Soundtrax: Episode 2012-11
December 6, 2012
By Randall D. Larson
Continuing as the composer for his 9th season of the hit CBS television series CSI:NY, Bill Brown began his career scoring video games, composing more than 50 Triple-A titles, including Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, Clive Barker's Undying, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Lineage 2, Command and Conquer: Generals and most recently Captain America: Super Soldier. Bill contributed additional music to the hit films ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, ALI, and FINDING FORRESTER and composed scores for the films THE DEVIL'S TOMB [see review in my Aug 4, 2009 column], directed by Jason Connery, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., DARK PROPHECY, directed by Anthony Zuiker, BROTHER'S KEEPER [see review in my July 2012 column], DUKE and the award winning short film, DIG. A 1991 graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree that included study in jazz theory and composition, song writing, modern theory and orchestration and finally the art of film composition, Bill's scores have been nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, L.A. Weekly, and G.A.N.G., and have won awards from the ITVA, and BMI as well as the Music4Games Editor's Choice award. Most recently Brown is composing the 9th season of hit CBS television series, CSI: NY, a show which he has been scoring since its premiere in 2004.
Q: The credit for “additional music by” is found on several of your early film assignments; what has this role come to mean in contemporary cinema and how do you feel it provided a kind of apprenticeship for you when you were starting out?
Bill Brown: With those early assignments, like working with Michael Mann on ALI, I was introduced to Michael directly through his music editor, and the same thing happened with ANY GIVEN SUNDAY and ‘Finding Forrester’. I wasn’t working with other composers on those projects, but the experiences themselves offered a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been a mentor to many of my assistants (by default) and continue to help guide young composers wherever I can. I think it can be a very rewarding experience for someone just starting his or her journey.
Q: Among your first solo scores in the late 1990s were a number of significant video games, a medium you continue to work in fluently. What challenges did these scores pose for you and how would you contrast them with your work in feature films and television, in terms of function of music, budgets & deadlines, and composing and recording environment?
Bill Brown: Games at that time were just expanding into orchestral recording so it was a great place to learn. Each project provided new opportunities to write every day and grow as a composer, so when new film opportunities came forward, I had that writing momentum going already. I also scored a few independent films early on and one of them, a film for USA television called TRAPPED eventually led to my scoring CSI:NY because the director loved my work on the film. Scoring all of those different projects required my being able to create new music in a diverse range of styles – all the while focusing in on what my own voice as a composer is. Games have a much longer schedule and usually require a lot more asset management throughout the process. Films schedules vary, most often music is the last detail and needs to be created quickly, but there are always exceptions (thankfully). And of course television schedules are usually fast and furious. I often have to complete 20+ minutes of music from inception to delivery in just 4 days working on CSI: NY.
Q: Several of your game scores were for video games based on popular movies, such as THE LOST WORLD: TRESPASSER, CAPTAIN AMERICA: SUPER SOLDIER, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE BATTLE FOR MIDDLE EARTH, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION. Was there a need in any of these to reference the music (or musical style) from their feature film progenitors, and if so was that restrictive or did it give you a starting point from which to derive your own score?
Bill Brown: Actually, with the exception of The Lord of the Rings, each of those projects was created from scratch with little to no outside/temp references. Captain America: Super Soldier was created for a tandem release with the film and the score was recorded more than six months before the film’s release. That one was influenced more by a previous score of mine called Wolfenstein that the developers had temped their alpha and demos with. The producers for Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction never referenced the films. I knew I wanted to come up with something as big, heroic, exciting and melodic – so I did, and they loved the results. I’ve been a big fan of Howard Shore’s work since SE7EN came out and had studied his orchestration techniques in detail during the time I was working on Lineage II. My assistant at the time Jamie Christopherson worked right alongside me on Lineage II, so The Lord of the Rings was a natural fit.
Q: You’ve scored several games in the WOLFENSTEIN and GHOST RECON series. How have you developing your scores and themes across the games and what have you tried to bring new to succeeding games in these series?
Bill Brown: There were a few themes in my score for Return to Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel Wolfenstein (2008), but for the most part, they were dark, atmospheric orchestral scores. Ghost Recon (and its sequels) was also based around a central heroic theme, with atmospheric cues of varying intensities filling in the levels. As I worked on projects like Lineage II, Incredible Hulk, and most recently Captain America: Super Soldier, they required fully thematic scores with melodic orchestral themes for every new area and character in the game. Thematic development has always been really important to me in whatever form it takes, whether it’s textural, atmospheric, just an interesting sonic signature or fully realized, ‘composed’ melodic themes.
Q: What has been your approach to scoring CSI: NY?
Bill Brown: When I scored the pilot of CSI: NY, they wanted me to create something totally fresh for the CSI series score-wise, so we went in a more orchestral direction initially, which was nice. During season six I started to use more and more acoustic and experimental instrumentation. The score continues to evolve and grow along with the show while maintaining much of the original sound I created back in the first seasons.
Q: What kind of instrumental palette have you most often worked with? Are you able to use live orchestras or has budget limitations restricted you to sampled orchestras – and how have you worked with the latter when necessary to articulate the sound of the former?
Bill Brown: I’ve been lucky enough to work with live players a lot in my career so far, and I hope to do a lot more of it. Sometimes budgets and/or contracts don’t allow for it unfortunately, but that’s the business side of things and happens. I try to look at each cue as an opportunity to create something exciting and fresh, regardless. If a director or producer wants a live orchestral sound for their project, there’s nothing like recording with live players. Nothing else can compare, even with all of the technology at our fingertips. It’s like using CG for actors as compared to using real actors.
Q: In the movie THE DEVIL’S TOMB, how did you use music to stimulate the film’s suspense and scare-factor, and enliven its science fiction plot elements? How can music be used to invigorate an audience’s involvement of a fantasy/horror film such as this?
Bill Brown: I think the audience comes to these films with a certain expectation; it’s great when we can take it to another place so an audience is unexpectedly transported. That’s what’s so wonderful about film for me, that unexpected ride you go on that takes you out of the day to day and into some other world, emotion and adventure. With the opening sequence of THE DEVIL’S TOMB, the director Jason Connery gave me this interesting sequence with Ron Perlman recording video journals of himself as he worked on a top secret project for the government. Each entry in his journal gets more tense, we see video cuts to images of the area around him crumbling, military operatives trying to escape and finally the video screen blurs into white noise and cuts sharply to black. It was an inspiring sequence to watch and a great way into the film for me. We hadn’t spotted the film at this point, and hadn’t discussed the direction except that in our initial meeting I had shown Jason several themes I thought might work for the film (and that I did subsequently end up using). So I took off having fun with it, deciding to approach it at first very subtly, then slowly have it evolve into a full-blown ‘religioso’ orchestral choral work with Latin text written specifically for the film. It was a lot of fun to write and luckily for me, Jason and the whole team loved it. That theme was also used in the last reel of the film with the more supernatural aspects of the film were all revealed. The angular material featured throughout the score is essentially based on 12-tone and 20th century modern composition. I find the use of 12-tone writing can be both unsettling and intriguing – and can create momentum in different, interesting ways with the added use of hybrid meters and tempi. One of my favorite cues is 'The Devil's Tomb Overture' which was actually written for the end credits after I completed the entire score.
The soundtrack album to THE DEVIL’S TOMB can be purchased at a huge discount here (while supplies last): http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/12604/THE-DEVILS-TOMB/
Or download it from iTunes here:
Q: Your recent score for BROTHER’S KEEPER is a nicely textured and tonally layered acoustic score for this 1950s period drama that nicely evoked the psychologies of the characters. How did you musically exemplify the shifting strata of tension and loyalty between the two brothers across the arc of its story?
Bill Brown: My job with the score was to help set the tone from the first moments of the film, and slowly connect things musically as the brother’s story unfolds. There is certainly a haunting aspect to the score overall. The initial theme I composed that you hear in track 1 “Georgia 1949” keeps returning in different variations throughout the film at key moments. It’s this soulful reminder of the brother’s connection with each other. The narrative unfolds slowly and is filled with gravity throughout most of the film. My challenge was to create some pace and momentum while helping to covey the range of emotion. There are a lot of montage sequences in the film, so I needed to help move the story forward which was a nice opportunity to let the score take over and utilize my themes. I was able to approach it melodically and thematically, writing themes for the brothers, for Maggie (Pete’s love interest), and the dark secrets hidden by their rivals. The film actually becomes a courtroom drama, which was exciting for me as I’m a fan of the classic film genre. “Arguments” (which is an edited version of the original 12 minute courtroom sequence score cue) is one of those courtroom sequences from the film.
|Bill Brown and Cellist Tina Guo
Q: I’m especially impressed by the orchestration of BROTHER’s KEEPER, which develops a very pleasing contemporary-styled ‘Old west” score to suit the feeling of that film and its personalities. What element(s) of the film did you key in on to center your score around, and how did you arrive at that approach?
Bill Brown: The story is set in the 1950’s in the south, so it was nice to be able to incorporate acoustic guitars, dobro, mandolin, banjo, dulcimers, cello and live orchestra throughout. The overall score needed a lot of gravity and emotion, so orchestra was key. Instead of approaching the action sequence (track 3 “The Attack”) with the expected orchestra staccatos, percussion and brass, I decided to use close, live recordings of acoustic stringed instruments along with timpani. My overall goal was to create unexpected harmonic and melodic material throughout. A lot of my piano writing was purposefully angular to create a sense of unease within the beauty of the sound of the instruments.
The soundtrack album to BROTHER’S KEEPER can be purchased from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/brothers-keeper-original-motion/id542352617
Or listen to BROTHER’S KEEPER on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/album/7FO9EhFnt4wCOdmzn1I9aL
Q: What next for you in film music? How have the opportunities you’ve had over last ten years or so served to prepare you for what you’d like to be doing in the next ten?
Bill Brown: Along with CSI:NY season 9, I’m currently working on a documentary film with Gary Sinise called HIGH FLIGHT which is a fun change up for me. The score is filled with uplifting, intricate instrumental pieces that help tell the story of Gary’s sub-orbital flight adventure with a lot of heart. I’ll post on my facebook page when the documentary becomes available to purchase. All proceeds will go to the Gary Sinise Foundation to help support our nation’s defenders and veterans.
Associated web links:
A taut thriller by the name of “F” came out in England in 2010. The film is a new entry in the growing subgenre of “hoodie thrillers” in which innocent protagonists are menaced by hooded sweatshirt-wearing youths – the French film ILS (THEM), the British films EDEN LAKE and CHERRY TREE LANE, and the recent Irish film CITADEL are other notable examples. F is unusual in that its protagonist, unlike the damsel in distress in films like P2 and others, is a middle aged male schoolteacher menaced by a gang of hooded toughs after he gives an anti-social student an F grade. The film is a well-paced and very well directed thriller, effectively resolved, supported by a very creepy score by Neil Stemp. I sought out Neil to ask him about his approach to scoring this film, and the following interview resulted.
Q: You've got a wide range of musical experience and endeavors. What led you to scoring films and how did your association with Trevor Jones benefit your own work in film music?
Neil Stemp: I studied classical music composition at University, and I remember when I was reaching the end of that period, the realization became apparent that I could not rely on writing symphonies and concerti to pay my bills. As with many young composers before me, music for film and television provided a very real outlet for the skills I'd spent years to learn at university.
Also, I'd loved film from an early age, so it felt like a very logical step to look at that area. I signed up for the prestigious Masters Degree in Music for Film at Bournemouth University, started to learn the art of underscoring as well as writing soundtracks for many student films in this period (Bournemouth University was, and remains one of the top Media departments in the UK, and many of the animators I worked with ended up at Industrial Light and Magic).
The studies actually gave me a false perspective on how easy it would be to make it in the industry - I have a Masters degree, so that makes me an expert in the subject, and everybody will want to hire me, right?
I came to London to seek my fortune and found what thousands have done before me - only a few films are being made at any one time, and a select few composers are doing all the jobs.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I came to know Trevor Jones when I installed a new Pro Tools studio for him (at the time, I was working for a company which did high-end installs for recording studios), and we hit it off from the start. He was intrigued to find out that somebody in a technical position was actually very qualified in the writing side of things, this combination of technical skill along with creativity actually turned out to be perfect for use in the film music arena. So before long, Trevor hired me as a synthesizer programmer on THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and we continued working together right through to the present day.
Obviously, this apprenticeship allowed me to witness the development of a score from the initial spotting with directors, through the conception of the musical themes, right through the recording and mixing process, in the hands of a master of the genre. How can you not learn a lot from that kind of grounding? I really regard that time as much more important to my development than all of my years in formal education.
One of Trevor's key phrases was 'You write music for free, you get paid for the hassle.' In other words, the music is easy, the hard part is the politics, taking criticism for your music and taking positives from it, making changes to fit the vision of the director. I treat that philosophy as a cornerstone of everything I do, and have learned not to take criticism in a negative way.
And finally, of course, the link to Trevor Jones allowed me a foot into the door of the industry, as I made strong relationships with many top recording engineers, musicians, directors, music editors etc. Indeed, I was offered my first feature film scoring assignment as the focus-puller happened to be Trevor's son and he recommended me for the job!
Q: How did you get involved in scoring "F" ?
Neil Stemp: My first feature film score was The Other Side of the Game. We had an industry screening for that film and I was approached shortly afterwards by James Harris, who happened to be the Line Producer on 'F'. He'd been really impressed with the score, and suggested that I send a copy of the soundtrack to Johannes Roberts, who was looking for a composer for his film.
I remember doing an initial chat on the telephone with Johannes, which I think I felt incredibly uncomfortable with simply due to the fact that I'd not previously had to pitch my musical skills to people, so I think I problem downplayed my brilliance when he was probably expecting somebody loud and brash! So I went away thinking - well, I've messed that one up then.... But fortunately, Johannes became a huge fan of my music and despite any reservations he might have had, he decided to give me a shot at it. And I was determined not to let him down....
Q: As a contemporary thriller with horror elements, what initially spoke to you in the film? What elements in the film or its story and characters prompted you to write the score that you did?
Neil Stemp: I remember the feeling of claustrophobia, my stomach knotted but not being sure quite why, not outright terror but a visceral feeling of uneasiness. I was quite taken with the eerie movement of the hoodies (played by Parkour artists), and also by the fact that we never get to see who they are. It leaves it very open to interpretation whether we are looking at supernatural creatures or simply disgruntled students.
When you are working on a horror film particularly, the first viewing you have is so important. You have to remember how scared you were at every moment of the film, how big the jumps were and so on, because after watching those scenes over a hundred times, you will not jump out of your skin any more – and you’ll worry that your music is not having the desired effect! So my first priority was to retain the sense of claustrophobia and to plot out a dramatic arc, deciding which jumps should be heightened, which should be underplayed etc.
Secondly, I don't get anything out of the kind of sound / music effects atmospheric scores which many horror films have, and was keen that the movie should have some kind of melodic content. Indeed, as there is an emotional heart to the story, being really the story of Anderson's fall and redemption, I felt that strong thematic elements were actually needed to draw the audience in to the personal struggle within the lead character. The challenge I had set myself was to write a melodic score which fulfilled all the traditional necessities of creating tension and jumps.
Q: Your use of voices - taunting voices that seem to be calling out "nyah! nyah!" like a schoolyard bully - are very effective in becoming kind of an ostinato when the hooded assailants appear. How did you decide on this kind of approach and how did you develop and vary it as the score played out?
Neil Stemp: Johannes Roberts actually composed music for his first few films, so has good strong opinions about scoring. However, he never tried to impose his specific ideas on my music. This is great for a composer; you want a director who knows exactly what he wants but doesn't feel he needs to go into the minutiae - 'I don't like that note.... I don't like that cello there'.
From the original spotting, Johannes sent me a few clips of stuff that he liked. There was some Morricone in there, some Goblin, maybe some John Carpenter, I can't completely remember. He also told me he loved the use of children's voices singing eerie tunes, and I think there were a couple of examples of that too.
My first instinct was to do it slightly more conservatively, more symphonically, if you like, but I did feel there was some mileage in taking a kernel of Johannes' ideas. I didn't think the kid's voices would work (these are after all, teenagers on the rampage), but wondered if young hoodlums singing songs which sound vaguely like nursery rhymes , as you say, taunting the audience and the characters in the film could work in a very unnerving way. I think many people find it very effective, and that it almost becomes the voice of these wordless characters.
As for treatment, my vision was to basically get more and more bizarre and distorted as the film went on. So I had lots of fun putting the voices through distortion units and fusing them with all sorts of different musical instruments. In the mix, we did lots of extra treatment in the surround speakers, so in the cinema it actually feels like the voices are in your head.
Q: The voices also seem to be reflecting the subtle supernatural ambiguity of the faceless aggressors. How did this supernatural element play into your score?
Neil Stemp: Of course, there is a supernatural element to the film, and the voices do add to that. I also always felt there was another reading of the movie, that Anderson was actually going insane and the hoodies were a faceless manifestation of his madness. My treatment of the voices as well as some of the other musical choices was also designed to heighten this feeling of Anderson's impending insanity.
Q: How much input did the director have on your work as you developed the finished score?
Neil Stemp: As mentioned, my first musical sketches were significantly more conservative than what we ended up with; they were more mainstream I suppose. However, Johannes was keen for me to push the envelope and we took some time to find the right themes and tone for my work.
Once we'd found it, though, Johannes was quite hands-off in his demands. He would be very clear when he did not feel it was scary enough or indeed when he felt I was doing too much for the scene. But I don't remember having any conversations on purely musical matters, so I was encouraged to create a sound-world as strange and off-the-wall as possible. I took up the challenge, coming up with an instrumentation including household objects, distorted electric violin, a detuned piano with all the bodywork taken off, and a choir which we recorded in an eerie church. My wife was somewhat unnerved when I took all the kitchen knives out and started recording them in the middle of the night!
Q: What was most challenging for you about composing and recording this score?
Neil Stemp: Definitely the budget. I wanted to create something that stood the test of time and didn't sound synthy. That was a real challenge to find musicians, have somewhere to record them, then to mix it.
So, my contacts from working with Trevor Jones really came in handy on this front. I was friends with Andrew Dudman, the recording engineer on films such as LORD OF THE RINGS, who agreed to help me record the score, and indeed secured a recording session at Abbey Road Studios for that expansive strings sound you hear on the film. I pulled in a number of musician friends (as did Johannes) and we managed to get it all done on a shoestring. Then, thanks to the kindness of Trevor Jones, I was able to use his studio to mix the score and come in just under budget! I think the great thing is that despite the lack of money that went into it, the score does not scream cheapness. That's what I am most proud of with regards to 'F'.
Q: You also scored the drama/thriller, OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME, also a rather dark story. How did its musical needs contrast with that of "F"?
Neil Stemp: OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME is very much a personal story of one man who wants to escape from life as a drug dealer and become a better person, but he gradually finds himself dragged deeper and deeper into the abyss. There is a real sense of sadness that somebody who is not naturally bad cannot escape from that life. So despite the fact it could have turned out a cliché-ridden gangster flick, the focus of the movie is very much on the personal struggles of the main character. The score reflects that, so relies heavily on emotional instruments such as piano and strings.
My approach was not that different from 'F', in that I always work in the same way, using music to plot out the arc of the story. It is just that the stories themselves are so different so require completely different things - after all, one is a horror film, the other is a thriller with an emotional heart. Many people have commented that OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME has much more music than 'F', as the score has a very strong melodic identity and emotionality. They are always very surprised when I tell them that 'F' has double the amount of music in it!
Q: This score seems to emphasize the bleak landscape of the main character's life and the downward spiral it has taken. How did you use score to reflect the psychology of the character and his situation, and how was this developed as the movie resolves?
Neil Stemp: The main theme to this film came to me as soon as I watched the rough cut, and never changed at all throughout the score's development. My OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME score only has one theme, relating directly to the main character Tony Cole. The great challenge was how to develop the theme to reflect Tony's downward spiral, and the score helps take the audience by the hand through this decline. I think the economy of means I use in the film is actually the feature of the score that most people are drawn to.
Q: Will you be scoring more films in the future along with the other musical directions you are involved in? What other kinds of films would appeal to you?
Neil Stemp: Yes, myself and Johannes plan to work together again on his next movie. I really love to work on as many genres of film as possible, so wouldn't like to limit myself at this stage. I've never done a kids animated film, so would certainly love to do that.
It would also be great to get into the Asian film market. My wife is from South Korea, and they have had such a run of great, edgy movies directed by. for instance Park Chan-Wook (OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE) and Bong Joon-Ho (MOTHER, THE HOST). Equal to the work itself, it'd be a huge personal adventure to work out there for a year or two learning the language and culture, enjoying the splendid food!
Finally, I'm interested in the theatre, and have written a couple of musicals one of which (Studio 54) ran for a month at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. As a writer, it is thrilling to see the audience reactions in the theatre, there is so much more immediacy than the strange disconnect you feel once you've completed a movie score. Who knows, maybe one day I'll get the chance to combine the two.
'F - the Musical', what do you think? That might be interesting with hoodies climbing through the auditorium....
Special thanks to Neil Stemp for taking the time out to talk to me at length on his experiences in scoring these films. Both ‘F’ and OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME have been released as digital albums and are available through amazon mp3 or via iTunes at the following links:
For more information on Neil Stemp see his web page at www.neilstemp.com
Also a behind-the-scenes video about recording the score for ‘F’ at Abbey Road Studios can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn5LjfWMSEE
New Soundtracks Releases of Note
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS II/ Jack Wall (theme: Trent Reznor) /Activision
This new gamescore has been released as a digital download via ITunes and Amazon. The game is the latest incarnation of the Call of Duty first-person shooter war game series, the first in the franchise to feature future warfare technology and the first to present branching storylines driven by player choice. The enormously successful game (within 24 hours of going on sale last month, the game grossed over $500 million, beating 2011's Modern Warfare 3 to become the biggest entertainment launch of all time) features two connected storylines, one set in the 1980s during the final years of the first Cold War, the other set in 2025 during a new Cold War, in which war is defined by robotics, cyberwarfare, unmanned vehicles, and other futuristic technology. Former industrial rocker with Nine Inch Nails-turned-film-scorer Trent Reznor provided the game score’s main theme, which is really little more than a grungy rock riff with little variance or dynamic. Noted game composer Jack Wall has given the music a wider and more interesting sonic sensibility, with effectively orchestrated semblances of synth-infused orchestral material, embodying some of the raucous tendencies of Reznor’s theme but more often creating additional interactive development. It’s still pretty static rock-based driving action music with plenty of guitars and strident synths, suitable for aggressive if fairly gameplay, but Wall has developed some effective nuances that give the music a fairly pleasing range. There’s a satisfying brass lyric that rises out of the marching percussion and Zimmeresque string loops of “Catch Me If You Can;” the electric guitar figures that rise profoundly out of the bed of low strings in “Alex and David” create a poignant yet striking resonance; “Desert Ride” exudes fluctuations of Arabian music (the 2025 section involves warfare in the Middle East); “Future Wars” segues an quirkily effective electronica vibe with some strident house techno (a motif reprised in “Afghanistan 2025” along with Wall’s heroic brass music); and “Searchlights” play over a field of percussive riffing and eloquent, moaning female melisma capturing a cool atmospheric texture which is carried into an expanded upon in “Anthem.” Some pretty massive runs are developed in “Colossus,” and “The Invasion of Panama” is achieved with some very nice flamenco guitar mixed in with the overpowering synth riffs and thundering percussive, as it is in the fairly demure “Guerra Precioso.” The score concludes with Wall’s very eloquent “Hero’s Theme,” which provides an expressive anthemic drive. A pair of remixes closes the album (including an “orchestral mix” of Reznor’s theme, which gives it a rather striking and useful dynamic.
Music samples can be heard at:
THE CAT IN PARIS (UNE VIE DE CHAT)/Serge Besset/Sony Music France
Eschewing CGI, this enchanting animated French film features a strikingly beautifully hand-animated style that resembles colored-pencil artwork, with a distinctive French style to the character renderings. It tells the story of a young Parisian girl whose pet cat leads her to unravel a mystery over the course of a single evening. It’s a compelling mix, as has been noted by some reviewers, of Hitchcockian intrigue with a touch of modern action film sensibility. Composer Serge Besset turns in an exemplary score featuring a ferocious string-driven action theme (“Monte En L’Air”) in fine Bernard Herrmann fashion; slow, harsh intonations of brass counterpoint against the rapidity of cyclical violin riffing. This is a very fine theme that really energizes the animated adventures, giving them a dramatic hugeness that is quite provocative, especially in the climactic chase sequence through the Parisian streets and atop the Notre Dame Cathedral. In tracks such as “Une Nuit Au Zoo,” when the girl has to hide from gangsters in the local zoo, and “Duel Au Sommet,” the near-overpowering intensity of the music electrifies the elegant animation style and adds immeasurably to the story’s dramatic potency. The musical strength gives the movie a powerhouse Hollywood sensibility that very favorably amplifies its drama, and makes for very fine listening on disc. A variety of string-driven suspense themes support scenes of tension, and a delightful folkish Sicilianesque tune (Mafia Sandwich) depicts the bumbling gangster hoods who threaten the cat, girl, and burglar heroes; otherwise it’s a fairly monothematic score but the variations and different levels of intensification in which the main theme is presented keeps it from becoming too redundant (a piano rendition of the main theme in “Langue De Chat” is very pleasing). The central score is bookended by a pair of charming French jazz pieces (“Le Jazz du Cambrioleur,” “Java Sous La Neige” – the first a noir-ish trumpet piece, the second a poignantly captivating accordion piece), and the main theme is given an extended workout in “Nuit De Chat” heard over the end credits. Three tracks include short moments of dialog (in French) from the picture, and there is a Billie Holiday song (“I Wished On The Moon”) that was heard as source music in the film. Aside from these stylistic intrusions, the flow of Besset’s score is very nicely represented on disc. Listen to it loud and let it roar.
The soundtrack CD is available at amazon.fr, as Une Vie de Chat).
DESTINATION MOON/Leith Stevens/Monstrous Movie Music
Monstrous Movie Music continues to preserve the vast cornucopia of unrecorded 1950s science fiction and monster movie film scores with splendidly restored original soundtrack recordings of scores such as this. Leigh Stevens’ music for George Pal’s 1950 seminal space adventure DESTINATION MOON was the first (and one of the only) sci-fi soundtrack albums issued on LP during of the decade, in an era when film music was commercially unpopular. Despite rival studio Lippert’s rushing ROCKETSHIP X-M into production and thus beating Pal’s effects-laden Technicolor adventure to theatres (“two years in the making,” the ad campaign correctly declared), DESTINATION MOON nonetheless retains its stature as the decade’s premiere cinematic drama of outer space exploration - the first motion picture to seriously deal with the subject of a lunar landing, even if its attempts to be then-scientifically correct downplayed the story’s actual drama. (BTW, the music from ROCKETSHIP X-M, scored by acclaimed classical composer Ferde Grofe, was never granted a soundtrack until 1977; Monstrous Movie Music issued it for the first time on CD last March.) Leith Stevens went on to score Pal’s classic films WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and WAR OF THE WORLDS (both scores finally released on CD for the first time by Intrada last July), but DESTINATION MOON remains his classic genre work. It’s a thoroughly sublime score, expressing the solitude and spacial reality of outer space with muted grandeur, evoking in the music’s languid, floating 5-note theme a sense of restrained jubilance, heroic exploration, and through its use of polytonality and unusual harmonies suggested the awe and mystery of entering untouched territory. It’s a thoroughly engaging score and one of the decade’s finest musical achievements. Stevens’ received a Golden Globe nomination for his score (the movie won an Oscar for its visual effects) and has been sporadically kept in print on record over the years; this nicely remastered release offers the actual unedited soundtrack music for the first time (previous LPs were either re-recorded or else condensed Stevens’ lengthy passages into more manageable record album tracks). Added to this release are four of the five tracks (the fifth was missing from the archives) written by Clarence Wheeler for the Woody Woodpecker cartoon used in the film by the scientists to explain to potential investors what the moon mission was all about. As always, MMM’s David Schecter provides a detailed historical and analytical commentary on the film score in his expertly researched notes.
HIGH SCHOOL/The Newton Bros/MovieScore Media
This perfunctory stoner comedy, released in 2010, has its moments – and those are made most enjoyable due to a fine cast, which includes Adrian Brody as a drug dealer, Michael Chiklis as the snobbish principal, and Matt Bush & Sean Marquette as the primary students, and a breezy rock-oriented musical underscore. The story has to do with a high school valedictorian who takes his first toke of marijuana with a former playmate the day before his high school announces mandatory drug testing, thus threatening his future unless they can get the entire school high and thus invalidate the test. It’s a preposterous plot, of course, but in its machinations and resolution it’s pretty entertaining. The Newton Brothers (AAAGH! ZOMBIES!, HIJACKED) provide a pretty good score, whose most striking theme is drawn from Italian Western music (associated with Brody’s character, giving him and his performance a splendidly over-the-top dramatic weight). The theme is reprised in “Psycho Ed,” wherein the Western motif shines nicely, eventually gaining a rockish drum beat that carries it through its increasingly dissonant climax, while in “The Showdown” it serves as a profound bit of dramatic confrontation. For the most part the music sets up a cool but fairly innocuous vibe that fits the tone of the story. “Brownie Quarantine” is a quirky bit of musical mischief as the protagonists lock the brownie-baking moms in the school lounge to they (the stoners) can administer their controlled substance into their (the moms’) wares and thus give the high schoolers a severely unexpected high; the music lends an almost festive drive to the scene. Beyond that, the music primarily serves to establish a contemporary drive, balancing its sense of with rhythm and movement with rock/pop-based ambient material. It’s a fun score with some likably quirky moments.
HITCHCOCK/Danny Elfman/Sony Music
It makes sense that much of Danny Elfman’s score for this love story between filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife and partner Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the making of his seminal movie PSYCHO is conveyed through the string section, albeit not exclusively. Bernard Herrmann’s music for PSYCHO was performed completely on strings, without a flute, trumpet, or tambourine anywhere in hearing range. Herrmann’s original score from PSYCHO was adapted by Danny Elfman in 1998 when Gus Van Sant directed his shot-for-shot remake, so his familiarity with the work (and exuberance for Herrmann’s music overall), not to mention his acumen for evoking a slyly macabre (perhaps Hitchcockian) wit in his music, made him a logical choice to score HITCHCOCK. Elfman does not provide pastiches of the PSYCHO score here but rather reflects its sensibility in his score’s orchestration and harmonic structure (the End Titles are perhaps the most distinctly Hitchcockian/Herrmannesque in their string and horn intonations). It’s very much a Danny Elfman score, and a superior one at that, evoking the personality of Hitch as only Elfman can, while also conveying a very heartfelt and honest emotion for his intense regard for Alma.
THE HOBBIT/Howard Shore/Watertower Music
Howard Shore returns to Middle Earth to revisit his material from Peter Jackson ‘s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy into the score for the first third of the prequel trilogy, based on Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT. Shore’s LOTR trilogy has earned a huge amount of respect from me, and I feel the scope of the work and its component aspects achieve a singular stature among film scores. The music is incredibly varied, fully heart-felt, and astoundingly moving. Shore’s musical trilogy is a monumental achievement in orchestral and choral composition, beyond being an astonishingly intricate, beautiful, and superlatively workable score for film. While I don’t find that THE HOBBIT achieves the same breathtaking range of distinction as its musical forebear, I am thoroughly pleased and delighted with Shore’s return to Middle Earth. The RINGS’ music’s backwards extension into the prequel is a welcome treasure that rewards the listener by revisiting and reworking a familiar and favorite canvas while extracting from within it a new musical evocation of its own. The primary musical motif of THE HOBBIT is that of The Shire and its diminutive denizens the Hobbits, which Shore originally introduced in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING in 2001. With much of this film’s activity having to do with the Hobbits and their lair, this theme’s occupying a dominantly recurrent portion of the new score is reasonable, and it appears in a number of guises and fashions throughout the score. This wonderful theme is beautifully rendered in the 8-minute opening track, “My Dear Friend,” in which the orchestra first conveys much of the legendary and mythic music that characterized the trilogy (bits of motifs and various other musical permutations associated with elves, dwarves, and men, the Ring, Middle Earth, and so on) before and opening up into that delightful sense of frolic and whimsy that is the music concerning Hobbits. This music dominates the first few tracks, in which Gandalf accompanied by Thorin and a company of dwarves visits Bilbo Baggins and solicits his help in reclaiming a stolen treasure; the Hobbit’s music is performed more vividly in “The Adventure Begins” as the band sets off. THE HOBBIT’s primary new theme, the eloquent and homespun folk tune “Misty Mountains,” is first heard as a song sung by Thorin and the dwarves when they visit Bilbo (and featured prominently in one of the film’s trailers); it is later evoked orchestrally as a powerful theme for their fellowship and the destination of their quest (“The World is Ahead,” for example, where it is enthusiastically intoned by horns over strings and pounding drums). Other themes associated with the peoples of Middle Earth that were first composed for the LOTR trilogy are restored here, such as the dwarves theme, the Rivendell/elves theme, and so on. The characters’ quest is evoked operatically by the leitmotifs and earthen textures of Shore’s music, whose musical landscape, as with the LOTR trilogy, is carefully constructed and rooted in character and environment. The score is broadly conveyed and multi-layered, its thematic orientation largely drawn from the previous LOTR scores is both expected and properly cultivated in THE HOBBIT, but there is much new material to be savored. This single-disc soundtrack album is very nicely put together – all 26 tracks run together, forming a continual, symphony-like listening experience; a pleasing journey “there and back again” and bodes well for where Shore will take us through the next two HOBBIT movies.
LIFE OF PI/Mychael Danna/Sony Music
For director Ang Lee’s profoundly intriguing film of the Yann Martel novel of adventure and personal discovery, composer Mychael Danna (rejoining the director for the first time after his aborted score for Lee’s HULK in 2003) has composed a stimulating and affecting accompaniment. Known for his penchant for combining non-Western sounds with orchestral and electronic sources, Danna adopts a mixture of ethnic instruments within LIFE OF PI’s symphony orchestra, capturing the inner spirit of boy and beast as the film describes the journey of a young man and a Bengal tiger – both trapped on a small boat after a disaster at sea. The music “guides the viewers by means of emotions through a film that raises big philosophical and religious questions,” said Danna. The young man, Pi, is musically personified by an Indian flute, while a Persian ney identifies the tiger. Supporting these instrumental associations is a studio orchestra supplemented by Indonesian gamelan, French instruments like celeste and accordion, and Indian sitar, percussion, vocal percussion, and choral mantas, providing a thickly textured tapestry woven with strands of delicate aural colorations, yet sturdy enough to support the cultural breadth of the story. Danna also collaborated with Indian vocalist Bombay Jayashri, who performs an original song “Pi’s Lullaby” in her native Tamil language. The result is a sonic jewel of rare beauty, whose every facet reflects sonic henna patterns of intricate and lovely timbre; on disc the music evokes a spiritual journey comprised of expressive sound and thoughtful resonance. In addition, Danna’s score in its texture and varied melodic nuances reflects and accepts the complementary clash of culture and religious perception that forms the meaning of Pi’s harrowing journey. More than simply supporting the story and imagery of Ang Lee’s film, the music both absorbs and incites the character of peace that comes with understanding, acceptance, and compassion that Pi undertakes. From the distinctive Indian/Asian sonorities of “Piscine Molitor Patel” with its progressive melange of ethnic spices and the flutish cries of “Anandi” to very distinctively Western oriented music (such as the serene, floating choral melody, “Tsimtsum” and its reprise in “Christ on the Mountain,” and the assertive orchestral surge of “God Storm”) – not to mention fusions of both such as in the massive eloquence of “The Whale” to the blended musical proportions of “Thank you Vishnu for Introducing me to Christ,” Mychael Danna’s LIFE OF PI is a breathtaking and immersive listening experience. It’s as much a reflection of Ang Lee’s film itself as it is a pleasing and provocative encounter in its own right.
MAN ON A MISSION/Brian Satterwhite & John Constant/La-La Land
John Constant is a lifelong songwriter and musician, and currently member of the Austin, Texas-based quintet Candi and the Strangers. Brian Satterwhite is a film composer (see review of his documentary score for SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH in my July 2011 column) and a writer known for his perceptive commentary notes on soundtrack albums. Together, Satterwhite and Constant partnered to score the film MAN ON A MISSION, a behind the scenes journey with video game entrepreneur Richard Garriott and his quest to become the first second-generation astronaut, from making the fortune needed to acquire a seat on a Russian rocket in 2008, through reaching the International Space Station to his return to Earth 12 days later, where his astronaut father Owen Garriott welcomed him back to terra firma. Constant was brought into the film first, long before a rough cut was prepared; Satterwhite was brought in later after the filmmaking team realized the value of having someone onboard with actual film music experience who could navigate the needs of creating music to be fused with image. Working separately, both composers created a cohesive score that enlivens the real-life saga of the younger Garriot’s space odyssey (Constant, collaborating with his wife and songwriting partner Samantha, wrote 6 tracks, Satterwhite the other 18). Both composers’ work is dominated by guitar-oriented and rhythmic material (Satterwhite’s “Centrifuge” is infused with an increasing velocity of guitar riffing that delightfully accommodates the speeding and slowing revolutions of the astronaut training device; Constant’s “Blast Off Zero” is a sonic charm bracelet of crystalline sparkles that eventually make way for a rhythmic melody reflecting the Morricone-inspired music that Candy and the Strangers is known for). Satterwhite also favors piano in many cues (the echoing keyboard arpeggios in “Space Adventures” are especially likable). The score exhibits a stylistic sheen that supports the film’s contemporary setting and the confident enthusiasm of its central subject. Many cues adopt a percussive semblance in their acoustic and electric guitar and bass playing as Satterwhite treats the keys and guitar plucks with light taps, fingers drumming or strumming with an almost whimsical joy (“Star City” is an especially pleasing semblance of rhythmically interoperating percussive guitars and keyboards), while reverberating bell percussion sparkles like sunlight gleaming off a shiny spacecraft hull, coloring the sound with a metallic finish that reflects the technological innovation that allows Garriot to express his human spirit of exploration and accomplishment, while other cues denote less enthusiastic feelings, such as the morose electronica design of “Rough Rides Home” and the resigned post-achievement let down of “Saying Goodbye” with its sad electronic violin melody. But as Constant and Satterwhite propel their music toward the film’s triumphant conclusion, the music assert itself and reflects the fulfillment of a long-held dream as the satisfied astronaut is carried home on wings of blazing steel. Satterwhite’s drum-driven “Re-Entry” opens up into a victorious anthem of pounding tom toms and pulsating electric guitar, while Constant’s synths form a chorus of proud achievement in “Astro Glo.” The score won the silver at Park City Music Fest for Best Impact of music in a documentary. A limited edition release of 500 units, the album is produced by Satterwhite and mastered by James Nelson, and contains liner notes from the composers and executive producer.
MISSILE TO THE MOON/FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER/Nicholas Carras/Monstrous Movie Music
Nicholas Carras (1922-2006) was a reliable figure among 1950s B-movie science fiction and horror film music. Working exclusively on low-budget exploiters like JUNGLE HELL, DRAGSTRIP RIOT, and HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR, Carras made his mark on sci fi with a trio of cheesy programmers for director Richard E. Cunha, all released in 1958 by Astor Pictures. The first of these was SHE DEMONS; the other two have been collected in a fine original soundtrack release from Monstrous Movie Music. Carras’s gift for melody and eerie orchestration is evident in both of these scores. MISSILE TO THE MOON was a remake of Astor’s 1953 movie CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON (Cunha evidently had plenty of gravitas to remake one of the worst movies of the early ‘50s). Carras’ score was full of energetic orchestrations, embellished by that evocative staple of ‘50s science fiction filmdom, the Theremin. It’s a fairly traditional score, with the eerie, soaring song of the Theremin accompanying action and spaceflight scenes, brassy monster chords emphasizing the threat of the shambling rock creatures found on the Moon’s surface, while a wash of easy-going romantic strings to emphasize the allure of the lunar ladies the crew finds inhabiting the lunar subsurface. It’s a lot of fun and proffers a deliciously nostalgic listen in prototypical ‘50s sci-fi fashion. With 39 tracks of score enhanced by seven bonus tracks consisting of a variety of electric violin, organ, drum, and vibraphone tests, plus the dance music that accompanies the wedding ceremony between one of the moon maidens and one of the spacemen. While MISSILE TO THE MOON represents the iconic ‘50s approach to scoring sci-fi, FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER is very much its equal in down-to-earth monster music fashion. Carras provides plenty of monster chords characteristic of the genre – furious brasses, wild string and wind figures blaze with savage dissonance as Dr. “Frank’s” monstrous creation rises with a growing epiphany of shouting, roaring winds, slicing strings, and thunderous timpani. It’s a solid horror score in the style of the ‘40s and ‘50s, sparse on melodies, favoring melodramatic passages characterizing the shambling threat of the monster. Only 10 of Carras’ 31 cues for the film (a comparatively low percentage of music for a ‘50s B horror movie) were found in the composer’s tape library, but their roughly 10 minutes of music is a delight in the classic horror mode. MMM has nicely restored the score from tapes found in the composer’s library, and promises that an album of SHE DEMONS is likely to appear in the future. Not so certain is the music that Carras wrote in a revival of his horror movie output in the late 1960s, which included scores for Ted V. Mikel’s THE ASTRO ZOMBIES and THE DOLL SQUAD. Thoroughly comprehensive notes from David Schecter supplement the recording with invaluable background data and analysis.
PARANORMAN/Jon Brion/Relativity Music
PARANORMAN is a fine fantasy tale beautifully animated with the classic stop-motion style. Jon Brion provides a winning score that moves from the cute pastiche of ‘80s horror film electronica through massive, surging crescendos as zombies rise and a witches’ curse is accomplished, to the sublimely heartfelt denouement as multiple characters find redemption. “Zombie Attack in the Eighties,” which accompanies the opening scene in which Norman and his ghost Grandma watch a zombie movie on TV, is a splendid evocation of Goblin/Fabio Frizzi a la DAWN OF THE DEAD/ZOMBI 2. From there the score focuses on a more sentimental attitude, expressing the spirit of the misunderstood boy who can see ghosts; Norman’s Theme is a gentle melody first introduced in a very nostalgic arrangement on the piano (“Main Title”), which is later taken by gentle woodwinds, sympathetically characterizing the unappreciated lad. Brion’s primary aggressive motif is introduced in “Alvin Attacks” when Norman is accosted by the dopey bully in school; although the term aggressive may be a misnomer, since Brion has had to tone down the dynamic of his music to maintain the family-friendly nature of the film. Even at its height the motif is rather jaunty, its percussive character becoming a pensive staccato motif that underlies early suspense moments like “Enter Neil/Mr P/Ghost Walk.” Tracks 4 through 10 are fairly innocuous, underscoring pensive activities as Norman and his Scoobyesque gang investigate things and avoid dangerous encounters. The score launches back into gear with “Zombies Attack” with – heralded by a brief return to the electronica of the ‘80s zombie music – a splendidly bombastic assault of orchestral aggression as a witches’ curse is fulfilled and the zombies rise, Norman and his cohorts trying to escape and thwart their shambling invasion. The ‘80s zombie music returns from time to time, complementing the more fluid orchestrations that wash through these sequences; Brion whips up a swirling motif that suggests both the gigantic witches’ head gaping through the clouds (so beautifully created through the film’s stop-motion model animation) and the relentless onslaught of the scuffling carcasses; a few moments tends to slow down on disc as the music drops to accommodate dialog, but the music soon rallies back to its energetic onslaught. The final track (“Oh And One More Thing”) brings back the ‘80s Zombie riffing very nicely, carrying the film’s denouement into the end credits with a proper nod to Romero and the zombies of past generations. Despite a few slow moments on disc and its overall need to restrain its fully articulate musical prowess, it’s a fun score which brought life (er, death?) to a very nicely animated story.
SEXY KILLER/Fernando Velázquez/Screamworks
Along with Rogue Baños, Fernando Velázquez is one of the most interesting film composers in Spain just now. Velázquez’s music for J. A. Bayona’s THE ORPHANAGE (one of the most poignantly haunting horror pictures in recent years) was beautifully sensitive and fluidly melodic, greatly enhancing the film and, especially, its pragmatic and profound ending, in which the film’s denouement becomes a thing of serene and haunting beauty. The composer joined Bayona again for THE IMPOSSIBLE a few months ago with another striking work (Quartet Records is releasing the score). MovieScore Media has released two of Velázquez’s previous scores (the large orchestral score for SHIVER and the chamber jazz score for GARBO: THE SPY) and has now resurrected the composer’s entertaining score for the delightful 2008 horror/action/comedy on its Screamworks label. The film is a marvelous kick in the pants - Macarena Gómez stars as a very sexy hired killer who begins to take her work too seriously, leaving a lot of random collateral damage, as she tries to find love in the midst of a career in killing. Part thriller, part homage, part horror, but throughout entirely comedic, Gómez inhabits the character with a zesty enthusiasm, and the intensity with which she plays the role is a large part of the fun of watching the film. Velázquez’s score follows suit, rendering a straightforward action score with a commanding orchestral voice while colored with stylistic swatches of jazzy pop, punchy choir, rustling cymbals, flurrying flutes, mixing heady action writing with reflective lyricism and lots of inventively orchestrated “work” music to personify the career activities of Gómez’s character. The score impressed me greatly when I first saw the film in 2009, and I’ve been looking for a soundtrack ever since. Imagine my delight when I found it announced by Screamworks. Color me very pleased and enchanted with Velázquez’s invigorating mélange of soaring, epic hero themes (“Speddie,” “Finale”), sublime romantic melodies (the heavenly and very Donaggio-esque “Barbie in Love,” the escalating finale of “Barbara and Alex,” the romantic chorale of “Barbara and Tomas”), burbling action music (the jaunty percussion racetrack of “The Locker Room”), chillingly aggressive strains of horror music driven by chanting chorus and dizzying strings (“Bad Girls,” the shimmering strings, groaning horns, and low cello of “No More Death!”, and the slashing string strokes of “Butcher Campus,” etc.), all resolving in an eloquent, redemptive resolution of terrific strength and passion. A thoroughly pleasing score for a very agreeable film.
SPACE DIVE/Daniel Pemberton/1812 Recordings (digital)
Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive from space last October captured the world’s imagination, becoming the most watched live event in the entire history of the internet. Four years in the making, SPACE DIVE is the official film of that extraordinary event. With unparalleled access throughout the project’s entire course as well as featuring unique footage from 20 cameras covering the jump itself, SPACE DIVE (broadcast a month after Baumgartner’s October 15 space jump) tells the untold story behind the record-breaking mission, culminating when Baumgertner becomes the first person to free-fall through the sound barrier after jumping from 128,100ft (24 miles) to Earth from the edge of space. British composer Daniel Pemberton (THE AWAKENING, LittleBIGPlanet) has scored the BBC documentary, which is being released to iTunes on Dec. 10. Fusing electronics, guitars, orchestral stylings, and intriguing sound design, Pemberton has established a very likable soundtrack. Bookended with a motif reflecting vision, bravery, and a quiet triumph, Pemberton’s score evokes the spirit of accomplishment with the technological planning required to pull it off. Certain tracks such as “Free Fall” reflect a kind of vintage Tangerine Dream ambiance, while others such as “Falling Piano” evoke a curiously skewed classical sophistication (piano over spacy synths, naturally). In “The Workshop Works” Pemberton conveys an electrifying tension while laying down a progressive vibe that energizes the work behind Baumgartner’s vision; “The Day Before” summons a strained apprehension as the time approaches, but “The Edge of Space” seethes with a serene excitement at staring into boundless space. “The Jump” reprises the opening theme as the space jump is accomplished, and for 4 minutes and 19 seconds Baumgartner fell to Earth, traveling 24 miles and reaching a speed of 834 mph, or Mach 1.24. Here, Pemberton conveys the thrill and tension Baumgartner must have experienced during his dive, while in “Going Supersonic” Pemberton changes focus and reflects the danger and accomplishment of traveling faster than the speed of sound (becoming the first person to do it without vehicular power). The score concludes with a joyful, triumphant reprisal of the opening theme, conveying pride of accomplishment without losing that sense of wonder at being so close to the infinite. Pemberton’s score allows all of us to share, in a way, the emotional effort and elation associated with Baumgartner’s experience.
For more info, see www.danielpemberton.com
Soundtrack & Music News
Richard Robbins, noted composer best known for his work on the films of Ismail Merchant & James Ivory, including A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MAURICE, HOWARD'S END, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, JEFFERSON IN PARIS, SURVIVING PISCASSO and THE WHITE COUNTESS (to name a few) passed away on November 7 at his home in New York. Robbins lost his battle with Parkinson's disease at the age of 71.
The Grammy nominations have just been announced – here are the film/media music categories:
Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media
The Descendants (Various Artists)
Marley ((Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Midnight In Paris (Various Artists)
The Muppets (Various Artists)
Rock Of Ages (Various Artists)
Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media
The Adventures Of Tintin - The Secret Of The Unicorn (John Williams)
The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
The Dark Knight Rises (Hans Zimmer)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
Hugo (Howard Shore)
Journey (Austin Wintory)
Best Song Written For Visual Media
Abraham's Daughter (From THE HUNGER GAMES)
Learn Me Right (From BRAVE)
Let Me Be Your Star (From SMASH)
Man Or Muppet (From THE MUPPETS)
Safe & Sound (From THE HUNGER GAMES)
For more details, see www.grammy.com/nominees?genre=11
The World Soundtrack Academy announced tonight the winners of the World Soundtrack Awards 2012, the closing event of the 39th Ghent Film Festival. Alberto Iglesias was chosen as Film Composer of the Year 2012, for his soundtracks for LE MOINE (‘The Monk’), LA PIEL QUE HABITO (The Skin I Live In) and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He also went home with the award for Best Original Film Score of the Year for the latter work. Brian Byrne received the World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Song Written for Film for “Lay Your Head Down” from the film ALBERT NOBBS; Byrne also won the Discovery of the Year Award. The Public Choice Award went to Abel Korzeniowski for the film W.E.. Pino Donaggio received a World Soundtrack Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Hollywood Music in Media Awards took place last month honoring industry leading composers, music supervisors, and songwriters at the historic Fonda Theater in Hollywood, CA. Major wins included Marco Beltrami for best original score – film (THE SESSIONS), Jennifer Thomas for best original score – indie/short/documentary (MINUET), Robert Duncan & Kim Planert for best original score – TV (MISSING), Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford, Joseph Lawrence , Neal Acree, Laurence Juber & Edo Guidotti for best original score – Video Game (Diablo 3), and Winifred Phillips & Winnie Waldron for best original score – mobile vudeo game (Assassin’s Creed III Liberation).
For complete listings of winners and categories, go to www.hmmawards.org (under “Awards” tab).
Composer Sharon Farber has received the Visionary Award in Music by The Women International in Film & TV showcase- very exciting (www.thewifts.com). “As someone who was mentored by a great composer, the late Shirley Walker, giving back is part of what being a woman in this business is all about for Sharon,” noted the WIFTS web site. “Mentoring young women who pursue a career in film music is an important issue for her and she always takes the time to meet with, encourage and inspire talented female composers.” For her dedication to her art and her commitment to sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation of women musicians Sharon Farber is the inaugural recipient of The WIFTS Foundation 2012 Music Award. Farber reports that she is gearing up to score two new films – details to follow!
For more info on Sharon (Sha-RON) Farber, see http://www.sharonfarber.com
Award-winning composer Kevin Riepl has created a dramatic and suitably festive original music score for Anchor Bay Film's upcoming SILENT NIGHT, a loose remake of the horror classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT directed by Steven C. Miller. Featuring dark ambient chills, orchestral thrills and holiday sleigh bells, Riepl's seasonal horror score has been released by Paleblue Soundtracks on iTunes. Commenting on Riepl's music for SILENT NIGHT, director Steven C. Miller said, "Kevin's score is visceral, emotional, and straight up brutal. Working with him has clearly elevated the film."
James Horner has just finished recording his score to Carlo Carlei's film ROMEO AND JULIET in Abbey Road 1 and Air Studios in London. For more details and photos see:
Brian Satterwhite reports that his silent film score will be THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920). “It's one of the single most influential films ever made and an exemplar of German expressionism in cinema,” he said. “For this concert I'm employing a string orchestra. It's because of the instrumentation that I primarily decided to focus on something darker than the Harold Lloyd comedy. It'll be a complete 180 degree experience from A SAILOR-MADE MAN but one that is equally as enjoyable.
Danny Elfman will score Sam Raimi’s OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.
Howlin' Wolf Records presents THE DEAD by British Indian Film Composer and Music Producer Imran Ahmad (composer for the award winning documentary). Directed by The Ford Brothers, THE DEAD is an acclaimed and unique zombie film shot on location in West Africa, which follows the journey of an American mercenary/engineer and an African militia officer as they struggle to survive a zombie pandemic and reconnect with family amidst a world in chaos and turmoil. The music for THE DEAD is a hauntingly, beautiful score composed by Imran Ahmad, rich with percussion, flutes, and acoustic ancestral textures provided by Gambian kora player Jally Kebba Susso with stirring and evocative chants/vocals by Eritrean singer Saba Tewelde.
Two noted Alfred Newman scores have been reissued on a 2-CD set by Canadian label Disques Cinemusique. ANASTASIA (1956) and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959) are two important soundtracks from the late Golden Age by Alfred Newman (1901-1970), the highly esteemed director of the 20th Century Fox music department. Both scores focus on a different facet of the composer’s talent and were nominated for Academy Awards. For ANASTASIA, Newman delivered a brilliant and colorful 0score in the tradition of the great Russian romantic composers of the 19th Century. DCM proffers a remastered version from analog vinyl sources that provides excellent sound quality. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK also offers a significant improvement over the former (Tsunami) CD release: the transfer from vinyl highlights all the shades of the haunting melodies and rich orchestrations that Alfred Newman crafted for this drama involving a young Jewish girl and her relatives who were forced to hide from the Germans during World War II. Dominated by strings and woodwinds, the score sounds like a dark chamber music work, free of constraint. Flute, oboe and clarinet hold the melody in turn with a constant fluidity, elegance and nobility. Violas are emphasized in many passages, providing a warm mood and deep texture.
Travelling to the 31st century with Phillip Fry as he travels to the ends of the universe is a regular activity for composer Christopher Tyng, who scores the Emmy winning series FUTURAMA, created by SIMPSONS’ creator Matt Groening. On December 11, Volume Seven of FUTURAMA will be available on Blu-Ray/DVD. Among the special features is “Christopher Tyng’s Big Score: A Jam Session with Futurama’s Innovative Composer.” Tyng discusses his creative process behind the score for the show and performs a special remix of the main title theme live from his own recording facility. Additionally, the FUTURAMA main title theme and remix will be available for the first time ever on iTunes December 11.
In celebration of its 10th Anniversary, La-La Land Records and CBS Consumer Products, in association with GNP Crescendo Records, has finally unveiled STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION, a limited edition 15-CD box set, showcasing all episode scores as heard in all three original seasons of the landmark sci-fi television series STAR TREK (1966-1969). This special collection of ground-breaking, iconic music, from one of television's most acclaimed and beloved series, has been newly remastered from studio elements and features hours of stellar material previously unreleased in any format. This set is limited to 6000 units. In addition, the label has just announced greatly expanded releases of John Williams’ score for HOME ALONE 2, Ennio Morricone’s THE UNTOUCHABLES, and Michael Kamen’s DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. All are limited edition sets. See www.lalalandrecords.com
Screen Archives has released a limited edition (1000 copies) original soundtrack release of Dimitri Tiomkin’s score, THE FOUR POSTER. Based on the two-character play by Jan Hartog, the film is a delightful romantic comedy produced by Stanley Kramer with a lyrical, lilting musical score. Unique to THE FOUR POSTER are the UPA Studios animated sequences. The scoring for these cartoon gems gives Tiomkin an opportunity for complete departure from his foundation score and he interpolates a variety of period melodies and motifs. This CD presents the first comprehensive release of music from THE FOUR POSTER, which is score is presented in its entirety, taken from acetates in the Tiomkin Collection at the University of Southern California Cinema and Television Library. www.screenarchives.com
Intrada has released the complete soundtrack by Basil Poledouris to John Milius CONAN THE BARBARIAN in a 3-CD set. Thought missing for decades, even by composer, Universal vaults have revealed the 2" 24-track & 1/2" 3-track stereo session masters in mint condition for entire project, right down to rehearsal takes! The label has also released Lalo Schifrin’s music for Clint Eastwood’s 1968 police thriller, COOGAN’S BLUFF, for the first time in any format. A couple weeks ago Intrada released the fourth and final volume of music from the original 1978 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV series. This 2-CD set presents scores for two of the series’ most ambitious two-part episodes, "The Living Legend" and "War Of The Gods.” Christopher Young's thriller score for HUSH has also been released, reworked by its composer into a carefully assembled fashion, building lengthy cues with incredible cohesion and musical architecture. Young also offers a 15-minute "concert suite" that presents material in different light, plays as powerful suite comprising all major themes, ideas rolled into one. www.intrada.com
The most respected film music journalist these days is clearly Jon Burlingame, whose well-researches books, album notes, articles for Variety and other publications, and his DVD music commentaries are vastly informative and illuminating. Burlingame’s latest book is The Music of James Bond, wherein he throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond, spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously undisclosed tales. Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond film, providing the backstory for the music (including a reader-friendly analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous "James Bond Theme" in DR. NO to John Barry's trend-setting early scores for such films as GOLDFINGER and THUNDERBALL. We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond. Published by Oxford University Press, available from amazon.
In addition to released original soundtracks and re-recorded film scores, BSX Records has issued its first audiobook release - featuring a splendid dramatic reading by Robert Picardo of Stevenson's Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, underlined by a subtle but eerie score by Dominik Hauser.
Digitmovies has issued for the very first time on CD, in the deluxe digipack series, the complete monophonic soundtrack for Ennio Morricone’s first Western movie score, DUELLO NEL TEXAS (aka GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS) released in 1963 (predating A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS by a year). Although still far from his musical style which is internationally known for this kind of genre, the then 35-year-old Morricone composed a strong symphonic score featuring the theme song ''A Gringo Like Me'' which gets reprised with several exciting instrumental versions, alternated with saloon music, highly dramatic orchestral passages full of tension, music for wild rides, romantic and epic sequences. Never before issued in its entirely, Digitmovies release every note that had been recorded during the original session. The project has been fully approved by Morricone. Also new from Digitmovies is Carlo Rustichelli’s score for the 1961 Italian Peplum adventure, ROSMUNDA E ALBOINO (aka SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR), Stelvio Cipriani’s complete score for the 1980 Italian police thriller, POLIZIOTTO SOLITUDINE E RABBIA (aka THE REBEL) and, another world release on CD, the complete score in full stereo by Franco Micalizzi’s Western movie …E ALLA FINE LO CHIAMARONO JERUSALEM L’IMPLACABILE (1972, aka Panhandle 38).
Quartet Records has announced its December releases, which include an expanded release of the classic soundtrack from Richard Lester’s movie version of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway hit, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, featuring the film songs and the instrumental score by Ken Thorne, who won an Oscar for best music adaptation on this score in 1966. Also coming out this month is the complete score by Henry Mancini for SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE (1985), presented in a 3-CD set, and Mancini’s complete score for REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER. http://www.quartetrecords.com/
Perseverance Records is releasing “Los Angeles, 1937,” the unused score by Phillip Lambro from Roman Polanski´s movie CHINATOWN. For reasons explained in the extensive liner notes by film music writer Gergely Hubai, the soundtrack was ultimately rejected by Paramount. Now, this score is available for the first time – and on Perseverance Records exclusively. “Releasing the unused `Chinatown´ score has been our dream project ever since we did our first CDs with composer Phillip Lambro,” said Perseverance’s Robin Esterhammer. “You probably know Jerry Goldsmith´s replacement score, and now you have the chance to decide which one was a better fit for the movie.”
Games Music News
The 10th Annual Spike Video Game Awards have nominated Jack Wall's Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Neil Davidge’s Halo 4, and Austin Wintory’s Journey for best original game score. Winner will be announced December 7. See: http://www.spike.com/events/video-game-awards-2012-nominees/voting/best-original-score.
Jeff Broadbent has scored the Sony Online game PlanetSide 2. Music samples can be heard at:
Sumthing Else Music Works presents Inon Zur’s music for RIFT® Harmony of the Planes.
Jason Graves, an award winning composer with an outstanding pedigree across film, television and gaming is penning the original score for the Tomb Raider video game reboot, scheduled for 2013. In the third episode of The Final Hours of Tomb Raider (“The Sound of Survival”) host Zachary Levi spoke to Graves about his role in the reboot of the iconic franchise. The composer revealed his vision for the game’s soundscape and spoke about infusing atmosphere, emotion and authenticity into Lara’s origins story through his musical score - and illustrated his search to find the perfect sound for the game through his collaboration with sculptor Matt McConnell who created a wholly original instrument to aid Graves in bringing his unique sound to Tomb Raider. The new game is in development for a multi-platform release, and is slated to launch March 5, 2013.
Composer Winifred Phillips discusses her award-winning score for ASSASSINS CREED III: LIBERATION on the gametrain web site. See: http://gamentrain.com/gamentrain-spotlight-winifred-phillips/#.UL1oXYbheSc
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer. He has written liner notes for more than 120 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, FSM, Perseverance, Silva Screen, Harkit, Quartet, and BSX Records. A largely re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published: the first of this four-book series is now available. See: www.musiquefantastique.com
Randall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org