Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2010-06
Spptember 7th, 2010

By Randall D. Larson

Soundtrax is back after a month’s hiatus while I focused on completing my latest book project – which I believe promises to be a massive film music commentary.  Announcement will be forthcoming.  But now that it’s finished I will work on getting Soundtrax back on schedule – twice a month, each column offering up a compelling interview with a composer of note, supplemented by my views on recent soundtrack releases (note that I focus more on commentary and analysis than on rendering subjective value judgments, hoping readers can determine via my description whether or not they would enjoy the score under discussion) and latest news culled from the world of film and game scoring.

Penka Kouneva (Photo by Lisa Bevos)

Orchestrating a Film Scoring Career
A Conversation with Penka Kouneva

Penka Kouneva is a rising Hollywood film composer who blends her native Eastern European influences with modern orchestra, medieval chant, rock, and electronica. She recently composed additional score music for the videogames “PRINCE OF PERSIA” 2010 and “TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN” working alongside the TRANSFORMERS composer Steve Jablonsky.

Other works include the horror feature MIDNIGHT MOVIE, the crime drama THE THIRD NAIL, the Sci-Fi Channel thriller ICE SPIDERS and TV music for FORENSIC FILES on CourtTV, DOG FIGHTS and MODERN MARVELS.  Penka has also served as an orchestrator on numerous film soundtracks, including TRANSFORMERS 1, 2, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3, ANGELS AND DEMONS, 9, HOSTEL I and II, MATRIX 2, 3, and others.

Born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, Penka started piano lessons at 6 and wrote incidental music for children’s theater shows at the age of 12. In 1990, she ventured out of post-communist Bulgaria and came to the US to make a life for herself as a composer. She had $130 in her pocket and a Duke University composition fellowship. In 1997, she made history at Duke by receiving the first-ever Doctorate in Composition from this distinguished institution. At Duke, she studied with Stephen Jaffe, Scott Lindroth, and with the Dutch postmodern minimalist Louis Andriessen. Penka also enjoyed a successful career as a concert composer. Soon after Penka arrived in Los Angeles in 1999, she began her career as an orchestrator and soon moved into composing for feature films on her own.

Q: What have your experiences as an orchestrator taught you about scoring your own films?  How would you describe your contribution as an orchestrator to the film scores of these composers?

Penka Kouneva: I love my “dual” career of composer and orchestrator. I am grateful for being able to work at all levels – from the tiniest low budget indie drama recorded with 5 musicians to the biggest blockbuster. My first mentor in 1999 was the Emmy-winning TV composer Patrick Williams and at the time he was scoring movies-of-the-week for CBS, Lifetime, etc. In 1999 I was transitioning from a classical concert/theatrical composer to a film composer. Over the years I have absorbed how a great theme sounds and feels, how the gigantic sequences are produced with samples. On a cinematic and dramatic level I’ve observed how a great score shapes the arc of a scene, how the masters create suspense, or pick up the pace, or score a pay-off. This “hands-on” experience of cinematic scoring was vital for my growth as composer and orchestrator. When I wear the orchestrator’s hat, my job is to craft flawless scores, plan the recording sessions, discuss score production (budgets, orchestra line-up) and take care of many logistical and creative details so that the composer can focus on his writing and feedback meetings.

Q: How valuable would you say the role of the orchestrator is in contemporary film scoring – both as an assistant to get the work done and as a collaborator with the composer in realizing his or her vision for the score? 

Penka Kouneva: As an orchestrator, I support the composer by “translating” their musical intentions from the MIDI file and the audio mixes and by creating the best orchestral scores for the scoring session. Further, I booth-read during the session and “mother” the score overall. I discuss with the composer how big or small the orchestra will be (based on the needs of the score and budget), how many hours of sessions we need to record everything, timelines, etc. While the composer is in the pressure cooker of studio politics, director’s feedback, crazy deadlines and even crazier budgets, I walk the extra mile to make their music shine and to make them feel in safe, caring hands.

While the composer is in the pressure cooker of studio politics, director’s feedback, crazy deadlines and even crazier budgets, I walk the extra mile to make their music shine and to make them feel in safe, caring hands.

Q: Your first scores as composer were for several short films and a documentary in the earlier part of this decade.  What led to your moving into composition and how did you find these initial experiences?

Penka Kouneva: I was classically trained and spent my 20’s composing concert and theatrical music. Then, at 32, I arrived in LA (in 1999) to focus singularly on a film scoring career. I had no other way of supporting myself than to orchestrate. I credit Pat Williams for showing me the ropes and letting me observe the entire process, from a spotting meeting to final mix, dub and delivery. (Once on a Sunday his crazy Dalmatian chewed through a DA-88 tape that a messenger was to pick up and deliver to CBS for a Monday dub. I got called, in panic, to make another DA-88 tape with the entire score ….) It was Cliff Eidelman, however, who gave me my first break as a composer. Cliff was familiar with my concert music and got asked to recommend a composer on Mitch Levine’s SHADOWS, a Holocaust AFI thesis film that was temped with Gorecki’s Symphony #3 and Djivan Gasparyan’s duduk music. I was at the right place and had the right “sound” – soulful Eastern European music, plus knew how to compose for duduk. The film and the score were a big success, and I began scoring AFI thesis films regularly. My first year in Hollywood was exceptionally difficult. Even as an accomplished composer and experienced musician, I went through a steep learning curve in the film music business, career development, and mostly, mastering the technology. On my own I had to learn MIDI sequencing, audio production, sample libraries, demo mixing – everything.

Q:  Your first feature film score was for a new version of the classic horror melodrama, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. How did you approach this new version of the story and what elements of the film were you focusing on to build a score around? 

Penka Kouneva: DORIAN GRAY was the perfect assignment in 2000 – the director wanted dark, suspenseful “classical” orchestral score a la Gabriel Yared’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.  I also adored Herrmann’s PSYCHO: the opening cue of the camera gliding over Phoenix apartments with that mysterious chord progression. This harmony became the backbone of my DORIAN score, which was also cross-pollinated with Chopin, and other dark suspenseful contemporary scores. DORIAN GRAY was my christening as a “Hollywood” composer and a catalyst in the process of re-inventing myself.

Q: A more aggressive horror film was CHUPACABRA TERROR.  What was your approach to this violent terror tale and how did you use your music to intensify the spooky/scary/violent aspects of the film?

Penka Kouneva: That was another fantastic scoring experience. The director John Shepphird wanted a classical monster score â la ALIEN: a big, thrusting theme for the monster and modern orchestral themes colorized with electronics textures for the tension/suspense. I had a blast with that. Who wouldn’t …. being inspired by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. That was my first “monster” theme and I made sure it was distinctive and memorable. I recorded the pivotal cues with a teeny tiny orchestra…11 strings, horns, trombones, and tuba.

Q: What is your style of finding a fresh approach to horror movie music?

Penka Kouneva: Arguably, horror films offer some of the richest, most imaginative musical opportunities for a composer, namely to develop dramatic and horrific themes, to work with dazzling orchestrations, and to incorporate a broad range of original ideas. The sky is the limit, in terms of themes, palette of colors, crazy “impact” music, and just in creating an emotional experience. Here are some of my inspirations along the way: anything by Chris Young (especially THE DARK HALF), Nathan Barr (HOSTEL and TRUE BLOOD), Jerry Goldsmith (MAGIC, ALIEN), Shirley Walker (WILLARD, BLACK CHRISTMAS), PSYCHO, John Frizzell (THE REAPING), Tyler Bates (SLITHER). I usually begin by sketching themes, finding the palette, tone and “voice” for the film and scoring a few pivotal cues that help me find the heart of the film. I am always thinking of the long-range arc of the score: suspense and themes in the first act, horror-action and the thematic development in the 2nd and 3rd act. I especially enjoy when the movie has a few twists and turns along the way that call for a fresh musical approach.

Q: You worked with iconic b-movie director Fred Olen Ray on NUCLEAR HURRICANE.  What kind of direction/input did he provide you as you were preparing the score?

Penka Kouneva: I met Fred briefly, he was on his way to Hawaii shooting his next assignment. This TV thriller was about an errant computer that locks two people inside a nuclear reactor during a storm. I veered off the road a bit experimenting with modern orchestral tricks (lots of noise and percussion effects), muted trumpets and trombone swells a la 70’s campy thrillers and noir sound. Fred said to me: “You were hired because of your dramatic orchestral music on CHUPACABRA, not to write some SHAFT noise score. Get rid of all percussion noise and dissonances.” I re-wrote a good third of the score in the last week. It was a difficult but important experience.

Q: Do the budgetary restrictions of these kinds of B-movies tie your hands, as a composer, or do you find opportunities for renewed creativity when you have less to work with than on a film with a bigger budget?

Penka Kouneva: As a composer I’ve worked with extremely tight budgets on all my movies so far, but I have been free from studio politics, and usually there was one cook in the kitchen – the director. The producers occasionally chimed in, with constructive and enlightening feedback. Even on my earliest scores, I’ve been allowed to develop my ideas, to stretch, and to try things off the beaten path.

Q: You worked with another legendary B-movie director, Tibor Takacs on ICE SPIDERS, a fun giant spider TV movie.  What were the needs of a plain-and-simple monsters-attacking-people movie like this?

Penka Kouneva: Tibor already had moved on to another assignment but I got to work with the iconic Brian Trenchard-Smith who became my mentor and made it a great experience. I had three weeks to write 70 minutes of hybrid score, with sampled orchestra, heavy electronic grooves, tons of action, and ambient textures. Early on I wrote textural and atmospheric electronic ambiance but Brian always prodded me towards writing thematic motifs. I understood that strong thematic identifiers – motifs and gestures – anchor the scene emotionally and make the score memorable. Brian cured me from falling back on “meandering” atmospheric suspenseful music just because we had 3 weeks and it was faster to whip up. The mutant spiders got some pretty cool themes. I enlisted the help of composer Vivek Maddala with some of the heavy action cues. In the end BTS said that the score “was like dark chocolate.”

Q: Is it more difficult for you when scoring a drama like DEATH AND TAXIS or Scott Anderson’s film of RICHARD III where you may not have such obvious visual images as attacking monsters, or are the quieter emotions of film dramas like these allow you more opportunities to reflect emotion and subtext in your scores?

Penka Kouneva: DEATH AND TAXIS was a human-interest drama (existential on top), so it was all about themes, moods, characters, builds, and sustaining an emotional tone.  RICHARD III was a modern, urban re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic and had the look and feel of a suspense-crime drama. For sound and tone I went in the stylistic direction of Mark Mancina’s TRAINING DAY score, Jeff Danna’s O (for modernized Shakespeare, one of my favorite scores). My job was to create a cogent soundscape that provides an environment for the characters and situations, as well as an identifying mood, tone, style, and sonic imprint.

Q: Your most horror recent score is for the indie film, MIDNIGHT MOVIE, kind of a tongue-in-cheek approach to horror.  Coming into this project, what were your first impressions of what kind of music was needed here, and how did you develop that idea into the complete score?

Penka Kouneva: I had a special challenge, to score a “movie-within-a-movie.” (The synopsis is: a midnight showing of an early 1970’s horror movie turns to chaos when the Killer from the movie comes out of the film to attack those in the theater.) Therefore, I had to write 2 scores: one for the “old movie” that is being made fun of by the audience members, and the other for the “movie” we are watching. The “old score” was supposed to be dated and cheesy. I used some musical ideas that were en vogue for the 70’s genre scoring (weird instrumentation: thin high violins and bassoon, early synth patches, meandering chords for suspense, etc). The modern score had to be dark and earnest. Collaborating with director Jack Messitt was a fantastic experience. The movie plays with a few metaphors, one of them being fear. I wrote a delicate, sad theme for fear, as a metaphysical experience. It was inspired by Nathan Barr’s tension/suspense cues from HOSTEL. The suspense cues were described by critics as “shivery,” the attack cues were explosive and horrific.

Q: How would you contrast your experience as a composer for small, independent films with that of orchestrating for huge blockbusters?  Is smaller easier, less complex, less political?  What are the challenges in crafting a supportive musical aesthetic in both levels of film making?

Penka Kouneva: Studio films have healthy budgets for music. The politics are complicated, there are always many decision makers involved. The approval process is extremely rigorous – the score has to be approved by many people with divergent tastes while the composer must maintain a coherent stylistic vision. The deadlines are set in stone. Yet, I am inspired by the masters who, within these circumstances, create brilliant, unforgettable scores. On independent films the budgets are usually very small and restrictive, especially if a live score is required. The collaboration with the directors has been energizing, inspiring and fun for me. There is emphasis on trying out unique ideas, meticulously evolving the score’s identity. The timeline tends to be more flexible.

The differences between film and game music, however, are significant. Film music is scored to picture and must “hit” narrative and visual elements, whereas game music has varied functions (loops, cinematics, idle). The loops are based on feel, energy/density (ambient, suspense and combat) and style that identifies the game brand.

Q: Music for video games is already rivaling music for films in terms of scope, style, budget.  How did you work with Steve Jablonsky on Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands - and do you see a difference between the essential role of music in a game versus a film?

Penka Kouneva: I am exceptionally happy and excited to expand from cinematic composer to composing for video games. I began orchestrating for Steve Jablonsky in 2004 on TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, DRAGON WARS, the TRANSFORMERS games and films. Steve wrote two themes for PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS game – an epic-adventure theme and a darker, war-like which became the final Main Theme. I had four months to compose 2 hours of game music – acrobatic and combat cues, ambient layers and some cinematics (Steve scored most of the cinematics). We decided on the arsenal of instruments: full Hollywood orchestra, choirs, percussion, loops and Persian instruments: santour, oud and saz, tambour, duduks and neys, voices, and a large arsenal of ethnic percussion. Some of my loops were variations or extrapolations of Steve’s themes. Most were original, within Steve’s style. I spent months researching Persian, Armenian, Turkish and Indian music and jotting down ideas. Since childhood, I deeply loved non-Western music. Ubisoft’s Music Supervisor, Simon Landry, was exceptionally generous with his feedback, guidance and support towards us. The principal musical directions were: “dark, urgent militant music, a hybrid of Persian and Hollywood epic music” and “avoid Arabic clichés.” I collaborated with composer Chris Lord who is a master of percussion composing and electronic textures, and contributed greatly. The current trend for game scores is to sound and feel big and sophisticated like a cinematic score. The differences between film and game music, however, are significant. Film music is scored to picture and must “hit” narrative and visual elements, whereas game music has varied functions (loops, cinematics, idle). The loops are based on feel, energy/density (ambient, suspense and combat) and style that identifies the game brand. I am energized by the possibility to score for games these days.

Penka’s soundtrack to MIDNIGHT MOVIE has been released on the start-up genre soundtrack collectors label, Howlin’ Wolf Records, see: www.howlinwolfrecords.com 
The game score to PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS is available for digital download from iTunes and amazon.com

Thanks to Greg O’Connor-Read for facilitating this interview, and especially to Penka for answering my questions so thoughtfully. 

"The Angel"

“The Angel” Composes And “Shapes” Music For GAIA

Over the past decade, “The Angel” has quietly become one of the leading ladies of film and TV composing.  Critically acclaimed for pioneering an eclectic sound that is both urban and electronic, “The Angel” works with big budget, documentary and indie films including the current festival favorite, GAIA. The film was awarded Best Feature at the Berkshires Film Festival and was screened at Dances With Films in Los Angeles.

“In a film with so little dialogue, the soundtrack and score play an essential role in seducing the audience,” said GAIA director Jason Lehel. “‘The Angel’ was able to take my somewhat crude descriptions on the way I’d like to go forward and not only interpret but breathe in a new life that gave me something beautiful, delicate and powerful all at once.”

“The Angel”’s musical palate varies from traditional orchestration to ambient musical elements. The engaging sound fabricator enjoys “controlling and shaping the music” of her projects, including her new assignment as composer for the newly retooled second season of the TNT television show HawthoRNe. Her signature style blends musical genres with a healthy dose of irreverence, using both traditional and contemporary instrumentation.

Known for her urban and electronic music, her work on GAIA was a sonic departure into an acoustic soundscape. Connecting themes of grief, survival and forgiveness into a dramatic and emotional tale, GAIA follows a young woman’s fight to find herself and reclaim her life back from a dark past.

“From the minute I watched it (GAIA), I could feel the pull toward organic, warm and evocative instrumentation for the overall feel,” said “The Angel” of the score. “I was able to paint in flavors and textures that I created from scratch, blending acoustic and electric guitars, obscure percussion instruments, ethnic flutes – for texture, not as leads – mandolin, autoharp and strings. I used these instruments among others, in non-traditional ways – sometimes played, then sampled and distressed - and being a bit of a renegade, decided to use electric bass as a lead instrument in some of the main themes.”

“The Angel” is a Brooklyn native and Los Angeles transplant (by way of London). She has charted unparalleled ground in a male dominated industry, combining her skills as a record producer and composer. She has produced and/or mixed for artists such as The Pharcyde, The Brand New Heavies, and Spearhead. Following a stint in London, “The Angel” entered film scoring when she met the producers of GRIDLOCK’D (Tim Roth/Tupac). The jazzy, contemporary flavor of her remix of Donald Byrd’s “Kofi,” (Blue Note) caught the attention of director, Vondie Curtis-Hall. Since then, “The Angel”‘s film and television projects include the provocative hit UK feature “KiDULTHOOD,” (Noel Clarke), BOILER ROOM (Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel), THE HEART OF THE GAME, STANDOFF (Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt) and the Lifetime original movie, RACING FOR TIME (Charles Dutton).

Recently “The Angel” worked closely with Glen Mazzara (THE SHIELD, CRASH), the new showrunner for TNT’s HawthoRNe to compliment the new direction the series would take in its second season that begun June 22nd. “I was hired to bring my cutting edge sensibilities into the mix, while taking a more sophisticated approach with the music as a whole, blending acoustic instrumentation with electronic and urban flavors, keeping it contemporary with a sprinkle of classical feel here and there,” said “The Angel”. “I was able to get a very good bead on Glen’s vision for the entire season because he invited me to tone meetings, six weeks before I was officially needed in post production.”

“I tend to work completely from a place of instinct and feel rather than mathematics and musical theory. With GAIA there were long stretches with no dialogue (that I had to score) and found myself doing interesting things with the dynamics of the music, since, in essence, it was often playing the part of a leading character, revealing parts of the story as well as carrying the emotion. It was delicate, finesse work, the kind that I happily lost myself in.”

“The Angel” continues to demonstrate that she is a prolific composer and producer. She established a music production company (Devilishly Good Productions), record label (Supa Crucial Recordings) and publishing company (Supa Crucial Music), as she continues to produce records that span the electronic genre: downtempo, hip hop, drum ‘n bass and dubstep. Her original music has been featured in TV shows including 24, TRUE BLOOD, and THE WIRE.

- via Costa Communications

This Week’s Soundtrack Recommendations

25 YEARS OF FRENCH CINEMA/Various/Disques Cinémusique
This Canadian label devoted to French film music restores a curiosity: the digital premiere of a 1956 record album, supplemented by additional relevant excerpts, that revisits some of the best French scores from the beginning of the thirties to the mid-fifties, up to the start of the New Wave.  Tracks from 15 films by seven composers (Maurice Jaubert, Joseph Kosma, Georges Auric, Maurice Jarre, Darius Milhaud, Maurice Le Roux, and Henri Saguet) proffer a sonic glimpse at the unique style of French film music  - few of these composers would be welcomed among the French New Wave directors who turned their back on the past in their search for something uniquely new in their filmmaking (Jarre being one who was able to cross the Nouvelle Vague border).  The official “25 ans de Musique de Cinema” section consists of tracks from nine films by each of the seven composers, performed by conductor Serge Baudo and an unidentified orchestra.  To complete the program to CD length, DCM has added additional excerpts from Maurice Leroux’ original soundtrack to Albert Lamorisse’s  (THE RED BALLOON), a few dances by Maurice Jaubert from René Clair’s BASTILLE DAY and four film songs by Joseph Kosma and Jaubert. The 16-page booklet in both English and French contains the original album notes as well as a new commentary by DCM producer Clément Fontaine.  The original 1956 album tracks, which include Jaubert’s L’ATLANTIDE, Auric’s ORPHEUS, Le Roux’s RED BALLOON, and Jarre’s L’Universe d’Utrillo (a short documentary that pre-dated his feature scores for Franju), are verbally introduced by album producer Lucien Adès, but that doesn’t really intrude on the music, which is mostly classically-based.  The supplemental tracks are all especially nice, from LeRoux’s extended suite from RED BALLOON to Yoko Sawai’s exquisite piano version of Jaubert’s BASTILLE DAY and the songs, unique in their 1940/’50s French passion.

THE A-TEAM/Alan Silvestri/Varese Sarabande
Alan Silvestri serves up a fine action score, opening with a hint and closing with a full-blooded interpretation of the 1983 Mike Post/Pete Carpenter TV theme.  Silvestri’s score is percussive and propulsive, a heavy hitting bombast of rhythmic excitement bolstered by a recurring 2-note drum beat that seems to emphasize the syllables of “A-Team!”  “Court Martial” introduces the score’s melodic theme, a yearning, passionate heroic melody for strings that is virtually beaten out of the dissonant cadences by the drums and into its own semblance as an emotive theme rich in flavor.  The theme is reprised briefly in “Shell Game” but the score’s cohesion is clearly in its aggressive drumming, which both suggest the military past that each of the Team’s members shares in common as well as their mutual drive to clear their names with the US Military, while guitar licks and synth reflections dapple the drumming with figures that invigorate the ongoing rhythmic, percussive energy.  The score occasionally gets a little noisy on disc – “Retrieving the Plates,” for example, culminated in a brutal riot of drum fills and wiry synth tones – but most of the time the dissonance is well under control and quite purposeful in its forward drive, and races forward at high speed until it explodes with a terrific cheer into the climactic rendition of the TV theme, which completes the score and gives it a very satisfying resolution.

BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD/Christopher Drake/WaterTower Music
This most recent animated video feature from the DC Universe houses an extremely potent treatment of the mythic Batman sound from Christopher Drake (GOTHAM KNIGHT, WONDER WOMAN), embodying the pervasive essence of former incarnation of the Batman sound while fitting it to the specific milieu at hand.  Drake includes elements of industrial guitar shredding, giving the music a dark, almost bitter sonic edge.  The score still has the sweeping, pervasive Gothic elements that have become the signature sound of The Dark Knight, but the film’s even darker tone has allowed Drake to add elements of metal, industrial, and urban music into the mix, painting Gotham’s noir hero in swatches of fiery crimson.  Only at the End Titles does the Batman motif emerge unencumbered by the other musical influences to resolve clearly with its own flavor.  It’s a likeable mix and a powerfully dramatic work.  The album is available for digital download or via “on-demand” CDR from Amazon.
For a good interview with Drake on this score, see: http://worldsfinestonline.com/WF/dcuam/redhood/backstage/drakewf.php 

CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE/Christopher Lennertz/Varese Sarabande
Lennertz’ experience scoring a couple of James Bond video games serves him very well on this score, sequel to the 2001 sci-fi comedy that John Debney had scored.  Lennertz has keyed in on the film’s spy spoof elements and concocted a splendid score mixing elements of vintage 1960’s Barry, Schifrin, and Mancini into a fine and fun score that echoes elements of 007, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and PETER GUNN and wraps them into a cuddly carpet of feline feistiness.  The story this time has to do with former agent Tabby for a cat spy organization who goes rogue and plans to overtake her former canine enemies in a big way.  Lennertz gives the silly story a lot of credence, playing the animals’ spy antics as serious and threatening stuff while introducing a bold main theme that soars heroically and anchors the music with a satisfying thematic core; as fun as the echoes of homage are, it’s this central theme that gives the music its cold-snouted, true heart.

CLEOPATRA JONES/J. J. Johnson/Joe Simon, Dominic Frontiere/FSM
Quintessential soul, released at the height of the blaxploitation trend in Hollywood cinema. CLEOPATRA JONES is a superlative example of the R&B film scoring style of the subgenre (which generally ranged from 1971’s SHAFT to 1979’s DISCO GODFATHER).  The 2-CD set contains the scores for both Cleopatra Jones movies, the first, scored by legendary jazz trombonist and composer J. J. Johnson, the second, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, by noted Hollywood composer Dominic Frontiere (HANG ‘EM HIGH, THE OUTER LIMITS, THE RAT PATROL).  Johnson was aided by Carl Brandt and by soul singer Joe Simon, whose main title theme and song grounded the score in an authentic urban R&B vibe, which Johnson exemplified in his underscore.  Johnson, who had begun scoring films in 1970 at the suggestion of Quincy Jones, wrote the exemplary score for ACROSS 110TH STREET and would score the next year’s WILLIE DYNAMITE, provided a score built on the foundation of R&B instrumentals but took advantage of several opportunities for improvisational riffing; the result is a thoroughly likable score and one of the best in the genre.  The album includes the original soundtrack LP and plenty of extra tracks.  Dominic Frontiere didn’t fit the profile for a blaxploitation composer but he did a fine job with CASINO OF GOLD (never before released in any form).  It’s not an authentic R&B/soul score like Johnson’s but it’s a very engaging funky pop score that does fit the glitzy Hong Kong casino world in which the film occurs (some of which briefly recalls Schifrin’s ENTER THE DRAGON).  Frontiere’s title song emerges smoothly out of a volcanic R&B eruption, and is an infectiously catchy tune, presented in a few alternate formats.   Extensive notes are provided on both films by Scott Bettancourt.

DEXTER Season 4/Rolfe Kent, Daniel Licht/Milan
The fourth season of Showtime’s macabre drama series about a Miami police forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer of criminals who he believes have escaped justice continues the style of the previous three seasons.  Like Milan’s previous album of Season 1, the S4 release (A score album from Seasons 2 and 3 are available on iTunes and Amazon.com) includes the main title theme by Rolfe Kent, a fistful of throwaway songs licensed for use during episodes, and a healthy dose of Daniel Licht’s fun score for the show.  Licht, who decided to employ instruments often used for comic music (pizzicato strings, congas, light choirs) and compose severely Gothic music for them, thus embodying the “light ghoulish” nature of the show’s affable hero and thus lightening up the gruesomeness of his extra-curricular activities.  The music is pleasant and nicely toned, for the most part underplayed but quite agreeable in its portrait of the congenial killer with a heart of gold.

THE EXPENDABLES/Brian Tyler/Lionsgate digital download
Brian Tyler’s latest action score unites him with director Sylvester Stallone (RAMBO) in this ensemble war action film which pits nine major action stars against a ruthless Latin dictator.  In his score, Tyler mirrors the film’s homage to the action blockbusters of the ‘80s and early ‘90s with a very Goldsmithian action score, yet one that has plenty of Tyler’s own touches.  Recorded in Prague with an orchestra of 80 musicians, the score is centered on a stalwart, languid main theme for brass over a fast-moving white-water of marcato strings, blasting percussion, and low chorale support, which gives the film a powerfully muscular allure.  “The musical theme of THE EXPENDABLES reflects this group of expendable guys, a bad ass ensemble team that have been put in a situation that gives them a shot at redemption,” said Tyler.  “Redemption and emotion were more important in this score than action even though it is an action film. Stallone was supportive of that direction. We had a great orchestra along with great percussion and Latin elements to reflect the locale.”  The score’s action material is well under control; a strong, rhythmic orchestral base bolstered by synths and choir, with frequent melodic measures that keep the score grounded in the humanity of the cast of characters.  Tyler’s main theme makes frequent incursions as an eloquently powerful and poignant recapitulation that these characters are not so expendable after all, and it’s this emotive undercurrent that gives both score and film much of its affecting character.

FINALE/Shawn K. Clement/BSX Records
A particularly scary semblance wafts throughout the score for this indie horror feature, about a mother unraveling a horrible mystery as she seeks to understand her son’s apparent suicide.  Clement has crafted together a profoundly haunting atmosphere using a variety of reflected, processed, and sampled acoustic sounds, creating a constantly claustrophobic atmosphere of uneasy tonality.  Strands of exuding tonality distend across tangible textures of ghostlike orchestration (“Hidden Secrets”), playing against pretty piano figures contrasted against rough hand drumming (“Hidden Messages”), bitter-flavored acoustic guitar notes (“Helen’s Dream”), gamelan-like percussion bonging amidst hushed choir and ringing peals of woody synths (“Searching for Answers”), flurrying flakes of devilish fiddling over rhythmic figures from drum kit and reflective sheets of synth (“He’s Coming”), low chorale substances that drift like molasses fog across the shadowy soundscape, exploding into a relentlessly charging surge of drum-driven chaos (“Todd’s Death”).  Clement’s music for the revelation of a cultic ceremony exudes a disturbing chorale chant that, rather than the cohesive, rhythmic harmonies of Goldsmith’s THE OMEN and its ilk, instead saturate with foul tendrils of resonant resonance, an acoustic equivalent of spilt bile running in hot rivulets across a cold stone floor, its steam the brooding choral and synth atmospheres, its texture the drumming that splatters the smooth sinewy texture, its feel the potent discomfort of the sonic mélange of discordant, haunting tones.  Indeed, FINALE is a truly disturbing sound environment that makes for a tremendously effective horror-thriller score, if not the easiest listening experience on its own.  It’s a very frightening sounding score, a musical sound design that creates a continual environment of hostility and horror.

GET CARTER/Roy Budd/Silva Screen (reissue)
This remarkable 1971 jazz score – performed with just three players: Budd on keyboards (harpsichord and Rhodes piano), Jeff Clyne on double bass and Chris Karan on percussion (drums, tablas, other percussion) – has achieved a rare effectiveness and deserved acclaim.  Recorded early in Budd’s transition from jazz pianist to renowned film composer, the film – coupled with a few pop tunes performed by various vocal groups of the day.  The score’s theme, a strident and austere harpsichord motif processed and reverberated that opens and closes the film, it’s a provocative jazz variation of the same motif, called “Carter Takes a Train,” that has received the most airplay and cover by other bands.  Budd mixed the piece with the subdued sound effects of Carter’s train ride, mixed low, that actually blends the effects with the jazz performance to provide a depth of sound that becomes far less than distracting, as it could have been; rather, it becomes part of the musical texture and creates an underlying riff over which Budd’s snappy Rhodes, Clyne’s smoothly plucked bass strings, and Karan’s tablas and drum-kit vividly emote.  The score takes the main theme and variants through a number of compelling paces.  The album includes dialog from the film as separate  tracks between the song and score cues.  They can be programmed out or deleted from digital editions as preferred by the listener.  The score has been issued a few times in the past; Silva’s version most closely replicates the 2000 Castle edition, with a few more dialog tracks, and a thorough set of album notes that includes interviews with and notes from various members of the crew.  Silva’s CD is the first installment in a reissue series from Budd’s extensive catalog of work which will include SOLDIER BLUE, FEAR IS THE KEY and THE STONE KILLER.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA/Maurice Jarre/Tadlow/World Premiere Complete Score Recording
Tadlow’s latest massive undertaking is this splendid 2-CD set containing not only the complete score from Maurice Jarre’s Arabian magnum opus (at 77:34 minute, beating out in length Silva’s 51:20-minute1988 Tony Bremner rerecording), but a whole second disc full of concert suites and selections from a variety of other Jarre scores.  The album, officially released on Sept. 13th, gathers together a thunderous performance by the Prague Philharmonic of Jarre’s epic score which is just as effective in adding a persuasive dynamic to the score’s quieter nuances.  Hearing the score in its entirety allows one to drink of its full measure; LAWRENCE is far more than its main theme, which despite its melodic grace suffered being reduces to an oft-recorded easy-listening tune during the later ‘60s; the score is rich with dramatic turns and textured notions of the desert and the battles therein, and the glory of the one man who made a difference to both sides.  Among the rarities preferred on the second disc are an early Prague Philharmonic recording of Jarre’s end title music from FIREFOX (and thus the first bit of that score to reach release in any form), cues from RESURRECTION, THE FIXER, TV’s CIMARRON STRIP, and much more.  Frank K. DeWald’s introduction and track-by-track notes for LAWRENCE are required reading: they illuminate a lot of what the score does and explain what was and is so unique about Jarre’s first major Hollywood score – its mix of Western and Eastern melodic ideas, its pervasive use of tritones to convey the unresolved expanse of the desert and the conflict engaged upon its sands, his particular understanding of percussion, and his incorporation of non symphonic instruments – a zither and three Theremin-like Ondes Martenot – to lend a unique sound to the score.  Producer James Fitzpatrick provides his own notes on the recording and goes on to describe the cues selected on Disc 2.

LIVE EVIL/Austin Wintory/BSX Records
Austin Wintory has composed a sturdy score for this action-horror film which stars Tim Thomerson as a vengeful priest on the trail of a quartet of vampires who are trekking across America seeking uninfected, pure blood.  The prompts the occasion for plenty of action, suspense, and horror cues, and Wintory provides plenty of each.  Vocalist Lisbeth Scott was recruited to provide some especially haunting, ethereal vocals which entwine, along with sinewy strands of low winds and tremolo strings, a particularly unsettling atmosphere around dappled beats of drum and faint vibraphone rolls (Lisbeth is especially notable on the main and end titles, where she is multi-tracked to create a vividly spooky choir with which to support her emotive soloing).  Lisbeth’s dark tonalities wage a sonic conflict with her own higher soprano notes to reflect the duality within the vampire-hunting priest.  There is no evident recurring theme in LIVE EVIL but rather a progression of haunting atmospheres that well up from cue to cue to support the dark story.  Interestingly, Wintory constructed each of his cues around the framework of the Latin Requiem Mass, giving its low tonalities a notably baroque flair to evoke an intriguing Gothic horror flavor that hints at the clerical nature of Thomerson’s blood-soaked, white-collared hero.  The mix of the Gothic tradition within a modern action score gives the score an especially disturbing semblance, while the subtleties of its musical fabric remain ripe with references to music both profound and profane.

Mark Snow’s music for Chris Carter’s X-FILES’ spinoff, THE LONE GUNMEN, has finally achieved soundtrackdom, appropriately paired with his very different music for Carter’s short-lived alternate reality series, HARSH REALM.  Fairly equally divided between the album’s 33 tracks, the music perfectly embodies each series.  GUNMEN, detailing the exploits of the intrepid trio of conspiracy-hounds who occasionally come to the aid of Mulder & Scully on THE X-FILES.  Snow’s main theme perfectly sets the tone and concept for the show: riffing off of The Star Spangled Banner with an electric guitar â la Hendrix at Woodstock before morphing into a kind of surf-guitar rhythm piece that effectively captures the trio in all their earnest misfitedness.  “Lost Puppy” renders a sweet and very sympathetic variation on the main theme for Hammond organ, backed with a poignant violin.  The show allowed Snow to embrace all manner of pop-culture references in his music, which he did subtly and adroitly, while keeping the musical integrity of the scores always rooted in the characters.  The episode scores are thoroughly engaging, running from comic, antic-filled underscore (“Rectal Palpitation”) to persuasive action riffing (“El Palacio” with its urban rhythm beneath a compelling airy vocal line), and to the serenely gorgeous tango of “El Lobo.”  The music to HARSH REALM is more along the lines of THE X-FILES with a darker and more menacing tonality.  The show proposed a soldier having to infiltrate a military simulation game, and being just as at risk in that world’s virtual post-apocalyptic wasteland as if it were real flesh, blood, and pulped concrete.  Snow’s score divided itself in half: using conventional instruments to denote the real world sequences while a, well, harsh assemblage of bleak techno textures delineated the computer world – while a profoundly moving motif for voice and piano echoed the humanity that spread between them (“Love Letter” is an extremely moving but of rhythm progression the speaks volumes for the hero and his love, hopelessly separated by cyberspace).  The scores are worlds apart but continued evidence of Snow’s ability to capture the right flavor and convey the right emotive profundity of even the strangest of situations.  The album, supported by fine explanatory notes by Julie Kirgo, is a rich investment of compelling sound design and pop-culture riffing.

MALICE IN WONDERLAND/Christian & Joe Henson/MovieScoreMedia
An evocative fantasy score that tends to favor the darker regions, deriving a compelling sound through a wide array of acoustic instruments.  MSM earlier released Christian Henson’s SECRET OF MOONACRE, which demonstrated a very interesting degree of instrumental depth; MALICE follows the same pattern, comprised of a neat mix of electric guitars, cimbalom, trumpet and saxophone, infectious banjo riffs, playful Hammond organ tunes, catchy jingles, indie rock, sentimental piano music and steamy club music.  The film, directed by Simon Fellows, is a modern day setting of the Lewis Carroll fantasy, and its music dips into furtive phrases, full-on noir melodies, strident rock vibes, steamy sax riffs, Beatles-esque tape manipulation, brief choral interludes punctuated by wah-wah guitars, vivid romantic ascensions, and delightful waltz scherzos.   An enchanting listen.

MIDDLE MEN/Brian Tyler/ABKCO digital download
The sultry mix of orchestra and slide guitar is fitting for George Gallo’s film about the misadventures of an entrepreneur who builds the first online billing company dealing exclusively with adult entertainment.  The crime drama has its more propulsive moments, heavy with percussion and low-end roughage from strummed guitars and hand percussion and the like, promulgating a discomforting disciplined vibe that maintains a fairly constant ambiance atmosphere.  While an array of pop and rock songs setting both the environment and accentuating the RocknRolla attitude of the scenario, the score, as Gallo put it in the in the digital booklet accompanying the album, maintained the growing sense of danger and regret that drives the protagonist.   The track “Aimless Electricity Upon Touching” imparts an especially provocative and almost ethereal sensibility with synths and gamelan-like percussion placed deep into the mix so as to keep; it somewhat aloof and intangible. 

MOTHER AND CHILD/Edward Shearmur/Varese Sarabande
This 2009 drama, about three women and their bonds with their children (and vice-versa), featured a sublimely beautiful score by Shearmur, from the opening song, lithely performed by singer Lucy Schwartz, through the score proper’s intricate poignancy.  The music is touching in its emotive fragility while equally strong in the sturdiness of the familial bonds that link each set of characters.  Rather than developing themes for each of the three, Shearmur provides a single primary theme which reflects the poetry of the mother/child bond, mostly using piano, oboe, electric guitar, and light percussion, which is varied to support each of the three storylines as they intersect and offset one another.  It’s an intricately melodic work very pregnant with passion and feeling.

MOTHRA/Yuji Koseki/Toho Music
Purporting to be the complete score to one of Japan’s best and most iconic kaiju films after GOJIRA (and the first one in widescreen color), this Ark Soundtrack Square exclusive 2-DCD release is a marvel at revealing subtleties of the film score that was lost in shorter abbreviations of the score on LP and disc.  Disc 1 presents the complete original soundtrack from in stereo (61 tracks), while Disc 2 contains the complete soundtrack from the original master tapes in mono (66 tracks), both digitally remastered, with many bonus tracks included on both discs.  The unique thing about MOTHRA (called Mosura in Japan as the Japanese language lacks a “th” sound) was that, unlike Toho’s Godzilla and Rodan, who began as nemeses of humanity and later turned into boxing heroes of the Rising Sun, Mothra began a good creature, protecting the peaceful natives of Infant Island when the gigantic lepidopteran’s twin priestesses are kidnapped by interlopers.  Mothra is regarded as the first female monster in the Toho pantheon, and is considered to be divine, certainly by the islanders who hold her in worship.  Thus, Koseki has taken a lighter touch more befitting of the film’s fairy tale nuances as well as its overtly feminine characteristics.  The score runs between aggressive monster music, representing power of Mothra in rescuing and restoring her stolen fairies; the mixed orchestral and choral island music associated with the natives and the worship activities of the Infant Islanders; and the choral music associated with the twin fairies, played by the twin singing duo, the Peanuts, whose uncanny harmonies serve to summon their larval deity through their enchanting vocalizations.  Their “Mothra Song” in here in a couple of renditions, including some unusual variations on it and other sung elements (The Peanuts appear in 13 tracks on disc 1; 8 on disc 2).  The two-disc set allows for numerous permutations of all the various themes, although the repetition of some solo organ nuances in some of the tracks gets to be a little redundant at time.  Elsewhere, the organ adds an intriguing flavor to the urban scenes back home in Japan, such as in track 6, which proffers a solo organ rendition of the “Mothra Song.”

PIRANHA 3D/Michael l Wandmacher/Lakeshore
The score to the latest horror cheesefest is an energetic rampage of schooling orchestration that races along at power speed.  Lakeshore, which also released the film’s songtrack album, has put together a potent mix of Wandmacher’s creepy chills.  The composer, as he did with the remade MY BLOODY VALENTINE, 2008’s TRAIN, and 2005’s CRY_WOLF, proved capable of evoking sonic terror, and with a mix of reverbated musical suspense patterns and raging, rushing discordant rhythms at high velocity creates a very capable horror score, one that is well under control despite its heavily dissonant profusion.  His use of low cello as a suspense figure resembles JAWS just for a moment (in “Empty Boat”), but the reference is fleeting; his more predominant unsettling music comes via reflective echoes of reverberated synth chords.  A seething school of hungry synth patterns in homage to the sound effects used in Joe Dante’s original PIRANHA are briefly employed in the same track.  “Sunbathers” lays down an exceedingly apprehensive rhythm of low bass and echoing synth voicings, raising an unheard cry of warning for the titular vacationers, while the immediately following “Army of Teeth” accompanies their end in an abundance of gnashing, grinding, slashing sounds from strings and synths; a pattern in the strings replicates the reflective metallic sheen of a wall of piranha darting past under water, this is a sonic motif Wandmacher will use frequently to represent the relentless battalions of vicious fish as they rush through clear water and soon turn in dark crimson.  “Pressure Wave” is an undulating, progressive orchestral cue enhanced by strident wavelets of sinewy synths as it builds to a peak.  “Rescued” provides a bit of respite via an interesting slow rhythm for bass and electric guitar, reprised from pianos in the finale, “Breathe.”  A hard-driving rock instrumental sounds over the “End Titles.”  A powerful enough score to make one unconsciously draw one’s feet closer while listening, away from that virtual river’s edge wherein lurk things hungry and sharp.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN SANDS/Steve Jablonsky, Penka Kouneva/Ubisoft
This game score, available for digital download, features a richly evocative main theme in Jablonsky’s finest tradition, with a bold, languidly rhythmic main theme over a thunderous array of percussion and percussive synths, and those (like me) who find that style very compelling will enjoy this score.  Jablonsky, aided by orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva [see interview above] have crafted a well textured score that gives the game a fine sense of exotic atmosphere and drum-driven drive.  The game is not connected to the Disney feature film but is an extension of the previous PRINCE OF PERSIA video games that the Disney film was based on.  The score captures the epic, cinematic sonic sweep that most action/adventure games are embracing, and it’s the vast cinematic canvass of the score that will likely appeal most to soundtrack collectors.  The score is thoroughly melodic and progressive, its thematic architecture and scope of presentation varied enough to make the score quite satisfying in its entirety.  The sound of a large orchestra is enhanced by an array of exotic instruments and subtle use of choir which fit the game’s locale while giving the music a pleasing depth of texture.

Composer duo tomandandy, best known for their edgy, sublime sonic landscapes for movies such as P2, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, KILLING ZOE and numerous television commercial campaigns, have created an original, hybrid genre score for RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE the highly-anticipated fourth installment of the popular film series based on the video games.  “Our mission for the RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE score was to reinvent the sound of the RESIDENT EVIL saga,” said tomandandy (Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn).  “At every turn, director Paul W. S. Anderson encouraged us to avoid cliché. He encouraged us to explore the edges of noise and modern sound synthesis.  We developed an aggressive palette of heavily distorted sounds and complex metric structures.  At times the music is soft, gentle and airy, a fusion of organic sounds and electronics. Bracketing the music world with these two extremes: aggressive and distorted on one end and soft and dreamy on the other, we framed a palette, one with tremendous range.”  Their score is as aggressive as a hungry zombie with a taste for soft brains; there’s little room for subtlety or finesse.  This is, therefore, quite a noisy score, surfing in on a pretty hefty rock beat and staying that way throughout most of the score, settling a thrusting forward rhythm suitable to the film’s violent energy.  It’s not as varied as some may prefer, but it does get its hooks into the listener and just won’t let go.  The soundtrack album comes out from Milan on September 28th.

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE/Trevor Rabin/Walt Disney Records
Jerry Bruckheimer’s production of Jon Turtletaub’s THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE is very loosely based on the Mickey Mouse cartoon of the same name that was included in FANTASIA (which itself was based on the Paul Dukas symphonic poem and the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ballad).  The story may have sprung far from the original Mickey Mouse cartoon, but the connection is made clear as Rabin’s score begins and ends with a clear riff on the Dukas composition, before it erupts into an epic-styled hybrid action score very much in the Zimmer/Remote Control Prods menu, but it’s effective and rousing and likable within that vein all the same, even if it is rather formulaic.


VAMPIRES SUCK/Christopher Lennertz/Lakeshore
Lennertz’s latest is this vivid and straightforward score for this vampire satire that pokes lots of fun at the TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD ilk of the brooding, romantic vampire and women who love them.  Lennertz has crafted an expressive score built around a lilting love theme which, at times, takes on a quasi Delerue styled lyricism, to which Lennertz adds female voice.  Add this theme to the short list of grand, haunting vampire love ballads.  The score supports the vampire’s darker menace with an advancing rhythmic motif, and fiddled strings in lower-registers, while a recurring rolling punch from drums and cymbals serves to punctuate and cap the rhythms.  Lennertz provides a potent backdrop against which the film’s humorous interactions occur.
(See my next column for an interview with Christopher Lennertz on this score and his playful CATS & DOGS.)

The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films

Carpentier Press and Alfred Music Publishing have announced the publication of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films,Doug Adams’s comprehensive account of Howard Shore’s score for Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy. The book will be available in the European Union on September 28 and in the U.S. and worldwide on October 5, 2010.  The culmination of almost a decade of writing and research, The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films is an unprecedented 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.

The 416-page full-color volume features a Foreword by Howard Shore, an Introduction by The Lord of the Rings screenwriter/producer Fran Walsh, original sketches by John Howe and Alan Lee, and numerous images from the films. Also included in the book, courtesy of Howe Records, is “The Lord of the Rings: The Rarities Archive” a CD presenting 21 tracks of previously unreleased music created for the films, and an audio interview with Howard Shore.

“Howard Shore’s [LOTR] music has touched millions of people the world over,” said Adams.  “It’s been my great pleasure to assemble a piece that chronicles the creation of this music, and examines exactly how it tells this classic story.  Researching Shore’s music has been a true adventure.  His work is every bit as intricate and passionate as Tolkien’s Middle-earth.”  Adams previously covered Shore’s scores extensively in his comprehensive notes for the Complete Recordings editions of the LOTR scores, and in the expanded online coverage found in The Lord of the Rings: The Annotated Score, all of which have become expanded in the new book.

“Doug was a detective uncovering clues, tracing how one theme or character related to another,” said Shore.  “He not only shows the themes and motifs for characters, cultures, objects, and their connection to Tolkien’s work, but also the ideas that were sometimes buried deep inside the writing.”

Doug Adams, a Chicago-based author and musicologist, was invited in 2001 by Howard Shore to observe and document his work on Peter Jackson’s motion picture trilogy. Adams attended recording sessions, examined the original scores, and was given complete access to the composer’s archives. As an acknowledged authority on Howard Shore’s music, Adams runs the popular blog, www.musicoflotr.com, which documents his work on this project and brings fans together in ongoing discussions.


Soundtrack & Music News

Likely sold out at the label by the time you read this (as with their last limited releases, John Williams’ SPACE CAMP and Alan Silvestri’s PREDATOR), Intrada’s world premiere release of John Barry’s score to THE DEEP was announced last Monday.  After two years worth of effort with two major licensors (UMG & Sony Pictures), Intrada was able to realize a complete presentation of the score plus the classic original 1977 album.  For this mostly underwater thriller, Barry melded a haunting, richly beautiful theme with an abundance of dark, dangerous material to create unusually wide-scale score, replete with dense underwater motifs, aggressive action licks, anchored by a stunningly beautiful main theme. Intrada presents the complete score on CD 1, in mono from only surviving 1/4" session masters vaulted in excellent condition by Sony, then offers complete (and generous) original Casablanca soundtrack album in stereo from superb condition actual album masters vaulted by UMG – including the great Donna Summers rendition of Barry's love theme!  The complete presentation allows an entire hour of music to play in picture sequence, offering rich variations on theme, sizzling danger motifs, and other highlights deleted from the LP version.  An Intrada Special Collection release limited to 3000 copies!

Chris’ Soundtrack Corner has released PAPAYA DEI CARAIBI (Papaya: Love Goddess Of The Cannibals). The score was released in 1978 as part of a three-score LP by BEAT Records. That album, although popular and at the time not rare, only offered four cuts of PAPAYA. The new re-issue includes 23 tracks of Stelvio Cipriani’s dynamic and satisfying score. The composer obviously gravitated to the tropical mise-en-scène and delivered a fascinating tapestry of potent ideas. This disc unfolds as a jazz/rock/blues influenced “Caribbean concerto” and succeeds in creating a multi-faceted inner vision that allows one to vibrantly sense the film without even having seen it. The disc comes with high-end packaging and graphics, including color photographs, plus collectors will find four bonus cuts of music not used in the film. Liner notes are by retro Euro-cult specialist John Bender. – via soundtrackcollector.com

Morton Steven’s popular theme from TV’s HAWAII FIVE-O, one of the most popular and recognizable TV themes ever, is being revitalized for a few television incarnation due to debut in the Fall.  Newly arranged by Brian Tyler, the original TV theme was considered integral to the show, which producers recognized just wouldn’t be HAWAII FIVE-O without it.  Read Jon Burlingame’s excellent feature story on Stevens and the creation of the popular theme at:

Speaking of persuasive articles, take a look at this overview of the most memorable game soundtracks, a blog posted by Julian Montoya; it’s well worth reading:

During this year’s B-Movie Celebration being held in Franklin, Indiana on September 24th, 25th and 26th, Chuck Cirino (BONE EATER, CHOPPING MALL, KOMODO VS. COBRA, DIRE WOLF, etc) will receive a richly deserved Golden Cob Award for excellence in B-Movie Soundtracks.  With 2007’s BONE EATER in particular, Chuck Cirino has unleashed one of his most ambitious scores, a wonderful homage to composers Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann, tipping his hat to Morricone’s work on Spaghetti Westerns and Herrmann’s work on the great Ray Harryhausen fantasy films of the 60’s.  Silver Age Soundtrack expert John Bender and soundtrack journalist will lecture on the art and form of the Silver Age soundtrack as well as curating a showing of some Chuck Cirino’s work. Micro Movie Music Guru Virgil Franklin will take film fans and filmmakers through the process of scoring a low budget film.

For further information please go to www.bmoviecelebration.com

Said to be an Amazon exclusive (but also offered a half the price by numerous amazon marketplace sellers), Silva Screen Records has put together a 4CD, six film selection called The Classic Scores by John Barry. The album gathers six score reissues from Silva Screen and gathers them together in a single set for the very first time. THE LION IN WINTER, set in the mysterious gothic world of the Middle Ages, mixes orchestral and choral textures from that era and won an Oscar for Barry in recognition of one of his finest scores. Also featured are ZULU, THE LAST VALLEY, WALKABOUT, MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS and ROBIN AND MARIAN. Lavishly re-recorded by The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and including previously unheard music written for the films, each release has received high praise from film music fans and critics worldwide This 4CD set includes a detailed booklet with the full story behind the recordings. 

Christopher Lennertz’s and Jay Gruska’s music for the SUPERNATURAL TV series will be coming to Amazon MP3 on September 7th.  Pre-orders are currently available at www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Original-Television-Soundtrack-Seasons/dp/B003YUC4M0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1283344482&sr=1-1

Games Music News

AMEO Productions, founded by brother and sister team award-winning composer Olivier Deriviere (Alone In The Dark, Obscure: The Aftermath), and project manager Marion Deriviere, is a new music composition and production company specializing in authentic original scores for video games. To ensure a truly immersive and enhanced gaming experience, AMEO creates dynamic, narrative-driven music with a unique identity and emotion adapted for each project. Headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Boston and Paris, AMEO Productions combines the celebrated talents of classically trained multimedia composer Olivier Deriviere working with renowned recording studios, world-class engineers and performers, as well as employing the latest software and custom library sounds.
For more information on AMEO Productions please visit www.ameoprod.com

Following his landmark Ivor Novello award-winning musical achievement for the first-person shooter video game KILLZONE® 2 on Playstation®3, Dutch-born composer Joris De Man returns to provide a new original music score for the highly anticipated next installment in the blockbuster franchise, KILLZONE® 3.  His most ambitious compositional work yet, Joris de Man recorded his symphonic music at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios. Developed by Guerrilla Games, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, KILLZONE 3 is scheduled for release in February 2011.  “Joris is the kind of composer that keeps developing his skills and throughout the years he always manages to amaze us with new sounds, themes and direction in his music and for KILLZONE 3 he’s doing exactly that again,” said Mathijs de Jonge, Game Director at Guerrilla Games. “KILLZONE 3 will be the seventh title that I’ve worked on with Joris and it’s great to see how the projects we work on keep growing both in scale as well as popularity. I think it’s very important to have this kind of creative connection with the composer as it adds so much to the experience when music and game complement each other.”

Recent video game soundtrack releases:

The ALAN WAKE Original Score, music by Petri Alanko (Sumthing Else Music Works)
Bringing a new style of storytelling to Xbox 360®, Alan Wake™ is a psychological action thriller from Remedy Entertainment, the renowned original developers of the successful Max Payne series. Players assume the role of Alan Wake, a best-selling suspense author suffering from writer’s block, who escapes to a small town only to experience the mysterious disappearance of his wife. Set in the deceptively idyllic town of Bright Falls, Washington, Alan Wake™ immerses players in an intense and expansive cinematic world that enables players to explore the hyper-realistic and interactive environments.  “Scoring Alan Wake was all about finding the motives of the characters and what forces them onwards,” says composer Petri Alanko. “Composing a romantic score for a psychothriller might not seem obvious, but to me it was the right approach for the game - and I thank Remedy for believing in the decisions I made.”

For more information on Alan Wake, please visit www.alanwake.com.

Monster Hunter™ Tri Original Soundtrack, music by Yukko Miyama & Tadayo Shinmakin (Sumthing Else Music Works)
One of the most strikingly beautiful titles ever developed for Wii, Monster Hunter Tri depicts a living, breathing ecosystem where humans and monsters co-exist. Players hunt fantastic beasts from a huge arsenal of weapons and armor to achieve glory and help the residents of their newly adopted village survive.  The soundtrack features over 50 original tracks composed from Capcom in-house composers Yukko Miyama (Mega Man X 7, Mega Man X 8) and Tadayo Shinmakin (Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) who previously contributed to the series. The music reflects the game’s heritage and diverse cultures, hybrid creatures and natural environments unique to the series. Music for the symphony was recorded with the critically acclaimed FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague in the Czech Republic.


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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