Soundtrax: Episode 2011-8
July 29, 2011
By Randall D. Larson
Henry Jackman emerged from the halls of Remote Control Productions to put his own stamp on a series of finely crafted film scores, from the animated feature MONSTERS VS ALIENS to the super-hero spoof KICK ASS. Those efforts got him recognized on his own and he attracted opportunities to score big-budget films with GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, Disney’s new WINNIE THE POOH, and DreamWorks’ SHREK offshoot, PUSS IN BOOTS. Interviewed as he was beginning to write his score for the latter, Jackman took a walk through his film musical career with me and described his perspectives and experiences thus far.
Q: How did your training ground at Remote Control Prods team prepare you for the kind of film scoring you are doing now? You had a very varied background prior to that.
Henry Jackman: I had a very formal schooling. I was in English cathedral choirs, singing four hours a day and by the time I was 8 I was singing the full gamut of European renaissance church music. It was all terribly posh and classical right up until I was about 16 or 17 when my friend brought ‘round a home computer that had an 8-bit sampler in it, and I went completely off the rails. I started making rave music to the intense disappointment of my mother, watching this whole classic education turn into massive break beats! Then I wandered off into the record industry for a while. I hadn’t really thought about film music until I bumped into Hans over here. He’d heard something I had done called Transfiguration and he said “what are you doing? You’ve got to stop messing around making records; you should be doing film music with the background you’ve got.” So I showed up pretty green to Remote Control and learned an awful lot from Hans, whose big speech to me was “you know everything you need to know about music, you just need to know more about music to picture, which is not the same as writing a standalone piece of music.” So I learned a huge amount by being involved with Hans’ project and learning the ropes, really. For me, it wasn’t quite the same as being an assistant to a composer and working through that. I was coming at it slightly from left field. There probably isn’t a person that you would learn more from about film music than Hans, or a building where there’s more to learn in terms of the craft of putting music to picture than Remote Control Productions.
Q: Remote Control Prods has defined a kind of stylistic sound that is very sought after by producers; Hans has seemed to merge the background of academic classical music with rock and roll elements and created a fusion of the two which has been really successful…
Henry Jackman: One of the great things about Hans is he has no musical snobbery. It doesn’t matter whether we’re listening to Richard Strauss or Wagner or Led Zeppelin or some trance tune, he will embrace it for what it is and he doesn’t carry a lot of judgmental baggage in relating to music. His genius is knowing that the mission in film music is to develop something that works in picture, that you can’t really afford to have too many musical opinions, genre wise. You can’t go around thinking “oh, I don’t like this type of music or that type of music.” If you’re a recording artist you might have a much more specific and defined area that you explore, whereas if you’re a film composer you should be open to as many influences as humanly possible, and to seek to use them well and imaginatively.
Q: How challenging was your first solo score for MONSTERS VS ALIENS, and how did you approach providing music for this large-scaled animated sci-fi film?
Henry Jackman: Actually here’s an example of something I’d say isn’t so obvious, if you want to use a cliché of what RCP music is – which I think is a bit unfair, anyway; there isn’t really such a thing as “RCP Music” because there‘s a bunch of different people and they’re all doing different things – but with MONSTERS VS ALIENS, the people who were in the back of my mind were Silvestri and Williams – it’s all florid orchestral stuff, it’s not covered in pounding production. MONSTERS VS ALIENS is much more like symphonic score with use of harmony, melody and orchestration, [unlike] the rock influenced 21st Century film language that you get in something like X-MEN, where the amount of chords is reduced and there’s a lot of production going on. I just really like both. I couldn’t spend all my life in a sort of Harry Potter world and I probably couldn’t spend all my life in an X-Men world, but if you sort of mix them all up I’d be in a state of bliss! But MONSTERS VS ALIENS was about being ridiculously over the top in terms of orchestra.
Q: It has this larger than life sense, like the creatures in the film.
Henry Jackman: The film allows that because not only is it an animated film, and Dreamworks films have a certain feel to them, but there were a lot of big set pieces in that film with the sci-fi element and comets hurtling through space, the 49-foot woman, the weird monsters, and all the rest of it. I’m just a huge fan of people like Alan Silvestri and John Williams – I get really upset when you hear people ruminating about “the death of the symphonic score” – I just think it’s complete nonsense. One of the biggest compliments I ever got, I remember reading something that someone sent to me about MONSTERS VS ALIENS, or maybe it was GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, that it “shows that there is still life in the old fashioned symphonic score with a nod to John Williams.” I mean I would never put myself anywhere near someone as good as John Williams but the very fact that someone had spotted that there is a bit of life in that kind of score is important, because we should have both in movies.
Q: KICK-ASS went through a number of composers [John Murphy, Ilan Eshkeri, and Marius DeVries] before arriving at its final score, which seems to be an amalgamation of everyone’s efforts. Would you describe the process the production went through to establish the kind of music it needed and how the film arrived at a score that was quite cohesive?
Henry Jackman: I wrote the main KICK-ASS theme, which you get at the beginning, and I mostly did the posh orchestral stuff. John Murphy motored through the film taking care of all the grungy heavy stuff which he is so good at. It seemed like a good division of labor, apart from anything else! There’s an element of pastiche – the opening’s a little bit SUPERMAN, the Mistmobile has hints of the Tim Burton BATMAN film … normally you’ve got to be very careful about pastiche because you start undercutting the film, but KICK-ASS is deliberately a very renegade, anarchic movie. A lot of that’s [director] Matthew Vaughn, who produced LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, so there’s a certain aesthetic, and KICK-ASS was able to capitalize on that irreverence in the score, so one minute you’ve got John Murphy cranking out one of his classic grungy numbers, and then before you know what’s happening, Kick-Ass is staring at himself in the mirror pretending to be Superman and you’ve got a full-on orchestral cue that’s got a nod to Mr. Williams. Then John had this other theme for Big Daddy. Between Ilan and Marius and me and John – we were all talking to each other and were all aware of different parts of the movie and what themes we’re going to use where – we managed to pull it off, because it could have been a complete mess, and I feel like it actually isn’t. It somehow hangs together in a slightly crazy way. It doesn’t feel like a potpourri, or even if it does it feels like a potpourri that weirdly works!
Q: Your score for GULLIVER’S TRAVELS is richly thematic and very multifaceted as it supports the film’s many layers of humor, fantasy, and heartfelt drama. What were your earliest inclinations for the score and how did it evolve and develop as you went along?
Henry Jackman: Going back to what I said about how you should embrace different kinds of music, it’s very clear that with GULLIVER’S TRAVELS you’re not going to be able to do something like INCEPTION – it’s not going to be a case of reinventing film music, but more a case of celebrating my heroes – the Jerry Goldsmiths, the John Williams, the Silvestris; a strictly acoustic and symphonic approach. My idea was to really try and make it a showpiece for what can be done with a straight up and down symphonic score. There’s a scene where Gulliver is being carted in to the city and the composer I mostly had in the back of my mind was William Walton, which is an influence you’re never going to have in something like X-MEN, but it’s all about celebrating that in something like GULLIVER’S TRAVELS. Obviously it’s a family film and there’s a comedy element as well, but I just tried to celebrate the orchestral style as much as I could.
Q: How did you musically differentiate the real world of New York City and that of Lilliput and Brobdingnag? How important was the music in supporting the film’s environments and fantasy elements?
Henry Jackman: Funny enough, the very first scene in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS has a lot of the themes for the whole movie. Because it’s set in New York, it almost feels quite Romantic-Comedy at the beginning, with a lot of acoustic guitars and piano – it’s quite natural and friendly sounding. But if you listen really carefully to the first cue, when Gulliver wakes up in his New York apartment, you’ll hear a lot of the themes that then appear in the rest of the movie. Then of course once you get to Lilliput, the orchestration goes into a sort of Ducas/Saint-Saens mode… that’s when you start hearing your Celeste and crotales, string runs, harp glisses, giant brass arrangements, and strings flying all over the place, which would be completely inappropriate in New York. But I tried to do an overture in the first cue that would contain the DNA for the rest of the score.
One of the things that is very enjoyable about that sort of movie is the use of harmony. What tends to happen in more contemporary action films is that the harmonic complexity of things is reduced quite a lot; it’s simpler and there’s a lot more production, whereas once you get to a fantasy world a lot of the sense of emotion of the storytelling cannot be achieved through sound design, it’s achieved through your use of chords. You actually get to be a lot more explorative, harmonically, in those symphonic scores – precisely because there’s nowhere else to hide! You’ve just got music composition, harmony, and orchestration to deliver what it is you’re trying to deliver; it’s not cool textures and electronic sounds doing stuff, so you’ve got to know your way around a few chords! If you listen to a John Williams’ HARRY POTTER score, it’s an absolute lesson as to what can be achieved with a symphonic orchestra and how many different colors and textures and emotions it can produce. Even more fundamental to me than orchestration is harmony; if you really know your way around chords you can express things, and you can turn on a dime if you’ve got a fairly decent command of harmony.
Q: Your score for X-MEN FIRST CLASS very nicely supports the story’s journey from the characters’ unsurety about themselves to their complete acceptance of their powers and confidence as heroes. Was it difficult to hold the score back, and keep it from achieving its full potential until the end?
Henry Jackman: I kind of went round in circles to start with on X-MEN. I’d just come off GULLIVER, so I started out writing a full symphonic score, not very production-heavy. My first ideas for X-MEN actually sounded a bit more like the kind of thing you might hear in HELLBOY or VAN HELSING. That didn’t work – that was in the early days and I hadn’t seen much of the picture yet. Matthew Vaughn [director] has very clear views about music, and he said “it’s good music but that’s not what we need for X-MEN.” Once I’d thrown away all my initial stuff I came up with an X-Men Theme, which, harkening back to what you just said, was interesting because it had a Superman feel to it, it was very confident. Matthew said “oh, that’s very good, but the problem is, we can only use that at the end!” I’m thinking “let’s not throw it away, because I really do feel that this is the X-Men Theme,” but like you just observed, for the majority of the movie, they’re not even a team yet; they’re young, they don’t understand their powers, it takes them a while to achieve anything successful. That’s the very nature of the movie, which is a prequel that shows you how these mutants came to be a team. So the theme underwent some interesting alterations. Originally the theme was must faster, and that was the first version that Matthew heard. Then I wrote the suite which ended up being called “First Class” on the album, where I sort of time-stretched the theme. By elongating it, it ends up feeling more like a journey, like they’re trying to achieve some success that they have not as yet achieved. Once you stretch that tune out, it still feels epic (hopefully) but not quite so bombastic. The other interesting thing about trying to come up with a theme is that, unlike Superman or Spider-Man, it’s not one person, it’s a team. It’s an ensemble. So there needs to be that ambiguity. It’s a difficult thing to describe but there’s something about Superman that feels like the heroic outpourings of a single individual; when you hear that theme, there’s no ambiguity there, it is simply a superhero in full command of his powers. With X-MEN – while the Magneto theme is different, because he’s so reckless and so bold so quickly that it can feel fully accomplished – whereas the X Theme takes a little while, because they don’t get to control their powers until Charles starts training them at the X Mansion, which is half way through the film, and they don’t really get put into service until later. So it had to stay heroic and epic but with that element of ambiguity… if it felt too successful it would be sort of pre-empting the film.
Q: The fact that the melody proceeds slowly gives it a greater emotional quality, for me anyway, it had a tinge of melancholy; a tinge of potential tragedy… it carries a greater weight that had you come up with something totally confident in those early stages.
Henry Jackman: I think you’re right. In time-stretching the tune, some of that ambiguity I’m talking about is reflected; if a tune’s fast and confident, it’s so established as to what the emotion is. But as soon as that tune slows, it invites a bit more interpretation, which is why I think it ended up working. You can actually speed that tune up and it can feel like Superman, but once you slow it down then interesting things happen. We didn’t know if it was going to work, because as I said I had this first version of the tune, and I said “let me go away and do this other version and see how we feel.” And I gave it to him and he said “oh wow, even though it’s exactly the same tune, note-for-note, it now has a completely different feeling.”
Q: As an origin story about characters we know from the previous trilogy of films, how necessary was it for your music to anticipate where these characters are eventually going to end up? Your theme for the Erik/Magneto character, for example, clearly suggests the journey into villainy that he will take.
Henry Jackman: That’s true. The funny thing is, there wasn’t quite as much beard-stroking as you might imagine in relation to all of the other X-Men films. I imagine it was similar for James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, they’re both fine actors; on the one hand they have to be aware that they are to become Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan, but by the same token I’m sure they didn’t spend their entire time copying every inflection of McClellan and Stewart; it’s more like a vague target to head towards but it should not impede their own acting performance, because they’re both really good actors in their own right, and the movie is its own movie. It was somewhat similar in terms of music. In Michael Kamen and John Ottman and John Powell you’ve got fantastic composers, but to begin with there was not a thematic consistency throughout their scores. There wasn’t an established X-Theme. Matthew’s such a visionary director that I trusted him as to the movie he was making; in a funny way he almost protected me from having to spend my time looking forward to how any of my stuff would exactly interlock with upcoming material, partly because of the uniqueness of FIRST CLASS itself. It’s self-contained. Clearly the characters relate but not in a way that became restrictive. I felt quite free, and part of that was Matthew’s confidence in how he approached the movie.
But you’re right, clearly we know that Magneto does not end up as a wonderful person. He’s quite complex but ultimately there’s a darkness there, but that wasn’t so much because I knew it was going to happen in the later X movies, it’s actually within the self-contained context of FIRST CLASS: we have to take a boy who sees something traumatic ending up donning the mantle of dark power towards the end, and that journey happens within the film, let alone worrying about films that come later. I’d say I pretty much treated it like you’d treat any other movie. Obviously there’s respect for the other films, I know them and I’ve watched them all several times, but not in a way that made me panic about what chords I’m using or what tune or orchestration is going to fit in with other scores.
Q: I thought your use of electric guitars almost added an appropriate metallic or magnetic color to Magneto’s theme but added an interesting texture to the score’s instrumental design. What was your goal for fusing the score’s grand symphonic sound with the dramatic sound of metal guitars and electronic percussion?
Henry Jackman: Partly is that he’s young and brash and reckless, and partly because it’s set in the ‘60s, and partly just because he’s pretty bad-ass, and there’s only so much bad assery you can get out of a cello! When you’re dealing with someone who had just sucked the metal filings out of a banker’s tooth and when he’s at the Argentinean bar and single handedly dispatches those nasties and sticks knives into them using his magnetic powers, he’s just pretty bad-ass! Sometimes what you’re seeing on screen doesn’t necessarily lend itself to orchestra, and you reach out for different instrumentation. I was enjoying creating the low, gnarly stuff with the distortion guitar and also the baritone guitar. There might have been a sort of background waft in the air with respect to John Barry because there’s a heavy Bond influence; in some ways the early Magneto/Eric is almost a Sean Connery figure, so there may have been some of that floating around, because you get great use of guitars in John Barry…
Q: Almost like there’s a little bit of Vic Flick going on playing those guitar notes!
Henry Jackman: Yeah. And Matthew being a brave director had no problem with that! As soon as we started getting out the guitars and the distortion and all that he was more than happy.
Q: What was most challenging for you in scoring this movie?
Henry Jackman: Weirdly, the Mystique theme. We’d got the X-Men theme, got the Magneto theme, then Mystique… when I was trying to come up with a theme for her I didn’t fully realize the emotional depth and gravity that that whole story arc would have. I felt in the early iterations of that theme that I was holding myself back, thinking we couldn’t go too far, because there’s a lot in the movie – we’ve got Charles and Shaw and Magneto and these are all really important themes, and I think in my head I compartmentalized Mystique as being almost subsidiary and that it shouldn’t get too heavy. After I wrote a couple of things Matthew explained that the whole issue of being comfortable with yourself and what it is to be a mutant is pretty heavy, and he encouraged me to just go for it and write something that was really emotionally committed. And then on the third version I found something right for Mystique. It’s that delicate balance between being emotionally committed but without turning into LEGENDS OF THE FALL or GONE WITH THE WIND with a huge sweeping romantic theme. I think the thing that had been throwing me was that there wasn’t a huge love story; Matthew said “that’s true, but it has to do with emotional conflict. It’s to do with a sense of place and a sense of who you are, and that is a dramatic conflict that should be taken seriously.” So, finding an emotional theme that wasn’t like a classic love theme but was also sufficiently committed, that probably took the longest.
Q: Now with WINNIE THE POOH, you’ve turned completely about face with a thoroughly wooden approach and shed the electric guitars and heavy brasses for a lighter touch with woodwinds and strings to bring the hundred acre wood to life. As another film with a significant musical history, how did you determine the best approach for this score?
Henry Jackman: It was immediately clear to me when I saw what Disney had done, they did a fantastic job of preserving everything that’s good about the original WINNIE THE POOHs while still somehow making it feel fresh. Before I saw the film, I went down for my first meeting with Disney and I remember thinking, God I hope they haven’t given Pooh an iPod and suddenly he’s like listening to German bass in some sort of vacuous contemporization! And so I saw some of the footage and it was immediately clear that all of those warm feelings that we have for Winnie the Pooh have been preserved. On top of that, it’s not CG; it’s hand-drawn animation very much in the original style. WINNIE THE POOH presents a slightly idealized naïve world that is comedic but is ultimately about friendship. So it was immediately obvious to me any attempt to reinvent the wheel and cover Winnie the Pooh in electronics and super-radical ideas would be a hugely self-conscious and destructive maneuver. In fact, a lot of the temp music in that film was from the original WINNIE THE POOH scores, although I kept a respectful distance. We’re all so familiar with those wonderful old scores that I deliberately didn’t spend ages listening to them. The musical language of WINNIE THE POOH is the opposite of X-MEN and a bit closer to GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, meaning it’s sort of classical-light music. When you listen to the original scores it’s like a cross between Ducas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Saint-Saens, Vaughan-Williams, Kurt Weil on the one hand, and then sort of Gershwin and a bit of Hollywood on the other. It’s a wonderful area of music to be allowed to explore, and you don’t often get the chance. So I just embraced that for what it was and didn’t try and muddy the waters by way of trying to do something different, but instead respectfully embrace what are very wonderful influences of music. If you think of composers like Delius and Vaughn-Williams and Ducas, that area is all wonderfully orchestrated, harmonically interesting area of music, and it fits that sort of picture really well.
Q: The Pooh stories are full of such a sense of innocence which seems to encourage that kind of a light and innocent sounding score.
Henry Jackman: It’s not just the composers, either. The actual technique of recording the music is very important. We recorded in a smaller stage at Warners. The string line up was not at all a big symphonic lineup, it was a much reduced section. I even spoke in detail with the engineer to record the woodwinds in such a way that they were really prominent – they were set up on a platform so they were four feet higher than normal. It was really important to get the right sound because it’s not just the notes – those of course have a certain sound to them and part of that is that they’re not drenched and swamped in symphonic size. There’s a kind of tidiness to the sound that comes with finding just the appropriate orchestral forces to play it.
Q: How does the prevalent use of songs here, and in KICK-ASS, affect where you are going with your score, knowing that some significant dramatic moments will be covered by new or familiar songs?
Henry Jackman: KICK-ASS was such an anarchic score that it hardly mattered. Some of the moments were quite deliberately jolting, but ordinarily, like in WINNIE THE POOH, they were almost like useful beacons, because you know where you’re heading to and coming away from. With the technical details like they’re in a certain key and a certain tempo and have a certain orchestration, it’s almost part of the fun of the craft to deliver the score into the song, and then recede out of the song in sort of an elegant way so that it all feels as if it’s been woven into one fabric. In WINNIE THE POOH my job was made easy because they were great songs and they were orchestrated in a style that wasn’t that far away from the score anyway, so they were already in the same ballpark.
Q: And we’ll soon be hearing your music in PUSS IN BOOTS. As an offshoot of the SHREK films, how did (or how will) that musical heritage affect where you are going with its score?
Henry Jackman: In a funny way, it’s not up to me, it’s very much inherent in what the filmmakers have done, and the filmmakers have done a fantastic job of giving this film its own flavor and its own identity. It absolutely doesn’t feel like an offshoot even though the character exists in other films. I’m in the very early days now of writing themes, and I wouldn’t say it’s easy, because that would sound arrogant, but compared to certain projects I’ve done they’ve almost made my job easier. It’s so flavorful as a movie, and the character of Puss in Boots is so strong and it has such a secure, established identity that it almost encourages the themes come forth – of course I’m still in the early days and the filmmakers haven’t heard anything yet so I may be eating my words when they throw out everything I write! But I’m feeling like there’s such a strong identity to all the characters that it really helps me come up with the themes, because it’s not ambiguous. The character of Puss in Boots is such fun and has some bravado and obviously has a strong Latin flavor, and of course as we all know it’s performed by Antonio Banderas, and I can literally hear his voice in my head as I’m writing. It feels as if the tram lines have been laid down and I’m a train rolling down an already established track.
Thanks to Jeff Sanderson at Chasen PR for assistance in facilitating this interview. -rdl
New Soundtracks Releases of Note
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER/Alan Silvestri/Disney
Alan Silvestri enters the modern superhero fray with this gleaming and patriotic score that nicely encapsulates the supersoldier with the starblazing shield, set for release on CD on July 19th. Eschewing the formulaic approach that had seemed to guide many blockbuster super-hero scores in recent years, Silvestri has composed a splendid symphonic score that is rich in pure Silvestri rhythms and harmonics. The heroic music maintains a militaristic sensibility in keeping with Cap’s origins and place among the fighting joe’s that is period appropriate and roots the character theme in a gritty realism that I find quite effectual; the score is also in its own way non time-specific, segueing with Cap from his World War II triumph to his reawakening in the modern age to resume his defense of his country against evil. Eschewing the kind of traditional epic super-hero sound, Silvestri gives CAPTAIN AMERICA an edgy sound that doesn’t shirk on heroic bombast when needed, but grounds it in less sparkling bravado than a SUPERMAN score, reflecting perhaps the character’s bionically-enhanced humanity beating within the chemically-strengthed body. An exception is heard in the cheer-inducing cry of triumph on “We Did It.” The villain’s theme is a relentlessly surging rhythm, exemplified in “Hydra Train,” which drives forcefully ahead with all the forward momentum and weight of a racing locomotive.
The action cues are propulsive and coordinated, as in “Kruger Chase,” purposefully orchestrated and powerfully thundering; often the Captain America theme resounds amidst the orchestral violence as our hero leads the charge or defends the troops triumphantly, as in “Invaders Montage,” “Rain Fire Upon Them,” “Fight on the Flight Deck,” and the frantic “Invasion.” Silvestri eloquently humanizes Cap in more introspective cues as the sad “Farewell to Bucky” (which resolves with a stalwart reprise of the main theme), “Schmidt’s Story,” which even in its empathetic measures subtly looks ahead to the Red Skull’s villainous rhythm, and “This Is My Choice,” a tender rendition of the main theme for haunting French horns and strings that segues into the climax. This score is engaging and fiercely dramatic; Silvestri well in control and accompanying Cap on his journey with clenched teeth and swinging fists. Concluding the album is a song, “Star Spangled Man,” written by legendary Disney scorer Alan Menken with lyrics by David Zippel, a USO-styled production written and performed in the manner of a wartime Irving Berlin tune. Available not on the CD but as a bonus track on the iTunes presentation of the soundtrack (available for purchase on its own, thank you iTunes) is Silvestri’s 2:37 “Captain America March” a sparkling, sterling evocation of the main theme in all of its pure, patriotic, splendor.
THE HAMMER LEGACY - The Frankenstein Collection/The Vampire Collection/The Science Fiction Collection/Silva Screen
Culled from the original soundtrack album releases of England’s GDI Records (the series is now being produced for GDI by BSX Records), Silva Screen has released a trio of compact compilations of music from classic Hammer horror and science fiction films. The three Hammer Legacy albums contain original soundtrack cues, unlike the more frequently rerecorded tracks provided to Silva by recording orchestras like the City of Prague Philharmonic, so what we have are the vintage scores just as they were heard in the films. The Frankenstein Collection contains tracks from all seven Hammer Frankenstein films, one track each from all except FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, which has five tracks, and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, which has four. The Vampire Collection proffers tracks from eight of Hammer’s non-Christopher Lee vampire films (the Lee Dracula scores presumably being collected together in a forthcoming album?), including James Bernard’s KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, the Carnstein trilogy by Harry Robinson (Robertson) – including the scorned vocal version of the main theme, “Strange Love,” foisted upon the composer by Hammer and EMI – and four tracks from Bernard’s final Hammer feature film score, LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (which wonderfully reprises Bernard’s magnificent music from HORROR OF DRACULA). The Science Fiction Collection contains music from all three QUATERMASS films and the title song from Don Ellis’ MOON ZERO TWO; but it’s the most uneven of the trio, containing nearly all of Tristram Cary’s score to QUATERMASS AND THE PIT and only one cue from each of Bernard’s first two films in the series, with Ivor Slaney’s music to Hammer’s first science fiction score, 1953’s SPACEWAYS, ignored or unavailable. All of these tracks are available either in previous compilations from Silva and GDI (a few of them have since been released on complete soundtrack albums, such as LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES on BSX, Cary’s QUATERMASS AND THE PIT on Cloud Nine, and Robinson’s VAMPIRE LOVERS, TWINS OF EVIL, and most of LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and VAMPIRE CIRCUS on GDI – also most of Bernard’s DRACULA scores on GDI) so there’s nothing hitherto unreleased here, but the trio makes a nice gallery of Hammer film music, sorted by type, for uninitiated or those without the earlier more comprehensive collections and solo score albums. The music is uniformly tremendous, from James Bernard’s masterfully uber-dramatic vampire and Frankenstein scores to Robinson’s gorgeously lyrical Carnstein scores (and the swashbuckling Western music of its third entrant, TWINS OF EVIL), to Cary’s angular, modernistic QUARTERMASS score and David Whittaker’s bongo-filled Tiger Dance from VAMPIRE CIRCUS. Marcus Hearn provides an excellent overview of the films and their scores in his concise notes for each release.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2/Alexandre Desplat/
Water Tower Music
I found the final Harry Potter movie a thoroughly pleasing and satisfying adaptation of Rowling’s final Potter novel and an excellent climax and denouement to the film series. Director David Yates has commented that DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 is essentially a very realistic “road movie” (as Harry travels to and fro trying to find Valdemort’s hidden horcruxes), while PART 2 is "much more operatic, colorful and fantasy-oriented", a "big opera with huge battles,” which well describes the difference in tone between the two parts of the saga’s culmination. PART 2 is immense both in its visual spectacle as well as in the psychological/spiritual/human-magic battle as Harry and Voldemort face each other for the final time. Alexandre Desplat’s score develops his work from PART 1 into a dark and eloquently mature rendering for PART 2 that is entirely in sync with the tone and feeling of the film. DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 has lost much of the magic that John Williams evoked in the first film, but this is entirely appropriate to the tone of this final story. Harry has grown up, and the score is informed by his maturity and experiences in facing the challenge of Valdemort; Hogwarts is no longer the enchanting magical place it was in SORCERER’S STONE and CHAMBER OF SECRETS; here it is under siege and found in almost ruin after the attack by Voldemort and his collaborators; many of the Order of the Phoenix are facing possible death, as is Harry himself, and his mentor Prof. Dumbledore has already been killed by Snape’s wicked betrayal. It doesn’t take place in a happy place; it’s a desperate battle against unequal odds, and the score accepts and supports this story’s grim demeanor. Desplat effectively reflects its many nuances, evoking the fate of various characters as the story resonates to a conclusion, soaring to cheer victories both minor and conclusive, inducing all of the turmoil the conflict has meant to the young wizard whose years of growing up have been defined by his connection with and battle against the Dark Lord. The struggle here begins and ends with Lily’s Theme, Desplat’s haunting, almost lullaby melody for Harry’s mother, whose long ago sacrifice saved her son and endowed him with the ability to face the darkness and succeed in challenging Valdemort and his lackies (it is especially interesting that it’s not Valdemort’s music but “Lily’s Theme” that is heard in “Snape’s Demise,” as we learn it has been his unrequited love for her that has motivated nearly all of his actions since. The coda, “A New Beginning,” set 19 years later, is straight out of Rowling’s final book, evoking enchantment once again, but this time it’s the enchantment of living in the real world while sending children off to explore the world where magic is still intact for non-muggles; but Harry has gracefully grown into near-middle age and the music has adapted with him. By incorporating themes composed by John Williams and Nicholas Hooper from the earlier films, Desplat has ensured DEATHLY HALLOWS resonates with a musical arc that can be traced throughout each of the films despite the individual voices of different composers. His final Potter score is thoroughly fitting, thrilling in supporting the power and passion of the epic battle that reaches its climax in this film, and gently resonant of the emotions and challenges faced by the characters whose wonder years have been so closely delineated in these seven films.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS/Rolfe Kent/Varese Sarabande
Rolf Kent’s latest comedy score is for this adaptation of the popular children’s book in which Jim Carey plays the titular businessman who inherits a group of penguins, to the detriment of his professional life. The score is pleasing enough while following designated formulae for comedy scores; Kent deftly provides an array of playful cues that serve the story well and keep its antics light and cheerful. But like the best family comedy scores, Kent is also understanding enough to ensure that his score supports the film’s heart as well, without tumbling into undue sentimentality. Once the story gets underway and the comedy settles down into an engaging storyline that begins to turn on the emotions, the score also plays it straight without totally changing direction. “Life Without Penguins” evokes the playfulness of Popper’s flightless companions yet does so with a notable air of melancholy and regret; In “Popper Has a Plan” Kent begins to regain Popper’s confidence as he takes action to redress his mistake in giving away his aquatic associates; the action of “The Escape from the Zoo” is as ebullient as earlier portions of the score yet Kent knows what’s at stake here, and he amps up the cue’s drive to evoke Popper’s purpose in rescuing his newly-beloved penguins. And “Challenge at the Tavern – Come to Popper!” expressively reflects the awkward reunion of man and flightless fowl. “A Family in Antarctica” eliminates the antics and concludes the score with an earnest coda of celebration and rightness. It’s a cheerful, procedural score yet one that evokes the right nuances for this type of film and makes for an enjoyable fun album of pleasing music on its own.
PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW/Lalo Schifrin/FSM
Lalo Schifrin’s score for this colorful but vapid Roger Vadim movie fits its scenery like a tight hug. The 1971 movie, Vadim’s first American film, brings the late ‘60s/early ‘70s sexual revolution into a sordid murder mystery with Rock Hudson as a high school guidance counselor (who also happens to be the school’s humanities or poetry teacher, assistant principal, and coach of the winning football team) who beds the school’s prodigious population of student babes, then kills them when they get a little too close. Meanwhile a sexually frustrated young man – who is being helped through Hudson’s direction by new teacher Angie Dickinson (leading to the film’s very funny bathtub dropped-the-soap moment) – clues in on Hudson’s behavior. Telly Savalas is on hand as a state police detective investigating the crimes. Eye candy abounds in typical lush Vadim fashion. Schifrin’ score shifts between breezy pop, evoking the sensibility of his theme song “Chilly Winds” (performed by The Osmonds over the titles, in an alternate track by John Bahler which actually possesses a much more provocative harmonic dynamic, and reprised instrumentally throughout the score) and moody, light suspense cues that suggest the malevolence that exists behind Hudson’s permissive dalliance. The latter is well represented by threatening keyboard footsteps of “Is He Gone?” and “Tiger Fini” in which Hudson’s character gets his, um, comeuppance. The use of quick, reverberating glissandi of percussion and winds gives the cue a terrifically suspenseful sensibility, finally exploding in a din of echoing electronica and wild drum kit, segueing into a funereal organ remembrance of the teacher, his misdeeds unrevealed. Schifrin’s source music is all very good also, pop tunes from radios in Hudson’s office or turntables in Dickinson’s apartment. Album notes from Jeff Bond and Alexander Kaplan put the film in its historical perspective and provide details on each of the tracks. A fine Schifrin score very welcome on CD.
QUANTUM QUEST/Shawn K. Clement/BSX Records
QUANTUM QUEST: A CASSINI SPACE ODYSSEY is an ambitious 3-D, computer animated, large format, action-adventure edutainment film that interweaves animated sequences with actual space imagery captured from seven ongoing NASA and NASA/ESA space missions. Set in a scientifically accurate rendering of our solar system in 3D, the audience is taken on a simulated solar safari, exploring the outer planets and moons of our solar system while witnessing a fictional battle between the forces of good and evil waged for the fate of the universe. The film unites astronaut Neil Armstrong with sci-fi icons from film and television, and boasts an all-star cast including sci-fi film icons Chris Pine, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christensen, Amanda Peet, Robert Picardo, Brent Spiner, James Earl Jones, William Shatner, and Mark Hamill. Composer Shawn K. Clement, who started out scoring episodic television with shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER before establishing the musical style for reality television with his music for SCARIEST POLICE CHASES and AMERICAN IDOL and others. Recorded at Skywalker Sound with an 82-piece symphony orchestra embellished by integrated synths, QUANTUM QUEST is a dynamic and ambitious score, giving the film the kind of larger-than-life integrity it needed. Clement provides a fine main theme, introduced in “Cassini” and developed more fully in “Opportunity of Serve,” which is associated with Dave, the photon, who must save NASA’s Cassini spacecraft from the evil forces of The Void. The latter are associated with dark, chord progressions that embody a sense of malevolent movement and chilling permutations. “Ignorant Moronic Fools” offers a bit of comedic pacing in its quasi-cartoonline traces. The combustible bombast of cues like “Destroy Me” and the self-assured piano notes of “Operation Photon Extermination” build a strident sensibility, through which Clement’s main theme resonates heroically. The score necessarily contains elements of STAR WARS while also incorporating a degree of sound design, which Clement also produced, to evoke the machinations of the warring entities, as with “Anti-Matter’s” sonorous conclave of texture and sound to which Clement adds a big of metal guitar shredding, and the drum-driven surging waves of sound in “The Void” and “Fear/The War Machine;” but the score’s arc reaches its apotheosis in the climax, “The Message/Dave Delivers,” in which sound design and heroic theme resolve in an articulate and satisfying crescendo. Most cues are short (1-2 minutes in length) until the climax affords a broader 4-minute dramatic denouement. A demo track and a pair of remixes (which don’t do anything for me) complete the 54:38 album.
(for more info on QUANTUM QUEST see my interview with Shawn Clement in Soundtrax for Feb 12, 2009.)
THE SENDER/Trevor Jones/La-La Land Records
Trevor Jones’ early horror film, THE SENDER (1982), composed between epic and eloquent measures of EXCALIBUR and THE DARK CRYSTAL, is both creepy and genuinely sympathetic, revolving around a series of synth tonalities and textures and a lyrical symphonic romantic melody, over which an eerie vocalization of both male chorus and female soloist often provides a foreboding and spooky dynamic. Culled from the nearly 40-minutes of music known to have survived from studio disinterest, this is the score’s first release. The film, which is about a telepathic man known only as John Doe who is able to transmit his bizarre visions into the minds others, came in the midst of a resurgence of paranormal thrillers that came in the wake of CARRIE (1976), THE FURY (1978), SCANNERS (1981) and others. When I had the opportunity to interview Jones in 1985 I asked him about his approach to scoring THE SENDER. “The film opens with this tracking shot as this man walks into a park and fills his pockets with stones,” Jones replied. “He wades into the lake, and the camera cranes down and goes under the water and follows him. What I wrote for the opening cue was a basic theme which evolved and developed into what was almost avant-garde. I used avant-garde techniques toward the end to put across the idea of panic and disaster and drowning. I found myself captivated by the plot, because I was forever trying to work out whether reality or fantasy was at work.” In Doe’s attempted suicide, Jones introduces his main theme in the slightly unsettling tones of a tenor recorder given a slight tremolo, evoking both the horror of the event as witnessed by the onlookers, but more prominently assuming the point of view of John Doe, embodying eloquently the ghosts that seem to be haunting his mind; the theme is counterpointed against a percussive ringing of harp as a lone trumpet sounds the main theme as a premature epitaph for the suicidal man, who is rescued and hospitalized, where a young doctor named Gail tries to treat his mental problems. Throughout the film, the main theme will both evoke John’s personal terrors as well as resonate into a serene love theme for he and Gail. A recurring, brooding figure evokes the darker side of John Doe; a semblance of the Roman Catholic Dies Irae often present in the counterpoint of Jones’ main theme suggests a sacrilegious element that may exist in the psychic ability of the enigmatic protagonist, while the frequent use of wordless high-soprano singing both supports the film’s supernatural potential as well as its reference to religious traditions. Jones’ approach is fairly subdued, with a few exceptions focusing on the psychological aspects of the story rather than its scary/spooky moments of suspense and shock. One of those exceptions is the soprano’s Theremin-like wails that emerge out of anguished clusters of synth throbs and scuttling harp notes in “Attempted Suicide,” in which a still-suicidal John attempts to slash his wrists with shards from a broken mirror, are particularly unnerving and nightmarish. “In THE SENDER, there were things that were different about the film and things I was required to do that I hadn't attempted before, such as the use of electronics in the broken mirror sequence,” Jones told me in that 1985 interview. “But I found [the film] more interesting on the psychological level.” The score as a whole is melodically compelling and nicely textured. The climactic track “The Cabin,” at just over 8-minutes in length, is a fascinating, progressive track that gathers together the score’s various elements and its theme in a surging sonority, resolving in a cyclical, two-note fade out as the story ends and the screen fades to black. Jones’ use of synths does not sound especially dated; the early electronics and well integrated into the musical palette and the score is as pleasing to listen to on disc as it was affecting in the film, with moments of hysterical panic, foreboding suspense, and sublime beauty.
THE SHRINE/Ryan Shore/Screamworks
Ryan Shore’s latest horror score for JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER director Jon Knautz if a dark and dismal score that begins creepy and stays that way throughout most of its length. The film is about a group of young journalists who investigate a cult said to practice human sacrifice. Shore lends a fresh texture to the score with the use of a gothic pipe organ that seems to suggests the depraved coherence of the group and their wicked worship (Shore provides an extra suite of variations on the pipe organ material just for this album). Elsewhere Shore’s orchestral chords waft like drifting fog, heavy with keen anticipation, throbbing percussive drives rhythmic emanations of brass across a billowed bed of mercato strings, punctuated by vocal exhalations of breath, loud and very close. The score builds a very potent mood of suspense and danger even apart from the film; what makes it work on disc is the depth of harmonic texture from which Shore builds his aggressive ambiances; the filigrees of hushed voices, the rough-edged electronic percussion that rusts the sharpness of his sustained string lines in perfect clarity, the movement of oncoming waves of sound from far off to very, very close. You can hear all of this in a single track, “The Torture Chamber,” but the score as a whole follows a similar tonal/textural progression, creating musical waves and clusters and clouds of drifting, churning, and charging orchestration. Beyond the overall despondency of the sound and the visceral frightening power of the score’s progressive grain lies a very interesting mélange of musical ambiance that is quite interesting to listen to on its own. But you may want to have the lights on as you do so.
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN/Rachel Portman/Sony Classical
Like much of her music, and especially her previous work for director Wayne Wang especially that for THE JOY LUCK CLUB, Rachel Portman’s score for this portrait of female friendship pairing stories occurring in 19th century China with one in modern Shanghai, is sensitive and sublime. Portman, the first female composer to be awarded an Oscar for Best Score (1996’s EMMA), has a gift for evoking introspective emotion through subtle but haunting melodies; she provides just the kind of support that Wayne’s film, based on the Lisa See novel, needed. “Wayne was interested in creating a score that could fuse some traditional Chinese color with a more urban musical sensibility,” Portman explains in a note in the album booklet. “This was to reflect the unusual story, which is told in parallel between past and present. Sometimes the lines between the two are blurred.” Portman, as she did so beautifully in JOY LUCK CLUB, evokes the hidden emotions of the Chinese woman and creates a light and very intricate and feminine sonority which flows over their stories like a gentle rain or a narrow cascade of new-poured tea. Expressed by dappled piano melodies as light as falling petals, sinewy invocations of er-hu and stark and strident plucks of pipa, the exhaled breathiness of ethnic flutes and the omnipresent swell of lush strings, Portman’s score is intimate and thoughtful, and very nicely preserved on disc.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Collection – Volume One/
La-La Land Records
Debuted at last weekend’s Comic-Con and available for general order on August 2 is this generous 3-disc set that makes an appropriate and essential companion (or vice-versa) to FSM’s previously-released The Ron Jones Project, which contained virtually all of Jones’ music from STAR TREK: TNG. While FSM’s release focused purely on Jones’ efforts for the show, La-La Land’s new set contains the music of TNG’s other composers, notably Dennis McCarthy, who scores episodes throughout the show’s seven seasons, and Jay Chattaway, who replaced Jones late in the fourth season. McCarthy and Chattaway are represented with one disc apiece, representing musical tracks from around two dozen episodes each; the third disc contains the work of guest composers who were called in to assist – Fred Steiner, Don Davis and John Debney. This sequencing, rather than mixing the composers’ efforts up chronologically throughout he films run, makes sense and allows the ongoing work of each composer within the STAR TREK milieu to be recognized and appreciated. The music for TNG, as with the original STAR TREK series, was significant in avoiding excessive science fictionesque treatments and in capturing the honest humanity of the shows’ characters, although TNG’s producers opted for a somewhat modern approach. Jerry Goldsmith’ music from the first movie, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, became TNG’s theme music, which was used occasionally in the episode scores, as was Alexander Courage’s fanfare from the first series. New themes were shared between the TNG composers as appropriate. “The main request was to keep it lush and romantic and try to sound like a hundred guys out of the thirty-six or thirty-eight that we used,” McCarthy told me in a 1988 interview about the show. “I did a lot of orchestral things and used synthesizers to try to make it sound like more instruments, and like a more romantic movie, instead of being pure science fiction. As the show progressed, we've been getting a lot more experimental with the music and doing a lot of orchestral effects and a lot more synthesizers. The synthesizers are actually having more importance in the score than they did on the original series.”
Unlike the first series, which recycled a lot of its music from one episode into another, original scores graced each of TNG’s 178 episodes. With only 25 episodes included here, there’s clearly a lot of music yet to come in potential future Volumes. In making the selections for Volume 1, though, the label and its producers have gathered together an excellent range of tracks from episodes significant to the series and with significant musical moments. The pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” is not represented here (it was released in 1988 on its own album from GNP Crescendo Records), but McCarthy’s music for both the first regular episode, “Haven,” and the series finale, “All Good Things” (and nine episodes in between) provide an excellent overview of some of McCarthy’s best work for the series. Chattaway’s disc includes tracks from eleven episodes, and the guest composers are represented by their single TNG episode scores; a variety of alternate tracks conclude the third disc, including examples of the orchestra having a bit of fun (a polka version of Courage’s STAR TREK theme, for example). This first volume as a whole provides an excellent and significant gallery of music from the second STAR TREK series. TREK music expert Jeff Bond provides thorough album notes that trace the show’s musical history in detail and introduce the music that we’re hearing. Music may have been TREK’s real Final Frontier, and this latest rendering of that music on disc is very welcome, if leaving us prepped for more.
SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH/Brian Satterwhite/Nuance Music
Brian Satterwhite’s score for this documentary about the worldwide Sushi industry (Special Jury Award Winner at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival) is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. The score is a nicely textured composition somewhat in the style of Thomas Newman, for want of a better term, in its use of percolating beats and rhythms, but it nicely evokes colorful wharfs, chopped aromatic fish and diverse languages spoken amidst the crowds of sellers and customers alike. Satterwhite gives the music a breezy appeal through his keyboards and light percussive elements; most of the music adopts this sensibility, lending a sonic color behind narration and interviews. The album allows the score to shine on its own, and it makes for a very pleasing listen.
For more info on the film, see the short trailer posted at http://www.sushitheglobalcatch.com/
VIENTO EN CONTRA/Alfons Conde/MovieScore Media
Spanish composer Alfons Conde's score for thisupcoming Mexican action thriller score shows some new stylistic sides of the composer’s musical personality not heard before in MSM’s prior releases of his horror scores, THE ABANDONED, THE DARK HOUR and NO-DO. Conde here adopts a Hollywood action music personality with a sophisticated orchestral language infused with closely-integrated electronics.
The score opens with gentle orchestrations and pleasing melodies, until “A Day at Work” turns dark and dangerous, and a staccato barrage of electronic percussion interrupts the happy flow and turns the cue into a pensive shuffle of piano, guitars, and electronics, culminating in the brusque discordance when somebody is “Murdered.” From that point it’s almost all propulsive action, a fine assortment of drum and piano-driven rhythmatics, electronica action pads mixed with immense chord intonations from low brass, Herrmannesque string figures, and clacking percussion elements. Even in its apprehensive rhythmic dissonance, the score is musically very interesting, neatly textured and evoking a palpable sense of urgency and unease, beautifully mastered to even the faintest chink of metallic percussion and fluted harmony is clear amidst the breadth of Conde’s sound. It’s a thoroughly engaging musical vocabulary that Conde makes his own and keeps the listener attuned through its final resolution and return to the lyrical beauty that opened the score.
VILLA RIDES! The Western Film Music of Maurice Jarre/Tadlow Music
Even while Jarre’s celebrated Western score, 1968’s VILLA RIDES!, saw its first original soundtrack CD release in France this year, Tadlow’s latest re-recording effort provided the premiere release of the complete score from the same film, topped off by half a dozen theme tracks from the composer’s other five Western film scores. Originally released on a 12-track LP by Dot in 1968 concurrently with the film, Jarre’s VILLA RIDES! score put in frequently appearances on compilation albums, but was denied a compact disc release until this year, when Universal France added two tracks to Dot’s dozen and paired it with 10 tracks from another Jarre Western, EL CONDOR (1970), which had never been released except via excerpts on compilation albums. Tadlow’s release, faithfully and strikingly performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, provides the entire score of 20 tracks, allowing every nuance and variegated interpretation of Jarre’s themes to be heard and follows. The score is largely regarded as one of Jarre’s finest works, embodying a Latin-flavored main theme for Pancho Villa noted for its fast rhythmic pace and its variety of instrumental choices. It shares its energetic rhythmic approach with other Jarre scores of the period such as 1970’s RYAN’S DAUGHTER and his other best-known Western score, THE PROFESSIONALS (1966). Too long unattainable on CD, the French original soundtrack release is quite welcome; but Tadlow’s re-recording of the complete score is easily the more definitive rendering. Album notes by Frank K. DeWald illuminate the history of the film and Jarre’s approach to scoring it, while a note from producer James Fitzpatrick describes details about the present recording.
Soundtrack & Music News
SIMPSONS composer Alf H. Clausen became the most-nominated musician in Emmy history, receiving a record 30th Emmy nomination for music when the 63rd annual Primetime Emmy nominations were announced on July 14th by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Clausen has been the house composer for THE SIMPSONS since 1990. He’s already won two Emmies for songs he's written for the animated series and has scored more than 450 SIMPSONS episodes. Twenty-three of his 30 Emmy nominations are for Simpsons scores or songs; seven others are for other TV shows, including Moonlighting. Clausen now has one more Emmy nomination than Ian Fraser, who has 11 Emmys and another 18 nominations, all in the music direction category.
Via Jon Burlingame/Film Music Society
British film music journalist Michael Beek has decided to lead a campaign to encourage English Heritage to erect a Blue Plaque at one of Bernard Herrmann's former London homes. “The previous application was rejected, with the composer's time in the UK cited as 'peripheral' to his overall career,” Beek said. “Mozart has a plaque, however, in recognition of a 15 month stay... Herrmann was there for 15 YEARS; go figure!” Beek is having another go and the petition. “I would love to get as much of the film music community as possible behind the campaign,” he said. “If you could lend your name in support I'd really appreciate it.” Beek can be contacted by email here
See also: Camden Gazette story
Patrick Doyle, who recently scored THOR and HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, will be scoring next summer’s Pixar film, BRAVE. Up until now, Michael Giacchino has seemingly been Pixar’s resident composer. – via Slashfilm.
THE STONE KILLER and DIAMONDS, two of Roy Budd’s funkiest jazz scores from the golden era of ‘70s filmmaking, are to be released together as part of a 2CD set from Silva Screen on September 19th.
“These long unavailable scores prove Roy Budd equal to the giants of the 70s decade – Lalo Schifrin, Curtis Mayfield and David Shire,” notes Silva’s web site. “Featuring Fender Rhodes keyboards, exotic percussion, laid-back flutes and big synth sounds, the soundtracks hail back to a time of masterful musicianship. THE STONE KILLER (1973) underlines Budd’s ability to integrate jazz and orchestral arrangements to deliver a score that is a perfect fit for the story of Charles Bronson on a trail of revenge.
DIAMONDS (1975), a crime caper set in London, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv allowed Budd free range to mix Blaxpoitation themes, Jewish folk tradition and his own beloved jazz roots, all mightily topped off by the girl group, Three Degrees, performing the theme.”
The life of the ventriloquist is highlighted in DUMBSTRUCK, a documentary featuring original music by award-winning composer Daniel Licht. The score encompasses many genres, from piano tunes to a whirling Tarantella. In DUMBSTRUCK, the music acts as a through-line that complements the five separate storylines. DUMBSTRUCK is available on DVD and CD through BSX Records, Netflix, iTunes and on Demand. Directed by Mark Goffman,DUMBSTRUCKtakes place at the annual Vent Haven Convention in Kentucky, the ventriloquism capital of the world. Goffman explores the careers of five colorful ventriloquists. Although they each could be straight out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, each of their stories is real.
Danny Elfman has connected with Cirque Du Soleil to compose music for their new Los Angeles show, IRIS, a lyrical, fanciful, kinetic voyage through the history of cinema and its genres, taking them into the heart of the movie-making process. For an interview with Elfman and director-choreographer Philippe Decouflé about the show, click here for The Los Angeles Times
For a youtube preview of the show, click here.
via Richard Kraft
A story posted in Variety on July 22nd reported that film composers have hit a brick wall in their effort to unionize and are giving up the effort for now. The Assn. of Media Composers and Lyricists, which has been working for the past two years with Teamsters Local 399 to create a collective bargaining unit that would represent score composers and songwriters, announced Friday that six months' worth of meetings with individual studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) had proven fruitless. "The Teamsters have been told that the AMPTP will not voluntarily recognize us," the AMCL said in a statement, despite the fact that the composers were seeking only health and pension benefits. "The Teamsters believe that the traditional method of bargaining with the AMPTP will not be successful."
See full story here at http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118040305?refCatId=16
A number of film composers shared on Facebook their thoughts about the failure for the AMPTP to recognize media composers are more than independent contractors. “What is it exactly that makes composers independent contractors,” asked one composer. “Nobody seems to be able to answer that question. How are composers different from cinematographers, editors, actors, casting directors, etc. so only they (composers) can be classified as independent contractors, and nobody else falls into that category?”
Another composer stated that “Music composition remains the only Creative Art in Hollywood that does not receive collective bargaining status. Isn't it ironic that the performers, editors, mixers, orchestrators, and music copyists of a film's soundtrack receive Union protection, but the actual creators of the music don't?”
Games Music News
Following the critical acclaim of his rousing music score for Insomniac Games' Resistance 2, Los Angeles-based film composer Boris Salchow (80 Minutes, Prom Night) returns to craft a darker cinematic soundtrack for RESISTANCE 3 - reflecting the struggle of the remaining group of human survivors against an overwhelming force of alien invaders. To capture an authentic and unique sound for this alternate history sci-fi story set in the 1950's, Salchow and Insomniac recorded the emotionally diverse musical score with orchestra at the historical Abbey Road Studios in London. Developed exclusively for PlayStation 3 by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, RESISTANCE 3 will be released on September 6, 2011. Paul Mudra, Audio Director for Insomniac Games said “For RESISTANCE 3 we required a composer who would be able to interpret the nuance of mankind's struggle for survival in a brutal world and create an engaging and emotive score. Boris spent many hours at our studio becoming familiar with the story, meeting with several key members of the development team and immersing himself in our process and culture. The soundtrack that Boris composed is compelling and a perfect fit for the game. We consider it to be a key part of the overall RESISTANCE 3 experience.”
“In RESISTANCE 3 human civilization as such is gone,” said Salchow. “People flock together in small groups, trying to survive as long as possible. Not even a military organization is left. The soundtrack reflects this – instead of military elements, we find some very intimate sounding compositions where I use piano, woodwinds, a boy soprano and somber string arrangements. For this setting, it was crucial to record the score live since the RESISTANCE 3 score describes the emotions of the survivors. Going to London and recording this music with such incredible A-list musicians at this historical venue was the perfect match for the game, and it was an incredible honor for me personally. I am very thankful that Insomniac made this happen.”
For more information visit www.myresistance.net and www.insomniacgames.com
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer. He now writes for CinefantastiqueOnline and has written liner notes for more than 70 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, Percepto, Perseverance, Harkit, and BSX Records. For more information, see: www.myspace.com/larsonrdl A massively re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique will be published this Spring, see: www.creaturefeatures.com/products/books/musique-fantastique/
Randall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org