Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2013-07 
July 26th, 2013

By Randall D. Larson

A distinguished “American Impressionist” composer, William Kraft (b. 1923), when not writing music, also spent 26 years performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra – eight years as percussionist and the last 18 as Principal Timpanist.  Among the film soundtracks he performed on with that orchestra was Bernard Herrmann’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST.   While Kraft’s reputation as an innovative percussionist is well established, he is also a respected classical composer, with dozens of concert commissions released on CD.

Like many concert composers, he also spent time composing for films and television.  Although his output for screens both silver and small has been minimal, they have resulted in significant works that stand up very well against full time veterans of Hollywood film music.  Kraft was originally lured into film scoring by actor-turned-director Ray Danton, who was so impressed with Kraft’s piano concerto that he hired him to score his low-budget horror thriller, PSYCHIC KILLER (1975).  This rather inauspicious start in Hollywood led to a much larger score for Roger Corman’s Irwin Allenesque disaster movie, AVALANCHE (1978), and then Ralph Bakshi’s ambitious animated fantasy, FIRE AND ICE (1983).  In between, along with Elmer Bernstein and Gerald Fried, Kraft scored episodes of the TV miniseries THE CHISOLMS (1978) and composed the heartwarming TV-movie, BILL, in which Mickey Rooney won an Emmy for his performance as a retarded man exploring the world for the first time.  FIRE AND ICE remains Kraft’s last film composition, although in the 1990s he conducted several film scores for composer Patrick Doyle.

I recently had the opportunity to interview William Kraft about his career in film music while writing the notes for BSX Records’ release of his FIRE AND ICE score.  We wound up discussing all of his work for cinema, a short but significant list of sophisticated compositions.  Not all of what he discussed would fit into the notes, of course, and not all of it pertained to FIRE AND ICE.  Herewith, therefore, is our full interview in its entirety.

Q: Your career has mainly been in concert music.  How did you begin writing music for motion pictures?

William Kraft: The first one I did, by coincidence, was a horror film called PSYCHIC KILLER [1975]. Ray Danton, the actor – he played in a lot of spaghetti Westerns – directed the film. He called me and asked me if I would do the music for his film, which was originally called THE KIRLIAN FORCE.  It was a real turkey, you know. I told him that I wasn’t a film composer, that I just had my style and I wasn’t a chameleon, and he said he had heard my Piano Concerto, and that’s why he called me. He just wanted me to do my own thing. 

Q: What did you learn about scoring films from this first assignment?

William Kraft: You know, I was pretty naïve and I just set music to what I saw. It took me a while – in fact not until after I did FIRE AND ICE – to really catch on how to write music for movies. My problem is that I hear things too quickly; I wish I had been more deliberate and patient.  I had good friends in the industry - Leonard Rosenman and David Raksin were my closest friends in Hollywood. It just seems that film composers are more prone to talking about music than composers who are in academia. We talked about music, we talked about everything, and we went to concerts together, whereas the composers in academia, at least in Los Angeles, tended to be recluses. 

Q: What elements of PSYCHIC KILLER inspired music to underline the psychological horror of that film?

William Kraft: I just set the idea of the movie to music.  THE PSYCHIC KILLER has its foundation in the idea that this fellow can send out his Spirit to kill people and exact revenge on people who had hurt his mother.  The son was out to get revenge on everyone who had been mean to her, and when he is was in hail he learned, from another prisoner, how to send his spirit out and control events.  So that was that!

Q: How did you accentuate that with music? Do you recall what your thought processes were, coming from a non-film music background?

William Kraft: I don’t know that it was any different from the way a [full-time] film composer would look at it.  Music has the means to convey emotion, not ideas – that’s always been something else.  Music is all about evoking reaction to drama, terror, happiness, sadness, all that, but it doesn’t really change things, I don’t think.  There are skills to writing film music which differ from writing classical music. Film music is the art of variation, having one particular idea which is represented in the main theme[s], and then one does variations on that to fit every particular situation, changing the idea. But in classical music, every issue is on a larger scale, but development is a large part of the game; whereas development doesn’t matter as much in film music except as it is used to extend the idea long enough to carry the scene.  That’s what I learned after a while.

Q: How big of an orchestra did you have on PSYCHIC KILLER?

William Kraft: As I recall it was nine players. I had a budget of something like $15,000 and that had to cover everything.  So it had to be small group.

Q: How did you overcome the challenge of the budget and the small orchestra and make a score that really fit that particular film?

William Kraft: I was very concerned, since it was the first film I did.  Ray Danton had a reputation – or he wanted to give the impression, certainly, and I think he did – of being a really tough guy.  When we’d talk about something having to do with the film, he would tell me about his friends and how he could get somebody a broken arm for $200 or a broken leg for $400… And I’m thinking, I hope I please this guy!  In fact, he took off for Hawaii for three weeks, and in those three weeks I wrote the music, recorded at, and had it completely finished by the time he came back. I didn’t want him at the recording session! 

The movie was sold to Embassy Productions, and someone at Embassy heard that there was a retired songwriter who went back to the musicals of the 30s and 40s and was now living in Vegas.  So he [Paul Francis Webster] was approached about writing a song for THE PSYCHIC KILLER.  Webster agreed but insisted that the song be in the movie for a minimum of 1 minute, because in order to qualify for an Academy Award it had to be in the movie for at least a minute. So the last scene was in two parts - on one track the killer had been killed and is in a coffin on the way to the crematorium; in the other track he was still alive and chasing Julie Adams around this house trying to stab her with his huge butcher knife, so I wrote music for both situations.  It was tricky to record it and get both tracks functioning tightly.  But then what Embassy did was, right in the middle of that two-part sequence, the music suddenly stops and they throw in the song!  So while you got this exciting music and then this spooky music and all of a sudden everything stops and you’ve got “Bub-ba doo-dah doo…!”  I went to see the final cut with my ex-wife, and she was a rather perceptive woman; as we walked out of the movie she looked at me and said, “Promise me you’ll never do that again!”  I said, “I had no idea that was going to happen!” So that was the end of that one. 

Q: So you survive your experience on THE PSYCHIC KILLER and you went on to do a large score for disaster film called AVALANCHE, produced by Roger Corman.

William Kraft: I’m laughing about the word “disaster.”  Rona Barrett the film critic had come on the radio just as I was leaving my apartment to go to rehearsal with the Philharmonic, and she was saying “AVALANCHE is a disaster movie in every sense of the word!” And in fact, Roger Corman told me when it was all put together, the music was the best part of the movie, and that I was to be his classical composer from then on!  Except James Horner came around and was offering to do films for nothing to get credits, so he did the next one, UP FROM THE DEPTHS

Q: So what can you tell me about your music from AVALANCHE [1978]?

William Kraft: Leonard Rosenman recommended me for the film. He was approached first but he couldn’t do it, and he asked them to call me. So that’s how it came to me.  I approached it more as a classical composer, not as a film composer.  I wish that I had known more at the time on how to tie the film together, because the film really had no continuity.  I watched the movie at the spotting session with the director – he was about the fifth person to become the director, originally the author of the book was a director and he quit, it went to someone else and then someone else.  Everybody quit and they ended up with a script writer…

Q: Corey Allen

William Kraft: Yes, Corey Allen, he became the director. And I was talking to Corey after viewing it, and I said “but there’s no continuity!” And he said, “That’s your job.”  Thanks a lot! But how was I supposed to do that? It certainly didn’t lend itself to music. There was no relationship between ideas and scenes. I remember the scene where they all arrive at the ski resort and they just spend so much time just saying “Hi!” “Oh! Great to see you again!” “Yes!” “Ooh!” you know! Just chit chat that was absolutely meaningless.  So I scored it mostly by setting the scenes by themselves.

Q: Was there any thematic structure in that score?

William Kraft: None at all!  There was nothing to put a theme to!  Actually, I’ve just remembered, there was one other person involved with my getting the job, and that was Zubin Mehta.  Zubin was at a reception of some sort; Roger Corman was also there and told him about this movie he was doing, and Zubin said, “Oh you should get my recording of Strauss’s Alpine Symphony.”  So Roger looked into that, he found that he would have to pay royalties that were prohibitive, probably more the movie cost itself!  And so he looked around, got to Lenny Rosenman and then to me. So I used the Alpine Symphony in the beginning in the main title as a source.  So if there’s any thematic continuity anywhere, it’s from the Strauss piece. 

Q: One thing I found interesting about the score is that, after the avalanche occurs, the tension that you’ve been building beforehand really develops into some powerful music in its aftermath.  Do you recall how you treated the actual avalanche and the characters struggling to survive afterwards?

William Kraft: I can tell you, it was a bitch! That’s how the movie came to be, actually.  Roger somewhere got eight minutes of avalanche footage and he built the whole movie around those eight minutes!  I don’t remember exactly, but I think my idea was to taking bits of the Alpine Symphony and develop them into the music needed for the avalanche itself and what happens after.

Q: You also contributed scores to some television series in the 1980s?

William Kraft: I did two years of a very good, classy Western TV series called THE CHISOLMS, and after that I did two years of RIPLEY’S (BELIEVE IT OR NOT).  I remember the TV shows as being enjoyable to do.  All my scores, small or large, had been based on a symphonic orchestra, but while working on these shows I realized one could have a lot of fun and change the orchestral set-up.  I had a standard orchestra for these shows and towards the end I thought about changing things around, but by then the style of the orchestra was set and it was successful, so there wasn’t really time to change.  But if I were to do something else I would like to really think about getting an unusual set up. Bernard Herrmann was good with experimenting with different sounds.

Q: What kind of music did the RIPLEY’S show need?

William Kraft: That was tough.  A lot of the episodes had to do with something that had no character - it was informative, so I had to create something that intimated meaning.  There was one episode about Renoir, and I pulled out something I had written one time that was very impressionistic, and used that for the music with little variation.

Q: Did you use any electronic instruments in some of those scores?

William Kraft: Not that I recall. I love the natural sound.  I’m always amazed at the quality of sound one can get some an orchestra, and still composers are coming up with new sounds. A Hungarian composer, Peter Eotvos, had an opera performed at the Philharmonic, Angels in America, and the opening theme of that was so fantastic, I wanted to see if I could find the score and see just how he did it.  Things are still happening with the orchestra.

Q: Ralph Bakshi’s animated film FIRE AND ICE [1983] was your final film as a composer.  Do you recall how you got that job?

William Kraft: I got a call from Bakshi to come see him.  I went to his office and he played the temp track that they had put in. What he had done is put in all these big scores – ALTERED STATES by John Corigliano, who also was a classical composer, Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky, the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and all these big loud orchestra scores. And I said, “Your film is more primitive than the Rite of Spring.  There is a piece by Prokofiev, Scythian Suite, the style of which I think better reflects the character of your movie.” That’s all I can remember that I had said, and suddenly in our conversation he said “You’re my man! It’s your job!”  He also said “when you walked in with that V-neck, Ivy League look sweater, I knew you were my man!”  I guess is a good thing I wore that sweater that day!

Q: What kind of budget did you have on FIRE AND ICE and how big of an orchestra did it allow?

William Kraft: It might’ve been 17,000.  You know, going back to AVALANCHE, I think that was 15,000 and with that I went to London and recorded with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, which was essentially a freelance studio orchestra that did a lot of films. FIRE AND ICE was, as I recall around 17,000. Somehow I managed to have that cover an orchestra here in Hollywood. Nate Kaproff was the contractor, as I recall. I knew Nate because I had done a lot of film work as a performing musician and I knew he could get good players who were classically oriented as well as doing movies.  We recorded at Paramount Studios with a large orchestra, about 80 players. When we finished, Ralph was very happy, and he said “You’ve got to do my next film!”  He kept talking about Dino De Laurentiis, they were going to do something together and were going to do it in South America. And I said, “I hope you’ll have the composer on location!”  But nothing ever happened with that.

I happened to visit the production company offices, it was PSO, Producers Sales Organization, I went there for some reason I was talking to someone, and I think it was a young woman who told me that originally, when they contacted me, they were looking for a percussion score not a full symphonic score like I ended up doing, and they expected have a small percussion ensemble do the whole movie!  And so instead of a maximum of some 15 players, which is what they had been looking for, and then here I came in with 80 pieces, I think it surprised them!

There were two producers, John Hyde and Mark Damon (who founded PSO); John was a sophisticated person, a Harvard graduate, and Mark was more of a typical Hollywood type producer.  So when I had finished recording the music, John Hyde and this Mark fellow said they wanted to hear the music.  Roy had it all set up with on a very good sound system, ready to go straight through without any breaks, but Mark insisted on hearing it on a Moviola – one of those little hand-spooled viewers with tiny speakers.  I couldn’t believe it.   So we went to Paramount Studios where they had a Moviola available and we played it there.

Now, Ralph had asked me not to have any heroic music until the fifth reel when Darkwolf shows up.  There’s a young fighter named Larn who dominates the first half, so I wrote battle music but without a dominating theme. And we were playing this thing on the Moviola and I can tell things are not going well, this Mark fellow was not happy at all.  So after the fourth reel we took a break and I told Ralph I was worried this Mark guy was going to throw out the score.  Ralph didn’t say anything, but we came back from the break the fifth reel came on, and it starts out with these high, unison trumpets and very heroic stuff, and Mark stood up and said “that’s it! That’s it! I didn’t know you had it in you!”  By this time I was pretty tense, so I just blurted out “I was told not to have any heroic music until Darkwolf showed up!” And Ralph puts his head in his hands and, as he told me later, “Bill, I was as nervous as you! That was the first time they saw the film! So we both were in the same boat!”  So he asked if I could fix it and I said sure.  I took the heroic music and put it on top of the battle music from the first four reels, so everything worked out after that.

Q: Did the fact that the movie was animated effect what you’re able to see and get inspiration from as you are composing the score?

William Kraft: Only that I wanted to humanize it. Everything certainly had a relationship to the idea that it was animated, he tried to make it as real as possible with a process called rotoscoping where they actually filmed live actors and then draw over the film to get realistic movements that.

Q: You’re definitely scoring it not as a cartoon, you’re storing it as a dramatic feature film.

William Kraft: Yes. You had to have real drama, real emotion.  I did my best to do that. I did my best to make Princess Teegra’s music beautiful, and the heroic stuff exciting.

Q: When you are composing were you able to see any of the finished film or was that still being animated?

William Kraft: It was finished [when I began working]. That’s the way it usually works they finished the film and they give the composer three weeks to do the music. There are so many three week composers in Hollywood.  Jerry Goldsmith was a genius at that, he could write terrific scores in three weeks. I played timpani on a lot of Jerry’s scores, and I could see the toll it was taking on him.

Q: How did that experience playing as a percussionist on film scores help you when you came to write actual film scores yourself as far as understanding the process of the business?

William Kraft: I mentioned that when I started out, I didn’t ask enough questions but I did learn from watching movies and all that – understanding how the main title permeates the entire film, which is always a variation on some aspects of the main title. You can make that title theme sweep, you can make it passive, and you can make it whatever, that’s craftsmanship.

Q: Unlike your previous scores, FIRE AND ICE is a vast, historical/mythological fantasy film. Did your music have an added requirement on a film like this to ring the environment and the fantasy to life?

William Kraft: Not that I recall. I did make one comment about the story – I didn’t say it to Bakshi because it was not my place to do it, but talking to other people involved in the film, we agreed that they didn’t make enough of Darkwolf.  He just came in as this heroic figure, but it was suggested that Darkwolf might have been Larn’s long-lost father who came back, it might have given the film another aspect.

Q: FIRE AND ICE was your last feature film.  After that you went on to conduct some film scores for Patrick Doyle…

William Kraft: Yes. DEAD AGAIN was the first one, in and CARLITO’S WAY, and INDOCHINE.

Q: Looking back at your three film scores and your two or three television scores, obviously a small part of your overall output as a composer of concert works, how you regard your work in films, where they fit in your mind on your biography?

William Kraft: I don’t think it will end up being significant, much as I might want it to be.  I enjoyed it very much because it was symphonic work, classically oriented.  You have to create everything, and one certainly wants to have an identity. As I say to my students, you know who Sibelius is, you know who Beethoven is, Brahms, because they found the thing that represents them personally. In films you adapt to the film itself and you don’t necessarily want to come up with something new, so the music is generally derived from a style familiar to the audience.  They used to say if you want to know what the score for a movie is going to sound like, look on the piano and see what score the composer has there. You don’t want to draw the attention of the audience away from the drama but you have to support it, so if it’s a known style, a style that they have heard before and that traditionally represents love or hate and all the emotions and drama that are part of the film, that’s what you want to draw from.  They’re drawn to it because in a sense they’ve heard it before.

Q: FIRE AND ICE touches elements that are spooky, elements that are intense, and elements that are really exciting as the battles move on.

William Kraft: It’s wonderful to hear these things. I must tell you, it really is.  Because what you’re doing if going back to my intentions, and to hear somebody describe the music as I described it to myself internally is always do rewarding.

Q: How would you like to have your score for FIRE ANE ICE regarded by audiences, by musicians, or by music fans after all these years?

William Kraft (chuckles): As something respectable!


From an online story by Brenda Gazzar in dailynews.com, posted 7/9/13.

Nearly five decades after his Grammy nomination for best original score for the Beatles’ HELP! feature film, movie and TV composer Ken Thorne of West Hills was honored in a more intimate setting last month in Southern California.
Thorne’s wife, Linda, along with their twin daughters Emily and Claire, organized a hush-hush party, presenting him with a framed plaque commemorating his personal contributions to the five-times-platinum sales of the Capitol Records DVD HELP!
The composer, who also won an Academy Award for the score for the 1966 musical film A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, wrote the incidental score for the 1965 Beatles comedy HELP! in about five weeks. “HELP! Oh my God ... so good,” Thorne, 89, said with a bashful smile after a few dozen friends, fans and colleagues yelled “Surprise!” at his daughter’s Valley Glen home. His wife proudly led him to a large white plaque that featured five DVDs and a photo of each member of the Beatles. “What a big surprise – lovely,” he said.
Linda Thorne, who has been married to the Brit for 40 years, explained to guests that while her husband had received the Grammy nomination for the Beatles film, he had not yet received a framed gold or platinum record for his work on the now iconic LP. After trying unsuccessfully get something going through the record industry, she turned to the Performing Rights Society of the United Kingdom for help. Two PRS executives, Myles Keller and Guy Fletcher, then negotiated with Capitol Records and were able to get Thorne this plaque to showcase the sale of more than 5 million copies of the DVD in the U.S, she said.
Read the full story at http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_23620835
Photo by David Crane/Daily News.  Thanks to Peter Hackman, Fans of Film Music, for forwarding this story.

When I interviewed Ken Thorne last year for my notes to the Quartet Records release of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, I also asked him about his experiences scoring HELP!, an iconic movie for this pre-adolescent Beatles fan at the time. His recollections appear here:

Q: What can you tell me about working with Richard Lester, The Beatles, and George Martin on creating the score for HELP! ?
Ken Thorne: Richard and I are on a level plane here – he thinks the way I do and I think the way he does, which is been a really useful tool. I did several movies for him before he retired. HELP! was the first feature that I composed the music for. I didn’t meet the Beatles, although I know Ringo pretty well now, he lives in California.  The other Beatles I never met. Of course, when you’re in post-production, they’ve already finished their work and they’ve gone onto the next production.  I really loved HELP!, I think that the compositions by McCartney and Lennon were brilliant and they were very easy to work with. I really enjoyed the challenge and also the freedom that I had because, being close to Dick – we got along extremely well. So for me, it was one of the best things that ever happened.

Q: In addition to arranging the Beatles songs instrumentally to serve as the score, you’ve also written the music for the whole Kieli cult who keeps trying to get Ringo’s ring for their human sacrifice. How did you determine when to use the instrumental Beatles songs and when to bringing in your original music?

Ken Thorne: That’s hard to answer… It’s so spontaneous.  It springs into your brain and you just do it. There’s sort of no reason to it at all, it’s a gut feeling.

Q: Do you recall anything about how you adapted their songs instrumentally into your score?

Ken Thorne: I had total freedom on that. Actually, orchestrating that kind of material, which is so good to start with, is easy to work with.

Q: How was it working with Richard Lester on this film?

Ken Thorne: Richard was a superb musician and a most extraordinary, natural fellow.  He loved to play [instruments]… and he played all sorts of things in my movie [scores].   He played the harp in HELP! [the solo harp heard in the scene with Ringo and the tiger.]  It was extraordinary, but he had to be involved, he couldn’t just leave you alone!  I always remember that particular segment of HELP!

Q: It’s so interesting in HELP! how you’ve been able to take their songs and transform them into a film score that works dramatically.  You really deserve a lot of credit for that.

Ken Thorne: I studied a tremendous amount of music form and history, and harmony was my pet. I loved harmony. So, consequently, that’s my strong point. I’m better at that than anything else.

Q: One of my favorite moments in HELP! is the opening, with the spy music that prefaces the title song.  Some people describe that as the James Bond theme, but of course is not, it’s an original composition of yours in that style… Did Lester ask for something specifically James Bond-ish for the opening prelude, before it goes in Ringo with the band singing the “Help!” song?

Ken Thorne: Yeah, that’s what happened, and so that’s what I did.  He and I got along so well with these things, he was very innovative. One problem with Richard was he didn’t want any repeats, he wanted to get on with it, get on with it, get on with it. That is to say… If there was a mistake with the trumpets on bar 300 something, he’d say, “Oh don’t worry about that, I’ll get that out in the movie!” He was always eager to progress.


New Soundtrax in Review

BLOOD/Daniel Pemberton/MovieScore Media
In his second feature film collaboration with director Nick Murphy, British composer Daniel Pemberton delivers a dark, brooding, and emotionally sophisticated orchestral score for a complex story about two police brothers are forced to investigate a crime they themselves have committed. Pemberton’s previous score for Murphy was the provocative 2011 ghost story, THE AWAKENING.  For BLOOD, the composer provides a mostly rhythm-based atmospheric score heavy on layered interactions of a string orchestra, which lay down a compelling mood of shifting flavors – brooding here, warm vibes there, tense and suspenseful over there.  Pemberton’s sonic textures are interesting to listen to and generate an appropriately discomforting tension throughout, punctuated by action tracks which, even so, remain fairly subdued but produce a percussive forward motion (such as “Van Bangers” with its keyboard clusters, sharp strikes of wood block, and quickly-strummed guitars, and “Buleigh’s Escape” with its raucous synth lines, throbbing bass guitar, and heavy drumming).  “The Owl Jumper” is a swirling hive of string figures, with bass guitar and drums establishing a firm, propulsive beat, and an absorbing series of harmonic structures that gives the track a captivating ambiance.  “Searching the Cinema” is a deeply creepy cue that hold suspense at a tendril’s length, gathering together a sheaf of chords and sinewy lines that propel themselves into a disquieting and distorted tremolo of sustained synth tonality; very effective.  “Exhumation” is a particularly compelling track, its growing rhythm riding over a bed of softly but consistently pounding drums.  “The Burning” sways across a bed of slow piano arpeggios over which a pattern of strings advances, growing in sonic power; while “The Wind Out There” warms generously and concludes the score in a gentle and pleasing tonality of reassurance, although a quickening cadence of guitar plucks retains a worrisome doubt.  Pemberton’s score takes an interesting journey across the album’s 18 tracks, but remains interesting at least, engrossing at best.

BYZANTIUM/Javier Navarrete/Silva Screen
Javier Navarrete’s filmography has ranged from the lush serenity of scores like Guillermo del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH, Iain Softley’s INKHEART, and Philip Kaufman’s historical romance HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN [reviewed July 12, 2012 column], the darker reflections of Alexandre Aja’s MIRRORS and Joe Dante’s THE HOLE (not to mention the more grandiose music of Sngmoo Lee’s cowboys-vs.-ninjas epic, THE WARRIOR’S WAY, or Jonathan Liebesman’s CGI construct WRATH OF THE TITANS).  With BYZANTIUM, he has crafted a haunting musical design for Neil Jordon’s new mom-and-daughter vampire thriller.  Merging eloquent orchestral beauty with discordant and frightening mixtures of sound design electronica, the music of BYZANTIUM is both a recollection of the classicism of earlier periods (suggesting the vampires’ two centuries of undeadliness) and the stark clarity of modernism.  The tonal mix, therefore, between tracks like the pianistic fragility of “Mother” and the scary orchestral and choral manipulations of “An Empty Island,” is both striking and unsettling.  “Secrets” with its intricate violin filigrees set against the haunting strangeness of acoustic and electronic sound design; “Blade for Byzantium” with its frenetic percussion rumblings and strident, electric guitar thrums; the frightening, melancholic landscapes of “My Mother is Dying;” the brutishly poignant “I’m Sixteen Forever;” and the eerie, progressive tone poem “As Darkness Falls;” the expressively elegant “My Mother Saw Her Chance;” all this makes BYZANTIUM a provocative and stimulating work.  It’s a poetic score for a poetic horror thriller; which captivates in its musical interpretations of the lives of Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan’s vampire duo. 

COCKNEY’S VS ZOMBIES/Jody Jenkins/Screamworks
Leave it to the Brits to come up with another engaging and enjoyable zombie comedy.  Kind of a mash-up of SHAWN OF THE DEAD and LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, this film from director Matthias Hoene (BEYOND THE RAVE) is very well directed, reveling in its shuffled Guy Ritchie pace and abundant over-the-top zombie mayhem.  A fine cast lends credibility to the characters and their interactions – in addition to well-meaning gangsters (who rob a bank in order to fund payment to keep their granddad’s retirement home from shutting down), we have the residents of the old folks’ home fighting the zombies as well – led by Alan Ford (SNATCH) and former Bond Girl (GOLDFINGER) Honor Blackman, all taking place in London’s forgotten East End.  It’s very funny and rather endearing at the same time – with plenty of brutal zombie action to assuage the tenderhearted.  Jody Jenkins’ music is equally a delight, shambling between festive rock and roll to epic hero music with an engaging anthemic main theme, Jenkins’ music gives the film its energetic, larger-than-life feel. Opening with “Heroes,” the music introduces its primary elements in suite form, its main theme resonant here in an honorable, reverent cadence.  Shades of an OMEN-styled chorale emanate from the electric guitar vibe of “Main Title,” which plays off against strident rock and roll violin soloing to characterize the zombie outbreak that will infiltrate the gangsters’ well-laid plans; but the score is not all about chaos and horror.  “Aaah… A Baby Zombie,” for instance [the track title a clever reference to the 2007 zomedy, AAH! ZOMBIES] turns in a cute nursery rhyme before twisting it into terror with some thereminesque electronica.  “Bank Heist” is pure Ritchie - fast-paced rock-and-orchestra; while “Zombies Take London” elevates the musical landscape into city-wide Armageddon with shrieking synths, pulsating, moany drones, and viciously bowed violin hysteria.  The massive taiko drumming of “Zimmerframe Chase” betrays its affectionate influence in the track title, while “The Rescue Mission” opens in some cool 1980s’ styled electronic arpeggios before being carried by chorus and echoey sound design into more modernesque patterns, including some reflecting trumpet samples that soon give way to guitar lucking, martial chorale chanting, massive brass intonations – and more, and more; this track is a microcosm of the score itself, a delightful concoction that rarely stays in one idiom for very long, ranging, like the film itself, all over the genre map. The result is a fun film and an engaging musical journey full of distortion, unpredictable gestures, and the affectionate trappings of dozens of cinematic experiences, culminating in a cheer-worthy rendition of Jenkins’ hero theme in the “Finale.”  On the album, tracks morph into one another, allowing for a stream-of-consciousness experience, in musical terms, that becomes one hell of a nightmarish tone poem.  Love it.

COPPERHEAD/Laurent Eyquem/Varese Sarabande
One of the nicest scores I’ve been listening to lately is this wonderfully textured orchestral score from French composer Laurent Eyquem.  COPPERHEAD is a great untold Civil War story, directed by Ronald F. Maxwell (GETTYSBURG, GODS AND GENERALS), which eschews the vast canvas of mighty and dreadful battles for the human toll of the war’s home front. Far from those Virginia battlefields whose names are etched in American history, the war of COPPERHEAD visits the devastation and loss endured a family and a community whose strength and existence are tested by fire, rope, knife, and betrayal.  Based on the extraordinary novel by Harold Frederic, who witnessed these conflicts firsthand as a small child, COPPERHEAD tells the story of Abner Beech, a stubborn and righteous farmer of Upstate New York, who defies his neighbors and his government in the bloody and contentious autumn of 1862.  Eyquem’s music is drawn from Americana elements, delineating a passionate and poignant picture of the country, characters, and conflict that colors this period in American history.  Exquisitely sublime, the score’s themes waft gently and sorrowfully across a landscape torn by violence and heartbreak.  It’s an extremely heartfelt score whose emotions surface in each gathering of strings or sturdy note of trumpet, every tender caress of piano keys or filigree of woodwind.  In the midst of so many powerful, surging, and cataclysmic action scores, this simple and nostalgic music is a marvelous respite, and the story it tells, rooted in history, family, and community, is uplifting in its mellifluent attractiveness.  The score gives this dramatic assessment of history its humanity through intimate thematic melodies beautifully conveyed through impassioned performances.  For its emotional honesty and eloquent compassion, COPPERHEAD is one of my favorite scores of the year thus far.
For more on the composer, see: www.laurenteyquem.com/

DOCTOR WHO: THE KROTONS/Brian Hodgson/Silva Screen
These two full length archival soundtracks from the BBC’s original DOCTOR WHO run, both developed with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, begin a series of original soundtracks from the show’s earlier incarnation prior to its 2005 comeback (a third volume is now underway; see NEWS below).  “The Caves of Androzani,” a 4-season series featuring fifth doctor Peter Davison from 1984, was scored by Roger Limb, who created some vividly spine-chilling atmospheres utilizing both Fairlight CMI and Yamaha DX7 synthesizers, giving the music some very rich sonic progressions along to go along with the otherwise simple tonal patterns and rattled and ratcheted percussion effects.  “The Krotons,” from 1969 and second doctor Patrick Troughton, is a much more austere piece of electronica, resembling the circuit patterns of FORBIDDEN PLANET more than the orchestral semblances of Limb.  Created by BBC electronic music pioneer Brian Hodgson (who frequently worked with Delia Derbyshire on DOCTOR WHO; as well as for John Hough’s riveting ghost story THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE), the score predated synthesizers and even multitrack tape machines; Hodgson created The Doctor’s musical circuitry using a machine called “Crystal Palace” (so-named for its clear plastic housing), with which the composer created sonic textures that he treated as musically as possible.  The result is music that is as brittle and stark as the early show’s filmic design and style.  Provided in the same original mono in which the music was delivered for the programs, the music is a fine representation of the show’s earlier musical styles, including the particular interpretations that each composer gave to Ron Grainer’s signature theme during both of these series.  Both albums feature new recollections on the scores from their composers and from music producer Mark Ayres (who would go on to compose several DOCTOR WHO series in its final seasons).

In the label’s latest recorded compilation, Silva Screen offers an impressive gallery of Howard Shore’s most popular recent film music, focusing on his work for directors such as Peter Jackson, Martin Scorcese, Jonathan Demme, Tim Burton, and David Cronenberg. Opening with generous suites from his four Tolkein films, presented in Middle Earth’s chronological order with THE HOBBIT coming first, followed by the three LORD OF THE RINGS films, makes for an interesting thematic and harmonic progression through Jackson’s Tolkeinia thus far, which provides a delightful segue into his effervescent Parisian music from Scorsese’s HUGO, followed by his sublime, lilting theme from TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE.  The music then turns into the darker, brooding psychologies of Cronenberg’s 2007 drama, EASTERN PROMISES and Scorsese’s period gangster thrillers, the celebratory, folksy, guitar-driven score from THE DEPARTED, and the dour, somber undertones that governed the GANGS OF NEW YORK.  Stepping into Danny Elfman territory, Shore’s music for Burton’s ED WOOD (Burton’s only feature film not scored by Elfman outside of the Sondheim SWEENEY TODD musical), Shore created an enchanting pastiche of 1950’s theremin and threatening space monster music, which leads nicely into the bittersweet elegance of his end title music for Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  The brooding orchestral layers in his closing credits music from DEAD RINGERS, coming from 1988, is the oldest track on the album and represents his Cronenberg period (its mellifluous saturation likely a far better candidate for album, listening than the more jagged, discordant work of SCANNERS or VIDEODROME, or even CRASH).   Superbly performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic (recorded over several years for the label’s annual music anthologies and other collections, alternately conducted by James Fitzpatrick, Nic Raine, and Evan Jolly), joined by the Crouch End Festival Chorus for two of the RINGS scores, the music is both entirely faithful to Shore’ original film recordings and strikingly dynamic in its presentation here.  In his booklet notes, writer Michael Beek provides a general overview of Shore’s history in film music and the significance of the included work to his film musical oeuvre.

THE FOURTH WAR/Bill Conti/Music Box Records
This premiere release of Bill Conti’s score for John Frankenheimer’s 1990 Cold War thriller comes to us courtesy of France’s Music Box Records, mastered from the original MGM 35mm stereo music stems.  The film suffered through historical happenstance: the Berlin Wall fell and communism began to collapse as the film was completing filming; hasty rewrites tried to make the Cold War story relevant in view of these events, but audiences felt no need for an anti-Cold war movie in the wake of the collapse of the decades-long struggle against Soviet Russia, even as a historical piece.  All the same, the film possesses Frankenheimer’s realistic sense of spy-vs-spy gravitas, and Conti’s score is suspenseful and action-packed, featuring a terrific main theme given its noble countenance through trumpet and oboe over a bed of sympathetic strings. Avoiding the kind of 1812 Overturish construction of many Cold War movies – a battle of musical wits between a good theme for the Americans and an evil theme for the Soviets – Conti instead used his single theme to represent both sides, reflecting the nobility and devotion each character has to his nationality, in keeping with Frankenheimer’s sympathetic portrayal of covert relations.  His action and chase music is brassy and rhythmically progressive, with a hint of electronic percussion and icy synths frequently chilling the orchestra.  An excellent score by any measure, released on CD in a limited edition of 1000 units.  Daniel Schweiger provides thorough background notes in the album booklet which aid in appreciating the score’s architecture and what it does in the film.
see: www.musicbox-records.com/en/35-the-fourth-war.html

GAGARIN: FIRST IN SPACE/George Kallis/MovieScore Media
Cypress-born Hollywood composer George Kallis has provided a stirring score for this Russian biopic about Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut hero who was the first man in space (in his honor, the movie’s running time of 108 minutes is exactly the same length of time it took for Gagarin’s flight into space, orbit around the earth, and safe return to earth).  Kallis’ score, written in a classic Hollywood style for orchestra, choir, and electronics, is richly thematic and vast in its scope, merging Russian chorale anthems with the eloquent orchestral grandeur of humankind’s exploration of space.  In its more intimate moments, Kallis paints a humble portrait of Gagarin’s family background (the choir and soloist in “Levity” lends an affecting emotional component to the film’s character study; the soft piano measures of “Discussion,” set over a quiet breeze of synths to which strings and winds gather harmonically), while pivotal moments in the story, such as “The Launch of Vostok,” Gagarin’s spacecraft, and the successful deployment of the “Orange Parachute” that heralds his safe return, are exuberantly expressive.  Now available digitally with a CD scheduled for release on August 13, this is a fine score; consider the picture to be Russia’s THE RIGHT STUFF; Kallis expresses an appropriate sense of national patriotism but, more importantly, in its enthusiastic crescendos, imparts the triumph of collective human invention and accomplishment.

GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES Vol. 2/Frederik Wiedmann/La-La Land
This second helping of Frederik Wiedmann’s splendid episode scoring for Warner animation’s GREEN LANTERN series is very welcome, containing the music from its final thirteen episodes (the show contains a single season of 26 episodes).  The main title theme (nicely opening the album in “Ignition Ceremony”) is one of my favorite hero themes (along with Lolita Ritmanis’ JUSTICE LEAGUE and Brian Tyler’s TRANSFORMERS PRIME) in recent animated television, containing the right amount of heroic anthem, personality, and articulate musculature in its melodic hook and development to remain ideally iconic.  That theme dominated the label’s first CD, issued last year; while this second volume emphasizes the romantic theme inherent for the Aya/Razer romantic arc that dominated the second half of the series.  Introduced most fully in track 2, “New Life,” it sets the thematic tone for the new album, although Wiedmann takes it through multiple permutations and variations (speculative love, threatening sinister, systematic and robot here, warm and human there) based on the character’s journey throughout the show.  Throughout, the motif is the emotional touchstone for the score, while the aggressive action music, rippling with Wiedman’s main theme, energizes the power of the Green Lanterns’ light and might with thunderous orchestral material.  Beyond his symphonic orchestrations, Wiedman proffers some cool musical diversions, such as the balalaikas and other stringed instruments accompanying the adversarial goblins, harpsichord and solo fiddle for the episode in Earth’s alternate steampunk universe with its Steam Lantern hero.  The voice of Ayana Haviv again embodies the Star Sapphires, feminine versions of the Green Lanterns promoting love; and noted soloists flavor the score with expressively unique textures (such as Chris Bleth’s ethnic flute and Victor Lawrence’s electric cello in the poignant “Reunion”).  A generous 37 tracks/1:16 minutes occupy La-La Land’s album, which is thoroughly engaging and stirring.

LENINGRAD/Yuri Poteyenko/KeepMoving Records
The music for this 2009 Russian war film, called ATTACK ON LENINGRAD in its US release, is an eloquent, passionate and potent score that powerfully expresses the film’s depiction of the three-year long siege of Leningrad by Nazi Germany during World War II.  Written and directed by Aleksandr Buravskiy, LENINGRAD is a cinematic re-enactment of the battle as told through the perspective of a handful of survivors stuck inside the city walls. Starring Mira Sorvino, Gabriel Byrne, and Armin Mueller-Stahl, Buravskiy’s film is one of the most epic undertakings of post-Soviet Russian cinema.  The score is the work of Yuri Poteyenko, best known internationally for his scores Timur Bekmambetov’s NIGHT WATCH and its sequel, DAY WATCH. In his orchestral score, performed by the Moscow Symphony, Poteyenko expresses in his score all of the wartime heroics, civilian sacrifice, and wanton destruction of wartime, from emotive elegies, pensive isolation, romance, grief, and the panicked surge of battle.  With 31 tracks and almost an hour’s running time, the cues average about 1.5 minutes each, with a few longer ones; but playing the album through provides a stimulating musical capitulation of the seemingly unending siege from the perspective of the Leningrad residents, in all its drama, destruction, and the emotionally crushing toll it played on those who endured it.  “Leningrad – The City of Live” (sic) in its nearly seven minute length, creates a singularly powerful tone poem for the city and its people during these years.  Poteyenko’s score is infused with occasional references to European classical music (“Adagio in G minor,” “Benedictus”) and selected homages to Dmitry Shostakovich.  KeepMoving’s release, limited to 500 copies, contains all the important moments of the score, including cues that only appeared in the extended version re-edited for television, and is highly recommended.

THE LONE RANGER/Hans Zimmer/Walt Disney
While the movie may be tediously overlong, Hans Zimmer’s score for the Disney’s You-Had-Us-With-Johnny-Depp-As-Tonto summer blockbuster is one of his freshest and most engaging scores since he last accompanied Depp, as a reptilian gunslinger in another dusty Western, RANGO. There’s a definite ring of Spaghetti Western homage throughout the score, as well as Zimmer’s own distinctive progressive- rhythmic style (“Home” seems to have a touch of his INCEPTION vibe as well).  Opening with an apprehension of solo violin and frame drum with “Never Take Off The Mask,” Zimmer introduces a Morriconesque piping flute (somewhat like that in TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA) and then explodes into “Absurdity,” an energetic and truly absurd march filled unusually flavored timbres and a riotous confluence of expressions, which in its final third gathers into a grand, powerful, magnificently arranged accumulation of Zimmer’s primary theme.  “Silver” reassesses the opening violin solo into a theme for the Lone Ranger’s faithful steed, Silver, a melancholy lament steeped in Americana flavoring.  The main theme is presented with even more epic eloquence in “The Ride,” while “You’ve Never Looked Better” forms a tone poem for uneasy romance, from its brooding and baleful opening through a more mutually appreciative melodic denouement; a tonality rediscovered in “You’re Nothing But A Man In A Mask.”  “The Railroad Waits for No One” sets up the train robbery/wreck set piece, and is brim-full of action material, nicely centered around Zimmer’s main martial theme (offsetting arrangements in the Lone Ranger’s sturdy brass against that comprising Tonto’s quirky tin piano textures) and TWO MULES flutes, culminating in an assured presentation of the main theme for horns over Zimmer’s characteristic descending bottom end.  “For God and Country” reprises these figures – along with solo and choral voices – in another massive action conflagration, but one that maintains a clear, forward propulsion and is quite thrilling to listen to.  Zimmer’s arrangement of Rossini’s William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger’s theme music from his radio dramas days) in the “Finale” is outstanding, segueing about halfway through back into score, with Zimmer’s theme interacting with the galloping riff of the Overture, then returning back to Rossini. It’s an exhilarating musical climax for both film and album.  “Home,” which follows, concludes the score with an air of dignity.  An exciting and invigorating score which is thoroughly engaging on disc.  Added to the album at the midpoint is a bit of absurd source music, the appropriately named “Red’s Theater of the Absurd” attributed to Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, a fun bit of Gothic bluegrass.

PAPA S’EN VA EN GUERRE/Maximilien Mathevon/ Plaza Mayor Company Ltd.
The French documentary PAPA S’EN VA EN GUERRE (“Dad Goes to War”) tells the stories of those children whose fathers – French military soldiers – went to fight in Afghanistan, risking their lives. How do these children live their daily lives during this separation? What are their relationships with their father during the days preceding the departure – and the days following the return? How do they cope with the fear and, sometimes, the loss? Those are some of the questions this documentary tried to answer.  The film is a follow-up to a 2009 documentary called PAPA PART À LA GUERRE (“Dad’s Part in the War”) that focused on the French soldiers and their mission in Afghanistan. This time, the filmmakers went through the mirror to speak about the families who stayed in France, waiting with hope and anguish for any piece of news.  Nominated for a Jerry Goldsmith Award (a young artist award category of the BSO Spirit Association in Spain, Maximilien Mathevon’s score has been released digitally to amazon and iTunes.  It’s a lovely score, affectionate and poignant, breezy and compelling, following the orchestral palette of his 2009 for PAPA PART À LA GUERRE score but given a lighter, more innocent and fragile tone.  “Musically, I was interested in the blending of those notions of pride, courage, fear, loss and relief,” Mathevon said.  “The score needed to be subdued and respectful, yet it had to express the joyfulness of youth too – we were talking about children, with children games and children vision of life. So the music had to balance between gravity and light heartedness.”  Dominated by piano, strings, harp, and winds, Mathevon gives the new documentary a lightness that supports both the playful innocence of youth which colors its perspective, and gives the music an affecting timbre which is quite enchanting, but without obscuring the very serious subject matter explored by the documentary.  The frisky main theme, which opens and closes the score, is a delight – introduced by brisk violins figures playing in a cyclical rising/falling pattern, soon confronted with a counter pattern from additional strings, which together support the furtive steps of a piano melody that is soon taken by winds in a lovely interaction of voicings which is instantly captivating. Subordinate themes and cues support a similar musical character while also allowing for a sense of sorrow over the absentee fathers, while a pleasant melody, accommodating a reprise of the main theme, plays cheerfully over the reunion of some of the families (“Families Reunies”).  The music remains positive despite the downside of much of the story, retaining the effervescent amusement of children and their capacity to retain innocence and find play in even the most difficult of circumstances, and Methevon’s score is a pleasure from start to finish.
More on the composer, see: http://maximilienmathevon.com/

PATRIOTS OF FREEDOM/Alan Williams/SilverScreen
Alan Williams has made his latest documentary score available via CDR on his own label. PATRIOTS OF FREEMON celebrates the bravery, heroism, and sacrifice of American soldiers and airmen struggling to preserve freedom in an ongoing history of warfare.  The score ranges from the kind of honorable, dignified musical expressiveness you might expect from such a film (“Airmen of Destiny,” “The Squadron,” “Survivors,” “A Hero’s Struggle,” and the decorous trumpet title music of) to textured environmental tracks setting sonic atmospheres for scenes set in Normandy, Vietnam, Somalia, and Afghanistan.  Neither score nor film shun from covering the more brutal aspects of these wars, with heavy percussion-based discordance and piercing electric guitar soloing suggesting the chaos of conflict in “Ambush,” “The Mission,” “Chemical Weapons,” and “Fallujah Raid.”   In addition to a sizeable orchestra, Williams uses solo voice to great effect, lacing lamentations with vocalise appropriate for the Middle East (“Ambush,” “Fallujah Raid”); and other instrumental soloists are featured.  A series of staccato drum fills in “Break Out” suggests in the music an escape while under fire.  PATRIOTS OF FREEDOM is more than a talking-head documentary, and Williams has found the opportunity to create music that is both fitting and proper for the film’s scope and treatment, and also has occasion to impart dramatically with an honest sense of danger, pandemonium, and the awful cost of fighting for freedom. 
Hear samples of the score on the composer’s youtube page .

REMEMBER ME (game)/Olivier Deriviere/Capcom
Olivier Deriviere, whose earlier game score for ALONE IN THE DARK really impressed me [see my review in my June 6, 2008 column and my interview in the October 27, 2008 column), has crafted an intriguing mixture of orchestral interaction and electronica to give this 3rd person action adventure (where players take on the role of Nilin, a former elite memory hunter with the ability to break into people’s minds and steal or even alter their memories) a unique sonic presentation.  The score was performed by a live orchestra and then digitally processed and manipulated with multiple layers and effects to create a futuristic – but entirely organic and acoustic – musical palette which reflects Nilin’s memory loss and the reconstruction of her memories throughout the game.  Deriviere frequently imposes a number of aural “glitches” in his tonalities that create a slightly distorted or mangled-tape quality which fits the discordant memory concept of the game’s storyline (these “musical hiccups” can be a little disconcerting on first listen!) while also giving it a slight interactive characteristic during the gameplay; “Fragments” evokes these memory particles in the manner of an electronica rock vibe, as does, more discordantly, “The Ego Room”).  Elsewhere a high soprano voice lends an overall musical arc to much of the action material (it’s also treated with a subtle electronic glint and performed by a strident synth in the sumptuously soaring opening track, “Nilin the Memory Hunter”), as does another primary theme for trumpets (“Rise to the Light”); the final track “Hope” reprises both of these themes in one glorious and redemptive resolution.  “The Fight” erupts with a fury of battle/action, merging processed orchestra and pure electronica, dappled with a flurry of anomalies, speed variation, and pounding percussion punctuation.  A striking baritone electronica/rock rhythm evokes the relentless power of “The Enforcers” in a very cool track, as is “The Zorn,” a rhythmic pattern of immense fog-horn like sonic impositions, driven by synth drums, electronic scat, and recurring hiccups.  Some of the more discordant and glitched-up material can be a little awkward to listen to on its own, but the score as a whole, bolstered by the vocal and brass anthemic refrains, is a very intriguing and refreshingly unusual one.

R.I.P.D./Christophe Beck/Back Lot Music (digital)
Robert Schwenke’s R.I.P.D. is an undemanding and often fun movie, even if it’s all just a reworking of MEN IN BLACK with elements of GHOSTBUSTERS sewn in.  As such, it’s a pleasant pastiche with a couple of fine casting choices – Jeff Bridges provides another Dude-worthy iconic characterization as a rootin’ tootin’ DOA wild west sheriff, and the effervescent Mary Louise-Parker is terrific in a stoic commandant role here (she is Rip Torn to R.I.P.D.’s Q and J).  Christophe Beck supplies a playful score which, much as Danny Elfman’s MAN IN BLACK did, sets up a jazzy, rhythmic vibe but without borrowing from or intruding into actual Elfman territory.  It tends to be a little all-the-same on the album, but it does set up a likable vibe over which Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (playing, essentially, Ryan Reynolds again) conduct their undead activities as members of the Rest In Peace Dept.  That central vibe is the score’s mainstay and commands most of the music’s interaction with the movie, rising to more aggressive terms when the action calls for it (“Raining Cars,” “Mano a Mano”); motifs for various undead villains they encounter tend to rock a little more aggressively (as in “Fat Elvis’” funky rock and roll bass and organ, “Hunting Hayes’” twangy Duane Eddy sensibility, etc.).  A touch of Italian Western stylism comes in as Bridges’ character stares down a baddie with tubular bells, a whistler, and electric guitar (“High Noon”), while the obligatory tender moment is nicely handled with a quiet bit of piano over shimmering synths (“Goodbye”). The album closes with the song that opens the closing credits, “The Better Man,” written by Jeff Bridges and T Bone Burnett and sung by Bridges – mostly in character, which is quite a funny ditty.

WAITING FOR LIGHTNING/Nathan Furst/Lakeshore
Nathan Furst’s music for WAITING FOR LIGHTNING, a documentary on pro skateboarder Danny Way’s tough childhood and his contributions to the sport, including footage of his jump over the Great Wall of China, floats in the air like an ethereal image of a skateboarded frozen in mid-jump against a clear blue sky.  A Chinese flute suggests the locale.  It’s an image that will return again in this ambient, intimate score, which mixes sublime guitar fragrances, frequently performed solo in dynamic reverb, with more chaotic atmospheres reflecting Way’s troubled youth (as in the bluesy vibe of “A Broken Family”).  Furst has developed a reputation for seamlessly blending world instruments and soundscapes with memorable and compelling themes surrounded by the strength and elegance of a symphony orchestra, and this penchant gives WAITING FOR LIGHTNING a nicely textured but wholly integrated sonic dimension which is very pleasing.   A tremolo electric guitar motif over echoes of patted hand drums anticipates the day of the jump in “Ten Days to Jump” while “Seed to Origins” proffers a bright, attentive, and inspiring, guitar instrumental, a motif that comes to fruition in the spacious and joyful “A Mentor in MT,” a cheerful rhythm track for guitar, piano, and soothing synth voicings.  “Requiem for Mike” is a sorrowful lament for that same guitar, piano, and synth.  As jump day nears, Furst’s music, reprising the riff from “A Mentor in MT,” becomes more pensive, his tonalities less free, but tightened up and given a heartbeat-like pulse in the percussion (“Two Days to Jump”) while in the same track the fluent Asianesque melody of a close-miked violin subtly refreshes our memory of the foreign location is Way’s event.  “The Practice Jump” opens with articulate reflections of distorted violin and echoey percussion (like crumbling stones scattering from the Great Wall), and then the violin melody from “Two Days to Jump” is reprised in splendid vibrato with a didgeridoo hawking up an uneasy pulse; the track builds force and velocity until Way performs his ollie, carrying his board upward, where a sublime tone of wonder and, perhaps, cosmic unity lends a near-spiritual ambiance to the music.  Directed by Jacob Rosenberg, who first worked with Furst on the documentary DUST TO GLORY, remarked that “Nathan’s instincts were razor sharp and perfectly in sync with the spirit and exact tone of the story I wanted to tell.”  The soundtrack is available digitally from Lakeshore Records.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN/Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser/Varese Sarabande
In the summer’s second blockbuster movie about a paramilitary group taking over the White House, this one stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum and is directed by Roland Emmerich. Rejoining the director are composers Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser (THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 10,000 BC, 2012).  Their suspense music – keyboard and synths over a pulsing beat – is fairly routine; their action material drawn from the same kind of plucky percussion with vigorous string figures replacing the keyboard in the mix. It’s effective but familiar – action tracks like “Let’s Go,” “Elevator Chase,” “Fighting Vadim,” “Facial Recognition,” “Which Direction,” “Cale’s on the Roof,” and “Gonna Shoot Me?” are essentially all built from the same material with little variance.  Where the score shines is in its melodic-based musical structures.  The composers demonstrated in their previous scores for Emmerich a knack for persuasive and low-timbered themes, especially in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2012 wherein their main themes were filled with evocations of grief and sorrow for a ruined Earth.  Even though these main themes are built from the same kind of structure and meter, they are melodically distinct and very effective.  Similarly, their main theme for WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a sorrowful melody that invests the story with a persuasive sympathetic sensibility which is very much to my liking.  Introduced with advancing eloquence in “Opening Theme” and resolving fully in “End Theme,” the progressive four-note theme smoothly builds to a deliberate climax, embodying a tremendous sense of power tinged with sorrow, triumph tinged with sacrifice.  Closely related in a similar cadence and gentle melody is a motif for the hero’s family, which spurs him on during the siege for their sake (“Birdfeeder,” “Daughters & Finnerty’s Plan,” “Emily is on TV” – in the latter track the melody is given a tense flavoring through counterpointing it against the lightly pulsating percussive synth element from the action music; “Dumbwaiter” similarly reprises the main theme against the same synth action element).  The hushed measures and poignant sincerity of the family theme grounds the score when it recurs during respites in the action moments (“Ground Impact Confirmed,” “You Have 8 Minutes,” and “After the Fire” – all three cues clustered together near the end).  Despite the score’s dearth of variety in its motific components and its cookie cutter action moments, it resonates with a melodic clarity that I find very compelling and very listenable. 

THE WOLVERINE/Marco Beltrami/Sony
Book-ended by two tracks consisting mostly of two-note chord-progressions that open up, and then seal, the score proper, THE WOLVERINE is an unusual take on the super hero genre. More psychological than abashedly heroic, Beltrami musically images the inner X-man of the Wolverine character after a betrayal by an old acquaintance causes him to confront his own demons anew.  In an online interview with Barry Lee Dejasu for the cinemaknifefight.com web site, Beltrami explained that “THE WOLVERINE is a very unique take on the superhero movie.  In that respect, it’s a very stylized picture.  Most of it takes place in Japan, and there’s a little bit of a mystery to it, almost a noir-ish mystery to it; the character Wolverine is a bit of a loner.  Having said that, there is a sound and melodic structure and harmonic structure that is used for him, but it’s not like a Superman type of theme; it’s much more reserved.” Thus, it’s a pretty subdued score, low to the ground, wafting like dark mist or prowling like a vicious weasel, driven largely by frame drums.  There is a heroic theme for Wolverine, but it keeps mostly to the background or off stage, bubbling to the surface midway through the score in “The Wolverine” and, near the end when things begin to be put straight.  Until then, though, Wolverine is a victim of his past, his demons, and his powers.  “Funeral Fight” contains a chugging percussive riff propelling most of its musical collage of percussion instruments, glowing synth patterns, and low strikes of koto strings, emerging like a controlled industrial rampage beneath the scene’s frenetic action (the koto is the only Japanese instrument used in the score, and it’s notably used percussively, rather than traditionally plucked; Beltrami said that he and director James Mangold consciously avoided “having Japanese music associated with Japanese places.” Likewise, Japanese flutes are used in some tracks, but play Western musical sales.)  “Logan’s Run” is a ferocity of aggressive sticks and hand drums and taikos over synthetic material to build a raging discordance appropriate to the frantic chase.  A harmonica comes to the fore in several tracks, such as “Euthanasia,” a subtle coloration in the orchestration, but adding an organic, personal statement to the vibe.  “Abduction” incorporates some cool harmonica amidst strenuous violin interaction, giving voice to the abductee through the wailing cries of the mouth organ.  Elsewhere, as in “The Offer” and “Threnody for Nagasaki,” warm yet subdued synth tonalities are layered in shifting patterns, evoking reflection and consideration.  “Ninja Quiet” echoes with pensive footfalls of percussion, “Kantana Surgery” exudes a growing perspective of rising violins and drums which raise a powerful quotient of suspense.  Thus most of the score is comprised of clattery percussion (perhaps suggested by Wolverine’s clacking finger knives?) driving a powerful force forward, while wafting through that musical forest is Beltrami’s reflective, character based music, which finally comes to the fore in “The Hidden Fortress” [one of several track titles taken from Japanese samurai movies; others include “Sword of Vengeance” and the clever Kurosawa paraphrase, “Silver Samurai”], which blossoms with a lovely orchestral melody near its end, a warmth glow of sunlight emerging through the forested darkness of the pounding percussion rhythms.   The final tracks resonate with Wolverine’s self-assurance and personal redemption. 

WORLD WAR Z/Marco Beltrami/Warner Bros
Based by name only on the excellent book by Max Brooks, and despite the well-publicized problems that (thankfully) led to a final act reshoot to replace an original ending that would have surely rang a death knell for the picture, this is a first rate action thriller, giving the zombie apocalypse thriller a character-based focus that effects a kind of procedural storyline about how governments react to the viral zombie outbreak.  In this case WORLD WAR Z, the movie, is to zombie movies what CONTAGION is to pandemic movies, a potent and engrossing story of investigation, emergency operations, and raw survival.  Beltrami’s score is likewise very straightforward in its concept – a warm, well-grounded theme for “The Lane Family,” earnest and steadfast (reprised near the end in “Wales”), and a plethora of aggressive, muscular action music for the film’s numerous zombie assaults, skirmishes, and battles.  In between, Beltrami effectively builds the tension and propels the story forward, such as the progressive and heroic chords layered among and driven by the aggressive violins in “Salvation Gates” and the hushed atmospheric echoes that lend space and darkness to “No Teeth No Bite.”  Beltrami avoids the confusion of having too many themes to keep track of, and has focused his music on the story’s two constants – the universal calamity that has befallen humanity, and Brad Pitt’s character as he struggles to do his duty as a UN agent while also trying to save his family.  “For me the story was at once epic, but also intimate,” Beltrami told Barry Lee Dejasu of cinemaknifefight.com. “The interesting thing is where these [plots] intersect, because thematically, I think the same themes can play for both, because every man’s journey is the journey of mankind.  Sometimes it became a question of instrumentation and orchestration.  There’s a thematic continuity between the epicness and the intimacy.”  Among all of this, Beltrami invests his aggressive patterns with subtle but intriguing textures – elements of the score’s rhythmic percussion parts are actually the sounds of the jawbones and gnashing teeth of wild pigs (javalinas), and one of his main underlying musical motifs is derived from the sound of the emergency broadcast signal which is first heard in the movie’s opening scenes of the zombie outbreak in Philadelphia.  The final soundtrack mixed two recording groups – a large ensemble recorded at Abbey Road and a smaller grouping recorded at British Grove studios – into a coherent and variegated sonic construct which gives the score both the gravitas and the intimacy Beltrami was seeking.  While the music is dominated by the textured orchestral aggression, that significant layer of intimacy – the microcosm of Pitt’s family – slices through the chaos and grounds our emotional connection with the storyline.


Soundtrack & Music News

Italian film music legend Franco De Gemini passed away on July 20th. Known as “The Man with the Harmonica” for his persuasive and distinctive performances on Italian film scores (notably, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), de Gemini also founded Beat Records, which issued many rare Italian soundtracks on LP and CD.  In De Gemini’s autobiography, From Beat to Beat, published by his record label in 2006, De Gemini recalled playing the harmonica for the climactic scene in which Charles Bronson’s character places his harmonica in the mouth of the dying gunfighter Frank (Henry Fonda) in Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST: “The aim was to perfectly simulate the famous ‘last death-rattle’ as sounded on the harmonica.  The Morricone, during the first recording session, told me to place three notes in a sequence that could evoke the horrible anguish of those scenes. He gave me a scrap of paper onto which

he had scribbled some musical instructions; impressions of the kind of emotions he wanted the filmgoers to derive from my playing.  There were only three strange notes because in the movie the two tortured souls, one good, one evil, who were going to be breathing into harmonica, cold not move the instrument with their hands.  So when I made my recording I could not use my instrument in any sort of complicated or familiar way… When I saw him pretending to play my harmonica in the movie and I finally had the chance to hear myself playing on the soundtrack I must admit it sounded to me like a cat meowing!  But I have to say that this eerie sound is so perfect for the movie.”
See also: http://www.weirdomusic.com/2013/07/20/legendary-harmonica-player-franco-de-gemini-dies/ 

Jon Burlingame takes a look behind the musical Emmy nominations - and congrats to all of the nominees!

Trevor Morris’ music for the History Channel series, VIKINGS, had been released digitally, exclusive to amazon Germany, but downloadable internationally: The Vikings (exklusiv bei Amazon.de) 

Many film music listeners of a certain age remember scholar Royal S. Brown's column for Fanfare magazine and his articles on Golden Age composers such as Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, and Bernard Herrmann. To others, he is the author of Overtones and Undertones, a history of film music. Currently, he is director of the Film Studies program at Queens College of The City University and on the faculty in the doctoral music and film studies program at the CUNY Grad Center. He will be teaching a class on the History and Aesthetics of Film Music for the Fall 2013 semester for students matriculated in the doctoral program. However, under certain conditions, a non-matriculated student can take the class either as an audit or for credit. You can email Dr. Brown http://webapps.gc.cuny.edu/directory/PersonDetail.cfm?perID=1825 for a copy of the syllabus and more information (http://filmstudies.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/faculty/royal-s-brown/). The class begins the week of August 28th. – via James Phillips

Varèse Sarabande continues to celebrate it 35th anniversary by taking its celebrated anniversary concert to international festivals, one of which will take place in Poland at Transatlantyk Festival Poznan.  This event will take place on August 4th, at the Adam Mickiewicz University’s Concert Hall, in Poznan, at 8:00 pm. The concert will feature live film symphonic music from film soundtracks released by Varese, while the accompanying film clips will be shown on the movie screen, simultaneously.  Tickets are already available at www.ebilet.pl, at a price of 50 PLN per ticket.

A perceptive and insightful article about working with Hans Zimmer, written by composer/violinist/keyboardist Michael A. Levine, is highly recommended:

Patrick Doyle gives a humble, hilarious acceptance speech after being honored with the Henry Mancini Award at the 2013 ASCAP Film & TV Music Awards, which has thankfully been preserved on youtube: 

Quartet Records presents the world premiere release of CRUSOE, Michael Kamen’s moving, emotional score for Caleb Deschanel’s personal 1988 vision of Robinson Crusoe, starring Aidan Quinn and Elvis Payne.  Kamen “provides one of its best efforts: a reflexive, ethnic influenced score dominated by a melancholy melody that reflects the character of Crusoe,” noted the Spanish label.  “Now after spending nearly as long in Michael Kamen’s archives as Daniel Defoe’s castaway did on the author’s remote island, CRUSOE has finally been rescued for CD. Its score is presented here in the form the composer originally conceived for its (never-released) soundtrack album. CRUSOE remains one of Michael Kamen’s most intimate and evocative works, portraying Crusoe’s island as a state of mind as much as a rugged place for adventure. More importantly, his work showed it was a place where so-called civilized and primitive music could share a common bond of humanity.”  The music is performed by The National Philarmonic Orchestra.  The package includes a 16-page full color booklet, and liner notes by Daniel Schweiger, who discuss the film and the score, and also includes interviews with Caleb Deschanel and sound engineer Stephen McLaughlin.

Watertower Music asked, on their Facebook page: “Did you hear the little ‘Easter Egg’ in the track ‘Oil Rig’ on the MAN OF STEEL soundtrack?  Here’s the story behind it: Zack (Snyder) carried his daughter on his shoulders on the scoring-stage. She was watching with total fascination. When Nick Glennie-Smith, conductor of Hans Zimmer’s score, raised his arms over his head to give the musicians the downbeat, she could help but go: “Uh-Oh!”  Noted the label, “Innocence perfectly covered by all the microphones.”  Hear it at 0:15.

Heitor Pereira has returned to score DESPICABLE ME 2along with producer Pharrell Williams. Reuniting for the sequel following their successful collaboration on the first film, which garnered an Annie Award nomination, Pereira and Williams have created a musical world of soulful funk beats and summertime vibes.  “The music for the first film was distinctive and defined the character of the movie,” said director Chris Renaud.  “It was borne out of collaboration between Pharrell and Heitor. It was clear that was a relationship that we wanted to continue for the second film.”  Building on the chemistry and momentum from the first film, Pereira and Williams set out to create a musical tone to match the character progression and film’s storyline. Pereira created new and evolved character themes incorporating musical elements from his Latin roots. Pereira stated “For El Macho, I used a full choir with a Latin flair to emphasize his presence.” Additionally, the composing team arranged several iconic songs for the minions to sing in the film including renditions of “Y.M.C.A.” and “I Swear.”  The DESPICABLE ME 2 Soundtrack is available now on Back Lot Music. Heitor Pereira is subsequently scored THE SMURFS 2, opening on July 31, 2013.

Composer Ryan Amon, hand-picked by director Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9), scores ELYSIUM, coming to theaters August 9.  Amon created a driving, percussive score incorporating organically created sound design elements, including animal noises. Upon hearing Amon’s trailer music online, Blomkamp was compelled to vouch for Amon, who has never scored a single film. Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, the film is the story of an ordinary man attempting to escape a post-apocalyptic earth and reach the luxurious space station ELYSIUM, home to the wealthy and privileged. Coming out of the world of film trailer scoring, where a composer has just a few minutes to convey the entire spectrum of human emotion through music, Ryan Amon scores ELYSIUM at times like a freight train, other times like a babbling brook, shifting between instrumental textures while always maintaining a forward motion. Equally important to the score is the use of sound elements he manipulated from wildlife noises, including baboons and mosquitoes, resulting in a score Amon describes as “a mulch of music.” Amon brings a solid background in high-energy, image-driven composition to ELYSIUM, having produced musical cues for trailers including THE AVENGERS and WATCHMEN through his motion picture advertising company City of the Fallen.  The ELYSIUM original motion picture soundtrack will be available August 6 on Varèse Sarabande Records.

BuySoundtrax Records has released Star Trek: Music From The Video Games, now available digitally and in CD. The recording was produced, arranged, and performed by Dominik Hauser. Featured in this new collection is music from Star Trek Online (Kevin Manthei), Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (Ron Jones), Star Trek: Starfleet Command (Ron Jones), Star Trek: Starfleet Command III (Danny Pelfrey), Star Trek Legacy (Rod Abernethy), Star Trek Armada II (Danny Pelfrey), Star Trek, The Next Generation: Birth of the Federation (Steven Scherer), Star Trek Voyager Elite Force (Danny Pelfrey), Star Trek Away Team (Danny Pelfrey) Star Trek: TNG, Klingon Honor Guard (Roland Rizzo), Star Trek Klingon (Gregory Smith), Star Trek Bridge Commander (Jerry Goldsmith’s theme), and a full sixteen tracks from Star Trek: Borg (Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner).  The album includes detailed liner notes by your’s truly, providing game synopsis and including comments from the game composers. 
“Perhaps the greatest intersection between the Star Trek series and movies and the contemporary popular culture has been seen in the video games based on the Star Trek universe,” I note in the liner notes for this collection. ”Games have not only borrowed the concepts and characters from Star Trek, but have extended storylines and created wholly new adventures unique to the interactive world of gaming, in which players become actively involved in simulated storylines, battle action, and alien environments rather than just watching the story unfold outside of oneself.”

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has released, on its own label, Film Music Gala, a 3-CD tribute to film music with over three and a half hours of popular Hollywood themes performed by the world-renowned RPO.  The compilation, which is gathered mostly from recordings made by the RPO in 2005, 2005, and 2011, features the famous themes of film favorites, from timeless classics to recent big screen blockbusters. Some of the tracks on this set were conducted by the composers.

Quartet Records and Cinevox have announced the CD premiere of Pino Donaggio's music for Dario Argento’s 2005 television movie, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?  Filled with dozens of references to REAR WINDOW, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, DIAL M FOR MURDER, VERTIGO and even MARNIE, Argento's affectionate Hitchcock homage is a nice exercise for the giallo maestro, exercising his skills while paying homage to his favorite director. Pino Donaggio’s score (his third for Argento) is an exciting blend of Herrmann-inspired suspense and contemporary electronics, interspersed with seductive siren-like vocals for scenes of voyeurism. Performed by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Natale Massara, Donaggio's music is one of the best television scores to come out in recent years. The CD includes the entire score, including Donaggio's unused tribute to VERTIGO called “Homage to Hitchcock.”  Carefully mastered by Claudio Fuiano, the package includes liner notes by Gergely Hubai, who offers an introduction to the film and the score with comments from the composer –including a track-by-track narrative discussion of the score.
Also announced is from Quartet is the world premiere release of Cliff Eidelman’s delicious original score for the 1990 Tony Bill comedy, CRAZY PEOPLE starring Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah.
See: www.quartetrecords.com

Windmill Records has released John Barry -The Early Years a compilation album focusing on the years 1959-1962, in which every track features a Barry arrangement or composition. The majority of tracks are making their debut on CD, and Barry’s library music for Chappell is all together on one CD for the first time.   The mix of songs and instrumentals includes twelve Barry compositions and three by Lionel Bart.

Howlin’ Wolf Records announces COOL AIR / INVASION by Tony Riparetti, two cool soundtracks from films directed by Albert Pyun on a single CD.  Both are the latest in a series of scores presented by Howlin’ Wolf Records showcasing the work of Tony Riparetti, the innovative and prolific composer and longtime Pyun collaborator.  INVASION, originally titled INFECTION, was released in 2005 and features a mesmerizing synth score. COOL AIR based on an HP Lovecraft short story features an award-winning score ...winning ‘‘Best Film Score’’ at the PollyGrind Underground Film Festival. Also from Howlin’ Wolf is DARK SOULS by Polish composer Wojciech Golczewski.   Both releases are limited editions of only 500 copies. See: www.howlinwolfrecords.com/

Ramin Djawadi’s score for Guillermo Del Toro’s massive kaiju-versus-giant-robots sci-fy fest PACIFIC RIM has been released by Warner Bros’ Watertower label digitally, with CDR’s available on demand from Amazon US and Europe.  Likewise, Djawadi’s music for GAME OF THRONES Season 3 is available digitally and on CDR from Amazon. This album includes music from Season 3 plus a newly recorded version of the main theme, as well as the songs “The Bear And The Maiden Fair” by The Hold Steady (previously only available as B-side on a Record Store Day 7” single, now newly recorded for the series and featured in end credits) and “It's Always Summer Under The Sea” (Shireen's Song) performed by actress Kerry Ingram who plays Shireen (this song was also featured as end title).

Brian Tyler, after proving his super-hero mettle with IRON MAN 3, has been signed on to score THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Composer Gavin M. Fulmer, owner of Sound Raven Studios in Birmingham, Alabama, has spent the last five years working on an independent Superman-inspired soundtrack entitled, MIXLPLIX'S CUBE VOL. 1 which he hopes may turn into a motion picture.  Fulmer generates an effective muscular tonality that fits the super-hero oeuvre and yet forms his own musical voice.  Fulmer engineered the music through a 3-D Reverb System which gives his would-be film score a sparkling resonance and clarity while using the MIR Pro (Multi-Impulse Response system) to upgrade the synthetic sound of the score to very closely mimic the dynamic and dimension of a live orchestra.  “There is also a screenplay being written that directly correlates to the music in the project,” Fulmer said.  “The goal of the project is to generate enough interest to continue onto Vol. 2 and hopefully get the attention of Warner Bros. and DC Comics.”  More details and sound samples can be had at the project’s web site, www.mixlplixscubeproject.com.

Milan Records has released Cliff Martinez’ score to ONLY GOD FORGIVES digitally, on CD, and on 180 gram double vinyl.  The album features original music by film composer Cliff Martinez (also a 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee) for Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to the 2011 hit DRIVE.  “Cliff Martinez again makes an indispensable contribution to Winding Refn’s defining aesthetic with a richly, textured score that combines pounding martial arts drumbeats, bursts of ecclesiastical organ music, lushly romantic orchestral riffs that recall Pino Donaggio’s work for Brian de Palma, and obsessive techno beats that a time evoke the vintage electropop of Giorgio Moroder” wrote the Hollywood Reporter.  Noted Martinez, “Initially, Nicolas suggested that I avoid any instrumentation that would evoke the ghost of DRIVE.  But in some instances, I just couldn’t find any other instrument that had the unique sense of melancholy and foreboding that the Cristal Baschet does so well.”  Said Refn, “I didn’t know anything about Thai music, but it happened that Cliff did”.  Martinez turned the director onto Esan music.  “I was able to realize that there was this whole tradition of this folk music that’s about fables and so each of these songs has a fable side to it,” he said.  “I was getting bored with being cooped up in my home studio, so I wrote the score on my laptop from a hotel room in Thailand,” said Martinez who was influenced by the setting of the film. “Like DRIVE, the first music to appear in the film were the songs. In this case, Thai pop songs. So in some small way, I tried to allow the music and setting of Thailand influence the score.”  For the score, Martinez used a Thai folk instrument called the Pin (or Phin), which is similar to an electrified, three-stringed lute.

Composer Emmett Cooke has completed an e-book on the Music Licensing industry, which contains a whole host of information including:
- An explanation of all the terms
- A massive list of music libraries
- What are PRO/PRS’
- Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive
- Cue Sheets
- 3 Year Plan
- Avoiding Scams
- Increasing licensing income
- Meta tagging
- Types of deals
- Much more!
For more information, see www.thebusinessofmusiclicensing.com/

New Italian film score releases from Digitmovies include: LA VALLE DELL’ECO TONANTE (“Hercules Of The Desert”) / GENOVETTA DI BRABANTE(“Revenge Of The Crusader”), both 1964, by Carlo Rustichelli; UNA BELLA GRINTA (“The Reckless”) (1965) by Piero Umiliani, and L’INFERMIERA DI NOTTE / LA LICEALE SEDUCE I PROFESSORI (both 1979) by Gianni Ferrio.
See: www.digitmovies.com/

Award winning composer Christopher Young brings a beautiful and chilling score to KILLING SEASON starring Robert DeNiro and John Travolta. The movie follows two veterans of the Bosnian War, one American, one Serbian, who find themselves in an unlikely friendship until vengeful motives are exposed pitting them against each other. The film marks Young’s second collaboration with director Mark Steven Johnson who he worked with previously on the box office hit GHOST RIDER.  Young brings his unique dark sound to the film’s intense action scenes. Additionally, playing upon the natural landscapes of the film, Young shows a softer side by incorporating a full orchestra with sweeping strings and acoustic guitar.

Silva Screen offers a new edition of the soundtrack to DOCTOR WHO: GHOST LIGHT, Mark Ayres dark and mysterious synth score to Marc Platt’s 3-part series featuring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.  Originally released on Silva Screen Records in 1993, in this new version GHOST LIGHT is freshly re-mastered from the original analogue stereo master tapes with consecutive cues combined into longer tracks. Also included are additional tracks previously omitted and the complete initial “demo” version of the music for Part One. The album presents the score in story order.  Though the score features small themes and motifs, the musical narrative relies on “sounds” rather than “themes.” The composer juxtaposes the tender sound of strings, harp, clarinet with native drums and unearthly sounds of pipes, distorted gong, organ and choir. GHOST LIGHT was the final production of the series’ original 26-year run.
Also just announced from Silva Screen is DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7 of the show’s new incarnation.  “Fans of Murray Gold have patiently awaited the release of music from the most recent DOCTOR WHO series and they will not be disappointed,” the label posted on its web site.  Packaged as a double CD, the soundtrack to the successful BBC TV show will be released this autumn.  More details to come.
See: www.silvascreen.com

Varese Sarabande has released Christophe Beck’s music for THE HANGOVER trilogy this week, with five tracks from the first film, ten from HANGOVER II, and sixteen from the in-release third film.  Also coming this week is a digital only release of Atli Örvarsson’s score for EVIDENCE, a detective thriller in which a brutal murder is pieced together using a number of recording devices found at the crime scene.
The movie re-teams Örvarsson with director Olatunde Osunsanmi (THE FOURTH KIND) for a tense and gritty horror film. 

Kronos Records of Germany has released the soundtrack for Filippo De Masi’s feature film directorial debut film, TH3 PIT. The music is composed by Furio Valitutti.  “This exciting, scary release is strictly limited to 300 copies,” notes Kronos’ Godwin Borg. With it comes the first ever release of a beautiful, sweeping soundtrack on compact disc format, I CAVALIERI DELLA VENDETTA from composer Carlo Rustichelli.  “In addition to the original 17 tracks featured on the C.A.M. 1964 LP,” said Borg, “this CD includes half an hour of never before released music from the scoring sessions.  This is also the first CD, hopefully of many that we are releasing by Maestro Rustichelli.”
Both released are limited to 500 copies each.  See: www.kronosrecords.com/

Milan Records has released the soundtrack for BENEATH, the new thriller from horror icon Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, HABIT), featuring new music by Will Bates of Fall on Your Sword (with additional music by Graham Reznick and Shilpa Ray). Written by Tony Daniel and Brian D. Smith and produced by Fessenden and Peter Phok for Glass Eye Pix (STAKE LAND, THE INNKEEPERS, I SELL THE DEAD), the movie follows a group of young friends, commemorating their high school graduation, on a trip to the remote Black Lake. Their celebration turns into a nightmare with the sudden appearance of a bloodthirsty, underwater predator. Stuck in a leaking boat with no oars, the teens face the ultimate tests of friendship and sacrifice during a terror-stricken fight for survival.  “Having grown up in a family of horror movie actors, I have always wanted to score a film like Beneath,” Bates mentions. “It’s in my blood, I guess. I had been following the work of Glass Eye for some time, and working with Larry was a real joy - a truly collaborative process. I think we made something really special together.” 

Composer Michael Wandmacher creates an eerie, industrial score to The Last Exorcism: Part II, produced by horror-maven Eli Roth (HOSTEL, CABIN FEVER) and starring MTV Award Nominee Ashley Bell. The score album has been released by Screamworks Records. Wandmacher’s creative performance techniques, having the instruments “bend, groan and scream,” allowed him to write an original, unsettling score for instruments the audience only thinks they are familiar with.

Annie Award winning composer Henry Jackman brings his imaginative, genre blending musical score to DreamWorks Animation’s TURBO, the colorful new animated family comedy. Turbo is the story of a snail with aspirations of racing at Nascar speeds, who realizes his dream after a bizarre accident allows him to put the pedal to the metal. Directed by David Soren, TURBO is a colorful, high-energy animated feature, with Jackman complementing the delightfully idiosyncratic world of high-octane snail-racing with a quirky, upbeat score combining electric guitar, pulsing synthesizers, throbbing low-end dubstep bass, and traditional orchestration.  Additionally, Jackman has scored THIS IS THE END, the new comedy from the makers of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.   Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, THIS IS THE END stars Craig Robinson, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Danny McBride, playing themselves caught in the shenanigans occurring during the apocalypse in Los Angeles. Jackman wrote the epic music recalling the grandiose scores of Hollywood’s Golden Age while imbuing them with a sense of parody and playfulness appropriate for the film. Jackman’s expansive score for THIS IS THE END is complete with a full orchestra and choir to underscore the pending disaster. Jackman also recently scored G.I. JOE RETALIATION.

Decca Records has released a pair of fun, summer titles, with one related to film music.  Classical Music for Dogs and Music of Steel, both available at all digital retail partners with Music of Steel also available as a physical CD. Music of Steel celebrates heroic themes from popular action films spanning the last several decades.  Iconic melodies on the album include several John Williams-penned tunes such as “March” from SUPERMAN, ”Main Title” from STAR WARS and “March” from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK; “William Tell Overture Finale” from THE LONE RANGER, ”Now We Are Free,” from GLADIATOR, and other selections from classics such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, APOCALYPSE NOW, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and more.


Games Music News

Composer Siddhartha Barnhoorn is offering a bargain download of his music for the video game Antichamber.  “This soundtrack is a compilation of music from the game,” explained Barnhoorn.  “Inside the game itself the music is made up of layers which crossfade into each other, creating an evolving piece of ambient music which never has the same elements/layers on top of each other. Evolving in texture the further you venture into the world of Antichamber...” 

Sumthing Else Music Works has released the original music soundtrack from Company of Heroes™ 2, the sequel to the highest rated strategy game of all time. The Company of Heroes 2 Original Soundtrack features the original score composed by Cris Velasco, one of the most prolific composers in the medium, best known for his music featured in the BorderlandsGod of War and Mass Effect franchises. Recorded with the Capellen Orchestra and Choir, featuring world-class orchestra musicians and choir from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary, the original score for Company of Heroes 2 majestically captures the solemn heroism and human tragedy of the Eastern Front conflict during World War II.

MTV VMA nominated composer Tom Salta, one of the most versatile and prolific music artists/producers working in film, television, advertising and video games, provides the original score for 343 Industries’ first mobile title Halo: Spartan Assault, an epic “Halo” experience for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 launched in July 2013.  Salta provides an authentic “Halo” original score for Spartan Assault, featuring ethereal choral arrangements, piano motifs, rock guitars, synth ambience and sweeping sci-fi orchestral compositions that are distinctly representative of the franchise. Salta also expands the “Halo” universe with original sounds to complement the musical blueprint of the first trilogy and beyond, combined with a full modern sound production to create a contemporary and classic “Halo” soundtrack. “Having been involved in the re-creation of the original ‘Halo’ score for ‘Halo Anniversary,’ I gained a very deep understanding of the DNA of the ‘Halo’ sound, which I drew inspiration from when creating a completely new and authentic original score for Halo: Spartan Assault,“ said Salta. “As a huge fan of the ‘Halo’ series, I wanted to be sure that the music I created felt true to what franchise fans around the world would identify as the ‘Halo’ sound, while still feeling new.”
To watch the trailer and learn more about “Halo: Spartan Assault,” please visit Halo Waypoint: http://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/games/halospartanassault



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

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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