Soundtrax: Episode 2013-08
August & September, 2013
By Randall D. Larson
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Bear’s Emmy, THE 25TH Reich, and a look back at Colin Towns’ FULL CIRCLE
This week we feature no less than three new interviews - Bear McCreary on scoring Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and Starz’s DA VINCI’S DEMONS; Ricky Edwards and the sci-fi Nazi spectacular, THE 25TH REICH, and Colin Towns on his remarkable 1977 synth score for FULL CIRCLE (aka The Haunting of Julia).
Soundtrack Reviews include: COLETTE (Örvarsson), THE CONSPIRACY (Darren Baker), CONTINUUM Season 1 (Jeff Danna), GRAVITY (Steven Price), JOBS (John Debney), KICK-ASS 2 (Jackman & Margeson), LOST PLANET 3 (Jack Wall), LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Söderqvist), MUSIC FROM THE IRON MAN TRILOGY, SALINGER (Balfe), TEXAS, ADDIO (Abril), and THE ULTIMATE LIFE (McKenzie).
The announcement at Comic-Con last July that Bear McCreary would be scoring Marvel’s new TV super-hero spin-off, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. set off a wave of excitement from fans eager to hear how McCreary would approach music within the Marvel Universe. I spoke with Bear last week and asked him what he could tell us about scoring the new ABC series; this chat was added to an earlier interview about DA VINCI’S DEMONS, which just garnered Bear his first Emmy Award (for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music) and THE WALKING DEAD to provide the following.
Q: How did you get involved with Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show?
Bear McCreary: Joss Whedon and Jed Whedon and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell, all of the producers, were aware of my work from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE WALKING DEAD, so I think that was primarily the influence. I certainly have been a huge fan of their work for many years, so when they called me in to show me the pilot and discuss the possibility of working on it I was very excited. In many ways it’s sort of a dream come true – I’ve wanted to work with Joss for a long time and I’ve always wanted to work on a Marvel property, and to be able to do both at the same time is pretty amazing!
Q: How far into the project are you now?
Bear McCreary: I have finished the first episode, I’ve written the major character themes, and am just setting out on doing the rest of the show. But have written the main character themes and the show’s main theme, which was a huge hurdle to have completed.
Q: How would you describe your approach to the Marvel Universe and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Bear McCreary: It’s a challenge because this show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the world of super-heroes, but our main characters are not themselves super-heroes. So there is a very delicate balancing act that I’ve had to work in, where the score needs to feel like it belongs in that Marvel universe, but it can’t be so big that it doesn’t acknowledge the more human, the more quirky, and the more vulnerable elements that make the show unique. For example, early in the process before I was even hired, the producers and the editors were temp-tracking the show with cues from big Marvel movies and they were finding that it didn’t actually work, it was actually hurting the drama and hurting the characters. So they started temping with themes that were a lot smaller. When I came in, I actually leaned the score back in the other direction, so I feel like the score that I’ve written definitely sounds super-heroic, but it has elements to it that make it feel a little more human and a little more quirky and fun. I think that it’s going to find that balance between those two disparate ideas.
Q: How would you describe your main theme for the show?
Bear McCreary: The main theme is big and brassy and heroic. I think fans of my music are going to recognize an influence from HUMAN TARGET and THE CAPE, which are two orchestral shows that I did. Clearly this is a well that I am drawing from again – very proudly. It’s the kind of scoring I grew up listening to –you’ll hear everything from Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein and John Williams – but I think it also definitely sounds like my music. I’m very excited that Marvel is encouraging me to be expressive and write the kind of super-hero score that I’ve always wanted to write.
Q: Now you’re working on DA VINCI’S DEMONS, a different concept with a different kind of music. How would you describe your work on this show?
Bear McCreary: DA VINCI’S DEMONS is a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed working with David S. Goyer, and he encouraged me to make a score that is highly thematic and really pushed me out of my comfort zone. The show takes place in Renaissance Florence and it features a number of historical figures, so for me this is a real departure. I’m used to working on science fiction/fantasy worlds where I can make up any rules I want! If I want DEFIANCE to sound like synthesizers and distorted accordions, then I can do that. But this is different, it was my first historical drama. There’s a musical heritage and a culture there that I really wanted to represent, and I just adored researching Renaissance music and texts and old vocal pieces and even used some original music from the time period. For example, the theme for the Medicis and their family was written by their court composer, so if Lorenzo De Medici watched this show he would recognize his theme as one that was written for him five hundred years ago! So that’s really exciting for me to be able to roll up my sleeves and just dive into music history.
Q: Did you have an actual orchestra available to record the scores?
Bear McCreary: Yeah! Absolutely, we had a full orchestra and I also worked with the Calder Quartet, which is a fantastic group; they’re rising superstars in the classical world. I had a number of ethnic specialty players including viola de gamba and Renaissance woodwinds, lutes, and I played hurdy gurdy. [That] was really an eclectic, beautiful sound. We had choirs, too – on half the episodes we had beautiful choirs come in. So I think the score to that show I personally think is the most sophisticated writing that I’ve done so far. I’m very proud of it.
Q: You’re about to start scoring the fourth season of THE WALKING DEAD. Would you describe how that score was developed over its three-plus seasons, and where it will be going, if you can talk about that yet.
Bear McCreary: The show, like a lot of great shows, evolved naturally. It has a natural evolution that the music follows. This happened with me on BSG and it is in the process of happening on THE WALKING DEAD. The music started out very minimal and it had a Bernard Herrmann meets bluegrass quality; that’s still there, but in Season 3, when we introduce The Governor and Woodbury and this whole new arc, there’s a new sound that snuck in there and one of the sounds that seems to have resonated immediately with the fans is this thing that they’ve called “the pulse,” which is essentially The Governor’s theme. That’s actually another example of synthesizer programming that was inspired by the work that I did on EUROPA REPORT. So that’s a new texture that has an almost John Carpenter-like quality. I think it’s really kind of ominous and it almost doesn’t feel like music, it’s so low and cold and emotionless, which I think is why it captures The Governor’s personality so beautifully. So that’s something that I hope continues as we move on into season 4. I’m looking forward to expanding into new sounds and new territories.
Q: A cool thing about that is some of the most effective and affecting dramatic moments on current television come out of that show. It’s so much more than just a zombie apocalypse story.
Bear McCreary: Oh, I know!
Q: I think the music plays a big part in that too, as far as expressing the emotional quality of what’s going on with these people.
Bear McCreary: One of the other things that makes WALKING DEAD so special, for me, is how relatively little music there is. What happens when there are scenes that can be effective without music, it just means that when there is music, I can be much more subtle and still have a really powerful impact. So I feel like I can approach THE WALKING DEAD with a very delicate hand, and build up tension gradually. You get episode after episode where there is some music but it’s very restrained and reserved and you’re letting the actors do the work – you’re letting them carry the emotional weight whenever it’s possible. Then you get to an episode like the fourth episode of Season 3 [“Killer Within”] where we have a major character’s death and one that shocked viewers and fans of the comic book alike. And in that scene I just took the training wheels off and I just went full-on emotional and the result was devastating because you never hear music like that [on this show]. Or there was a moment in Season 2, the mid-season finale [“Pretty Much Dead Already”] which was another moment where we waited and waited and waited, and then that emotion comes it’s very powerful. As a composer, it’s really exciting.
Q: I wanted to ask about DEFIANCE, which of course is not only a sci-fi TV show but a video game. What was your approach to scoring this post-apocalyptic, alien world?
Bear McCreary: For me, scoring a post-apocalyptic, alien world is a bit of a challenge not because it’s new but because I’ve done it a [few] times already. With BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE WALKING DEAD and TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, this is familiar territory for me. I wanted to find a way to do something I hadn’t done before and in fact the tone of DEFIANCE is very different than those other shows, and that’s the reason I took it on. It’s actually nothing like those at all. It had a very optimistic, upbeat, fun quality. It really reminds me more of, almost like EUREKA when you just smile when you’re watching it. So that was really exciting for me, to take on a show where we can have some fun, and I could write alien pop songs and do covers of familiar songs and, at the same time, create a culture – actually create multiple cultures – where we use music to delineate these various alien races. And of course, on top of all that, I get to score the video game and create sounds for the gamers as well, in this shared universe. And I do think it’s worth noting, to eliminate confusion, that this is not a situation of a game being based on a show, or a show being based on a game; these were developed simultaneously and premiered simultaneously. So, for me, musically, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity where I got to create music for this world and create it for two different mediums.
Q: To what extent are your scores shared between the mediums?
Bear McCreary: They are shared musically as much as possible, but ironically tonally they are very different. I wanted them to connect as much as possible, and it is sincerely my hope when gamers watch the show they feel that connective DNA in the music, it feels like the same universe. However, these are different animals. The show has action and adventure but it’s really a character piece. It has quirky, bizarre characters and interesting and dramatic political situations. The game is very much an adrenalin piece, blowing up aliens and running around. This worked out to my advantage, I think, because to get the full picture you should listen to both. There’s really no overlap in terms of style. The instrumentation is the same, but the game album is like my most upbeat, aggressive album I’ve ever done – to me, it’s almost like a dance record, and the album for the TV show has interesting dramatic pieces and quirky songs and some really great blues numbers.
Q: Another thing I wanted to ask about was a TV show you did called SHELF LIFE, which was kind of a quirky, comedy science fiction.
Bear McCreary: Oh yeah! This was done for my buddy Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, these are two friends of mine who go way back. They produced this web series about action figures living on a little boy’s shelf. I wanted to do really primitive 1980’s music, because to me, I mean, I know kids still play with action figures, but to mine and Yuri’s generation when I think action figures, it’s He-man and Transformers! The glory day for us was in the ‘80s, so I used a lot of 8-bit synthesis and cheap Casios and things like that. Itt was a fun way for me to write music and try and imagine if I was an action figure how would I score my own TV show?
Q: And then you’ve done HOLLISTON, which is kind of like a quirky horror show…
Bear McCreary: Yeah. HOLLISTON is director Adam Green’s passion project. I’m pretty close to Adam, and Joe Lynch is his co-star, who I work with a lot. These guys are some of my best friends in the world, and when I heard they were both starring in their own TV show about their own lives I had to jump in. It’s great: it’s like Heavy Metal SEINFELD! It really is a sitcom score but it’s scored in a heavy metal and horror style that is really fun. It’s really funny, I think genre fans who are familiar with horror movies and stuff that Adam has done will find that it’s full of so many great little in-jokes. The funniest thing to look for is a character played by Dee Snider, from Twisted Sister, and his character is a wanna-be rocker, and he comes in and he’s always glammed to the hilt. He’s got his wig and his tights and the make-up and he moves his hands like he’s on stage all the time. I got the idea that I would score his every movement with a heavy metal band, as if he were conducting a metal band – even though he’s not on stage, he works in an office, but it’s really funny. The problem was that I set myself up for an incredible challenge because it’s like that really tight, Mickey Mouse scoring where I’m counting frames and trying to hit every tiny movement – his head, his hands, his feet! – and I’m hitting it with these really big, distorted guitar hits. It’s so much fun!
Q: Finally - I understand you’ve also done some session work – specifically by bringing your accordion to play on Jack Wall’s game score, LOST PLANET 3. What was that experience like?
Bear McCreary: Oh that was great. Jack and I have been friends for a long time, and I love his music. I’m not asked to play on other sessions very often, but it’s always fun to be able to get my accordion or my hurdy-gurdy and go play for someone else, and let them worry about the details. I just want to play!
An homage to the classic war and science fiction B-movies of the 1940s and 50s, THE 25TH REICH tells the story about Hitler’s secret weapon – a spaceship fleet – and the five American agents on a mission to stop the Nazi space invasion! It’s a time travel war story in which five US GI’s stationed in Australia during World War II are duped into testing out a time machine that transports them back 50,000 years into the past where they are (1) chased by marsupial lions, (2) attacked by a swarm of giant mosquitos, and (3) discover a pristine alien spaceship, which is also being sought by Nazi’s in order to win the war. Composer Ricky Edwards turns in a very good sampled-orchestral score, much influenced by John Williams, featuring a sweeping Nazi theme at its heart. Edwards’ score was just released on CD by MovieScore Media/Kronos Records. (see: http://www.kronosrecords.com)
Q: How did you get the assignment to write the music for THE 25TH REICH?
Ricky Edwards: I first met Stephen Amis, the director, in 2004. I was recommended to him as an orchestrator for a project he was working on that already had a composer attached. That film didn’t get made unfortunately but during that meeting he asked if he could hear something of mine. I played him some compositions I had finished for two computer games released by Atari Australia, Terminator 3 Rise Of The Machines and Transformers. He obviously liked them and made up his mind to book me for his next project.
Q: When you first met with Amis to take a look at THE 25TH REICH, how did you determine the kind of music needed for the film?
Ricky Edwards: Stephen had a very good idea of the score he wanted for the film before we got together. He is very music savvy. He grew up listening to a lot of film scores from a young age. He had a lot of requests and suggestions right from our first meeting, both stylistically and structurally. He’s not a musician or a composer but he is very respectful in all of his requests. His main concerns were stylistic and thematic. He wanted a very motivic driven score in somewhat of a Williamsesque style. In fact, he had already put a lot of John Williams on the film as temp.
Q: The film mixes the genres of science fiction and horror with that of the traditional World War II film. How did you reflect and contrast these elements musically – and how did the interplay between the characters resonate in the score?
Ricky Edwards: There was a lot of genre to cover throughout the film. I think the thing that binds the score together is in the orchestration. There are certain devices and consistencies in the use of the instruments, particularly in the brass and lower strings, that is the sound of the score. The various genres were addressed from a more thematic or motivic point of view, with the obvious adjustment in the orchestration.
Right at the start of the film there are shots of German tanks and swastikas. It’s very World War II and the images look quite period or old-fashioned. Then some big iron doors roll back to reveal a good old-fashioned flying saucer. So right from the start of the film the style of the score is pretty much dictated. It felt quite odd for the score to be anything other than early 20th century and Germanic in style. And it also meant that right from the start of the film the score was orchestral. While there’s a bit of synthesizers and atmospheric textures in the music, the score remained predominantly orchestral throughout. We did look at using more electronic percussion elements like some of the contemporary scores around today but the modern thing just didn’t stick. It felt wrong. Mainly because of what was established from the start.
As the film unwinds, each of the characters’ true nature comes to the fore. So Stephen and I wanted to highlight each character and their shifts in behavior, firstly with particular motives and then with orchestration reflecting the development in their character. All in all, there is a lot of thematic development in the score and as a result, the music really does drive the film a lot.
Q: Your thunderous martial theme for the Nazi’s and the Theremin-like motif for the time machine nicely dominate the musical landscape. How did you choreograph the score’s thematic structure to enhance the film’s dramatic arc?
Ricky Edwards: I did put a lot of thought into this. The film is quite big during the opening Nazi bunker scene, not to mention the big opening credits piece. It immediately becomes more intimate while the film introduces the five characters. Even though we know what is coming, because we’ve seen the tanks and flying saucer, the film spends enough time dealing with the characters’ personal dynamics that we almost forget what the film is about, not quite. It certainly drops the dynamic down a lot and deals more intimately with character development. Consequently character development also became an important part of the role of the score throughout the film.
There are basically five climaxes in the film, and naturally each one gets a bit bigger. There are the obvious horrors that happen in the film that get progressively bigger and nastier and these usually come at the end of the climax. But the film also gets its emotional shape from two developing elements in the story that progress in parallel. Two of the characters, who turn out to be not so nice, become progressively more important in the story and at the same time the surroundings or scenery change. As you watch the film, you’re not fully aware at first why certain things are happening, like the scenery changing, nor do you know who is responsible. But the shape and build in tension comes from these two parts of the story as much as it comes from the action scenes. The build to each climax is piggy-backed on the character development as much as it is dependent on the dangerous stuff.
I should mention that thematically there is a relationship, albeit subtle, between the bad guys, the flying saucer and the robots in reel four. These themes naturally worked together to build the climax in reel four where the robots attack.
Finally, I also used what we call bookends. I used the same theme that opens the film in the Nazi bunker scene, for the final scene.
Q: What was your process of creating and mixing the score, giving it a very credible orchestral sound, using digital samples? Did the budget permit the inclusion of any live instruments to sweeten the sound?
Ricky Edwards: The budget for the whole project was pretty tight. I think Stephen did a remarkable job with the budgetary limitations throughout the whole film making process, as did the rest of the film making team. The budget didn’t allow for any live musicians and the score is fully sequenced and synthesized. I must admit that I was a little nervous at first at the thought of fully sequencing such an orchestrally driven score, particularly one in the style it is in. But both Stephen and I didn’t want to take the score in an alternative direction. We both felt that the film was better with the orchestral score of choice but it needed to sound as realistic as possible.
The writing process for this score began with pencil and paper. Most of the score was written and orchestrated in short score format. There are only a few small sections of the score that relied on synth textures and ambient effects and those bits were mostly improvised and played straight to the film. Most of the jobs that I do which are sequenced, particularly the TV series, are often just played straight into the computer without the need to write it all down. But in this case, I found it much easier to maintain the integrity of the style and the shape of the cues by working with pencil and paper first. It also helped me to develop the polyphony and inner orchestral parts which definitely helps the synths sound more realistic.
Usually I’d write a cue or two and then later, or even the next day, sequence it up. Sometimes I would make small adjustments to the orchestration during the sequencing process but any large change to the cue usually involved picking up the pencil again. Another process that ensured as much realism as possible was to sequence each part individually. For me, orchestral music is about line and ensemble. So I seldom sequence groups of instruments together.
I also mixed the score. I put a fair bit of time into picking my audio processing and mixing plugins. I sequenced and mixed the whole score in Apple’s Logic Pro.
Q: Did you have a temp track to deal with?
Ricky Edwards: Stephen did a pretty good job of temping the film. It was mostly John Williams with a bit of Steve Jablonsky’s TRANSFORMERS and some Marco Beltrami.
Q: How difficult was it to get the samples to sound as real as possible?
Ricky Edwards: I love this style of writing. I have been involved with symphony orchestras since I was a teenager, firstly as a French horn player and then a pianist. This style is kind of natural for me. Part of the challenge of scoring any film is how far you underscore or lead the scene. Without sounding pretentious, I’ve always considered this process as a kind of ensemble with the actors. As a composer you don’t want to get in the actor’s way. You can have such a big influence and effect on the direction and the feeling of a scene by pushing one emotion or the other. So when scoring a drama you have to be careful about overtaking the acting. The beauty about scoring a sci-fi film is that the music is expected to push the film past normal boundaries. A sci-fi film is not based on reality so the job of the music is in fact to push the film outside of reality. Consequently the composer gets to overtake a bit, sometimes.
Q: You’ve also scored the family TV series, LIGHTNING POINT, about a pair of alien girls marooned in a small Australian town. How did you approach providing the right musical tone for this series?
Ricky Edwards: The film makers did not want the score to be too scary. They were quite conscious of the demographic but more importantly they wanted to heighten the mystery and magic of these girls from another world. So we played the wonderment and mystery of the aliens. The aliens weren’t trying to take over the world, in fact they’re just trying to get home. I used a fair bit of synth effects and included a Theremin for a leitmotif which gave the score the alien feel. Even though I was scoring THE 25TH REICH at the same time, the Theremin wasn’t actually my idea. Coincidently both clients asked for Theremin themes at approximately the same time. Strangely enough, they were the first scores I had ever used Theremin on. But the scores are very different.
Q: How were the science fiction elements of the story reflected musically?
Ricky Edwards: The series looks at the way that the alien girls, who are unfamiliar with earthly ideas of love and friendship, discover new relationships in ways they hadn’t experienced before. It is about their journey through friendships, their discovery of romance or love and how they need to adjust to fit these new friendships into their lives. The score was kept quite intimate and small in texture for that reason. None of the film makers, including me, wanted to turn the feeling of the series away from that journey.
Q: What were the musical needs of an earlier family series, THE ELEPHANT PRINCESS, about a suburban girl who discovers she is a princess of a mystical kingdom?
Ricky Edwards: The first thoughts I had about this series was to have a very different feel about the score when dealing with the real world and dealing with the mystical one. In the real world, the girl is just a girl. But in the mystical world she is a somewhat reluctant princess, a little intimidated by all the magic around her. I felt this should be done mostly with texture and style. The mystical world should be a blend of orchestral and ethnic instruments and the real world should be more fresher and perhaps a bit more contemporary sounding. Jonathan Schiff (the producer) wanted an element of popular appeal in both worlds so I used a lot of electronic and ethnic percussion elements for the score when in the mystical world and I used more conventional sounding percussion and drums when dealing with the real world. The score is quite percussively driven. It is intended to appeal to a younger audience and while it is not “pop,” it is designed to sound fresh.
Q: Your first TV series was h2O: JUST ADD WATER, about a trio of teenage girls who are transformed into mermaids. Would you describe your approach for this series, which again mixes family drama with fantasy - and as your first experience with episodic TV, what challenges it posed for you?
Ricky Edwards: I have to say, when I got the call to do this series I was really happy. This was my first large TV series and it was a fantasy aimed at youths. The palette you get to pick from for this type of fantasy, particularly in terms of style, is enormous. You can do just about anything. We kept it young and comical most of the time. But there are some lovely moments in the score as well. It is perhaps the most successful series I’ve done to date. I even get quite a few young people emailing me to say they liked the music. I think my biggest challenge with this series was my introduction into having to deliver one episode per week. You have to hit the ground running and just keep running. They don’t like it if you’re late.
Q: In shows like those, what did you feel was the responsibility of the music to evoke and enliven the story’s fantasy/sci-fi elements while expressing the emotional credibility of the characters – and how did this contrast with the grittier world of THE 25th REICH and its characters?
Ricky Edwards: It’s a really good question. Mind you, I’ve got to say that I think that there couldn’t be a bigger contrast. THE 25TH REICH is a big and confronting sci-fi film while the TV shows are all very family oriented. I think that every show has its own feeling and ambience. And each actor and director has their own sense of timing and dynamics. It has been very interesting working on such a broad spectrum all in fantasy and sci-fi. For example, I felt that h2O and LIGHTNING POINT really needed more support for character development. Not because the actors needed it, but because we wanted to endear these characters to the audience and to give them a more human or personable feel. After all, one show was about mermaids and the other about aliens and we wanted them to feel like the girl next door. So a lot of the score was character driven and at times quite intimate.
THE ELEPHANT PRINCESS, on the other hand, felt very different because the girl in the series was a real girl, not an alien, and who was taken into an alien environment. For the ELEPHANT PRINCESS series I didn’t need to work on making her more human. Obviously there were still intimate moments and character driven cues but the score wasn’t focused in the same way, and as a result it is actually a bigger sounding score than h2O and LIGHTNING POINT. I think that with all these shows, it is important to work out how far forward the music is going to be in the scheme of things. And I don’t just mean how loud. Some shows require a very open score with less going on and a smaller emotional footprint, while others need dramatic support. I must say, it’s been great working on such a variety all in similar genres.
One of the most memorable and effective synthesizer scores of the 1970s was composed by Colin Towns for FULL CIRCLE (1977; later rereleased in 1982 as THE HAUNTING OF JULIA), based on the Peter Straub novel of a woman (Mia Farrow) grieving the loss of her daughter being affected by the ghosts of other dead children. The film was an attractively stylish and very subtle ghost film, and Towns, a former keyboard player with ex-Deep Purple singer Ian Gillian’s pop band, provided a beautiful, stylish blend of vocals, synthesizer and piano. The music is simple, but haunting. Its roots are in rock, but it is by no means a rock score. The main theme is an unforgettable melody evocative of both joy and sorrow, played first by melancholy piano and later by a strong, high synthesizer, over shimmering, mid-range synthesizer drones and a slowly repeated up-and-down piano riff. Towns’ musical score mirrors the stylish approach taken by the film itself – it approaches horror indirectly, providing not shocking scenes and terrifying suspense, but a sad, melancholy feeling. The paradoxical moods evoked by the score perfectly underlie the mood of the film, Towns’ melody captures an essence of joy, but the tempo is tinged with regret, and in many ways FULL CIRCLE is a film exploring regret and resignation.
I interviewed Towns by email last July about his work on FULL CIRCLE and other horror and science fiction scores. (Special thanks to Jo Lilley for facilitating our cybernetic discussion.)
Q: On 1977’s FULL CIRCLE I understand you were brought in early, prior to filming, in order to have a music track ready to show potential investors in the film. How did you become involved, and from what did you draw your inspiration for the music at this early stage, without any footage to look at?
Colin Towns: I had a small publishing deal with April Music (CBS publishing) and mentioned many times that I wanted to get into scoring films. One day Peter [Fetterman, producer] approached April Music as he was looking for a composer for his film which at the time was called THE LINK. Alan Parker was also with him – he was preparing to make BUGSY MALONE although I didn’t meet him. I was given the script and a very generous two hour recording/mix time to produce a demo. Having just joined Ian Gillan’s Band, I had a synth (ARP 2600) which was new to me but made great sounds. The band wasn’t working much at the time, and I knew it was important to produce a good track. Not being academic I wrote a simple haunting tune and it kind of just happened. Richard Loncraine, the director, immediately booked me and I demoed more ideas at a friend’s studio. I was given complete freedom and, being new to film making, I had no ‘experience’ to hinder my ideas.
Q: Your melodious theme from FULL CIRCLE is a splendid melody – and one flexible enough to appear in many different variations – lullaby, furtive, suspenseful, disquieting, a rapturous melody of redemption, and so on – would you describe how you rearranged the theme into various settings to fit the storyline – and what the music was intended to represent in its different appearances.
Colin Towns: All melodies can have other lives, you need to explore and open the door marked ‘DARE.’ Joe Cocker’s version of ‘A Little Help from my Friends’ is a good example. With FULL CIRCLE I just ‘felt’ the various scenes. My composing has continued this way ever since – no analysis. Sometimes a simple movement of the bass line or a pause can take you by surprise – make you uncomfortable, tearful, etc. The melody here mainly represents Mia Farrow’s feelings for her dead daughter but of course because the music has a haunting feeling it also feeds the ‘ghost’ feel.
Q: The late 1970s were a formative year for electronic music in films, especially horror films where the use of throbbing synths became especially synched to slasher movies; but I’ve found FULL CIRCLE to be a profound example of electronic music used melodically in a very sublime sense. Do you recall your perspective regarding electronic music during those days and just what it was you wanted to express musically within the bounds of this film?
Colin Towns: I didn’t like the Moog/Switched on Bach approach but I was interested in a sound that has emotion. The sound on the film has a sweet feel and with vibrato (carefully) helped to make the instrument ‘sing’ as opposed to shout clever/modern etc.
Q: In addition to the main theme there is also a love theme, mostly configured for flute, and a melancholy piece of piano music during Julia’s lonely walk through the park which is reminiscent of Satie. Would you describe how you wove these pieces together along with the main theme to convey the impressions you and the filmmaker’s want?
Colin Towns: Again, I simply wrote a sweet piece and presented it to Richard. Before this film I had always written instrumental pieces (from the age of 14) and now at last I found my natural home. Yes, Satie was an influence but more Parade than Gymnopedies.
Q: The film is intentionally ambiguous in its depiction of the supernatural – is there really a ghost, or is it a psychological manifestation of Julia’s grief? Your score seems to remain ambiguous on this point.
Colin Towns: Andre Previn (who was married to Mia Farrow at the time and who I admire) didn’t think much of the score because he couldn’t relate the theme – well that was the point. Yes it’s Julia – or is it?
Q: How closely did you work with the filmmakers in creating your score – and what changes did it go through during the process?
Colin Towns: I created many demos and re-recorded for the film (lengths etc.). We didn’t change much but there was one scene where Richard insisted on using my original demo because of the atmosphere.
Q: Do you recall what synthesizers and other instruments were used in the performance of the score – and did you play them yourself or bring in session players?
Colin Towns: Yes, I played all instruments. I used the ARP 2600, piano, and a Solina String machine.
Q: By the time you scored George Pavleau’s RAWHEAD REX (one of, if not the, first films based on Clive Barker’s work) I believe you had gone into film scoring full time. This film is the antithesis of FULL CIRCLE’s sublime and poignant fragility – would you describe your recollections of working on this project and how you approached writing music for a very aggressive monster movie?
Colin Towns: I was keen to explore my musical possibilities. The film had a country/pastorale backdrop, so I chose a pastiche orchestral feel whereas FULL CIRCLE had a stronger, more original approach. I was very aware of composers who work extensively in the horror movie area. It was fun to do but I knew Christopher Young (wonderful composer) was concerned at one time that he may be typecast and only called for horror scores. For better or for worse, I didn’t want to be typecast. So the film was good to do but not a road I intended to follow. Today, with the game industry so big, I’m sure many people would follow the horror road. I have avoided the game business.
Q: While RAWHEAD is certainly a monster in the true sense, the movie also carried through some of the religious aspects found in Barker’s story – did these nuances allow you to add any additional musical elements as you treated the creature in your score?
Colin Towns: It’s difficult to remember my thought process at the time. Scoring was fast as I recall and yes the church was important but not my main approach, which was larger than life; another world; fear.
Q: Your score for VAMPIRE’S KISS was an alluring mix of contemporary romantic saxophone and spooky/scary electronics. Do you recall how this musical approach was determined and how this score was developed?
Colin Towns: Bob Bierman, the director of VAMPIRE’S KISS, had shot an opening sequence that showed New York with church spires shown prominently, and it was to create a ‘world within a world’ atmosphere. It was my starting point and I simply took the N.Y. landscape with a touch of jazz and ‘tipped’ it slightly, which gave the music an edge but promised something (but you didn’t know what). The high violin phrase (difficult for a whole section to play) was a crucial motif for Nicholas Cage’s character – he was mentally ‘losing it.’ The music was mainly orchestral. One sequence was an interesting challenge - our ‘man’ goes to a ‘disco’ with his trick shop cheap ‘fangs’ and chats up a girl then kills her by sinking his teeth into her neck - à la vampire. He leaves the club early morning about four A.M. and staggers down the street covered in her blood. The people passing think he’s in ‘fancy dress’ but are not sure of him and step out of his way. Musically we needed a dance track that would lead into the orchestral score. The budget was tight so an existing disco track was not really possible, so I did the whole thing myself. I created/played the pop track and then sung it (sort of!). I could then slide into the orchestra without the change being that noticeable.
Q: You scored two (very different) films for Stuart Gordon, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and SPACE TRUCKERS. What can you describe of these experiences and the music needed for these pictures?
Colin Towns: DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS starred Anthony Perkins who had a natural edgy aura, which was perfect for this film. The music was recorded in Budapest, Hungary. From what I remember the movie was set in Europe and I scored it for orchestra with a European/classical type feel. SPACE TRUCKERS was director Stuart Gordens’ idea for a comic space movie which at that time no-one had produced. Musically it was STAR WARS meets country and western with Dennis Hopper doing a great job as the main man. Good fun.
Q: You scored THE PUPPET MASTERS for Disney’s Hollywood Pictures. The film gave you the opportunity (and the budget) to contrast your electronic ensemble with a large symphony orchestra, which really created an unsettling and very discordant sound world for the alien invaders. How was this score developed and what challenges did it pose for you?
Colin Towns: I hadn’t worked for Disney before when THE PUPPET MASTERS came up. Their plan was to let me score two reels and if they liked it I could score the whole movie. The guy making the fuss disappeared and so I was just left to finish the score, which we recorded at Abbey Road in London. I spent a month in L.A sketching ideas and meeting all the main people. I love energy so the film was a great opportunity for me to create orchestral effects and driving themes. The music editor was Ken Wannberg (a composer himself) who has had a long working relationship with John Williams. I remember sitting with the director Stuart Orme and explaining the orchestral scores to him. Quite difficult to portray an orchestral effects on the piano! Nowadays, samples have made this process a bit easier. Yes it was an exciting time.
Q: FAERIES, on the other hand, allowed you to compose music for an animated children’s story. How did you approach the musical needs of this project and how would you describe the music you provided?
Colin Towns: I’ve composed for a number of children’s animations. They have often had a period or historical connection - THE TALES OF BEATRIX POTTER, WIND IN THE WILLOWS, etc. FAERIES was also created in a period fashion and featured the voice of Kate Winslet. Again it was mostly orchestral in flavor as it was 1940’s/50’s English countryside. The music had to reflect this and have a mysterious but charming touch that would engage children up to the age of around 10-11 (although faeries have a fascination for some adults too and historically have been around a long time). You can write ‘literal’ music very often (happy/sad etc.) but the priority is to engage children and so melody was (and is sometimes now) very important. That was always my main challenge – to use good melodies. [Orme’s] FUNGUS THE BOGEYMAN had many different characters who needed themes. This had a more Tim Burton touch to the story and the music was all samples/electronics. One short film I worked on was THE SANDMAN. It collected awards around the world and the two guys who made it, Paul Berry and Ian Mackinnon, were immediately taken into the Tim Burton film productions. The Sandman character (which came first) is very similar to NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – its stop frame animation and designed like a 1930’s art film. The perspectives are sometimes distorted. Musically it was all electronics, and it had a very simple, almost Stravinsky chamber feel. Sadly Paul Berry died young but Ian Mackinnon (as Mackinnon & Saunders) still makes the models for Tim Burton films.
Q: You’ve certainly experienced and endured a great many changes in electronic music since you began in films in 1977 – in terms of technology, acceptability, integration within symphonic orchestras, all the way to the prevalent use of digital samples and computerized music systems. What do you feel have been the most significant benefits – and challenges – of electronic music as an element of film scoring in your own experience?
Colin Towns: Electronic music has come a long way from the early sounds of the 20th century. People’s ears have opened up a great deal due to pop and rock (Beatles; Pink Floyd; Kraftwork etc.) ambient (Brian Eno) and movies of course. Sample sounds have created a world where ‘sound’ can reflect mood and drama in a very interesting and challenging way. New doors have opened and we can all choose whether to go through or not. My work place is all computers and screens and of course a piano. My mobile studio (which contains all the same data and samples as my studio) enables me to work anywhere be it traveling on a tour bus, at a hotel, working at a theatre, etc. – and I can send music cues all over the world from almost any location. That said, I’m not a believer in ‘you must’ follow the pack. It’s simply up to us to use this freedom and not have our visions distorted by too many ‘must have’ moments. ‘Special’ is always worth the wait and computers can destroy this with the immediate response everyone seems to crave. Time to think and develop is still crucial for me. FULL CIRCLE was my first film and I was left alone to create my own musical world. That is a very rare occurrence these days, but still the fact remains - a good idea and a strong vision will always take you places. Who knows, maybe some directors/producers will be brave in the future.
New Soundtrax in Review
COLETTE/Atli Örvarsson/MSM Kronos
In one of the first releases since MovieScore Media of Sweden and Kronos Records of Germany began to jointly produce soundtrack albums (see below under Film Music News for details), COLETTE presents Atli Örvarsson’s understated and fluid music for this Wartime romantic drama. Although well-versed in the world of major Hollywood productions (having just scored THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES and had a hit with HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS earlier in the year [see my interview with Atli in my Feb. 26 column]), COLETTE provided composer Atli Örvarsson with a chance to write music he had never done before. Directed by Milan Cieslar, the film is a powerful screen adaptation of A Girl from Antwerp, a novella by Pulitzer Prize nominated author Arnošt Lustig who chronicles a tragic love story from the time of the Holocaust.
“When the opportunity to score this film came about, I realized that I didn’t really have a good piece to send to the director as a demo” recalls Örvarsson. “The first thing I wrote was the so-called Birkenau theme. Milan Cieslar really liked it a lot but he wanted to hear a love theme as well and, while I’ve composed a few of those, I had never written one that was suitable for this film. So I wrote that as well and sent to him before I was even hired to do the film! So, in truth, I’ve never demoed as much for any project but I really wanted to do this film so it was all worth it!” Örvarsson’s score flows deliberately but often disconsolately, the shadowy specter of Nazi racism and execution looming large over the growing romance between the characters, and thus the romantic theme carries a dark undertone, reaching its musical culmination at the end with a beautiful epiphany, adding a female voice to the omnipresent string orchestra we’ve heard since the beginning. Örvarsson has provided a richly tonal score for bittersweet romance – love blossoming but shrouded by terrible circumstances – and in so doing shows that he can convey the multifaceted and difficult emotions of this kind of story just as well as he can enrich the muscular fantasies of the effects-laden Hollywood action films he’s been doing recently.
THE CONSPIRACY/Darren Baker/Screamworks
Canadian composer Darren Baker has created a thoroughly haunting and scare-inducing score for Christopher MacBride’s horror thriller with a thick textural score that seems to bellow from the gaping maw of the devil itself. Exploring the dark underbelly of conspiracy theories, MacBride’s part-mockumentary, part found footage horror show is about two filmmakers who grow fascinated with an insane preacher who spouts out frighteningly complex conspiracy theories. When the man vanishes, the heroes start looking for clues and are soon sucked into the world of secret societies and worldwide conspiracies he spoke of. Baker’s score to has been described as an intelligent mixture of György Ligeti (as heard in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) and the lo-fi industrialist electronica recently popularized by the film scores of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I don’t find that description too far from the mark. There are lighter moments such as the Wendy Carlos-like classico-electronica of “Scherzando,” “Pattern Refraction,” “Pattern Recognition,” and their much darker cousin, “Steganographia,” but the score’s dramatic highpoint is certainly a howling atmospheric barrage called “Threnody For Mithras,” which distills Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki into a blaring 2-note minimalistic siren progression moaning like a Lovecraftian fog horn atop the inescapable hoof-beats of synthesized percussion, burgeoning ever closer. It’s a tremendous track and one of the most horrific pieces of film music I’ve encountered in recent years. The earlier track, “Three Words: New World Order,” provides a foreshadowing of “Threnody” and, when the latter track appears, the former’s quietude makes sudden sense. Elsewhere, Baker’s facility for unearthly sonic textures (“Vanity and Complacency”) and classical pianistic renderings (“C'est ce qu'elle dit Valse”) are quite evident, while “Atlas V” develops his basic ambiance into an up-tempo, driving action track counterpointed with violin figures and drum machine; the burbling electronic pulse that opens “Occupy Tarsus” is eventually drawn into a radiant rhythm piece; “Occupy Tarsus” sets up a twanging synth drive that reminds one of early Vangelis. Concluding with the symphonic resolution of the title track, “The Conspiracy,” this is a thoroughly engaging score that flies with musical epiphanies and plummets into the darkest depths of the diabolical soul of depravity with some insidiously dense musical patterns. Yet for all the breadth of its synthesis and sound design, Baker’s score never loses its musical sensibility or progressive direction. It’s a stunningly potent and mindblowing piece of music on the album; I can only imagine how intrinsically effective and scary it will be in partnership with MacBride’s film.
The Canadian TV series CONTINUUM (which debuted on Showtime May of 2012) is about group of fanatical terrorists escaping their scheduled execution in 2077 by traveling back in time to 2012. Inadvertently, they take City Protective Services officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) with them. Becoming trapped in a more “primitive” past, Kiera infiltrates the local police department to try to track down the terrorists, led by the vicious Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola) before they change the course of history. The series’ musical score, by Jeff Danna, enhances the show’s futuristic sensibility and present-day stetting through a wash of atmospheric tonalities, light electronica, sparkling electric guitar fingering, and string patterns both airy and strident. The score is associated most often with the two primary antagonists, Kiera and Kagame, although it’s clearly the former whose focal point is the show’s musical touchstone. “When [series creator] Simon Barry and I were conceiving the approach to the score to CONTINUUM, we agreed that the musical thread that anchored the score should be the same thing that anchors the show itself, Kiera.” said Danna. “Kiera's theme needed to be something that could be strong and self-assured, but also have aspects to it that could be vulnerable and even wistful for the past (future!) she has left behind.” Frequently minimalistic while given moments to shine, often reflective in its gleaming electronic flair, as organic as it is synthetic, Danna’s musical design crafts a very agreeable ambiance, and Lakeshore has compiled an excellent compendium of the first season’s musical highlights in this digital album.
GRAVITY/Steven Price/Water Tower
It’s difficult not to consider a film like GRAVITY science fiction, since films taking place in space have been such a part of science fiction for so many years (and only science fiction for a good many of those); but GRAVITY is clearly a contemporary drama/thriller, evoking events that are happening and could very well happen in our contemporary times. In GRAVITY, director Alfonso Cuaron (Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN) tells the story of two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) banding together to survive after a disastrous accident wipes out their crew and sets them adrift in space. British composer Steven Price (THE WORLD’S END – see below under Film Music News) scores it without any futuristic or “syfy” trappings, but rather focuses on building tension and musically conveying the vast spaces of… space. A unique responsibility was placed on the music in GRAVITY: with no sound in the vacuum of space, the score provides the soundtrack for the emotion and character of the film while also taking on the role of more traditional sound effects through ever evolving musical sound design. “From my earliest meetings with Alfonso, it was clear the score in GRAVITY would play a crucial and expanded role,” said Price. “With no sound in space, the music was required to not only underscore the emotional journey, but also to express musically what might ordinarily be covered by more traditional sound design. The music is occasionally abstract, often melodic, and always complex in terms of its layered construction.” The score thus blurs the lines between electronic and organic sounds, incorporating a wide range of elements, from glass harmonicas to string and brass sections, that capture the on-screen emotion while reflecting the vast landscape of the film. Price’s music is decisively ambient, textured electronically, remarkable in sustaining a visceral quotient of tension throughout the film, suggesting not only the inconceivable vastness and emptiness of space that faces the astronauts on one side, and the inflammatory friction of Earth’s atmosphere on the other. Despite the seemingly hopeless odds facing the astronauts, Price manages to evoke some honest optimism and poignancy, such as the beautiful string melodies that waft through the perilous “Don’t Let Go,” contrasting beauty and terror in its simple, focused ambiance. The music here ultimately drifts away into an ambiance of hopeless lament – yet even that melancholic character is tinged with that same melodic beauty, as hope endures despite all odds. These contrasting feelings, and plenty of synthesized ambience and sonic textures, characterize the score, and its resonances drift and are carried on waves of nothingness to provide a remarkably articulate musical embodiment of the story’s predicament, character behavior, and emotional levels which make it quite remarkable. “To be involved in Alfonso’s creative process is to be invited to try anything you can think of and push further than you ever have before,” said Price. “The score didn’t need to abide by traditional rules, but it did need to be immersive. As you sit in the theater, the music literally moves around you and seeks to put you within the experience.”
JOBS/John Debney/La-La Land
Reuniting with director Joshua Michael Stern after their collaboration on 2008’s SWING VOTE, John Debney’s music for this biopic of Apple founder Steve Jobs is an enjoyable blend of mostly up-beat tempos that capture the many aspects of its titular character. The music, like Jobs himself, is multi-faceted and energetic, thoughtful and articulate, and Debney conveys them into a consistent whole built around a driving pulse that keeps the energy focused, as with Jobs as well. As Debney writes in the album booklet, “How does one crystallize the essence of Steve into music? Having read the books, I embarked on a quest that would lead me in many directions… [ultimately] I decided to concentrate on Steve’s ultimate effect on mankind. I hung out at numerous Apple stores in prep and realized something very basic. Humankind would be much different had Steve Jobs not lived. A much darker, less Technicolor world would most likely be the reality of life. Steve and his cohorts have literally formed the tangible world, formed it in Steve’s vision. The music started to flow once I grasped a bit of the zeitgeist of Steve. His music is the following: noble, fun, jangly, classical, electronic, and organic at the same time. This is not a musical cop-out… it is Steve. Hard to categorize, never dull, ever changing and morphing.” The score is similarly changeable even while it is drawn from a consistent vibe and rhythm; but the singularity of all of this is magnificently captured in the album’s opening track, “Think Different.” Over a running riff of acoustic guitar and drum-kit (and in a manner differently from the straightforward optimism found in the closer, “Steve’s Theme – Main Title”), Debney evokes the sense of vision, inspiration, obligation, tenacity, and considered imagination that seems to fit most peoples’ image of Steve Jobs (certainly the filmmaker’s image). It’s progressive cadence with a modern sensibility and drive; its growing force reflects such a powerful musical idea of innovation and invention, and, to use Debney’s own term, nobility, that it truly serves as a contemporary tone poem, evoking the inner character in a kind of a musical monument to the man who led the world into the information age. Throughout the score there are moments of orchestration that are quite striking – the subtle inflections of sitar in “Cold Calls” and “Think Different,” the pained, dark resonances of “Jobs Fires His Girlfriend,” the soprano melisma that resonates through the concerto-like piano performance of “Going Public,” resonating with an incipient glory, subtle swirls of winds and strings floating in an ether of ambience in “Steve’s The Problem,” the hushed, reflective tonalities floating above piano in “Worst Mistake I Ever Made,” the anthemic arena rock vibe of “Jobs Returns,” and the hushed interaction of violin and flute over mercato strings in “Resignation.” A thoroughly engaging score in every way.
KICK-ASS 2/Henry Jackman & Matthew Margeson/La-La Land
Henry Jackman is joined by Matthew Margeson (TRANSFORMERS PRIME, additional music for G. I. JOE: RETALLIATION, etc.) to revisit and expand the music Jackman (along with John Murphy, Ilan Eshkeri, and Marius De Vries) wrote for the first KICK-ASS. That first movie largely utilized “Stand Up” by The Prodigy for its anthemic musical core (along with a ton of licensed rock tunes, which the second movie also accommodates), but KICK-ASS 2 seems to allow the score to hold a stronger place in the film’s sonic dimension. Released by La-La Land Records, the music is full of exciting flair and electric guitar-led symphonic and synth orchestrations. It’s a fairly simple score, melodically, its main theme (reprised from KICK-ASS) is essentially a heraldic 3-note progression enhanced by a propulsive rock-based rhythmic riff, but it works very effectively to build a sense of heroic mettle and/or epic triumph; the whole score achieves such a persuasive attitude of exuberance that is quite encouraging. The composers have also arranged the main theme into more poignant, reflective moments when the titular hero is forced to question his identity as a costumed hero. The album provides nearly an hour’s worth of music (including five cues not available on the label’s digital download version), most of it at full throttle, most of it formulaic in its development and execution – but this is the kind of movie that thrives on that and the result is a score that’s a lot of fun in its muscular energy and exciting rhythmatics.
LOST PLANET 3 (game score)/Jack Wall/Lost in Sound Records
Game composer Jack Wall (Mass Effect, Jade Empire, Myst) has crafted an interesting musical mix for Capcom’s sci-fi action adventure video game Lost Planet® 3. The soundtrack is presented in two volumes to reflect the distinct musical approaches for the game’s soundtrack. Volume 1 features country and rock instrumentation combined with organic drum and percussion elements, infused with modern synthetic elements to create a country music of the future. “When Spark and Capcom asked me to write alien country as roughly half of the soundtrack to Lost Planet 3, I was really intrigued,” said Jack Wall. “It would be the main character’s mix tape. This is the music Jim Peyton listens to when he’s on mission in his rig - the music his wife Grace, back on Earth, sends him to remind him of home. The challenge was to make it real, but add just enough elements and context to make it seem like it is music from the future.”
Presented as Volume 2, Wall’s cinematic score is a blend of sci-fi orchestral and acoustic themes, suspenseful atmospheres, and breathy, ambient textures, which serves to support the game’s compelling narrative and mysterious environments. “For me the score needed to be two things: mysterious and wild,” explained Wall. “If I could inject those ideas into the music, I would be doing my job. I’m very excited by what we’ve put together for players. The script, acting and story seamlessly intertwine with this music to create a tangible world.” The mix makes for a striking musical experience; the country flavors on Volume 1 range from progressive country music-tinged instrumental tracks (“Hoedown Showdown,” “Ballad of Jim Peyton”), bluesy action riffs (“Bayou Country”), and very dramatically structured guitar pieces (“I Walk Alone,” with its fine synth woodwind melody entwined around the low timbres of an electric guitar). There’s a little crossover between the two on both Volumes (i.e., Volume 2’s “The Ice Planet” is a score track, but is built with the country instruments most often used for the tunes in Volume 1; creating with close-miked acoustic and slide guitars a very similar kind of tangible atmosphere that the mesmerizing and deeply-textured electronics and choir does in, for example, “Lost Planet 3 Theme”). Percussively-driven action tracks like “The Vorgg” embody electronics, flailing violin figures, thickly twanging electric guitar tendrils” while spookier cues like “You Give Me The Creeps” comprise intricately assembled electronica sound design and the album closer, “The Forgotten,” embodies a captivating light melody of respite or perhaps redemption. Nicely separated and sequenced across the two discs, the score’s twin stylistic patterns both contrast and complement a compelling listening experience; Wall’s textures, whether acoustic, choral, or synthetic, create the kind of atmosphere you can almost inhale, and pervade the game’s story structure, visual landscape, and gameplay with a very stimulating aural accompaniment.
LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED/Johan Söderqvist/MovieScore Media
MovieScore Media releases the soundtrack album for acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier’s romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm. Swedish composer Johan Söderqvist, best known for his darkly enchanting score for LET THE RIGHT ONE IN as well as his highly sensitive scores for many of Bier’s previous films, contributes a light-hearted and spirited orchestral score for the film. Söderqvist opens the score with a gentle interpretation of the 1952 Harry Warren/Jack Brooks song, “Amore” before moving into a number of musical set-pieces which provide local color (the film takes place in Italy; accordions and mandolins abound, and the song is reprised in to signify the location change in “To Italy”) while also accommodating the growing romance between the two as their bitter personalities bloom with newfound love. The score’s main theme, presented on its own at the end as a reflective, almost nostalgic, solo piano piece, suggests their previous loneliness and despondency, a tonality that earlier cues have turned into magic. The score is full of delightful romantic and pastoral melodies, punctuated by jazzier moments such as the acoustic guitar and accordion duet in “Taxi” and the enchanting “Mattress.” It’s a very cheerful and expressive score which is quite likeable and heartfelt. As a bonus, this album also includes music from one of the first collaborations between Bier and Söderqvist, a five-track suite from the 1994 comedy FAMILY MATTERS (“Det bli’r i familien”) which is very much in compatible territory to the previous score and captured must of the same moods with similar instrumentation; its primary themes are fairly melancholy, but particularly striking is “The Adoption” which contains a thoroughly captivating violin and accordion melody over quickening steps and strums of piano and acoustic guitar; it’s interplay is simply remarkable and almost magical.
MUSIC FROM THE IRON MAN TRILOGY/Djawadi, Debney, Tyler/Silva Screen
Silva Screen’s latest compilation brings together five tracks from each of the three IRON MAN movies in powerful new recordings from the London Music Works (one track is by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra). Listening to the collection proffers an impressive overview of the scores for the three films, including their mix of heroic brass orchestral anthems with shredding metal guitars of IRON MAN 1 and 2 and the purity of IRON MAN 3’s symphonic prowess. From Djawadi’s awkward but interesting mix of distorted and processed guitars and electronics interlaced among punchy drums and massed strings in the first film, John Debney followed a similar template with IRON MAN 2, albeit leaning more towards a potent, percussively-driven brass theme while still accommodating signature guitars that gave Tony Stark’s steel suit its mettle. With the third film, Brian Tyler shed the shred and focused on a purely orchestral accompaniment led by the series’ most powerful melodic anthem with its stepping ascent of horns and trumpets backed by choir. The gives each composer’s theme a powerful rendering while faithfully interpreting the highlights of each score. While it won’t replace the original recordings, the compilation, as with most of Silva’s striking orchestral re-recordings, remains true to the composer’s palette and provides for a very pleasing abridgement of each score’s landmark moments.
TEXAS, ADDIO/Antón García Abril/Quartet Records
In a limited edition of just 500 copies, Quartet Records has issued an expanded release of Ferdinando Baldi’s 1966 Italian Western, one of the few Western scores composed by acclaimed Spanish composer Antón García Abril. This is a fine score in the characteristic Italian Western style; originally issued only on a compilation EP in Japan in 1967, the score saw its first full rendition on a 1995 CD issued in Japan by King (Seven Seas), followed by its European debut from Italy’s ScreenTrax in 2000. Both had very different tracking, with King’s 29-tracks totaling just 49 minutes, while ScreenTrax’s 18 tracks totaling just over an hour, largely due to a 13-minute “Suite” compiling most of the shorter cues that King left separate (additionally alternate tracks differed between both of those releases, making each fairly unique in its presentation of the score. Quartet’s release contains 27 tracks totaling an hour and three minutes, expanding the ScreenTrax release by a couple of minutes, adding some previously unreleased music, and leaving the integrity of the individual cues un-messed with. Abril was adept at stepping into the then-standard Italian Western musical formula, influenced of course by Ennio Morricone’s work for Sergio Leone. While TEXAS, ADDIO’s score is grounded in a standard symphonic orchestration, Abril does find significant moments to highlight those characteristic instruments of Italian Western film music: solo electric guitar, the late Franco De Gemini’s harmonica, and the indispensable voices of I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni. I’ve never cared much for the source saloon or fiesta music that is inevitably mixed in with dramatic score cues in Italian Western albums and these continue to be the least interesting tracks to me, but Abril is adept at crafting some credible honky tonk (“Polka Saloon”) and Mexican folk music (“Canto Del Corazón,” “Cantina,” “Mariachi,” “Fiesta”). Singer Don Powell performs the title song “Texas, Goodbye”) with his usual smooth flair in three tracks. But the score hinges on Abril’s dramatic music, and this is naturally where the score shines. He articulates his main theme in a number of effective ways – for proud trumpet in “Free and Wild,” less stalwart trumpet in “Anguish and Tenderness,” a sad oboe in “To The Sun,” “Loneliness” [concluded by a rolling chorale rhythm in its second half], and “Nostalgic Mood”, an electric guitar version of the theme in “Horses,” melancholy harpsichord and flute in “Sad Love.” Abril also supplies a splendid Degüello in “Sundown.” His action cues are orchestrated with unusual instrumental mixes, including “Fight,” consisting of a rhythmic mélange of castanets over a dreamlike vibe of wavering violin figures, opens into a rolling, aggressive mix of drum-kit, tympani, and bongos; “Revenge” reprises the castanets but adds organ, harpsichord, guitar, harp, and additional percussion to lead into a heroic statement of the main theme’s chorus from French horn and strings; while “Ambush” creates a very interesting percussive sound design out of all manner of tapped, thumped, ratcheted, and struck instruments. It’s a fine score overall, and improves on both previous releases to claim definitive status in its presentation of Abril’s score. Quartet’s package is completed by album notes from writer Gergely Hubai, who examines the film and its score in moderate detail and conveys some fascinating insights (such as why Abril was able to score a number of Spanish-Italian co-productions while other Spanish composers were not).
Lorne Balfe has provided a very effective and likable atmospheric score for Shane Salerno’s documentary that purports to offer an unprecedented look inside the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. Salerno’s much speculated-upon documentary, which has been in production for nine years – including the six years while the project was being shot under wraps – has made front page news since 2010, offers direct eyewitness accounts from Salinger’s World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were unknown even to his own family. Providing unparalleled access to never-before-published photographs, diaries, letters, legal records, and documents, the highly anticipated SALINGER is said to paint a definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century. “Because of the array of emotions to musically compliment in Salinger – not to mention the decades Salinger’s story spanned – it was a very complicated job for a composer,” said Balfe of scoring the film. “The secretive nature of the film, though exciting, also made scoring the film particularly difficult. Even during scoring there were numerous scenes that I was not allowed to see.” Balfe’s score for SALINGER is a very provocative one; with a few exceptions it’s a pretty subdued work that reflects the enigmatic nature of the reclusive writer. Balfe captures the mood of many events that shaped Salinger and his secluded personality with a compelling and likable atmosphere. Many tracks are infused with tension and ambiguity (“D-Day,” “Surveilance,” “Assassins,” “Injured and Alone,” “Editorial Control”); others are highly reflective, like the rolling cycles of keyboard and strings in “Leaving Catcher” and “Long Walks”), or suggestive of confident creativity (“Nine Stories,” “Correspondence”), while still others, like “Selling Catcher,” segue through all of that into warm melodic reassurance, and some, like the glorious crescendoing “Gasoline Rainbows” or the noble trumpet melody of “V.E. Day,” “Life of a Recluse,” and the closer, “Helluva Talent,” resonate with expressive dignity. It’s a somber and sobering score that creates a musical picture of the depths of personality and the aesthetics of thought that characterize J.D. Salinger, as if it were fashioning musical ambience out of patterns of thought and nuances of humanity. Musically, on its own, the low-keyed melodies, depth of textures, and varied flavors of Balfe’s score makes for quite intriguing listening.
THE ULTIMATE LIFE/Mark McKenzie/Varese Sarabande
Mark McKenzie brings his remarkable gift for profoundly sensitive melody to this sequel to the 2006 film THE ULTIMATE GIFT, which he also scored for director Michael O. Sajbel. Both films set the protagonist, originally an arrogant, self-serving young man, on a journey of discovery in which he discovers lessons that make him a better person. This is the kind of sensitive drama that McKenzie excels at, since he is able to exert such a melodic beauty corresponding to the soul and humanity of characters like THE ULTIMATE LIFE’s Jason. McKenzie’s score for the first film (released by Varese in 2007), favored piano with a very intimate tonality throughout; THE ULTIMATE LIFE links with the former film by opening with piano but, although the piano is certainly present in this score, it relies more on a heavier palette of lush strings to convey its melodic substance and a new melody which is even more stirring than the quiet poignancy found in ULTIMATE GIFT. McKenzie evokes the period and environment of his journey in this film through his grandfather’s diary with a roots country/bluegrass flavor in some tracks (“Train Hopping,” “Pickin’ A Lawyer”), but the focus elsewhere remains steadfast on evoking the learning spirit of Jason as he discovers lessons from his grandfather. It’s a score quite moving in its graceful harmony and melodic passion.
Soundtrack & Music News
Creative Emmy Award Winners 2013:
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music
DA VINCI’S DEMONS, Music by Bear McCreary
Outstanding Music Direction
66th Annual Tony Awards, White Cherry Entertainment in association with Tony Award Productions
Elliot Lawrence, Music Director
Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score)
DOWNTON ABBEY • Episode 6 • Music by John Lunn
Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics
66th Annual Tony Awards • Song Title: If I Had Time • CBS • White Cherry
Entertainment in association with Tony Award Productions’ Adam Schlesinger (Lyrics), David Javerbaum (Music).
Outstanding Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special
(Original Dramatic Score)
World Without End • Medieval Life And Death • Music by Mychael Danna
The World Soundtrack Academy has announced the list of its nominees for the 2013 World Soundtrack Awards:
FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
James Newton Howard
BEST ORIGINAL FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR
ANNA KARENINA (Dario Marianelli)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Howard Shore)
LIFE OF PI (Mychael Danna)
THE MASTER (Jonny Greenwood)
SKYFALL (Thomas Newman)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR A FILM
The Bathtub (from BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD)
Young & Beautiful (from THE GREAT GATSBY)
Pi’s Lullaby (from LIFE OF PI)
Oblivion (from OBLIVION)
Skyfall (from (SKYFALL)
For full details, see worldsoundtrackacademy.com
Golden Globe winner Angelo Badalamenti has gone into battle with his score for the upcoming Russian film STALINGRAD, a stylized 3D spectacle about the epic confrontation between the Germans and Russians during World War II. Directed by Russian actor/director Fedor Bondarchuk, the film stars Thomas Kretschmann, Yanina Studilina, and Philippe Reinhardt. Set for release on October 10th.
La-La Land Records and Twentieth Century Fox mark the 20th anniversary of the beloved television series THE X FILES with this second, 4-CD volume of Mark Snow's original score to the award-winning landmark program. More than 5 hours of incredible X-FILES music, complied from many episode favorites, have been assembled in this strikingly attractive collection, produced by Mark Snow, Nick Redman and Mike Joffe and mastered by James Nelson. The 40-Page CD booklet contains exclusive, in-depth liner notes from film music writer Randall Larson and features comments from show creator Chris Carter and writer/producers Frank Spotnitz, Glen Morgan and James Wong. Limited to 3000 units, the set's CD Booklet and 4-CD Clamshell case are housed in a hard cover slipcase, in the same fashion as our acclaimed, sold-out first volume. Also new from La-La Land Records is a deluxe, 2-CD expanded archival collection release of Don Davis’ phenomenal original score to the 2003 motion picture THE MATRIX RELOADED, the second installment in THE MATRIX SAGA directed by the Wachowski Siblings. Experimental and atmospheric, yet orchestral and thematic, Don Davis’ score is a sci-fi action wonder onto itself. Clocking in at more than 150 minutes, this spectacular 2-CD set is limited to 3500 units.
In another wartime drama, Alexandre Desplat rejoins director/star George Clooney again after their collaboration on THE IDES OF MARCH when he scored Clooney’s latest directorial effort THE MONUMENTS MEN, about a crew of art historians and museum curators rushing to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them. The adventure thriller starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and John Goodman, has a guest appearance by Desplat himself. Desplat has also recently scored Stephen Frears’ PHILOMENA and Roman Polanki’s drama VENUS IN FUR, as well as Jerome Salle’s ZULU starring Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker. He is also set to Gareth Edwards’ new version of GODZILLA, which will stomp into theaters on May 16, 2014.
Award winning French composer Cyril Morin scores the critically acclaimed international hit ZAYTOUN. The film follows an unlikely alliance of a 12-year-old Palestinian refugee and an Israeli fighter pilot shot down over Beruit in 1982.
Christopher Lennertz creates a comedic, heartwarming score for the Lionsgate film THANKS FOR SHARING. Directed by Stuart Blumberg and starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow, the film follows Adam, a five year sober sex addict who struggles with his sobriety when a new girlfriend enters his life. THANKS director Stuart Blumberg stated, “Christopher Lennertz’s score brought a heart and an emotional resonance, which elevated my film in lovely and unexpected ways.” Creating an instrument palette of a vintage Steinway piano, cello, guitar, and Mellotron, Lennertz’s score resonates with the simplicity similar to the advice given to individual’s part of a 12 step program. “With its elegant and simple phrasing, the score beautifully communicates the emotional feelings I wanted to leave the audience with,” said Blumberg. Milan has released the score album on Sept 17th. Lennertz also recently scored the comedy IDENTITY THIEF, the break-dance drama BATTLE OF THE YEAR, and this fall will return to score the second season of NBC’s REVOLUTION and his ninth consecutive season of the CW’s SUPERNATURAL. (WaterTower Music has just released a digital-only soundtrack to Lennertz’s music from REVOLUTION with 76+ minutes of music).
Blake Neely’s music for the superhero TV series ARROW has been released digitally (and on CDR by Amazon) from WaterTower. The album features selections from the first season’s score. ARROW is a modern retelling of the DC Comics character Green Arrow and stars Stephen Amell as the vigilante superhero who fights crime under his secret identity as Oliver Queen, a wealthy playboy and billionaire industrialist-turned-outspoken politician in Star City.
A digital and CDR soundtrack release (WaterTower Music again, seeming to have dispensed with real CDs) to the Denis Villeneuve thriller PRISONERS, featuring the score by acclaimed Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The soundtrack will also be released on vinyl via Jóhannsson’s own NTOV Records label this October. Jóhannsson and Villeneuve decided to try something radical for the soundtrack: “Denis wanted the music to be a poetic voice that worked in counterpoint to the action of the film,” Jóhannsson says. “Even though the film is a thriller, the music is lyrical and beautiful, in stark contrast to the intensity that the film depicts.” Jóhannsson composed the score watching an early cut of the film, reacting to the images on screen. He scored the music for an orchestra with large string and woodwind sections and also featured the sounds of two little known instruments: The Cristal Baschet, an instrument similar to a glass harmonica, with huge metallic resonators; and the Ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument similar to a Theremin, but with a softer sound. By blending those unfamiliar sounds with string instruments, Jóhannsson created music with a delicate, glassy surface. Despite its ambient sound, his tranquil music serves to heighten the tension of the film. “My ideal is music where the electronic and the acoustic sounds blend seamlessly,” says Jóhannsson, whose approach to film music is informed by influences as diverse as Pergolesi, Wojciech Kilar, Steve Reich, Einstürzende Neubauten, Swans, Coil, Arvo Pärt, Ennio Morricone, Morton Feldman and Bernard Herrmann.
Following his acclaimed work on the Oscar-winning short PAPERMAN, Christophe Beck tackles his first animated feature film, FROZEN. The Disney production is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen and features a voice cast that includes Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. – via Kraft-Engel Management
Music Box records has announced LES VISITEURS/L’HOMME QUI REVIENT DE LOIN, two TV scores composed and conducted by Georges Delerue, in a limited edition of 750 copies. The release includes 55 minutes of music never released before, and an 8-page CD booklet with French and English liner notes by Gilles Loison. This edition is the first volume of coming CD releases dedicated to the television soundtracks composed by Georges Delerue. See: http://www.musicbox-records.com
Master horror composer Joseph LoDuca has scored the return of the genre’s most infamous doll in CURSE OF CHUCKY. Featuring Chucky’s original voice, Brad Dourif, the Universal film was directed by series veteran Don Mancini and stars Danielle Bisutti and Alex Vincent. Scheduled for Oct 8 release.
Composer Michael McCormack (The JAWS documentary THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING) has released his score from the 2006 BACK TO THE FUTURE documentary, LOOKING BACK AT THE FUTURE. His inspiration, of course, came from Alan Silvestri’s score for the Zemeckis film trilogy. The soundtrack is available through www.BTTF.com (click on store, then on music) and a sampler is available on McCormack’s youtube page
Masters of the horror film music vinyl LP, Death Waltz Records has released The Fog – Blake’s Gold Edition, a double vinyl album of THE FOG which includes John Carpenter’s original movie score as released in 1984 as well as a bonus vinyl including all of the original movie cues which have never been made available on vinyl before. The one off pressing was made on heavy weight 180g gold vinyl, which is packed to black polylined inner sleeves and featuring a heavyweight casebound (tip on) full color gatefold sleeve with matt lamination, featuring Exclusive new cover art by Dinos Chapman. Liner notes by John Carpenter & Dinos Chapman. http://deathwaltzrecordingcompany.com/
Director Harald Zwart was so taken aback by composer Atli Örvarsson’s musical style that he hired him on the spot following the premiere of HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS to score his film MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. Örvarsson was hired in place of an Academy® award winning composer and was brought on with only three weeks to complete the score. “I came out of a screening of another film Atli previously scored and there was a certain energy about it. I thought ‘He’s the perfect man for the job’,” stated director Zwart. Composer Atli Örvarsson infuses gypsy influences with a full orchestra and choir to create a mystical and haunting score, which is now available on CD from Milan Records. Based on the fantasy world of Shadowhunters, Örvarsson created several themes for the film. Incorporating bells and dulcimers to exemplify the presence of new and old, Örvarsson’s theme for Clary is inspired by New Age music with gypsy undertones. After attending a screening of the film’s first cut, Örvarsson immediately presented Zwart with a piece of note paper. “He handed me music scribbles and said ‘This is the theme’ and it is the beautiful ‘Clary’s Theme’ we hear in the film,” said the director. The composer also incorporates the power of a choir throughout the score, creating the feeling of virtuosity and majesty while also utilizing the vocals to tell the darker tales of the Underworlders.
Coming soon from Varese Sarabande: Henry Jackman’s CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Oct 8), Steve Jablonsky’s ENDER’S GAME (Oct 22), and Ramin Djawadi’s PERSON OF INTEREST, Season 2 (Nov 5)
Marco Beltrami has teamed up for the first time with Korean cult director Bong Joon-ho to score the thriller SNOWPIERCER starring Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. The composer’s “excitingly big, brassy original score” was singled out by Variety. Beltrami has also scored CARRIE, the reimagining of the classic horror tale based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, directed by Kimberly Pierce and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. – via Kraft-Engel Management
Lakeshore Records has released soundtracks to AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS composed by Daniel Hart (whose “haunting score” was described by Indiewire thusly: “Cripple-creek fiddles pluck away anxiously, cellos drone, banjos twang out with ghostly notes and violins cry into the night sky, creating a sonorous musical backdrop for this brooding picture to lay its ten gallon hat on”) and Wong Kar Wai’s elegant kung fu film THE GRANDMASTER, scored by Shigeru Umebayashi and Nathaniel Mechaly. “Working with a very tight schedule they [Umebayashi and Mechaly] toiled day and night to create this beautiful music that has inspired me and audiences around the world,” said Wong Kar Wai. ”Their ingenuity helped define and create three different chapters in our Chinese history within the film and on the soundtrack: 1936 in the South of China, the 1940s in the North, and the 1950s in Hong Kong. Each period was distinct in terms of the score, and not only did we utilize original music to hit on the historical context in the film but we used authentic music from those periods as a reference.”
Tyler Bates has composed original music for AMC’s new drama, Low Winter Sun. The series, set in Detroit, features the new song “Hustlin’ In The Motor City,” co-written by Bates, Nan Vernon, series creator Chris Mundy, and Detroit soul legend Bettye LaVette who performs the song for the main title sequence. In his series underscore, Bates has matched the gritty themes with a gritty sonic palette to heighten the tension of the story. Bates wrote a large volume of music during production – essentially creating a music library that the show’s editors have worked with from the beginning of post-production. “With Detroit currently in a crisis state bordering an apocalypse, the show calls for a sound that blurs the lines between music and the hollow din of the scarcely populated Motor City,” said Bates.
Kronos Records has released the complete score of the 1989 Italian horror film, KILLER CROCODILE. This is the first time ever release in any format of Riz Ortolani’s score, which has long been sought by soundtrack collectors. Kronos’ edition is limited to just 500 copies.
For soundsamples and pre-ordering go on http://www.kronosrecords.com/K20.html
In his score for the new Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy, THE WORLD’S END, composer Steven Price combined a full live orchestra with electronic design to create a score that is both epic and unique. “When I first watched the film, I saw an opportunity to create a score for a comedy, action thriller, and sci-fi apocalyptic film, all at the same time! Edgar’s films have multiple layers and it was an enjoyable experience for me to create synthetic sounds and subtly plant ideas within the music that add to the film. Additionally, I incorporated the different sounds of communication devices, manipulating them and layering with a full orchestra,” explained Price. The composer also incorporates choral vocals building intensity with the orchestra’s more percussive moments. Working closely with the director, Price said, “Edgar and I share a love for the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and that influenced much of the musical sound design that I created for the film as well.”
Scott Glasgow, fresh from slicing up a tremendous score for HATCHET III (recently released on DVD-Blu-Ray), has scored the new horror film from the amazing, colossal director/producer Bert I. Gordon. SECRETS OF A PSYCHOPATH, Gordon’s first feature film since 1990, stars Kari Wuhrer and Mark Famiglietti, and is scheduled for release in 2014. Glasgow’s director for BONE DRY, Brett Hart (currently helming the second season of AIN’T IT COOL WITH HARRY KNOWLES), helped Gordon temp-track the film, which brought Glasgow into the gig as composer.
Silva Screen has released DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7, featuring the music of Murray Gold, as a double CD edition packaged in a double gatefold wallet (the first 5000 copies) and a standard double jewel case. For more DOCTOR WHO, Silva will release, on October 21st, a pair of DOCTOR WHO Christmas Specials, THE SNOWMEN/THE DOCTOR, THE WIDOW AND THE WARDROBE. This release brings together the music of the last two Specials which were broadcast on Christmas Day 2011 and 2012. This ninth release in the series brings the full canon of Murray Gold’s prolific output up to date, eight years of elaborate and dazzling scores for one of the BBC’s most popular shows worldwide. The booklet for this release is reversible to allow the display of a separate cover for either Special.
Prolific soundtrack label MovieScore Media, based in Sweden, and quality niche label Kronos Records, based in Malta, have reached an agreement to collaborate in the fields of producing and distributing quality film score albums to both wider audiences and targeting the special soundtrack collectors market. “We are two small independent European labels growing strong together, building a new and solid platform for the nurturing of contemporary quality film music as well as never before released classic film scores,” said MovieScore Media’s producer, Mikael Carlsson. Added Kronos Records’ Godwin Borg, “This is the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration. Expect some true gems to come out of this teamwork!”
The deal will result in more of MovieScore Media’s albums being released on CDs, while more of Kronos Records’ albums will also be available in digital format. “We take advantage of each others’ distribution niches,” said Mikael Carlsson and continued, “While MovieScore Media has released almost 150 albums on CD, many of our releases have been digital only. Our collaboration with Kronos Records will make more physical releases possible.”
Disques Cinemusique has released Christian Gaubert’s score to THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE, a 1976 film adaptation of the novel by Laird Koenig. Starring Jodi Foster and Martin Sheen, this thriller depicts a clever pre-adolescent, Rynn, living alone with her father in a rented house set back from the town. Some residents, distrustful of newcomers, suspect her of hiding a dreadful secret. The score features alternately and sometimes simultaneously, acoustic and synthetic sounds. On one hand, a formation of strings with solo cello and piano creates an intimate atmosphere, full of gentleness and melancholy; on the other, electronic instruments are used for dramatic scenes. Even in the most romantic parts with violins and piano, Gaubert sometimes uses an electric organ to hold the melody, a combination that is often found in Francis Lai’s compositions of the 1970s. Originally released on LP in Japan only, DCM’s soundtrack makes the score available on CD for the first time in a limited edition of 500 copies. Also released is Jorge Arriagada’s score for the historical film, LINES OF WELLINGTON.
Howlin' Wolf Records has released Tony Riparetti’s scored to a pair of horror films directed by Albert Pyun. INVASION, originally titled INFECTION, was released in 2005 and features a mesmerizing synth score. COOL AIR, based on an HP Lovecraft short story, won the "Best Film Score" at the PollyGrind Underground Film Festival. Both scored are presented on one disc, packaged in a jewel case with full color inserts, featuring a 6-panel foldout insert with a reversible cover, designed by Art Director Luis M. Rojas.
Worth reading: While acknowledging the inroads in film music genre inequality made by Rachel Portman, Anne Dudley, Miriam Cutler, and Shirley Walker, writer Allison Loring, in an article posted online at filmschoolrejects.com, remains concerned that “It’s been nearly two decades since a woman was lead orchestrator on a tentpole film.” Loring quoted composer/orchestrator Penka Kouneva (who was the first female to fill that role in almost 20 years, serving as lead orchestrator role on ELYSIUM): “The number one reason” it has taken this long for another woman to take on the challenge of being the lead orchestrator for a major film is ‘lack of mentoring for this profession.’” Kouneva also noted that she is “happy to see that changing, and be the change myself.” In a related comment on her Facebook page, Kourneva explains that “Lead Orchestrator is defined as the one who makes various leadership and executive decisions (e.g., how many players to hire to establish the desired orchestral sound), who leads the music prep team, makes budgets, communicates daily with the entire score team (composer, contractor, music editors, engineer), writes [many, many] emails on a job and oversees the entire work flow.”
Read Loring’s full article here
Games Music News
On September 7th Lorne Balfe headlined the second annual PlayFest - Music, Animation and Videogames Festival in Málaga, Spain with a 30-minute concert set of his music including a sneak peak at the music for the upcoming release of Beyond: Two Souls, and his now-award winning music for Assassin’s Creed III. After the performance, the organizers of the festival presented Balfe with the prestigious GoldSpirit Award for Best Video Game Soundtrack 2012. “I am so proud to have won the GoldSpirit Award for Assassin’s Creed III,” said Balfe. “It means especially a lot to have been given the award by the fans and to have the game’s music recognized at such a fantastic festival as Playfest with a very special concert was a wonderful experience. The score to Assassin’s Creed has been a fantastic part of my life and so it was a wonderful achievement for the music to be recognized.” In collaboration with composer, Rachel Portman, Lorne has just completed the music for 10×10′s feature documentary, Girl Rising, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard E. Robbins, which features narration by actresses such as Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett.
This second annual PlayFest event also launched a new strategic partnership with US-based BuySoundtrax. The festival featured a special performance of Star Trek Video Games Music, to celebrate the release of the new album on BSX Records. Kevin Kiner, the co-composer of Star Trek: Borg, conducted this special performance.
Playstation will release Lorne Balfe’s score for the BEYOND: Two Souls video game on October 8th.
Balfe’s ability to travel between the two worlds of film and video games is a perfect fit for the upcoming release, said Playstation. ”Games are just the same as films. You start off with stills or the actual artwork that’s drawn inspiration to them,” said Balfe. “People ask is it a film or is it a game? There is no difference, not to me. You could sit there and watch it as a film. The way to musically tell the story is the same process.”
Disney Interactive and Harmonix Music Systems have teamed up with award-winning composer Inon Zur to develop original music for the game Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, a breakthrough musical/dance motion video game inspired by Walt Disney’s classic animated film FANTASIA. Zur, a Hollywood Music Award winning and BAFTA nominated composer, is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic orchestral music scores featured in film, television and interactive entertainment. “Working with Disney and Harmonix on Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved was a great adventure for me,” said Inon Zur. “Recording and producing classical masterpieces, as well as writing original music that had to coexist with the works of the great classical composers presented exciting new challenges.”
Sumthing Else Music Works has released an official digital soundtrack for Resident Evil® 6. The original music score was created by a team of composers including Thomas Parisch & Laurent Ziliani, Daniel Lindholm, Sebastian Schwartz, as well as Capcom veterans Kota Suzuki (Resident Evil® 5, Devil May Cry® 4), Akihiko Narita (Resident Evil 5, Devil May Cry 4, Lost Planet®: Extreme Condition) and Akiyuki Morimoto (Monster Hunter™ 3, Lost Planet® 2). The score was recorded with the Sydney Scoring Orchestra at Australia’s Trackdown Studios. “Composing the main theme of Resident Evil 6 was a great honor for us, having been fans of the series for years,” said composers Parisch and Zilani, who also orchestrated and supervised the orchestral score recording sessions. “However, it was a challenge maintaining the franchise’s tradition while creating something new for this latest release. Also, it was important to keep the music cohesive since it had to address very diverse dramatic situations throughout the gameplay. To keep that overall integrity, repeated thematic ideas were essential, and recording with a 90-piece orchestra brought key moments of the score to another level.”
Music samples are available at Sumthing.com.
Sumthing Else has also released the soundtrack to Saints Row® IV, the ball-busting next chapter in the Saints Row franchise developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver. Composed and produced by recording artist/musician Malcolm Kirby Jr. (Saints Row: The Third, Brooklyn’s Finest, Cop Out, Pimp My Ride, The Love Guru). “There is definitely a huge sci-fi/electro influence on the music but I also wanted to mix in elements from modern styles such as trap, hip hop, ambient, and dub,” explained Kirby. “There is also so much original music in this game for the both the cinematics and missions, with themes ranging from modern stealth combat to retro 8-bit, to epic orchestral. It’s always an amazing experience working with Volition and I feel that we really created a unique signature sound that defines Saints Row IV, and the over the top insane world of virtual Steelport.” As a bonus, Sumthing Else and Deep Silver are giving away five explosive tracks, including Malcolm Kirby Jr.’s “Saints Row IV Theme” and “Saints Row (Remix).” To download these free tracks, visit: http://www.sumthing.com/p/saints-row-iv/
Ivor Novello nominated and Telly award winning composer Walter Mair has scored Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's (SCEE) new PlayStation®Vita title, Killzone: Mercenary, lauded by critics as “setting a new bar of quality for FPS on handheld” and “one of the better first-person shooters, period.” Mair's music for the latest installment in the blockbuster series reflects a new story set in the Killzone universe and captures the emotional drama, fear and undying courage of war. The official soundtrack is available for digital download via Sony Entertainment Network.
Classically trained in Vienna, Walter Mair has previously created dramatic original scores for feature films such as THE LIST, SEAMONSTERS and ALONE IN THE DARK. His previous video game scores include the Ivor Novello nominated Empire: Total War and Viking: Battle For Asgard. Mair's diverse repertoire ranges from epic full orchestral scores recorded with 80-piece choirs to intimate, small ensembles and hybrid electronic scores featuring solo instruments and found sounds. To create unique sounds for each score, Mair employs his extensive collection of analog digital synths and effect processors, blending live orchestral arrangements with experimental post-recording techniques.
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer. He has written liner notes for more than 120 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, FSM, Perseverance, Silva Screen, Harkit, Quartet, and BSX Records. A largely re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published: the first of this four-book series is now available. See: www.musiquefantastique.com
Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe.
Randall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org