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Soundtrax: Episode 2017-1
April 20, 2017

By Randall D. Larson


Featured Interviews:

  • Trevor Morris – Scoring EMERALD CITY
  • Chris Bacon – Five Seasons in the BATES MOTEL
  • The Animated Musical World of Heitor Pereira

Soundtrack Reviews


Soundtrack, & Game Music News

Once again I must apologize for the lateness of this column. Lots going on and little time left over. To make up I’ve packed this column with a lot of material, interviews, reviews, and news. Thanks for your patience – and for reading Soundtrax! I am targeting shorter columns beginning in May in order to manage the workload and get back onto a monthly schedule! – rdl

Two-time EMMY Award winning composer Trevor Morris is a dual Citizen of Canada and Great Britain, living and working in Los Angeles. He has composed music for feature film, television, and video games since 1997, and is best known for his TV work on THE TUDORS, THE BORGIAS, VIKINGS, and most recently Netflix’s IRON FIST, as well as such feature films as OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, LONDON HAS FALLEN, and IMMORTALS. Trevor conducts selections of his composition live in the many Film Festivals around the world, recently conducting his music with full Orchestra and Choir to over 12,000 fans at the Krakow FMF. I spoke to him briefly in early March about his music for the limited-episode TV series EMERALD CITY. -rdl

Q: EMERALD CITY is of course a well-known & respected property of literature and film. How were you asked to compose its music and how did you develop your approach to scoring the series?

Trevor Morris: I got involved because one of the producers and writers, David Schulner, and I had worked together before on a TV show long ago, a very good TV show called KINGS [2009],which unfortunately didn’t last. He reached out to me. They had just or were just about to hire Tarsem Singh to direct it, which was a perfect choice since he and I had done a feature together in 2011 called IMMORTALS. This was Tarsem’s first time working in television, so I think I was a good fit because I knew the writer and also the director, who was diving head first into TV, which is a very different animal that film. So those were the two connections that sort of made it make sense, and I showed my enthusiasm for the project – who wouldn’t?! What a great subject!


“At first the music went from very abstract with a lot of pads and drones to eventually ending up in a primarily orchestral palette. Because it’s such a timeless story we thought that was the right size for the characters. There are some electronic elements in there, but the takeaway from it is primarily orchestral.”


Q: You gave the series an epic sounding main theme and plenty of musical heart and gravitas. How were you asked to score the film and how did you develop your score as you got more involved?

Trevor Morris: This was a challenge, because obviously it’s a story we all know, but at the same time the whole idea was to not reinvent it but really make a different take on it. Who are the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion? These things are revealed in very different ways. So from the beginning we didn’t really know what kind of show we were making, we were discovering it as we went along. At first the music went from very abstract with a lot of pads and drones to eventually ending up in a primarily orchestral palette. Because it’s such a timeless story we thought that was the right size for the characters. There are some electronic elements in there, but the takeaway from it is primarily orchestral. We early on decided to record it with live orchestra, not synth orchestra, and knowing that we’d have live players makes a big difference in how I wrote. I got to envision myself standing at the podium conducting the players in London, where we recorded it, and that’s a very different frame of mind writing music like that than it is just with the box!

Q: How did the score develop over the ten episodes as the characters and various nuances and revelations between them grew and expanded?

Trevor Morris: What I was going for… the word I would use is chroma, in the music. It’s a very interesting-colored show; it’s very saturated and de-saturated. It was trying to be anything but up the middle. I really consider myself a musical storyteller, so I let the story lead me to where we want to go. So as we find our way to Oz and experience these things and the music goes along, as we get deeper into the Wizard’s motivation, then we learn he of course is a fraud in his own way, and we get to the end and a lot of things get revealed as the onion is peeled back. I’ve got to be in sync with that, musically, and have themes that will go the distance. The Yellow Brick Road Theme, which was the first theme I wrote, really ended up being Dorothy and Lucas’s Love Theme, because that’s where they met.

Q: Your previous score for Tarsem, IMMORTALS, gave you the chance to provide a textural orchestral/choral score for an epic mythological fantasy…

Trevor Morris: With a movie like that, they really can have their choice of composers, so I felt very fortunate to get in there. Tarsem and the editor Stuart [Levy] wanted someone younger and hungrier, which was where I was at, and certainly still am, in a way, with my feature film career. Yes, it’s a sword-and-sandals movie but at the same time we wanted to do something different, and Tarsem’s take visually is always, by nature, different. We wanted a big orchestral sweep, and I think the kind of movie, the way it was marketed, was certainly in that 300-ish territory, so it needed a score that fit the size of the image and the characters and Mickey Rourke and all of that. We went in pretty much right away knowing it as going to be some blend of ethnicity, orchestral gesture, and there actually was a lot of synth work cleverly tucked in there that you don’t necessarily notice as being electronic, but it’s certainly in there, and it modernizes the score too.

Q: How did your experience with such period TV shows as TUDORS, & especially THE VIKINGS, play into what you were doing in a film like IMMORTALS or SCORPION KING 3, as far as deciding how to approach this kind of film score – and was there a stylistic expectation that you were asked to accommodate in their music?

Trevor Morris: Not really. I think people know that historically I have had the ability to take something that is a period piece and modernize it, and certainly the score for VIKINGS is a great example of that. It’s largely electronic even though that element is sort of cleverly hidden underneath so what you see on screen which is rock and earth and fiords; the music is scoring that but in a very unique way. So that’s one of those great challenges that I’m certainly up for, and have sort of gained a reputation for doing well. It’s something I very much embrace.

Lakeshore Records will release the score soundtrack from EMERALD CITY on May 5th.


Chris Bacon burst onto the film scoring scene with his full throttled score for Duncan Jones’s 2011 hit sci-fi thriller SOURCE CODE. “From the point that I could start thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Bacon once said, “it was always to write movie music.” Having cut his teeth as a protégé—orchestrating, co-composing, and writing additional music—of James Newton Howard (on films like GNOMEO AND JULIET and KING KONG), Bacon made his solo debut with the score for ANGELS FALL and hasn’t looked back. He gave animated accompaniments to SPACE CHIMPS and ALPHA AND OMEGA and composed the dramatic score for the war documentary HIGH GROUND, produced by Don Hahn. Chris also wrote the underscore for the second half of NBC’s SMASH Season One, which earned him his first Emmy Award nomination. Chris recently received his second Emmy Nomination on BATES MOTEL for best Original Dramatic Score for a Series. Chris is currently scoring the Amazon reboot of THE TICK and ABC’s TV drama WHEN WE RISE starring Guy Pearce and Mary-Louise Parker. Bacon grew up in Utah, learning playing piano and saxophone before studying music composition in college. He moved to L.A. to attend USC’s film scoring program, which resulted in his apprenticeship with Howard. “It comes back to instinct,” he says of his process, “and for better or worse, following my ears.” Interviewed on December 2, 2016, Chris describes the evolution of the BATES MOTEL score and how it’s being wrapped up, musically, in its final season.

Q: What initially brought you into the BATES MOTEL series?

Chris Bacon: I was in New York, and I got a call from my agent who said that there’s this show that A&E and NBC are putting together and they’re kind of envisioning a contemporary prequel-ish type of thing about how Norman Bates, as a young man, became the Norman Bates that we know and love and fear in PSYCHO. And I thought it sounded like a terrible idea, only because there’s a lot of history with trifling with icons and not being successful with it, because if everybody could figure out what made an icon an icon, it’d be a lot easier to do! So there was some trepidation. But then I heard who was involved with it – Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin; who the cast was, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore and Nestor Carbonell; etcetera, it became something that I thought would be very exciting to be a part of, not least of which because I was a huge fan of the show, LOST, and this was Carlton’s next offering having wrapped on that show. So it became from something that I was skeptical about to something I was very actively wanting to pursue. And so we had a series of meetings and they had some music and I was hired for the job, and I was very excited to do it.

Q: During those early meetings, what kind of brief did they give you as far as what they thought the music should be, and how did that develop once you began working on it?

Chris Bacon: They wanted it to be thematic. It was clear from watching what they did that it was not going to be a horror show. The way they’ve done the TV series, there’s a lot of heart to it, there’s a lot of angst, and there’s a lot of humor. One of the things that they also made clear is that we’re not doing this to have it be an homage to PSYCHO – obviously there’s the house and the motel: that’s what it is. This is Norman Bates as a kid, who looks pretty stunningly like Anthony Perkins in that role, and so there are those elements that are clearly already there, but musically it was just: “Look, we need to make this our own voice and play the scenes and the character for what they are in that moment, and not try to tip the hat to something else, because it’s already there. We know we’re going to end up, in some way, at that point. So we’ll see what kind of musical identity we can come up with for our show.” Now all that being said, a good chunk of my DNA musically can be traced back to Bernard Herrmann just because I’m a huge fan of his, so even without trying to do that, and even before I did this show there were times where there were recognizable Herrmannesque elements to what I was doing, and I’m unashamed of that comparison, because I could certainly do worse! The idea has not been to try to go that route, although now that we’ve just started the fifth and final season – I’ve just recorded the first episode – so we are to the point now where the events of the series are starting to collide and intersect with events from the movie, and they have said: “Alright, we know who Norman is now, let’s kind of start to acknowledge that DNA musically as well, or be a little more overt in connecting him to that side that we know from PSYCHO.” I’m really excited to see where that goes! It’s daunting and exciting to see what I can do in that universe to tip the hat to Herrmann a little bit more.

“The actors are tremendous on the show, and a lot of times I need to remind myself that less is more: create atmosphere, acknowledge what needs to be acknowledged, but in a lot of ways, get out of the way and let them do their thing. A well placed single chord can do just as much as a soaring or impressive melody.

Q: In the earlier episodes, how did you create the kind of psychological portrait of Norman Bates and the environment in which he grew up that both carries its own voice and yet hints at the kind of disturbed predator we know he is about to become?

Chris Bacon: I think part of it is that the actors are tremendous on the show, and so a lot of times I need to remind myself that less is more: create atmosphere, acknowledge what needs to be acknowledged, but in a lot of ways, get out of the way and let them do their thing. A well placed single chord can do just as much as a soaring or impressive melody, because of just how they play the characters. For all the kind of explosiveness and emotion and volatility that both Norman and Norma have, they also, the majority of the time, I would say, there’s an understatedness to their performances, and so I’ve tried to approach it that way musically as well. I think that makes the moments that explode more explosive.

Q: What was the musical palette you had when you began scoring the series, and has that developed over the ensuing seasons?

Chris Bacon: It has developed over the seasons. There has been some consistency but also some recognition of what seems to work best. First we tried using some electronics, and there have been some electronics throughout the series, which I think helps, especially considering it’s set now in the present day. They can also help create tension and/or “motor” in a way that trying to do it orchestrally it maybe would sound a bit more traditional than they want it to be. But there have been times when we’ve tried to go more electronic and I think the general consensus that we’ve come to is that it’s worked best, for me, when we stick with strings and piano as the basic core. The piano works well for its versatility and ability to be very subtle, it can be emotional; it’s a very versatile tool. I think the part of me that subconsciously thought that I liked the idea of sticking with mostly strings, even though I was told not to homage PSYCHO, but that’s the palette that Herrmann used, exclusively for PSYCHO – just strings. Partly because it was black and white and he liked the idea of not having the score be too colorful. In any case, my driving sonic palette is strings and piano, and I’m very fortunate on the show to get to record with a live string section for each episode. I think that makes a huge difference in breathing life into the music and into the score, and lending an additional layer of humanity to the characters and their storylines.

Q: How has your thematic architecture for BATES MOTEL developed over the years as characters have interacted, changed, from the central music oriented around Norman and his mother to the peripheral characters as they come to the fore?

Chris Bacon: There are a lot of themes throughout the show. Interestingly, to me, there aren’t that many specifically associated just with a character, because so much of the show is in relationships, whether it’s between Norman and Norma, or Norman and Dylan, or Dylan and Norma, or the three of them as a family together. Emma had her own theme but then there’s also an Emma and Dylan theme since they’ve become a thing. Then there’s a Romero/Norma theme, but there really aren’t than many specific character themes. One did develop for Norma… she received a theme in Season 3 or so that was related to her and her past and the foundation of who she was, and that became the theme that they used when she ultimately was killed, in her death scene where Romero is trying to revive her, and that was something that I was glad to have, because I wasn’t sure how to play that scene or what theme to use. There are several general Bates Motel themes that work their way around depending on what’s going on, and that was really nice to have. There’s a general emotional theme as well that we goes through several different iterations but that’s really shared between Norman and Norma because they’re the crux of the show. There are other things and other characters and other storylines that happen but it really comes down to them and their relationship. So that’s probably the main theme of the show. I think it first plays in Episode 1 where they have their talk on the boat at the end of the episode as they’re dumping their first body together, but it becomes a conversation where they talk about how their hearts are tied together by a single chord, and they’re really destined for each other. That’s really the theme of the show, I think, both that concept of Norman and Norma being destined to be together, in life or death, and that theme follows them throughout.

-Thanks to Chandler Poling at White Bear PR for facilitating this interview.

Brazilian musician and composer Heitor Pereira began his musical career as a guitarist after completing his conservatory studies. He became best known as the guitarist for Simply Red, but also released three solo albums of his own music, and either arranged music or played with many top recording artists. In 2005, Heitor won a Grammy for "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist" for his collaboration with Sting and Chris Botti.
Heitor discovered composing film music in a unique way. He had been brought in as a songwriter for the film AS GOOD AS IT GETS, composed by Hans Zimmer, but soon found that his melodies and arrangements were a perfect fit to film scores. He made such an impression on producer James L. Brooks that in Brooks' next film, 2001's RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS, Heitor was credited as co-composer. Heitor went on to compose original film scores for: THE SMURFS, DESPICABLE ME, Nancy Meyers' IT'S COMPLICATED, Disney's BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA, the documentaries RUNNING THE SAHARA and SONIC SEA, and many more.
Heitor has been especially adept at scoring animated comedies, which has been the main topic of our discussion. We discussed ANGRY BIRDS and some of the previous animated feature films he’s scored, and took a look at what he was doing with DESPICABLE ME 3, which opens on June 30th. -rdl

Q: How did you get involved in THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE? I don’t believe you’d worked with the director before, although producer John Cohen had been a producer on DESPICABLE ME.

Heitor Pereira: That’s exactly what it was. When John felt that they had enough of material from the movie to show me, he invited me in, and sent me the script, sent me some scenes, and I really liked it. Even in the script itself, I could already tell that there was so much spirit and swagger to it, and a lot of heart. So then when I saw the scenes and the style of animation and the delivery timing of the dialogue, I felt, oh man, this has a good flow… it is good ground for music. I was super-happy to jump in. So it was through John Cohen and the good relationship we had on DESPICABLE ME; he’s a very musical person, and that helps a lot.

Q: Coming into this project, what kind of discussions did you have with the directors and/or producers as far as what they wanted for music – and what were your own initial inclinations about what the music should be?

Heitor Pereira: I didn’t have a long history in scoring movies, but I was lucky because a lot of the projects I was involved with became successful in the animated world, and that helped a lot. So I think they relied a lot on the experience that I’ve gotten from working on those other movies. The one thing that I felt that I had to keep an eye on, and keep reminding them about, was that we were making an international project, so it should be music that didn’t represent a particular geography. It should be music that had no borders and everything is valid, and they were really up for that. I think that was the main core to me, to make sure that I ensured that the movie would be a global thing.

Q: Did the fact that the film’s concept and characters derived from a popular video game franchise with its own inherent musical structure at all affect what you needed to do with the film score?

Heitor Pereira: It didn’t. But on the other hand I did make sure I paid homage to the music of the game, so I start the movie with my own rendition of the original Angry Birds tune, and from there I took on a different route because it’s not a video game. In the movie, the characters have more depth – they talk, they have relationships amongst themselves, and they know about what’s at stake. It’s explained through the arc of the story and that brings in more melodies, more counterpoint, more characters sharing the same screen at the same time, so those melodies kept reoccurring and I had to treat it in a completely different way than the video game. I knew about the game – I’d never played it but my kids have, and I felt it would be a letdown if I didn’t acknowledge the theme, but I also felt it would be irresponsible with the other hour and twenty six minutes not to give the movie its own voice! 

Q: You’ve described how you used a sonic menagerie of avian sounds and bird calls which became textured and percussive elements mixed into the orchestra. How did you accomplish this to make musical unique instruments out of the sounds of wings, feathers, beaks, and chirps?

Heitor Pereira: I’m an avid bird lover and bird watcher. I go with my family, when we can, around the world to watch birds. I really love it. I grew up in Brazil as you know, and it used to be more of a bird sanctuary than it is now, but that applies to the rest of the world as well. My grandfather first taught me about birds and their songs, and one time my sister gave me a beautiful gift: a box containing over a hundred, handmade bird call whistles. That’s how people, first as hunters, would go out an attract these birds, but the beautiful thing is that the mentality has changed in Brazil and a lot of other places in the world where people attract birds just to see them and watch them. So I used these bird calls that my sister gave me and I sampled some of them, and others I just performed and recorded. The flutter of birds’ wings became like a jazz brush, so that’s what I used those sounds for. Woodpecker sounds became like cow bells!

That’s the beautiful thing about what I can do in films. As you know, I worked as a session musician first, then as part of Simply Red, and later in Brazil and also America I worked with all my heroes, but when film music came into my life, what was amazing was recognizing the world of sound - not necessarily the organized kind of sound that’s called music, but the world of sound as it’s given to us every day. The noise of cars in the street, the birds singing, a waterfall that you can put through a phase shifter and making a new musical element [mimics whooshing sound of waterfall], and the fact that you can use all of this in movies; to me it’s just musical sonic paradise!

Yesterday I just went to a screening of a documentary that I did the music for, called SONIC SEA. It’s about the noise pollution in the ocean and unfortunately how that noise is being disorienting to whales and dolphins, and that’s why we see so many of those animals beached. It’s just because they can’t stand the noise. If you as a person hear a loud noise you can get out of the room or you can cover ears; well, these animals can’t do that. And I found that when you go underwater, the world of underwater sound is a beautiful world too, and I’ve used that also in films. The great thing about what I’m doing at this moment in my life is the fact that everything that has a sound – including silence! They are all valid instruments to be used in these movies, so I’m very happy.

Q: How did you develop that sound pallet here in ANGRY BIRDS, motivically and structurally?

Heitor Pereira: I think it always started with the character of Red. When I start on a film, I usually do a graphic of the appearance of each character in the movie, and then I color them. This one was great because they had colors already, Red is red, Chuck is yellow, Bomb is black, Matilda’s white, and I see where they occur the most and where they share screen time. Red was the most present bird on screen, so I wrote his theme first, and from there everything that I wrote afterwards had to hold hands, thematically, with his theme, because from this graphic I knew that there were going to be moments where those themes would coexist. So that’s how I structured it. Additionally, each color also defines that character; so Matilda is like this New Age anger management coach, Red is this guy that has a massive anger problem but has a big heart and so he becomes our hero. Terence is this mean presence but turns out to be this beautiful soul, Bomb is bomb, clueless but also full of heart, and Chuck is this crazy yellow bird that’s real fast so I’d written this very fast duet for trumpets that the orchestra doubles later (and later on it’s played by a punk band). So it’s all carefully planned out. That’s the problem when, with animation, you aren’t able to see the movie first; if you don’t do this kind of study on the arc of the movie before you write something, then later on you may realize that a scene during the last 45 minutes of the movie needs to have enough material to turn into an action thing! So that’s how I structured it. When each of the individual birds became a team, they became friends going on this journey, which I thought needed a theme, and that theme also became the theme of the village. So it’s great how when you dig deep into the story and can you can see how these characters are like human beings, because that‘s what we do with animation nowadays. You can’t jump too fast into it, because you may put too much of your first impression into it, and in doing that you may not allow the movie to grow inside you. The movie grows inside you the more you understand the characters.

It’s hard work. ANGRY BIRDS took me about seven months. THE MINIONS took me a year. Nowadays the companies screen these movies a lot, so the responsibility towards the audience is very big. They get the feedback of the audience so they can do two things: financially, business-wise, they don’t mess it up, because if the audience is telling you that they don’t like that character or something, you’ve got to do something about it so the film stands a chance of being successful. Secondly, it’s because you are making it for them – you’re not making it for yourself. Obviously it’s still your art, your product, or whatever you want to call it, but if you have the opportunity to put it in front of an audience – who it will ultimately be for – you have to learn from it. So this process sometimes causes us to alter things that we were very sure about, and the music can get altered too. Many times it’s improved, other times it’s on the verge of being destroyed and then it’s my decision to say I’m going to restart this from zero.

Q: The score has a very breezy, almost whimsical sense of tone and texture, while also conveying some exuberantly massive runs of its main theme later in the film that really convey a propulsive energy, enhanced by choir. How did you conceive and organize those elements of the score?

Heitor Pereira: A lot of it comes from Red’s discovery of, first, that he needed treatment, that the anger wasn’t helping him, and also that he discovers before anybody else in the village that the pig gang is up to no good. He’s mocked by the whole village, and then we go into that journey with him of him rediscovering his strength, working on his issues, and at the same time trying to prove to the village that he is right, and he is right, and now he understands that he can channel that anger to rally the birds to go out and fight these pigs. So the anger that at first was a personal problem became material for heroism and also to rally the village to take a stand. In the same way, that theme that had the anger and then the self-discovery now has the acclamation of the village being thankful to him for helping them not to lose their future. At that point Red’s theme, along with the theme melody of the Mighty Eagle [their island’s official protector], as well as the friendship theme, we now have the underlying core of what carries the action. It’s what we hear least during the scenes of battle, but it’s still there. That’s how I envisaged all the themes. One of the producers said that they were so happy with the way the music tells the story that for the DVD they’re going to offer a whole section that is just the music without dialogue!  [The DVD and Blu-Ray editions of ANGRY BIRDS have a “symphony mode” option which plays the movie with just the music, in the manner of an “isolated score” option.]

“For animation, the melody is the extension of the soul of the characters, and when you spend too much time without melody I believe that you start taking away the soul of the movie, so I’m a very melodic musician.

Q: I like the way Red’s theme also works as a kind of super-hero theme as they are going into the pig’s island.

Heitor Pereira: Right! You know, it’s interesting you mention that because, nowadays with all the super hero movies that are out there, the music is powerful, but this new way of scoring music that characterizes heroism doesn’t necessarily need to have a big theme. I’m ok with that, it’s part of the genre nowadays. But what I love about animation is that I still can write a melody and put all this new material that we can all relate to in contemporary action music, but without ever letting the music go on too long without a melody. Because, especially for animation, the melody is the extension of the soul of the characters, and when you spend too much time without melody I believe that you start taking away the soul of the movie, so I’m a very melodic musician. I tend to start writing music from a melody first, so I feel like I’m at home with this genre, because they still allow you to write big themes. I’m very happy with that, and Red’s Theme, as you mentioned, is a big photograph of what we are talking about.

Q: How did you treat the pigs, as the villains of the piece?

Heitor Pereira: [laughs] With a lot of care! I was able to write many different things. The pigs were at first kind of silly, and then I needed to make them scary, which then became too scary, and then they needed to become fun. So I had to go on that journey myself, and in the end what comes out is that the pigs have all these melodies, because they do go through the arc of being scary and you don’t know what’s coming, and then being ridiculous, and finally, when they’re flying over in the battle with the airplanes and everything – that’s like heavy stuff in the world of birds! – I needed to make them as evil as they could be, but keeping in mind the audience that we have in front of the screen. With the pigs I was able to go back to the palette of international instruments, different acoustical instruments from all over the world, and playing them in weird ways. Then, like I did with the bird calls, I had violins played upside down, and all sorts of things. During their party scene, I had their music building but at the same time descending in a countermelody; I felt they have so many personalities because they’re deceiving that the music couldn’t just have one theme, but many in the pig’s world.

Q: I think it’s also interesting that you’re musically describing pigs, which are a kind of funny looking and behaving animal, and yet you’re using this very sophisticated, almost classically-styled march.

Heitor Pereira: Right. The harmony of the original melody of the pigs goes places!

Q. CURIOUS GEORGE was your first animated film project. What can you explain about your scoring for this film and how that developed over the years through the sequels?

Heitor Pereira: CURIOUS GEORGE was pure desperation! It was the first time I was doing something like this, and also the fact that [singer-songwriter] Jack Johnson was very involved in it and had a lot of heart for it, like Pharrell [Williams] did for DESPICABLE ME. And it was a matter of how I could protect that love that Jack had for the movie and for his music, and how could I incorporate the orchestra and not have it sound like alien material as soon as a Jack Johnson song came in. So with Jack’s music being so melodic, so pure, and so beautiful, I had to make sure it could welcome flutes, clarinets, pizzicatos, and then grow into something bigger when needed. I’d also written original music, too, for Curious George and also for Ted [known as “The Man” in the original books], but always keeping in mind that everything is set in Jack Johnson’s musical universe, so it had to be compatible.

Q: You’ve done a lot of animated film scores after that.

Heitor Pereira: Yes, I guess because people know my relationship with pop music, and that I love and respect songs and that most of my scoring starts with melody, which is the core of the song. I’ve done that kind of work in the SMURFS movies, and then Hans introduced me to Pharrell [Williams] in DESPICABLE ME, and I worked the same way as I described to you with Jack Johnson – seeing how the orchestra can keep a little bit of the hip-hop and the R&B thing that Pharrell brings in. Then on DESPICABLE ME 2, Pharrell wrote the songs but he wasn’t as involved in the score. I still needed to acknowledge where we came from in the first film, but now it’s a different movie with different characters. The importance of Pharrell was Gru’s theme, which was brought back into the new movie, which I had to have balanced against Lucy and Herb and some of the other characters, so for them I had to write new material. Then with the MINIONS it was just me. I had written the Minions melody for the first DESPICABLE ME so the company saw that since I had already done DESPICABLE ME 2 by myself, and they had an Orlando Universal Park ride of the Minions with my music, so they decided to bring me in to score MINIONS. These things start creating a life of their own, and you have to understand where that thing is at when you come back to it. For example, when I had my first meeting for DESPICABLE ME 3, I hadn’t seen anything yet. No matter what my conclusion is to this relationship with these characters, principally Gru, since the first movie, DESPICABLE ME 3 needed new material, so I had to come in as an audience member first. I needed to forget the baggage that I had created with the stories before, because I’m a musician and that’s my world, and when I need it I’m going to drink from that fountain. But I need to be ready to discover a new fountain for the new editions of these movies, so we can make the audience’s trip to the theater worth it. I always had this in mind, even when I played my little gigs for ten people, to me the most important people in that gig were those ten people, because music is what I do every day, but the ten people, that musical moment they’re going to have that evening may be the only moment in the last three months. I imagine those people had a rough week – the kids had homework to do, the father work hard, the mother work hard, and now here they have this moment together – I have to transport myself to that moment and to understand the importance and be responsible about it, and give my best. And I’m so happy I’ve been invited to be part of projects where everybody else, the directors, the companies, the producers, they feel the same.

[Watch the trailer for DESPICABLE ME 3 on IMDB here.]

Q: You’ve also scored thrillers, such as DEAD IN THE WATER, CANYON, and recently THE JESUIT. How would you contrast your technique or approach to scoring these film with that of your lighter comedies and animated pictures, and how did you use music to intensity the tension and suspense of the situations in these particular films?

Heitor Pereira: To me, it’s still following the story. It’s doing that graphic that I told you about, so I can see the end of the movie before I write the first note. But they are different. In a thriller you can push the threshold of a heavier palette. You don’t need to take into consideration that there are children in the audience, because the music can be very menacing. The same way we use music for music therapy and with all its soothing capacities, you can really scare the shit out of people! I think, in my own way, hopefully I will be doing more and more of these other things too. You learn from the concept, and how aggressive you need to be depends on who you’re writing for, but the musical material – the more you do the more you can use for the animated movies, the family movies, and vice-versa. All this more soothing music can become very dramatic and heavy if you just think of the audience that you are now writing for. The palette changes too; you can be more piercing with sounds, sometimes using darker harmonies, or perhaps because there is so much intensity in the actors’ performances that the music maybe needs to be less. So a lot of times, you stay under and come up for air when people are talking, when there’s a montage of sorts, so the approach alters the music very much. The fact that there are real humans on the screen alters the music a lot, because as composers we are enhancing the acting of Gru, as a character who is a moving drawing, but when you have a great actor delivering that same line, the actor wouldn’t need as much emotional support.

Thanks to Andrew P. Alderete of Costa Communications for coordinating this interview.

For more information on the composer, see his web site at

Snapshots: New & Notable Soundtracks

ADAM RESURRECTED/Gabriel Yared/Caldera – CD
Caldera Records has issued Gabriel Yared’s score for Paul Schrader’s 2008 drama, ADAM RESURRECTED. The film stars Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and Derek Jacobi and has to do with a former circus entertainer, spared from the gas chamber in a World War II concentration camp, who finds healing as the ringleader at an asylum for Holocaust survivors. Yared’s music favors solo instruments - piano, violin, guitar, and cello - to configure the right tone for the title character, accompanying them by or counterpointing against them with electronic textures that suggest Adam’s mental discord. Yared’s main theme is especially haunting in its somber tonality and remains quite affecting apart from the film. Other cues resonate tentatively along Adam’s journey, describing the character’s re-engagement with mental health and the resurgence of his spirit, with emotions laid bare from traumatic stress (“Life and Death,” “Wolfie’s Story”) to muted horror (“Shooting Rex,” “At the Graveside”) to gentle friendship (“Adam and Davey”) and happy memories (the ethnic violin soloing of “Tel Aviv” and the celebratory accordion piece, “Haifa Arrival”), and from the uplifting “Desert” to the lovely synth-laden romance of “Gina.” It’s a very quiet, introspective score, but one immersed in feeling and humanity, very well preserved and presented on his CD from Caldera. It’s also quite a deft mixture of acoustic soloing and contemplative electronica.
For more information and a music clip, see:

ALBION: THE ENCHANTED STALLION/George Kallis/MovieScore Media / CD & digital
The latest collaboration between this label and composer George Kallis (GAGARIN: FIRST IN SPACE, 93 DAYS) is this family fantasy film co-written and directed by Castille Landon. The film follows the adventures of a 12-year-old girl who gets transported to the mystical world of Albion with the help of a magical black stallion, whereupon she learns that she alone is the key to saving an entire race of people. Kallis’s score utilizes impressive symphonic orchestral writing embellished by choir and an assortment of exotic instruments to bring the magical kingdom of Albion to life. “Director Castille Landon and producer Dori Rath wanted the soundtrack to audibly transport audiences into the ancient land of Albion, therefore my job was to encapsulate this exact idea and take listeners into a mythological journey” explained the composer. “I aimed to create a magical sonic world by use of swelling orchestral themes for our leads, sinister motifs for the villains and choral arrangements and world instrumentation to capture the Albion terrain.” Kallis bolsters the score with an engaging orchestral theme which is both heroic and passionate, and flexible enough to be put through a number of variants as the score moves through its paces. The concept and storyline may be youngster-oriented but Kallis’s score gives it a musically mature energy and passion, which makes for an action-adventure score which is an engaging listen on its own.

Harold Faltermeyer/La-la Land - CD
Harold Faltermeyer’s actual scores for this 1984 hit and its first sequel (the third film was scored by Nile Rodgers and has never had a score release) are made available for the first time on this pair of CDs from La-La Land Records. (The previous BHC “soundtrack” contained Faltermeyer’s “Axel F” theme and various songs that were heard in the movie; BHC 2’s soundtrack contained only miscellaneous songs needle-dropped into the film.) As his third film score, Faltermeyer had a huge hit with BEVERLY HILLS COP and for a while was hugely popular, going on to score TOP GUN, Tom Holland’s FATAL BEAUTY, THE RUNNING MAN, TANGO & CASH (Score CD released by La-La Land in 2007), KUFFS, and others. His “Axel F” theme from BHC is a terrifically infectious theme and a classic of mid-1980’s electronic pop (Faltermeyer got a #1 hit single out of it); and that theme is present in most of the album’s tracks; the ubiquity of the film’s sole theme becomes very evident on CD; those tracks that don’t contain the full theme tend to use a variant of its riff so there’s a tendency toward sameness in the first score that threatens to become a little tiresome despite its infective funkiness. The sequel score proffers a much greater variety of additional motifs and melodies - but both scores are propulsive and irresistible; the music identifies strongly with Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley character and represents ‘80s action comedy scoring so very well. Each CD contains a few alternate bonus tracks, and the most significant songs that occupied the original songtrack albums are here as well, nicely gathered into a bunch at the end of each CD, making both albums definitive renderings of their films’ music as well as nicely sequenced listening experiences on their own. Both albums include comprehensive notes on film and music by Tim Grieving.
For more details, see:

CLINICAL/Ian Hultquist/Little Twig Records - digital
Alistair Legrand’s film CLINICAL is about a psychiatrist who tries to put her life back together after a violent attack by seeking to repair the life of a new patient, who has his own terrifying history. The film features a potent thriller score from Ian Hultquist, who rejoins the director after scoring his sci-fi horror film THE DIABOLICAL in 2015. "The score for CLINICAL is definitely up there as one of the hardest projects I've worked on,” said Hultquist. “Seeing that this was my second time working with Alistair Legrand, we know going in that we really wanted to create something bigger and bolder than we had before. CLINICAL is a densely layered film and we felt the score needed to reflect that as much as possible.” The score’s sound design is fluid bed of shifting tonality flavored by acoustic patterns and fragmented melodies which often join with the sonic mass of processed sounds and voices that give the score a compelling textural depth while imparting an intriguing psychological focus to the film it accompanies. “The music is a melting pot of distorted voices, processed guitars, and of course one of the biggest stand-outs being live strings & choir,” said Hultquist. “We recorded with the Budapest Scoring Orchestra in Hungary, and they were absolutely fantastic! Having these live musicians really helped elevate this score to another level. It was amazing working with them, as well as my usual gang of collaborators Sofia Hultquist (solo voice), Ray Suen (solo violin) & Erik Arvinder (orchestrator). There is much to be found within these tracks, I would recommend that this soundtrack should be played LOUD." I concur!
CLINICAL is the fifth release from Little Twig Records, the composer’s specialty digital label. For more information and for other Ian Hultquist soundtrack releases, see:

COLOSSAL/Bear McCreary/Lakeshore
Bear McCreary continues his march into feature films with this excellent score for a unique kaiju movie. COLOSSAL is about Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an out-of-work party girl who finds herself in relationship trouble – and while all this is happening to her, way over on the other side of the world a larger-than-life creature begins attacking Seoul, South Korea on a nightly basis, captivating spectators around the world. One night, Gloria is horrified to discover that her every move at a local playground is being mimicked on a catastrophic scale by the rampaging beast. When Gloria's friends get wind of the bizarre phenomenon, a second, more destructive creature emerges, prompting an epic showdown between the two monsters… As Bear puts it, this isn’t so much a kaiju horror film as it is a relationship drama that happens to occur within a kaiju world. “I chose to focus the music entirely on Gloria,” McCreary said. “We witness the fantastic events through her eyes, so I generally chose to score her reaction to the events, rather than the events themselves.” While the score has some splendidly large orchestral gestures that address the awesome size and power of the rampaging Korean kaiju, the score is more defined by its contemporary, largely strummed electric guitar-driven parameters. Like the film, Bear’s score is unique in this genre – it roars but it also carries the emotions of modern anxiety and stress. Naturally, as the story plays out, these two musical sensibilities combine their forces into a grand and poignant resolution. “It was vitally important that the score deliver an epic, soaring finale, without overpowering or destroying the tone of the film. The last 12 minutes of the film [were] the first [music] I wrote. Once the final reel was approved by the director and studio it was an easier process to reverse engineer the rest of the score.” He continued, “I wanted the score to feel almost schizophrenic for the first hour of the film. Like, some edgy indie rock band scored half of it, and a classically trained orchestral composer scored the other half. Then, as the film progresses, the two musical styles merge to form a coherent vision.” The score translates very well onto disc, as its disparate halves contrast against one another until their sonic journey brings them together for a powerful conclusion.
The preceding quotes are via The Krakower Group. For more details, read Daniel Schweiger’s in-depth interview with Bear McCreary about COLOSSAL at
Watch Bear’s video of the COLOSSAL finale recording session:

Watch Lakeshore’s COLOSSAL score preview:

Andre Matthias/SAMM - digital

Andre Matthias’ internationally acclaimed soundtrack to THE DRUMMER (2007; nominated for Best Original Film Score at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards) is now available as a digital release from Score And More Music (SAAM); also available for the first time is the exclusive bonus album More Music From THE DRUMMER. The film is a period drama about a gangster's wayward son who is sent into hiding over sexual misconduct. While in exile, he unexpectedly takes up with remote Buddhist drummers who slowly but profoundly influence his life. Matthias’ score is richly evocative with splendid use of acoustic writing (especially in strings and woodwinds) which provides a fascinating textural mélange. The first album has seen two CD releases over the years, both of which are now long out of print; the second album features previously unreleased music from the movie, plus alternate versions and unused tracks recorded during the long post-production process. The album also features the traditional song "Beautiful Rice Grain", performed by the cast in the film, as well as the previously unreleased film version of U-Theatre's "Sword" and the song "Life" by Monkey Insane. The digital re-release of the first DRUMMER soundtrack has recently been chosen as "Best Score - Archival (Digital)" at the 2016 Reel Music Awards. The More Music From album is quite welcome as it expands the character of the music in the first soundtrack and allows a number of variations and alternates to be enjoyed and appreciated.
For more information on the composer, see:
For more information on the SAAM label including a 2-min teaser trailer for THE DRUMMER, see:

THE FOUNDER/Carter Burwell/Varese Sarabande – CD + digital
Varèse Sarabande has released Carter Burwell’s invigorating score for this biopic of Ray Kroc and his popularization of McDonald’s restaurants. “Among [Kroc’s] musical threads are his Midwestern background, played with guitar, mandolin, strings and woodwinds; the inner voice of this over-driven off-kilter middle-American, played with piano; and his patriotic fervor in spreading the gospel of fast food from sea to shining sea, played with drum corps and brass band,” Burwell said. “We agreed early on that it would be interesting to play Kroc’s view of McDonald’s as if it were a patriotic or military campaign. But the director, John Lee Hancock, also wanted a less ironic view of Kroc, especially at the beginning of the story, so that we could relate to his character. This we got through more intimate, traditional sounds of piano and guitar.” This is an exceedingly likable score, brisk and positive, but there’s also a sinewy kind of tension that weaves its way through the pleasing vibe that suggests the existence of a layer grounded in a reality where life is not always so sunny. Burwell provides an adept mix of harmonic instrumental textures and intriguing sound patterns that humanize the character while also providing a forward-moving flow to his story, accompanied by an engaging musical brightness vividly painted in primary McDonald’s colors of red and yellow. The soundtrack also includes a half dozen and one songs related to the period – of these most interesting are a handful of classic blues from artists like The Dixieaires, Orin Tucker, Bob Gaddy And His Alley Cats, and The Ramblers – stuff you don’t hear all that often and which are marvelous pieces of work that, despite being mixed up with the score cues (personally, I prefer my soundtrack album songs set apart from the score cues for better listening), really grab a kind of rustic urban vibe and just might get you scrolling through Amazon to find some of their original albums.

FRANKENSTEIN/Halli Cauthery/ScreamWorks
The latest ScreamWorks Records horror movie score release comes from a 2015 FRANKENSTEIN adaptation by filmmaker Bernard Rose, best known for directing the iconic CANDYMAN. In this modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic, set in contemporary Los Angeles, the story is told entirely from the perspective of the Monster. Talking about his score, Cauthery notes: “My score weaves together a number of contrasting musical ideas: from the solemn, chant-like piece for men’s choir which represents ‘Adam’, or the monster himself; to the gentle, reflective piano theme which is representative of the idea of ‘mother’ (a key theme in the movie); as well as the low throbbing electronic pulse around which is built a number of ‘horror’-like music cues depicting the monster’s deep inner emotional turmoil as he struggles to understand and make sense of the world around him.” These diverse conceptions work well in the developing score, contrasting like scene changes in a stage play to differentiate an entirely different mood as the story plays out, and works well in carrying us along the album’s journey from reflection to violence, sympathy to repulsion, aggression to tranquility. It’s a lovely score in its reflective quietude, and a staggeringly discordant work in its rampant ferocity. Cauthery served his apprenticeship, after completing his studies in the UK, at Remote Control Productions, were he served as an assistant to Harry Gregson-Williams and contributed music and orchestrations to a number of RCP projects and others. As a composer on his own he’s scored the Netflix/DreamWorks Animation series Turbo F.A.S.T., the critically-acclaimed 2013 thriller THE EAST, the Shrek Halloween TV special SCARED SHREKLESS, and the Lifetime Television film LIVING PROOF. Add FRANKENSTEIN to his list of notable achievements.

The GAME OF THRONES Symphony/City of Prague Philharmonic/Silva Screen / CD + digital
This masterful recording contains 21 newly recorded tracks with the 85-piece City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (and choir), which gives the music of series composer Ramin Djawadi an especially expansive dimensionality that is quite pleasing in these concert arrangements. Taken from each of the series’ first six seasons, the album is an impressive journey through the highpoints of the story told thus far, hitting key moments with precision and grandeur. One of the album’s (and score’s) best moments has been made its live recording viewable – watch “Light of the Seven” on YouTube here. This cue was used in the opening minutes of GoT’s sixth season finale, during which Cersei obliterated her enemies with fluorescent fire, a sequence that slowly unfolds over the course of ten tense minutes, in which this music sets much of the mood and atmosphere of foreboding.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE/Henry Jackman & Dominic Lewis/
Varèse Sarabande/ cd + digital

Expertly adapted and updated from the Philip K. Dick novel by X-FILES’ writer/producer Frank Spotnitz, this 10-episode miniseries is a classic in dystopian alternate history, in which a drama of subterfuge takes place in a United States which is jointly ruled by the German and Japanese victors of World War II. Terrific set decoration coupled with expansive environmental CGI created convincing landscapes of Nazi-occupied New York City and Japan-occupied San Francisco, and the entire cast does a brilliant job, supported by a fine dramatic score composed by Henry Jackman and Dominic Lewis. With a second season shown this year, Varese’s release contains music from both seasons (individually on mp3 download; jointly on a 2-CD set). Lewis has been an “additional music” composer for Jackman for a while now, but with this ambitious effort he’s shared the work proportionately and, by the time Season 2 came around, was left to score that season on his own (he also scored the 2015 feature film MI-5, an extension of the UK SPOOKS TV series). “In Season 1, I had to be very controlled and restrained, emulating the struggle of our protagonists’ journey,” explained Lewis. “My ensemble was a lot smaller and the music was a lot more minimal, stretched over long scenes. I had to follow the intimate nature of the protagonist’s journey. In Season 2 the stakes were a lot bigger so I had to be broader and cover a larger scope with music. I used the full forces of the orchestra a lot more. The Season 2 soundtrack is an evolution of Season 1, pushing the themes in different directions, broadening the palette and really letting loose with the orchestra at times.” In both seasons, apart from the use of songs which help configure the incongruous environment of the film, the music scores are low-key and unobtrusive, but formulate an intrinsic and subtly affecting atmosphere through which characters flow and story progresses. “The songs that were chosen I feel have more of an impact on how we shaped this new world,” Lewis told Meely Shamaly in a January 4, 2016 online interview. “The score took more of a character enhancement role. I used Western orchestral instruments as the tent poles for the score, and from there, tried to bend reality with more unsettling atmospheric sounds built from an organic source.” The musical journey the score takes across both discs is a fascinating one, both musically and in terms of subtext when you know where the story is going. Each cue is intriguing on its own, while intrinsic to the overall development of the score across both seasons. The scores are both lovely and profound in audibly capturing the alternative history which plays out across both seasons.
Recommended: read this interesting article from The Atlantic on the series’ use of the haunting “Edelweiss” song as its main title theme, and its meaningfulness to the story.

This intriguing animated film comprises equal parts disaster movie, high school comedy, and blockbuster satire. The movie debut of graphic novelist Dash Shaw (New School) is told through a dream-like mixed media animation style that incorporates drawings, paintings, and collage. Hailed as “the most original animated film of the year” and “John Hughes for the Adult Swim generation” (Indiewire), the film examines the social microcosm of high school – full of young lovers, jocks, video gamers, and the like – after an earthquake causes a high school to float into the sea, where it slowly begins to sink. Its infectious synth score is the work of Rani Sharone (AMERICAN ULTRA, ROCK THE KASBAH, and recent episodes of TV’s SAMURAI JACK and RAY DONOVAN) a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist and composer of film, TV, video game, and concert music. The way the music works in the film somehow reminds me of Alain Gorageur’s music for René Laloux’s animated 1974 French film FANTASTIC PLANET, it’s got that rock/electronica vibe while also capturing an extremely quirky and compellingly textured sonic pallet which gives the film both energy and a unique symbiosis for the fantastic circumstances and relationships that populate its unusual style of animated storytelling. Sharone’s dexterity with, predilection for, and background in rock, electronica, and modern classical music serves up a likable score that fits the movie like an animated glove, enhances its mixed media filmic panache, and makes for quite an enjoyable listen on its own.
Sample some music or purchase via iTunes or on Amazon.

NOCTURNE/Raiomond Mirza/Raiomond Mirza/ digital
Making excellent impressions at the festival circus since 2014, this independent feature film from co-writer/director Saul Pincus is the story of an insomniac who falls in love with a sleepwalker, who join together to solve an enigmatic mystery. UK composer Raiomond Mirza has given this urban fairytale a powerful musical underbelly that enriches its emotive flavors and lends a palpable apprehension to its story. Intriguing with its obliquely-unraveling mystery, benefitted by earnest performances and Pincus’s engrossing visual narrative flow, NOCTURNE is captivating in its purposeful pacing and elegant in its revelation and resolution; Mirza’s music follows suit with a mélange of piano and strings supported by acoustic guitar, percussive bells, horns, and a design of processed textures that ideally fit the film – often enough taking on the literal form of a musical nocturne [“a dreamlike or pensive composition, usually for the piano”] although flexible enough to venture into other territories; occasionally serving as atmospheric Herrmann to Pincus’ Hitchcock in some scenes (“Evidence and Acceptance,” “Flying in Dreams”), elsewhere building up an energetic classicism (“Waltz of the Nightbirds”), a light percussion-led moment of high action (“Daymare), or contributing a touching, impassioned melody (Reflections”). In the film’s second half, once the story has been set up, the pieces are in place, and it builds up its energy as those pieces begin to fall together, Mirza’s score takes on a perceptive, elegant confluence as dynamic as the flowing Niagara waters that serve as backdrop for the film’s revelatory sequences. Two notable songs bookend the film – their music and lyrics both by Mirza; “So Loved,” sung by Colin Roy, a sultry jazz ballad heard near the film’s start, and “Heaven’s Midnight,” a snappy, jazzy torch tune sung by Niccie Simpson, which resolves the music over the End Credits.
The film will be available on DVD in the near future. The soundtrack is now available from AmazoniTunes, and Spotify.For more details see the film's website or Facebook page. Watch the film’s trailer:

PAPER LANTERNS/Chad Cannon/Quartet Records - cd
On August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Little known is the fact that among the casualties of that day were twelve American prisoners of war held at the Hiroshima Military Police Headquarters since July 28, when they had been shot down during a bombing raid. For decades, the families of these twelve Americans were never informed as to the fates of their loved ones. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr. Shigeaki Mori, himself a hibakusha (A-bomb survivor), the names of these dozen are now included in the Hiroshima Peace Museum, and the relatives have learned the truth. PAPER LANTERNS is a film documentary directed by Barry Frechette, which tells the story of Mr. Mori and his dream of reaching out to the relatives of these lost airmen. Released last July, this outstanding score (which was nominated for best documentary score, and its composer nominated for best breakout composer of 2016, by the IFMCA) is worth a second look. This is a poignant and respectful composition which fits the tone of the film, as it follows the dedicated efforts of Mr. Mori in recognizing the Americans whose lives were lost along with so many Japanese (“Not Just the Facts” is a striking piece of business that accompanies Mr. Mori at work; it’s somewhat in the vein of Philip Glass in its violin and wind interactions; “A Letter from Hiroshima” is a festive piano-based piece beautifully orchestrated in its vigorous congregation of instruments). One cue is in a strictly traditional Japanese instrumental idiom, others combine a touch of Eastern and Western instrumentation (“Paper Lanterns,” “Nakamura's Account”), but most favor Western orchestration: woodwinds and voice dominate many of the more affecting cues based around the main theme (“I Searched All 50 States to Find You,”) while sequences referencing the background of the American airmen assume their emotive resonance through dominant use of brass (“Remembering Ralph and Normand,” “Ikachi Welcomes Ralph” [an impassioned reprise of the former cue], “Memories of the Battleship ‘Toné’”). Perhaps most heartrending is Cannon’s layered tonal sound design for “I Was Inside the Mushroom Cloud,” as potent an aural description of harrowing desolation as you’re likely to find in a film score; its companion is the heartbreaking “Flowers on Two Graves,” a similarly persuasive piece that does with pensive melodic phrasing what the former did with layered tonality. The score concludes with “The Perseverance of Mr. Mori,” a rhapsodic tone poem for piano, violin, and voice that pays heartfelt tribute to Shigeaki Mori for bringing peace to these souls through an utterly serene oboe melody echoed by the mournful cry of the shakuhachi; the end title song features lyrics and vocal performance by Mai Fujisawa, daughter of Japanese film composer Joe Hisaishi. PAPER LANTERNS is one of my favorite scores of 2016 and Quartet Records has done a fine job in preserving it on CD.
Chad Cannon’s latest feature is a thriller called DEVIL'S TREE, recorded with a live church organ and chamber orchestra, with synth beds and chaotic instrumental solos.
For more about the composer, see:
For more about the album, see:
For more about the film, see:

POWER RANGERS/Brian Tyler/Varèse Sarabande - CD
Brian Tyler’s latest epic hero score is for SABAN’S POWER RANGERS (Haim Saban having regained ownership of the American franchise, from Disney, in 2010 and thus ensuring a distinction from the previous MIGHTY MORPHIN and TURBO feature films of the ‘90s) is a splendidly pleasing but subtle powerhouse of super hero score; Tyler’s proclivity for engaging thematic melody is at the forefront as an anthemic orchestral signature for the hero team. “The Power Rangers themselves have a central theme that applies to the five of them,” said Tyler. “I would describe the music as aspirational in that it always reaches for something just out of reach emotionally. It is not blatantly heroic, it is more of a theme of the heart.” Tyler added, “I had watched the series back in the day and still enjoy them. This was a cool opportunity to jump on board something that I previously knew.” The movie follows five ordinary teens who find five Power Coins in an abandoned mine and suddenly assume super powers and morph into the five protector warriors of the prehistoric Earth. Tyler’s skill at treating these teenage heroes with all the gusto he has gives the film – and its score – a tremendous emotive energy. And it’s a terrific score on disc, mixing broad orchestral strokes with an underbelly of electronic counterpoint which works really well (“It's Morphing Time!” accomplishes this harmonic fusion very well). In contrast the more villainous characters are a little more electronic/rock heavy (as in the menacing “The Zordon Awakes,” the swaggering gravitas of “Megazord,” and his arrogant, rhythmic take on the main theme in “The Zords”). “The director and I discussed the musical tone of the score from the script phase of the movie,” Tyler said. “We wanted it to be evocative, thematic, memorable, and emotional. The sonic palette remained as we planned which was a score played by orchestra, a soundscape of guitars, vintage synths, and drums.” It’s a thoroughly likable score full of the kind of energy and emotional gravitas that Tyler excels at, and gives the cartoon-based property a very earnest human dynamic that in many cases obscures some of the less rational aspects of the franchise. The End Title track, “Go Go Power Rangers” includes Tyler’s orchestral take on the theme, credited to Saban and composer/exec producer Shuki Levy, from the original Saban series, before seguing into a suite of his own themes from the score.

SO FINE/Ennio Morricone/EL GRAND EMBOUTEILLAGE/Fiorenzo Carpi/Music Box – CD
This pair of comedy scores make their CD debut in these two separate albums released last year from France’s Music Box Records. SO FINE (1981), a world premiere soundtrack release, stars Ryan O’Neal as college English professor Bobby Fine and Mariangela Melato as the displeased ex-opera singer wife of a gangster who finds her latest dalliance to be oh-so Fine. The madcap antics of the story and its characters, which also include Jack Warden as Fine’s fashion-mogul dad and Richard Kiel as Melato’s fearsome gangster hubby, give Morricone plenty of action for music, both ironically humorous (a merrily melodramatic motif for Kiel, plenty of Rossini-based humoresque associated with Melato’s operatic leanings and the story’s frequent comic chases, and a touch of ‘80s disco associated with the New York City environment), but also supplies a sumptuous love theme for Melato and O’Neal. There’s also a theme associated with Warden’s fashion company, adapted by Morricone from the “Union Label” commercial tune composed by Malcolm Dodds and Paula Green. It’s a highly variegated score, instrumentally, and a gentle delight for the ears. The film’s soundtrack debut features exclusive liner notes by writer Daniel Schweiger and new comments from director Andrew Bergman and producer Lobell on working with Morricone.
Luigi Comencini’s 1978 Italian comedy
EL GRAND EMBOUTEILLAGE (aka L’INGORGO/Traffic Jam) finds plenty of grim satirical commentary on Italian society as hundreds of cars get involved in an inescapable highway pile-up. Comencini’s frequent composer Fiorenzo Carpi’s music is brim-full of catchy instrumental tunes, often serving as sonic counterpoint to the behavior of a myriad of furious drivers. It’s made up of gently tuneful cues set up in contrast to the dark, satirical edge of its main theme (“Il Gabbiano”); most cues capture a comedic voice through a very definite European jazz/pop treatment that is used as or like source music, very much in the manner of a Jacques Tati film score, and they retain a very similar pleasing sensibility. The infectiously lounge-esque choral piece “Improbabile” is quite fun, and may stay in your head, often rising unbidden, for days afterwards; there’s also a period-friendly disco tune in “Racconto.” Music Box’s premiere CD soundtrack replicates the previous Edipan 14-track LP release of 1978 (no bonus tracks were extent), which is remastered to a fine lively dynamic by Claudio Fuiano; the package includes a 6-page booklet with notes by Gergely Hubai.
For more details, see:

TETRO ROUGE/Pablo Croissier/Howlin’ Wolf – CD
Spanish-born, Los Angeles-based composer Pablo Croissier has scored mostly shorts at this point – this is his first feature film score – but based on his efforts on this 2015 post-apocalypse adventure I hope we’ll be hearing more from him. Luis Ventura’s TETRO ROUGE is set in dystopian future and features a young woman with a mysterious map from her father on a quest to save mankind through a post-apocalyptic world. Croissier’s score is both grand, influenced by the majestic landscapes of the Swiss Alps in which is takes place (and which the director uses expressively in his visual storytelling), and also earnest in its treatment of the protagonist over the journey she undertakes. Croissier adopts the ubiquitous marcato strings beneath a powerful, languid melody structure for his main theme, and it works well and sounds great despite being a currently familiar musical modus operandi; and Croissier gives it enough contrasting orchestration to make it his own here. The score is thematically oriented, with more than half-a-dozen themes interwoven throughout; what’s unique about Croissier’s use of thematic interaction is that only three are character-based motifs; the others focus on story elements like death, investigation, and such, which gives the thematic structure an interesting association as it develops; there’s even a special overarching theme for the director’s use of camera movement, which I find rather fascinating. Croissier’s dexterity with what is presumably a digital orchestra is impressive and captivating, authentically accommodating the haunting measures of piano, solo cello, and voice, while harmonically powerful in its more militaristic and heroic sweep. Howlin’ Wolf presents the score in a two-disc set, supported by a 12-page booklet with detailed notes and theme/track analysis by the composer, and remarks by director/writer/producer/editor Ventura and score mixer Zavosh Rad. It’s a likable score very worth checking out (the film is available on some streaming sites but not on Blu-ray or DVD yet; you can watch a 3-minute film clip on YouTube here. The film also has an active Facebook page. For more details, and audio samples, see

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD/Miklós Rózsa (Tadlow)/Prometheus – cd
Newly recorded in stunning and dynamic 24-Bit 96kHz digital sound, Prometheus’s release of the complete 120-minute score to Miklós Rózsa’s magnificent 1940 fantasy film opus features a masterful performance of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus Conducted by Nic Raine, featuring vocals by Edita Adlerova, John Langley and Nik Stoter with the Mid Hertfordshire Youth Choir. In addition to recreating the 120-minute score in its entirety, the James Fitzpatrick-produced Tadlow recording also includes an additional 30 minutes worth of bonus material (alternate versions, instrumental versions of cues heard as songs in the film, etc., plus the World Premiere of the score’s “The Love of the Princess” arranged for Violin and Orchestra and performed by Lucie Svehlova. Previous releases of Rózsa’s THIEF OF BAGDAD score have been in newly performed suite or partial form (most famously the 43-minute Elmer Bernstein/Royal Philharmonic recording originally issued for Bernstein’s Film Music Collection, and the frequently re-released Rózsa-conducted THIEF OF BAGDAD/Klauspeter Seibel-conducted JUNGLE BOOK pairing recording by the Nurnberg Symphony). This title alone makes the album one of Tadlow’s most significant recordings to date (and that’s saying a lot, since virtually every one of their restorations of classic film scores has been significant), and this amazing digital recording is as best as we’ll get of a full concert performance of the complete score (until, perhaps, somebody comes out with a 4K Blu-ray audio recording or I can fit Raine and his orchestra in my living room). A magnificent rendering of a magnificent score.
For more details, see:



Soundtrack & Music News

Jed Kurzel’s soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN COVENANT will be released by Milan on May 5.  On the same date, Disney will release Geoff Zanelli’s score for the fifth PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie, DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

My interview with composer Henry Jackman about scoring KONG: SKULL ISLAND has posted to my Musique Fantastique web site. The site has also been updated to accommodate more news about genre film music and information on new genre soundtrack releases. Please visit it often, or follow it on Facebook!

James Newton Howard has been signed to compose the score for MGM’s new TOMB RAIDER film. The film, scheduled for release in March 2018, is directed by Roar Uthaug, known for the 2015 Norwegian disaster film THE WAVE, and stars Alicia Vikander (JASON BOURNE, EX MACHINA) as Lara Croft, and Daniel Wu (GEOSTORM, WARCRAFT) as Lu Ren.]

Sony Classical has released digitally Jeff Beal’s score to BOSTON: THE DOCUMENTARY, performed by musicians of The Boston Symphony Orchestra. Narrated by Academy-Award winner Matt Damon, BOSTON is the first ever feature-length documentary film about the world’s most legendary running race – the Boston Marathon The film chronicles the story of the Boston Marathon race from its humble origins starting with only 15 runners to the present day. “Because the Boston Marathon itself is so legendary, it was only natural to want to record the music in the point of origin,” said Beal. “I was incredibly moved to be able to conduct the world renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall. BOSTON is a film about history, courage, and excellence; for any composer the amount of iconic American music that has been played by this wonderful orchestra in this hall resonates perfectly with our story. To hear these players participate in the celebration of their home town was simply electric.”  Through Fathom Events, BOSTON will screen on more than 500 screens nationwide starting on April 19, 2017. In addition to scoring the film, Beal conducted the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra for the world premiere of the documentary on April 15th – which kicks off a marathon schedule of concert performances and releases of Beal’s music, including several performances of his HOUSE OF CARDS music performed in concert in The Netherlands (April 22-23) and Denmark (May 2-3). For full list of dates & details, see this page at

Bruce Broughton is currently recording his score for Fox’s upcoming sci-fi comedy drama ORVILLE. The series, created by Seth MacFarland, is set 300 years in the future and tells the story of the Orville, a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship in Earth’s interstellar fleet. Jon Favreau is directing the first episode and is also executive producing the show. The show is set to premiere next TV season on Fox. – via

Penka Kouneva has been tapped to score the upcoming sci-fi drama ENCOUNTER. The film, written and directed by Paul Salamoff, follows a group of friends who make a remarkable discovery in a rural field. When they bring the otherworldly object home, they soon discover that it holds greater secrets that they could have imagined. ENCOUNTER is starting principal photography this month and is set to be released on November 1, 2017. – via

Japanese composer Yutuka Yamada, best known for his music for the 2014 animated TV series, TOKYO GHOUL, is scoring a compelling new anime feature entitled FORCE OF WILL: THE MOVIE. Based on the trading card game, the movie is directed by Shuhei Morita (the director of TOKYO GHOUL). The Yamatoworks film is omnibus feature film based on legendary fairy tales; one of its segments revolves around a girl who has the power to give life to the very words she writes – including a monster that stalks and destroys whatever is in its path. That segment film was inspired by H P Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu,” which gave birth to the fictional mythos that took its winged, tentacle titular creature its name.
Watch the film’s Lovecraftian trailer here:

Music Box Records has announced the world premiere release of the Serge Franklin’s score for the 1992 French historical drama, PRINCESSE ALEXANDRA, including 75 minutes of never-before-released music. The ambitious two-part historical TV-film is adapted from the American novel Winter of the Heart by Linda J. LaRosa. “Serge Franklin composed an epic and majestic symphonic score for choir and orchestra, dominated by a theme full of aristocratic restraint that shrouds the character of Alexandra in an ample veil of notes,” wrote the label. “The film’s numerous twists and turns, such as the chase and duel scenes, allowed the composer to write more lively pieces.” The soundtrack is released in a limited edition of 300 copies.
For more information, see

Lakeshore has released Rob Simonsen’s score for the new drama GIFTED. The story about a single man (Chris Evans) raising a child prodigy - his spirited young niece (Mckenna Grace) – whose plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old’s mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank’s formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Simonsen’s compositional voice is the product of an education in jazz, electronic and traditional orchestral music (in 2013, he co-founded The Echo Society, a collective that provides a platform for composers to experiment and create for live performances around Los Angeles). Among Simonsen’s other recent projects include the CBS hit television series LIFE IN PIECES and the heist comedy GOING IN STYLE.

Madison Gate Records and Sony Classical have released the television soundtrack to BETTER CALL SAUL, featuring music by Dave Porter from the first and second seasons of the critically acclaimed series. Porter is known for his score for the award-winning television series BREAKING BAD; As a prequel to that series, BETTER CALL SAUL is inspired by BREAKING BAD’s signature sound, but is completely unique and stands its own. With a more bluesy, funky and gritty vibe, Porter’s departure from his own source material is an homage, but gives BETTER CALL SAUL its own sound.

Varèse Sarabande has released Academy Award® Winning composer Rachel Portman score to THEIR FINEST (digitally on April 7th, CD on April 21). Set in 1940s London during the Blitz, the film stars Gemma Arterton and Sam Clafin as filmmakers trying to create morale-boosting propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information. Portman’s score is a mixture of orchestral wistful, thematic, at times up tempo underscore with themes for the protagonist and for the war. “One of the main features of the score is the film score for the film within the film, ‘The Nancy Starling,’” Portman described. “I had to create a film score of the period, which ended up being very enjoyable to write.”
Watch the film’s trailer at                

Late last January Varèse Sarabande released the very interesting THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER And Other Themes For Piano, featuring newly created piano versions of beloved themes composed and performed by the composer, Bruce Rowland (PHAR LAP, ALL THE RIVERS RUN, ANDRE). “I’ve always wanted to revisit some of the film and TV themes I’ve written over the years, and recently when I was asked to do a piano concert in Sydney, I thought that maybe it was time to start working on a concert suite version of SNOWY 1 and 2,” Rowland stated. “When I started putting together some of the material, I also rediscovered lots of ‘old friends’ that I hadn’t heard or played for many years, and so I thought, why not re-record them as a solo piano album.”

And just this month in their budget reissue series, Varèse Sarabande is releasing on April 28th the premiere CD edition of David Grusin’s Oscar-nominated score for ON GOLDEN POND. As a direct reissue of the 1982 MCA LP, the CD version contains the same dialogue excerpts that interrupted most of Grusin’s music on the original release (only four tracks play sans dialogue). That’s frustrating, but it’s still a great score and even with the intrusion of film dialog on seven tracks – until we can get a thorough soundtrack or new recording (the two tracks Dave Grusin performed for his 1987 Cinemagic film music collection are two of the uninterrupted tracks already part of this OST) – this remains a respectful and worthy score to have in any collection, and its advent on CD for the first time is cause for celebration. See:

What if the Devil made a wager with God to see if his first couple, Adam & Eve, would sin again if given the same circumstances in the Garden of Eden? This is the plot of maverick Aussie producer Antony I. Ginnane's comedy SECOND TIME LUCKY, starring Diane Franklin and Roger Wilson. New from Dragon’s Domain Records, the CD is a reissue of the previously sold out score composed by Garry McDonald and Laurie Stone. "Taking advantage of the resources of a 55-piece orchestra and 20-voice choir, the composers created a full-blooded symphonic score full of enough raging gusto and romantic pathos to enrich each of the film’s different era segments with energy and earnestness." - from my album notes.

Also recently released from Dragon’s Domain is Cinéma Imaginaire, an original concept album featuring music composed by Genre-heavy film composer Chuck Cirino (CHOPPING MALL, KOMODO VS COBRA, DINOCROC VS SUPERGATOR and other cool sci-fi exploiters with great scores) for imaginary/unmade film concepts written by Chuck and author Dave Nichols. More than a hypothetical movie soundtrack album, it's a unique audio-cinematic experience containing eleven musical movie soundtrack suites based on eleven original story ideas. The concept expands as each musical suite is supported by a written synopsis depicting the story. Following the music suites, there is some additional bonus material that will definitely appeal to fans of the composer’s work. Here’s a video in which Chuck explains a bit about this new album and why it's one worth exploring:

Also of note from Dragon’s Domain are the premiere soundtrack to David Cronenberg’s oft-derided but quite remarkable dragstrip movie, FAST COMPANY; Harry Manfredini’s score for the ambitious family time travel adventure, TIME MASTER. See:

Meliam Music has released a soundtrack album for the Spanish war drama RESCUE UNDER FIRE (Zona Hostil). The album features the film’s original music composed by Roque Baños (DON’T BREATHE, RISEN). The movie, directed by Adolfo Martinez, is set in Afghanistan in 2012 and tells the true story of a group of military personnel in need of rescue during a time of warfare. The soundtrack is available to download on Amazon, where you can also listen to audio samples.
 – via

BBC America has announced that the highly anticipated natural history landmark BLUE PLANET II will be scored by Hans Zimmer’s “Bleeding Fingers Music.” The brand new seven-part series comes from the world’s leading BBC Studios Natural History Unit. Zimmer lent his scoring talents to the natural history genre for the first time with his acclaimed main title theme and score for PLANET EARTH II, the most successful nature documentary in the U.K., which met in the U.S. with a remarkable reception from both audiences and critics. BLUE PLANET II will bring together the talents of the BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit production with legendary Sir David Attenborough presenting, and Zimmer’s distinct musical genius. Once again Hans Zimmer will compose the theme and score for the series with Bleeding Fingers’ co-composers Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe. “It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to be working again with the BBC’s Natural History Unit on such a globally important project,” said Zimmer. “It’s a joy to compose to such beautiful, powerful and inspiring picture. Once more the BBC has raised the bar and we intend to rise to the challenge.”

Back Lot Music will release the official score album for the latest FAST & FURIOUS sequel THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. The album features the film’s original score composed by Brian Tyler who scored four of the previous films in the franchise (see my interview with Brian on scoring FURIOUS 7 in my Nov. 2015 column). The score CD will be released on April 21st; a digital songtrack album featuring songs by various artists was released on April 14th by Artist Partner. [Photo via Brian Tyler’s FB page; used with permission.]

In other Brian Tyler news, Howlin' Wolf Records presents two early Tyler scores on one CD - PANIC (2000) and FITZGERALD (2002; aka THE LAST CALL). The first film is a psychological noir thriller starring William H. Macy and Neve Campbell and features a thematic and melancholy orchestral score recorded with a 40 piece orchestra. The second film is FITZGERALD, a TV movie starring Jeremy Irons about the last days of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald; Tyler’s Emmy nominated score features a jazz ensemble and chamber orchestra that flows freely with a strong jazz presence and occasionally detours towards the atonal side. Tyler wanted jazz to represent the time period F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing in and dissonance to reflect the writer’s drunken stupors. For years PANIC and FITZGERALD remained absent from the composer’s discography. In order to make this album extra special, Brian Tyler has personally expanded and remixed PANIC. For details, see: Howlin’ Wolf records. Also newly released by the label is Bruno Valenti’s score to the adventure-fantasy LEGEND OF THE LICH LORD and Rich Douglas’s music from the 2012 redesign of the videogame SHADOWLORD.

Rustblade of Italy will release on May 6th a 30th anniversary, definitive edition of the soundtrack to Dario Argento’s cult film OPERA. Argento’s long-time collaborator Claudio Simonetti combines classic operatic atmospheres with dark electronic grooves and violently smashing rock. The release includes three never before released bonus tracks. For more details, to pre-order, or to hear a sample track, see
Rustblade is also offering a vinyl edition and a limited edition box set, and a lavish Ultra Limited Deluxe Box with tons of extras which, of course, is already sold out on pre-order.

A new specialty soundtrack label, Notefornote Music, launched earlier this year with a reissue of Hans Zimmer's THELMA & LOUISE soundtrack. I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to write the notes for this release, deconstructing the music and celebrating the free spirited adventures & Thelma, Louise, and the brilliant minimalist score by Hans Zimmer.

Tadlow presents THRILLER - JERRY GOLDSMITH, a world premiere recording of music from his ground breaking scores for the 1960s classic horror/suspense TV series. THRILLER was an early milestone in Goldsmith’s career, one of his television stepping stones en route to big-screen fame. Goldsmith composed sixteen of the show’s episodes (much of that music would be re-used in eight more episodes); including some of the scariest and best-remembered hours. Over 70 minutes of music newly recorded in stunning and dynamic digital sound by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra with an unusual chamber music set up as befits the scope of the music, conducted by Nic Raine. Suites from six episodes scored by Jerry Goldsmith, reconstructed by Leigh Phillips: The Grim Reaper, Hay-Fork And Bill-Hook, Mr. George, The Poisoner, Well Of Doom and Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick and Leigh Phillips, features in-depth notes by Jon Burlingame. CD release, May 19th.
Watch a video from Tadlow’s Autumn 2016 recording session here

Also forthcoming from Tadlow is Dimitri Tiomkin’s grand Western score to 1946’s DUEL IN THE SUN, in a sparkling new world premiere recording of the complete score with over two hours of music.
For more information, see:

Ólafur Arnalds' soundtrack to the third and final series of the popular UK detective series BROADCHURCH has been released digitally and will be out on CD on April 28th. Ólafur's atmospheric scores have been a characteristic feature of all three series of the ITV drama and he was awarded a BAFTA for the score for Series One. The new soundtrack will also include the song “Take My Leave of You,” performed by Arnór Dan, which is heard over the closing titles. Some of the music can be sampled on Soundcloud.

Laurel Records, the label founded by composer Herschel Burke Gilbert, has just released a mouth-watering 61-track/2-CD of Burke’s music from the classic ’60s TV Western series, THE RIFLEMAN. Thanks to John Bender on FB for alerting me of this important release, and he aptly added “It is most certainly an unexpected and wonderful dream-come-true for all fans of the solid music and adult dramaturgy of America's best Western television series of the 1960s!” I could not agree more. For details and to order, see:

Silva Screen Records has released Debbie Wiseman - Live At The Barbican, a performance by the Orchestra of the Guildhall School in a retrospective concert of former alumni, composer Debbie Wiseman’s film, TV, and concert work from the Barbican’s Contemporary Music Concerts series, recorded January 2016. “The three years I spent studying piano and composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama were very special, and I was thrilled to be invited back to conduct a concert of my music with the college’s Symphony Orchestra at their brand new concert hall in the Barbican Centre, Milton Court,” said Wiseman. “I was hugely impressed - but not at all surprised - at the high standard of the orchestra. These talented first and second-year musicians, despite their youth, would not sound out of place in the professional world, such is their ability. They played with commitment, focus, and infectious enthusiasm, and it was an enormous pleasure working with them all. This album is dedicated to my wonderful composition teacher at the Guildhall School, Buxton Orr.”

Walt Disney Records is set to release the digital soundtrack to Disneynature’s new film BORN IN CHINA on April 21, 2017—the same day the film opens in theaters nationwide. The album features original score composed by Emmy Award®-winning film and television composer, Barnaby Taylor. “BORN IN CHINA celebrates the epic, sometimes other-worldly landscapes of China, while simultaneously revealing the most intimate moments in the lives of four charismatic animals: panda, monkey, chiru and snow leopard,” Taylor said. “Musically linking these animals with an overarching theme is the semi-mythical crane, a bird that symbolizes rebirth - an ancient philosophy and belief system that has a strong vein in the BORN IN CHINA film. Therefore, the music had to be intimate whilst also reflecting the varied regions of China.” Given an array of animals featured in the film, Taylor applied individual themes to each of the central characters and infused the sounds of China into the score with a host of unique instruments, including the Tibetan horn, Mongolian fiddle, Guzheng (zither) and Chinese dulcimer. In addition to Taylor’s score, the album includes the original track, “Everything Everything,” performed by the New York-based rock-pop band American Authors, who wrote the song after seeing - and being deeply inspired by - the film. “‘Everything Everything’ is about how life is so much better when you're with your best friends,” said band frontman Zachary Barnett. “There are so many exciting adventures in this world and they should be shared with loved ones. We wanted to channel each of the animals’ spirits and journeys into this song.” The band’s optimistic end-credit song appears in their latest music video, which can be seen HERE.

Quartet Records has issued a newly restored and remastered edition of John Barry’s score for THE WHITE BUFFALO (1977), which also includes the world premiere of David Shire’s unused score for that film). “Discovering the rejected score by David Shire has been a wonderful surprise,” wrote the label. “Shire provided a more melodic and thematically varied score than Barry (although the latter’s grim tones were more what the producer and director wanted).” See:

Emmy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated composer Brian Keane (THE BATTLE OVER CITIZEN KANE, THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT, THE WAY WEST)reported that he is scoring a two-hour documentary about the Chinese Exclusion Act for director Ric Burns and The American Experience. “It is about the interior of power, struggle, and desire, and the conflict between what America promises, and what it actually delivers, more than simply an ethnic story,” said Keane. “Like much of scoring today, it is sort of anti-scoring, and supporting emotional engines beneath the surface of the film. I will also be scoring a Middle Eastern feature film later this year, and doing some guest lectures at some universities and film festivals.”
- via Documenting the Score group on Facebook

The Creative Cortex is finishing up a documentary on the of a soundtrack album. Entitled Score Trek,
The Creative & Business Challenges of Releasing a Soundtrack, the project will explore the creative and business challenges associated with releasing a film score commercially to the public both past and present as well as the future. “The filmmakers will also explore how such decisions influence the final product, how it has resonated with the consumer market over time, and what steps it is taking to ensure its relevance as a profitable art form moving forward into the future.”
For more information and updates, see:

Composer Terry Huud, perhaps most popularly known for his high quality scores for low-budget horrors like CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS 2, and DARK AWAKENING, has composed scores for several restored silent films from pioneering stop-motion animator and one-time partner with Willis O’Brien, Herbert M. Dawley. Coinciding with a massively-researched biographical examination of Dawley’s life and his contributions to the art and science of stop-motion animation, a DVD has been put together containing restored prints of THE GHOST OF SLUMBER MOUNTAIN (1918), ALONG THE MOONBEAM TRAIL (1921), and a dozen “Silhouette” animated shorts made in 1921 by Dawley and Tony Sarg. Read my background story and interview with Terry on scoring these vintage classics at

Death Waltz Recording Co. released last Friday via Bandcamp/iTunes/Spotify the original score to THE DEVIL’S CANDY from Australian composer Michael Yezerski. A physical vinyl release will come in May. Yezerski’s approach to scoring THE DEVIL’S CANDY is forthright and simple: “Doom. Metal. Opera,” he stated. “Sean Byrne [writer/director], Jessica Calder and Keith Calder [producers] are visionaries. We had several deep discussions so I felt that my role was clear. I needed to provide a pervasive sense of claustrophobia and ambient doom inspired by the world of black metal and noise rock. The blending of tones had to be seamless.”
For more details, see

La-La Land Records has released Elmer Bernstein’s superb western score to THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, in a limited edition of 1500 units. Previous releases were of a re-recording done for the original 1965 Columbia LP; finally the original tracks have been unearthed and the label is able to present the mighty prowess of Bernstein’s complete Western score in all its glory!
In addition, the label has announced on its Facebook page the imminent premiere release of the eagerly awaited soundtrack to THE X-FILES Season 10 (the 2016 limited Event Series), a 2-CD set containing selections from each of the season’s six episodes from series composer Mark Snow. The release includes detailed notes and track-by-track commentary by Yours Truly. “Getting back to THE X-FILES for this limited episode series was really thrilling for me because I was able to bring back some of the textures, sounds, harmonies, and things that hopefully the X-FILES fans really loved and were looking forward to hearing,” said Mark Snow. “Plus there are some new sounds and perhaps a new kind of minimalism that I don’t think was particularly present in the original episodes or the movies.” - from the notes
Also released new from La-La Land is the score by Robert J. Kral to the new animated DC Universe Original Movie, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. Kral returns to the DC Universe with a wildly propulsive score that expertly melds psychological drama, horror, and action with a knockout emotional punch. Details:

Kritzerland’s March release was a limited edition world premiere release of the complete original soundtrack to Stanley Donen TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967), with music by Henry Mancini. The original 30-minute LP release and its subsequent CD reissues was a re-recording done in the Mancini easy listening mode. Kritzerland presents for the first time the original score tracks from the only surviving element in the Fox vaults - a mono copy that thankfully preserved this brilliant score. For April, the label presents the CD premiere of John Scott’s engaging score to ROCKET TO THE MOON (1967), a period comedy with slight sci-fi leanings, based on the Jules Verne novel.
To hear audio samples and read more about these releases, visit

UK label Chandos has released long anticipated fourth volume in its Film Music of William Alwyn series. This latest album brings new recordings of the composer’s masterful music from the prolific decades of the 40s and 50s, during which Alwyn scored a number of famous films, which include ON APPROVAL (1944), THEY FLEW ALONE (1941), THE BLACK TENT (1951), THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953), SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (1959), and others. Much of the music recorded here had to be reconstructed by Philip Lane from the soundtracks, as written scores had not survived. Rumon Gamba conducts the BBC Philharmonic. Details and sample audio:

Another archival presentation worth noting is Capriccio’s release of “Hanns Eisler Film Music,” a compilation of three scores from the 1930s and ‘40s by the noted Austrian composer Hanns Eisler. Johannes Kalitzke conducts the Rundfunk-SinfonieOrchester Berlin through engaging performances of Eisler’s scores for Fritz Lang’s compelling if fanciful 1943 wartime melodrama loosely based on the assassination of Nazi Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich, HANGMEN ALSO DIE, the 1939 History of China, THE 400 MILLION, and his alternative score for a sequence from John Ford’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940; which Alfred Newman had scored), composed for the Rockefeller film music project. Also includes are two of Eisler’s earliest twelve-tone scores, which are not from films, but which are exceedingly interesting to explore this composer’s use of the form. For details, see:

Christopher Lennertz has scored Sony Pictures’ new animated film, SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE. The new take on the Smurfs film marks the first collaboration between Lennertz and the film’s director, Kelly Asbury. “Kelly wanted a thematic score and I wanted to show him how all of the themes could develop and intertwine,” said Lennertz, who blended ethnic instruments and kids choir with orchestra to create themes which are deftly woven together to tell the story. Lennertz invented a variety of “Smurfstruments” to accompany his choir and orchestra. “From the beginning, Kelly wanted to approach the movie like a magical adventure ride,” Lennertz explained. “In order to make things feel organic to the world of the film, I had an instrument designer custom build an array of Smurf-style instruments to use on the score. We used visuals from the film as inspiration, building a mushroom drum, a flower horn, a toadstool marimba, and a set of hollowed out bamboo pipes that was built like the raft they use to escape from Gargamel.” In addition to writing the score for the film, Lennertz co-wrote a song with Award-winning singer-songwriter KT Tunstall (photo shows the two of them at the movie premiere).
Lennertz scored two of the previous Smurfs movies (2011’s SMURFS: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and a 2013 short TV film), but THE LOST VILLAGE is essentially a reboot unrelated to the prior Sony films, based on the comic book series created by Belgian artist Peyo. Lennertz brings to this new children’s animated film a gentle gravitas and a true sense of orchestral adventure which is very pleasing.
Watch this fascinating featurette on how Lennertz created some of the unique Smurf-world instruments to create his magical score: 

The soundtrack is now available digitally from Madison Gate Records.
Sample the score on soundcloud here.

Caldera Records has announced the original score for the motion picture A ESMORGA from 2014, directed by Ignacio Vilar. Zeltia Montes, who recently made headlines with her score for the documentary FRÁGIL EQUILIBRIO, has been very influenced by the music of Arvo Pärt and it clearly shows in this score. The music was written for solo piano to convey a sense of intimacy to the music and therefore the film, performed by Zeltia herself. She delivers three key themes which are not only memorable in themselves but also receive several variations throughout the melancholy, minimalist score which is Montes’ most personal of all her works. For information and a short soundbyte, see

Italy’s GDM Label has announced they will be distributing a Pick-Up records limited edition (500 copies) digipack of Ennio Morricone’s classic score from 1970, LA CALIFFA (Lady Caliph). One of the maestro’s masterworks of the era, his thematically rich score features his favorite musical collaborators (Edda dell'Orso, Alessandro Alessandroni and I Cantori Moderni) for an emotional rollercoaster that’s much better-known than the film it's attached to. The new album contains the same 29 tracks that the last extended release did (Verita Note, Japan, 2009), but this is a digipack version – and a score that should never be out of print!

Kronos Records’ releases for April include Stelvio Cipriani’s melodic score to DEATH, DECEIT & DESTINY ABOARD THE ORIENT EXPRESS, an action thriller from 2001 that takes place on board a train. The film is directed by Mark Roper and starring Richard Grieco, Romina Mondello and Christoph Waltz. The CD is limited to 300 Copies. Kronos’ other April release is Ennio Morricone’s highly spiritual and uplifting music for the 2000 TV-movie, PADRE PIO: TRA CIELO E TERRA (Between Heaven And Earth) the 2000 Television film starring Michele Placido in the lead role of Catholic Mystic Monk Padre Pio da Pietrelcina. This release is a limited edition of 500 copies.
For details, see:

Alexander Cimini’s soundtrack to DARK WAVES – BELLEROFONTE (released by Kronos and reviewed in my October column here), recently won the award for Best Soundtrack at the Best Film AwardsTransylvania Cinema Awards and Bucharest Film Awards. The score has also been honored at numerous other festivals and award presentations – see:

The dynamic electric instrumental duo 2CELLOS (Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser) have released an album of film music arrangements entitled Score, released on March 17. Bringing their unique sound and style to the popular melodies from classic and contemporary movies and television, Score finds them exploring a more traditional sound-world. Joining them here – to provide the ideal aural backdrop to their virtuosity – is the London Symphony Orchestra. Check out their vibrant and very fresh arrangement of GAME OF THRONES here on youtube. For more details see the album page on amazon. “We love movie music!” says Stjepan. “This album represents some of our favorite pieces of music by our favorite film composers. Having the opportunity to arrange them for cello whilst working with the world class London Symphony Orchestra has been a dream come true.”

Siddhartha Barnhoon has scored a short film inspired by BLADE RUNNER directed by Christopher Grant Harvey and entitled TEARS IN THE RAIN. It’s an interesting vignette set in the world of Ridley Scott’s film and scored very much with a homage to Vangelis’ work on that original film. I highly recommend both film (watch it here) and score (listen to or buy it here)

New releases from Japan, according to
DETECTIVE CONAN THE MOVIE: CRIMSON NO LOVE LETTER by Katsuo Ono, the original soundtrack from the 21st theatrical feature anime.
MISS KOBAYASHI'S DRAGON MAID (Kobayashi-san Chi no Ishukan) 2-CD original soundtrack music by Masumi Ito, from the 2017 TV series from Kyoto Animation.
Chumei Watanabe 90th Anniversary Concert Vol. 3 - live CD features the concert held in May 2016 at Shinjuku Bunka Center, with music from GORANGER, SHARIVAN, SHAIDER, GODANNER, JIBAN, and more.

And from Screen Archives comes word of a definitive 3-CD edition of Akira Ifukube's music for Daiei’s DAIMAJIN Trilogy from Cinema-kan Records, the master tapes having been discovered and the scores newly remastered in dynamic sound; Likewise a new 3-CD collection titled Ultraman Powered, containing Toshihiko Sahashi’s music from ULTRAMAN THE ULTIMATE HERO, the 1993-84 US/Japan TV series, taken from newly-discovered master tapes.



Film Music on Vinyl

Barnes and Noble is offering an exclusive vinyl release of Bear McCreary’s soundtrack to OUTLANDER Season 2, on clear vinyl: Clink the link here for

Waxwork Records offers an expanded vinyl film score re-issue to H.P. LOVECRAFT’S FROM BEYOND, Richard Band’s score to Stuart Gordon’s 1986 sci-fi horror based on the HPL story. Waxwork’s newly re-mastered release marks the first time that the complete FROM BEYOND soundtrack has been released on vinyl. Features include deluxe packaging with 180 gram pink slime colored vinyl, heavyweight old style tip-on gatefold jackets, liner notes from both the director and the composer, and all new artwork by Marc Schoenbach of Sadist Art Designs. For details, see the label’s web page here.

Waxwork has also announced the complete score to the 2014 Australian horror film THE BABADOOK, which has otherwise not been issued on original soundtrack in any form. The score, by Jed Kurzel (MACBETH, ASSASSIN’S CREED) is a spooky, electronic score with a haunting piano theme; Waxwork promises the complete score with deluxe packaging, 180 gram colored vinyl, and bonus art by illustrator Jessica Seamans. The bad news is that these guys have offered it only via their subscription vinyl series – meaning you would have had to spend $200+ on all five of the 2017 releases – and you would have had to have done so by Dec 31st 2016 since it’s now sold out. So no thanks to Waxwork for offering this sought-after soundtrack in largely unavailable form – and check the secondary market for aftermarket collector sales.
For more details, see their web site here. And while you’re there, click their home page to see a mouthwatering assortment of very cool horror soundtrack in vinyl form, many of which are still available.


Games Music News

Sumthing Else Music Works has released the official soundtrack for Halo Wars 2 on CD. The album is also available for digital download and via various streaming services. The new game is an action-packed RTS for everyone on the biggest Halo battlefield ever, and is the long-awaited sequel to the best-selling console real-time strategy (RTS) of all time. In Halo Wars 2, players will lead armies of Spartans and other Halo fighting forces and exciting new units in a brutal war against a terrifying new enemy, The Banished. The soundtrack features more than two hours of original music by composing team Gordy Haab, Brian Trifon, and Brian Lee White, and builds on the legendary legacy of Halo music by Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, and other great composers. The score was recorded at the iconic 20th Century Fox Studios.
Music samples and track listing available from

Multi-genre, award-winning composer Paul Leonard-Morgan (LIMITLESS; see my interview with him from last year here) brings his signature hybrid scoring talents to the epic score for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III. The real-time strategy game, released by Relic Entertainment and Sega in partnership with Games Workshop, is the third title in the series. Leonard -Morgan spent over a year on the project and wrote 150 minutes of music for 180 individual cues featuring live musicians, sampled instruments, electronics - a mash-up guaranteed to create an epic score. Due to the amount of music, the score was mixed in two studios on two continents for two months: Rupert Coulson (Limitless and Dredd) in London and Gus Borner (Minions) in Los Angeles.
Watch the games trailer here, which features Leonard-Morgan’s score.

Sumthing Else Music Works has also released on CD the original soundtrack to Ubisoft's open world extreme sports game, Steep™. Featuring the game's post-rock instrumental score composed by Zikali, a European collective of music composition and sound design artists, the Steep soundtrack is available on CD and digital download. “The musical artistic direction consists of the encounter between a post-rock formation (drums, bass, guitars, synths), to which is added an orchestral dimension (strings, brass) and a set of original instruments (hang drum, duduk) that define the sound identity of the project. The energy of the rider is represented by a modern and electric sound associated with the action; And the orchestra characterizes the different places (summits, narrow corridor or wide spaces) by the variety of its modes of play, bringing a strong emotional dimension." –Zikali


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. A wholly re-written and expanded multi-book Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published:) the first book is now available from Creature Features and Book 2 coming up next Spring/Summer from Midnight Marquee Press. See:

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copy editing assistance.

© 2016 - the Soundtrax column is copyright by Randall D. Larson; all rights reserved.

Randall can be contacted via