozen music styles and back again. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable kaleidoscopic chameleon of a film score which female-voiced paranoia theme popping up here and there when least expected, all effectively restored from less-than-perfect mono music stems (the only source available). The package includes a 20-page booklet with in-depth liner notes from film music writer Jeff Bond.

THE MISSING/Dominik Scherrer/MovieScore Media
For this 2014 British miniseries, Dominik Scherrer (PRIMEVAL, RIPPER STREET) provides an Emmy-nominated accompaniment that is both suspenseful and lyrical, reflecting both the panic and grief of a family whose 5-year-old son disappears on a crowded street while the family is vacationing in France. “Thematically our emotional core was the pain of the loss of the child,” Scherrer explained. “The story is about the fallout of this event, and how far, into many corners, in several countries, this can reach. Director Tom Shankland, made an analogy: butterflies. They start as one thing then hatch and become another creature. Hence I made a whole series of interrelated themes relating to butterflies: Butterflies, Actias Luna, Colias Croceus.”  The music is very contemporary in its style and sound, largely focusing on the state-of-mind of the husband and wife protagonists and how the son’s disappearance affects them mutually and individually, while creating plenty of unease and tension as the family undertakes their own investigation. Scherrer uses a number of plucked ethnic instruments and drums to reflect location; a menacing, droning synth line often flows beneath the primary instruments, or rushes in suddenly to reinforce a sense of danger or anxiety that keeps the storyline quite engrossing.  It’s a very good score and its lyricism and instrumental texture makes for a very good listen on its own. The show’s title sequence incorporates the song “Come Home” by Belgian post-rock band Amatorski; the full version of the song as well as Scherrer’s arrangement for the series’ opening are both available on the album.

THE SEARCHERS/Max Steiner/BYU Film Music Archive
A favorite film and a favorite Max Steiner score of mine, the music to John Ford’s 1956 Western film THE SEARCHERS is a splendid mix of Western folk tunes (the 1856 antebellum song “Lorena” operates as a warm familial love theme for John Wayne’s character and the abducted niece he has vowed to rescue), warm melodies (his pastoral “Indian Idyll” provides a sympathetic motif for the Comanche Indians who have cared for Wayne’s niece as one of their own), cavalry calls punctuating and interacting with the orchestral movements, and breathtakingly aggressive action music in Steiner's finest form; all in addition to a classic title song performed by the Western singing group, Sons of the Pioneers. Taken from the acetate discs in BYU’s Max Steiner Collection, the original soundtrack music possesses an excellent monophonic sound despite its age. The album mark’s BYU’s 20th Anniversary as the world’s only branded academic film music archive, preserving vintage film music for CD release; their first CD was, in fact, this same score, presented in its complete form utilizing tracks from the original scoring sessions for the first time, and long sold out. This new release is a modified reissue of that original release, with a revamped booklet design, updated track order and titles, and a bonus track of the complete version of “The Searchers” song, including outtake choruses. A newly designed 32-page booklet features an updated revision of James D’Arc’s comprehensive essay from the original release, plus a new, detailed track-by-track commentary by Ray Faiola.

SOUTHPAW/James Horner/Sony
While Shady Records will release the songtrack album, produced by rapper Eminem, from the film. Sony is releasing James Horner’s score (both due on July 24), with added text on the cover reading “Dedicated to the Memory of James Horner,” as this is the last score he wrote before his death last month (the film THE 33 was written before SOUTHPAW, although that movie opens later). Thus it’s a bittersweet CD to listen to. I’d anticipate that THE 33 will be more in line with the kind of score we remember Horner best for, inasmuch as it’s a heartfelt drama about the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days by a mine collapse in 2010; but SOUTHPAW is a strikingly modern score in its own right and shows Horner once more in an electronic mode. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film stars Jake Gyllenhall as a former boxer who loses custody of his daughter following the death of his wife, who must return to the ring to prove his worthiness of supporting the girl. The textural score is a hybrid of sparse orchestral elements and foreground electronic synthesis which merge to create a sonic environment for Gyllenhall’s character, conveyed largely from psychological and emotional perspectives. Horner’s articulate composing style is evident while his tools have shifted from the symphonic baton to the computer keyboard, with interlaced textures and tonalities taking the part of melodies and orchestral harmonies; but it’s recognizable as a James Horner score. There’s as much depth to the hybrid orchestration here as is found in Horner’s more celebrated symphonic works; the combination of the dark synthetic layers of tonality and the more emotional flavors of strings and piano paint a vivid and compelling picture of the left-handed boxer and the world he is trying to climb out of. Before his death, Horner said of his work on SOUTHPAW”It’s just a movie I’ve never done before. I thought it would be really challenging. It’ll be really edgy, but it will be very simple. No big orchestras. The big stuff takes care of itself. The director did a brilliant job, and it’s stunning to look at, and well photographed. And there have been a lot of boxing movies obviously, fighting movies, but they’re looking for something deeper than just the surface.” Addedsound engineer Simon Rhodes, about the soundtrack: “It’s a little bit unusual I would say. There are atmospheric moments with a simple piano motif and at the other end of the scale it’s full out aggression. And then there’s everything in between. Lots of colors.”
Note: see News below about another Horner score composed (but not yet recorded) after SOUTHPAW.

TOKAREV/Laurent Eyquem/Caldera Records
Laurent Eyquem enhances the driving action moments of this 2014 Nicolas Cage revenge thriller (released on DVD in the US as RAGE) with a throbbing mix of orchestra and electronics that keeps these scenes moving steadily forward. But in contrast, he also paints an impassioned psychological portrait of Cage’s character, who suffers from the loss of his young daughter at the hand of the Russian Mafia. Featuring soprano melisma and a sublime array of strings, these tracks are the emotional core of the score, the cause-and-effect that Eyquem captures so nicely, the moving lyrical music reinforcing the emotional damage done to Cage’s character and the relentless, throbbing riff that propels his devotion to revenge, reaching its apotheosis in the concluding, title track. Eyquem provides a lovely counterpoint idea in capturing the villain of this piece, Russian mafia boss Chernov, by creating a somewhat sympathetic musical portrait using balalaika and choir that is also quite interesting and expressive. This fifth CD-release of Caldera Records features a detailed booklet-text by Gergely Hubai and the label’s signature inclusion of an audio-commentary by the composer, who talks about career and the concept of this specific score. Eyquem proved to be a composer to watch when he emerged in 2013 with exceptional scores to the Civil War drama COPPERHEAD [see my enthusiastic review in the in my July 2013 column) and the biopic WINNIE MANDELA, and this new score is similarly proficient and quite pleasing.

ZOMBEAVERS/Jon & Al Kaplan/La-La Land
This is a fun comedy horror film; the feature film debut of TV writer Jordan Rubin, from a script by him along with Jon & Al Kaplan, who also composed the score. The movie is both a parody of zombie movies and a pretty good horror film in its own right, even while keeping a toothy grin on itself the whole time. A group of teens arrive for a weekend at a cabin in the woods only to confront hordes of beavers who, contaminated by a chemical spill, have died and mutated into bloodthirsty rodent zombies: the Waddling Dead. The composers, noted for scoring Jim Wynorski’s giant creature thrillers GILA, PIRANHACONDA, and DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR (and, lest we forget, the sexploitation romp THE HILLS HAVE THIGHS), puts a retro edge in their ZOMBEAVERS score, which is a mix of spooky synth 80’s styled vibes with a contemporary flair, which subtly matches the tongue-in-cheek flavor of Rubin’s film but also plays the film’s horror elements quite straight, offering some splendid moments of terrifying dissonance and propulsive monster music. “Upon considering the tone of the film, and the horror genre’s long lineage of great – and sometime endearingly bad – music, we decided that the score should be a hybrid of dated electronics and small ensemble playing, bolstered by acoustic samples,” wrote the composers in their album notes. They also brought in a log drum and actual beaver teeth to use as percussion effects in the score. “Despite the film’s outlandish subject matter. We treated the material seriously.”   

Varese’s release includes three CD-exclusive bonus tracks that are not available on the digital download version. For more information on the composers, see


Soundtrack & Music News

The tragic death of James Horner in June continues to resonate among the film scoring community. The outpouring of grief and tributes which still continues this week is a tribute to how much his music meant to so many. My initial bio and obituary was posted on Buysoundtrax here, while a longer commentary on Horner and his music for science fiction, fantasy, and horror films appeared on my Musique Fantastique web site here. An especially meaningful group tribute appeared last week on the Spanish AsturScore web site – see the English language page here; especially noteworthy memories were added by Lisbeth Scott and a number of composers, journalists, and fans. A particularly good obit and remembrance of Horner was written by Jon Burlingame for The Film Music Society web site here.

Breaking News: SOUTHPAW may, in fact, not be James Horner’s last composed film score.  Its director Anthony Fuqua has reported that Horner composed music for their planned next film together, a remake of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.  The film hasn’t begun filming yet, but Horner is reported to have written a score based on the script.  Read more here:

Additional film music deaths of note, since my last column:

Japanese composer Riichiro Manabe died on January 29th; he was known for his Toho scores, which included a couple of the juvenilia Godzilla films and, particularly of interest, Toho’s Dracula trilogy from the early 1970s, THE VAMPIRE DOLL, LAKE OF DRACULA, and EVIL OF DRACULA. For more details, see the report at   

British composer John McCabe died in February after a long illness. McCabe was a notable and magnanimous composer, very involved in British music organizations where he did all he could to help other composers. He will be remembered for his superb recordings of piano music by himself and many others, but especially for his brilliant contributions to the orchestral and brass band repertoire. In films, McCabe is noted for his excellent Hammer score for FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1971). See the BBC bio here for more details.

George Burt, composer, author and educator who scored Robert Altman’s FOOL FOR LOVE and SECRET HONOR, died in March at his home in Sonoma, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He was 85. See Jon Burlingame’s obituary here, from Variety.

Robert Drasnin died in May, aged 87. He was a busy composer during the 1960s, contributing to many TV series, including scores for THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and THE WILD, WILD WEST. He was also well known for one the best exotica albums during the genre’s early 1960’s heyday, Voodoo.  Read the Variety obit here. Another remembrance of note can be seen here, from Spy TV.

Composer Phillip Lambro died in mid-June at the age of 80. Lambro was best known for composing a score for CHINATOWN that producer Bob Evans tossed out and then gave Jerry Goldsmith a week to replace it, as well as the notably creepy horror score to CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD. For more details, read my remembrance here at

Gerald Fried Private Issue Collection: David L. Fuller, one of the founders of the Screen Archives record label in the early’ 90s, has been working with composer Gerald Fried (ROOTS, STAR TREK: TOS) to preserve Gerry’s legacy of film scores in private release but professionally made CDs. The “Gerald Fried Private Issue Collection” CDs are mastered professionally from Fried’s personal tapes, with attractive graphics and production values. They were produced in extremely limited quantities as promotional recordings on behalf of the composer and his family; Fuller is offering to put up a limited number of remaining copies in order to fund further work on Fried’s behalf.

Among these CDs are the 1958 Roger Corman noir drama, I MOBSTER, the 1961 David Janssen mystery thriller TWENTY PLUS TWO, and the 1985 Robert Mitchum crime drama, A KILLER IN THE FAMILY. The former two scores emphasize jazz-based themes and source music, but also feature some very good noir-ish orchestral writing; they both seem to be influenced by the shift toward jazz scores for crime films popularized by Elmer Bernstein’s MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955) and give that style of scoring a good run for its money. The Mitchum film is a straightforward dramatic orchestral score featuring a pleasing melodic family theme which is frequently tinged with an air of menace (Mitchum plays a father serving time for murder who convinces his three teenage sons that his life is being threatened so that they’ll break him out of jail, wherein he at once resumes his criminal behavior). These are all low-budget orchestral scores (sounds like between 20-30 players); they are all very well preserved and have a good clarity of sound for their age (the first two scores are mono, KILLER IN THE FAMILY is in stereo but the separation is minimal). Fried’s score for Corman’s 1958 crime drama MACHINE GUN KELLY is currently in the works; others may be available as quantities last. Make inquiries to David L. Fuller by email here.
At age 87, Fried is still active; he recently composed the score for Peter M. Kershaw’s short film, PSYCHE ASCENDING (2013).
For more information on David Fuller’s endeavors on Fried’s behalf, see this interview at American Music Preservation:

At this year’s Saturn Awards event, composer Robert Cobert (DARK SHADOWS, THE WINDS OF WAR, TRILOGY OF TERROR) received a lifetime-achievement award from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films for his generous contribution to the Arts through his music composition. 

On July 16th, the Television Academy announced the nominations for the 67th annual Primetime EMMY® Awards. Music nominees for dramatic score are:
Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score):
            CHEF’S TABLE – Francis Mallmann (Netflix)
            HOUSE OF CARDS (“Chapter 32”) – Jeff Beal – Netflix
            OUTLANDER (“Sassenach”) – Bear McCreary – Sony PicturesTelevision
            THE PARADISE (“Episode 8”) – Maurizio Malagnini - PBS (BBC)
            PENNY DREADFUL (“Closer Than Sisters”) – Abel Korzeniowsky (Showtime)
            TYRANT (“Pilot”) – Jeff Danna – F/X Networks
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie Or a Special (Original Dramatic Score):
            AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW (“Orphans”) – Mac Quayle (Fox )
            AWAY AND BACK – William Ross (Hallmark Hall of Fame)
            BESSIE – Rachel Portman – HBO
            THE MISSING – Dominik Scherrer – Starz
            SOFIA THE FIRST (“The Curse of Princess Ivy) – Kevin Kliesch – Disney Channel
            24: Live Another Day  (“11:00 AM – 12:00 PM”)  - Sean Callery – Fox
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music:
            THE DOVEKEEPERS – Jeff Beal (CBS)
            MARCO POLO – Daniele Luppi (Netflix)
            PENNY DREADFUL – Abel Korzeniowsky (Showtime)
            TEXAS RISING  – John Debney & Bruce Broughton (History Channel)
            TRANSPARENT – Dustin O’Halloran (Amazon)
            TYRANT – Jeff Danna & Mychael Danna – F/X
For the complete list of all nominees, including Music Direction and Music&Lyrics, see

In addition to his Prime Time Emmy nomination for the Disney Junior series  SOFIA THE FIRST, composer Kevin Kliesch earned his second consecutive Daytime EMMY® nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for his work on a different episode of the same show: Princesses to the Rescue!  “Since Mulan makes an appearance in this episode, from the very first shot I wanted to set a tone that transported the viewer to the land of Wei-Ling,” said Kliesch. “I had the opportunity to use non-traditional Asian-themed instruments in this episode to augment the sweeping score that the picture deserved, which was a nice change.”

Quentin Tarantino’s new film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT will have an original score by Ennio Morricone, the director announced at ComicCon. Tarantino had shown a 7-minute preview of his forthcoming Western film, which used as its temporary score music that Morricone wrote for John Carpenter’s THE THING. After the preview was over, Quentin Tarantino spoke to the audience: “I want to make one announcement that people don’t know yet. It wasn’t for sure, but we just settled it. You guys know that I don’t use an original score in my movies, I kinda take scores from other movies and put ‘em in there. This one, I thought should have an original score. So I’m here to announce that the great Ennio Morricone will be doing the score for THE HATEFUL EIGHT. He’s writing right now, and recording in Prague in the next couple of weeks. This will mark Morricone first Western score in 35 years (some sources have cited 40 years, but Morricone’s last Western score was actually for the 1981 Bud Spencer comedy Western, BUDDY GOES WEST (OCHIO ALL PENA), although it was far removed from the sound of his classic Westerns from the 1960s.

Scheduled for October 24th, the World Soundtrack Awards will celebrate its 15th anniversary with the Brussels Philharmonic performing film music of Alan Silvestri, best known for his scores of BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and FORREST GUMP. The concert, which will be held during the second part of the World Soundtrack Awards, will be conducted by Dirk Brossé and accompanied by film fragments on the big screen.  Among the awards to be bestowed, the World Soundtrack Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented composer Patrick Doyle.  The WSAwards will once again be the festive closing event of the 42nd Film Fest Gent, which also welcomes Daniel Pemberton, winner of the 2014 Discovery Award whose latest score is for the new movie version of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. for Guy Ritchie, as one of its guests. 
For more details, see

Varèse Sarabande has released two albums of music from Temple Street Production’s hit series ORPHAN BLACK, one soundtrack featuring songs from the show, the other containing the original score album composed by Trevor Yuile (BEING ERICA, BILLABLE HOURS). A 1,000-unit picture disc of the soundtrack album will be available exclusively at Hot Topic on July 24, 2015. A regular vinyl release of the soundtrack album is planned for a late summer release. “The original concept was to attempt to do an electronica type of score using mainly organic instruments,” Yuile said of his scoring process on the series. “Either sampled or resampled, but to try and keep the original signal purely organic. From there, effecting or processing the samples as we needed. It has come quite far from that original idea. But the thought was to allow it to become anything over time, like it was having its own sense of evolution.”

In addition, Varèse Sarabande has released The Woman Astronaut, an original crowdfunded concept album composed in cinematic orchestral-electronic style by composer/orchestrator Penka Kouneva (PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS; lead orchestrator on ENDER’S GAME, etc.). The Woman Astronaut was produced with Hollywood Studio Orchestra, top LA soloists and choir. “The Woman Astronaut is a personal, autobiographical journey of an ambitious, self-determined woman who has chosen a very unusual profession,” Kouneva said.
Have a listen to some preview samples from the album:
Promo video:

Lakeshore Records will release the soundtrack to THE END OF THE TOUR digitally on July 24th and on CD August 28, 2015. The film, which is set in the mid-’90s, features songs by artists including R.E.M, Felt, Tracey Ullman, Fun Boy Three, Brian Eno, Tindersticks, with score by Danny Elfman. The Hollywood Reporter said of the film’s musical design: “Danny Elfman’s gentle score serves to delicately coax out the story’s underlying sorrow. Lively song selections also punctuate the film.”

TRANSSIBERIAN is a tough, edgy thriller by acclaimed director Brad Anderson (THE MACHINIST, THE CALL); the soundtrack will be released by German label Caldera Records. Spanish composer Alfonso de Vilallonga has written a moody, dark and yet at times surprisingly tender and melodic score for orchestra and solo-musicians like the cello which is featured prominently with virtuous solos. Coupled with TRANSSIBERIAN is the music for the well-known Spanish production PRINCESAS about the friendship of two prostitutes and their struggle in both their lives and their profession. Vilallonga provides them with a tender main theme which receives its variations throughout the whole score with solos by piano, violin, cello, clarinet and accordion. For more information, see:

KeepMoving Records will release an early effort by composer Rob Simonsen in a film that he not only scored, but starred in: WESTENDER (2003). For more information, see

Composer Frederik Wiedmann (GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, BEWARE THE BATMAN) has released his soundtrack to the autism documentary SPECTRUM, with all proceeds going to Autism Women’s Network. “When Jill Jones [director] and Brent Yontz [producer/cinematographer] asked me to compose the music to SPECTRUM, I was beyond excited,” Wiedmann said. “Their beautiful film captured such unique and interesting aspects of autism, from the perspective of children and adults, from a different point of view, than previously illustrated in other documentaries.”  SPECTRUM combines live action and animation to explore the inner sensory experience of autism.
Sample one of Wiedmann’s eloquent themes here:
The film is now viewable at

Silva Screen Records presents the soundtrack to BLAZING SADDLES. A CD release of composer John Morris’ pitch-perfect score to Mel Brooks’ great Hollywood comedy, this 40th anniversary edition is the most complete version yet with 28 tracks that also incorporates some of the most hilarious dialogue from the film. This was Morris’ fourth film score and his third one for Brooks’ movies (after THE PRODUCERS and THE TWELVE CHAIRS).  Silva has also announced the release on August 7th of Ilan Eskheri’s ebullient score to Aardman Animation’s latest cornucopia of claymation shenanigans, SHAUN THE SHEEP. The charming wonder Shaun the sheep made his screen debut in 1995 with a minor role, rescuing Gromit from jail in the Oscar winning A CLOSE SHAVE. Since then his career has spiraled and he has become one of Aardman’s biggest stars. 

Joseph Trapanese’s score to INSURGENT has been released in digital form only from Interscope Records, reportedly with no intent to release a CD version. A songtrack album is also available from Interscope, which includes a 4:04 score suite called “Convergence” which is not included on the score album (it is, however, available for individual purchase on both Amazon and iTunes, which carry both albums).

William Goldstein’s music from the 1985 TWILIGHT ZONE TV series had been released digitally. The album contains the scores from three classic episodes, “Her Pilgrim Soul,” “The Card,” and “Time and Teresa Golowitz.” )Trivia: when Wes Craven, who directed “Her Pilgrim Soul,” heard Goldstein’s score, he immediately hired him to score his next movie SHOCKER.) The iTunes link is here; or watch a preview of the album here on youtube.

Heitor Pereira provides a mischievous score for Illumination’s newest installment of the DESPICABLE ME franchise, MINIONS. Pereira has been the musical voice of the minions since the beginning, earning critical acclaim and accolades including two Annie Award nominations (DESPICABLE ME 1 & 2) and two ASCAP Film & TV Music Awards. Building on chemistry and momentum from those first two DESPICABLE ME films, Pereira continued his methodology of using non-traditional instrumentation to create new and evolved character themes for the minions. ”Experimenting with sounds and manipulating them into ‘instruments’ is something I really enjoy doing,” Pereira said. He maintains the Latin roots-inspired influences of the first two DESPICABLE ME films to create continuity in this latest installment of the franchise. ”Everything has a rhythm,” he affirms. MINIONS is set in 1960’s London and Pereira’s score also includes fun, guitar-driven elements to set a historical tone for the film.

From Milan Records comes the soundtrack for RED ARMY, a feature documentary about the Soviet Union and the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. The music is composed by Christophe Beck and Leo Birenberg

Perseverance has released Michel Rubini’s part-orchestral/ part electronic score to one of the coolest TERMINATOR clones of the ‘90s, Albert Pyun’s NEMESIS, in a limited edition of 500 copies. Rubini wrote a blended orchestral and electronic score that was digitally re-mastered by Chas Ferry for this release. “The sound quality is a million times better than on the original album,” said Perseverance’s Robin Esterhammer.

Specialty horror label ScreamWorks Records presents Wojciech Golczewski’s chilling industrial ambience score for WE ARE STILL HERE. The haunted house horror takes place in the cold, wintery fields of New England where an isolated house wakes up every thirty years to demand a sacrifice. “The concept behind the film’s music was to make it feel eerily organic and, unlike traditional horror tracks, treat it like proper sound design” explains the composer. “This is by far the most minimal score I’ve done so far. Our idea was to create the score that reflects the house as some kind of a living being. The base for the score is some eerie tones i wanted to reflect the house atmosphere, tones that are almost like a “still” air inside the house, that can change the mood in a sec. Some kind of acoustic vibrations in the air. On top of that we decide to use very simple themes and harmonics that are more of a human nature and reflect our characters and their emotions.”

MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT directed by first timer Tom Green is the much-anticipated continuation to Gareth Edwards critically acclaimed film MONSTERS. The score by Neil Davidge (HALO 4) has been released digitally:

Kronos Records presents three new gems in their Gold Collection:  WAR DEVILS (I DIAVOLI DELLA GUERRA), a 1969 WW2 film scored by Stelvio Cipriani. The CD contains all the music Cipriani wrote for the film in film order, followed by an additional almost 30 tracks of music that did not make it in the film. For information, see:
and: SETTE CONTRO TUTTI (Seven Rebel Gladiators), a 1965 peplum scored by Francesco De Masi .
The CD is charged with full bodied action cues, a rousing main theme that is very reminiscing of the Spaghetti Western genre. In addition, Kronos has gathered the source music cues which have an Arabic flavor to them. For details, see:

Lakeshore Records will release the soundtrack to WAYWARD PINES digitally on July 17th and on CD July 24, 2015. The album features the show’s original score by Charlie Clouser (SAW, Numb3rs), and another horror score, THE VATICAN TAPES digitally on July 17th and on CD on August 14. The horror film features original score by Joseph Bishara (INSIDIOUS trilogy, THE CONJURING). A horror movie music specialist, Bishara was able to hone into the themes pretty easily. “My entry into the sound was to key into the particular shade of force behind the possession on display, leading into energies of the rite of exorcism,” he described. “The motives of the score came through percussion writing, as well as a series of figures for a low string and wind arrangement.”

Silva Screen Records has released Epic Themes, a 19-track collection of the very best “epic film” themes in recent years, performed by the London Music Works. “Cinema has in recent years returned to a world of spectacle both on screen and also within the soundtrack, earth-shattering, frenzied, explosive and inspirational themes,” reads Silva’s album description. ”Epic Themes gathers together the very best of these highly evocative and exciting scores, all instantly recognizable not just for their film use but also for trailers, TV soundbeds and video games. The album includes music from INCEPTION, TRON: LEGACY, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and INTERSTELLAR.


Film Music Books

Roger Hall has published a 6th edition of his book, A Guide To Film Music: Songs and Soundtracks, is now available on a multimedia DVD readable on computer, and includes information about Elmer Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, David Raksin, Virgil Thomson, Dimitri Tiomkin, John Williams, film critic David Thomson and film historian, Tony Thomas. Also on the DVD are 50 music examples from Roger’s guest spots on public radio, plus a half hour cable television interview with me about film songs and scores.



Game Music News

Hailed by MTV as “Game music’s eclectic daredevil,” IFMCA award-winning composer Olivier Derivière (Remember Me) continues to push the boundaries of enhancing interactive experiences through music with his latest opus for the new online space video game Supernova Volume 1: Through The Portal, developed by Primal Game Studio and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. In his score, Derivière has combined his trademark electronic music wizardry with epic orchestral space themes recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Abbey Road. “The musical journey of the OST follows a big crescendo from a star’s birth to its supernova,” explains Derivière. “Volume 1 is about the first planet, more will come as the game progressively extends its universe to new worlds. This is only the beginning.” Preview samples of the score are available at Soundcloud here.
For more information on Olivier Derivière visit .

Inon Zur is composing the original score for the studios’ upcoming Sword Coast Legends™, a party-based PC RPG set in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe from Wizards of the Coast.
Recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, the rich orchestral soundtrack for Sword Coast Legends helps bring the game’s numerous, well-known, and highly varied locations, environments and encounters to life. The official orchestral soundtrack will be available with the game later this year.
For more information on the game, see: .

Sumthing Else Music Works, the premier record label dedicated to video game soundtracks, and game developer Plarium present a new concept soundtrack album, “Five Worlds of Plarium” featuring the original themes composed by Jesper Kyd for Plarium’s major game worlds. The album comprises Kyd’s distinct and yet musically diverse soundtrack themes spanning all five of Plarium’s game worlds – from sailing the high seas in Pirates: Tides of Fortune™ to the mystical world of ancient Greece in Sparta: War of Empires™ and the dark medieval fantasy of Stormfall: Age of War, to the advanced military warfare of Soldiers Inc. and the apocalyptic sci-fi of Total Domination.
Music samples are streaming on Soundcloud here.

British film, television and video game composer Stephen Baysted has released his original soundtrack for the best-selling racing game Project CARS on label Red Rocca. Baysted’s “Like all authentic racing simulation titles, there is no music during gameplay; car engines always take precedence,” said Baysted, whose previous game soundtrack credits include The Walking Dead: Assault and the Need For Speed series. “My job as composer is to try to enhance the player’s sense of immersion in this world of racing and deepen their emotional and psychological responses to it by ‘preparing’ them for the race. The music in the menu system is therefore dramatic, gripping, epic, gladiatorial and is infused with race day sounds – cars, crowds, tannoys – so that it links directly to the sound world they will be exposed to whilst racing. It tries to get inside the head of the racing driver and represent the range of emotions they feel - fear, excitement, nerves, adrenaline pumping, and danger. Imagine what it is like driving at Le Mans at 330 kph in the dark as you slice your way through traffic! As a result, it’s a varied score and reflects many facets of motorsport.”



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 currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. A wholly re-written and expanded multi-book Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published:) the first book is now available from Creature Features and Book 2 coming up next Spring/Summer from Midnight Marquee Press. See:

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.

© 2015 - the Soundtrax column is copyright by Randall D. Larson; all rights reserved.

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