Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2010-7
September 24, 2010

By Randall D. Larson

Christopher Lennertz

Cats & Dogs & Bats & Bunnies
The Wacky Four-Footed Film Musical World of Christopher Lennertz

At only 38 years old, Christopher Lennertz has scored 37 feature films, 5 network television series, many of the world’s biggest interactive video games, and has spent weeks on the Billboard charts. He has studied with composers Elmer Bernstein, David Raksin, and Christopher Young and has a degree in composition from USC’s Thornton School of Music. He has worked with such artists as Basil Poledouris, Michael Kamen, Mark Mancina, Ozomatli, The RZA, and Alien Ant Farm.

Lennertz was named Best New Composer in 2002 by Cinemusic for his work on Clive Barker’s SAINT SINNER. His collaboration with Ozomatli on their record Street Signs, which garnered a Grammy Award® for best Latin Rock Album. He won an Interactive Academy Award in 2004 for Medal of Honor: Rising Sun from EA, and was nominated again in 2006 for Activision’s GUN.  In 2006 Lennertz was also nominated for an Emmy Award® for his music on the television series SUPERNATURAL (recently released on CD by Water Tower Music).  His credits include the films TORTILLA HEAVEN, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, MEET THE SPARTANS, DISASTER MOVIE, THE OPEN ROAD, ADAM, and the video games The Godfather Part II (Electronic Arts) and Quantum of Solace (Activision).  Lennertz’ most recent scores Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty GALORE, MARMADUKE, and the parody, VAMPIRES SUCK, each of which I discuss with Christopher in the following interview.

In addition to these films, Warner Bros. has signed Lennertz on to score a series of three 3-D Looney Tunes shorts to reintroduce the brand to a new generation of audiences, allowing Lennertz to fully explore his inner Carl Stalling. The first short, COYOTE FALLS stars Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner and plays ahead of the CATS & movie.

Varese Sarabande has released the CATS & DOGS: REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE and MARMADUKE scores on CD; Lakeshore has released VAMPIRES SUCK.

Q: Tell me about CATS & DOGS. I guess you’re the go-to composer for animal movies this season!

Christopher Lennertz: If the animals talk, they call me. The real reason they called me for that movie was because the thing is so definitively homage to the spy genre, specifically Bond and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and a little PINK PANTHER here and there. The director I know had been impressed with what I had done for the James Bond video game, and so I think between the fact that I had done ALVIN, which sort of made the studio very comfortable in terms of talking animals and the fact that I had done the James Bond games, which made the director very happy, I think I was the choice. It really was a good situation for me.

Q: Coming into a project like this, what’s your take on making the animals more believable?

Christopher Lennertz: The fact that these main characters are animals is secondary way.  That’s the way I’ve approached the last couple of family films that I’ve done. We really treat their emotions and their struggles as if they were human characters. There are love interests, there’s loss, and there are stakes and things like that, so in terms of the general dramatic stuff, I very much treat it like it’s a film with characters, whether they have two legs or four. The other big thing with this one is that a good 70-80% of what’s going on in CATS & DOGS is actually not comedy in terms of music – the music actually plays it very straight by way of the spy genre. There’s alto flutes from the world of Mancini, and there’s big brass stabs like John Barry would do, and there’s elements of percussion like Lalo would have done in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and it’s all sort of put together with a little bit of a modern touch and a slight tongue-in-the-cheek. But definitely the score was meant to be a classic spy score with little elements of family fun and hi-jinks, I think.

Q: You’ve got a really nice quality of the Mancini in the music. There’s also this really heartfelt bit of sentimentality.

Christopher Lennertz: The general gist of the movie, besides the cats and dogs working together to try to foil Kitty Galore, besides doing that, there’s sort of this sub-plot which is that the main character, Diggs, which is James Marsden’s character, the German shepherd, he’s kind of a bumbling screw-up at the beginning of the movie.  He means well, but he keeps getting himself into trouble as a police dog and gets sent back to the kennel, and can’t find himself a home. So a lot of what’s going on in terms of movie is him trying to prove himself to himself and to his owner, who is played by Chris O’Donnell. So there’s all these great heartfelt moments of what I would call ‘lost dog emotion,’ which especially as a dog owner myself, with a dog who comes to work every day with me, tugs at my heartstrings pretty well.

Q: Did you do any research on old spy movie music?

Christopher Lennertz: I definitely did a lot of listening when I first got the movie, because I got hired while they were still finishing up the shooting of the film, and we were getting into it I certainly was listening to a lot of the Mancini stuff and some of the Lalo stuff – I’m sort of a big fan of that genre to begin with.  One of the reasons I got the James Bond games was because the guy who I met with at Electronic Arts could tell within about two seconds that I used to run around when I was eleven with a fake Walter PPK under my arm and I’d put on my Dad’s suit and walk up to the mirror and pretend I was in the beginning of a James Bond film! I was such a big fan. I watched every movie so many times that I think I was sort of a natural choice because I had a respect and a reverence for everything that had gone into those films. My sort of a-ha! moment of becoming a composer came when I was preparing for a career as a guitar player when I first came to USC to study music, and I was able to get an under-the-radar sneak-in-the-recording-stage in 1992 where Henry Mancini was scoring TOM AND JERRY THE MOVIE.  I walked out of that session with my life changed and I realized that’s what I have to do. So I’ve always been a big Mancini fan and I think I just jumped right back into that mode for CATS & DOGS.

Q: How do you map out a score like this one?

Christopher Lennertz: There were two things I was trying to be cognizant of.  First, there’s the theme that I wanted as the main theme of the film – you get a hint of it early on at what I consider the prologue of the film, when they’re setting it all up, and then as the movie goes along it develops into what would be the main character/hero theme.  This plays for Diggs when he’s finally swinging around the satellite at the end.  It’s much less of a spy theme and much more of a hero theme. I wanted to differentiate that there is the spy world, but that is really not what Diggs’ character is all about. He’s more of the cop, more of the brash hero. You’ve got his theme, but then conversely you’ve got the main cat agent who’s very sly and works for Roger Moore’s character, and there’s much more of that. So they’ve got a very ‘60s alto flute ensemble theme with finger snaps and the whole deal, and that becomes the MEOW’s theme.  So there’s the main dog theme, which is much more of a cop kind of thing, and then the next one is much more of a spy thing, which went with the cats. And then there’s a third theme, which is Kitty Galore’s theme.  That one really makes a big appearance.  It’s your quintessential evil mastermind theme without being too evil, since of course we’re going for twelve-year-olds. The big thing that also happens during the score, which I’m not sure whether anyone is going to pick up on it at first watch of the movie, is that as the movie goes along the effects get more high-tech; Kitty’s plan gets more high-tech, and the music, which starts out in at a very retro ‘60s kitsch world as well as a very action-movie mode, as it goes towards the finale of the movie it gets infused with this sort of high-tech world/Jason Bourne kind of thing.  That was very much on purpose and as the movie became more complex and the effects became more complex, we wanted the music to go on that same evolution.

Q: It’s a family film, and coming out of some much darker films that you’ve done, how do you make sure it stays family friendly?

Christopher Lennertz: The interesting thing for me is that I am thankful for the opportunity of being able to get my foot in all of these different pies.  I get to do natural and sort of get my little taste of darkness and horror and then I get to do a video game thing where I get my taste of action and shoot-em-up, and then I get to go into something like CATS & DOGS and MARMADUKE and get some of that real sweet family element as well. So for me it actually makes it easier to turn one switch off and turn the other one on and be able to go from genre to genre. In terms of what the movie needs, I try to make sure that my job is always to facilitate and tell the story, and because of that I think that’s what keeps me from ever going down the wrong path, in terms of a musical language that doesn’t belong. But at the same time, I think family films have gotten a little bit more advanced, as has society – it’s no longer SNOW WHITE, you’ve now got G-FORCE and all these other films. There is a lot more high-energy, quick-cut action stuff that’s going on with a lot of family films now, everything from Pixar to SHREK to whatever.  So that can somewhat infuse what I’ve been doing, so in MARMADUKE there’s quite a bit of non-orchestral instrumentation that joins us and there’s beats that have more of a rock feel and there’s a big sort of tech espionage element to CATS & DOGS that may not have been found in a kids’ movie ten or twenty years ago.  That’s what audiences expect now.

Q: So how did scoring MARMADUKE contrast with your adventures with CATS & DOGS?

Christopher Lennertz: MARMADUKE was interesting because, while there were action sequences, we tried to play MARMADUKE like a John Hughes family film.  From the very beginning Tom Dey, the director, had said that even though, yes our main character is a Great Dane and he’s in the dog park, the basic idea is that it’s his first day in the dog park is really his first day in high school, in a new school. And there are cliques, and there’s a love interest, and there’s this whole thing going on, and he wanted to make sure we had guitars and organs and bass and drums to join the orchestra to really get a feel for sort of what would be considered a light family high-school coming-of-age drama. That was the gist of it. So we got some really great players and accentuated that with more orchestra to get the really lush and sweet moment.  CATS AND DOGS was an action movie with bits of comedy and family, whereas MARMADUKE was a much more straight-ahead family film.

Q: MARMADUKE is a breezier, gentler kind of score.  So how would you describe the development of that score?

Christopher Lennertz: In MARMADUKE I think the key elements were: Marmaduke is a fun character and any trouble that he gets into is not malicious, it’s just because he’s a big oaf.  That’s the way his character has always been portrayed, even in the comic strip.  He’s the lovable loser, which is why it made perfect sense to get Owen Wilson. That’s what we wanted to go with. So we had acoustic guitars and electric guitars and the director really liked the Hammond B3 organ and the Rhodes electric piano, which gave you a bit of a mischievous vibe without sounding malicious in any way. He’s not a bad dog, he’s just a goofball. And we wanted to make him loveable.  When you talk about breezy, I think that’s the one thing that I was trying to get across with the music, whether things are looking up or looking down in this movie, he’s a loveable guy. And that had to be the case because you had somebody like Owen playing his character.

Q: You’ve built your instrumentation around familiar instruments with an occasionally rambunctious sound.

Christopher Lennertz: Absolutely. As soon as your ear hears it while sitting in the theatre seat, you should go, uh-oh, here we go again, he’s going to do something – but not necessarily something horrible, just something fun.  That’s what we really wanted to do.

Q: What was most challenging for you about these scores?

Christopher Lennertz: On both of them there was that sort of balance, which is tough – how much do you play the comedy and how much do you just play the straight emotion?  Brad Peyton, the director on CATS & DOGS, tended to like the music to be really straight, but then when there was a little comic moment he liked to really hear the wink, whether it be a xylophone or a triangle or something coming in to punctuate a joke or a reaction or a look by one of the characters.  Whereas Tom on MARMADUKE went the other way and said, “you know what, I don’t necessarily want to be as serious about the action, but I also don’t want to get comedic or cartoony in any way about the comedy.”  So a lot of what we did with MARMADUKE was play it a little more towards the middle of the dynamic range and play it for just the general emotion, as opposed to CATS & DOGS where we played the action and the stakes extra high, along with a little extra wink or a nod for the comedy.

Q: Your latest score is VAMPIRES SUCK which, if not dogs or cats at least has bats, and is also a comedy in which you’re playing straight man to the film’s humor.

Christopher Lennertz: This is a vampire parody film from the same guys who did MEET THE SPARTANS. This one is sort of the parody of TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD and all things vampire right now. I just got back from Hungary, we recorded it over in Budapest, and it was hopefully everything that a tragic teen vampire romance could ever want to be. We really even amped it up from what TWILIGHT did in terms of really making the love theme go even further – it should feel like Romeo and Juliet if they were vampires. That’s what it needed to be: torn, star-crossed lovers and a love triangle going on. So there is a lot of that stuff.  I had a woman’s voice and some electric cello also mixed in and there’s definitely guitars to keep it in the young realm. But overall the orchestral and melodic part of it is very, very tragic.

Q: Did you research the scores of the films you were parodying to get the sound just right?

Christopher Lennertz: I definitely had listened to all of them and I definitely was aware of what they were doing.  The tone of this film goes beyond what was going on in the first TWILIGHT and is going more towards the second and third.  The story became a little less about high school and a little bit more about the universal angst and love thing. The idea for the score was not to parody TWILIGHT specifically but to parody the genre of over-the-top demonic love, this idea of super romantic and super dark music, with super tugging on heartstrings and that kind of thing!  That’s really where I went with it. So as much as MEET THE SPARTANS was kind of a sword-and-sandal kind of parody, this is the same world in terms of Romeo-and-Juliet-meets-fangs kind of thing.

Q: And like SPARTANS, there’s a sense of respect and appreciation for the original genre.

Christopher Lennertz: Yeah.  Jason and Aaron who direct these movies, they really like those movies.  A lot of people who are fans of 300 or are fans of TWILIGHT get angry that these guys are mocking their baby or their whatever. But actually that’s not the case. I think these guys loved 300 and they loved TWILIGHT, I think they love what these movies represent, and because it’s taken so seriously, it represents an opportunity to skewer it or roast it a little bit. But like you said, I think there is an amount of respect for that and they do like to play it straight specifically because they are aware that these films have resonated with millions of people. I’ll be the first one to say that I grew up on STAR WARS but I had no problem laughing at SPACE BALLS when it came out. I think that’s the same kind of feeling that these guys probably have which is: we’re not making fun of it because we think it doesn’t deserve respect, we’re making fun of it because we think it does.

Q: You’re working now on HOP, a holiday comedy for next Easter. Where are you on that?

Christopher Lennertz: I have not started. All I’ve done is read the script at this point but it’s coming up. It’s from Tim Hill who directed ALVIN, but I think this one’s going to have a little more edge to it since Russell Brand plays the Easter bunny. I don’t know how you make ALVIN meets GET HIM TO THE GREEK, but apparently that’s where we’re going! It’s going to be pretty awesome and I think it’s going to be very irreverent and a little quirky too. Not only is he the Easter bunny, but he’s also a frustrated drummer. So there’s going to be all these percussion things and I think it’s going to be a really great story. It’ll probably be a step towards a wider audience. Yeah, it’ll be a kid’s movie but I think it’s also going to be something that teens and young adults will like because of Russell because of sort of the irreverent comedy that he does.

Q: Now that you’re doing so much comedy do you feel at all typecast?

Christopher Lennertz: I think the interesting thing for me is that because I worked in film and TV and video games, I really seem to have sort of a different reputation in all three mediums. I get to write horror music and I get to write action music but I’d love to sort of switch up the genres within the mediums. I’d love to do a comedy TV show and an action movie and then maybe a horror video game. I feel like I get a chance to write a lot of different kind of music, I just tend to be doing comedies more than other stuff. I would always say that my ultimate goal is just to work with good people on projects that I think have something to say musically. So if that ends up being comedy, that’s cool too. But I love all different kinds of movies so I can’t complain one bit about being able to sort of play in that world.

Doug Adams

Doug Adams: One Tome to Describe Them All: The Music of the LOTR Films

On October 5th Carpentier Press will publish Doug Adams’ The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films, a comprehensive account of Howard Shore’s score for Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy. The publication of Adams’ 416-page full-color book culminates almost a decade of writing and research, presenting an exhaustive look at Howard Shore’s Academy Award®-winning score, with extensive music examples, original manuscript scores, a rarities CD, and glimpses into the creative process from the composer, himself.  In the following interview, Adams describes the evolution of the book and the process of describing in words the epic magic of Shore’s magnum opus.

Q:   At what point in your association with Howard Shore during the LOTR scoring process did you determine to make a book about the scoring of the films? 

Doug Adams: Howard Shore invited me to do “something” with THE LORD OF THE RINGS in mid-2001. But I honestly don’t think the book concept entered our minds until early 2003. By that point we’d amassed a considerable amount of research, so I decided to compile everything we’d collected, type it up, and see what evolved. I showed this to Howard, and we both felt that the material suggested some sort of book, so we agreed to head down that path.

Q:   What was your primary objective in writing this book?

Doug Adams: The primary goal was to reveal to readers how this score was constructed, essentially allowing them to see it through the composer’s eyes – to understand his concepts from musical and dramatic standpoints. Howard’s music is so beautiful; it speaks directly to the heart. But at the same time, it can speak to the mind. We wanted to reveal that aspect. Music, at its highest level, can always touch both the soul and the intellect.

Q:   In addition to Mr. Shore, what other access behind the scenes was beneficial in compiling your analytical examination of these scores?

Doug Adams: My chief source of research was the scores themselves. I spent weeks – months, even – buried in the conductor’s scores. I needed to know the material backward and forward, including early drafts, alternate compositions, etc. It was incredibly important to me that this truly be a book about the music, not just the production. Anecdotes are too often substituted for substantive musical discussion. They’re great, of course, and have their places – and certainly I did speak to as many of the filmmakers and musicians as I could. I sat in on recording sessions, and researched videoconferences and song-writing meetings … but I wanted the music itself to be front and center.

When I was finished going through the written materials and tracking down interviews I went through the audio for every take from every LOTR recording session, which was literally over a month’s worth of audio. But this was an essential part not only of the book research, but also of the research for the Rarities Archive disc. It was a massive undertaking, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world!

Q:  Has the book changed/grown/evolved since its initial stages into the final form it has now taken?

Doug Adams: Unquestionably, yes!  In terms of content, we always had a pretty focused concept of what we wanted. But inevitably a book becomes a physical thing, not simply a warehouse of ideas. And when we began to think of it as a physical object, we realized that we needed to make something that was beautiful. THE LORD OF THE RINGS has set an incredible precedent, both in terms of Tolkien’s novels and Peter Jackson’s films. We needed to create something that could follow proudly in these footsteps. Gary Day-Ellison came on to design the book, and John Howe and Alan Lee, the films’ conceptual designers, contributed their artwork. The majority of the first half of 2010 was dedicated solely to designing the book – to providing it with a visual clarity and beauty befitting LOTR’s heritage.

Q: Parts of the book were demonstrated in your notes for the Complete Recordings box sets and in the online book, The Lord of the Rings: The Annotated Score. How were these releases extracted from your work-in-progress and how much more has gone into the final edition of the book?

Doug Adams: Quite a bit more, in fact. The liner notes’ discussion of themes and the Annotated Scores appeared in truncated forms for the Complete Recordings. In the book they appear in their full forms. Here you’ll see a good number of new themes, new observations, and new musical examples – including full-page examples from the conductor’s score and Shore’s early pencil sketches. We also have several chapters that tell the story of the score’s creation, so you’ll learn how Howard originally came to the project, how he set about his compositional process, and how the scores were performed and recorded. It’s very thorough, and really quite a different experience with all the pieces in place.

Q:  Those earlier versions contained an accessible writing style that didn't get too heavily into academic musical verbiage and technical musical theory, yet remained commandingly analytical in your narrative voice.  What narrative tone does the final edition take? Who is its primary audience?

Doug Adams: I felt strongly that the primary audience should be anyone who found him- or herself moved by the power of music and storytelling. I didn’t want to write a book exclusively for musicians. At the same time, I didn’t want to try and ‘dumb down’ the musical discussion. Music is a very specific thing, and should be discussed as such. But I discovered an interesting phenomenon in the process: If you keep the discussion rooted in the story, the musical discussion essentially defines itself. You don’t have to bury the reader in unnecessary technical jargon. That’s not to say that the book requires no thought, or that I’ve soft-pedaled the analysis. But if you show how the music relates to the story, it’s all very comprehensible no matter your background.

I eventually began to think of the whole project as a ‘narrative analysis.’ It’s essentially analysis as a storytelling device, and I think it’s quite compelling in a rather unique way.

It’s funny how “analysis” has become such a dirty word. People hear “analysis” and think “dissection” – that it’s an act that essentially dismembers the subject. That’s not what analysis should be. It should never destroy its subject. In fact, it should enhance it. If music is analyzed properly it should provide the audience a new avenue for appreciation. It should make the music resonate even more strongly with the listener. That was our goal.

Q: What was most challenging to you in compiling, researching, writing, and finalizing this book?

Doug Adams: Any project such as this will involve an intense amount of work and pressure. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I relished every second of it. This was an absolute dream for me. I was allowed to work side-by-side with my idols, and to enjoy their trust. I got to be a part of a project that aspired to the highest possible forms of expression, and I gained a valued friend in Howard.

Q:  Have your initial objectives with this book been met?  What do you hope this book will add to film music and cinema scholarship - and where do you hope your expertise on Shore/LOTR/film music may take you in the future?

Doug Adams: I hope this book kicks open the door a bit in terms of how film music is understood and appreciated in the world. Film music is so much more than a collection of interchangeable moods. It’s not aural wallpaper. Film music is true music. It has structure, it provides dramatic subtext, and it’s incredibly inventive. I want the public to know this. I want them to understand that film music is a living art form. Obviously one book doesn’t do all that, but I hope we can get the discussion started.

New Soundtracks Releases of Note

BAARÌA/Ennio Morricone/Silva Screen
Replicating the 2009-released Italian soundtrack release on Image Music, Silva Screen’s release of the soundtrack to BAARÌA, an autobiographical drama from director Giuseppe Tornatore, following three generations of his family in the Sicilian village of Bagheria (Baarìa).  BAARÌA is the eighth score Morricone has composed for Tornatore film; the darker and rather sad score is Morricone’s first new feature film work in five years.  While not far afield from the composer’s sumptuously melodic and symphonically layered sensibility of the ‘;90s and 2000’s, BAARÌA is nonetheless a singular and extremely attractive orchestral work, evoking not the substance but the style and beautiful clarity of his scores for Tornatore’s MALENA, CINEMA PARADISO, THE LEGEND OF 1900, EVERYBODY’S FINE (Stanno tutti Bene) and the like.  Built around a nostalgic title melody that evokes the memories of growing up in Bagheria, moving from his melancholic opening to a more joyful sensibility, the score is awash with poignant melodies, jaunty rhythms, and a thoroughly elegant orchestral sound.   The style occasionally recalls Morricone’s music to THE SICILIAN CLAN and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, at least in its nostalgic timbre, references to Sicilian music, and favoring of the lower tonalities.  Aside from the main theme (which is present in a number of variations throughout the score), the delicate serenity of “Il Corpo E La Terra” with its gentle oboe melody over a wistful rustling of violins is a high point of the score, as is the insistent martial cadence of “Ribellione,” which can take its place among the composer’s best and militaristic marches (MUSSOLINI ULTIMO ATTO, DUCK YOU SUCKER, etc.).  The silky smooth resonance of the low clarinet in “Prima E Dopo” and its spiraling melodic structure is especially compelling, and the wistful, despondent reflections of “Il Vento, Il Mare, Il Silenzi” concludes the score with a quiet, unresolved yet satisfying dignity.  I thoroughly enjoyed this score in its entirety.

CHiPs Season Four 1980-81/Alan Silvestri/FSM
FSM third volume of Alan Silvestri’s high-octane scores from television’s CHiPs (1977-83) contains more of what made the first two albums (comprising seasons 2 and 3; Silvestri was not on board for Season 1) splendid examples of late ‘70s TV action scoring.  The music is typically built around rhythm section/disco tunesmithing, something Silvestri excelled at and CHiPs gave him a tremendous to strut his syncopation and eventually netted him ROMANCING THE STONE, his breakthrough feature film score.  Silvestri had composed original scores for most of Season 2 and 3’s episode, investing many of them with wholly new themes and melodies, and quickly made the CHiPs sound distinctly his own; as Lukas Kendall notes in his album notes, half of Season 4 occurred during a musician’s strike, which necessitated episodes to be tracked from previous CHiPs scores (one episode even aired without music).  The album contains 23 tracks from all 12 episodes that had original scores, plus main/end titles (Silvestri’s arrangement of John Parker’s theme) and a bumper motif.  The paucity of original scores in Season 4 actually benefits this album – with fewer episode to chose from we’re offered longer suites to listen to (4 minutes seems to be the average; topping off at 6:23 for one episode).  The scores are a brilliant example of the composer’s use of string-based melodic themes on top of a riffing disco format performed mostly by rhythm section, and the album gets rollicking quickly.  One episode, “Mitchell & Woods,” was actually an attempted spin-off involving two female LAPD detectives; this afforded Silvestri an extra-large TV orchestra; he added a more swinging, feminine vibe to the episode score and mixed-in cool scat-singing whispered vocals (“shiggiddy-diggiddy-POW”) which gave the episode its own unique theme tune and a flavoring all its own; regrettably the spin-off wasn’t picked up and Mitchell & Woods found themselves behind a desk.

THE HORDE/Christopher Lennertz/MovieScore Media
There’s nothing like a good zombie movie to stir the blood and the brains.  Despite a glut of zombie (and vampire) movies chummed out on the world’s cinemas and video shops in recent years, the genre remains lively (so to speak) and there are almost as many intriguing new approaches to zombie cinema as there are awful, forgettably bad variations best swept into the gutter.  While rock and metal music has tended to be most associated with zombie cinema of late, Christopher Lennertz’s music for this French zombie movie (La Horde) is as sensitive as it is propulsively brutal (the delicate piano of “Rooftop Realization;” the wistful, harmonic violin love theme in “Oessem and Aurore”).  Lennertz gets his shredding out of the way early (the electric guitars flail and frolic propulsively in “The Beating;” with a brief reprise at the end in “C’est Finis”) so as to focus his score is on orchestral mysterioso and attack (the aggressive orchestral embellished by sampled choir in “First Attack and Escape;” the catapulting ferocity of “Jo’s Fight”), the instruments becoming an assaultive horde of hungry musical strength.  Within its symphonic offensive, Lennertz’s orchestration remains intriguing and effective (the threatening interplay between the raspy electric bass, shards of violins, funky percussion, and eerie synth strains in “Badass Alliance;” the reflective horns over drums and flecks of what sounds like cimbalom in “Sound Behind the Doors;” the metallic sheen of raspy grime, sinewy synths, and furtive piano that exude out of the romantic melody in the second half of “Oessem and Aurore;” the far different phrasing and brutal denouement of “Tony and Aurore;” the provocative violin bowing of “TV News,” “Mutiny,” and other tracks; the hollow intonation of the winds in the first half of “Mutiny” until they collapse into a wall of synth and orchestral discord; the subtle use of voices in “Prologue,” “The Mirror,” “Zombie Humiliation” and others; the advancing cadence of humankind’s defiance in “Facing the Horde;” and so on).  THE HORDE is a very well flavored score in many respects (and any zombie movie score that concludes with a track called “Mouthful of Grenade” is worth owning!).

HOWL/Carter Burwell/Lakeshore
Carter Burwell’s score to HOWL, a docudrama starring James Franco as the young Allen Ginsberg—poet, counter-culture adventurer, and chronicler of the Beat Generation, has been released by Lakeshore.  The film recounts Ginsberg’s road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career: the poem Howl while also portraying the pornography trial that the book prompted in a San Francisco courtroom. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich (Jon Hamm) argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression.  HOWL is simultaneously a portrait of a renegade artist breaking down barriers to find love and redemption, and an imaginative ride through a prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation and was heard around the world (for full background, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl).  Burwell was brought in by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman before their script was finished, having worked with him successfully on the 1995 documentary THE CELLULOID CLOSET.  Carter was initially reticent, saying he wasn’t the right guy for a jazz score.  “We want you,” the directors told him.  “We don’t want to go for the obvious.”  Carter’s approach was to let Ginsberg’s spoken-word poetry be the jazz, allowing his score to support the poetry’s emotional ebbs and flows, not to mention the hallucinogenic visualizations of the animated sequences that interpret the startling imagery of the poem itself.  Burwell’s music, represented on this disc with a brief but satisfying dozen cues and 33 minutes, is typically minimalistic and unobtrusive.  He used primarily a jazz combo (double bass, piano, clarinet, guitar with violin, cello, and synths added) but he’s not writing jazz, despite the occasional jazzy riffs performed by the bass.  He’s painting musical pictures using jazz timbres but not necessarily in a jazz idiom, and the result is an unusual and iconoclastic score that is just perfect for the film’s central character (only “from park to pad to bar to Bellevue” and “I’m with you in Rockland” retain an essentially jazzy character.  The interplay between the piano, violins and clarinet in “i saw the best minds” (most track names are typed in lowercase, fitting with Ginsberg’s free verse style of poetry) is nearly intoxicating, while “and their heads shall be crowned” emerges into a similarly captivating and nearly psychedelic progressions of rhythm cycles for electric guitars and piano.  “weeping in the park” embodies a haunting and deeply low-registered performance for solo fiddle, its chords hang heavy like a cascade of painful tears; “mother” contains a passionate violin melody reflecting Ginsberg’s haunted memory of his schizophrenic mother.  The striking “Moloch!” starts with fatalistic pounding of low piano before opening into a vivid performance from piano, solo violin, and cello, initially in turn but ultimately joining together into a mesmerizing ensemble construct.  “holy” concludes the score with a progressive rhythm piece for primarily guitars over an almost reverent synth tonality that resembles in substance some of Burwell’s emotional atmospheres from previous scores, although it is heard from an entirely new congregation of instruments here.  Burwell’s HOWL is a masterful psychological/emotional portrait of its character, brilliantly conceived and remarkably executed, evoking Ginsberg’s desultory genius in a very provocative musical fashion.           

JACK GOES BOATING/Evan Lurie + songs/Lakeshore
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut focuses on a tale of love, betrayal, friendship and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.   Evan Lurie (Stanley Tucci’s BLIND DATE) provides a minimalist score for solo piano, but otherwise the film used alt-rock and pop songs by Dave’s True Story, DeVotchKa, Fleet Foxes, Goldfrapp, and others, along with standards by Mel Torme and jazz pianist Bill Evans (Dave’s True Story does a great cover of “Blue Moon;” lead singer Kelly Flint really shines brightly) and these are what’s emphasized on the album.  Lurie is represented by two tracks only, both variations on his solo piano theme, which fits in with and likely was influenced by the Bill Evans track, “Peace Piece,” that closes the album.  The album is well presented, each track quite compatible in its wistful melancholy and feeling of social isolation; effective commentary on the issues faced by the couples in the film, and an enjoyable album in its own right. 

THE LIGHTKEEPERS/Pinar Toprak/MovieScore Media
Turkish-born composer Pinar Toprak, a former Media Ventures protégé currently working in Los Angeles, has provided a luxuriant score for Daniel Adams’ sensitive drama about a misogynist lighthouse keeper (Richard Dreyfuss) in 1912 Cape Cod who must deal with a pair of attractive women who move into the nearby summer cottage.  Toprak’s music is gently wistful, elegant in an old-fashioned thematic approach that fits both Adams’ visual storytelling style as well as the film’s period.  Emphasizing piano, fiddle, and winds, the score is a rich landscape of long, harmonic melody lines that derive from subtle Americana folk music elements.  Toprak crafts a bittersweet portrait of the man, resentful over a lost love, gradually deconstructing his anger and pain through the delicate beauty and grace of the music as she characterizes his new neighbors, whose soulful sonority opens his heart once more.  It’s a sublime composition, its string-led melodies layered upon one another like the gentle allure of waves lapping upon the lighthouse shore – or within the heart of a man shedding a long-cultivated bitterness.

LOST: The Final Season/Michael Giacchino/Varese Sarabande
The music for the sixth and final season of J. J. Abram’s infuriatingly enigmatic and unrelievedly complicated hit series about survivors of a plane crash marooned on a tropical island inhabited by more mysteries than mosquitoes has generated a double-CD soundtrack from Varese Sarabande, as Giacchino’s final scores bring the series into sharper focus and a more emotionally-defined resolution.  Throughout the show’s six year run, Giacchino used a hybrid pallet of acoustic and electronic instruments to heighten apprehension, discomfort, and engender a slowly-climaxing panic; while the constantly evolving storylines and shifting characterizations also provided him with moments of intricate tenderness.  Giacchino based his scoring approach not so much on melody but upon variations of chord structures, variable tonalities that support the changing layers of story and mystery and characterization.   As the show wound down to its final moments, Giacchino’s score filled in blanks and added the assertive emotional memoirs that gave the season and its ultimate denouement a flavor if importance and re-connection, revisiting character themes in ever-newer variations, and even reserving a splendid new action theme for the show’s final action scene where Jack, Ben, and Hurley manage to save the island.  That track, “The Hole Shebang,” and the final cue “Moving On,” each at more than seven minutes in length, are among the series’ best and most definitive musical works, the former a vitally intensive action cue that provides meaning and substance for all that has gone before; the latter, heard mostly without dialog and sound effect for the series’ final 7:55 minutes, allowing Giacchino to revisit his most important themes without and provide an eloquent summation of what the events of the series has meant to its characters – and therefore, to its audience, providing a meaningful resolution to six years of passionate episode watching and character identification.  The fact that the producers allowed the series to end with just music – barely any sound effect and no dialog – is attribute to the power and the place of Giacchino’s music on an equal footing with both script and cast.  There will be those who will inevitably groan that this favorite cue or that cool track wasn’t included on the disc; but I’ve found that Varese has done an admirable job finding room on this 2-disc set for 51 tracks from the season’s 16 episodes and selecting those that would provide the best listen apart from the show on CD.  Kudos.

MAO’S LAST DANCER/Christopher Gordon/Lakeshore
Lakeshore Records will release Christopher Gordon’s music to MAO’S LAST DANCER digitally on September 28.   The film, directed by Bruce Beresford and based on the best-selling autobiography, tells the story of a young poverty stricken boy from China and his inspirational journey to international stardom as a world-class dancer.  Because the film centers on the story of a ballet dancer, “MAO’S LAST DANCER offered a rare chance to bring music to the fore of the film,” said Gordon, “This was an exceptional project to be involved in and it gave me the opportunity to work with these most excellent filmmakers, dancers and musicians.”  Gordon added that he relished the idea to work with such a broad array of musical ideas, as he had to create or adapt the music to which the boy dances, but also the dramatic underscore and the mixture of Chinese folk music and epic Hollywood orchestral music for the grand finale.  Gordon was involved with the film, on and off, for a whole year.  The dances were composed from the script and recorded during pre-production since they were needed for filming.  Gordon spent time on the set coordinating the on-screen musicians and ensuring musical authenticity in the performances.  The music is absolutely gorgeous, from the sublime main theme, “Pas de Deux,” a lyrical and lovely piano composition, to the array of Chinese-based cues, which are led by er-hu and feature various other Chinese instruments and fit well within that musical idiom.  The score is a very intimate one and the warm, humanlike voice of the er-hu gives is a very honest and humbling tonality.  Where the story hinges on significant events in the country’s history, as in “Turning Point,” Gordon’s orchestra derives a dramatic power via the full orchestra, within a Chinese rhythmic mode and style.  In addition to the dramatic and original dance pieces, the score also includes a number of classical tracks which feature in the story, the composer’s arrangements of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Minkus, and the like – a good hour of varied music, incorporating Gordon’s original ballet music, his arrangement of classical music, and his original dramatic film music, all of which fits the film and its dramatic quotient like a snug dancer’s slipper, and makes for a very evocative listen here on its own. 

OFFICE SPACE/John Frizzell & IDIOCRACY/Theodore Shapiro/La-La Land
Here we have music from two of the essential must-see comedies of the latter 20th Century.  Mike Judge’s OFFICE SPACE has become an iconic comedy of the modern working crowd, embraced and recognized by all who inhabit claustrophobic cubicles or work for insensitive and senseless, egocentric bosses.  Score plays an especially subtle, perhaps even subliminal role in OFFICE SPACE; it’s the songs and the rap music that takes the noticability forefront here.  “The challenge in OFFICE SPACE was actually that, from scene to scene when you watch the film, no scene demanded score,” John told me in a 2002 interview.  “Now, when you watch the movie as a whole, it needed a score.  So you see the problem?  Comedy tends to be extremely challenging.  Creating a joke is a very intellectual process, and supporting one with music is quite a challenge.  There are a couple of little themes that came out of it, and one was the weird, Hawaiian flavored vocal.  With the other characters, I had to just creep along and support them without getting in the way, and preserve the joke.”  Thus, even for those of us who notice film music, its use in OFFICE SPACE tends to pass by relatively unnoticed, although its affect is definitely made.  But, as evidenced by La-La Land’s premiere release of John Frizzell’s underscore, the composer made superlative choices for musical support and enriched the tortured landscape of OFFICE SPACE immeasurably – that ubiquitous Hawaiian music (tying in with corporate employer Initech’s proposed Hawaiian Shirt Day and Peter’s resolution to take a permanent vacation from cubicle land) emphasizing Peter’s newfound awakening after his experience with the hypnotherapist; the recurring Thomas Newman-esque percussive dabbling that accompanies the ongoing saga of Milton, his desk, and his stapler; the jazzy, caper-styled music of the bank account foisting; the pizzicato and clockwork percussion over eerie strands of high synth for Peter’s fantasy of boss Lumberg “stapling” Joanna repeatedly, coffee cup in hand; the epic, hyper-dramatic orchestral music during Peter’s nightmare and his confession to Joanna; a pleasant acoustic guitar love theme for the two of them.  The predominance of percussion in the OFFICE SPACE score fits with the sonic temperament of the typical office – the clacking of keyboards, clicking of high heels, clanking of file drawers, bubbling of water coolers, bashing of heads against desktops, that sort of thing.  Theodore Shapiro’s score for Judge’s 2006 “even more seditious*” comedy, IDIOCRACY, in which an average man put into hibernation for 500 years awakes to find an incredible dumbed-down society in which he by comparison is a near genius, is captures an entirely different flavor and made a much greater use of score; Shapiro is in TROPIC THUNDER mode here with massive, over-the-top crescendos, militaristic orchestral flair, and an epic hero theme for everyman Joe Bauers who, dumb in present day but a major intellect among 2506’s moron masses, becomes President (“Hail to the Chief/House of Representin’” is a riot – with a sour, low brass interpretation of the Presidential march that opens into a mix of military-hip hop with brazen “hoo-ahhs!” to spare (the “hoo-ahhs!” are blissfully reprised in “White House Party,” the “Fox News Theme,” and the closer, “Upgrayedd Walks”).  “Dumb Angry Mobs” enervate with symphonic clarity the rise of the morons, while in “Keep Painting” Shapiro also gives Judge a tender and affective love theme.   There’s nearly twice as much music in IDIOCRACY as in OFFICE SPACE, and it’s vividly foreground, and while it doesn’t venture into comic musical territory, its very overblown, satirical bombast becomes almost hysterical in its own way (in addition to the score, we have several alternate and unused takes, and filler music such as the Fox News logo, 2506 style, and the popular come-as-you-are “Masturbation Network” TV logo).  Bombastic brilliance for big belly-laughs; kudos to La-La Land for giving comedy film music a fine presentation and giving the la-la-laughs their due.  (By the way, LLL has also released Shapiro’s recent comedy score, for DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, based on the stick-figure cartoons of Jeff Kinney, which is equally farcical and approached along somewhat similar lines, its main theme constructed around an imperfect, out-of-tune upright piano, its festive Guaraldi-esque jazz fitting the imperfect, handmade lines of the stick figure drawings popularized by the book.  This film, also, is filled with music and the score is a delight).
* (-Daniel Schweiger, whose perceptive album notes go a long way to explaining the whys and wherefores of successful comedy film music like this and is well worth the read).

PAPAYA, LOVE GODDESS OF THE CANNIBALS/Stelvio Cipriani/Chris’ Soundtrack Corner
Stelvio Cipriani’s pop-infused score for Joe D’Amato’s 1978 eurohorror sexploiter (PAPAYA DEI CARAIBI) gets its first full-length soundtrack release from this specialty label from Germany.  Four tracks were included in a compilation LP, Enfantasme, released by Beat in 1978; Chris has gone back to the source and turned up 23 tracks, including four “wild” cues recorded but not used in the film. The film is about a team of geologists who attempt to remove a native cannibal population from an island to perform atomic research, but the cannibals’ female leader disposes of them one by one by seduction and black magic; the film focuses on Papaya’s endeavors to seduce one geologist and his wife, only to have the woman turn tables and opt to join the natives in their fight against domination; a kind of Sapphic DANCES WITH CANNIBALS concept.  Cipriani plays the setting and the environment with a jazz/rock/blues score based on Caribbean calypsos and bossa novas and the like; variations of the main theme along with individual  compositions (“Papaya Forest,” “Papaya Drumming,” “Papaya Lament,” etc.) keep the music changeable and flowing.  “Papaya Run” is a somewhat Schifrinesque jazz action riff for electric guitar, bass, and hand drums; a gorgeous, Morriconesque female melisma soars throughout “Papaya Dream” and “Papaya Song,” the singer is unnamed but her powerful soprano is mesmerizing; both cues give PAPAYA its notable giallo flavor; the singer returns in a vivid reprise of the opening theme, “Papaya Island.”  Eurofilm specialist John Bender provides thorough album notes that describe the film, its background, and its music, track-by-track, at length.  See: www.soundtrackcorner.de

Celebrated Danish composer Jacob Groth’s music for the trio of 2009 films adapted from the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy books (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST) have been preserved in part on this soundtrack release from Silva Screen.  While technically containing the soundtrack music to the  second and third films, the music does feature themes heard throughout all three films in the trilogy, including the overall theme used for the extended length TV version shown on Swedish television in 2010 (the first film received its own soundtrack album, released in France in 2009 and the US last May by Milan).  Silva’s album also features the end title track, the Goth-rock song “Would Anybody Die For Me?” specially remixed for the album and performed by Danish singer Misen Larsen, as featured in the second film.  Groth’s stylish scores provide the films with an omnipresent dark mood utilizing an orchestra dappled with electronic enhancement.  The music is modernistic and rhythm-based, punctuated by moments of high instrumental intensity (especially the propulsive, BOURNE-like “Running Out of Time”).  “Fire” possessed a gentler kind of rhythmic bent, although “Abuse” paints a discordant musical portrait of its title through dark and brutal chords and electronic renderings.  The concluding track, “Another Goodbye,” adapts the motif from “Fire” into a reflective sad sonority; like most of the non-action tracks, it harbors an enigmatic psychological musical portrait of the heroine of the trilogy as she tries to overcome past abuse.

TAMARA DREWE/Alexandre Desplat/Silva Screen
Alexandre Desplat has composed a spirited score very much in a Thomas Newman vein for Stephen Frears’ romance, TAMARA DREWE.  Based on Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel and inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, TAMARA DREWE started life as a cartoon series in the review section of the Guardian in 2005, gently satirizing the English middle classes.  The album will be released by Silva Screen on October 5th, three days before the film’s US premiere on the 8th.  Driven by tuned percussion leitmotifs, Desplat’s score leads the narrative and underwrites the pauses between the action, enabling the film’s narrative to skip adeptly from darker to lighter moments. There’s an energy driven by both the dramaturgy, the choral structure of the characters, and the dark humor of the film. Desplat comments “I let the audience appreciate the moments of emotion – Leave space for the acting moments and the strong emotional moments to be by themselves, without pushing with the music.”  It’s a pleasing score, its motifs built more out of textures and rhythms than melodies but their interaction still drives an interplay between distinctive elements.  Tamara’s motif is an exception, a playful and somewhat mischievous melody for harp, xylophone, and piano that retains the percussive sensibility of the rest of the score.  “A Good Time” opens into a vivid exercise for marcato strings and rolling xylophone (or vibraphone), segueing into a progressive array of percussion elements and, finally, into quiet and poignant measures for harp. Desplat captures the essence of the title character and her vivaciousness colors the score as it dances around her.

THE TUDORS, Season 3/Trevor Morris/Varese Sarabande
Varese Sarabande has issued a fine compendium of Trevor Morris’ transcendent music for the third season of Showtime’s historical TV series, THE TUDORS, an Irish/Canadian series based loosely upon the reign of English monarch Henry VIII.  Morris’ music is based on 19th or 20th Century classical idioms, refraining from providing authentic music of Tudor dynasty period in favor of a highly emotive and affecting orchestral lyricism recognizable to modern audiences.  A slightly more modern touch is added to the series’ main title theme, in which a rapturous orchestral melody is embellished by a touch of choir and a strident violin line, all of which plays over the rhythmic beat from a drum kit; while a heavier use of ethnic instrumentation via frame drums and ethnic winds is found in “Season 3 Recap” that follows the main theme.  Varese has already released soundtracks of Seasons 1 and 2, whose episodes told of the rise of Henry VIII and his rejection of his wife Katherine of Aragon in favor of Anne Boleyn; Season 3 focuses on Henry’s great love, Jane Seymour (no, not the actress), and the story of their love and of her early death gave Morris an opportunity to evoke some particularly moving and heartbreaking music; from the gentle and lively “Jane Seymour’s Theme” which opens the album in a solo piano composer’s sketch to the thoroughly graceful and elegantly honorable requiem for “The Death of Jane Seymour,” wherein Morris’ producers accommodated his request for a large European orchestra and choir to lend the episode a particularly affecting emotion.  The season ends with another death, that of Henry’s minister, Thomas Cromwell, who suffers the king’s arrogance; Morris’ poignant strings accompany his final walk to the axeman’s table, and then drift softly out as he faces his final end.  The score follows the series’ rich drama that is inherent in the lives and interactive conduct of powerful and titled people, and the result is a score of near breathtaking beauty and evocation, told not from period or environment but from the hearts and perspectives of its characters; Morris evokes the benevolent spirit Jane Seymour by focusing on how she is viewed by others; likewise his music for Cromwell is tinged by musical sorrow representing not so much his death but Henry’s ultimate bereavement for having had him executed. How are the mighty fallen, in spirit and in soul; and how lovely a score their lives have evoked these far centuries since.  Varese has also released this week Morris’s music from the TV miniseries PILLARS OF THE EARTH, based on Ken Follett’s 12th Century historical novel, and on October 12th, will release a CD with soundtrack music from THE TUDORS, Season 4.

WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN”/Christophe Beck/Lakeshore
Christophe Beck has provided a very likeable sonic substance for Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about the American educational system.  The album is available digitally now and will be in stores on CD on October 19.  Guggenheim, the Academy Award®-winning director of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, describes WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” asa deeply personal exploration of the current state of public education in the U.S. and how it affects our children.  As a documentary, the acoustic score embodies rhythmic atmospheres by laying down an attractive acoustic temperament over which Guggenheim’s provocative images and commentary makes its case.  It’s not dramatic music, as such, but provides a subtle flavoring that enhances the filmic narrative unobtrusively.  The ebb and flow of the music and its attractiveness makes the score quite appealing on disc.

Geoffrey Burgon RIP

Acclaimed British composer Geoffrey Burgon, known for his TV and film scores, died peacefully on Sept. 21st in the company of family.  Burgon found huge commercial and critical success with his TV and film scores. Among his most famous works were BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, DR WHO, MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN and TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. He was a double Ivor Novello winner, winning the coveted award for the latter miniseries in 1979 and for the former in 1981.  Outside of TV and film, Burgon garnered huge respect for a number of his pieces, including 1976’s Requiem and 1994’s City Adventures.
James Rushton, Managing Director of Burgon’s publisher Chester Music, paid tribute to the composer:
“Geoffrey Burgon was one of very few composers in recent times whose music has truly touched the hearts of the international public.  The music and unforgettable melodies that Geoff wrote for the great classic BBC and ITV TV series over the past forty years have established themselves as standards, both within their genre and as pure music.  His ability to capture in a moment the character of the screen drama on which he was working was of the very highest order.  

“But Geoff was much more than simply a media composer. Most of his musical conversation was about the classical concert world and he retained a keen ear for the classical music of his peers. His large catalogue of concert works, from the imposing and dramatic Requiem from the mid-1970s to the recent viola concerto and cello concerto, reveals a composer in full control of a very immediate, lyrical and varied language, and one whose work deserves wide attention.”

Via www.classicfm.co.uk

Soundtrack & Music News

Perseverance Records has announced an early October release of Simon Boswell’s score for the 2000 Hallmark TV rendering of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.  Boswell’s score is richly melodic and orchestral; the Perseverance album runs a little under an hour and features the best of the 137 minutes of music Simon composed for the two-part miniseries.  It had been compiled by himself and music editor Geoff Foster for a release when the mini-series aired, but the plans were eventually scrapped until Perseverance came along.

In October, MovieScore Media will release Stephen Edwards’ action score to NINJA (2009), written for orchestra augmented by Japanese instruments.  Edwards, a veteran composer noted for his FEAST scores for John Gulager, delivers one of his most epic and entertaining soundtracks for the recent Nu Image/Millennium adventure, directed by Isaac Florentine and starring Scott Adkins. His orchestral score is thematic and heroic, and explores the clash of the Japanese and Western cultures in its mix of symphonic colors and ethnic instruments (such as shakuhachis and taiko drums). To the composer, NINJA was a martial arts love story and you can hear in his music that a lot of emotion went into the musical approach. “To me this film would have been short-changed without an orchestral score – there’s just not the same scope and magnificence without it!” Edwards said.  

MSM has also announced a special surround edition of their previously released soundtrack of Ryan Shore’s JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER.  “In a special project that was suggested to us by composer Ryan Shore and engineer Lawrence Manchester, we are happy to offer fans of big orchestral horror adventure music and audiophiles alike the opportunity to explore JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER in 5.1 surround audio,” said MSM’s Mikael Carlsson.  Added award-winning engineer Manchester: “When sitting in the ‘sweet spot’ of the listening position, the listener can hear the score in much the same manner that Ryan did while he was conducting it.” The award-nominated score has been remastered from the original surround stems to make for a stunning musical and aural listening experience and the original album has been re-edited to create an even more exciting album sequence, including the four-part concert suite that Ryan Shore has constructed from the original score. The album is going to be available exclusively for download only from the MovieScore Media web site in ac3 format on September 28.

Kino International has announced the much-anticipated DVD and Blu-ray releases of the new restoration of Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction masterpiece METROPOLIS, now with 25 minutes of previously lost footage and the original Gottfried Huppertz score.  Only six minutes short of the film Fritz Lang premiered in January of 1927 (in Berlin), THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS was made possible due to an essentially complete 16mm dupe negative (struck decades ago, from a now-destroyed nitrate print) discovered by the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine in 2008.  Such a rare discovery demanded another restoration of this classic film, and the Murnau Stiftung (Foundation), under the supervision of Film Restorer Anke Wilkening, embraced the challenge of putting together the most historically accurate version of this German masterpiece.  Also returning was Martin Koerber, Film Department Curator of the Deutsche Kinimathek, who had supervised the 2001 restoration.  As a special feature, THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS makes available (both on DVD and Blu-ray) a never-before-seen 50-minute documentary on the making and restoration of METROPOLIS – as well as an interview with Paula Felix-Didier, curator of the Museo del Cine, in Buenos Aires, and the Trailer to the 2010 restoration. This new 147-minute version opened theatrically in April of 2010 and has broken box office records in many of the 100-plus markets it has played in. The DVD-BD hits the stores on November 16, 2010.

One of the elements that created the eerie, lonely atmosphere of Duncan Jones’ 2009 debut feature Moon was its score by Clint Mansell.  The Coventry-born composer (pictured) will reunite with the director on upcoming sci-fi flick SOURCE CODE.  The film centers on a soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose consciousness is transferred into the body of a civilian on a train where a bomb is about to go off. Gyllenhaal's character is part of a government anti-terrorism project and must keep reliving the blast until he finds the perpetrator.  Jones announced the collaboration on Twitter, saying: “Have a bloody fantastic bit of SOURCE CODE news. Superstar Clint Mansell WILL be scoring the film. You have no idea how relieved I am.”

The soundtrack to David Fincher’s The Social Network, composed by rocker Trent Reznor with Atticus Ross, will be released digitally on Tuesday September 28th with physical formats to follow in October. Pre-orders are being accepted for the standard CD, Blu-ray (audio only, 5.1 surround and high resolution stereo) and 2 disc 180g vinyl formats now. All preorders include an instant 5 song sampler download and a full digital album delivered by email on 9/28. Standalone digital will be available for purchase exclusively on Amazon MP3 at a promotional rate of $2.99 for a 48 hour period starting 12:01am PT on 9/28. Digital purchases will begin here 9/30 at 12:01am PT: www.nullco.com/TSN/


Games Music News

Award-winning composer and music producer Tom Salta, who scored the action-packed orchestral music score for Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X®, the first air-combat game set in the Tom Clancy’s video game universe, returns to provide an all-new music soundtrack for the sequel, Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X 2,  developed by Ubisoft’s Bucharest studio. The hybrid score features a live choir, electric guitar, and solo acoustic performances with A-list musicians and vocalists from the New York Film Chorale.  Salta gives the game score a rich, epic cinematic sound along the lines of TRANSFORMERS,” said me.  “With a main theme that descends into the low registers and offers a very compelling rhythmic melody line; his use of choir bolsters the orchestral samples and gives the soundtrack a thrilling and provocative texture.”

“Tom Salta brought a new level of engagement to the story and gameplay of H.A.W.X 2 with this fantastic score,” said H.A.W.X 2 Narrative and Creative Director Edward Douglas. “From large-scale orchestral and choral tracks to unexpected intimate moments, he truly takes the player on an international journey with this soundtrack. I would not want to work on another project without Tom helming the score.”
Salta’s previous credits include the original scores for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter® (GRAW was nominated for “Best Video Game Score” at the MTV Video Music Awards), the acclaimed sequel (Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter® 2) and the live-action trailer for Tom Clancy™’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier. Salta will deliver the keynote address for GameSoundCon at Columbia University in New York on October 2−3, 2010. For more information on Tom Salta, visit www.tomsalta.com

Sumthing Else Music Works has released a soundtrack album for Halo: Reach, composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori. Created by acclaimed developer Bungie Studios exclusively on Xbox 360, Halo: Reach is the prequel to the best-selling Xbox franchise of all time. The Halo: Reach Original Soundtrack is now available for digital download at www.sumthingdigital.com and iTunes® ; the 2-disc CD set will be released on September 28th.

“Mike and I are pleased to be able to release the soundtrack to Reach,” said composer Martin O’Donnell. “We’ve been composing and producing music for Bungie’s Halo universe since 1999 and this soundtrack represents the culmination of our efforts. Once again we were able to work with other composers C Paul Johnson and Stan LePard, along with recording much of this music at Studio X in Seattle with the Northwest Sinfonia and Choir. This is about 2 hours’ worth of music culled from the more than 5 hours of music actually produced for the game itself. We hope everyone enjoys listening.”


Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine.  A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He now writes for CinefantastiqueOnline and has written liner notes for more than 70 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, Percepto, Perseverance, Harkit, and BSX Records.  For more information, see: www.myspace.com/larsonrdl  

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@aol.com



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