Feature Interview: Once Upon a Time with Bolden in Cloak & Dagger Catching Up With Mark Isham
Jesper Kyd in TUMBBAD Dark Fantasy from India
Soundtrack Reviews: F.R.E.D.I. (Brandt/no label name), HERE WE GO AGAIN RUBINOT (Powell/Kronos), KING COHEN (Kraemer/La-La Land), OCEANS 8 (Pemberton/Water Tower), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 20th Anniv. (Williams/La-La Land), SCORPION KING: BOOK OF SOULS (Wiedmann/Backlot), WILDWITCH (Nordkrog/MovieScore Media)
Book, Soundtrack, Vinyl, & Game Music News
BOLDEN: “How far away from reality can this score go and still convey the emotion that needs to be conveyed?” – Mark Isham
Q: What can you tell me about the music for BOLDEN? I’m assuming you’ve worked on both the orchestral score and the performances of Bolden’s own music, along with Wynton Marsalis?
Mark Isham: I am exclusively just the score – Wynton did all the jazz music. The story involves, obviously, Buddy Bolden and his band, but Louis Armstrong also has a big role in the story as well, so Wynton had to recreate Louis’ music, of which there’s quite a record of what that is. But there’s no record of what Buddy Bolden’s music was, so Wynton really had to sit down with Dan Pritzker, the director, and figure out what that would sound like. He did a tremendous job. As someone who appreciates that period a lot, I admire what Wynton did tremendously; it’s really brilliantly done.
Dan’s been working on the film for a number of years, so most of what Wynton did had to be done before shooting, and then they shot the scenes to that. The actor who played Louis Armstrong, Reno Wilson, had to learn all the trumpet solos, and did a fabulous job. I’ve never seen anybody who’s not a trumpet player play on camera as well as this guy, it is so well done. And the actor who plays Bolden, too, Gary Carr… they both really learned every fingering, every nuance, how to breathe, it’s really, really impressive. They sell the fact that they’re playing those horns very well.
Q: Director Dan Pritzker evidently has a love for this type of music, having earlier made a documentary film about Louis Armstrong. What were the initial impressions he gave you about how he wanted the music to work in this film?
Mark Isham: Dan’s sensibilities are quite modern and quite eclectic. He’s very well educated in music – he was a musician himself for many years, so we’re talking to somebody who knows what he’s talking about! I think he partially hired me because I obviously have a deep love and understanding of jazz, but as it turned out my job had to be to stay about as far away from jazz as one possibly could! As we discussed the picture and tried various different temporary musical ideas, it became apparent that the most effective thing to do would be to juxtapose these two musics as distinctly opposite from each other. The score became very much an internal dialogue within Buddy’s mind, which is not expressed through his own music. His own music stands alone as something that he does, but the expression of his emotional turmoil is a very different thing. The tragedy of his situation is expressed in a completely different language than that of jazz.
Q: After your early meetings with the director, how did you begin to formulate the musical palette and develop the score?
Mark Isham: I presented him with a slightly more traditional, although fairly minimalistic, orchestral treatment because I felt that would be enough of juxtaposition against the jazz. The more he played with it the more Dan said, you know I really want it to be almost more surreal. The movie is actually quite surreal – right from the beginning Dan establishes an ability to enter Buddy’s innermost thoughts and psychology cinematically, which is quite wonderfully done. It’s quite remarkable how he’s shot the film and the way his flashbacks and internal remembrances are portrayed visually. And the more we worked on it, the more – believe it or not! – electronic the score got: sound design, very textural, very atmospheric, very dramatic… I mean, how far away from reality can this score go and still convey the emotion that needs to be conveyed? That was sort of the path and the development.
By the very end, once I’d developed a score that was 90% electronic, I did go back and say to Dan: “I want to make sure that there’s enough warmth here.” It’s a huge sound design movie, as well, the guys up at Skywalker did a wonderful job, but there’s a lot of stuff going on! So I told him, “I just wanted to make sure that the score has a place to sit in that big 7.2 environment, so let’s try some orchestral experiments as an overdub and just see what we can do.” So we did a lot of very wild things. We took some of the cues and wrote them out backwards and recorded that, and then flipped it so that the orchestra is really being performed backwards, and some things we did in the wrong key and then re-tuned them sometimes using antiquated retuning so we could really get some strange artifacts in the sound – again just to give that sort of organic, transient texture to the score, so it just doesn’t feel completely electronic. Of course, my style of electronics is very organic, anyway – it’s never going to sound like a science fiction film! It’s just the way that I think about electronics, in this case, especially. It turned out to be a fascinating hybrid score that I don’t think sounds like anything else I’ve ever done before.
Q: Does the score contain any thematic or motivic interaction?
Mark Isham: It does, yeah. I told Dan, “As much as you want this to be a completely atmospheric and internally chaotic score, it can help you emotionally if we just connect a few dots here,” and at the end of the day he totally agreed and was very happy with the structure we came up with. Bolden is married so his wife and his marriage have a motif and certain aspects of the evil and the suppression that he faces is symbolized by this white judge, who has his own motif so that you can sense that dread of his presence, even if he’s not on camera. That’s all standard techniques, of course, but done in a very subtle way and hopefully buried within a modern context. Still, using those devices, music can still help tell a story.
Q: What was most challenging about scoring this film?
Mark Isham: I think the challenging part was simply going through the process of discovering what that sound should be for the score. We could have scored the film entirely the way I wrote the first half, and it would have been more beautiful, probably, but that was not what Dan wanted. He said, “Beauty is not really what the story is about.” So we needed to sort of move more into the chaos of this guy’s mind, because he literally goes insane, so the task was to create a universe that communicates that.
Q: Are there any plans for a soundtrack album?
Mark Isham: I’m assuming there will be a jazz record because Wynton’s work is just fantastic, and if there is a score album it should then be a separate record, because the two musics have nothing in common. But I’ve heard nothing official so far. The film hasn’t been released yet; I think Dan wants to place it in a few more festivals.
ONCE UPON A TIME: It was a challenge to come up with as many themes as we needed for the pilot! When you do a pilot you have to come up with something that potentially can last seven, eight, ten years – and you have a couple of weeks to do it. So that’s always a pretty high-pressure situation, but fortunately I think the themes I developed for the show did stand the test of time and we were still using many of them by season seven. – Mark Isham
Q: You’ve scored all seven seasons of ONCE UPON A TIME – with the series recently concluded, how would you describe how you musically led up to that finale?
Mark Isham: It was a wonderful journey. I’ll never forget the first meeting of many we had. It was so much fun and the whimsical adventure-fantasy that’s inherent within the show was part of the whole relationship from the beginning. They were always very supportive of having a full orchestra for the show and ABC backed them a hundred percent, so we did 156 episodes with a union orchestra which was fantastic. It was a challenge to come up with as many themes as we needed for the pilot. When you do a pilot you have to come up with something that potentially can last seven, eight, ten years – and you have a couple of weeks to do it. So that’s always a pretty high-pressure situation, but fortunately I think the themes I developed for the show did stand the test of time and we were still using many of them by season seven. There were a lot of characters in that show, so every time a new one would come in there would be a new theme, so my assistant’s job has been to keep a theme index so that we had a running idea of all the different themes we had for everybody and how they can all be used. Those seven years were a lot of fun; we had a great team assembled during that first year, a number of different people came in and out just to find the right balance and the right chemistry, but by the end of that first season we had a tremendous team put together and it was pretty much the same team all the way to the end.
Q: I’d imagine with so many characters and plot developments over those years that it was a great opportunity to modify those themes and counterpoint them and interact with them.
Mark Isham: You’re absolutely right. Snow White turns evil for a while, and you get to take the Snow White theme from this beautiful romantic sound into a how-can-we-make-the-same-theme evil and horrific. So it was a wonderful challenge musically, to hone your craft and figure out to do such things.
Q: How large of an orchestra were you using?
Mark Isham: We had about thirty people every week. It’s modern television scoring, so you always sort of manage to mock that up so it sounds like about a sixty-piece orchestra. I don’t think anybody would not know it wasn’t sixty/sixty five people when you listen.
CLOAK & DAGGER: [This series is] very different – it’s a story of young kids coming into their own and finding their own adulthood, only to be confused by the fact they have super powers… There had to be an emotional side, but we don’t play it in any sort of sympathetic way; there’s nothing saccharine. It’s very dark, very of-the-streets, while fitting into a popular culture sound so that the score and the songs all live very comfortably together. – Mark Isham
Q: Now you’re in the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe with CLOAK & DAGGER. What brought you into this assignment, and what kind of musical perspective were the producers looking for?
Mark Isham: I was brought in by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who I’ve done a lot of films with, and she was hired to direct the pilot. She suggested me to Joe Pokaski, the showrunner, and we met and Joe and I got along really well. I did the pilot and then it got approved and we never stopped. We’re starting up season two next week. Basically, Joe said “there’s a fair amount of needle drops in this thing” and he gave me a playlist of the types of things he wanted to do that they could afford, so I got a sense of the musical universe that he was establishing. Obviously, it’s very different - they’re teenagers, it’s a rite of passage, it’s a story of young kids coming into their own and finding their own adulthood, only to be confused by the fact they have super powers. But the fundamental story is still that they’re just kids trying to figure shit out. So there had to be an emotional side but we don’t play it in any sort of sympathetic way at all; there’s nothing saccharine. It’s very dark, very of-the-streets, while fitting into a popular culture sound so that the score and the songs all live very comfortably together, but we still reflect the emotional turmoil that these kids are going through.
Q: How do you feel CLOAK & DAGGER stands in comparison with some of the other MCU characters and what is most unique about it?
Mark Isham: I think CLOAK & DAGGER sort of stands on its own. While it’s a coming of age story for two teenagers, it’s also very dark and very surreal compared to a lot of the other shows. They really go into some otherworldly type of events on this show and the music really tries to reflect that. I’ve watched JESSICA JONES and I’ve watched a bit of some of the other darker takes on this but I’ve never seen something that’s quite as surreal as this. And that starts with Joe. He really wanted to create a unique universe that is personal to these kids and what happens to them. The universe that they have to enter in order to confront their powers may be the source of the energy that gives them their powers, and that’s all still being very much explored and unknown at this point.
Q: In scoring the show, how do you feel CLOAK & DAGGER fits in to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Mark Isham: I certainly do feel it’s more on the unique side. I mean, I am a huge Marvel and DC fan and I would love to score IRON MAN 5, there’s no question about it, but it would be such a different approach than CLOAK & DAGGER… I think the guys who have done the IRON MAN series have done a really great job and those themes and motifs are fantastic using the hundred-piece orchestra and a choir and every drum that’s ever been designed. But CLOAK & DAGGER is a different scale of experience and, as a story, it just needs a different approach.
Q: I see that your next film is THE SAME SKY, for first-time director Jeffrey Kramer. Is there anything you can tell us about this project yet?
Mark Isham: It’s an Iraqi war drama told through flashbacks of a soldier’s experience having to do with children and the education of children, that sort of line. I haven’t begun working on it yet, it’s gotten delayed again. Right now I’m working on a John Gridley film called NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK, which is based on a science fiction short story from the ‘60s written by Robert Silverberg. John adapted it into a film that Orlando Bloom and Freida Pinto, a couple of wonderful actors.
Q: Any thoughts yet about where you might be headed musically in this film?
Mark Isham: This is a very intimate science fiction story. Nobody’s shooting into outer space or confronting strange, evil powers or anything. It’s basically a love story that takes place in a world where time travel has become something that just exists, and therefore there is the concept of time that is shifting under your feet all the time, your life changing all of a sudden – the dog you have is named Sam but then you wake up and it’s actually a cat because time shifted slightly 20 years ago and now you’re allergic to dogs so you have a cat. There are these subtle short of shifting of people’s realities, and within that context things start to happen to a husband and wife relationship.
Special thanks to Ray Costa and Costa Communications for facilitating this interview.
Noted for his many video game series scores (Warhammer Vermintide, State of Decay, Hitman, Assassin’s Creed) Jesper Kyd’s latest work is the Indian fantasy thriller film TUMBBAD (“Trumpet”), which is set in 1920’s India during the British occupation. The film recently premiered at and opened the Venice Film Festival, receiving great notices there and at ensuing festival screenings. Marketed as a horror drama, the film’s plot, a mythological story about a goddess who created the entire universe, revolves around the consequences when humans build a temple for her first-born.
“Sometimes when working on a film, adding what’s expected makes the film work and enhances the scene in the right way. This was not the case here. The music needed to be surprising, creative, organic, realistic, believable and deep while also fitting the scenes and overarching story.” – Jesper Kyd on TUMBBAD
Q: What brought you into this film and what kind of music you (or the directors) felt it needed?
Jesper Kyd: I was contacted by Adesh Prassad who co-directed and co-wrote the film. There was no indication regarding what kind of music the filmmakers were looking for and when I watched an early edit of the movie I also had no idea what it would end up sounding like. I was told it should not sound Western or Indian, and any typical orchestral sound was out. So it became a really interesting mix of music styles from musique concrète to epic Hungarian choirs. There are also world music influences in the score, which can be found in a lot of my music. One reviewer described the score as “Cosmic” which is actually a good way to describe it. The movie goes very deep and so the score has to go deep too, to magnify that feeling.
Q: How did you describe your musical palette on this film and the kind of treatment the story and the visuals needed?
Jesper Kyd: The visuals are some of the best I have ever seen. It’s absolutely magical and you are transported to this very real place in 1920’s India where the director has created a unique world and set of rules. So the world building meant we had to make up our own rules as well when inventing the music style. But it also meant the bar had been set very high and that the music needed to be able to match the visuals. This was probably the biggest challenge. Sometimes when working on a film, adding what’s expected makes the film work and enhances the scene in the right way. This was not the case here. The music needed to be surprising, creative, organic, realistic, believable and deep while also fitting the scenes and overarching story.
Q: How were you able to augment the suspense, spookery, and shocks of the storyline? What kind of musical treatment did this film need to maintain its scariness and ability to maintain the audience’s suspension-of-disbelief and accept the world and the mythology that the filmmakers have created?
Jesper Kyd: I never thought of TUMBBAD as a horror film and we never perceived the score as such. It’s more of an epic adventure movie or a dark fairytale thriller with some scary moments. So there’s really no scary music in there. The music is very earthy and pure, like the taste of herbs makes you think of nature. So this kind of realistic music for the more scary moments gives the film an intense atmosphere. Some of the scenes in the film are so intense that I didn’t need to remind the audience of what they are seeing. In moments like that I often score in a music style inspired by the mythology of TUMBBAD - though once we finally get inside The Womb things go completely crazy. There’s a lot of screaming and ethnic instruments moving towards a kind of symphony of chaos before the melodic motifs takes over and gives the audience a little help in order to understand what they are seeing.
Q: I understand you’ve sung the vocals in the score yourself. How did doing that in your video game score WARHAMMER VERMINTIDE prepare you for what TUMBBAD needed, vocally, and what were your vocals in TUMBBAD representing in the score?
Jesper Kyd: I like to do as many things myself as I can. That includes vocals and playing many of the instruments. Vermintide 1 and 2 contain some of the craziest stuff I have ever done – It’s like industrial Middle Ages music without guitars. It was written to be hyper-realistic, meaning only instruments that were around during the 14th - 16th centuries could be used, and these are played in all the wrong ways! I had some custom instruments built and used some rare instruments that were mic’d in ways that really got the aggression of the Viking tribe to shine. So these two scores prepared me for going dark and realistic in a musique concrète or ‘found sound’ approach.
Q: What did you find unique about scoring an Indian horror film – both the process and the kind of musical treatment this unique story prompted?
Jesper Kyd: Well, there has never been a movie like TUMBBAD and so it currently sits in its own category and all the usual horror film rules are nowhere to be seen. In this movie the main character actually stalks the creature so it’s more like a drama of one man’s descent into hell – his own personal hell included. The movie also has a very important message about greed and opens up with Gandhi’s quote, “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” That really is the theme of the film.
Q: How would you describe the score’s thematic or motivic or tonal architecture?
Jesper Kyd: I would say the score is there to enhance the world building as much as enhance the individual scenes so it’s full of themes and atmosphere. There are also character themes that enhance individual scenes, and especially in the third part of the film we go into a different music style that’s more about our main character’s life and how his decisions affect his family.
Q: Previously, and perhaps similarly, you’d scored the Chinese supernatural thriller, CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE. How did that experience contrast with this one?
Jesper Kyd: Working with the Chinese filmmakers on this film was a very different experience. For CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE the music focus was more on enhancing the story through carefully scored music for each scene. So the focus was more on telling a fantasy/adventure story full of action.
Q: What do you find remarkable about the Asian concept and approach to supernatural cinema, and what opportunities have scoring these films provided for you?
Jesper Kyd: The fact that the Indian filmmakers wanted me to experiment to the max was awesome. We had to build a musical foundation and carefully move forward each time we found something new or surprising. Even though the score is “out there,” the crazy experiments would be very carefully discussed once I presented them to the team. They often told me to go further and that was remarkable for such a big movie.
Q: What was most challenging for you in scoring TUMBBAD? Most rewarding?
Jesper Kyd: Finding the sound was a lot of work. I spent months just experimenting before starting to score the film. Once the scoring began the experimenting didn’t stop, though; it continued until the end. One of the most rewarding things about this experience has been how important the music score has become to the finished movie. It’s one of those movies where the music can take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. For example, when transitioning between parts 1 and 2 of the movie, what’s happening on screen is slower paced but the music roars to help amplify the burning emotions inside the main character. For a scene to work out this way, you need to have a very creative relationship with the team and working with Adesh Prassad has been very rewarding. He is so creative and really got involved with the music. He never told me what to do or what to write since he didn’t want to limit my ideas and creativity. But our talks were a huge influence in finding out what was needed emotionally for the film.
Q: Finally, what kind of experience do you hope audiences will get out of watching (and hearing the music of) TUMBBAD?
Jesper Kyd: I hope they will see the film as an experience, because that’s really what I feel it is. The visuals, sets, narrative, acting and music all work together so closely to tell a story that’s never really been told that it just draws you in right away.
Special thanks to Greg O'Connor-Read for his assistance in facilitating this interview.
For more information omn the composer, see his website http://www.jesperkyd.com/
Watch the TUMBBAD trailer on youtube
Watch a featurette about Jesper’s music for the film:
F.R.E.D.I./Jason Brandt/no label - digital Jason Brandt (TEEN TITANS GO!) has composed a very effectual score for this family-friendly science fiction film. Brandt, along with the film itself, has gained acclaim on the festival circuit, winning “Best Soundtrack for Feature Film” at the Action on Film Festival in August and “Best Feature Film Score Award” at the Burbank International Film Festival in September. Sean Olson plays a teenager who discovers a friendly robot named F.R.E.D.I. in the forest behind his Arkansas home. He and his friends come together to help F.R.E.D.I. find her way back to her creator and evade an evil corporate villain. Brandt gives the score a fine, full orchestral sound based around a compelling main theme frequently intoned by French horn. Shades of E.T. are unavoidable given the film’s storyline, but Brandt’s orchestral approach is very much his own thing despite necessary moments of musical wonder and peril as it supports the storyline. A notable recurring motif for the robot is conveyed through spritely, reverberated keyboard arpeggios, often nicely contrasted against the rising tonality of the main theme. This is a very solid score and recommended on its own merits. Check out the music samples at the following links and see if you agree.
F.R.E.D.I.’s digital soundtrack now available through CDBaby and on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.
For more information on the composer, see his website. Watch the trailer for F.R.E.D.I. on youtube
HERE WE GO AGAIN RUBINOT!/Andrew Powell/Kronos - cd
Classically-trained composer Andrew Powell scored two well-regarded films in the mid-1980s – Richard Donner’s medieval fantasy LADYHAWK and Daniel Petrie’s wistful ROCKET GIBRALTER. Otherwise engaged in the worlds of theatre, classical, music production, and rock performance (he was a member of The Alan Parsons Project, serving as arranger, conductor and composer, often creating the classical music interludes on their albums), Powell didn’t score another film until 2017 when cinematographer Giuliano Tomassacci asked him if he would compose the music for his first film as director, a short science fiction project about an otherworldly, beautiful female android who travels in time while scientists try to understand her enigmatic secrets by exploiting the occasions of her mysterious, rare appearances – until she decides the right time to share her vision has come. HERE WE GO AGAIN RUBINOT! is an experimental film for the Split Vision
process, a modular audiovisual system intended to be viewed on multiple devices simultaneously; Powell’s dreamy score is a mix of synths, piano, and vocalise (via the lovely voice of Susanna Buffa) that gives the film a beautiful and compelling ambient sound design that creates a truly wonderful musical adventure for the ears. Its soothing washes of synth and striking, lovely classical piano interludes are beautifully conceived and arranged, and make fine listening on their own, punctuated by Buffa’s immersive singing on Rubinot’s Theme. The film is only 16 minutes in length, but by including bonus tracks and alternate takes, we’re given a satisfactory 29 minutes of music on the album. A severely limited edition of only 300 copies, see the Kronos website for more information and to sample some tracks (and I definitely suggest you sample the music and see if you find it as engaging as I have).
KING COHEN (2018)/ Joe Kraemer/La-La Land Blu-ray
documentary + soundtrack cd
A very satisfying documentary about low-budget maverick/guerrilla-filmmaker Larry Cohen, looking at him from way back with BLACK CAESAR to his most recent return to his roots with ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, and much in between including IT’S ALIVE, GOD TOLD ME TO, THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER, Q THE WINGED SERPENT, THE STUFF, WICKED STEPMOTHER, RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT, THE AMBULANCE. Pairing the soundtrack with the Blu-ray in the same package is a fine idea – we don’t see many of those anymore, though it’s an occasional tradition that goes back a few years. Featuring interviews with directors influenced by and respectful of Cohen such as J. J. Abrams, Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, many of the cast & crew members who worked with him over the years, the film illuminates Cohen as a kind-hearted and creative soul, much akin to Samuel Fuller (whom he cast in one of his movies) who insists on getting it done no matter what, even to the point of guerrilla filmmaking in New York City, for example, to get crowd shots for the monster scenes in Q. Among the tales he tells are working with Miklós Rózsa on PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER and with Bernard Herrmann on IT’S ALIVE – and how later Cohen was meeting with Herrmann in London to discuss a new film when Herrmann passed away in his hotel room after finishing TAXI DRIVER; Cohen took it upon himself to make the arrangements for Herrmann’s funeral in London afterwards). Joe Kraemer’s score keeps the off-camera clips lively with an upbeat, jazzy, rhythm section-based score that in some of its parts (“Hail Larry,” for example) gives the film an almost high-stepping Rat Pack-vibe from flutes, full brass, keyboard and a jaunty bass from electric guitar and drum-kit). In other cues the music acts a little more sophisticated, such as with “Larry’s Theme” for piano. Kraemer provides just the right mood for the film’s captivating portrait of the driven director, exposing his humor, intensity, wild creativity, and filmmaking cajones with just the right musical temperature.
(Related story: See my August column for a review of Kronos CD release of Robert O. Ragland’s score for Cohen’s Q: WINGED SERPENT.)
OCEANS 8/Daniel Pemberton/Water Tower Music - digital
For this enthusiastic continuation and spin-off from Steven Soderbergh’s OCEANS heist movie trilogy, it was decided to render a gender change and, â la GHOSTBUSTERS but with less critical discomfort, we have a team of eight women who are brought together by Debbie Ocean (younger sister of Danny Ocean, the character played by George Clooney in the previous trilogy, and by Frank Sinatra in the original 1960 movie). The new movie is quite satisfying both as a continuation and as a new take on the heist concept so emboldened by the original film(s). Debbie’s team is planning to steal a rare Cartier diamond necklace worth $150 million while it is being worn by a famous star at the Met Gala. Filming on location at the real Met provided director Gary Ross with plenty of immaculate glitz, glam, and eye candy to allow his in-motion mise-en-scene to really pop and sizzle. While some of the plot devices and the way they are pulled off may have tended to strain credulity I thought the film worked as an elaborate, colorful, and feminine fantasy. As colorful, sparkly, and glamorous as Ross’s cinematic visualizations, Daniel Pemberton’s score possesses great attitude and arrogance that fits the lady crooks perfectly while also keeping the energy flowing and supporting the rampant glamour of the surrounding lavish production designs and costuming marvelously, while keeping our minds off of the improbable logistics necessary to pull the heist off as pluperfectly as they do. The score maintains a heavy and imposing Vegas-via-Big-Apple rhythm-and-jazz personality that seamlessly shifts between classy riffs and unscrupulous backroom vibes, embracing big band swing, trad. jazz, ‘60s bachelor pad lounge music, psychedelica, electronica, and much more (including a bit of perfectly assimilated beat-on-Bach electric classique in two effective moments of high-class downfall, redemption, and revenge), all of which heightens the characters’ attitudes and chutzpa, reinforces the essential purity of the heist movie tradition while keeping the story active and flowing – and makes for one ferociously engaging fine listen apart on its own from the film
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN 20th Anniversary Limited Edition/
John Williams/La-La Land – cd
Of all the Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaborations, 1998’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN may have had one of the most resonating impressions with audiences due to its forthright and impassioned story of a group of US soldiers led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) who, following the Normandy Landings into France, are sent behind enemy lines to relieve from duty a paratrooper whose brothers have all been killed in action. Set within an emotional framing scenes in which an elder Ryan pays his respects to Miller’s gravesite in France with his family, fully knowing that none of whom would exist if not for the effort and sacrifices of Miller and his soldiers. The film featured a harrowing and inescapably realistic depiction of the landing at Omaha Beach (Empire later magazine called it “the best battle scene of all time”) that was so effective and affecting that veterans who hadn’t spoken of their D-Day experiences since the war began to open up to their families about events that had haunted them for more than fifty years – even prompting AOL and DreamWorks to publish a book, “Now You Know,” collecting the very heartfelt “reactions after seeing SAVING PRIVATE RYAN” from vets and their families.
Williams’ score is a magnificent work, thoroughly in sync with the film’s emotional tone and humanity. Nominated for an Oscar but losing out to Nicola Piovani’s score for the Italian Holocaust drama LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is one of its composer’s most sensitive works, very much in the compassionate and heartfelt musical tradition of SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), MUNICH (2005), and LINCOLN (2012). This score, especially the track “Hymn for the Fallen” which is only heard over the end credits, is a personal memorial for the soldiers lost during the Normandy Invasion. Comparatively sparingly scored, the original 1998 soundtrack released on DreamWorks Records (part of Spielberg’s then newly-formed DreamWorks Pictures) contained essentially the entire score in its ten tracks and 64 minutes of music. Mike Matessino, producer for La-La Land Records on this project, has managed to find a couple of extras – the film versions of tracks 8 and 9 (“High School Teacher” and “The Last Battle”), which were both altered slightly for their 1998 album presentations. Matessino also gave the original album master a bit of a polish at Williams’ request. Despite the relative brevity of extra material, there’s a bit more clarity to the sound and Matessino’s sensitive and perceptive album notes make for a poignant reading of the score, its intentions, and its impassioned motivic components.
Next in line, according to The Second Disc web site via La-La Land records, is a forthcoming vinyl release of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and, in December, a new and expanded 25th Anniversary presentation of Williams’ Oscar-winning score to SCHINDLER’S LIST.
SCORPION KING: BOOK OF SOULS/Frederik Wiedmann/
Backlot Music - digital
In Scorpion King: Book of Souls, the titular arachnid-named monarch teams up with a female warrior named Tala, who is the sister of The Nubian King. Together they search for a legendary relic known as The Book of Souls, which is said to allow them to put an end to an evil warlord. The film is the fifth entry in the (mostly) direct-to-video fantasy film series from Universal (originally a spinoff from their 2001 MUMMY sequel, THE MUMMY RETURNS, in which the Scorpion King is the main villain, and introduced former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the role). Each of the films has had a different composer and thus a distinct albeit unified type of style rich in flavors if Egyptian mythology and varied echoes of ethnic music of the region and its history (THE SCORPION KING, 2002, John Debney; THE SCORPION KING 2: RISE OF A WARRIOR, 2008, Klaus Badelt; THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION, 2012, Trevor Morris; THE SCORPION KING 4: QUEST FOR POWER, 2015, Geoff Zanelli). In this iteration, The Scorpion King (here played by Zach McGowan [“Charles Vane” from BLACK SAILS]) teams up with a female warrior named Tala (Pearl Thusi), who is the sister of The Nubian King. Together they search for a legendary relic known as The Book of Souls, which will allow them to put an end to an evil warlord. Frederik Wiedmann turns in a fine, muscular score nicely textured by live soloists playing the Middle Eastern instruments Armenian duduk, bouzouki, and a guitarviol, which add a deliciously evocative sound to the musical landscape. The music is oriented around a persuasive, elegant yet mysterious main theme which is presented by string choir and by the spiraling entwining weavery of the duduk. The majority of the orchestral music is performed by a 40-piece string section recorded in Macedonia; this performance along with the soloists provides a noticeably authentic an impassioned quality to the score, which is further enhanced by sparing use of choir and a sultry female vocalise, layering just a hint of supernatural influence onto the music.
WILDWITCH/ Flemming Nordkrog/MovieScore Media - digital
Danish composer Flemming Nordkrog has composed a compelling and original fantasy score for Kaspar Munk’s family movie WILDWITCH. Based on the popular book series by Lene Kaaberbøl, the movie tells the story of 12-year-old Clara who lives like any other girl until one day a mysterious black cat scratches her, wherein she is able to communicate with the cat and discovers that she belongs to a family of Wildwitches with a strong connection to nature and animals, and that she must embark on a quest to save herself and the Wildworld from an ancient evil. Nordkrog’s score is delightfully melodic and flavorful, making use of wistful, olden-timbre’d string runs and delicate keyboard prancing to enliven the environs in which the story takes place. A gentle sonority of mellifluous voices, both in delicate chorale and hushed soloing, represent Clara and her wonder as she learns about the new magical territory she’s a part of, and responsible for. It’s a lovely, beautiful work conveyed in flavors of musical coloration that interact with and punctuate the film’s vivid landscapes and emotions – and characterize the young girl. “I wanted to create a music that reflected the cold and misty nature present in the film, but also the spiritual evolution of Clara,” explained Nordkrog. “The music had to be fragile, mysterious, and very organic. I wrote most of the musical themes and textures before the shooting of the film, working solely on paper and piano before I went on doing some very free-floating recordings of my ideas, with different groups of musicians.” This technique is very evident in the final score, which is both purposefully integrated while allowed to suspend itself, drifting in soft waves and fragrances of sound, texture, and tonality. It’s quite a lovely score, creating a welcome environment to explore with one’s ears apart from the film, while wholly cohesive with the world and atmosphere of the film as well as the enchanting, delightful character of Clara as she explores that world. Highly recommended.
Hans Zimmer has agreed to receive the Honorary Membership of ACMF - Association of Film Music Composers, based in Italy. The Honorary Membership parchment was bestowed on October 23rd at the end of the keynote entitled “Step into my music,” which Zimmer hosted during the VIEW Conference 2018, an international event dedicated to cinema, computer graphics, and special effects. Other notable ACMF Honorary Members are: Ennio Morricone (also Honorary President of the Association), Nicola Piovani, Michael Nyman, and Roger Waters. The president of ACMF, Roberto Pischiutta, declared: “We are extremely proud to be able to welcome Master Hans Zimmer into our association. His work and innovation in the world of soundtracks has been a source of inspiration for decades and definitely puts him among the greatest of this magnificent art. And we like the fact that he himself often mentions that Maestro Ennio Morricone, our honorary president, has been for him an important source of inspiration. It’s like ‘closing the circle,’ in a way.” Pictured: ACMR member Vito Le Re and Kristian Sensini, Zimmer, VIEW conference organizer Maria Elena Gutierrez, and ACMF member Fabrizio Campanelli; photo via Kristian Sensini.
For information on ACMF, see: www.acmf.it
At the 45th annual World Soundtrack Awards held this last October 18th at the Film Fest Gent in Belgium, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson won Best Film Composer of the Year for a second time in a row, this year posthumously, for composing the film scores MANDY, MARY MAGDALENE (co-composed with Hildur Guðnadóttir), and THE MERCY. Guðnadóttir, his protégé and co-composer, accepted the prize on his behalf. Best Television Composer of the Year was awarded to Ramin Djawadi for scoring GAME OF THRONES; THE STRAIN and WESTWORLD and Philippe Sarde was celebrated with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
For the full list of all award winners, see worldsoundtrackawards.
Watch a video of publicist Ray Costa announcing Jóhann Jóhannsson as 2018’s Best Film Composer of the Year and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s beautiful and heartfelt acceptance speech on his behalf: https://www.facebook.com/WorldSoundtrackAwards/videos/439115326625496/
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE Re-imagined - Making-Of Featurette: Enjoy this behind-the-scenes vignette of the making of Varèse Sarabande’s album Killer Klowns From Outer Space Re-imagined with composer John Massari! The short video about the orchestral re-recording features John Massari and Bear McCreary:
Now available for the first time on CD, from Varèse Sarabande: Leonard Rosenman’s dramatic soundtrack score to 9/30/55 has been out of print for over 30 years. Rosenman composed the score for two of actor James Dean’s biggest films, EAST OF EDEN and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, both in 1955. Neither soundtrack has ever been officially released. Rosenman used the themes he created for both of those films as the basis for his score for 9/30/55, breathing new life into those themes with new orchestrations and the use of a few solo instruments like harmonica, saxophone, and banjo, which nicely reflect the southern location of Conway, Arkansas, where the movie takes place. Directed by James Bridges (THE PAPER CHASE, CHINA SYNDROME, URBAN COWBOY), this character drama starts with Jimmy J. (Richard Thomas) getting the news that his favorite actor, James Dean, has died in a car crash. Hysterical and moved to tears, Jimmy J. comes to the realization he must go on his own James Dean journey; he needs to know the people who knew James Dean, talk with them and learn as much as he can from them about his idol. He must live where James Dean lived. Jimmy has become “A New Rebel in Search for A Cause.”
For information and sample tracks, see varesesarabande https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/9-30-55
Also new from Varèse Sarabande is Daniel Hart’s score for THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. The film, based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to commit an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public, marks the final film role for legendary star Robert Redford. Daniel Hart is a violinist who played with St. Vincent and Broken Social Scene before scoring such films as PETE’S DRAGON and A GHOST STORY. The soundtrack also includes three period-appropriate classic and folk-rock songs from The Kinks, Scott Walker, and Jackson C. Frank.
For information and sample tracks, see varesesarabande
Emmy-award winning composer Frederik Wiedmann has scored the documentary film SNOW TO SAND, which tells a timeless story about adventure and exploration through two modern day explorers traversing America’s 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico for the first time in the winter. The score has been released digitally by Kaleido Sound and is orderable through amazon
Paramount Music has released a digital soundtrack album for the new Netflix horror series THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. The album features the show’s original music, including its main theme, composed by The Newton Brothers (OCULUS, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, EXTINCTION, LIFE OF CRIME, THE BYE BYE MAN). The series was written and directed by Mike Flanagan and stars Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, and Henry Thomas, and centers on a fractured family who confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. The show streams streaming exclusively on Netflix and the soundtrack is available on Amazon
- via filmmusicreporter
I posted news about Ethan Gold’s nostalgic and tuneful score for his twin brother Ari Gold’s film SONG OF SWAY LAKE in my last column. Since then, Jazziz has posted a very interesting interview with the composer about scoring this film, and it’s recommended reading. See jazziz.com
WaterTower Music is scheduled to release their soundtrack album for FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD, the fantasy adventure sequel to the J. K. Rowling-scripted FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM from 2016 (based on her 2001 book). Along with director David Yates, composer James Newton Howard (THE HUNGER GAMES series, Peter Jackson’s KING KONG, Disney’s MALEFICENT, M. Night Shyamalan’s SIGNS) returns for the new film. The movie opens via Warner Bros on November 16, and WaterTower’s digital soundtrack emerges on the previous Friday, November 9th. Pre-orders are available via Amazon. Sony in Europe is offering a CD release of the score, also on Nov. 9, which is currently pre-orderable from Amazon Germany.
Music.Film Recordings and Varèse Sarabande Records have digitally released the critically praised Bleecker Street film WHAT THEY HAD, which features an original score written by composer Danny Mulhern (SILENT WITNESS, PRINCESS MARGARET: THE REBEL ROYAL). “The score for WHAT THEY HAD needed to convey the warmth and intimacy of the family dynamic, alongside the tensions going on within their relationships. The music has an intimate, homespun atmosphere, and as the film moves through its narrative, the score opens out more and more. Working on this project allowed me yet another opportunity to collaborate with the incredible London Contemporary Orchestra,” said Mulhern.
Italian composer Marco Werba, noted for his richly orchestral scores for dramas and horror films, will be scoring his first science fiction film next year with THE SERENDIPITOUS PROJECT, based on the book of that title written by Craig Andrews. The story is about aliens who make a hybrid female at an underground base to help them colonize earth, but she learns the truth behind her existence and begins to fight back. The project is still in development and will probably begin production early next year.
In addition to scoring a number of films and video games, Penka Kouneva has issued several concept albums of meaningful personal music, including A Warrior’s Odyssey (2012), The Woman Astronaut (2015), and Rebirth of Id (2017). Her latest effort, Invisible Lifeline, is a collection of six intricate piano fantasias and two string orchestral tracks in the classical style. Each composition tells a story about what motivates the creative artist. “Like the mountain climber on the CD cover, an artist’s career is a steep journey,” Penka described her concept for the album. “What inspires the artist? What gives them energy to keep pushing forward to create screenplays, stories, music, poetry, dance, video games?” The deepest motivation came from Penka’s own journey as a woman, wife, mother, artist and composer. This is Penka’s first collaboration with international virtuoso Georgi Slavchev who added his own arrangements to the piano tracks. The album is available as an mp3 download from Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, and Spotify. It can also be streamed on Soundcloud, as can tracks from her concept albums.
In addition to a number of feature films, Penka has scored such projects as The Mummy VR game (Universal), Hellboy VR cinematic experience (Lionsgate), the NASA attraction Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center, as well as the video games Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands and Transformers video games (with lead composer Steve Jablonsky). Penka’s artistic integrity and desire to look inward and communicate her heart, mind, and soul through the purity of concept albums has prompted this amazingly personal and compelling series of intimate compositions.
On October 30th, La-La Land Records will bring us up to date with Blake Neely by releasing CD soundtracks for the latest seasons of Neely’s Arrowverse superhero series from the CW’s television series: ARROW Season 6, THE FLASH Season 4 (Neely & Nathaniel Blume), SUPERGIRL Season 3 (Nelly & Daniel James Chan), LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Season 3 (Neely & Daniel James Chan), as well as the teen drama series, RIVERDALE Season 2 (Neely & Sherri Chung). Also coming out on the 30th of October are: an expanded 3-CD original soundtrack set of music from SUPERMAN 2 and 3, composed by the late Ken Thorne based on John Williams’ themes, and the music from the science fiction anthology series, PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS (Harry Gregson-Williams, Bear McCreary, Cristobal Tapis De Veer, Olafur Arnalds, Mark Isham, and BT), which is shown on Amazon Video (US) and Channel 4 (UK).
Brian Tyler’s latest film score in release is the documentary THE DEVIL WE KNOW, a significant exposé by directors Stephanie Soechtig and Jeremy Seifert detailing a group of citizens in West Virginia who take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical into the local drinking water supply. The film, subtitled “The Chemistry of a Cover-up,” has won or been nominated for awards at several film festivals. Watch a video with Tyler’s main theme for the documentary on Facebook [public posting].
Lakeshore Records has released the digital soundtrack to the post-apocalypse drama WHAT STILL REMAINS. The Album features original music by composer Jonathan Beard (STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC – KNIGHTS OF THE FALLEN EMPIRE, FRANK VS. GOD), one of the most sought-after orchestrators in Los Angeles. The film takes place a generation after a zombie virus has ravaged modern civilization, where a woman ekes out survival alone in a desolate wasteland and monsters. “In exploring the uncertain world that our characters face, the film unfolds as a complex and engaging psychological thriller, and the score needed to musically reflect that reality,” Jonathan Beard describes. “We’re really looking at a Hitchcockian psychological tapestry, dialog scenes where what’s being discussed on the surface is 100% cover for what’s being insinuated below the surface, and the score gets to dance between those two levels.”
Released digitally earlier in October by Lakeshore is Alexandre Desplat’s score to THE SISTERS BROTHERS. The film takes place in 1851 with Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly), boys grown to men in a savage and hostile world of the frontier who now ride as both brothers and assassins. The soundtrack is also available on CD from Quartet Records of Spain – see here for details. Lakeshore has also brought out digitally Tony Morales’ score to AN ACTOR PREPARES, in which a famous but notorious actor (Jeremy Irons), after a near death experience, must drive cross country to his favorite daughter’s wedding with a man who once testified against him. “AN ACTOR PREPARES is a pop score at its core,” explained Morales. “The ensemble is that of a rock band: guitar, bass, drums. For added texture, I used a string quartet for cues that needed a little more emotion as well as electric and acoustic guitar textures to build padding to keep the tone warm.”
Lakeshore has also released a digital soundtrack to BIGGER, described as “the inspirational tale of the Grandfathers Of Fitness as we now know it, Joe and Ben Weider.” Facing anti-Semitism and extreme poverty, the brothers beat all odds to build a physical fitness empire and inspire future generations. Featuring a score by five-time EMMY® Winner Jeff Beal (HOUSE OF CARDS, WHITEFISH, ROME), whose score for the biographical drama directed by George Gallo (MIDNIGHT RUN, WISE GUYS) is available digitally beginning Nov. 2 via Amazon and iTunes. In addition, Beal has scored the new documentary THE PRICE IS EVERYTHING, which he describes to the DOCUMENTING THE SCORE group Facebook as “a gem of a small movie which asks some really big questions about Art vs. Dollars.” The film had a limited release last week in several major cities, and will be coming to HBO soon. No official word yet on a soundtrack album, but you can listen to the score at Jeff Beal’s website or watch the trailer:
Frank Ilfman is scheduled to score Yuval Adler’s upcoming spy thriller THE OPERATIVE, based on the Israeli best seller The English Teacher written by former Israeli intelligence officer Yiftach Reicher Atir. The movie tells the story of a woman recruited by the Mossad to go undercover in Tehran who becomes entangled in a complex triangle with her handler and her subject. The composer’s previous scoring credits include the Martin Freeman-starring GHOST STORIES, the 2013 Israeli thriller BIG BAD WOLVES and this year’s THE ETRUSCAN SMILE (see the interview with Ilfman about all of these in my August column). THE OPERATIVE is expected to premiere in 2019.
- via filmmusicreporter
Dragon’s Domain Records presents a unique collection of film music from Basil Poledouris: the composer’s original piano sketches and demos that were recorded in his home studio as he created the score for THE BLUE LAGOON (1980). With this release, listeners are given an unprecedented opportunity to listen, like a fly on the wall in Basil’s home studio, as the composer works through his themes and musical interludes on the piano in 1979. For more details, to listen to sound bytes, or to order, see buysoundtrax. Also released by Dragon’s Domain are the soundtracks to the IMAX films POLYNESIAN ODYSSEY and ALAMO: THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, both composed by Merrill Jenson and performed by The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London (see here).
Caldera Records presents a concept album from Christopher Young and Bob Badaway, “The Lost Children of Planet X,” a spoken word drama filled with surrealism and dream logic as well as countless Easter eggs in terms of casting and the lines delivered. Young himself appears as the booming voice of King Everett, while also delivering a few odd quips here and there. As a bonus, eight purely instrumental tracks are included that accompany the adventures in space.
For more details and sound bytes, see calderarecords. Listen to a suite of the score at Soundcloud.
Swiss-born Hollywood film composer/orchestrator Dominik Hauser has stepped out of the shadows of post-production to direct, co-write, produce, and score a creature feature/gore fest zombie movie called DEAD SQUAD: TEMPLE OF UNDEAD, a fun, low-budget horror film that expresses his love for the genre. Filmed in Bali, Indonesia, the movie focuses on a group of young people who become lost in the jungle during a river rafting trip and stumble upon a long lost ruin that is home to a host of mysterious humanoid monsters leftover from Nazi WW2 experimentation. “DEAD SQUAD: TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD has a few nods to the ‘80s with a couple synthy throwback cues,” Hauser said, “but then I departed from that and I tried to stay in more of a percussive, orchestral vein – which to me is the timeless design for music in movies. I wanted to score the film a little more seriously and not synthy throughout.” The score is an effectively mix of digital orchestra and a small group of live musicians.
The mp3 album is now available through Amazon.
The new post-apocalyptic thriller from Phillip Chidel (SUBJECT TWO) is THE OUTER WILD, which has been scored by Munich-born, L.A.-based composer Kubilay Uner (GONE ARE THE DAYS, COLD NOVEMBER, BIG SUR). Chidel’s film has to do with life after an unnatural event leaves mankind nearly extinct, when a runaway girl and a rogue bounty hunter brave a dangerous wilderness to find a fabled sanctuary that can either save or destroy what’s left of humanity.
Disques Cinémusique has released digitally the complete stereo soundtrack album to the television series WICHITA TOWN (1958-1959). This is one of the few original Hans J. Salter recordings released on LP record, in this case thanks to film historian and producer Tony Thomas. Better known for his classic monster movie scores, sometimes co-written with Frank Skinner, Salter was actually a master of every genre. Available as download and streaming at most music stores online including Amazon and iTunes. Also released by Disques Cinémusique as a companion album is the complete soundtrack album to Salter’s 1962 movie score to HITLER (Please note that in order to comply with the requirements of most music stores, the label had to soften the original title into THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HITLER and avoid any pictorial reference to the Nazis on the cover.)
Varèse Sarabande Records CD Club has revealed this month’s trio of limited edition soundtrack special titles: Headlining the slate the label’s most requested soundtrack, DRACULA (1979). This classic John Williams score comes in an epic 2-CD set that pulses with darkly romantic and seductively iconic themes. This Deluxe Edition includes the newly-mastered-from-a-new-source original soundtrack and Mike Matessino’s 2018 restoration of the score that is a whopping 72 minutes with cues not heard in the final cut of the picture. Demonstrating the pinnacle of his martial music prowess, Basil Poledouris scores the Steve Seagal action flick, ON DEADLY GROUND. This is powerhouse Poledouris and not to be missed - the original 30 minute CD release has been expanded to a truly epic 79 minutes, and features director and star Steven Seagal discussing Basil’s score. Finally, Georges Delerue’s A SHOW OF FORCE makes a comeback after its first Club release sold out very quickly in 1990. CD Club titles will ship on Nov. 5th and can be pre-ordered now varesesarabande
Intrada announced its early November releases – first a world premiere release of two rare Georges Delerue soundtracks on one CD, both 20th Century Fox productions for television: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, a 1984 ABC comedy starring John Ritter and Penny Marshall and directed by Tony Bill directs. The second score is 1986’s SIN OF INNOCENCE for CBS, starring Bill Bixby, Dee Wallace Stone, Megan Fellows, Dermot Mulroney, and James Naughton in a romantic drama about divorce, filtered through its impact on the children. The other CD release is an expanded treatment of James Horner's score for Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, BALTO, a 1985 animated film based on a true-life story of a 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska and the incredibly dramatic scenario of Balto, a Siberian husky leading a dogsled team that bring desperately needed serum across a treacherous 600-mile span. The film inspires “Horner to create one of his finest animation film scores,” writes the label. “Horner offers lavish, stirring orchestral score with abundance of melodic sweep, outdoor action, warmth and drama.” This entire Intrada CD is presented from the complete two-track scoring session master mixes engineered by Shawn Murphy and vaulted in pristine condition by Universal Pictures. See more details at intrada.
Marking the label’s 400th soundtrack album release since the launch of the company in 2006, MovieScore Media returns to the internationally successful Danish crime series DEPARTMENT Q, releasing the score album for Christoffer Boe’s THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE, the fourth installment of the franchise. Based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s bestseller, the Department’s current case takes the investigators back to 1987 as they look into a series of disappearances all connected to the same person. The composing team of Mikkel Maltha (YOU DISAPPEAR) and Anthony Lledo (LEGENDS OF CHIMA) were brought in to score the new film. “It is a dark film, both visually and story-wise, dealing with hopelessness, loss, and anger tying up horrible events that took place in the 1960’s to present day,” said the composers. “The use and sonic treatment of the string section was a key element in connecting these events and setting the tone for the film – the cold, distant sound of the violins, the waves of dark, sinister chords, the ticking col legno pulses and the lamenting string echoes are elements that, as a technique or a sound effect, function thematically in the score.”
Watch MSM’s video, featuring a suite from the score:
Also announced from the label is an original soundtrack of Finnish composer Pessi Levanto’s score for the historical romantic drama OMA MAA, a heartfelt love story spanning the years from the end World War II in 1945 until the country’s hosting of the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952 (Watch MSM’s video featuring a suite from the score here), and Chinese-American composer Christopher Wong’s new score for writer/director Victor Vu’s THE IMMORTAL (Ng??i b?t t? in Vietnamese). to release the music from their twelfth collaboration, The digital soundtrack release coincides with the wide theatrical release of the film in Vietnam. The film tells the story of a man who sells his soul to gain immortality, but ends up with the curse of being hunted through his life and never being able to have a permanent relationship with anyone.
(Watch MSM’s video featuring a suite from the score here).
Back Lot Music has announced the upcoming release of the soundtrack to Focus Features’ heart-rending biographical drama, BOY ERASED, which tells the courageous story of Jared (Lucas Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, who is outed to his parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) at age 19. Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program – or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith. BOY ERASED features an original score written by composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (THE GIFT, ENEMY).The entire writing process – including demos and initial explorations – was recorded using live instruments, Danny layered multiple string parts on top of each other to produce the effect of an ensemble in his LA studio while Saunder, in his Brooklyn studio, recorded choral and other parts with his own voice using similar layering techniques after which a string orchestra was recorded and carefully ‘layered’ into the cues. “The score spans an array of musical styles; from more-emotional, piano driven pieces to complex, almost absurd, kinetic, avant-garde works describing the myriad of thoughts and feelings that Jared might be feeling – about religion, family, sexuality, and the camp itself,” the composer’s explain.
The soundtrack has been released digitally with a CD coming out on November 2nd
Watch the film’s trailer:
Digitmovies’ roster of Italian soundtracks for November 7th release include Piero Piccioni’s score for the 1959 crime drama LA NOTTE BRAVA (The Big Night), directed by Mauro Bolognini and written by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jacques-Laurent Bost; a combination release of two Carlo Savina Western scores, LA DOVE NON BATTE IL SOLE (1974, The Stranger and the Gunfighter; directed by Antonio Margheriti and starring Lee Van Cleef, Leih Lo, and Patty Shepard) and UN ANIMALE CHIAMATO UOMO (1972, An Animal Called Man),
Limited to only 300 copies, both titles appear on CD for the first time in a complete edition. Both titles are available for pre-order from Screen Archives in the US and Beat Records in Italy’ finally, a 3-CD edition of the complete soundtrack in full stereo of Fiorenzo Carpi’s score for the 1972 TV drama, LE AVVENTURE DI PINOCCHIO (The Adventures of Pinocchio), directed Luigi Comencini will complete the month’s triptych.
Visit http://www.digitstore.com for more information.
UNDER THE SILVER LAKE is an upcoming neo-noir comedy drama directed by David Robert Mitchell, director of IT FOLLOWS. Mitchell re-teamed with his IT FOLLOWS composer, Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace. Best known for his synth-driven work, Disasterpeace delivers a full orchestral score for the first time, providing the film with a distinct noir thriller vibe that emphasizes its dark, unraveling narrative.
Milan Records releases the soundtrack on Dec. 7th via double LP vinyl, cd, and digital. Listen to Disasterpeace’s opening number “The Curse of Edendale” streaming today on Soundcloud.
Also coming up from Milan is THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, a six-part Western anthology film told through the unique voice of Joel and Ethan Coen. Each chapter tells a distinct story about the American West. The film, which premieres on Netflix Nov. 16th, is scored by Coen Brothers regular Carter Burwell (FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, ANOMALISA). Milan releases the soundtrack digitally on November 16th, with a cd version due November 30th, and a vinyl release on December 21st, 2018. Burwell’s “Seeking Alice,” from the score, is streaming now via Soundcloud.
Also coming up from Milan is Hans Zimmer's score to WIDOWS (November 16; “Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, conspire to forge a future on their own terms”) – listen to the percussive track “The Job” here; and MIRAI, the new anime film by Mamoru Hosoda (WOLF CHILDREN, THE BOY AND THE BEAST) scored by Takagi Masakatsu (November 20; “A young boy encounters a magical garden which enables him to travel through time and meet his relatives from different eras, with guidance by his younger sister from the future”), which is pre-orderable via Amazon. Listen to Masakatsu’s MIRAI theme here:
Quartet Records presents a new collaboration between Victor Reyes and Rodrigo Cortés, following their three successful films together (THE CONTESTANT, BURIED and RED LIGHTS). The new film, a ghostly horror thriller, DOWN A DARK HALL, stars Uma Thurman, AnnaSophia Rob and Noah Silver, is about a troubled teen who is forced to join an exclusive boarding school, only to find herself trapped by dark forces surrounding its mysterious headmistress, Madame Duret (Thurman).The score “encompasses the sound of Gothic terror, full-blooded romanticism, an impressionistic love theme through an openly symphonic sound,” writes the label.
For more details and to sample tracks, see here.
Also coming up from Quartet Records and Gruppo Sugar is an expanded and remastered CD of memorable mondo mayhem with music by Carlo Savina. ULTIME GRIDA DALLA SAVANA (1975, Savage Man, Savage Beast in US, Zumbalah in UK) was the cornerstone of the second mondo wave as it discusses the cruel story of hunting by both man and beast from many different aspects. Savina’s score follows mondo traditions by juxtaposing shocking visuals with great exotica and pop tunes. Originally released as a 40-minute LP from CAM in 1974 (later reissued on CD by the same company (paired with the sequel SAVANA VIOLENTA, composed by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, on the same CD). For this premiere complete edition, Quartet has included the remastered album program as well as another 40 minutes of previously unreleased tracks. See quartetrecordssavana. Not to forget the sequel, Quartet has also released simultaneously the De Angelis brothers’ score to SAVANA VIOLENTA as a separate CD, itself remastered and including 37 minutes of previously unreleased tracks. Both albums are produced by Claudio Fuiano and both include a richly illustrated booklet featuring liner notes by Gergely Hubai. See quartetrecordsviolenta here. And finally, Quartet has two brand new Pino Donaggio scores from 2018, which are presented on a single CD: IL MIO NOME È THOMAS (My Name Is Thomas) and MARE A GRANO (no translation). See details here.
Silva Screen Records has released the digit album, Carter Burwell - Music For Films. This album is the first ever overview of Carter Burwell's film music work, selected and approved by the artist. Supported by the Film Fest Gent’s World Soundtrack Awards, the album is performed by the Brussels Philharmonic and conducted by Dirk Brosse. Silva has also released, for your upcoming holiday cheer, The Nativity: Cinematic Christmas Carols, performed by London Music Works. This album brings the sound of the Hollywood cinematic blockbuster to well-loved yuletide favorites. Enjoy a potent mix of film, TV & trailer soundtrack composers and arrangers as London Music Works gives the best-loved Christmas songs a Hollywood-styled sonic makeover.
Music Box Records of France announces the remastered CD release of Georges Delerue’s original music from the French documentary TV series TOURS DU MONDE, TOURS DU CIEL (1991) directed by Robert Pansard-Besson (LA LÉGENDE DES SCIENCES). Broadcast in 1991, TOURS DU MONDE, TOURS DU CIEL is still recognized today as a model of scientific popularization, and was at the time a not-to-be-missed TV program for all amateur astronomers in France: they still vividly remember Delerue’s wonderful music. The score, highlighted by the deep tone of the strings of the Orchestre de Paris, displays its melodic and contemplative lyricism in each of the chosen sequences and conveys a fascinating feeling of infinity. Also announced is the first CD release of Francis Lai’s score to Roger Kahane’s MADLY (1970, aka THE LOVE MATES). The film, definitely a product of the early 1970s, advocates for sexual freedom (at least from a masculine point of view) and a new conception of the couple. The score features many neoromantic pieces that allow the composer’s melodic talent to shine (combined with Christian Gaubert’s ultra-elegant arrangements).
For more details and additional news, see musicboxrecords
KRONOS RECORDS and MOVIESCORE MEDIA take a hard ride with DEAD MEN, reuniting with composer Gerrit Wunder, who had already proven his experience in genre scoring with KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL. His music for DEAD MEN takes viewers and listeners down to the Arizona territories, where writer/director Royston Innes and writer/actor Ric Maddox follow the path of a young man forced on a journey to avenge the death of his father, protect the Apache tribe he has grown to love, and reclaim the land and gold that is rightfully theirs.
Producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender have released The Music of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an album of music from the internationally acclaimed stage production. The album is written, composed, performed and recorded by Grammy and Ivor Novello Award-winner Imogen Heap. It is presented as four contemporary musical suites, each chronologically showcasing one of the play’s theatrical acts. This unique new album format is further reworked to transport listeners on a sonic journey through the world of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. “This album is like nothing I’ve ever attempted before,” said Imogen Heap. “With over 100 moments of music in the play, the challenge was how to weave them together, and I think it has manifested into a really enjoyable listen, with memories for those who’ve seen the play, musical accompaniment to those with the script of the play or simply just to enjoy the music as a stand-alone album. It is crafted to be listened to in its entirety, taking the listener through different worlds within each suite.” The album is available via Sony Music Masterworks both on CD and digitally – see harrypotterlink
Morricone Youth, the eclectic film re-scoring group from New York, have released their reimagining of DANGER: DIABOLIK, which features a number of Ennio Morricone originals as well as several other new songs written to complement Maestro’s greatest cues from the 1968 Mario Bava cult classic. The limited-edition record is now on sale (on blue vinyl), but the music is also available to listen to in its entirety on the Morricone Youth Soundcloud page. The LP includes a download card – see morriconeyouth
Varèse Sarabande has unleashed a double-LP release for V FOR VENDETTA. This premiere vinyl soundtrack of Dario Marianelli’s compelling score features new jacket artwork of the masked face of V designed by “Ghoulish Gary” Pullin, who previously designed album covers for soundtracks to Wes Craven’s SCREAM and John Carpenter’s CHRISTINE. Like the thousands of “Guy Fawkes” masks donned in the film’s pivotal scene, a wearable mask comes included inside the package!
For more details, see varesesarabande
One Way Static Records has announced a vinyl presentation of Philip Glass’s music for the 1992 horror film CANDYMAN, based on the story by Clive Barker. “With this eerie minimalistic soundtrack,” the label described, “we present to you some of Glass’ best work.” This release is available as a limited classic black vinyl edition (with obi strip) & on the several color vinyl variants (see details at OneWayStatic). All versions also come with an insert containing exclusive and extensive liner notes by author Clive Barker, composer Philip Glass, director Bernard Rose and actors Tony Todd, Ted Raimi, and Xander Berkeley.
The new original TV series DEADWAX premieres on the Shudder streaming video service on November 15th. Death Waltz Recording Company will issue a vinyl soundtrack “soon.” The 8-episode series is described as “a mind-bending neo-noir set in the obsessive world of vinyl collecting. Etta Pryce, a vinyl tracker, is hired by a rich collector to hunt a legendary rare record that has driven its owners mad and killed anyone that has dared to play it.” [When you’ve got to have it, you’ve got to have it, eh collectors? I feel your pain!] The show’s musical score is composed by its writer/director Graham Reznick along with “about 12 more tracks contributed by some awesome folks (that we’ll announce soon).”
Olivier Derivière’s game score for DONTNOD Entertainment’s Vampyr video game, released last May, has been released in a gorgeous audiophile 180g double vinyl package from Black Screen records. A digital soundtrack is already out on all major streaming platforms. Derivière’s haunting cinematic-meets-industrial soundtrack will be available on limited edition translucent red w/ black splatter and translucent red w/ black smoke 180g vinyl and will come in a gatefold sleeve with original artwork by DONTNOD’s concept artist Florent Auguy and additional layout by Dane Baudoin. The vinyl includes three bonus tracks, is housed in poly-lined black inner sleeves and comes with a free download code for the digital album. “Vampyr is one of the few opportunities for a composer to explore an instrument,” Derivière said. “I spent a lot of time with Eric Maria Couturier to create this very peculiar sound with a cello and I think his performance is beyond anything I wished. I am very grateful to have Black Screen Records releasing this vinyl edition as it feels even more genuine to its unique sounding.”
See Black Screen Records here
Of related interest, in case you missed it, check out this interview with Derivière about scoring the Vampyr game (including a couple of sample tracks), posted last May, at hardcoregamer.
Death Waltz Recording Co. announced two new film scores titles in vinyl: THE RITUAL, released with Lakeshore Records, and UPGRADE, in conjunction with Back Lot Music, both from recently released movies. THE RITUAL is soon to be a future folk-horror classic, and Ben Lovett’s spooky score is filled with a disturbing congregation of woodwind, brass, and synths. The LP package features artwork by John Bergin. The disc is pressed on 180 Gram colored vinyl (Green and Brown Swirl) and housed inside a 425 gsm gatefold jacket, with obi. Limited to 500 copies. Expected to Ship November 2019 - Ships to US Addresses Only. Jed Palmer’s score to Leigh Whannell’s inventive sci-fi action thriller UPGRADE is a dystopian industrial sci-fi rendering that is really going to test your speakers with its low end rumble. The score’s “quieter moments feature echoes of BLADE RUNNER and TANGERINE DREAM,” noted distributor MondoTees, “and it is as comfortable being melancholic as it is being punishing and industrial in its more action-orientated cues.” This package features artwork by Viktor Kalvachev, disc pressed on 180 Gram ‘Stem’ colored vinyl (Transparent Blue with solid Red color-in-color effect) and housed inside a 425 gsm gatefold jacket with obi. Expected to Ship November 2018; ships worldwide. For more information or to order, see mondotees here.
Music in Science Fiction Television:
Tuned to the Future
Routledge Music and Screen Media Series
Edited by K. J. Donnelly and Philip Hayward
New York & London: Routledge, 2013.
Paperback, 228 pages.
This omnibus collection of academic-styled essays provided a wealth of details on televised science fiction from THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE JETSONS, and LOST IN SPACE through TV’s STAR TREK franchise, Germany’s RAUMPATROUILLE, UK’s SPACE: 1999 and DOCTOR WHO (both classic and revived), through the more recent BABYLON 5, LOST, and even a thorough examination of low-budget sound in SyFy’s 4-season hit SANCTUARY. Both editors are very capable and have compiled an excellent group of authors both qualified and articulate in investigating the topic at hand - Donnelly has edited or co-edited the essay collections Partners in Suspense: Critical Essays on Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock (2017), and others, while Hayward is known for editing such notable volumes Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema (2009) and Off The Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema (2004), etc. Their contributors are almost all scholars, professors, or instructors in academia whose experience allows them to address the topic in a considerate and professional manner.
Focusing specifically on television science fiction series with a properly international (or at least American/European) perspective allows for a comprehensive consideration of what is unique about television s.f. and the differences in budget, deadlines, and sonic palette in crafting musical accompaniment on the small screen for serialized storylines of 30- to 60-minutes in length (usually), which are all largely very different challenges from those of feature films (“Television is not the same as film despite similarities and crossovers between the two,” the author’s write in their preface. “It has regularly been produced more frugally…”). The book’s only potential drawback is that is narrows its attention to a small number of very specific television shows, so can’t be considered an overall viewpoint of TV science fiction music as a whole – but it isn’t trying to be. By selecting a baker’s dozen of representative shows, the book is able to delve into those particular samples to detail how they serve as individual exemplars of the medium.
As the editors also note in their Preface, “The programs analyzed [herein] belong to the broad genre of science fiction, which can be summarized as an aggregation of works substantially concerned with aspects of futurism, imagined technologies, aliens, and/or interplaneterism. As a genre primarily defined in terms of iconography, locale, and thematics, the television programs analyzed in this volume also incorporate elements of the thriller, action, and comedy genres. In addition their soundtracks also draw on related conventions.” The range of matters evaluated in the essays run from the early mix of electronic sound effects and music found in the DOCTOR WHO episodes of the early 1960s to the more technologically sophisticated hybrid sound design of our modern day, as the authors also point out: “Science fiction dramas are often about human possibilities and potentials, and consequently their sound and music can be about humanity’s sonic present and future, and sonic capabilities.”
The essays are rich in thorough exploration; some are accompanied by photographs from the shows discussed, some include musical examples which will be very useful for those who read music. The essays are valuable in their depth of exploratory assessment, each chapter best savored for consideration via its own analytical discourse rather than absorbing the book as a whole, although by the time one is finished, one with have gained a useful understanding of much of what lies behind with within the depths of scoring science fiction television. “Some of the most outrageous and avant garde music widely distributed since the middle of the twentieth century has used the medium of science fiction television,” Donnelly and Hayward conclude in their preface. “Equally, so has some music of high quality and some music of great popularity. All of which makes television’s science fiction genre particularly interesting with respect to its sonic aspects.”
La Musica En El Cine Di Terror Marco Werba (forthcoming to Europe)
Film Composer Marco Werba (GIALLO, SEGUIMI, COLOUR FROM THE DARK) has written a composition treatise dedicated to iconic film music for genre motion pictures. The book will analyze well-known scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, as well as the author himself. Structured from the point of view of a composer rather than a music critic, Werba analyzes the functions of music in the genre movies of thrillers, horror, and science fiction, the composers’ working methods, the collaboration between director and producer, the coexistence between dialogues, music and sound effects, and more. This distinctively original work is of value not only to aficionados of classic film music, but as a unique, first person textbook for music schools, and for students of their courses in compositional studies.
This invaluable volume will be published in Spain by Editorial Rosettaand subsequently in Italy and other countries. The author hopes an English language version may be published in the future.
Graham Plowman, a composer known for his atmospheric scores for Lovecraftian and similar poetry audiobooks, is scoring a new Cthulhu Mythos board game called Cultistorm, which is about to launch a Kickstarter fundraising campaign on Nov. 4th (link below). Cultistorm is a unique board game which promises and gives more than your average “Cthulhu game,” as the creators explain: “It’s a huge and substantive game in two big boxes, or an even bigger plastic special edition box with two major and nine minor expansions, with more than a thousand cards, miniatures and a hundred further game elements. Instead of short flavor texts on the card, you’ll have a narrative script book with almost 400 flash fiction stories and full-page color illustrations. It will include a real Lovecraftian anthology with the stories of fourteen writers; all of them written especially for the game; as well as a fantastic orchestral game soundtrack album composed by Graham Plowman, possibly the greatest and most well-known composer of the genre.” For more details and to support the project and avoid a horrible fate via Yog-Sothoth, check out the Cultistorm info here: https://cultistorm.com/kickstarter/
Olivier Derivière also reports that his game score for 11-11 Memories Retold is now available on Bandcamp and soon on the usual digital platforms. The game, from Bandai Namco for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows, is a wartime fable that follows the intertwining lives and fates of two enemy soldiers throughout the course of World War 1. “The orchestral colors borrow from the French classical composers (Ravel, Debussy, Faure) to infuse [the score’s] modern voice with the impressionistic style of the story’s time period,” Derivière explained. “With its three acts, the musical score plays upon the structure of ballet and leitmotivs to realize the poetry of life in even the darkest of times.”
Composer, author, and video game specialist Winifred Phillips has composed the music for a new VR Halloween experience, The Haunted Graveyard. Released by VR Arcades, the game was created by Seattle-based Holospark, who decided to make a VR game experience for the emerging VR arcade market.” The Haunted Graveyard will be a scary game, designed for all ages,” wrote Dean Takahashi in an Oct. 9th article for the American technology-focused website venturebeat. “I saw a demo of the company’s earlier work, and I was struck at how good the developers were at making you feel like you were talking to a character in VR. Now they’re taking the creepy music and character to create a spooky vibe with the game.” Takahashi explained that The Haunted Graveyard is a VR adventure targeted at “VRcades,” or location-based experiences with VR headsets (rather than for home computer use). In the experience, players visit a magical graveyard inhabited by ghosts. Players can meet the ghosts, explore their world, and learn their secrets. “But you’d better keep moving – if you’re still in the Haunted Graveyard at midnight, you'll be trapped here forever!” warns Holospark. The Haunted Graveyard is not a videogame. It is a fifteen-minute VR experience with light interactivity intended for new VR users. Highlights include:
A rich and beautifully haunting landscape that transports you to another world
An original lush orchestral soundtrack composed by game score specialist Winifred Phillips (Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, God of War) and produced by Winnie Waldron
Extensive motion-capture performances by professional actors.
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 currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.