Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2012-9 
September 30, 2012

By Randall D. Larson


In the futuristic action thriller Rian Johnson’s LOOPER, time travel will be invented - but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" - a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good... until the day the mob decides to "close the loop," sending back Joe's own future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.

As a composer, producer, art director, and songwriter, Nathan Johnson's innovative film scores and hybrid media performances have consistently blurred the lines between stage, screen, music, and narrative. Best known for his unconventional work in film and music, Nathan favors modified, organic instrumentation combined with unique approaches to recording and performing.  Nathan’s creative partnership with writer/director (and cousin) Rian Johnson began when the two were children and has continued throughout their professional lives. Beginning with the critically acclaimed score for their first feature collaboration, BRICK, Nathan and his team used and abused a variety of household implements including dinner settings, filing cabinets, cheese graters, and radiators. Any real instruments that were included in the soundtrack were horribly misused: pianos were bolted and tacked, double basses were beaten with mallets, and tuned wine glasses were re-purposed in place of a string section.

Nathan went on to produce and compose very different scores for THE BROTHERS BLOOM, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's series of MORGAN M. MORGANSEN animated shorts, and the French film THE DAY I SAW YOUR HEART starring Mélanie Laurent.  Returning to the world of articulated found sound and cousin Rian with LOOPER, Nathan has produced his most unique score to date, featuring a host of indecipherable instruments along with intertwining rhythms and textures. In preparation for the project, Nathan began gathering a wide range of field recordings and then he and his team created a sort of playable, hybrid found-sound orchestra using those original recordings. The results were combined with live strings and horns to produce deep textures featuring pitched industrial fans, tuned treadmills, and a wide range of intricate rhythmic elements — all looping and cycling on themselves at various speeds.

LOOPER is a big action movie, so we knew we needed the score to be massive, but we didn’t want to go down the road of traditional big action movie scores,” said Rian Johnson.  “Nathan’s solution was to build massive-sounding instruments out of digitally manipulated found sounds, and it worked beautifully.”

Instead of going straight in to a studio to record these sounds, Johnson headed first to a garage.  He explained, “We found one in particular that had an amazing natural reverb and then we just went to town recording metal and chains and eventually all of these car door slams that would become our custom kettle drum kit.”  In addition to these sounds, the various sounds that a gun makes became part of the mettle – and metal – of LOOPER’s drum kit.

“As cool as this technical ingenuity is, it’s just a glaze on the heart of Nathan’s real skill, which is storytelling,” said Rian.

Interviewed the week before the film opened, Nathan Johnson discussed with me his process for devising and developing LOOPER’s unique score, as well as his other work for films.  Cut Narrative and La-La Land Records have released the LOOPER soundtrack digitally and on CD (the latter is a limited edition of 3000 units, containing bonus material not on the digital release). 

Q: You’ve been working with your cousin Rian for a long time, and your first film, with BRICK, had a very unique sound palette where you're creating instruments out of found sound.  How to that approach begin for you?

Nathan Johnson: Rian and I grew up making movies and music together. When we started on BRICK, it was practically a no-budget movie so I cobbled together a team of people and we recorded that whole thing just with the microphone and a laptop.  That was all we could do with what we had to work with. We were trying to figure out how we could create a score and use other elements that would evoke the idea of an orchestra. For example, we used wine glasses because they have a similar tonal quality to a string section, they can swell and also create a bed of sound.  That was our approach to BRICK in terms of finding elements that would work that we had access to in our limited environment there.

Q: I haven't seen BRICK but it sounds from reading about the film that this type of score would also give it an interesting psychological atmosphere that would work very well in that type of film…

Nathan Johnson: Yeah.  Rian had a really specific idea about what he wanted for BRICK. It's like a high school movie but it's a film noir, so he did want it to get your ear the same way as other high school movies. It's as if in Rian’s high school mind everyone listened to Tom Waitts instead of Britney Spears! Thatwas very much part and parcel with what the movie felt like – we were aiming for something that strikes you as slightly off but still really anchors the atmosphere of the whole thing.

Q: You next worked with Rian on THE BROTHERS BLOOM. How would you describe your approach on the particular score?

Nathan Johnson: BLOOM was a very melodic score.  If BRICK was a sort of junkyard orchestra, BLOOM took a step closer to the house; it was like a front porch orchestra!  Where BRICK referenced Tom Waitts and Morricone in a weird way, BLUE was more Nino Rota and Dylan and The Band; it was his lyrical songwriter’s style approach.

Q: How would you describe your background in music and how you got involved with the whole idea of using these types of unusual instruments to create music that works dramatically in a film?

Nathan Johnson: I grew up performing – I come from a band/producing and singer/performer background, writing a lot of songs. That was the palette I was used to, but I also come from a very do-it-yourself aesthetic as well. I was on the cusp of kids who were growing up just when Pro Tools was a tool that we could get our hands on, so suddenly whereas before there was this really high wall that you had to scale if you ever wanted to get into a studio to record. I was just getting into recording music around the time when the wall was being broken down.  I think a lot of experimentation came from that but also it felt really exciting at that time because my friends and I, who had been making music for a long time, suddenly realized we could actually start using the home studio as a tool.  People ask me what instrument I play, and I am kind of competent on some instruments and can sort of stumble my way around others, but I feel that actually the instrument that I play is the studio, because I grew up when that was just becoming an available reality to kids.

Q: LOOPER of course has a much higher budget than did BRICK, but yet the same kind of approach seemed to be ideal for the unique storyline and structure of that film.

Nathan Johnson: There are definitely some references to the way that we did BRICK, but LOOPER comes across in a completely different way. With LOOPER we were actually building instruments from field recordings. When Rian and I first talked about LOOPER, we weren't talking from a budgetary perspective – not how do we figure out how to make a big score with limited resources; we were more talking about in terms of: LOOPER is a big action movie but it's also really smart and really grounded.  When we had our first conversations we both were more excited about coming at it from a different angle and not going down the road of your traditional big action movie score.

Q: When you were first looking at the concept of the film, what elements of the story and the character and the way was filmed did you key in on as, here’s where I should begin to build my score?  How did you extrapolate the full score from there?

Nathan Johnson: One of the really unique things about working with Rian is that I get to come on board really, really early in the process. Usually the composer is one of the last people to be brought in on a movie, but with LOOPER I was talking with Rian before he had even cast the movie, basically right after he wrote script. So we had developed these ideas and I ended up moving down to New Orleans while they were shooting the movie and beginning my process before I had even seen any of the footage. I was wandering around the city gathering a bunch of sounds but also on set a lot of the time both recording and observing. That influenced it and opened up more doors than anything else in terms of just being a part of the whole creation process. So when I got back to the studio, Rian sent me a couple scenes and I just dove in which, again, is really different from my normal process. Usually I spend a long time working with the director on the main themes and the overarching development of how the music is going to feel, and with LOOPER I just dove right in, starting with a couple scenes and building instruments from the sounds that I had gathered to support those scenes.

Q: How would you describe the score's thematic or motific architecture?

Nathan Johnson: LOOPER is actually really simple in that regard. One of the things that we wanted to do was just identify a single theme that could be expressed in a number of different ways throughout the movie. With THE BROTHERS BLOOM, pretty much each character had a theme or a couple themes, so LOOPER goes very minimal in that regard. There's really just one theme, which has, in my mind, a past, a present, and a future element to it. LOOPER is one of those things where, because the melody stays the same, what orients you are the tonal aspects of the music.  I feel like a lot more of that happened in terms of tonally changing throughout the music, rather than motifs developing or new motifs being introduced.

Q: Audiences, especially in big action films, are used to a certain kind of musical approach, a certain kind of orchestral sound, and here you've given the something wholly different and wholly new.  What will this score do to affect an audience, making them realize this is kind of a different world they're in on this picture?

Nathan Johnson:  I hope that it operates hand in hand with the tone of the movie. I've said this before: that one of the things I really love about LOOPER is that it's not slick sci-fi, you never feel like "you're in the future!" – It's really grounded.   A lot of the movie actually takes place on a farm in Kansas, but there's definitely this dystopian sort of crumbling society feel and so I hope the music communicates that hand-in-hand with the movie.  The movie also has a really strong emotional core; it's not like your standard blockbuster fare whose main attempt is to wow you, although there definitely is some of that there.  But LOOPER is the kind of movie with a really strong emotional core and that was interesting to play around with, because in the score we've got all of these created instruments that sort of feel like they come from the world although you can't quite recognize them; but then there are also a handful of pretty stripped-back performances on real instruments – whether it's a piano or a celeste or even strings and horns – and part of what we got to play around with was dialing back the weird elements at times and just exposing a really naked piano performance to remind us were dealing with real people. The point of the score is not to be crazy/new/future-y sci-fi/in-your-face, but hopefully it takes elements of our world and presents them in an emotionally honest way.

Q:  When you dealt with characters, especially since the main characters are the same guy from different time spectrums, how are you using the score to delineate the characterizations?

Nathan Johnson: That was a fun mental challenge to get inside of. It's not something as simple as when this character’s on screen you hear this voice musically; more of what I was playing around with was this idea of predetermination or predestination – this idea of eventuality and is the past written or can it be changed?  So the main theme ends on this dissonant chord turn, and the more you hear it the more you need it to end in that place.  It's like this dark bend at the end of the theme.  One of the things I really enjoyed was establishing that very simple theme where you're expecting it to turn and you know that it's coming, and then just every once in a while playing with where you end it – and does it finish, and is this one eventuality that these characters are moving towards?  That’s such a strong thing about music, you establish a theme or a tune or a simple melody and we want to hear it resolve, even if it resolves a weird place.  Once we got used to that it's almost like we have to hear that.  So it felt really rich in that regard, in terms of being able to explore something not quite as literal – something a little more conceptual, because the movie is so conceptually rich.

Q: How would you describe your process of building this score?  The production end of this score must have played a large part of its development and dynamic.  How did you select the sounds and then how did you make music out of them and put together a coherent score for the film?

Nathan Johnson: It was definitely different from the idea of like you write it and you give it to the orchestra they play it and that's it.  Almost the best thing I can liken it to is sort of like stumbling down a dark tunnel and feeling with your hands. It was very much a discovery by doing it, if you know what I mean.  To answer your question literally, I spent a month in New Orleans recording all the sounds that I could find – treadmills and industrial fans and machines, gunshots… It wasn't often that I thought about a sound that I wanted and then went out to find it – it was much more just collecting.  Then I got back to my studio and realized I had this huge library of sounds, and at that point I went through and listened for stuff that jumped out to me, things that I thought were auditorially really interesting or rhythms that were inherent in some of the machine cycles.  I just found interesting snippets and then brought them into a sampler and then started playing with them. I started speeding them up or warping them or slowing them down or running them through effects, time-stretching them.  Just playing around with this raw material in those "instruments" dictated the way that I wrote the score. You know, it’s really interesting… when you sit down at a different instrument, what you write will be different. If you sit down with the guitar or sit down at the piano, what comes out is going to be dictated in part by the instrument that you're working with. And that's something that I enjoy, even for instruments that I don't play – to sit down with a new instrument that I'm not very familiar with is a fun and interesting challenge because it forces you to rely on your instincts instead of your brain a little bit, and it forces you to react to the sounds that are being created. That's what I really felt like with this because they were brand-new sounds and once I had dialed those in and honed-in on them they really dictated the stuff that I ended up writing.

Q: What was most challenging for you about scoring LOOPER?

Nathan Johnson: I think it had to do with that tunnel example and I gave, the stumbling around in the dark. That was really challenging!  I mean, it feels nice to look back on it now because it's done and Rian liked it and a lot of people are starting to hear it and appreciate it, but there were a number of times where I really felt like I didn't know what I'm doing here, because I'm doing something so new to what I'm used to doing. I think the fact that I just dove into such a different approach was really unsettling and it took away my reference points.  Usually when I work on a movie, I start by writing some themes and in LOOPER I was deep into the process before I finally discovered the main theme – so I think not having those normal reference points was the most challenging thing, but hopefully in the end is that that maybe was also the most rewarding thing, and the actual thing that enabled it to come out sounding different.

Q: During the process of putting this together, especially when you began to get the score married to the film, what was the studio's response?  Did the studio have any input in where you were going with the score?

Nathan Johnson: This was an independent movie, so the studio wasn't involved until they bought it for distribution. But one of the really great things about working with Rian and the way that we been able to do these movies is that we kept them really small and to a certain degree it kind of felt like we were making the movie under the radar.  Rian has such a strong creative vision that he set it up where he was like my end goal, and if he's happy that’s mainly all I was concerned about. I'm working to fulfill his vision.  I realize that's rare, but he is really set up to protect all the players from having to worry about anything other than his artistic vision.  And the other thing about the way we did this product was it takes a long time.  It's not something that I could've quickly sketched up ideas for to run by the people at the top and have them okay it. It was something that really needed to be protected so it could develop over time and, over the course of a year, find its own footing.

Q: What can you tell me about your new score for the French feature with Mélanie Laurent, THE DAY I SAW YOUR HEART?

Nathan Johnson: That was a really fun movie. I finished that before LOOPER but it's taken a while to come to the States. That, tonally, lives in the world closer to THE BROTHERS BLOOM; it's very melodic – it’s like the other side of the spectrum from LOOPER in terms of being more upbeat and happy and melodic. It’s got this great director – Jennifer Devoldère wrote it and directed it, and Mélanie Laurent is awesome in it. It was really a fun project to be a part of.

Q: So where do you go from here in terms of your musical ambitions in films?  Certainly you've demonstrated in both BRICK and LOOPER that you’re able to do something very unique and effective, and at the same time you've also done more traditional stuff such as THE BROTHERS BLOOM and BLUE STATE and the MORGAN M MORGANSEN short films. Where would you like to see your career going from this point?

Nathan Johnson: That's such a generous question and it feels exciting to think forward. I guess the answer in one regard is that I really like the idea of trying lots of different things and lots of new things, but I guess the answer that's a bit closer to my heart is that I hope for the ability to be involved with art that I really respect. That's very high on my plate. There's nothing harder than being involved in something that you don't believe in, and there's nothing greater than being involved in something that you totally love and totally believe in. So to be able to work with directors who have a really unique and singular vision and to work on material that I think is great, that is really the ultimate goal whether that's in genre films or big films or small films.  It’s just so awesome to be working as a part of a team where, like with LOOPER, the actors are all as amazing as they are, or the cinematographer has such an awesome vision and where the director and editor and everybody just feels like there at the top of their game


New Soundtracks Releases of Note

A WARRIOR’S ODYSSEY/Penka Kouneva/Howlin’ Wolf Records
Bulgarian-born composer Penka Kouneva (PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS, MIDNIGHT MOVIE) has released an original instrumental album entitled A Warrior's Odyssey, inspired by the traditions of Hollywood film music and contemporary video games but with a conceptual narrative rather than visuals. Featuring 18 thematic original compositions recorded with A-list Hollywood musicians, the album’s three-movement structure follows the form of classical symphonies, where the turbulent and energetic first movement is followed by a contemplative slow movement providing a period of respite and reflection, resolving in a begrudging acceptance that “The Battle Must Go On.”  It’s an astonishing composition, exemplifying a terrific dramatic dynamic that would be suitable in any major Hollywood blockbuster.  “A Warrior's Odyssey draws upon the formative influences of my style: contemporary Hollywood film, and video game scores,” said Penka. “I am building stylistically upon the amazing opportunities Steve Jablonsky gave me with the games Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Gears of War 3.”  The conception of the music describes an allegorical journey across huge battlefields, facing and overcoming difficult obstacles but always staying true to the warrior’s course; using a large variety of musical forms from classical piano to epic Hollywood orchestrations as well as the influence of pop and rock sensibilities.  Penka has merged her unique Eastern European perspective with the immediacy and accessibility of Hollywood film music traditions to create a thoroughly engrossing piece of music that is both sensitive and sensational, and outstandingly listenable to convey a powerful and emotive saga born of bitter personal experience .  “The Warrior archetype has  always resonated with me,” Penka is quoted by Gergely Hubai in his album notes, which describe the perspective and organization of the composition and its performance in illustrative detail.  “I am a multicultural artist and a woman in a vocation with so few other women.  The last 13 years in Hollywood felt like I was fighting relentlessly every inch of my way.  In A Warrior’s Odyssey I attempted to transform my personal struggles into a universal and common human experience of fighting battles and overcoming challenges.”   A Warrior's Odyssey is available as a Limited Edition CD through Howlin' Wolf Records and for digital download on Amazon MP3, iTunes and other digital music sites. Preview samples from the album are available here.
For more information on Penka Kouvena, see www.penkakouneva.com

Two recent horror films composed by scoring duo tomandandy (Thomas Hajdu and Andy Milburn) have been released on CD.  Both are quite suitable in generating visceral tension and shock in their films, but both are a mixed bag for listening away from their cinematic experiences.  Both scores exemplify the duo’s style of minimalist yet relentless industrial/house rock, heavy on percussion and throbbing beats, which, certainly in the latter film’s case, give the soundtracks a potent sense of drive and energy, and empower the fight scenes with the same kind of emphatic sonic dimension as do the bone-crunching limb-kicks so prominent in the fights.  THE APPARITION, a ghost story about a supernatural presence unleashed during a college experiment, has little in the music to evoke the creepy or the eerie, but more often delivers a driving wake of percussive anger – a kind of throbbing taiko terror tonality that was fitting to achieve an unsettling sense of suspense and fright in the film but, as noted, really becomes simplistic and noisy when heard on CD.  The score is at its best in the few atmospheric tracks, such as the electronica-rock groove of “Main Titles” and “Palmdale,” and rendered through layered mists of sound in “Alone in the House.”  The duo also make use of some effective sonic textures – found sound as well as synthetic – to evoke some spooky tonalities; these tracks (“Email Attachment,” “In Tents,” “BackYard Sound,” “Broken Camera,” “Hotel” are nicely saturated with an intriguing depth of progressive, layered tonalities that gives them an added dimension of expressiveness lacking in the pounding percussion tracks; an eerie piano motif, echoed arpeggios pensively conveyed above the wash of sounds, anchors these tracks to a recurring, haunting motif.  The piano motif resolves restfully in “Aftermath” amid a cluster of reverberating pizzicato strings and ringing synth echoes, and provides a calm resolution for the score (which is presented out of film order).  RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, fifth film in the video-game inspired saga of zombie ass-kicking babe Alice vs. the evil, deathly virus-expelling Umbrella Corporation, is likewise at its best when it has an opportunity to establish dramatic atmosphere versus slamming timbers across the soundscape.  The duo’s music continues the style they invested into the previous RESIDENT EVIL film (2010’s AFTERLIFE), while embracing a larger and more modern form.  “The scope of this film is bigger than the previous one, cinematographically, and also in the revelation of the superstructure behind the stage,” the composers write in a note on the album.  “We’ve combined epic orchestration with a modern and brutal dubstep elements to make the music bigger and nastier.”  The tracks where this approach is employed remain the most interesting and provocative of the album (especially the two renditions of “Flying Through the Air” which, respectively, open and close the film beneath a massively composed and explosive attack of flying weaponry.  The most interesting cues maintain this approach which combines the bass-heavy dubstep electronica format with the kind of rhythm-based orchestral/choral elements popularized in current big action movies; the album loses interest in those tracks comprised of little more than a sonic assault of pounding drums over a harsh wash of synthesized sound (although, as noted, those cues work well in their filmic context), and those tracks do tend to dominant the album.  When this approach is combined with orchestral measures (as in “First Blood” and “End of the World”) it is far more compelling to listen to on CD.  More introspective moments, like “Imprinted” and “It’s Help” are welcome, capturing a very likable interpretive sensitivity.  Bassnectar’s “Hexes,” featuring Chino Moreno (of the Deftones) on vocals, opens the album – it’s heard over the end titles in the film.

BAIT/Joe Ng and Alex Oh/Screamworks
This Australian/Singaporian shark thriller offers a fresh and intriguing take on the overused shark attack horror movie subgenre.   When a tsunami inundates a coastal town in Australia, a bunch of workers, shoppers, and a pair of armed robbers caught in the deluge, are trapped in the half-submerged aisles and underground car park of a grocery store with no way out.  It gets worse when it turns out a pair of great white sharks, carried in by the tsunami surge, are prowling the premises (one in the store, one in the car park), confused, angry, and shopping for human produce.  BAIT (aka BAIT 3D for the extra-dimensionally inclined; aka SHARK 3D in Italy) features fine performances all around; the mix of characters range from the cliché’d to the inventive and they all play off each other well.  The film generates some very good suspense both above and below the surface of the standing indoor water, and the film plays out satisfyingly.  Singaporian composing team Joe Ng and Alex Oh provide a fine orchestral score (not sure if it’s sampled or real, but it sounds great) that both avoids any reference to a JAWS-like semblance whole evoking considerable tension; the score also underlines the character relations with fluidly expressive string writing.  The score is a mature creative effort which drives an intelligent and compelling film. Among the latest batch of horrific releases from MovieScore Media’s Screamworks sub-label, the music is a very pleasing amalgamation of creepy interludes, growing clusters of shock-inducing chords, and sympathetic melodies for the character interactions, including the conflicted relationship between the main hero and heroine, who have a past stained by tragedy.  “Opening,” “Secret World,” “Remembering Rory,” “Chit Chat,” “Go After Her,” and “Requiem” are the poignant tracks associated with Josh and Tina, the film’s central characters, and are the score’s most melodic moments, developed around subtle variations of the opening theme.  “Fishing For Sharks” is also a nicely reflective cue build around a sad, lyrical string melody in the aftermath of a character’s demise.  “Crabs” is a wickedly sardonic track as another character tries to make a getaway and winds up with a face-full of scuttling arthropods, the pensive set-up music erupting into a confluence of scrabbling strings, drums, and the abrupt incursion of the shark attack theme.  The composers generate satisfying suspense and shock at those shark attack moments – and any composer scoring such a scene after JAWS has a terrific and thankless challenge to avoid any kind of reference in rhythm and tone to that famous score, which Ng and Oh manage quite well with their use of growing bundles of strings, gathering percussion, wrapped in a sinewy cartilage of tenuous strings growing ever more taught beneath rolling waves of timpani (“Shark Bait,” “Get Out of the Water,” “Shark Encounter,” the climactic “Shotgun and Electric Shark”); this more dissonant material is nicely handled both in the orchestration and the performance, maintaining a driving sensibility of panic, peril, and power without becoming too discordant.   The latter cue culminates in a female soprano melisma that evokes a profound sense of relief and survival, while also perhaps suggesting a kind of sympathy for the death of the great white (who after all was just doing what nature made him to do); that cue nicely segues into “Getting Out,” a poignant denouement for strings that resolves the score with a strings-and-choral lament as the characters finally emerge from their entrapment to see the extent of the damage the earthquake and tsunami inflicted on the coastal town.  “Bait” provides a compelling coda in the form of a suite of the score’s primary elements, used in the latter half of the end credits after the obligatory raucous rock song concludes.  “Requiem” closes out the score (I’m not sure where [or if] it appears in the score) with a reprise of the lament motif from the end of “Getting Out.”

CELLOCINEMA/ Eckart Runge & Jacques Ammon/Genuin
Released in Germany by Genuin classics (distributed by Naxos), CelloCinema is a very interesting performance of film themes by cello/piano duo Eckart Runge (cello) and Jacques Ammon (piano).  Hearing such film tracks as Bernard Herrmann’s theme and murder music from PSYCHO, Nino Rota’s suite from Fellini’s 8½, Morricone’s CINEMA PARADISO, and works of Astor Piazzolla, Charles Chaplin, Dmitri Shostakovich, guitarist Dick Dale (“Misirlou” as used in PULP FICTION) and the like is quite an interesting and pleasing experience.  The tracks are nicely arranged (all but one by the performers) and proffer both an insight into the opportunities available in translating cinema scores into other musical media and an inherent respect for the original source material.  “The variety of film music, its suggestive force, and artistic freedom were what inspired us to record this CD so that we conjure up before our inner eye in a chamber music dialog the fleeting celluloid images which over and over again give us goose bumps, strike fear into our hearts or bring tears to our eyes,” writes Runge in his liner notes to the CD booklet.  It remains to the credit of music written for cinema that it can be as flexible a force of music to permit such articulate re-arrangement, and the credit of Runge and Ammon for their affectionate reinterpretation of film music into their own unique musical voice.
See www.celloproject.de 

DREDD/ Paul Leonard-Morgan/Universal UK
The score for the new 3D sci-fi action thriller DREDD (remake of 1995’s JUDGE DREDD), from BAFTA award winning Scottish composer Paul Leonard-Morgan (LIMITLESS), has been released digitally by Universal UK; a CD soundtrack is scheduled for October 9th.  Leonard-Morgan is especially known for scoring the last four seasons of BBC’s spy drama SPOOKS.  For DREDD, in order to create the music for the era 100 years in the future, Leonard-Morgan strived to match the film’s gritty, industrial set design with a score that mixed dubstep style electronica with evocative soundscapes.  The music, much like the industrial sensibility of tomandandy in recent RESIDENT EVIL films (see above), is dominated by heavy electronica, thick layers of processed guitars, and harsh moments of conflated percussion, which aren’t always suited for listening outside of the film or the club’s dance floor.  A recurring motif is the thrumming industrial synth pattern for the character of drug lord Ma-Ma, whose eventual fate is signified by a quite evocative and subdued rendition of her theme in “Ma-Ma’s Requiem.”  Quieter, pensive moments – including those depicting the effects of Ma-Ma’s Slo-Mo drug, are created using a timestretch software that slowed down the sounds of real instruments, sometimes as much as thousands of percent, to match the vibe of the visual elements.  The result are some notably ethereal ambient threads, often dappled by light percussion elements or hushed, muted electric guitar fragments.  It’s a flavorful score although the chronic assault of so much raging percussion may be a bit off putting.

FLUKT (ESCAPE) / Magnus Beite / Grappa (Norway)
For this historical Norwegian drama – about a family struggling to survive in a kind of retro post-apocalyptic wasteland in the years following the Black Plague – composer Magnus Beite has provided an extremely expressive orchestral score.  The nicely-textured music is rich in orchestral depth, maintaining a low tonality of antiquity while evoking an emotional level associated with the young heroine captured and then fleeing from a band of mercenaries.  Action tracks like “The Attack,” “Run,” and “Mountain Top Chase” are conveyed through propulsive layers of rhythmic strings and percussion, punctuated by a variety of ethnic instruments and voice which conveys the feeling of place and people and spirit.   The score maintains a fairly low timbre throughout, with high flutes, strings, and occasional female melisma rising above the earthy acoustics; but the music resonates with a very pleasing melodic sensibility throughout.  The score is bookended by a warm, string-led Family theme which opens and concludes the arc of the story quite nicely.

THE GOOD DOCTOR/Brian Byrne/Lakeshore
Lakeshore Records has released digitally the subtle score for THE GOOD DOCTOR, composed by Irish-born Hollywood composer Brian Byrne (ALBERT NOBBS).   The film tells of ambitious but anxious young doctor (Orlando Bloom) who goes to unconscionable extremes in order to remain in the service of a female patient with a kidney disorder.  The score underlines the dark texture of the storyline and the obsessive psychology of Bloom’s character, while also incorporating sonic elements of the film’s environment into the score.  “I wanted to use the sound of a heart monitor as a percussive sound along with the live strings,” he explained. “I really liked this effect as it put the hospital into the score.”  The score is rendered with mostly dark tonalities and rhythms, reflecting the ethical dilemma that Bloom’s character puts himself into.  Adding subtle nuances of processed electric guitar into his otherwise fairly standard orchestration, Byrne accentuates the tension of the doctor’s path toward dangerous self-ambition.  His patient, Diane, is captured with a sympathetic and often poignant melody of piano and of strings; the purity of her music is set in distinct contrast to the doctor’s more strident, almost arrogant tonality.   In further contrast to both of these elements, Byrne also inserts a bit of jazz, from the piano music heard when the character visits a wine bar to the very similar jazzy motif played on a festive organ that concludes the film on a sardonic note of musical irony.  “This was perhaps the most difficult film that I have scored to date,” said Byrne, who had to carefully navigate whether to approach the score as a dark comedy or to play it straight.  Ultimately Byrne struck a balance between the two.  “Once we hit that point it got a lot easier. It is quite apt then that the last piece of music we hear is the cheeky organ jazz piece. I always felt there was a hidden underlying comedic element to the film. The fine line that sometimes Hitchcock hit on.”

THE INFLICTION/Marco Werba/Kronos (ltd promo release)
For Mathan Harris’ psychological horror film, Italian composer Marco Werba has composed a beautifully evocative orchestral score.  As he did with Dario Argento’s GIALLO, Werba eschews modern trends for scoring horror with sound design, industrial electronica, or massive synthesis, allowing the pure tonality of the orchestra to craft a persuasive psychological portrait of the film’s inflicted psycho killer while harboring some splendid moments of suspect within the realm of symphonic music.  Werba’s string writing is especially superb here: the fluidity of the music and the punctuation from the percussion section really gives the music a provocative drive and sinew, and make the album a thoroughly engrossing listening experience.  Harris asked Werba for a “suspenseful, psychological, violent classical score that enhanced the emotions of the story,” which the composer provided through a striking use of symphonic melody drawn from the style of Herrmann and others.  A couple of themes recur throughout; the investigating police are associated with a bass guitar riff over low, stern string figures.  The psychologically inflicted villain is represented by a solo acoustic guitar melody, but one that is only rarely played tenderly; often counterpointed against a jarring reflection of synth (as in “David Meets Kristen”).  In “Father And Son,” David’s guitar melody sounds over thick strains of violins who impose a poignant pattern for the killer’s paternal sensitivity, until the cue abruptly shifts into a lament of dour, massed strings.  Both elements are reprised in “Final Escape,” a fatalistic musical denouement that resolves the score cheerlessly.  David’s brutal acts of violence are often accompanies by recurring downward descents of piano, orchestra, and moaning chorus, but are treated differently on each occasion.  “Det. Andrews’ Death introduces the falling glissandi briefly, shifting into morose layers of gloomy strings.  In “Kristen is Killed,” each chord structure becomes a rainfall of morbidity as the young woman’s life ebbs away.  “Det. Frederick’s Death,” on the other hand, mixed an ascending chord of rising, floating strings, wandering xylophone notes, chilling high violins, while “Prostitute Killing” occurs beneath a wafting resonance of tonal synth echoes, airy and dismal.  THE INFLICTION score is rich in instrumental nuances, delicate orientations, and progressive sound patterns that rarely stay the same for very long.  Most cues occupy a shifting ground of changing structure, exchanging elements and developing entirely new musical configurations.  In “The Fireplace,” for example, Werba creates a journey of sound that covers enormous musical ground in its brief three-minute duration.  Opening with a suspenseful miasma of vigorously tremolo strings, he segues into a hushed pattern of violin figures, very pensive and fragmented, until an incursion of lyrical musicbox melody (which, just for the briefest moment, suggests the character of Argento’s SUSPIRIA ostinato before being taken into a different and more delicate direction), coming returning to an aggressive bed of severe violin bowing across which a slow, purposeful cello figure intones, embellished by a rising confluence of synth strings which dissipate, leaving the cello abandoned to resolve alone amidst an airy and desolate reverb.   In “The Farm,” a series of plodding synth footsteps are lacerated by a sudden scratch of chorus that is etched across them.  Concluding with a “bonus track,” a new arrangement of “The Infliction Theme,” Werba creates a pleasing remix of David’s Theme for sampled horn and synth strings over a compelling and modernistic drum machine beat.  The score is thoroughly attractive and interesting, evoking a grim portrait of the disturbed protagonist and creating some captivating orchestral interactions as the music develops across its journey.
See: www.kronosrecords.com/catalogue.html

LAWLESS/Nick Cave & Warren Ellis/Sony
Sony has released the soundtrack to LAWLESS, a historical saga of Prohibition-era Virginia, with Tom Hardy, Shia Lebeouf, and Jason Clarke playing a bootlegging family who runs afoul of both the law and rival gangsters.  Oddly for a period drama, the film’s score is a compilation of covers of modern rock and roll songs and original song and instrumental compositions coordinated by rockers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (concurrently with his role as frontman for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Cave has contributed songs and scores to more than two dozen film previously, around half of them with Ellis) who perform them under the reasonable moniker The Bootleggers (assisted on vocals by country/roots diva Emmylou Harris, alt-rock singer Mark Lanegan, and veteran bluegrass singer Ralph Stanley).  Only one of the instrumentals (“End Crawl”) have made it onto the album, which focuses on a various interpretations of the songs, from the period-true roots vocal of veteran bluegrass singer Ralph Stanley to the foot-stomping country-blues of The Bootleggers.  The music, then, assumes the acoustic period tonality made popular by recent historical dramas like HATFIELDS AND McCOYS and HELL ON WHEELS, which makes for a very provocative song album, creating its own unique vitality for the film.   The anachronistic use of recognizably modern music performed in a 1930s fashion is a bold move, but seems to work well in anchoring the film in its rural 1931 Virginia setting despite being comprised of songs by the Velvet Underground, Link Wray, Townes Van Zandt, and Captain Beefheart, but the tunes are nicely arranged and performed in a fashion appropriate to the film’s time period.  Cave and Willis also supply two new songs, and the album closes with a previously unreleased bonus track (not used in the film) from Willie Nelson that has to do with bootleggers.

MORRICONE. UNCOVERED / Romina Arena/Perseverance
The lyrical instrumental melodies of Italian movie maestro Ennio Morricone have often found themselves provided with lyrics and presented vocally, from the early interpretations of Maurizio Graf and Peter Tevis of early Italian Western themes through the classic 1970s albums from European singers Milva (Dedicato A Milva da Ennio Morricone) and Mireille Mathieu (Mireille Mathieu Sings Ennio Morricone), both of which had been arranged with Morricone’s close involvement. This latest vocal incarnation of the maestro’s work, splendidly sung from Italian-American “popera” singer Romina Arena, has been arranged and produced by award winning arrangers and producers Giovanni Lodigiani, Francesco Morettini and Luca Angelosanti, who along with Arena wrote the lyrics (which are a mixture of English and Italian). The actual words, however, are clearly secondary to the singing prowess that Arena brings to these vocal representations of Morricone’s music. One tends to listen to her vocal expression more than the words she sings. Her voice is powerful and persuasive and brings a confident articulation to Morricone’s melodies, whether delicate or dynamic. While not involved in the arrangements or production, Morricone did endorse Romina’s interpretation of his music as well as of Perseverance producing the album; according to the label’s Robin Esterhammer, this is the only album he gave permission to after declining similar requests from both Sarah Brightman and Celine Dion [updated 10/10/12]. Morricone’s son Giovanni Morricone served as the project’s Artistic Director. The range of music includes an intriguing arrangement of Morricone’s musicbox gunfight theme from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, the tragically romantic “Death Theme” from THE UNTOUCHABLES, the haunting “Deborah’s Theme” from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, and themes from lesser-known scores like MALENA, FOR LOVE ONE CAN DIE, A TIME OF DESTINY, PER AMORE, and others. Arena’s voice finds a superlative companion in Morricone’s incredible melodies and this makes for a very pleasing album. Detailed notes on each track are provided by writer Gergely Hubai in a thick accompanying booklet. Kudo’s to Perseverance on an attractive presentation and a fine collection of songs derived from some truly amazing music.

MUSIC FROM THE BATMAN TRILOGY/Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard/Silva Screen
Silva Screen’s latest compilation rerecording brings together fifteen cues (five from each film) from the Dark Knight trilogy, powerfully performed by the London Music Works and City of Prague Philharmonic, conducted by Nic Raine.  The compilation proffers a very satisfying opportunity to enjoy a concert performance of the trilogy music across the arc of all three films, from Zimmer’s mix of electronic rhythms and Newton Howard’s persuasive orchestral passages and filigrees across BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT, arriving at Zimmer’s solo score for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, with its operatic mixture of the militaristic and the mystical.  Like most of Silva’s compiled replications, the music is strikingly performed and pleasingly faithful to its original soundtrack presentations.  Without replacing those original recordings on our stereo systems or iPods, Silva’s compilation provides an abridged listening experience that proffers the best elements from all three scores.

REC 3: GENESIS/ Mikel Salas/Screamworks
Third film in the exceptional Spanish zombie/virus apocalypse thrillers (the first REC was remade in the US as QUARANTINE and generated its own sequel) takes a different focus from its predecessors with a story of a bride and groom facing an onslaught of hungry zombies during their wedding reception; separated, they face the zombie hordes while trying to reunite with one another.  This situation gives the zombie story a fresh angle and is very well acted and directed; the film’s title also suggests implicitly that this may be a prequel to the other two REC films, and that this is how the aggressive affliction of those films began.  While the first two films were entirely “found footage”/first-person video camera perspective films, REC 3 begins that way but then dispenses with the gimmick and moves into a standard filmmaking a style, complete with an effective score from Plaza’s regular composer Mikel Salas (who did not score REC and REC 2 due to their cinema verité composition).   Salas has provided an atmospheric score that both reflects the bride’s emotional response to what’s happening on her wedding day (“Clara”) and her eventual reconciliation with her husband (“You’ll Be A Great Father”).  In between. the score is very effective in generating creepy suspense and growing chills, using the familiar but highly effective layering of reflective sounds, synthesized tonalities, percussive elements (“Zombies,” “Attack and Pray,” “After”), while attacks by zombified wedding guests (“Natalie,” “Mama,” “Uncle Victor”) are cause for a sonic aggregation of aggressive textures, chords, and fragments of strong aggression (Clara’s heartbreak at being attacked by her own Zombie mother, and holding her tenderly after mom has been dispatched by the wedding’s children’s entertainer, John), is evoked by a poignant female voice soaring airy above the strident do-the-duty electronica music, in one of the score’s most persuasive moments).   That entertainer is the only other character to get his own theme (“John Esponja”), a disconsolate ambiance of wispy synths suggestive of the character’s unhappy disposition (although when friend Natalie is overcome by zombies, a sympathetic string melody plays an epitaph on her behalf).  When the bride stops running away and assumes the offensive with chainsaw, intending to locate husband Koldo at all costs, Salas shifts the score into an assured, confident tonality in “Union” (Parts 1 and 2) that is very pleasing and assertive (“Union Part 1” is reminiscent slightly of the rhythmic progression of Zimmer’s INCEPTION music).  The score ends with a massive influx of gathering orchestral strains for a notably (and greatly effective) downbeat ending (“Always”), achieving a powerful mix of epic intimacy for the story’s denouement.   With its articulate orchestration, mix of orchestral and electronic elements, and its melodic base, REC 3: GENESIS is a very accessible score on CD.

SHADY LADY/Moritz Schmittat/FactNotFictionFilms
The thrilling score for this Oscar-contending World War II aviation documentary has been made available from the production company.  German-born composer, Moritz Schmittat, now residing and working in London, has composed a very engaging orchestral score.  The film tells the story of the titular B-24 Liberator aircraft that undertook, as part of the 380th Bombardment Group, what was then the world’s longest ever bombing mission in WWII (16:35 straight flight hours), and the score is written in the manner of a thrilling wartime drama, giving the film a splendid and appropriate adventurous demeanor.   A primary theme associated with the aircraft opens the score and forms its foundation; the theme swells with honor for the capable craft and her crew, as well as the power and capability of the bomber.  A reverent variation of the theme for piano illustrates the plane in more poignant and humble musical terms.  Schmittat’s action music illustrates the exploits of Shady Lady, all of which are nicely orchestrated with nuances of voices and distant snare drum fills; these cues generally maintain a militaristic sensibility, but also built an effective tension when the plane winds up drastically low on fuel thousands of miles off course.  But in the midst of these aggressive action cues, Schmittat frequently reorients the score with a short reprise of the Shady Lady Theme to emphasize the confident hand of the plane and its crew.  The result is a large scaled score well under control, whose musical journey is compelling and satisfying throughout.  The score is performed by the noted British orchestra, the Horsham Symphony, who invest the score with a vivid symphonic dynamic. 
The CD is available from www.dftenterprises.com/
To see the film’s trailer and hear samples of the score, see: www.moritzschmittat.com/shady-lady/
For more information on the film, see www.factnotfictionfilms.com/shadylady.html

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS Series 2/Carl Davis/Carl Davis Collection
The popular 1970s BBC drama TV series, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, was revitalized in 2010 and given a second series (season) in 2012.   Daniel Pemberton scored the first series, which consisted of three episodes, broadcast over Christmas 2010. For the six-episode second series, broadcast in February and March 2012, Carl Davis composed the music, which is now available on CD as part of the Carl Davis Collection, distributed by Naxos.  Alexander Faris’ stately original main theme from the 1970s series has been retained as the new series’ signature opening.  Davis’ scores for the six episodes, all nicely represented on this release, consist of a mixture of period tunes – foxtrots, waltzes, and the like – which sonically decorate scenes taking place where source music is evident, and musical underscoring to provide dramatic expressiveness for the story, which extends the adventures of the residents of 165 Eaton Place in the prewar year of1936, six years after the original series ended.  Much of the dramatic music is drawn from the example of the source music (e.g., the motif for the spy Lady Persephone, is a seductive tango, the cook is given a martial kind of waltz, and so on, while other characters are delineated through classically-styled themes).  An especially splendid theme provides a general motif for the two-story residence at the heart of the story – 165 Eaton Place; an elegant and stirring melody presented with a slight martial air, as if reminding us that the characters residing therein are unable to avoid the coming war years.  The mixture of source tunes and underscore makes for a nicely diversified album, with the more unique dramatic pieces capturing my attention the most.  Davis provides a lovely lyrical waltz for “Romancing the Butler” and a queasy blues number for a character who is “Hungover,” “Lady Agnes” is granted an eloquent modal piano melody, the “Sweatshop” environment is depicted with a poignant violin-led waltz that opens into a striking Hebraic tune, “Agnes’ Breakdown” is accompanied by a strident, mischievous tango, while “Going to War” embodies a progression of dark and perilous phrases and “Lotte” is captured by a pleasingly elegant violin melody.  Davis, while American-born, has been living and composing in England since 1961, and for this distinctly British series he provides a score that is both clearly British and notably varied with music from or inspired by that of the late 1930s.  It’s a sophisticated score that has its moments of tongue-in-cheek, and makes for an exceedingly pleasant listen on CD.

Most soundtrack collectors know Nic Raine as the master conductor helming the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on dozens of masterful Silva Screen and Tadlow recordings of notable film music.  But Raine is also a composer who has scored a handful of projects for TV and films.  The most recent is for the German thriller WIR WOLLTEN AUFS MEER (Shores of Hope), which has been released on CD by Tadlow, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic.  Raine’s talents as an orchestrator and conductor are matched by his compositional articulation; this is a modernesque orchestral work but is grounded in a very pretty melodic theme which is performed by full orchestra as well as piano and voice, establishing an eloquently expressive feeling that anchors the score; this theme makes its loveliest expression in “Wandering Through the Woods,” and particularly “End Titles.”  From this melodic/motivic foundation, Raine crafts a score of exquisite beauty and passion that even in its more aggressive moments maintains an elegant orchestral character.  The rhythmic string patterns of “The Harbour/The Arrest” progress amidst a groundcover of xylophone and light percussion, with eerie reflections of strings building tension before the horns come in with their pronouncement of danger ahead.  The cue builds to a swelling energy that bursts with a scattering of wild drums and brassy chords around a repeated violin figure.  Raine will base much of the score’s action music around this motif (“Hospital,” “The Report,” “Typing”), generating a rolling energy that drives the music pleasingly.  The third primary motif is a sad lament introduced in “Loneliness/Letter Reading,” a melancholy rhythm of strings in a gentle Bolero-esque cadence that resonates with a kind of acquiesced despair; reprised in “Writing to Mai” and concluded in “End of Friendship/Salvation,” the reflective melody drifts with a sorrowful resolve.  A vocal version of the main theme, sung by British singer-songwriter Poppy Alice, and a provocative rock number “bonus track” by German indie-pop singer Sebastian Block conclude the album.  It’s a thoroughly satisfying effort, nicely organized and developed, and wonderfully performed.
See Tadlow Music.


Soundtrack & Music News

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards were announced Sept 15th (the ceremony separate from the Primetime Emmy Awards, held on Sep 23 where the shows and stars were given their awards).  Congratulations to Javier Navarrete who won his first Emmy for his music for HBO’s drama HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN (soundtrack reviewed in my July column) in the Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score), to John Lunn for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score) for DOWNTOWN ABBEY, and to Paul Englishby for his main theme to PAGE EIGHTin the Outstanding Main Title Theme Music category.  Outstanding Music & Lyrics award went to Adam Schlesinger and David Jaberbaum for the song “It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore” written for the 65th Annual Tony Awards ceremony.

Robert Kraft is leaving his position as president of Fox Music to create a new venture to develop musical films and television shows.   Kraft has been the chief executive of Fox Music since 1994, becoming president in 1998.  He supervised the music for all the studio's films and television hits.  “I'm very proud of what Fox Music has accomplished during my tenure, and I know the division will continue to inspire both music and film audiences for a long time to come,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am excited about the opportunity to develop my own musical films and TV shows.”  During Kraft's tenure, Fox Music received 10 Academy Award nominations, winning four times; 61 Emmy nominations with 11 wins; and 49 Grammy nominations with 14 wins.
See full story at http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/tv-film/robert-kraft-president-of-fox-music-stepping-1007963342.story#8sRkbMAFmst6wFdH.01

Nominations for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards have been announced, with dozens of nominees in 18 categories.  Winners will be announced November 15.  See: http://www.hmmawards.org/?page_id=2551

Congratulations to composer Javier Navarrete who won his first Emmy Award for his score for HBO’s original movie HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN (soundtrack reviewed in my July column).

Please allow me to mention that the web site supporting my new book, Musique Fantastique: 100 Years of Film Music for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror Films, has been launched and includes lots of back ground on how (and why) the book was written, comments and feedback on the first volume.  The site will also serve in the future to provide additional data, including new interviews, on composers scoring films in these genres.
See www.musiquefantastique.com

French composer Nathaniel Mechaly’s score for the Liam Neeson thriller TAKEN 2 has been released on CD by Idol in France; in the US it’s available digitally only on iTunes.  Mechaly is currently scoring the TV series TRANSPORTER (based on the movies), which debuts on Cinemax in the US in October.

The score for the forthcoming fantasy film CLOUD ATLAS, by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil, will be released digitally by Water Tower on Oct 23.  The film, directed jointly by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski Brothers, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, is a compelling and visually sumptuous exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.   The movie is set to open Oct 26.

I think it is somehow appropriate, given my inclination towards quirky and cheesy cinema, that my first producer credit on a soundtrack is on a recent favorite quirky Corman delight, 2010’s SHARKTOPUS, which is being released by my hosts here, BSX Records, in a limited edition of 1000 units.  The splendid score by Tom Hiel (CYCLOPS) that gives the toothy, tentacled carcharodon-cephalopod its musical gravitas, makes its premiere release in any format with this album.  The album notes for this CD are by your favorite SHARKTOPUS fan, yours truly.  Another Hiel score with predatory fish in its title, the 1994 comedy SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, has also been released, this one as a digital release from Echo Bay Music.

BSX Records, by the way, is also releasing a 3-CD expanded edition of David Arnold’s excellent score for Roland Emmerich’s terrible movie, the failed American version of GODZILLA.  This release will include the complete score to the film along with a selection of bonus tracks and the original planned album arrangement of David Arnold’s score, previously only available as a promotional release. For details, click on the “Home Page” link at upper left.

Due to public demand, MovieScore Media follows up its release of the music from Seasons 1 and 2 of the British series MERLIN, with music from the third and fourth series. The composers from the previous two return in exquisite form.  For MERLIN, Rob Lane, Rohan Stevenson and James Gosling have composed scores of epic proportions. “The album for Series Three has been meticulously sequenced to make for a great listening experience that highlights the best of the music, and the composers have taken into special account requests from fans of the series when the album was put together,” said MSM’s Mikael Carlsson. “Beautiful themes, swashbuckling action music, dark and mesmerizing suspense scoring, quirky scherzos – all painted on an epic canvas featuring orchestra and choir.” www.moviescoremedia.com

Tyler Bates’ stirring score for the potent 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD is coming to official CD release (a promo has been circulating around for a while) on October 16 from Milan Records. – via filmmusicreporter.com

Mark Snow’s third score for acclaimed French director Alain Resnais, VOUS N'AVEZ ENCORE RIEN VU (You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet), is available digitally from Amazon France; regrettably is no authorized for US

Milan Records announced the music from the 6th Season of Showtime’s DEXTER, the show about everyone’s favorite serial killer police detective.   This album will include an exclusive extended main theme recorded by Rolfe Kent, the best Latin tracks from the show, and an exclusive remix of Daniel Licht's "Blood Theme" by DJ/Producer, Alaksa in Winter. The album will of course include the exciting score by veteran series composer, Daniel Licht.  This album is released in conjunction with the premiere of Season 7.

New from La-La Land this week is Brian Tyler's robust, adventurous orchestral score to the 2011 FOX sci-fi TV series TERRA NOVA. Produced by Brian Tyler and mastered by James Nelson, this special 2-CD set is limited to 3000 units and features in depth liner notes by film music writer Brian Satterwhite, which include comments from the composer and producer Brannon Braga. Also announced is Alan Silvestri's score for THE BODYGUARD, the 1992 starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Produced by Dan Goldwasser and mastered by James Nelson, this special release is limited to 3500 Units and contains exclusive liner notes that include new comments from the director and the composer. The third release is music from the 2011 animated series THUNDERCATS, composed by Kevin Kliesch. The composer has hand-picked the best musical moments from the show, guaranteeing a sensational musical experience. Produced by Kliesch and Dan Goldwasser, and mastered by James Nelson, this 2-CD set is packed with must-have music for any THUNDERCATS fans or film/TV music enthusiasts. www.lalalandrecords.com

Screamworks has announced the release of the score to the wildly outrageous and quite fun horror comedy, STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES.  Evoking a wonderful 1980s horror movie vibe, Neil Chaney’s score is effectively combined with a selection of songs by Sodajerker, a highly talented Liverpool-based songwriting team whose songs showcase bright ideas and influences by such classy acts as Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and Erasure.  The film itself, directed by Jonathan Glendening (NIGHT WOLF), is a mix of horror and comedy where a bunch of strippers are forced to deal with hungry werewolves seeking vengeance after their alpha-male has been accidentally killed in a strip club.

Intrada has released the first US premiere of John Scott’s thrilling score for John Guillermin’s KING KONG LIVES, a 1986 sequel to his poorly regarded 1976 remake of KING KONG, wherein Kong is revived, a female Kong has been found, and gorilla romance and destruction ensues.  “Scott creates a rich overall theme for Kong and his lady and a powerful, edgier theme for arch enemy Col. Nemit,” noted Intrada’s Douglass Fake. “Both play throughout score in dramatic manner.”  Scott produced an album in 1987, but it was only released in Japan, and the music was overlaid with annoying ape roars.  Intrada found the original US album masters in perfect condition... without the grunts. Intrada matches the release with the world premiere of Dee Barton’s music for the 1973 Clint Eastwood Western, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.

La-La Land Records, Capitol Records and Paramount Pictures present the expanded and remastered 2-CD set of Hans Zimmer’s original score to the 1989 culture-clash cop/actioner BLACK RAIN, starring Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia and Ken Takakura, and directed by Ridley Scott. Zimmer's pulse-pounding score would become a sonic blueprint for action film scoring throughout the 90's and well into the present. Finally, as produced by Dan Goldwasser and mastered by Doug Schwartz, BLACK RAIN gets its much-deserved and expanded deluxe treatment, presenting Zimmer's film score on Disc 1 and the original, remastered 1989 album presentation on Disc 2, along with bonus tracks and alternate cues that include the main title version of the opening song "I'll Be Holdin' On." Tim Grieving's exclusive, in-depth liners take you behind the film and its iconic score. This is a limited edition of 3000 Units.

George Shaw’s score for the short film, LITTLE TOKYO REPORTER, has been released as a digital download courtesy of the composer’s web site.  The film is set in in 1935 Los Angeles, about a Japanese American leader who confronts injustice to unite his deteriorating community. “It's a moving story that allowed me to compose a dramatic and emotional soundtrack that I'm extremely proud of,” said Shaw.


Australian composer Rafael May reports that his 2011 score for the thriller ROAD TRAIN (aka ROAD KILL) was named Best Sound Track at the 2011 APRA Screen Music Awards in Sydney.  The score has been described by Eye For Film UK as a “great soundtrack, combining monster rock with creepy electronica, and finally a haunting song with actress Sophie Lowe”. Sample the song here
For the score (the film is a supernatural thriller about a group of teenagers menaced by a driver-less truck in the Australian outback), Rafael performed all instruments on the soundtrack from guitars and pianos to massive oil drums and the iron gate from the front of his studios.  The album is now available, digitally, via amazon MP3 download.

Berklee College of Music announces that noted composer George S. Clinton has been named chair of the college’s Film Scoring Department. Clinton will build on the 32-year legacy of the department and ensure that graduates have the skills to thrive in a field that is undergoing continual transformation. Berklee offers the world’s only undergraduate film scoring degree as well as a unique minor in video game scoring. Clinton is an award-winning film composer who has built a reputation for scoring diverse films including the AUSTIN POWERS’ movies, MORTAL KOMBAT, and BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, among others.  “Though we were sorry to see [former chair] Dan Carlin go, we’re thrilled to have someone of George’s caliber at the helm,” said Berklee president Roger H. Brown. “He’s not only at the top of his game in the film industry, he also gives back to the film music community. He has mentored young composers internationally and at the Sundance Institute’s Composers Labs for over a decade. His combination of wisdom, artistry, entrepreneurial spirit, and contemporary skills is exactly what our students need.” Commented Clinton commented on his appointment, “Berklee is a music mecca and, as far as I'm concerned, President Roger Brown and Provost Larry Simpson are rock stars. The Film Scoring Dept. has an amazingly talented faculty, most of whom, like me, are working composers themselves. I'm very excited about bringing my own experience and ideas into the mix and I'm honored to be working with the dynamic Assistant Chair, Alison Plante, and following in the footsteps of such inspired leaders as Don Wilkins and Dan Carlin.”

Mark Isham is set to score the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic 42. Directed and written by Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland (A Knight's Tale), 42 stars Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman. 42 tells the iconic story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson (Boseman) and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey (Ford). The film will open April 12, 2013 three days before the 66th annual Jackie Robinson day, April 15— the day Robinson broke racial barriers and played his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger.

The University of Miami Frost School of Music announces the appointment of multiple Emmy award winning composer Chris Boardman as the new director of the Media Writing and Production Program at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Boardman is also a full time lecturer, and teaches Film Scoring and Advanced Music Editing. Boardman replaces Raul Murciano, Jr. who was promoted to Associate Dean of Administration at Frost last year.  Boardman’s career spans the film, television and recording industries and he has consistently worked in the top echelon of the entertainment industry. He was nominated for an Academy Award for THE COLOR PURPLE, for which he adapted music.  In addition, he has won six Emmy Awards, thirteen Emmy nominations, ASCAP and BMI awards

It’s official – the theme song for the new James Bond Movie, SKYFALL, is performed by British songstress Adele.   A preview of the song had been available but Sony made everyone take it down.  But from early listens it sounds like she’s really nailed the classic Bond sound with a sultry smooth 007-esque  number.  Word has it that the song will be released as a single, but the date and if it will be on CD or as a digital single remains uncertain.   Thomas Newman’s score for the film will be released on November 6th from Sony.

Also on Nov. 6th, Sony will release John Williams’ new score, for Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN biopic.  The music is said to be one of Williams’ finest and most eloquent works.

Varese Sarabande has released Christopher Young’s latest horror score.  SINISTER marks his second collaboration with director Scott Derrickson (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE).  Young’s score for SINISTER is given a chilling, electronic sound.

Disques Cinemusique has releases Background To Violence / Orchestral Works, a reissue of two recordings made by Miklós Rózsa in the 1950s.  Background To Violence, originally issued on LP by Decca (and subsequent on LP and CD by Varese), contains film music suites of music from three of Rózsa’s film noir scores.  Orchestral Works appears here for the first time on CD, having originally been issued only on LP, in 1957 (reissued on LP only in 1978 by Varese).  Although these classical efforts have no connection with the cinematic world, film music fans will enjoy them thoroughly because Rózsa’s style here is unmistakable.  One finds in the Concert Overture (1957), Three Hungarian Sketches (1939) and Theme, Variations and Finale (1933), the same ebullient passion and fierceness, the same generous and richly textured orchestrations that characterize the 95 movie scores that made Rózsa’s name famous.  Rózsa conducts the Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra in both performances.  While Background to Violence is in stereo, the mono concert music album has been enhanced with a slight reverberation, all the content being transferred from mint vinyl sources. 12-page color booklet.

Marco Beltrami has scored the new Clint Eastwood film, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE.  This is the first film that Eastwood has starred in but not directed in nine years, and marks the first feature-length directorial debut of Robert Lorenz, Eastwood’s longtime Assistant Director for 15 years.  Beltrami provides an emotional score that supports the touching relationship between father and daughter and also the heroics of the game of baseball.   Beltrami’s original score incorporates soloists, including elements of acoustic guitar, harp, and various other woodwinds to create an understated yet deceptively simple score. Additionally, Beltrami recorded with a full orchestra at the Warner Bros.’ Eastwood Scoring Stage [named after Eastwood for his contribution to the renovation] to give scope to the bigger musical moments in the film. “The music needed a delicate balance to support the film and to further support the emotion without getting in the way of the actors’ great performances,” explained Beltrami. Varese Sarabande will release the soundtrack album on Oct 16.

Richard Band has composed and orchestrated the music score for the suspense thriller, SHIVER, which debuted on September 8th as an Official Selection at the Burbank International Film Festival.   The movie stars Danielle Harris, John Jarratt, Casper van Dien, Brad Davis, and Rae Dawn Chong and is directed by Julian Richards.

Composer Christopher Lennertz is scoring the new NBC series REVOLUTION. Created by Eric Kripke, directed by Jon Favreau and produced by J.J. Abrams, REVOLUTION takes viewers on a thrilling journey to solve the question, where did all the power go?  Lennertz, who recently scored the feature film THINK LIKE A MAN, will return to score the eighth consecutive season of the CW’s hit series SUPERNATURAL.


Games Music News

A look behind the scenes at Ramin Djawadi’s score for the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter, has been posted online at the L A Times.

Award-winning composer Winifred Phillips has created an epic soundtrack for Assassin's Creed III Liberation. With the impact of a symphonic and choral score, enhanced with classical voice, instrumental soloists, authentic African drum performances and soulful tribal vocals, the soundtrack takes the video game franchise in a viscerally exciting new direction. 

Using atonal textures, award winning composer Daniel Licht creates a dark ambient score for the already award winning video game Dishonored, which will be released October 9, 2012 for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. Dishonored is played in first-person with a series of self-contained, mission-focused sandboxes designed to allow for multiple avenues of exploration set in 19th century London. Each design was hand drawn instead of procedurally reproduced.

Film composer Ryan Shore has created the action-driven music score for Spy Hunter, the reboot of the legendary combat driving series, specially developed for PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. Launching in North America on October 9, Spy Hunter, from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developed by TT Fusion, marks the first video game score for composer Ryan Shore who recently received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Score Soundtrack (THE SHRINE).  For the game, Shore composed a contemporary hybrid music score by fusing live performances with electronic grooves and overdubs. Recording with a jazz big band Ryan acoustically re-created Henry Mancini's iconic theme to "Peter Gunn" and remixed the new arrangement with modern electronic sounds. The soundtrack will be released on Amazon MP3 and iTunes through WaterTower Music on October 9th.

Sumthing Else Music Works has released the score to Resident Evil® The Darkside Chronicles,featuring the original music score composed by Shusaku Uchiyama (Resident Evil® 2 and Resident Evil®: Operation Raccoon City) and Takeshi Miura (Resident Evil® Code: Veronica). The soundtrack will be released on October 9th to retail outlets and for digital download at Amazon MP3, iTunes® and other digital music sites. 

Following his recent critically acclaimed soundtracks for Mass Effect 3 and Borderlands 2, award-winning composer Cris Velasco (Clive Barker's Jericho, Hellgate: London) returns to lend his talents to the horror genre with a dark and twisted original score for Ubisoft's new survival-horror shooter
™. As a BAFTA nominee and winner of "Best Original Score" at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Achievement Awards (God of War trilogy), Velasco has become one of the most sought-after composers for the medium. ZombiU will be released exclusively for Wii U™ from Nintendo on November 13.


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

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

Buysoundtrax.com -Your Store to Buy Hard To Find Film and Television
Music Scores and Soundtrack CDs!