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Randall D. Larson's SOUNDTRAX

August 26, 2007

What’s The Commotion
By Randall D. Larson

Commotion Times Three

Commotion Records has entered the film music arena with a trio of soundtrack releases that hit stores this week.  Clearly intended for the pop market, the releases are uneven but interesting.

The Ten is the new comedy from David Wain and Ken Marino (Wet Hot American Summer).  The film weaves together ten interrelated vignettes each one looking at the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments.   The soundtrack features songs and instrumental cuts by ex-Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren, some invaded by dialog excerpts from the film.  The score is fairly predictable – Wedren provides a cool enough vibe that tends to fit the film’s rather juvenile comic vibe, but the CD’s uneven mixture of pop, country, rap, and alt rock songs and rather plaintive score material may not interest those who aren’t already fans of the film.  “Goof/Prison Suite” is perhaps the score’s most interesting instrumental, progressing through several arrangements before culminating in a provocative acoustic guitar and harmonica over strings, with ”Kids on the Lawn” proffering up a growing sonic occlusion from synths; “Busload” is a pleasingly manic rock scherzo; although the intrusion of excerpts of the film’s dumbed-down dialog severely mars the music’s effectiveness here and in many other places.  The obligatory inclusion of dialog tracks just won’t let the music be, and it makes the album less of a musical piece to be savored than a simple souvenir of the movie you’ll listen to once or twice.

Former Tangerine Dream electronica wizard Paul Haslinger  (Crank, Underworld) has provided a fairly gripping score for Vacancy, the summer’s suspense hit, released concurrently on DVD last week.  The film, which starred Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, is a Hitchcockian thriller about a couple trapped in a hotel room menaced by a psychopathic videographer.  The score is a compelling hybrid of synths and sampled symphs, and comes off as a very fluidly ambient suspense score, punctuated by growling bits of electronica and a consistently forward-moving rhythmic riff that keeps the listener constantly on edge.  Haslinger’s “Main Title” is especially stimulating in this sense.  There are scares aplenty in Haslinger’s brooding and spooky tonalities, layered upon one another and quietly lurking, emerging, as in “Trapped,” with an increasingly undulating velocity from time to time.  Tracks like “Rats in the Tunnel” seethe with a rapt ambience akin to thousands of rodent claws scraping concrete in unison, while a distorted figure resembling a chortling mechanical clown, chuckles in the background.  The score stays pretty relentless throughout, with little respite from the discomforting panic it emulates and induces; but is an effective and persuasive horrorscore, varied enough in its eclectic sound design and yet theatrical enough to convey the right scares and shocks and action accompaniment to please the contemporary moviegoer.  The album also has 20 score tracks and features a trio of okay remixes by Michael Fakesch, Christoph Harbonnier, and Lustmord – horror music for the house crowd to dance to.

“I believe the… soundtrack makes a statement about our time, about our ability to mix and match across periods and styles,” said Haslinger of his Vacancy score, “and to do so in a way that is both eclectic and forward driving in its creative design.”

The label’s third release is the music for actress Zoe Cassavetes’ directorial debut, Broken English.  Named after a Marianne Faithful song, which was remade by the French DJ duo Scratch Massive for the film/soundtrack, the romantic comedy stars Parker Posey, Drea DeMatteo, Griffin Dunne, and Cassavetes' mother Gena Rowlands.  The score is rather appealing, as the DJs lay down a sparkling riff of keyboard and percussion.  “In the Dressing Room,” the album’s opener, is a cool ambient rhythm track that grows by layered progressions into a stimulating and very likeable track.  The score tracks continue in like form, mostly as ambient riffs, carrying a likable rhythmic minimalism, without much dramatic development, but they are quite pleasing, and are well balanced by contemporary styled rock songs from I Am Kloot and Juan Trip.

“Music is more than just a soundtrack,” noted director Zoe Cassavettes about the Broken English score.  “It becomes an indispensable character in the story you can’t live without.  It creates a mood, an inside look in the minds of the people in the film as well as touching something deep inside the viewer.”

Commotion Records was founded in 2003 by music supervisor Tracy McKnight, who also provides through the company music supervision and consulting services.  Commotion has partnered with Koch Entertainment for its marketing and distribution.


BioShock game score available to download

2K Games has released 12 tracks from the original score to BioShock as a free download on The Cult of Rapture website. The score was created by film, television, and video game composer Garry Schyman and features a combination of early twentieth century writing, aleatoric elements, musique concrete, traditional tonal and late romantic styles that capture the distinct retro-futuristic aesthetic of the game.  To download the tracks for free, please visit The Cult of Rapture at: www.2kgames.com/cultofrapture

“Garry Schyman’s work for us was incredible from the start in every possible aspect,” said Emily Ridgway, Audio Director at Irrational Games. “From his ability to produce and compose amazingly unique orchestral recordings, all the meanwhile perfectly accommodating the peaks and troughs of game development, Garry really deserves all the praise he gets for the BioShock soundtrack and then some.”

BioShock is the "genetically enhanced" first person shooter that lets you do things never before possible in the genre: turn everything into a weapon, biologically mold your body with plasmids, hack devices and systems, upgrade your weapons and craft new ammo variants, and experiment with different battle techniques.

BioShock is a composer’s dream project; I have never been offered such a unique palette to write for,” said Schyman. “I really pushed myself to create a score that truly complements the extraordinary experience of BioShock and Irrational Games supported me all the way. I even had the opportunity to write a solo piano work in the style of late Rachmaninoff!”

Like Schyman’s earlier work for the Destroy All Humans gamescores, BioShock references the influence of science fiction and horror scores of the ‘50s and ‘60s, featuring prominent use of gothic violin amidst orchestra and electronics.  His score is rich in the Gothic pathos of bygone eras, while rapidly shifting forward with a thick tide comprised of modernistic strains of massed violins.  Schyman’s never relies on formulaic science fictionesque music but creates an honest texture for his score that is equal parts organic and technological music.  A vague woodwindish Old World tune wafts through moments of the score, whole his brooding violin performs its somber melody against insectile samples of strings and percussion, while elsewhere slowly undulating Herrmannsque chord progressions build an inspiring mood of floating into promising futures.  Contrasted against the clarity of the Rachmaninoff violin concerto music, the score is a fascinating and stimulating fusion of past and future, a spinning coin whose dual edges blur into a single musical paradox of shifting times, a merging of futuristic antiquity.   It’s unclear if a full soundtrack CD is in the offing, but the dozen tracks offered at the Cult of Rapture site are very highly recommended – this is an outstanding gamescore, thick in orchestral depth with very compelling textures and progressions.

For more information on Garry Schyman, see: www.garryschyman.com
For more information on BioShock visit www.bioshockgame.com  
For an interview with Schyman about BioShock, see the August 22 edition of www.filmmusicweekly.com


Daniel Licht’s Cable Score to Dexter Released

This week, Milan Records releases the soundtrack from the first season of Showtime’s original cable series Dexter, featuring music by Daniel Licht.  Along with Licht's score, the soundtrack features the theme song by Rolfe Kent and a diverse collection of songs from the first season of the hit TV program (which just hit scores on DVD last week).
Based on Jeff Lindsay's novels Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter, the show tells the story of protagonist Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) and his life as a forensic blood spatter for the Miami Dade Police Department.  Based on a code instilled in him by his foster father, Dexter hunts down people who have escaped justice and makes sure they don't get away with a crime again. The series won TV Program of the Year at AFI in 2006 as well as four IGN awards and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor.

Licht, originally noted for scoring early ‘90s low-budget horror films like Children of the Night, Severed Ties, Amityville 1992: It’s About Time, Hellraiser Bloodline, and several episodes of the Children of the Corn franchise, has found a prolific home on network and cable television.  His unique sound for Dexter , for which he was awarded the BMI TV music award for his work on the show’s first season, contributes an eerie yet ironic pulse to the show. Licht has already begun work on the show’s second Season, which premieres September 30.


Shearmur’s Dedication

Award-winning composer Edward Shearmur has scored Dedication, the Weinstein Company's latest feature from director Justin Theroux (Zoolander, Miami Vice). Shearmur previously collaborated with Theroux on Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.  Dedication, which stars Mandy Moore and Billy Crudrup, is about a misogynistic children's book author (Crudup) who is forced to work closely with a female illustrator (Moore) instead of his long-time collaborator and only friend – kind of a literary Music and Lyrics romantic comedy, sounds like. 

Shearmur's score combines orchestral and electronic elements to create an ambient tone, a style that can be previously heard on his score to K-PAX.  Most recently winner of an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for Masters of Horror, London-born Shearmur has also won a Golden Slate Award for his Best Original Score for Cruel Intentions, multiple BMI Film Music Awards (Charlie's Angels, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Miss Congeniality).

Shearmur began his career at age seven singing in the boys choir at the Westminster Cathedral.  Upon graduation from Eton College, he then studied at the Royal College of Music and went on to earn a scholarship to Cambridge.  Following his education, Shearmur further perfected his talent by serving as an assistant to composer Michael Kamen , contributing to the orchestration on such films as License to Kill, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon. Since his debut as a film composer for the highly acclaimed The Cement Garden in 1991, Shearmur has displayed his ability to create music for multiple arenas including the memorable scores for Charlie's Angels, Cruel Intentions, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Count of Monte Cristo and Reign of Fire.

With a deep love for rock n' roll, Shearmur has also collaborated as a keyboardist and arranger with such icons as Annie Lennox, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and Bryan Adams.  Additionally, he toured for a year with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

The composer's upcoming projects include the eagerly-anticipated historical fiction from director Justin Chadwick, The Other Boleyn Girl. Starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, this film is scheduled for release in December 2007. 


Academy Hits a High Note with Music Soundtrack Series

The art and craft of scoring music for motion pictures will be explored in detail during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ three evening series “The Music Soundtrack: A Composers’ Forum of Contemporary Scoring Technique.” Sessions will be held on September 20, September 27 and October 4 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

“The Music Soundtrack“ will offer an in-depth look at the music scoring process from the perspective of motion picture composers themselves. Each week’s topic will be illuminated by film clips, onstage discussions with guests and questions from the audience.

The series schedule is as follows:

  • September 20 – Traditional Scores
    Moderated by Charles Bernstein (“Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision”), with six-time Oscar® nominee Lalo Schifrin (“Cool Hand Luke”) and Academy Award® winner Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (“Finding Neverland”).
  • September 27 – Alternative Scores
    Moderated by Oscar nominee Bruce Broughton (“Silverado”), with Mychael Danna (“Little Miss Sunshine”), Oscar nominee Mark Isham (“A River Runs Through It”) and Rolfe Kent (“Sideways”).
  • October 4 – The Music Team
    Featuring George S. Clinton (“Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”), Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles”), John Powell (“United 93”) and Mike Flicker (music editor “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”).

Passes for the entire “The Music Soundtrack” series will be available starting September 4 at a cost of $30 for the general public and $20 for Academy members and students with valid ID. Passes may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or online at www.oscars.org/events   Tickets for individual evenings, if available, will be $10 at the door.

Film Music News

Working on his sixth film for M. Night Shyamalan, James Newton Howard is doing the music for The Happening, a new sci-fi thriller by the director of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. The film will star Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo and is scheduled to be released by 20th Century Fox on June 13 next year. Other confirmed assignments for James Newton Howard are The Water Horse and I Am Legend. –via filmmusicradio

Lionsgate has released Brian Tyler’s latest innovative score, for the Jet Li/Jason Stratham martial arts actioner, War.  Tyler conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and adds to it a mesmerizing depth of dark, programmed electronica and instrumental hip hop.  Preview the album at http://music.lionsgate.com/war/ and read the interview with Tyler at www.soundtrack.net

As film music fans eagerly await John Morgan and William Stromberg's complete re-recordings of Bernard Herrmann's beloved Mysterious Island and Fahrenheit 451 (as well as their planned recordings of Herrmann's The Kentuckian and Steiner's She), they have announced further plans for complete re-recordings of Steiner's The Charge of the Light Brigade and Arsenic and Old Lace, as well as Frank Skinner's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  Charge of the Light Brigade is too long to fit on one disc, so Arsenic and Old Lace has been chosen to fill out the second disc.  The Abbott & Costello score, which only runs about 40 minutes, may be filled out with other A&C score selections.  Most of these will appear on the new label Tribute Film Classics, which will be able to concentrate more on archival film music recordings than Naxos, the duo’s former label. 
– via filmscoremonthly.com

Varese Sarabande’s new releases for this week include Paul Haslinger’s Shoot ‘Em Up, and Ramin Jjawadi’s Prison Break.  Dario Marianelli’s score for The Brave Ones will be issued on Sep. 11th. Danny Elfman’s The Kingdom will be released on Sept 25th along with James Newton Howard’s Michael Clayton and Luis Bacalov’s Sea of Dreamswww.varesesarabande.com

Decca will release Ilan Eshkeri’s expressive score for the film version of Neil Gaiman’s splendid Rowlingesque fantasy novel, Stardust, on Sept 11th.

MovieScore Media’s next release will be David James Nielsen’s Haunting Villisca, James Serpento’s 2006 evocative mystery thriller.  The soundtrack is due out on Oct 3rd.  www.moviescoremedia.com

Milan will release Steve Jablonsky’s score for Dragon Wars on Sept 11th.  The same day, Sony Classic will issue Howard Shore’s music for Eastern Promises.

Christopher Lennertz will score Tim Hill’s forthcoming Alvin and the Chipmunks, the new theatrical feature based on the 1980s TV cartoon series. The film stars Jason Lee, Jane Lynch, and the voice of Ross Bagdasarian Jr. as Alvin. 20th Century Fox is planning on a release on December 14, targeting family audiences during the holiday season. Lennertz recently scored The Simpsons video game and also has the film scores for The Comebacks, The Perfect Christmas and Hunting and Fishing coming up. He is also continuing work on the TV series Supernatural.  –Mikael Carlsson/Film Music Weekly

Release dates have not yet been announced, but Screen Archives has announced it will release Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Angel on My Shoulder.  As we announced last week, they also have Tiomkin’s wonderful noir score for D.O.A. slated for release but have not yet established a date.  www.screenarchives.com

Monstrous Movie Music’s next two releases will be The Blob (and other creepy sounds) from composer- Ralph Carmichael, along with The Intruder and other music from composer Herman (Creature from the Black Lagoon) Stein.  The Blob soundrack will feature every cue from the movie as well as music not heard in the picture, totaling about 37 minutes – including the unused “Main Title,” which was replaced by the Burt Bacharach/Mack David novelty song.  The remainder of the CD is packed with almost 40 minutes of horror, suspense, and atmospheric cues from the Valentino Production Music Library, including pieces used in The Green Slime, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Terror From the Year 5000, as well as in the collectible album “Attilio Mineo Conducts Man in Space with Sounds.”  Film composers represented include such distinguished figures as Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, Roger Roger, and Mario Nascimbene.  The Intruder album will include all of music Herman Stein wrote for this Roger Corman racial drama, including music not used in the film.  The CD will also include the composer’s first film score, Career For Two, a short 1951 industrial film about savings banks that attracted the attention of Universal’s Joseph Gershenson, who immediately hired Stein to work at the studio, as well as a four-movement solo piano work, “Suite For Mario,” that Stein composed in 1948 for his composition teacher, the renowned Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  Both albums are slated to appear during September www.mmmrecordings.com

Soundtracks.pl has released a new on-line release of Polish film music. This time a score from the drama Daleko Od Okna (Far From The Window), composed by Michal Lorenc. This is the first and exclusive release of this music, prepared in cooperation with the composer, awarded by the Film magazine with a Golden Duck statue, and also with a "Jancio Wodnik" statue at a Polish film festival "Prowincjonalia". The music is performed by one of the best Polish orchestras - Sinfonia Varsovia. Michal Lorenc is one of the most eminent, contemporary composers of film scores. Since his debut in 1979, he has composed music for more than 150 feature films, documentaries, TV-serials and theatre performances. This new release can be downloaded in 2 formats: MP3 (320 kbps) and APE, which is a lossless audio compression format.
For more info and downloading, visit Soundtracks.pl. – via soundtrackcollector.com

James Horner is writing the music for In Bloom, a drama directed by Vadim Perelman, with whom the composer previously worked on House of Sand and Fog which resulted in Horner’s latest Academy Award nomination. – via filmmusicweekly.com


Game Music News

Multiple award-winning videogame composer Cris Velasco (God of War, God of War II) has scored an original soundtrack exclusively for Clive Barker’s Jericho™ - the eagerly anticipated action/horror FPS due out this fall from Codemasters

Hand picked for Clive Barker’s Jericho by none other than Barker himself, Cris Velasco has composed a haunting choral and cinematic orchestral score that enhances the game’s epic, paranormal horror experience.

“Cris Velasco’s music for Clive Barker’s Jericho is exquisite,” states Clive Barker.  “Filled with yearning, dark energy, threat and redemption, it is the unstoppable engine in the terrifying ghost train of Jericho.”

Velasco has enjoyed considerable recognition for his prior work in videogames, including top honors from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences for “Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition,” GameSpot’s “Best Original Music Award,” IGN’s “Best Original Score Award,” and G.A.N.G.’s “Music of the Year.”

A spectacular, creative, and unflinching realization of Barker’s cannon of nightmares, Clive Barker’s Jericho is an interactive experience that mingles the darkest elements of Barker’s horror fiction with an ambitious, age-spanning story aimed at mature gamers, fans of Clive Barker and horror fiction enthusiasts. 

For more information, visit the official game website located at:  www.jericho-game.com.

Randall 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 from the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He now reviews soundtracks Music from the Movies, Cemetery Dance magazine, and writes for Film Music Magazine and others.


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