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Randall D. Larson's SOUNDTRAX

September 24th, 2007

Shore Goes East, Tyler Goes to War

By Randall D. Larson


This Week’s Recommendations

Howard Shore’s score for Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg’s subdued crime thriller, released this week by Sony, is an eloquent and quite poignant dramatic score, tinged with a taste of Middle Eastern musical mores.  It’s far different from Shore’s quirkier scores for Cronenberg, but appropriate to this film grounded more in modern reality.  The score is pervasive with passionate solo violin, built around a delicate and persuasive theme, backed by orchestra but more often emphasizing the solo instrument.  The score, at least as proffered on the CD, supports the film’s emotional layers and tends to avoid action-oriented music, underlying character and place and subtext with rich string-based melodies.  “Slavery and Suffering” is a soft a Capella chorale intonation that signifies place and time. 

“With Eastern Promises we enter the world of the Vory V Zakone, the Russian mafia,” Shore said of this score.  “Our inspiration was derived from Russian folk music, the tattoo art of the Vory and the story of a young Russian girl entrapped by the Russian underworld in London.  As I set out to write, the violin became a predominant voice. I  met violionist Nicola Benedetti in London and found her incredible contribution added depth, richness, and beauty to the recording.”

The score’s climax, the rousing “Trans-Siberian Diary,” opens up the orchestration with a powerful orchestral surge, which balances the tremulous violin motif with an air of strident power.  Eastern Promises is a very emotive score, powerful in its intricate fragility, and very moving. 


Brian Tyler’s latest score has been released by Lions Gate.  War, Phillip G. Atwell’s directorial debut on the big screen and a huge revenge/action film starring Jet Li and Jason Stratham, is a sizeable hybrid score very much in keeping with current trends in action scores – large orchestral maneuvers embroidered by eclectic textures of synths and samples.  It’s not an entirely original approach but it’s a very potent one that embosses the film with a hyper-powerful essence that elevates it into a near epic scope, and Tyler succeeds in concocting a persuasive composition that never loses its ferocious forward cadence, while not losing touch with the story’s human element.  In the midst of such heavy-handed and vigorous cues like “Rooftop Pursuit” and “Swordfight,”  we also have compelling human-based motifs like “Shiro Comes to Town,” “Rogue’s Revenge,” and “Plans for Retaliation,” which associate with characters as much as they do with the action those characters entertain.  The electronics come to the fore frequently in the textures of rhythmic ambient tracks like “Whips,” “Bangkok Downtown,” and “Showdown,” and the score sparkles with a crisp and clear orchestration, sounding very fine on CD.  In the end, though, the score for War is about action, and Tyler drives it with all the ferocity of a martial artist and all the drive of an enraged soul intent on vengeful justice.  It’s an aggressive and a explosive score constructed out of a thick fabric of samples and rhythms.  It is rather familiar in its approach but it is very well woven and establishes an immediacy and a potency that is quite invigorating.  www.lionsgate.com

Sweden’s Fin de Siècle Music has released the first ever CD release of one of Pino Donaggio’s rarest soundtrack LPs, Corruzione al Palazzo di Giustizia (Corruption in the Halls of Justice), a cynical Italian crime thriller from 1974 that starred Franco Nero.  The label presents the CD in a 6-page digipak with original artwork, film stills, and liner notes by John Mansell.  The music, Donaggio’s second film score, composed after Don’t Look Now and just before Carrie and the composer’s productive foray into horror scoring, is expressively melodic, laying down a low-key atmosphere while also supporting the film’s suspenseful moments in a way that suggests the brilliant suspense music the composer would apply to scores like Piranha, The Howling, and Dressed to KillCorruzione’s main theme is a lovely piano-based melody, supported often by strings and acoustic guitar, which is nicely varied throughout the score.  A secondary motif, “Gioia,” is a brash and provocative dance-hall melody beautifully arranged for honky-tonk piano, clarinet, and tuba.  “Eccellenza” is a rich, classical-sounding composition heavy on low strings.  This soundtrack’s release on CD fills a big gap in available Donaggio recordings and is very welcome.  www.findesieclemedia.com/

MovieScore Media’s release of the soundtrack to Stephen Whitaker’s The Rocket Post, with music by Nigel Clarke and Michael Csanyi-Wills and performed by the Royal Philharmonic embellished by Scottish flutes performed by Francesca Hanley, is a thoroughly attractive musical presentation.  The film is about a German rocket scientist going to a remote Scottish island to help develop a rocket for improving the postal service in pre-World War II days. While hints of that war resonate throughout the film, the story is more of a character drama and is quite affecting.  Opening with the Scottish Gaelic air, Traighean fas as, beautifully sung by Mae McKenna, immediately sets an emotional soundscape for the film’s environment and heart.  This tonality frequents the score and paints a lush musical character that makes for a captivating and rich musical experience on CD.  The score is abundantly melodic and resonates with orchestral breadth
See the composers’ web site at www.moviefonics.com

Sony Classical Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars with 8-CD Box Set

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie, Sony Classical is releasing a one-time deluxe edition of Williams' lush, timeless themes on Tuesday, November 6, 2007. The Music of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition will be housed in an elegant numbered box set featuring new cover art depicting the main Star Wars characters. The box contains eight CDs. Six of these are mastered from the Expanded Edition versions of the soundtracks from three Star Wars episodes:
Episode IV - A New Hope (two CDs)
Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (two CDs)
Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (two CDs)
Each of the above is housed in a gatefold mini-jacket that is a scale reproduction of the original LP cover art.
The seventh CD is Star Wars: The Corellian Edition. This is a collection of the most popular Star Wars themes from all six episodes – on one CD, for the first time. The new recording takes its name from the Corellian System, a fictional group of "core worlds" at the heart of the Star Wars galaxy. The 13-track Corellian Edition CD can be purchased separately. (The stand-alone version, housed in a single jewel case, will be available in stores October 2, 2007. Its track lists and credits are printed on a newly designed six-panel, fold-out mini-poster.)
The eighth CD in the premium box set is a CD-ROM. Its digital artwork files faithfully reproduce all of the inserts - including gatefolds and posters - that were packaged with the original LP vinyl recordings of the themes from Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI.
The 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition also includes:
• an exclusive new 15" x 15" fold-out poster celebrating Episodes IV, V and VI;
• three collectable 4" x 4" stickers, each featuring a four-color reproduction of the CD cover from the Expanded Edition soundtrack of one of these episodes;
• new notes on the history of the first Star Wars soundtrack; and
• track lists and credits for the CDs.

For more information, see: www.sonybmgmasterworks.com.

Speaking of Star Wars, in last Sunday’s season premiere episode of Family Guy, a hilarious Star Wars Episode IV spoof done Family Guy style, there was a cool tribute to John Williams and his music.  During the Family Guy version, beautifully rendered and exquisitely accompanied by Williams’ original music, where Luke (in the personage of FG’s Chris Griffin) stares out at the setting twin suns of Tattoine – the point in the real movie where the music swells richly, Luke turns to the audience and says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra!”  The camera pans over and there’s Williams and the LSO defly performing “Binary Sunset.”  Later, when Luke returns from Obi-Wan’s and finds Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru killed, Luke turns to where Williams and the LSO had earlier performed, and notes that they, too, have been burned to crisps.  “Oh no, John Williams!” Luke cries.  “Now we’ll have to listen to Danny Elfman!”  Camera pans and there’s Elfman and his orchestra, playing a nifty Elfman tune.  Cool moment.  During a jump to hyperspace later on, there’s also a funny musical moment, where their hyperspace jump takes them into the Main Title of Dr. Who.  There’s also an amusing electronica-muzak version of the Imperial March Theme that is heard during the elevator scene on then Death Star. 


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The Complete Recordings Set for Release.

Howard Shore's complete Oscar®-winning score for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and final segment of Peter Jackson's epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings, will be available for the first time in a deluxe five-disc edition from Reprise/WMG Soundtracks on November 6, 2007.

This historic release contains 3 hours and 50 minutes of music on four CDs, comprising the full score of the 2003 film. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The Complete Recordings marks the third and final edition of the three complete recording releases of the film trilogy whose score has been honored with three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. This deluxe set includes exclusive new artwork, packaging, liner notes written by Doug Adams, author of the forthcoming book The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films, and features Annie Lennox performing the Oscar®-winning song "Into the West."

The fifth disc is a DVD-Audio presenting the entire Return of the King score in Advanced Resolution Surround Sound, Advanced Resolution Stereo Sound, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and Dolby Digital Stereo Sound.

From the press release: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - The Complete Recordings was released on December 13, 2005 and spent months in Amazon.com's top 100 Sales Ranking, garnering some of the best reviews of the year. "For fans of any of 'The Lord of the Rings' films, 'The Fellowship of the Ring/Complete Recordings' is an essential experience," said Heather Phares, All Music Guide. "'The Complete Recordings' is last year's most important archival soundtrack release, expanding and preserving one of the finest and most significant recent scores in all of film music. Shore's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy is an operatic symphony that is among the finest musical accomplishments of the last half-century. The plethora of unreleased material on this beautifully packaged edition is mouth-watering at the least, and the sonic dynamic achieved on the surround sound DVD of the entire 180-minute score is simply astonishing," said Randall Larson, Music From the Movies.

Film Music News

Composer Larry Groupe’s last score is for The Hungry Woman (La Mujere Hambrienta), an independent mystery drama directed by Glenn Palmedo-Smith.  “This film is a compelling drama based on a true story from San Diego,” Groupe said.  “Our film combines folklore of Mexico and it’s juxtaposition with life in the promised land.”  Groupe is noted for his sophisticated dramatic scores for Rod Lurie’s political dramas, Deterrence, The Contender, and Resurrecting the Champ.  Groupe’s next score is scheduled to be Sleeping with the Lion, a survival drama directed by Rocky Capella for release in 2009.

Mark Isham’s latest score is for Paul Haggis’ eloquent drama, In The Valley of Elah, about a family (Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon) working with a police detective (Charlize Theron) to uncover the truth behind their son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq.  The Hollywood Reported described Isham’s music as an “accomplished...achingly poignant, string laden score."   Varese Sarabande will release the soundtrack on October 9th.

Other Varese Sarabande soundtrack slated for October 9th release are Aaron Zigman’s Jane Austin’s Book Club, Frederik Wiedmann’s music for the horror sequel, Return to the House on Haunted Hill, and Patrick Doyle’s score from the remake of Sleuth.  Brian Reitzell’s scheduled soundtrack from 30 Days of Night has been cancelled.

Hans Zimmer will be heading to China to absorb the culture and get to know the Chinese National Symphony – all as part of his preparation to compose for a forthcoming feature film that is set in that ancient land, the Paramount summer 2008 release Kung Fu Panda. – via musiconfilm.net

Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack to Resident Evil: Extinction.  The CD features four short tracks from composer Charles (Saw) Clouser, and 15 heavy metal songs from various bands.

Alf Clausen’s latest collection of Simpsons show music, Testify, was released last week by Shout Factory.  It features a new rendition of Danny Elfman’s Main Theme, and a cool end credits variation performed by Los Lobos.  Forty short cues of various songs from the show’s last nine seasons, running the gamut from the gospel groove of the title song to poignant ballads (“The Very Reason That I Live” from The Great Louse Detective), to sardonic commercials (“Oh, Pruny Night” from ‘Tis the Fifteenth Season) to the big band theatrics of “Song of Shelbyville” from The Seven-Beer Itch and the hilarious send-up of songs from My Fair Lady in the Groundskeeper Willie-intensive episode, My Fair Laddy.   While I’d like to hear more of the show’s orchestral underscore, Clausen has a definite penchant for Broadway style show tunes like these, ably performed by the shows voice cast,

Randy Edelman follows up Jerry Goldsmith’s and Alan Silvestri’s scores in Universal’s Mummy feature film series, scoring Rob Cohen’s upcoming The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Veteran composer Edelman and director Rob Cohen have worked together on many films, beginning with Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993. Since then, Edelman has written the music for another three of his films, and The Mummy 3 will be their fifth collaboration.  – via filmmusicweekly

Film Music Weekly also reports that Hans Zimmer will score Ron Howard’s political drama Frost/Nixon. This will be their third film together – the majority of Howard’s films have been scored by James Horner, but he has also worked with composers such as Randy Newman, John Williams and Thomas Newman.
Jeff Rona is currently scoring a miniseries for Sony Television called The Gathering. It’s a thriller series about a man who searches for his wife who has disappeared without a trace. Michael Wandmacher reunites with the director of Cry Wolf, Jeff Wadlow to score the director’s new film, Get Some, an action flick starring Djimon Housou, Sean Faris and Amber Heard.     – via filmmusicweekly

Christopher Young was honored at the 13th Annual Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival at a star-studded black tie affair honoring significant film and music icons of the past and present. The award for Outstanding Career Achievement in Film Composing recognized the prolific and significant film composer for his work in some 85 feature films including Spider Man 3, The Shipping News, The Grudge, and Hellraiser, among many others.  Young joined a stellar line-up on honorees that includes Smokey Robinson, Kay Panabaker, Michael Madsen, Robert Rosen and Eve Craig. Past Lifetime and Career Achievement Award honorees include distinguished film and music icons of past and present such as Dionne Warwick, Hector Elizondo, Dennis Haybert, John Ottman, John Badham, Lucas Foster, Rick Shroeder, Steve Dorff, Natasha Hentsridge, AFI's Jean Firstenberg, Howard W. Koch, Robert Wise, Carl Reiner, Karl Malden, Shirley Jones, Michael York, Ray Charles, Rita Coolidge, Marsha Mason, Robert Stack, Gale Ann Hurd, William Shatner, Patty Duke, Billy Preston, Sam Grogg, Julie Corman, Etta James,  John Spencer, Diane Ladd, Penelope Spheeris, Howard Suber, AC Lyles, Louis Gossett, Jr, Lou Rawls, Jonathan Lynn, Dr. Elizabeth Daley, Gina Gershon, Trevor Rabin, and Michael Childers.

Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the distribution of the World Soundtrack Awards on 20 October. Theodorakis has written the music for Zorba The Greek, Z,Serpico, and many others.At the seventh edition of the World Soundtrack Awards the Flemish Radio orchestra conducted by Dirk Brossé will not only perform music of Mikis Theodorakis, but also of the Canadian composer Mychael Danna, Harry Gregson-Williams, Evanthia Reboutsika, and Belgian jazz musician Jef Neve. The 7th edition of the World Soundtrack Awards will take place at Ghent, Belgium, on October 20th. www.worldsoundtrackawards.com

Speaking of the Ghent festival, the festival’s first CD has been released in Belgium.  For the Record: Craig Armstrong is the Ghent Film Festival's first album in a new series of film music recordings. The CD compiles the Scottish composer's best film music with recordings by the Flemish Radio Orchestra and Choir; music is from Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Plunkett & MacLeane, The Quiet American, Best Laid Plans, The Bone Collector, The Clearing, Ray, Love Actually, WTC and Orphans, — thereby offering a complete overview of Craig Armstrong's oeuvre.  The aim for this new CD series is for at least one new recording to be brought onto the market per year, in order to promote film music qualitatively. Therefore, film music composers with a connection to the Ghent Film Festival — those that have attended the festival or had their music performed during the festival — will be selected.  For the Record: Craig Armstrong can be obtained from festival sales points and via the website www.filmfestival.be/shop

Harry Gregson Williams will score the new Walt Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer movie, G-Force, as reported by the [www.gsamusic.com] Agency.

Intrada’s latest limited Special Collection release is David Newman’s infectious score to the 1987 Danny DeVito comedy, Throw Momma From the Train.  Limited to 1500 copies, Newman gives a nod to Bernard Herrmann, offering an orchestral score that is by turns suspenseful, amusing, and exciting. “Newman anchors with fully drawn main theme but heart of score is small repeating motif, given Herrmann-ish treatment for low strings, woodwinds,” writes Intrada’s Douglass Fake. “Some splendid French horn lines also get attention. Brief score develops several ideas, culminates in wild car chase music, finally winds down with warm, nostalgic glow.”  Intrada’s release presents the entire score taken from the original stereo master elements, courtesy of MGM and composer Newman.

MovieScore Media has released an original soundtrack album of music from Larry Fessenden’s acclaimed horror film The Last Winter.  The soundtrack was released on CD on Sept. 19th, coinciding with the US theatrical release of the film. The album has also been released online via filmmusicdownloads.com and iTunes.  The Last Winter takes place in the Arctic region of Northern Alaska where an oil company’s team is drawn into a world of disorientation and mysterious fear following the death of one of the members. The film is written and directed by horror genre specialist Larry Fessenden, who has been acting in films such as Headspace and The Roost, and produced genre titles such as Zombie Honeymoon and The Off Season. The Last Winter stars Golden Globe Award-winning actor Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Alien: Resurrection, The Name of the Rose), Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Goodfellas, True Romance), James LeGros (Enemy of the State, Zodiac, Psycho) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights).  The music for THE LAST WINTER actually features two original scores by different composers – one orchestral and one electronic. ”I invited two different composers to illuminate different aspects of the story: Anton Sanko I wanted to provide an ambient score to suggest the encroaching mental stress the characters are going through. Jeff Grace I wanted to provide a more romanticized interpretation of the story, to track the emotional aspect of the characters’ journey,” explained director Larry Fessenden.

MovieScore Media’s next release, scheduled for October 9th, is Dario Marianelli’s beautiful and emotionally charged scores for the British drama Beyond The Gates, known outside the USA as Shooting Dogs. The album will feature Marianelli’s orchestral score in conjunction with a number of African songs performed by the Chorale de Kigali and the Voices of Kicukiro in Rwanda.

A new web site, Film Music Downloads, has been launched as a high quality film music store offering online soundtracks in 320kbit mp3 format ­for purchase and download.  “Run by MovieScore Media and SecureAccount.net, Film Music Downloads is devoted to make interesting and exciting movie music available on the internet,” says MovieScore Media’s Mikael Carlsson. Apart from presenting all albums exclusively released on the MovieScore Media label, the shop's continually growing catalogue also includes albums produced by other soundtrack labels and independently by film composers. www.filmmusicdownloads.com

On October 8th, Silva Screen will release the music from the ground-breaking Britcom Green Wing, a 2004 hit with viewers who enjoyed its subtle twist of sketches, soap opera, and sitcom set in a hospital.  The music from the series by Jonathan Whitehead (performed as Trellis) was an integral part of the show and has been eagerly sought out by fans of the series ever since. Winning a Royal Television Society award for Best Music Original Score and nominated for a BAFTA award, this is a soundtrack that highlights the work of one of the best composers working in television at present. Jonathan's music has appeared in some of the finest comedy shows of the age including The Day Today, Smack The Pony, Brass Eye, Black Books, I'm Alan Partridge and Nathan Barley.

Game Music News

Rednote Audio and Lakeshore Records will release the original soundtrack to the PlayStation third person action game Dead Head Fred™, as a digital download available at the Apple iTunes® music store.  The Dead Head Fred Original Soundtrack includes nearly 40 minutes of music encapsulating the unique, often sublime atmosphere of the game’s ‘twisted noir’ setting.  Written and produced by veteran video game composers Rod Abernethy and Jason Graves, the game’s eclectic score blends cinematic orchestrations with a dark panorama of jazz, southwestern guitar, ambient, rock fusion and other seemingly disparate music styles into a cohesive and alluring listening experience. Mark Reis, Senior Sound Designer at Vicious Cycle Software, which developed the game for the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, said, “Working with Rod and Jason is always a joy and their contribution to Dead Head Fred added flavor and depth that complemented the sound design and voice acting.  The edgy soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the twisted noir world of Dead Head Fred.”
For more information on Dead Head Fred, visit the official game web site at www.deadheadfred.net.

Film Music on DVD

Waletzky’s four-part 1995 documentary series, Music for the Movies, is finally coming to Region 1 DVD, thanks to the revived interest in the scores created for Hollywood films in the 1930's and 40's. The first film, The Hollywood Sound, released last April, is now followed by this week’s releases of Bernard Herrmann, Georges Delerue, and Toru Takemitsu.  While the tone of each film is uneven, and there is lots of ground left unvovered, Joshua Waletzky’s Hollywood Sound does a good job covering their specific topics – host and narrator John Mauceri conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales against a backdrop of clips from the various movies, while Waletzky’s film on Herrmann explores the work of a composer who created music for over 50 films, collaborating with such diverse directors as Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, and Martin Scorsese.  Jean-Louis Comolli’s episode on Delerue explores the intersection of French, British and Hollywood film culture through Delerue’s collaborations with Truffaut, Oliver Stone, and Ken Russell, and Charlotte Zwerin’s volume on Takemitsu is an in-depth look into the works of the Japanese film composer who is recognized as one of the most important and groundbreaking composers in the history of Japanese music.  All four of the DVDs are available through amazon.com

The cool low-budget indie 1968 film Spider-Baby, splendidly and quirkily scored by Ronald Stein, will get a special edition DVD release this Tuesday.  The bonus features include an 11-minute featurette on Stein and his score, called "Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein" (11 min featurette)

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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