Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2012-6 
June 25th, 2012

By Randall D. Larson


Sam Hulick is a BAFTA award nominated and multiple award-winning composer, best known for creating the signature music for BioWare’s epic sci-fi franchise MASS EFFECT and the dramatic score for Tripwire Interactive’s groundbreaking RED ORCHESTRA 2: HEROES OF STALINGRAD. With a penchant for injecting powerful emotions and memorable themes, Sam’s original scores range from sweeping sci-fi and orchestral bombast to fantasy landscapes.

Q: What’s the most important attribute that music can bring to the interactive experience of gameplay, and how do you strive to achieve that in your scores?

Sam Hulick: I think in narrative games such as Mass Effect that are heavily story-based, the emotional aspect of music plays an enormous role. Since Mass Effect 3's release, we've read so many comments about people being moved to tears, and it's not just one aspect of the game evoking these emotions in the player, but visuals, story, and music working together. It's really powerful.

For me, writing emotionally provocative material is less of a structured and theoretical approach, and more of an organic and visceral one. I know I've hit the mark when I'm playing something and it affects me in the way that it's intended.

Q: What first brought you into scoring for games, and how did you get your first assignment scoring Maximo vs Army Of Zin?

Sam Hulick: I've always been into video games since I was a kid, and I picked up writing music as a hobby in my mid-to- late teens. I eventually knew that I wanted to make a career out of writing music, but wasn't sure which direction to go. But at that time, video game music was catching my interest more than film, so I went that route and spent as much time I as could honing my skills, asking a few professionals questions, sending out demo CDs. I joined the Game Audio Network Guild and won a composer contest in 2003. That helped to get my name out there more, and subsequently, Tommy Tallarico hired me to pitch in on Maximo vs Army of Zin for the PlayStation 2.

Q: How have the needs of music for games changed and evolved since that first score in 2003?  What is currently required of a composer in today’s blockbuster games like Mass Effect?

Sam Hulick: There's a lot more demand for higher production quality. In many cases, live orchestras are being used, certainly more frequently than ten years ago. Developers working on blockbuster games are super busy, and often on tight deadlines. They want to work with composers who understand their vision, can readily accept criticism, deliver on schedule, and deliver music that really stands out. Having a positive and enthusiastic attitude is super important.

Q: What would you say is unique about scoring a game versus writing a film or television score?

Sam Hulick: From my perspective as a composer for interactive media, scoring a film is basically like writing music for a collection of cutscenes all strung together. This is an oversimplification of course, but just to make a point that it's a very linear approach, while writing for games requires a bit of a different skill set because of its interactive and adaptive nature. You often have to write music in a way that it can be chopped up and delivered in separated layers so, for example, a certain level in a game can have different layers of intensity during combat. And oftentimes music has to be sliced at certain points so it can loop seamlessly, but still segue into an outro when triggered by something the programmers have coded in. There are even more creative uses of interactive music, such as giving the audio system a bunch of individual instrument tracks and having it intelligently piece them together to make music, a la Red Dead Redemption.

Q: How did you and Jack Wall develop the music for Mass Effect, and how did you both ensure that your individual efforts would integrate into a cohesive and driving score?

Sam Hulick: It just sort of worked itself out. We used some of the same sounds for consistency, but beyond that, I think we both just had a solid grasp on what BioWare was looking for from a stylistic standpoint. We definitely do have our own unique styles, and some people are able to pick that out, but in most cases you can't really tell by listening to it, who wrote what.

Q: Having scored all three editions of the Mass Effect game so far, how did the music develop and evolve from the first game through the new Mass Effect 3, in terms of scoring approach, budget, amount of music, etc?

Sam Hulick: The music of Mass Effect 1 was almost experimental in a sense. The style was something that hadn't really been heard in video games before. It wasn't just about the marriage of orchestral with synthesizers, but rather the style of synth used and how it was submerged in the same orchestral hall space as the acoustic instruments. Mass Effect 2 took a more cinematic approach, though still had roots in the original sound. Mass Effect 3, being the most emotionally gripping of the three installments, called for a score that would tug at people's heartstrings, though it was also a concrete goal to revisit the sound of Mass Effect 1. All three games have a staggering amount of music; I think each one has at least 100 minutes total.

Q: When writing a gamescore, what elements of the game – its plot, its action, its characters – do you key in on to center your music around?  What outside musical influences shape the music you write?

Sam Hulick: All three are crucial, in varying degrees, at different points throughout the game. Sometimes, for example, during a key cutscene involving a major character, I may want to focus in on a leitmotif for that individual. Or sometimes there's an ambient scene and my goal is to create a mood that puts the player in that space and evokes certain feelings that you might experience as if you were truly there.

I try to limit my outside influences when working on a game, and focus on "inside" influences instead, meaning I turn inward to the environment of the game, and any musical direction the producer or audio director has provided.

Q: Is it possible to maintain your own musical voice as a game composer?  To what extent do other game scores – and other film scores – influence the kind of music game developers are asking you to write?

Sam Hulick: It varies from developer to developer. You definitely can't have any grand notion that you're going to stroll into a game project and write this fantastic score based on some ideas you've been brewing over the past few months. It's usually the audio or music director's job to decide what the direction's going to be, and the composer is there to help realize that vision. That said, there is some creative freedom to varying extents. There certainly is some Hollywood influence on video games, and sometimes the musical references clearly reflect that. I never disregard musical direction, but if I think I have a better idea, I'll always give them a draft of what they asked for, and additionally send in my own idea and say, "Hey, give this a listen to and tell me what you think."

Q: Unlike the sci-fi world of Mass Effect, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad was set in the real world.  How did this affect the kind of music you (and the developers) felt was needed for this game?

Sam Hulick: We felt the right musical approach for Heroes of Stalingrad was to adapt a pseudo-classical sound, with two entirely separate styles for each side, the Soviets and the Nazis. The score still had a modern enough sound to be suitable as a soundtrack for a video game, but there are definitely characteristics of an older style there.

Q: How did researching the events depicted in the game give you a better feel for the music you would write?

Sam Hulick: I received a lot of briefing from Alan Wilson, VP of Tripwire on the events of the Battle of Stalingrad. I was also given some reference material in the form of a documentary which included some pretty heartbreaking accounts of the battle from Russian and German veterans. It was clear to me that the music had to reflect how harrowing an experience the Battle of Stalingrad must've been for those who experienced it.

Q: What are the tools of your trade? What synths and samplers do you find most useful in creating your scores and how has developing technology since you began enhanced your creative ability as a composer?

Sam Hulick: Cubase is my go-to sequencer lately, I love it. My setup includes a Mac Pro, a pair of Dynaudio near-field monitors, an 88-key MIDI keyboard, and an audio interface to connect that to the Mac. That's about the extent of my hardware, I like to keep it simple. Most of the workload is carried by my software. Samples have really come a long way since I started my career years ago. Advances in Kontakt's scripting engine has allowed for more "out of the box" use of samples. I used to have to have multiple tracks for one instrument ensemble, and do a hell of a lot of MIDI tweaking to get things to sound right. Now it's much easier, and the sound is so much more authentic. It also makes the production process more efficient and nimble; great for deadlines! I'm not sure it's really enhanced my creativity, but it's definitely improved my workflow.

Q: How do you develop and map out your themes-and-variations in a game score which, unlike the linear narrative of a film, needs to a myriad of interactive scenarios and situations?

Sam Hulick: Well, there's still a linear aspect to many of today's games, including Mass Effect. You can venture off on tangents, but there's still the main storyline that travels from beginning to end, what we call the critical path. So it's quite possible to figure out how one will approach a game score and use variations of a theme effectively throughout key points in the game.

Q: Your most recent game score is for Baldur's Game: Enhanced Edition, a remake of the popular late '90s game franchise. In this case the earlier scores were composed by a different composer [Michael Hoenig]. What were the challenges of composing the new game, as far as the need to reference any of the musical style of the first game (or not) and accompany the reimagined game with a score that is essentially new?

Sam Hulick: The biggest challenge is simply the fact that so many people are huge fans of the Baldur's Gate franchise, as well as fans of the music itself, myself included. Any time you're getting on board a project like this, there are bound to be expectations on how the soundtrack should sound. Luckily I'm quite familiar with Hoenig's work and while I'm writing original music for the new story content in BGEE, I'm also referencing some of Hoenig's orchestration techniques and signatures used throughout the previous games. My goal is to create something that sounds new and up-to-date, but at the same time is something that very decidedly belongs to the Baldur's Gate universe.

Q: What advantages does being a gamer as well as a composer give you for scoring video games?

Sam Hulick: I feel like being both a gamer and a composer lends a stronger passion and drive towards what we do. As gamers, we know what it's like to be so excited about a video game that it's all we can think about during the weeks leading up to its release. And as gamers and composers with a technical understanding of how adaptive music works, when we play games we're more prone to be analytical about how music is used interactively, and develop ideas on a technical level on how to improve upon what's already being done.

Q: What have you learned over the eight years since you began scoring games?  How have you developed personally as a composer and gamescore creator?

Sam Hulick: I feel like I've improved in leaps and bounds, not just musically, but on a business level as well. I've certainly been pushed out of my comfort zone a lot since then, working with a fairly wide range of musical styles. I've learned that while talent is necessary, being trustworthy, reliable and easy to work with are qualities that trump so many others that one may think are crucial in getting work.

For more information on Sam Hulick, see http://samhulick.com/

To hear samples of Sam's music from Mass Effect 3, visit:




Timothy Michael Wynn is an award winning composer for films, television and video games.  His music career is notable by the diversity of his credits; he has found success in scoring feature films, television series, video games and documentaries.  The first part of 2012 has been an exciting time for Tim. He released the highly anticipated Darkness II (2K Games), the first release for Fox Digital, WOLFPACK OF RESEDA and the TV series LUCKY SEVEN (Fuji TV).


Q: What’s the most important attribute that music can bring to the interactive experience of gameplay, and how do you strive to achieve that in your scores?

Timothy Michael Wynn: I think emotion is the most important element that music adds to the gaming experience.   Music needs to highlight how the player feels or is supposed to feel throughout the game.   Excited, happy, sad, mad, enlightened, you name it and music can enhance it.

Q: Music for games seems to be holding its own when compared to music for Hollywood blockbusters.  What would you say is unique about scoring a game versus writing a film or television score, and how have the needs of music for games changed and evolved since you began scoring them?

Timothy Michael Wynn: One thing that is unique with scoring games is that often times the score has to be edited to fit the action in the game.    You need to write music in layers that can be triggered and changed in an instant.    In films, all you worry about is the scene and how the music affects it.   The in-game scenes are treated exactly like movies.

Q: Your first game score was for THE PUNISHER, a spin off from the Thomas Jane feature film that was based on the Marvel comic.  How did you approach your first game score and was there any need to reference the music from the film?

Timothy Michael Wynn: The look of the movie was completely different than the game.   The plot was also different so I didn't look to the movie for inspiration.  I wanted a more guitar-driven score.   Frank Castle is a serious bad ass and the player needed to feel that.

Q: When writing a gamescore, what elements of the game – its plot, its action, its characters – do you key in on to center your music around?  What outside musical influences shape the music you write?

Timothy Michael Wynn: With each game it's different.   Some games need you to create an atmosphere.   Others are more story-driven.    I work very closely with the audio director to come up with a direction that will work best for the game.   Many times there will be a temp score that seems to work best for the pace of the game, but rarely is there anything that's 100% perfect.    It's my job to create a unique score that the player will hear and immediately think of the game.

Q: What is currently required of a composer in today’s blockbuster games like the recent COMMAND AND CONQUER series?

Timothy Michael Wynn: I don't find the blockbuster titles any different than the smaller titles.    The main goal is to get the music fitting perfectly for the game.   Regardless of the size of the game, I always want to create great music.   That's my focus. 

Q: Unlike the adventure/action-orientation of COMMAND AND CONQUER or DUNGEON SIEGE, your latest gamescore for THE  DARKNESS II generates an atmosphere of unease, suspense, and horror.  How have you crafted music to emphasize the scariness of the game as well as the action of the gameplay? 

Timothy Michael Wynn: I tried to create music tracks that could fit all of the atmospheres of the game.   The story of Jackie and Jenny was my main focus and the other elements came after.    I wanted to thread the main themes inside of the action, scary and uneasiness in the rest of the score.
Q: What’s your technique of discovering and developing new sounds in a game like THE DARKNESS II, and how to you interact music with the sound effects that are also in the game’s sonic mix?

Timothy Michael Wynn: At the very beginning of a new project I try to discover new ways to score, new musical modes to try.   I like to do as much research as possible to help me find ways to make a unique score.   There might be something in the story that inspires me to write in certain keys or time signatures, for example.

Q: THE DARKNESS II generates an especially provocative depth of orchestration, with orchestra and choir.  How have you merged acoustics with electronics and samples to create the game’s rich musical texture?  

Timothy Michael Wynn: Thanks for the compliment.    It can be challenging to make a live orchestra sound right with electronics and other elements.   I often think it doesn't always work in scores and I work hard at trying to make it sound right.   I always love to blend different elements together, whether it’s electronics or ethnic instruments to create an interesting bed of sounds.

Q: How do you develop and map out your themes-and-variations in a game score which, unlike the linear narrative of a film, needs to accommodate a myriad of interactive scenarios and situations?

Timothy Michael Wynn: That can be tricky sometimes.    With films it's easy to lay out the themes and develop them.   In games it happens differently. You have to lay it out a little more and anticipate situations.   Sometimes the game isn't completely laid out when you start to score, so there isn't a definite way to know about where the themes are used and how they should be developed.

Q: You also scored the Japanese TV series TOKYO CONTROL. How did you get that job and what kind of musical approach is needed for this show?

Timothy Michael Wynn: I was introduced to TOKYO CONTROL thorough my agent and co-producer Koyo Sonae. He was approached by the director Gaku Narita.   He was trying to break out of the traditional Japanese TV music and he selected me.  Like any time you are trying something new that's never been done before, the most important factor for me was keeping an open mind.  It's not the same as writing for a TV show here.  I don't get to score specific scenes really.  I get to read the script and imagine what the show needs. Gaku and the producer Daisuke Sekiguchi are such talented guys, it was an easy transition.

 Q: What can you tell us about scoring the werewolf comedy TV series, WOLFPACK OF RESEDA?  What kind of music is needed and how have you supported the episodes’ mix of humor and horror?

Timothy Michael Wynn: I was approached by the VP of production at Fox Digital, Steve Hein and the Producer, Gary Bryman.  We have worked on many projects together and these guys have been at the cutting-edge of technology and films.   After reading the script I was instantly interested in working on the series.  I have always loved shows that aren't too serious and can make you scared one scene and have you laughing the next.

Q: How have you and composer Corey Jackson swapped out scoring duties on the show? Which one of you wrote the title theme?

Timothy Michael Wynn: Corey and I collaborated on everything.    We had a tight schedule so after we spotted the first few episodes we immediately got to work on themes.    The director Chris Leone, Corey and I really had a good vision of what the score needed.   Corey and I work in the same studio so it was easy to share ideas and produce a great-sounding, cohesive score.

Q: What’s next for you – and where would you like to see yourself in another five years?

Timothy Michael Wynn: I am working on a few TV pilots and unannounced projects right now.   In five years I hope to keep up the diversity of my projects and to keep working with cool and talented people!

For more information on Timothy Michael Wynn, see http://timwynn.net/
Thanks to Greg O’Connor Read for facilitating both of these interviews.


New Soundtracks Releases of Note

LES ADIEUX A LA REINE/Bruno Coulais/Quartet Records
Spain’s Quartet Records has released a compilation of the three scores that Bruno Coulais composed for French film director Benoît Jacquot; their partnership has been described as “one of the most intense, daring and suggestive collaborations in modern French cinema.”   Coulais’ penchant for intricate melodies and creative orchestrations are well in evidence in these recordings; each of the scores is musically provocative in its own way. The single disc collection includes 14 tracks from 2012’s LES ADIEUX À LA REINE (Farewell to a Queen), which centers around Marie Antoinette’s final days at Versailles before the French revolution.  Coulais wrote a score for a full symphonic orchestra with a striking and powerful main theme. This score is especially tonally rich, while grounded in intricate piano lyrics that speak for the dethroned queen. 2010’s AU FOND DES BOIS (Deep In The Woods) tells a story of an unwanted sexual encounter/rape against the backdrop of France’s XIX century countryside, the film prompted an ambitious score based on an original concerto for violin and orchestra, and is represented by an extended 20-minute concert suite.  For 2009’s VILLA AMALIA, a film portraying the life of a pianist and composer facing a crisis, Coulais composed a set of brief piano pieces that come all together at the end to form a finished work; five tracks are presented.  Notes by Stephane Lerouge in both French and English are included in the 12-page booklet that described Coulais and Jacquot’s method of working together on these films.

BEREAVEMENT/Stevan Mena/Howling Wolf Records
As he did with his 2005 film MALEVOLENCE, director Steven Mena provided his own film score for that film’s 2010 prequel (a planned third film is intended to complete a trilogy).  In BEREAVEMENT we learn the origin of the young boy who, after being abducted by a deranged lunatic, is forced to partake in his captor’s homicidal tendencies.  The film benefits from excellent production values, a facet often absent from these types of independent films, and it’s to Mena’s credit that it’s all so well made.  The score contrasts a soft piano motif for the family against heavy industrial synths that create a brutal, forlorn atmosphere of utter hopelessness.  The two motifs describe the duality of the film and supplies the kind of brutal, gritty sound designish atmospheres currently in the vogue for horror films, supplying both the sense of innocence the boy comes from and the wanton, dark, shapeless tonalities of his forced career in serial murder. “What happened during the scoring for BEREAVEMENT was that I hired several outside composers to compose and arrange music,” Mena writes in the album’s booklet.  “But I just couldn’t convey what was in my head… so I burned through three composers.  I finally decided the only way I could do this is to roll up by sleeves and just find a way to write it out myself.”  Mena recognizes that he’s not a trained composer, but felt that he was able to derive the kind of musical sounds he had in mind when he wrote and made the film.  “I find that the right music, the way it’s constructed, evokes images in your mind like no other.”  One of the composers Mena had tried out was Jeff Grace, whose thick cello lines remain in several pieces of music ion the score; Mena rearranged them but kept their form intact to enhance his sound design’s texture.  It’s a haunting score made up of mostly disturbing and scary sounds, but it fit its film like a steady hand tightly gripping an axe handle and makes for an affecting listen in the dark.  Most of the cues are short, with two and a half minutes being the average, but the way they are constructed the score as a whole works as a single track, a resolute journey into darkness with little in the way of respite.

John Madden’s new romantic comedy has to do with seven retirees who move to India to spend their golden years in the promised lushness of the titular hotel, only to find it’s not quite ready – and that’s just the start of their problems.  Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson, the film makes the most of its exotic setting and mature love story.  Thomas Newman, who scored Madden’s last film, 2010’s espionage thriller THE DEBT, has brought in his characteristic percussive keyboard scoring style and inflected it with a heavy aroma of Indian music to serve as a lively backdrop for the film’s emerging storyline.   With some cues completely immersed in Indian musical traditions (the festive “Tuk Tuks” and the ambient “Udaipuir”), the score is at its best when it combines Hindi music with Newman’s own fluidly dramatic overtones (“Assault on the Senses,” “Cricket Spell”).  Ethnic vocals are also featured to great effect to reflect both the exotic landscape of India and the shared humanity of its people and the film’s protagonists, as in the title track, “More Than Nothing,” “Day 22,” and, especially the serpentine vocalise of “Not Yet The End” and “Progress.”  The score finds its resolution in the peaceful contentedness of “What Happens Instead” as the retirees find the silver lining behind the less exotic than advertised Marigold Hotel, which leads into the joyful end title track, “A Bit of Afters,” which is a blissful combination of ethnic flutes and voice over a rhythmic base of drums and electric bass. 

COSMOPOLIS/Howard Shore & METRIC/Howe Records
Howard Shore’s latest collaboration with director David Cronenberg has been released on his personal label.  Based on Don DeLillo’s novel, the film is a drama of a Manhattan billionaire on a journey of self-destruction; to give his score a modern contemporary vibe, Howard invited the Canadian indie rock/New Wave band METRIC to perform his score (the band also co-wrote three original songs with him that are heard in the film, “Long to Live,” “I Don’t Want To Wake Up,” and “Call Me Home;” Somali rapper K’naan supplies a fourth song).  The result is aptly described as “an atmospheric, urban soundscape of analog synths and layered guitars featuring the hypnotic vocals of METRIC lead singer Emily Haines.”  In a way, the music reminds me a lot of Shore’s score for Cronenberg’s CRASH, which was comprised of shifting metallic layers of electric guitars; COSMOPOLIS has that vibe and that kind of psychological poetry in its rhythmic structures.   With only seven score tracks (26 mins) and four songs, it’s an uneven mix but METRIC’s songs fit into the score’s vibe so well that they fit quite well into the music’s modern urban gloss (“Mecca” by K’naan I can do without entirely).  Aside from the reflections of Shore’s approach to scoring CRASH, this soundtrack is pretty atypical Shore; it works as an exercise in progressive, ambient rhythm and does have an agreeable contemporary vibe.  Shore’s work for Cronenberg has always been among his most experimental and unique music, as musically cutting edge as the director’s own visual aesthetic; it’s definitely worth a listen although may not appeal to all tastes.
(For audio clips from the album, visit www.howerecords.com/cosmopolis )

41/Mark Kilian/Lakeshore
Mark Kilian has adopted an intimate approach for this HBO documentary on former President George Bush, the 41st President of the United States, who recounts his life story - from his childhood in Kennebunkport, Maine to his service in World War II, from his time Directorship of the CIA to the White House.  Utilizing a 13-piece chamber group, Kilian’s score embellishes Bush Senior’s recollections with gentle melodies and subtle undercurrents that reflect the President’s wistful memories.  “I wanted to have the music enhance what the doc is – which is an intimate and warm portrait of man, his life and his family,” Kilian explained.  “It is not a critical study of the George H.W Bush presidency in any way, nor is it political or even presents an opinion. So the music is not political and big and explosive or anything like that. It is intimate, warm and mostly classical in nature drawing on the Americana sound.”  The music is thoroughly likable and on disc presents a warm palette of humanity through its pleasing melodies and acoustic textures.  Lakeshore releases the album on July 3rd.

GAME OF THRONES Season 2/Ramin Djawadi/Varese Sarabande
Ramin Djawadi’s music for the second season of HBO’s Emmy Award-winning fantasy/adventure series (based on George R. Martin’s fantasy A Song Of Ice And Fire) further develops the composer’s approach to the first season.  Djawadi’s score for CLASH OF THE TITANS brought him to the attention of THRONES’ producers, and despite initial reluctance that he had time to score the series, Djawadi hit a home run, providing some of his most ethereal, earthy, and relentlessly human music of his career.  Varese Sarabande’s album opens with the show’s main theme, reprised intact from the first season soundtrack.  It’s a welcome reprisal, a progression of layered figures that serves as the series’ Sigil, capturing in one simple musical phrase the essence of Westeros: the diverse landscapes and the political, familial, and emotional ties that exist between the kingdoms and Houses that occupy the world of Martin’s broad political fantasy.  With that Sigil as the show’s musical core, Djawadi extrapolated a complementary approach to scoring the series’ episodes.  Developed rhythmically and thick with organic grain, the score exudes differing textures (as opposed to signature themes) for various elements in the expanding storyline.   The composer was free to incorporate old and modern instruments alike to achieve a wide variety of timbres, from the honorable and bold music for the Starks of Winterfell to the strenuous horn war cries of the Dothraki.  Djawadi’s score for Season 2 develops these pieces further and introduces new ones for the saga’s new lands and plot turns, such as the mystical layering of thoughtful, singing woodwind tones that identifies the walled city of “Qarth,” a motif regenerated with a brooding darkness for its “House of the Undying” and the resident sorcerer, “Pyat Pree.”  A similar motif is provided for “Mother of Dragons,” one of several tracks in which the series’ main theme makes an appearance; here it reinforces the notion that Daenerys Targaryen and the trio of dragons she is raising lies at the core of the show’s developing mythos.  A melancholy cello melody serves as an affecting lament for “Winterfell,” which suffers at the hand of war.  “Wildfire” blazes with a growing cadence imparting a drum-laden crescendo that suggests the rolling waters outside of King’s Landing as enemy ships approach only to be repelled by the alchemical substance Tyrion Lannister has had concocted for the city’s defense.  The music never grows stale but generates a compelling orchestration based on rhythm and texture; each cue resonates with the permutations of character; the series music despite its fantasy elements is essentially rooted in humanity, and it’s the human-political ramifications (its “game of thrones”) that are central to the story and each of its many parts.  The album is not sequenced in strict show order, but presents the tracks in a way that benefits listening. Included in the album is a rendition of the song “The Rains of Castamere” by the indie rock band The National, sung by their vocalist Matt Berninger; the song was played over the end credits of the ninth episode, “Blackwater.” 

HATARI!/Henry Mancini/Intrada
Howard Hawks’ 1962 adventure-romance-comedy HATARI! has been one of my favorite films for a long time, just a splendid story despite its now rather politically incorrect subject matter (capturing wild African animals to send to captivity in American zoos).  John Wayne headlines a fine ensemble cast in a great story of camaraderie, daring do, and Hollywood romance across the African savannah.  And for a long time it’s also been one of my favorite Henry Mancini scores, not because of its cute lounge tunes like “Baby Elephant Walk” but because of its fine, dramatic underscore.  When a soundtrack album came out on RCA in 1962, as usual, it favored the pop tunes and source dance music at the expense of dramatic score.  A touch of the latter was present in the opening track, “Theme From Hatari,” and the LP’s extended Side 2 opener, “The Sounds of Hatari,” but left off, as with so many of Mancini’s albums of the ‘60s, the many varied permutations of his dramatic music heard during the animal hunts and adventures on the plains.  Fast forward forty years and Intrada has finally provided the true film score to HATARI! – all the easy listening mood music and fun comedic jazz tunes, and all the rich, beautifully textured African savannah music.  It’s truly a score to be savored.   Of additional note is that this album consists of the original soundtrack recordings; Mancini always re-recorded his film scores for album presentation, partly to focus his arrangements on easy listening and tuneful pieces his audience demanded, but mostly in order to re-record them in full stereo, rather than release the usual mono mixes heard in movie theatres in those days.  Originally Howard Hawks didn’t want any standard orchestral instruments to be heard anywhere in the HATARI! score; he insisted it all be played by native and unusual instruments; the reticence of Hawks’ then-regular composer, Dimitri Tiomkin, to do this ended their collaboration, and Hawks brought in Mancini, who eventually managed to get away with a lot more than native instruments, much to the score and film’s benefit.  Mancini’s main theme is an articulate rhythmic melody played on an instrument called a lujon, which Mancini had earlier used in his TV scores for MR. LUCKY; it plays over a bed of beaten Masai-styled light drums, detuned piano, Portuguese guitar, and mandolin (thanks to John Takis’ excellent album notes for the instrument identifications).   The unique tonality of the lujon gives the music an especially evocative and exotic timbre which instantly told American audiences they were in a far of and exotic locale.  The music for nearly all of the film’s animal hunt scenes is derived from this motif; variations of the “Main Theme/Sounds of Hatari!” occur in at least eight additional tracks hitherto unreleased, each a fascinating sonic adventure that vividly captures the sense of raging hoofbeats, whiplashed prairie grass, windblown hair, and capture-vehicles bouncing across rutted ground, and each with its own unique flavoring.  The only dramatic cues not drawn from the savannah motif are found in the snare drum rolls and furtive vibraphone reverberations that sound in the first half of “Brandy Sniffer,” and the pensive low piano echoes and anxious sustained winds of “Elephant Scare.”  The score’s lounge music – played on the stereo in the downtown Safari bar and in the ranch house on the animal hunters’ compound – is all present and includes much that wasn’t on the original RCA album, including the breezy “Paraphrase I” and “Paraphrase II” (both of which contain a striking melody not elsewhere heard in the score), the smooth keyboard roll “Safari Bar Piano Blues No. 1,” the lush and reflective “Burnt Fingers,” and the sultry night cap “Ice Bucket Blues.”  The film’s love theme “Just for Tonight,” written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, was sung by chorus on the RCA album; it is preserved here in that format as well as its very nice instrumental variation.  A subordinate love theme plays when “Dallas Has a Plan,” and is a wonderfully sumptuous melody (it was re-recorded as “The Soft Touch” on the RCA album).  The film’s most popular track, the enchanting “Baby Elephant Walk,” with its delightful parade of clarinet over boogie-woogie calliope, is heard in three versions, including the humorous and cartoonlike “Search for Dallas,” rippling with its comical “Charge!” fanfares [answered, in the film, by resounding elephant calls].  Eclipsed by “Baby Elephant Walk” but every bit its equal, “Your Father’s Feathers” (heard when the group tries to corral a trio of escaped ostriches), is a delightful romp from flutes over a boogie-woogie piano and hoe-down fiddle, very nicely presented in its original soundtrack arrangement here (Mancini extended it by a minute and a half for his album).  The new album is a thorough delight and presents the score as heard in the film in a proper recording that keeps all the nuances of its dramatic and party music intact.
(For more excellent behind-the-scenes info on HATARI! get the current issue of Cinema Retro magazine, which includes a feature story on the making of the picture.  See http://www.cinemaretro.com )
 (Intrada also released a similar restorative album of Mancini’s CHARADE score; while it’s more jazz based to begin with, there are a dozen or more great dramatic cues, including some splendid variants on its main theme, that never made it onto the 1963 album; it also is essential Mancini.  May I now hold my breath for a full ARABESQUE score album, please?)

Among Bruce Kimmel’s latest soundtrack CD releases is this unique oddity, containing the library score for the 1958 low-budget sci-fi charmer, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE.  The film did not contain an original score but was tracked with dozens of library cues stocked in the Paramount Studios music library.  This was a common practice in scoring low-budget movies in the ‘40s and ‘50s, with inconsistent effectiveness.  In the case of I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, it’s a library score that works marvelously, each cue picked carefully for maximum effectiveness in a scene-by-scene basis.  Kimmel has located the library tracks that made up I MARRIED’s underscore, carefully tagged each one by source and authorship, and put them together in film order to make a splendid soundtrack presentation on CD.  Featuring the work of Aaron Copland, Hugo Friedhofer, Hans Salter, Walter Scharf, Leith Stevens, Nathan Van Cleave, Franz Waxman, Roy Webb, Victor Young, and others, the music is a welcome cornucopia of late ‘40s and early ‘50s film music, culling dramatic and source music tracks from a diverse assortment of films including APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951), CONQUEST OF SPACE (1955), THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954), NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950), SHANE (1953), SORRY WRONG NUMBER (1948), WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), and others to arrive at a complementary and effective score.  Significantly, with the exception of one cue from Stevens’ WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and two from Van Cleave’s CONQUEST OF SPACE), none of the scores that make up I MARRIED’s underscore are from horror or sci-fi films; a tribute to the music’s durable effectiveness in new context.  Sixteen tracks compile Kritzerland’s I MARRIED score – the album is filled out with 11 tracks from Leith Stevens’ score for the 1952 sci-fi programmer, THE ATOMIC CITY, an elegantly dramatic orchestral score that runs the gamut from tender familial poignancy to tension-filled suspense and thrilling, adventurous melodies.  The music (I MARRIED came  from the Paramount vaults; ATOMIC CITY from a set of preserved acetates) is in very good condition for its age and status, with very few sonic anomalies.  A very worthwhile pair of scores to preserve from the 1950’s heyday of low-budget sci-fi.  (1959’s THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS, by the way, is another terrific library score that would be well served by similar treatment!)  PS: Kritzerland has also released Dana Kaproff’s classic 1979 score to WHEN A STRANGER  CALLS.  In a day when most slasher and slasher-like thrillers were being scored by tinkling synths and pianos in the style of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, Kaproff composed a slithery, sinewy orchestral score, building tension through a mélange of smooth, fluid string lines.  A fairly dark, nonthematic score with no pretty melodies to serve as a calming voice in the midst of the incessant terror; it’s a haunting work that retains its musical sensibility and melodic tonality.

MUSIC FROM THE TWILIGHT SAGA/Burwell-Shore-Desplat/Silva Screen
No matter what you say about the validity (or lack of it) of the TWILIGHT series to vampire literature and cinema, once must admit that the five films house astonishingly beautiful scores.  With Carter Burwell scoring the first film ,TWILIGHT, and revisiting its score in the fourth and film entries, BREAKING DAWN Parts 1 and 2, and Alexandre Desplat and Howard Shore having a go at Bella in NEW MOON and ECLIPSE in between, the scores resonate with a lyrical clarity that belies the vapidness of the saga’s concept.  Silva Screen, in their latest compiled reassessment of orchestral film music, provides sumptuous re-recordings (by their usual orchestra, the City of Prague Philharmonic) of the first four film scores (the album was completed before the fifth film made it out of the gates).  Conducted by Evan Jolly (three tracks by James Fitzpatrick), the performances are richly elegant and dynamically mastered.  The emphasis in these scores, as in the books and films, is on romantic angst with vampires and werewolves relegated to bad habits, like drinking or bad body odor, and the music therefore follows a delicious romantic track, which is all to its benefit, and the music is thoroughly lovely. While all of course are available on their own original soundtrack albums, this single-disc compilation (5 to 7 tracks from each of the first four films) makes for a very fine and quite faithful concert-styled presentation of the series’ musical lynchpins.

MARCIA TRIONFALE/Nicola Piovani/Quartet Records
This first CD appearance of an early score by Nicola Piovani is an excellent work in one of the composer’s most productive periods.  1976’s MARCIA TRIONFALE (Victory March) is a drama about an Italian soldier’s disillusionment with the military after enlisting in the army.  Piovani’s score is constructed from a number of strikingly melodic themes, each associated with one of the three main characters, as well as a catchy military march that bookends the film.  Excluding those main/end credit tracks, Piovani’s circulates his trio of themes throughout the album’s six score tracks, where they interact complementarily.  “Riuscire Con l’Audacia” opens with a rather raspy A cappella male chorus (singing the regiment’s anthem) which is a bit jarring before seguing back into score at 0:30 (the cue incorporates three separate film cues).  A pair of source cues are included on the album, a lively instrumental from a restaurant scene (“Pizzapop”) and a cool homage to Italian pop music (oddly titled “Military Music”) that was replaced in the final film with a Top 40 pop song.  Originally issued on LP by Beat Records in 1976 (that edition was edited by the composer himself for a better listening experience), this premiere CD reissue recreates the original album program without additional material (the disc already has more music than the film as several cues written for the movie were not used).  A 12-page booklet includes thorough notes by Gergely Hubai, discussing film, director, composer, and score in detail.

1 OUT OF 7/Frederik Wiedmann/Kaleido Sound
This 2011 drama about a teenage runaway (the title comes from the tagline, “two million American youth run away from home each year. One in seven will live on the streets before the age of 18”) features a fine, reflective score by Frederik Wiedmann which is now available for download via iTunes.   The film had a limited theatrical run score last March and is currently available for online viewing on amazon and iTunes.  “The music is very different from my usual work in the horror genre and I am quite proud of it,” Wiedmann said.  “It’s got a little bit of a Radiohead sound to it.”  Built of rhythms and subdued textures, the music lays down a modern vibe of electric guitars, piano, and synths; shifting layers of reverberating and tremolo ambiance provide an underlying resonance to the film that suggests the isolation and dejection experienced by Lexi, the runaway.  The music articulates Lexi’s psychological and emotional pain through progressive arpeggios and repetitive plucks of electric guitar, beaten cadences of percussion and bass, and despondent whirrs of synths.  As things start to look up, the music takes on more of a confident rhythm and assurance, although the score’s overall tonality remains one of bleak despair.  It makes for an interesting atmospheric vibe when listened to on its own, and the Radiohead reference is apt.  It’s a rock soundtrack but one ensconced in the character’s pessimistic desolation, despite its bright and sparkling sonic textures.  Esther Canata sings a vocal version of the score’s main riff in the cautionary “When Will You Shine Again,” heard over the end credits.
((see my Dec. 10, 2011 column here for an interview with Wiedmann.))

THE PACT/Ronen Landa/Screamworks
In Nicholas McCarthy’s 2011 ghost thriller, THE PACT, a woman who struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother’s death confronts an unsettling presence emerging in her childhood home.  Based on McCarthy’s 2010 short film of the same name, the film stars Caity Lotz and Casper Van Dien. 
Composer and 2011 Sundance Institute Fellow Ronen Landa composed the short and was brought back to expand that score for the feature film, which has been released digitally and on CD by Screamworks Records.  The score is a potent mix of electronics and acoustics, featuring performances from violinist Anna Bulbrook (of indie rock band The Airborne Toxic Event) and pianist Dan Tepfer. The mix balances the score’s darker, sound-designish moments with a sinew of elegantly performed melodic figures that entwine the score like the presence that floats through the heroine’s home.  The score’s main theme, “Her Little Dreams,” is a gentle, minimalist piano melody, counterpointed by violin, which encapsulates a lilting yet reserved melody and serves as the focal point for the heroine’s journey through supernatural terror.   The shadowy, metallic, and stretched-out atonal material that delineates the horrors abiding within the heroine’s home are a disturbing craftwork of synth, musique concrete, and percussion, through which the violin and piano material continually emerges as a voice of humanity within the threatening confines of the haunting visitation.  “I was introduced to (director) Nick McCarthy by a mutual friend and we quickly bonded over our shared love of classic film scores,” said Landa.  “I was fortunate that Nick gave me the opportunity to compose some chilling music for the original short – he brought back his entire key production team for the feature and we worked together closely to create a terrifying but emotionally resonant score to accompany the film.” Inspired by the haunted house central to the film, Landa found sounds in his own home to use in the score. “I used my washer/dryer, radiator, wine glasses, bottles, etc. to create some of the percussion and textures,” he said.  Modern horror film music is often difficult to listen to on its own, as nonmusical textures and synthetic tones tend to create layers of sound patterns that induce great apprehension and anxiety when watching the movie but are sometimes less welcome got listening on home stereos or iPods.  Landa’s score walks the narrow line between unpleasant sonic textures and intriguing, albeit dark, musical landscapes, given much of its attractiveness through the acoustic sonorities that wander through the score’s shuddery synthetic corridors.  Cinema Without Borders, in their review of the film, described Landa’s score as “an astounding auditory journey... an intricate and delightful aural treat,” and that is indeed the music’s primary appeal away from the film.  Landa creates a mesmerizing spectrum of sound that immerses the listener in its aural depths.  Far from being a thematic or even motifically developed work, THE PACT is a sonic cloud into which the listener can journey for a time, its breadth of musical and sound textures, from strict synthesized patterns and reverberant percussive shapes to eerily strident and very avant garde violin and piano figures (“Bloodshots” is an especially potent mixture of the two, and the score’s dramatic centerpiece; the track that follows, the redemptive “Letting Go,” completes the heroine’s journey with a provocative duet between piano and violin, each echoing the other’s softly spoken voice in slowly increasing velocity and confidence, leading into a reprise of the main theme in the final track).  A bonus track, the haunting vocal lullaby “The Judas Song” concludes the album.  “Horror films scare me to pieces!” Landa admitted.  “I find watching them to be something of a traumatic experience, but they are also an amazing canvas for inventive music.  So as a composer it was an exciting challenge to score THE PACT, but I definitely had to do it with the lights on!”

PROMETHEUS/Marc Streitenfeld/Sony
Ridley Scott’s much-debated metaphysical science fiction film, originally intended to be a direct prequel to his groundbreaking 1979 thriller ALIEN until it turned into something far more speculative, contains an effective score by Scott’s currently regular composer Marc Streitenfeld.  The music is quite powerful in supporting the film but less interesting on its own on the Sony album; among its best tracks are “Friend From The Past,” which briefly quotes from Jerry Goldsmith’s ALIEN score and thus gives the score a tremendous association through the reference, and the two tracks comprising additional music composed late in post-production by Harry Gregson-Williams (“Life” and “We Were Right”), which gave the film more of a melodic/thematic grounding.  Streitenfeld’s strength is in developing atmosphere, but not so much in composing melodic themes (this Gregson-Williams’ late contribution).  Streitenfeld’s score is at its best in its atmospheric cues, particularly those accompanying Scott’s widescreen vistas of terrestrial and alien landscapes (the opener, “A Planet,” “Earth,” “Small Beginnings”), the cues dealing with the film’s metaphysical speculation and the Engineers, which are generally articulated by the splendid resonance of French horn and choir (“Engineers,” “Weyland,” “Friend From the Past,” “Invitation” and, especially, the two Gregson-Williams tracks), and those action sequences that are overlaid with those story themes (the powerful ascendance of horn and choir in “Space Jockey” before the drums turn it all into dreary mush, and the ominous, sacrificial reverence of “Collision”).  The score is less persuasive and less cohesive in its cacophonous action material, which tends to be overly synthetic and simplistic (the familiar electronic atmospherics of “Not Human” and “Try Harder,” the dull, repeated 2-note cycle of “Too Close,” the related 2-note chorale semblance of “David” with its bland electronica overtones, and the noisy industrial shrieking of “Planting The Seed”).   Better off on disc are the tracks “Discovery,” which also harbors some nicely spooky ambiances, and the claustrophobic panic of the auto-doc caesarian sequence, “Hello Mommy,” which seems to take an effective page or two out of the James Horner book of dissonant terror, and is more coherent because of it.  It’s an uneven score, but its more powerful and awe-inspiring moments, noted above, are appreciable.
(and by the way for a very interesting and provocative speculation about the meaning behind PROMETHEUS, read Cavalorn’s blog here.)

ROOM 36/Scott Benzie/KeepMoving Records
Scott Benzie’s noirish orchestral score for this comedy/thriller was originally composed and recorded in 2002. The film debuted that year at Cannes but didn’t find a commercial release until 2005, and a DVD premiere five years after that.  KeepMoving Records has now released the original soundtrack to the film, nicely performed by the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra. The CD features a new mix created especially for the album.  The music maintains a heavy orchestral weight with a number of stylistic echoes of classic Herrmann and contemporary Goldenthal laced throughout; the score has the splendid atmosphere of a 1940s melodrama.  Graced with a full symphonic orchestra performance, the score sounds tremendous, and Benzie’s writing is quite the match to the Westminster Phil’s prowess.  More motific than noticeably thematic, Benzie creates tonal colors in dark, muted shades, sparkling with harsh, NORTH BY NORTHWEST-ish punctuation.  It makes for a very fine listen.  ROOM 36 was Benzie’s debut score, who went on to score more than a dozen films since, including indie thrillers like SOUL SEARCHER (2005), TEN DEAD MEN (2008), FEAR EATS THE SEOUL (2011), GRAVE TALES (2011) and numerous short films.  The album notes by Gergely Hubai provide insight into the film's troubled production history and a lot of information about the score with new comments by director Jim Groom and composer Scott Benzie.
See: www.keepmovingrecords.com/eng/disc/46/

A ROYAL AFFAIR/ Gabriel Yared & Cyrille Aufort/MovieScore Media
Described as a ‘major asset’ of the film by The Hollywood Reporter, the “full-bodied score” by Gabriel Yared and Cyrille Aufort for Nikolaj Arcel’s Danish costume drama A ROYAL AFFAIR has been released on CD by MovieScore Media.  Oscar-winning composer Gabriel Yared (known for his elegant, and richly melodious drama scores) joins newcomer Cyrille Aufort (who worked as an orchestrator for Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat and got his impressive feature film scoring breakthrough with SPLICE in 2009) to embody this 18th Century love triangle with a handsomely sophisticated orchestral score.  The music reinforces the notion of forbidden passion that threatens to topple the Danish royalty, the melodies always restrained and fairly covert; this is shown in the predominant descending melodic structure of the main theme, “Caroline’s Theme.”  At the same time, the stimulating romantic allure that provoked the forbidden alliance is elsewhere expressed, as “Hope Theme” and also in “Love Scene” (where “Caroline’s Theme" is allowed its fully rapturous expression).   The score reaches its apotheosis in “Execution,” when submission to prohibited desire pays its ultimate price and the score crescendos in a paean of yearning passion and, finally, dissipates in a melancholy despondency of loss.  A sad “Adagio” provides a concluding refrain of “Caroline’s Theme,” a tone poem for loss and longing.

SONDERDEZERNAT K1 /Martin Böttcher/AllScore
Martin Böttcher’s splendid Eurospy score for this 1972 German TV series finally emerges on compact disc courtesy of the efforts of Chris’ Soundtrack Corner and All Score Media.  With 31 tracks and more than an hour of catchy, jazz-pop tunesmithing, this is a fine addition to the growing preservation of Euro-pop and Euro-spy scores of the 1970s.  Böttcher, who at the time was composing emblematic soundtracks for the Karl May films and the Edgar Wallace mysteries, created a musical backdrop that flowed with easy listening jazz, lounge, and pop beats.   Böttcher laced his main faux bossa-nova theme throughout the episode scores in sufficient variety that it never grows tired, and there are enough standalone tunes to hold their own against those recycled refrains.  Subordinate themes include “Bubi,” a likable electric guitar melody over a fountain of pop drum and bass; an instrumental shake for “Heller,” and the infectious cool of the “Blumenmörder” theme.  The score is steeped in contemporary pop combo grooves – electric guitars, drum kit, and rhythm section – and generates the kind of Euro-exotica sound that is unique to Continental cop and spy movies of the era, even if the show maintained more of a standard (less stylish) visualization.  There’s little musical drama in the score; instead it proffers enthusiastic rhythms and pop atmospheres that embellish the detective story with a nifty post-60s vibe; although many cues are scene- and situation-specific, such as the Eastern European mood of “Turkisches Amulett,” the pensive, suspense riff “Verfolgung in Altona”, the gorgeous harmonium (?) lyric in “Flucht” (included in an alternate arrangement with the melody taken by vibraphone, and later reprised in “Kornberg Am Bahndamm”),  the fine xylophone groove piece, “Ernie Und Der Erpresser,” and the ultra-cool mix of sultry vibraphone and finger snapping percussion and ratchet in “Warten Auf Die Rockergang.”  There are also the requisite standalone source music cues, which comprise some first-rate jazz and pop, and some splendid female vocalise in tracks like “Sunshine” and “Oelker Auf Abwagen.”  Böttcher’s main theme has become one of the most popular melodies from German TV, which has popped up in commercials and other venues in the years since even though the original soundtrack has gone unreleased until now.  In 1979, Böttcher issued a re-recorded and re-arranged album of tunes from the show called Mord im Dreiviertel-Takt, but this new release, coinciding with the composer’s 85th birthday on June 17th, provided the original cues for the first time in a very cool compendium of 31 tracks, supported by a 20-page, glossy booklet containing many colored stills plus fairly short liner notes in German and English.
See: www.allscore.de/sites/ASM_036.htm 


Soundtrack & Music News

Brett Hart and Harry Knowles on the set of AICwHK. (Photo via Brett Hart)

It’s not specifically film music-related but it’s likely to be of interest to readers.   Ain’t It Cool with Harry Knowles, aided by director Brett A. Hart (who helmed the fantastic thriller BONE DRY, starring Lance Henriksen) is the coolest genre interview online show I’ve seen in years.  Each episode Harry Knowles, the mastermind behind the Ain’t It Cool News web site, and a fan’s fan of movies especially sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, interviews a notable film director, writer, special effectsman and other significant and worthy figure of boss cinema from the Ackermansionesque confines of Harry’s basement lair.  Take a look at Harry’s recent chat with Seth Graham-Smith about the movie versions of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER and PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES at http://www.aintitcool.com/node/56523
You can also grab a pick list of Harry’s interviews at youtube’s Nerdist Channel page:

Hans Zimmer will move from The Dark Knight to the Man of Steel when he scores Zack Snyder’s new Superman movie, MAN OF STEEL.  From the bold and brassy anthems of John Williams and John Ottman, Zimmer’s more rhythmic style may give the super-hero a different tonality.  In an interview last year with The Hollywood Reporter (quoted here by comingsoon.net), Zimmer seemed reluctant to take on the challenge of scoring Superman.  "My heart belongs to Batman," he said. "I wouldn’t even know how to go and give voice to it."  Zimmer went on to explain that one of the troubles with tackling the character musically is that, in doing so, one can't help but fall in the shadow of John William's iconic score. "[It] happens to be one of his greatest themes," Zimmer said, calling Williams "the greatest living composer". "So no. And I’m not thinking of rewriting Beethoven’s ninth either. It just sounds like a thankless task, you know? So that’s unequivocally a no."  Whatever has happened to change Zimmer's mind, said comingsoon.net, remains to be revealed.  The films opens June 14th – next year.  Via http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=91624

After PARADISE LOST being canceled and WORLD WAR Z being pushed back until June 2013 (from an originally planned December release), Marco Beltrami has been working on two other projects.  The first of them is WARM BODIES (scheduled for a Feb. 2013 release), which is the new project for Jonathan Levin (50/50).  It’s based on the Isaac Marion novel about the romance between a zombie and the girlfriend of one of his victims, which sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world.  Marco has also signed to score the upcoming thriller SNOWPIERCER, directed by Joon-ho Bong (THE HOST).  The movie tells the story of a group of characters struggling to coexist on a train traveling through a world covered by snow of the new ice age. – via marco-beltrami.com

David Poland from Movie City News has published a 30-minutes video interview with composer Patrick Doyle in his DP/30 series. During the interview, Doyle discusses his work on BRAVE and how he got involved in his first project for Pixar. The composer also talks about how he got started in the industry and his early film scores. 

- via filmmusicreporter.com

On the 9th of July, Silva Screen Records will release the soundtrack to THE WICKER TREE, director Robin Hardy’s follow-up to his 1973 classic THE WICKER MAN. The soundtrack will be a 2CD set featuring a score composed by John Scott and songs by Keith Easdale.  The film follows the story of two devout Christians who become enmeshed in the strange ways of a Scottish community, with the music and songs once more a driving force of the film’s story, much like its predecessor, THE WICKER MAN.
- via silvascreen.com

New from Quartet Records of Spain: world premiere release of Dave Grusin’s score to the Stuart Rosenberg cult mafia-film THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (1984).  A warm jazz-based tune opens an outstanding score range of styles: from rhythmic jazz-funk to electronic sounds, from full symphonic music to bittersweet piano pieces “made in the Grusin style”. In fact, this score is a delight for Grusin fans because it is a perfect compendium of his approaches, including the dramatically complex orchestrations of THE YAKUZA, the contemporary jazz sounds of TOOTSIE, the delicacy of THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and his subsequent noir score for MULHOLLAND FALLS.  In addition to his original score, Grusin adapts and conducts one of the most memorable and thematic uses of jazz standards in New York City’s cinematic history, all of them included in the "extras" section of this album. 
Although this was a major work in the composer's career, the album of “The Pope of Greenwich Village” was never released. Fortunately a complete set with the 24 multi-tracks session were preserved in the MGM vaults in mint condition. Every second of music composed, adapted and recorded by Dave Grusin has been included in this album.  The 20-page booklet includes liner notes by Daniel Schweiger, with also provides exclusive interviews with Dave Grusin and producer Gene Kirkwood, who discuss the film's production history and music.

Also new from Quartet is George Fenton’s sultry noir score for John Bailey’s CHINA MOON, an erotic thriller aesthetically close to BODY HEATGeorge Fenton’s intense score is very much in the BODY HEAT mode, although neither score resembles the other outside of their predominant noir-ish sensibility. Fenton favors a bluesy trumpet over electric piano and light drums for his main theme, with a sparkling percussion ringing that glints like refracted moonlight across the score’s shadowy soundscape. This album has been assembled and mastered using the original digital masters, courtesy of MGM, and the composer's own tapes, all in a pristine stereo sound. The package includes 16-page full color booklet with liner notes and track-by-track analysis by Randall D. Larson.

Quartet Records also announces the first volume dedicated to Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy. Sought-after and wanted by horror film music buffs around the world, Naschy’s film soundtracks remained, almost in its entirety, unpublished. In the last months the label has managed to recover the tapes of some of the mythical actor’s films. We start this collection with HOWLING OF THE DEVIL, one of his most personal and obscure movies. A intense horror music written by Fernando García Morcillo (Composer of some Spanish ‘cult-movies’ like THE CANNIBAL MAN and NO ONE HEARD THE SCREAM in the early '70s) that allows parody and pays homage to several genre classics.
See: www.quartetrecords.com

Coming on July 10th from Howard Shore’s Howe Records is Shore’s score for the multiplayer online role-playing game, Soul of the Ultimate Nation (SUN), which he began composing in 2004 while he was in Moscow conducting The Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Kremlin. Following the Moscow concerts he traveled with the orchestra and chorus for another three concerts in Tokyo.  “I was still composing the music for SUN at this time and while in Japan I decided I wanted to write the piece specifically for this orchestra and chorus,” said Shore. “I wanted the chorus to sing in ancient Korean as a way to express the world of SUN. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring together the western and eastern concepts at play. The pieces were composed as tone poems to express the different characters, cultures and the world of this wonderfully detailed game.”  The game SUN has gradually made its way around the world although the music has only been released in parts of Asia. Now for the first time, as the second Collector’s Edition series of the Composer’s work, Howard Shore’s original score for SUN is available to a worldwide audience. Via http://howerecords.com/

Intrada has released the world premiere release of a fun, evocative Charles Bernstein score for the 1979 comedy vampire film, LOVE AT FIRST BITE.  While George Hamilton as the Transylvanian vampire plays the story strictly for laughs, Bernstein plays it straight and provided a classic vampire movie score with lots of aching violin melodies, menacing cimbalom figures, and delirious piano on top of a 55-piece orchestra provide a Gothic-tinged Eastern European color counterpointed against an up-tempo vibe of 1970's disco as the fanged Impaler finds love and romance in modern New York City. Additionally Intrada has also reissued Bill Conti’s score to He-Man, She-Ra, and the other MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE; Intrada’s presentation contains the same complete score as the sold-out 2008 2-CD release from La-La Land (without the addition of the original album presentation), on a single disc release.
This special 2CD SET contains Bill Conti’s previously unreleased complete score, along with the full original album soundtrack presentation – all digitally remastered

Kritzerland’s latest release combines two great scores by Leigh Harline from 1957 onto one jam-packed CD. THE WAYWARD BUS, based on the Steinbeck novel, and THE ENEMY BELOW, a splendid World War II film about enemy captains engaged in a deadly battle of wits.  Harline’s score for THE WAYWARD BUS is filled with the longing and yearning of its characters, while that for The Enemy Below is thrilling and memorable.  This is the world premiere release of THE WAYWARD BUS, its complete score restored by Nick Redman’s team.  THE ENEMY BELOW was previously released on Intrada (and quickly sold out); Kritzerland has remastered it and includes every note of Harline’s score, but omits the bonus tracks from the Intrada CD, which consisted of a few German drinking songs and some radar blips.

Italy’s Digitmovies has launched a new DigitSoundtracks digipack series, created in response to requests from many collectors who wanted to see products made with a new and most elaborate graphics.  The first title offers 2 CDs of music from Angelo F. Lavagnino’s score to 1962’s VENERE IMPERIALE (Imperial Venus), in which Gina Lollobridgida stared as Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon's wanton, sensuous sister. Lavagnino composed an epic and romantic score which was masterfully conducted by Carlo Savina.  Also announced from Digitmovies are Claudio Rustichelli’s Western score for BASTARDO, VAMOS A MATAR (1971; aka BASTARD, GO AND KILL), Carlo Savina’s score for Mario Caiano's giallo thriller OMBRE ROVENTI (1970), Mario Nascimbene’s peplum adventure LE BACCANTI (1961), and Gino Marinuzzi’s peplum fantasy MARTE, DIO DELLA GUERRA (1962; aka THE SON OF HERCULES VS. VENUS).

Meanwhile, Italy’s GDM offers two new Hillside Productions’ Western soundtracks, Carlo Rustichelli’s UCCIDI O MUORI (1966; Kill or Be Killed) and Stelvio Cipriani’s UN UOMO UN CAVALLO UNA PISTOLA (1967; A Man A Horse A Gun).  And Beat Records has issued Francesco De Masi’s Western score to 7 DOLLARI SUL ROSSO (1966; 7 Dollars On The Red) for the first time on CD.  This jewelbox edition contains the original LP selection along with 13 never released before tracks for a running time of more than 60 minutes.

New from KeepMoving Records, a specially soundtrack label in Moscow, Russia, is classical composer Terry Plumeri's fine and noir-ish score to NIGHT EYES 3, Andrew Stevens' sexy 1993 crime thriller. The score greatly surpasses the film's exploitative nature with a fine evocative orchestral work. I shared the album notes with Terry in this one - writing about the film (including interviewing Stevens) while Terry discussed his musical approach in detail.


Newton Classics has reissued three of Charles Gerhardt’s “Classic Film Scores” (all but one of which were reissued digitally only by Sony last year) in a 3-CD set.  Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic’s authoritative renderings of Max Steiner’s GONE WITH THE WIND (CD1 ), Franz Waxman’s SUNSET BOULEVARD And Others (CD 2), and The Spectacular World of Classic Film Scores (the compilation set of leftovers which was not reissued by Sony, and included such notable presentations as Dimitri Tiomkin’s THE THING [FROM ANOTHER WORLD] among more popular titles like STAR WARS, CAPTAIN BLOOD, PEYTON PLACE, etc).  The new set carries the appropriate title of Famous Film Scores, and is distributed by Naxos and available through amazon and elsewhere.

The Carl Davis Collection has reissued Davis’ new recording of the music of Charles Chaplin's 1931 film, CITY LIGHTS. The picture was released at the time that talkies were taking off but Chaplin decided that it was to be a silent film as his Tramp had always communicated with a worldwide audience through mime. Chaplin decided as it was his first picture with synchronized sound to compose the musical score himself, with the music being delegated to a team of arrangers. “I did not write it down,” Chaplin explained, “I la-laed, and Arthur Johnston wrote it down… It is all simple music to keep with my character.”  Chaplin insisted that the final score not be arranged to sound like funny or comedic music. “
I wanted no competition,” said Chaplin.  “I tried to compose elegant and romantic music to frame my comedies.”  Davis had arranged the score for a 1989 recording, which is the source of this new reissue.  The album includes thorough liner notes about the film and Chaplin’s score by David Robinson, as well as introductory comments from Davis.  Also released recently from the Carl Davis Collection is a reissue of Davis’ new score for the 1925 silent version of BEN-HUR.  Davis composed the new score for a 1989 rerecording by the London Philharmonic; the reissue is a remastered edition of that recording.  Davis based his new BEN-HUR music on a Straussian “Natur Terma,” and also quoted a well-known part of the liturgy choosing the simple phrase known as the “Dresden Amen.”

Coming up from Varese Sarabande: the song score from Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES on July 3rd, John Powell’s ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT on July 10th, Bruno Coulais THE CHORUS (reissue with five bonus tracks; originally released by Nonesuch in 2005) on July 24th, and James Newton Howard’s THE BOURNE LEGACY on July 31st.

Lakeshore Records will release the soundtrack to THE ODYSSEYdigitally on July 3, 2012.  The soundtrack features original music by Antonio Pinto (CITY OF GOD) and Dudu Aram (aka Ali Disco B).
THE ODYSSEY was commissioned especially for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.  The film combines epic aerial images with the voices of Londoners to chart the city's turbulent yet inspiring journey from winning the bid in 2005 to the 2012 Olympics.  On June 19th the label will release the music for the comedy film PEOPLE LIKE US, composed by Academy Award winning composer A.R. Rahman (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 127 HOURS). “My challenge with PEOPLE LIKE US was to score with less instruments, but still capture the heart the film needed,” said Rahman. “I wanted a certain imperfection in the texture and sounds to reflect the characters of the movie.”  The soundtrack includes the new song “Dotted Line,” a collaboration between Rahman and Liz Phair. Also on June 19th comes SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, a humorous, moving, and intimate journey against an epic backdrop of Earth’s final days, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley; the soundtrack features music by Rob Simonsen (ALL GOOD THINGS) and Jonathan Sadoff (GOOD TIME MAX).  “The movie is a comedy, but the end of the world is a real thing for our characters, and is very much a part of the cultural zeitgeist for all of us right now,” said Simonsen. “We never could go so far with sadness or tragedy that we robbed the audience of the permission to laugh.”  Sadoff added: “The film does an excellent job of inviting us to ponder how we would all spend our last days. So there are definitely comedic moments, but there is an incredible depth to the film. The score had to ride a fine line between the two in order to provide the musical glue that the film called for.”


Games Music News

Composer Bear McCreary returns to space adventure with his score to the new multi-player video game Moon Breakers.  The retro futuristic game, from Imba Entertainment and Uber Entertainment, brings the classic genre of space shooters back to a new generation of players and is currently available to play for free on Google’s Chrome Browser and on Steam.   “I am a life-long science fiction nerd and video game junkie,” admitted McCreary.  “I've scored science fiction projects and videogames, but I've never had the chance to approach them with such a pulpy, retro tribute to the spaceships and videogames I grew up on in the 70s and 80s.  I was thrilled to work with everyone at Imba and Uber on a game that combined my passions so perfectly.”  The score is now available digitally on a 4-track EP from iTunes, etc.  “The visual style and combat approach for Moon Walkers was so old-school, I knew it would need an old-school anthemic score,” said McCreary.  I fused together soaring orchestral themes, jangly ethnic oddities and 1970's inspired synthesizers, to create a hybrid of old and new sounds.  My goal was to have fun writing, to make sure that gamers out there could have fun playing.”


Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine.  A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He now writes for CinefantastiqueOnline and has written liner notes for more than 70 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, Percepto, Perseverance, Harkit, and BSX Records.  For more information, see: www.myspace.com/larsonrdl  A massively re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique will be published this Spring, see: www.creaturefeatures.com/products/books/musique-fantastique/

Randall can be contacted at soundtraxrdl@gmail.com

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