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Interview with David Wingo

Do, 10/08/2017 - 19:12

In an indie-centric career spent in the company of such outsiders as the surly, if valiant “Joe,” “Take Shelter’s” doom-obsessed visionary, “Mud’s” rogue on the run and least of all the sci-fi author wannabe of “Gentleman Broncos,” David Wingo has never quite kept eccentric musical company with a guy like James Pope. Kidnapped as a baby and raised in a desert shelter by two eccentrics (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) focused on math and children’s shows, James’ constant company has been the hit program “Brigsby Bear.” It’s a bizarrely indecipherable, L. Ron Hubbard-esque sci-fi saga for the evolving younger set, its mythos pitting a warrior ursine and the seemingly twin Smile Sisters’ against a talking sun. Except, this serial in fact is only meant for an audience of one. Now freed into a real world he never made, and reunited with his true family, the unfailingly optimistic, frizzy-haired 25 year-old kid struggles to adapt. But nothing can truly be normal unless James completes the saga of “Brigsby Bear” himself, a quest that brings his caretakers down on him while enchanting the neighborhood teens and the internet universe at large in a fictional cosmic saga that puts “Star Trek” to shame.

The enthusiastic saying “Let’s put on a show” truly takes on new meaning for writer (along with Kevin Costello) and star Kyle Mooney and director Dave McCary’s beguiling film. Better known as part of the comedy troupe Good Neighbor, this sorta mix of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” stands as one of the most imaginative and unexpectedly touching pictures this year. Working on any number of levels from the enthusiasm of DYI filmmaking to a “survivor” healing himself, “Brigsby Bear” is suffused with the gentle imagination of Wingo’s sublime, subdued work.

As opposed to musical snark over its bunker-spun puppet and prop imagery, let alone James’ dogged pursuit to construct his own “Bear,” Wingo’s score is often as ethereal as man in the sun starstuff. He thematically captures a yearning sense of imagination, yet with a poignant sense of childhood lost. Delicate piano and guitar over drifting strings become James’ striving to find a sense of purpose, all adding to an unexpected emotional resonance that will likely lead to unexpected tears. Yet “Brigsby Bear’s” score is also aware of the movie’s delightfully insane concept, with retro synths conjuring the perverse, puppet populated time-warped universe that James’ “parents” have created for him – the score culminating as Wingo brings a sense of the DYI epic to “Brigsby Bear – The Movie.” Awash with imagination and heart in its poetically melodic approach, Wingo’s score is a thing of delicate, intimate wonder for what just might be year’s most biggest movie surprise that will make you believe a bear can fly.


What was your impression of Kyle and David’s Good Neighbor comedy troupe before doing “Brigsby Bear?”

This was the first time I’ve ever been approached by people whom I was a huge fan of to begin with. I had no idea that that Kyle and Dave were ever going to make movies, and this ended up being so completely different than what I thought they’d do given what I’d seen from Good Neighbor. Their stuff was more absurd and strange than most anything you’d see on a show like “Saturday Night Live.” It’s really challenging and confrontational in its weirdness. “Brigsby Bear” had a far different sensibility than what I expected to see.

Brigsby director-writer Dave McCarey (L) and co-writer and star Kyle Mooney


What surprised you the most about “Brigsby Bear?”

I was surprised by how warm, genuine and sweet it was. “Brigsby Bear” was trying to connect in a way that the Good Neighbor stuff didn’t tread, and I loved that. That made it easier for me to do music, knowing that I could actually do something soulful, and that it would make sense with the material. Kyle and David kept this absurd concept well grounded, making something outlandish still feel like the real world. That made people’s reactions to James and the scenario feel believable.

Could you talk about working with Dave and how you found the right tone for the score?

Dave is great. He directed all of that Good Neighbor stuff, and he writes for SNL Scoring “Brigsby Bear” was a pretty fast and furious process. At five weeks, it was the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had on something. I started just before Thanksgiving and had to be done just before the Sundance Film Festival. Though that’s fairly common for independent films, it’s something I’d never dealt with before. But I wanted to do this movie really, really badly, and I said yes. Dave was working on SNL at the same time, so he was really run ragged. But despite that, he was always responsive and was very specific about what he wanted. I was really impressed, because I could imagine how busy he was already. Dave had the ears and the critical thinking to make it happen.

As a child, what were your favorite puppet-filled child’s shows?

Gigglesnort Hotel

Most people who grew up in Dallas watched “Gigglesnort Hotel.” It was filmed in Chicago, but I don’t think it aired in many other places. It was really insane – kind of dark and psychedelic, but not intentionally. The guy who hosted it was Christian, and didn’t intend for it to be as strange as it was! David Gordon Green and I watched it as kids and his dad got a DVD set of the entire series a few years ago. We watched it together and said, “My God, this is still so strange!” Yet I didn’t have that kind of kid’s show music in mind. My score was about playing James’ naiveté. So Michael Montes (“Ping Pong Summer”), a composer I’m a friend with, did all of the “Brigsby Bear” TV show music in the score, especially as we had such a quick turnaround. So I wanted to keep those “scores” separate. They’re coming from two different musical worlds, and I wanted to focus on James, and for the score to feel grounded in his life and emotions. Michael was about the “sci-fi” aspect of “Brigsby Bear.”

Michael Montes


Tell me about your “grounded” instrumental ensemble.

But we wanted the score to be cinematic that wasn’t in any way kitschy, but to still have some elements that reflected the “Brigsby Bear” music, since that’s the only music James has ever listened to. So with our small budget, I used sampled strings, while analogue synths reflect the “Brigsby Bear” music through James’ experience. Since David wanted to have something that reminded him of the scores you’d hear in Amblin’ Pictures that Steven Spielberg produced, we used a harp. There’s acoustic guitar as well, which pretty much covers it.

You’ve often scored eccentric, out-of-place characters. Before in movies like “Mud” and “Joe.” How do you think James Pope fits into their repertoire?

I don’t think that James has much in common with the rest of the films I’ve worked on because he has such naïve innocence. Most of the characters I’ve composed for are tortured or twisted in some way. James is neither of those things. He’s an open page.

Given that you’ve scored some raw comedy in the past, how was it to do something as unexpectedly gentle as “Brigsby Bear?”

I haven’t done most of those broad comedies except for David Gordon Green’s “The Sitter,” so that’s not a world I worked in very much. This was more along the lines of David’s “Prince Avalanche,” which is a very sweet, gentle movie where everyone is sympathetic. The humor is absurd, but nice as people trying to understand each other. “Brigsby Bear” shares that sense of sweetness.

Was it a challenge to play the peculiar magic of “Brigsby Bear” without musically laughing at it?

It was important to us all that “Brisby’s” deadpan humor didn’t need to be played up with the jokey music. I just needed to let the music connect the audience with James so they can laugh at the absurdity of his situation, but not at a this person you empathize with.

Brigsby and David

How did you want to thematically convey the gentle, always polite manchild view that James carries with him through the film?

The instruments that are very tinkly and innocent help that, and the way that I use the analogue synths are bubbly, and washy as well. I chose simplicity in the chord progressions, as the score relies more on sonics than compositional sophistication.

There’s a whole other, awful level to “Brigsby Bear” about the pain of separation and the madness of James’ “parents” that’s stunted his life. Did you want allude to that darkness?

The music does get fairly dark and serious when James drives out to find The Smile Sisters and returns to his old bunker. But the writing and performances don’t let you get bogged down in that darkness, mostly because James doesn’t get bogged down in it either. At the end of the day, he’s adjusting to real life, and he’s optimistic about it. You always feel that James is going to be ok. It’s shown that James’ abductors care for him, and are not abusers. So he still feels fondness for them. That’s very ballsy to write the characters like that, because a lot of people could think that’s taking too many liberties with what they’ve done to him. But I love it because the movie doesn’t demonize these kidnappers. It looks at them through James’ eyes.


Could you talk about scoring the “Brigsby Bear Movie” that James creates, and giving it a sort of epic scope?”

I had to work on that cue the hardest because it was the one that had to be right. We had a lot of iterations of it to be sure. It was a matter of riding that line between sentimentality and grandness – yet without feeling too triumphant.

“Brigsby Bear” has quite an unexpected, emotional wallop at the end.

A lot of people say that, which is why we did so many versions of the ending score. Dave and Kyle called the shots to get it to that level as much as it could, to let the piano and harp do something more. They were instrumental in being hands on to fine-tuning the score to where it was emotional, but not too much.

What do you think that “Brigsby Bear” has to saw about the power of art, and creativity to heal all wounds, even the ones that James might not realize that he has?

I think that’s what the movie’s sort of about at the end of the day. I’ve seen some reviews that are calling it a critique of fan culture, which I can see. But to me that’s not what “Brigsby Bear” is. To me, it’s far more about how much the world can open up, not only when you start creating, but by doing something that you don’t know how to do. It’s the complete rush of being a beginner and learning how to express yourself and create things. That makes the world open up to you.


Do you think “Brigsby Bear” has a big cult destiny ahead of it?

I think it certainly has that potential. I’d certainly say “yes” if I hadn’t worked on so many other things that I thought would become cult movies, but didn’t develop that way. But this seems like the kind of movie that could, and should. “Brigsby Bear” is certainly among my favorites of anything I’ve scored. I hope it has a life that continues well beyond its initial release. I think people will discover “Brigsby Bear.” So far people are connecting to it in a way that makes me really happy.

“Brigsby Bear” is now in theaters. Listen to David Wingo’s score on Lakeshore Records HERE

Visit David Wingo’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Warren Ellis

Do, 03/08/2017 - 17:50

For two through and through Australians, you’d think that Warren Ellis and Nick Cave are as American as a backwoods apple pie after listening to their hauntingly authentic, stripped-down take on the lethal outlaws, hardscrabble natives and salt of the earth lawmen that their film music has conjured. While they might have achieved alt. rock cult status in their other band incarnations as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman and The Dirty Three, Cave and Ellis are cutting memorable figures in creating the kind of strikingly rural scoring that hasn’t been heard since “The Long Riders” and “Paris, Texas” glory days of Ry Cooder.

Effortlessly segueing from their stage and album gigs to scoring in 2005 for John Hillcoat’s visceral outback western “The Proposition,” Ellis and Cave’s use of heartbreakingly intimate rural instruments, as merged with stripped-down experimentation, has created a poetically distinctive vision of our nation’s mythic west, and forgotten wastelands with such scores as “The Road,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” “Lawless” and “West of Memphis” amidst other stylistic scores.

Yet perhaps no soundtrack of Ellis and Cave’s is as lyrically sad as the ghostly lost people, and unsolved murders that sweep over “Wind River.” Marking the filmmaking debut of actor-turned writer Taylor Sheridan, “Wind River” reteams “Avengers” actors Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen in a way that’s anything but superheroic, throwing them into a beautiful, white wasteland as Cory Lambert and Jane Banner – a tracker and an FBI agent reluctantly teamed to find how a native American woman ended up frozen to death – yet another casualty in a land where her people have been laid to spiritual, and economic waste.

Taking a bleakly effective turn from the ironic, unplugged western score that they’d provided to Sheridan’s script for “Hell or High Water,” Ellis and Cave create a score full of lost souls and madness, pushing their powerful, alt. backwoods sound into new emotional territory as environmental as it is cutting edge. Melody for fiddle and electronics create an air of mournfulness, with crystalline organ the unforgiving snow. Piano and strings speak for the pain of unmentionable family loss, with voices moaning for the desolation visited upon a tribe that’s become victims to hopelessness of their reservation. Perhaps most powerfully, Nick Cave’s voice is used as song-score, creating some of the film’s most powerful moments of reflecting mortality.

Ellis and Cage have made “Wind River” a powerful, lyrical journey into the heart of frozen darkness where death can come in seconds – a musical realization of nature’s power to drive men mad in spite of its beauty. Sticking in the mind like ice on lungs, Ellis and Cave once again evoke a distinctive regional sound that shows their talent at revealing the universal nature of an outback the reduces humans to their primal selves, with all the poetry and savagery it entails in their deceptively stripped-down approach – a collaboration that Ellis now ventures into.


Was film scoring ever on your radar when you began your music career?

No not at all. I was aware of music used in films and soundtracks as I have always loved instrumental music and watched films all my life. It felt like it gave me more freedom with my imagination than a lot of lyrically driven material. I moved between David Bowie and Stravinsky and Coltrane as a teenager. When Dirty Three started people assumed we would be a natural to do score work. Nick asked me to work on “The Proposition” and it all just fell into place. We realized we could create a world and sound that aided the image and create an ambience with minimal parts. We also realized we could make large quantities of music in a short amount of time, and create music that wasn’t on our radar at all. Then people started asking us to do other films. 
 I remember NIck and I rehearsed for an afternoon the day before the recording session and we came up with all the major themes. The fact we didn’t really have a clue what to do left us wide open to chance!

Warren plays with The Dirty Three


What particularly drew you to ethnic and folk instruments?


I have always loved folk music. The first tunes I played were bluegrass pieces I learnt from a book my father bought for me. Over the years I have realized I am primarily attracted to different kinds of sound, from whatever sources, and manipulating them. I am always happy to buy an instrument I know nothing about and try to make something work with it. I remember buying a Bombarde on a Dirty Three tour, and the guy said it was as loud as a jet engine. I then used it on “The Road” and the first Grinderman album. I recently saw a video of someone playing one in a church in Brittany. What an instrument! I was hitching across Europe in 1988 and some Hungarian musicians gave me a Foruja, a flute made from a reed. I guarded it preciously and took it home because I was so entranced with it’s sound. I also played the Erhu in a Chinese Orchestra in Melbourne for a few years. So I always figure I will get a song or a sound at the very least from any instrument I buy. It’s all just a matter of waiting for the moment. I bought my first synth in 2004 and it wasn’t until recording “West of Memphis” that I found its calling. Now I am never without three of them.

What was it about your music that attracted Nick Cave to collaborate with you?

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis


It was apparent the moment we met during the recording of Murder Ballads that we liked playing together. Something just connected. There has always been a shared love of trying to make a song work that is slipping through the cracks. I had been aware of Nick’s work for some time since his early forays in Melbourne with The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party and I was a relative new comer when we met in 1993 .It was amazing to see him and the Bad Seeds work in the studio. I think it was the second time I had been in the studio and they were working on Let Love In. I was trying to play some string arrangements Mick Harvey had written up and I was losing! Mick was incredibly patient with me.

I think over the years we have been able to bring out the best qualities in each other with composition, and also to develop that creative partnership. There is an energy when we work that is addictive and still driven in a very pure and primal way. I remember when Nick saw Dirty Three for the first time, and he loved the attitude and energy of the group. He then invited us on tour to open for The Bad Seeds in 1995. There is always this unsaid notion of pushing each other as far as we can and taking risks.

How easy was it for you and Nick to transition from rock to scoring?


It just happened. He asked me to be involved with “The Proposition,” and we realized we had a way of working and a flow that produced large quantities of music in a short amount of time. We would just sit and improvise, make music and an editor would put them to image and try finding spots that worked. Over the years we have narrowed this process down, but at its heart there is still a process like day one. These days it is Nick, Jake Jackson, and myself and we record, edit and place the music. 
I guess having had a background in instrumental textures, and Nick having such an instinctive sense of melodic phrases and form possibly helped the transition. I just remember when we recorded “The Proposition,” something immediately indicated a way of working together beyond the band set up. Score work encouraged undertaking music normally outside of our comfort zones. So it has had a knock on effect in all the areas we work in. When I first met Nick he would play the piano and I the violin and we would play for hours, just messing around mostly without words. After a few scores I remember talking to Nick and wondering why we didn’t incorporate this approach in a band. Hence Grinderman.

How did you scoring process work, and evolve through the years?


When we started we had a very basic palette of piano, violin, loops, bass and drums on “The Proposition.” With each score we approach we have a discussion with the director about what style and tones they might be thinking, then we think about sounds and instrumentation. I think the first three scores we used similar palettes, adding strings, celeste and pump organ to the mix. Then it just seemed evolve organically, like making albums, trying to do different things from the previous scores, and also trying to make different types of cues. The inclusion of synthesizers and more electronically generated atmospheres came around “West of Memphis.” This score seemed to really influence “Push the Sky Away” tonally to my ear. Our aim is to bring something of worth sonically to the film and not just adding musical glue. Our scores have a certain sensibility that is not for every film or director. We have discovered the directors need to really want to work with us because of our existing work. There are certain scores we just cannot deliver, which is probably a good thing. The process is very much a sum of its parts. We both bring something to the proceedings and the realists are better for it.

Could you talk about your work with Nick for John Hillcoat on such movies as “The Proposition,” “The Road” and “Lawless?”


NIck has a long relationship with John and it felt like I was just swept along for the ride. Those scores and “Jesses James” feel like when we were cutting our teeth and working out how to do a score on our own terms. “Lawless” was different in that there was an idea that it was song driven and the score was more or less incidental. We moved to L.A for that one and found it rather difficult working within the machine so to speak. I think our distance from there was probably a good thing for the earlier films. But it is interesting to think of these films because they were mostly not temped with other people’s music, just some placeholders. I think in many ways it helped us form a style. Temp scores are such a nightmare to be up against. The powers that be get so stuck with the pieces and it is hard to offer anything that will make them let go.

John was always great to work with, knowing what he wanted with a vague musical description. He also trusted and supported us in the process. We can be quite a terrifying proposition for producers because we don’t make demos, so to speak. We go into the studio to find the score. I remember with “Lawless” everyone wanted to hear our music. But we told them that were why we were here, to find the score, and that caused some alarm bells to ring. There was definitely an air of “Who are these amateurs?” That film felt like a struggle. “The Road” also had issues in that Cormac McCarthy’s book had been so popular, as had the film version his “No Country for Old Men.” So there was a lot of pressure for that film to perform.


Another western score, and film of yours that’s only grown in cult popularity is “The Assassination of Jesse James.” Could you tell us about that scoring experience?


As we tour a lot, our windows for working on scores is very small and not very malleable, which doesn’t fit in with a film’s schedule. With “Jesse James,” I remember Andrew had two references for “Jesses James” – Alex North’s score to “Carny” and Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” We had asked for a cut to work with, and received 30 seconds of Brad Pitt trying to fire a pistol in the snow as he contemplates suicide. They didn’t have a cut together, so we just started playing. It was Nick, Marty, and myself and we put down a load of ideas and sent them to the director Andrew Dominik. I think he was not very impressed with them, and we had another session where he suggested a celeste and pump organ to the mix, and again I don’t think he liked what he heard. In the early days we would have Gerard McCann out the back editing our improvisations to image, and he was fed a live line from the studio where we work working with Jake the recording engineer. When Gerard heard something of interest he would come out and tell us to put some of that down. It was a process we used on “The Proposition” and “The Road.”

Oddly enough Andrew ended up using 40% of those initial ideas, and we developed them into themes. I remember there was a point in the creation of it that it felt like it was going to get away from us. We had a hard time with the final cue “Song for Bob.” I remember, as we had never done anything quite like it. Then we had some string arrangements that we put in the mix and they seemed to resonate better with Andrew. They really helped make our ideas more cinematic and wide. I remember seeing the film in the cinema and Andrew had moved a lot of the cues around. I also remember being so blown away by the film that I couldn’t believe we were involved in it! I lost sight of the fact we had done the music, it was so immersive. That score was definitely one of those moments where you question if you are in fact going to be able to finish it. It felt so out of our reach at times. I must add Andrew kept batting for us, despite the calls from the studio to get us off the film. He is an amazing director and I would work with him in a heartbeat.

What was it like for you and Nick to score the documentary “West of Memphis?” Had both of you both been supporters of The West Memphis Three before it?


Yes, totally. We had both seen the previous documentaries “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Lost 2” and were aware of the travesty that had occurred. I remember while we were working on the score, there was the retrial and the director Amy Berg suddenly had a very different ending to the cut we were working on. To see the edit change to such an outcome was extraordinary, if bittersweet for the guys. Making a documentary was a new thing for us, and it requires music that adds a tone, but doesn’t steal the limelight with melodies, as there is so much dialogue to follow.


“Wind River” is a far more downbeat, yet no less riveting film for Taylor than “Hell or High Water.” Could you talk about what makes him a unique director? And did your collaboration vary here, given that this is a darker film?


I like very much Taylor’s scripts, in particular the dialogue. He has a keen sense of social observation and also a wry sense of humor. “Wind River” is his directorial debut and he said when he wrote the script he always had us in mind to do the score, and that he always planned to direct the final part of his trilogy. Reading it you could sense there was lots of room for score and that with the snow and melancholic mood it would require us to find a very different score tonally. He had temped the film with some of our existing scores that made it easy to target things.

Temp scores are such a bane for film composers. Directors and producers develop temp love then you spend so much time trying to get it out of the film. So often you see films where the music is so reminiscent of another score/cue and you know the temp has been imitated. The edit gets made to the temp piece, and then the editor has a hard time seeing it with a new idea. It can be such a bore because it takes away the composer’s duty to come up with something original.

Director Taylor Sheridan on the set of Wind River

Fortunately the temp for “Wind River” was only a placeholder and Taylor wasn’t attached to any of it. Better yet, it was our music .The longer a temp score sits on an edit the harder it is to get out. We made the score relatively quickly, two sessions of five days from memory. Taylor came to the sessions, as did David McKenzie, who directed “Hell or High Water,” which really helped move things along .In the early days the directors were always in L.A so there was a day delay in feedback and quite often more than that. So having the director in the studio helps target ideas more efficiently and creates an efficient dialogue.

For “Wind River,” we did as usual, which was to go in the studio and start making ideas we think might fit and try to find a palette. The electronics seemed to accompany the snow and internal workings of some of the characters and the vocals, piano and choir the overarching sense of loss and redemption that consumes the characters. Taylor was fantastic to work with. He was very trusting, open and let us do what we felt was correct. He also told us the film was very fast and dynamic to shoot, and he even rides the snow buggy sometimes. There is something about the film’s leanness and economy that is appealing due to the way it was shot. There is talk of more work with him, which would be great.

Tell us about your ensemble here, and how sampling plays a part in it?

Warren and Nick compose

Some pieces are straight improvisation with Nick and myself playing in real time, and then we develop that music. Others are built on atmospheres I create. We never use sampling as such. I make electronic atmospheres using whatever I have at my disposal, recording with loop stations and modulating them with pedals. I don’t own a sampler. Quite often I make 20 or so atmospheric ideas before I arrive in the studio with the film in mind, send them to NIck and he composes melodies to go with them. With “Loin des Hommes,” I remember 14 of the ideas found a target. On this one Nick branched out on the synthesizer as well as piano and celeste. But as I have said, it’s mostly about the moment of improvisation and creating ideas on the fly then targeting things when they start working.

We have a general idea now how to make a score and shape it to follow the dramatic arc of the storyline. We also added piano, celeste, pump organ, violin, viola and a string section and choir. This all feels like possibly the widest score sonically we have attempted, and the most spacious as well, because we really wanted to push the bottom end in this one and create a haunting glacial atmosphere. It’s the opposite sound to “The Proposition,” yet similar in it’s vastness of setting and internal rumination.

In “The Proposition,” you and Nick somewhat dealt with the plight of Australia’s aboriginal culture. How do you think what they went through compares to the devastation that befell American Indians? And how did you put that feeling into “Wind River” when you see the sad state of the reservation and its people?

Obviously there are parallels. Both Indigenous people gave been displaced and destroyed by white settlement. It wasn’t something we discussed to target intentionally. As our music has a certain melancholic and supportive tone, maybe it is why Taylor wanted us on board to reflect that aspect. I know he said he didn’t want a traditional score and he stood by his word. I am glad the score made it through unscathed as we intended.

Your scores have often dealt with stark environments, whether it’s the old west or the apocalypse. That being said, “Wind River” is likely the “coldest” film you’ve scored. How did you want to reflect the kind of icy mountains and plains that drive people mad here, yet are also beyond beautiful for those who can find peace in their surroundings?


There is something about our music that attracts directors making films with people wandering around lost in vast landscapes. It wasn’t by design it just happened. But it follows on from the types of music we generate in the bands we play in. I think once we found the electronic base for this score we had the cold/ snow aspect of it underhand. It was so amazing when we put the first cue to the shooting of the wolf in the opening scene. We instantly knew what we were looking through and worked through the reels cue by cue, sent them off to Taylor. Then he came over and we topped and tailed the reels in 5 days with his involvement. He was very trusting with our ideas and very generous in his enthusiasm and admiration for what we were creating. In many ways that permitted us to go on different excursions and take risks because of Taylor’s confidence. He didn’t get blocked on cues, which was a first.

As this score was unfolding we became aware that it was like a mix between “The Proposition” and “Jesse James” to our ears. Obviously the recited poem is something that occurs in “The Proposition,” and it felt appropriate to do something similar, as there were several meditative journey scenes. Nick developed something using the poem on the refrigerator and recited it over an ambience, and then we added a choir and strings. I think from memory this is the score that came together the fastest with the exception of “The Proposition.” That took 5 days from start to finish.

How did you want to play the “murder mystery” aspect of “Wind River?”

I think we let the narrative tell this part of the film. It seems like something that just unfolds in front of our eyes in a linear way. For us, this score was more a meditation on loss and the plight of the Native American Indian and we underpinned that aspect with the score rather than the “murder mystery”

In addition to its stripped-down organic sound, there’s some frightening and unusual use of electronics in “Wind River.” Can you talk about that element of the score?


I think “Far From Men” was when we started experimenting with odd electronics, like the way hip-hop is put together. I make these mostly with anything I find. For “The Road,” I used things I though might be around after the apocalypse, wind and wire that would sound like the earth in trauma. I made vocal loops, flute loops, and guitar loops for “Wind River” and pitch shifted and manipulated them. Then NIck, Chris Blakey and myself started sculpting the cues in the studio. The aim was to make these moments have impact and be in stark contrast to some of the more pastoral cues and ambiences. I have a big bank of loops now and I was working with Richard Russel from XL on his album. I didn’t know what to do so I plugged my pedals in reverse order, which is how I found that I could actually sample and DJ my own sounds. That really influenced how I made the loops for “Wind River.”

Not only are your scores “primal” as such, but they often deal with peoples’ baser emotions. How do you think that comes across in “Wind River?”


The score taps into the rawness of the emotions in the film due in part to its fragility and sense of being held together by the barest of musical threads. Also the fact there are kind of spectral voices in the mix that support the haunted aspect of Toby and his internal rumination. There is also something quite epic about this score to my ears when it reaches its climax. It is possibly our most realized and complex score in some respects. The string arrangements had to be very specific, and fortunately Ben Foster understands our work.

“Wind River” makes haunting use of voices. What gave you the idea for them, and what do they represent?


I think we have been featuring voices more and more in the scores, and when we made “Tell Me What It Is” and “First Journey,” we knew it was something that would need to develop and recur doing the film. Again it was something that once we saw the idea to image we knew we were onto something. “Three Seasons in Wyoming” is as big as our music gets in the film. We wanted that to be the emotional peak of the score, that final run through the snow. There was something beautiful and meditative about it, like the horse riding scenes in “The Proposition,” which felt kindred in spirit to this film.

Given that the loss of a child is a major theme in “Wind River,” did that make scoring “Wind River” particularly emotional for Nick?


We never spoke about this actually. He read it and said he wanted to do it. I am not able to speak for him on this. Obviously it must have resonated in a very different way for him than anyone else in the studio.


How did you want to use Nick’s song in the score?


It feeds into the meditative nature of the film and the way the score slowly develops and stakes its ground. It keeps changing lyrically slightly as the story unfolds. I guess it is part of Corey’s internal mantra as he searches for the killer and redemption.

As sad as “Wind River” is, especially with how you use an elegiac organ, was it also important for you to reflect a sense of healing for the characters?


Of course. There seems that moment in the film when Corey eventually starts to forgive himself when he is able to do for someone what he felt he failed to do himself. And we see in these circumstances that life does go on. I think some of the piano based ideas and violin themes underline that sense of compassion, healing and redemption.

Do you think that a stripped-down score like “Wind River” is more effective then if someone had taken a more conventional, orchestral approach to it?


I think you do whatever it takes and feels right to you and the director with a score. How stripped down often depends how much risk the director will take. There is a tendency to fill films with music because I think producers fear silence means boredom, and they don’t trust their audiences. The Europeans in general are much more economical with their scores, and very rarely does it underscore an action or sad scene. American films tend to do the opposite. I think the score for “Wind River” is effective in that it creates it’s own space and supports the film without overstaying it’s welcome. It doesn’t sound on the nose to my ears in terms of the emotional content of the music.

You and Nick also recently scored the eccentric Netflix film “War Machine,” which was a different sound, and subject for you. Tell us about that Netflix film.

This score was a genuine pleasure to create. The director David Michod was really hands on from day one with the creation of the score and it was a learning experience to see him in action. He’s a very generous and intelligent guy. It was so great ask why he wanted certain things and tones and he was very specific to the micro second it seemed. He really wanted us to do something very different from our usual scores, the Roedelius pieces were his idea, and he had a very definite idea of what he wanted the score to underpin. It was also great for us to step away from our traditional instrumentals and try to do something totally out of our musical experiences. I think it’s one of my favorite scores we have done.

Not all is beautiful gloom with you, as the biopics “Django” and “Gaugin” will show. Is it even more rewarding to score artists, whether they’re musicians or painters?

Vincent Cassell as Gaugin


I don’t really think about such things. Biopics are generally a “do not enter” for me, and I find them rather uninteresting with a few exceptions. In many ways, it feels easier dealing with fictional characters the known identities. I’d prefer scoring bank robbers to artists! But there was something attractive about trying to recreate the lost Requiem of Django Reinhardt and it was a style I had never attempted. When I watched “Gauguin,” I saw it as more than a biopic of an artist, it was more an allegorical look at a life opening when it was closing. I found the performance of Vincent Cassel incredibly engaging and moving. It was also apparent the music was given lots of room from the first cut I viewed.

Is a symphonic style something you’d like to try more of, especially as you and Nick went to “Mars” using a broader sound?


I think we are open to trying anything. Certainly “Mars” was another shift for us in terms of sound. Composing for a TV series is a different thing to a film. That was an interesting to approach. I should add what an integral part of our team is Jake Jackson. He has done most of our films, with the exception of “Lawless,” and he still reminds me of that. Since “The Proposition,” he has helped us define a way to work and shaped our ideas so that we can move in the soundtrack world. Initially he was recording the material only, but after the budgets shrank he started editing with us as well.

I would start bringing in ideas to get us up and running, like instant atmospheres, and Jake just keeps the tape rolling. We have developed a way of working together which is very copacetic over the last decade or so. It was as though recording “The Proposition” kicked the wheels in motion and the idea of how to create scores with Jake has been developing ever since. As he had worked on TV series before he was able to bring a lot to the table in terms of placement and form and structure. I think it very a very mutual exchange over the years.

When he arrived to record “The Proposition,” he was told we were a bunch of drug addicts so he had no idea what to expect! Jake said he was shocked to find we were actually incredibly hard working and straight. I like that with our scores there is a continuing search to move on from the last thing we have done, like with the bands we work in. It all feeds in to the next thing. Since “Skeleton Tree” we have made six scores which will shape where the next Bad Seeds album goes when we sit down to start that. You can make quantum leaps in style doing a score and get things out of your system. The also make you happy to go back to your day job of touring and making albums.

Do you feel like you’re following in the steps of Ry Cooder, whose use of stripped-down regional instruments brought a new sense of authenticity to American scores? And do you both think you’ve helped stretch the sound of film scoring in general?

I have no idea. We came into the score world from a rock and roll background and there was something in this approach that appealed to certain directors. As we aren’t musical technicians as such and don’t have wild technical abilities I think it adds to the simplicity and stripped down nature of what we do. I am not sure we are bringing new sense of authenticity to “American” scores. I think there are a lot of great film composers who have jumped over from other worlds, Mica Levi does amazing work for example with scores like “Under the Skin” and “Jackie.” TV series have also changed the musical ballpark, as they have for every other aspect of film making without stating the obvious.

If Nick and I have contributed something along the way then great. But there has always been a history of composers coming from left of center and doing scores, usually in the independent scene – or when there are little resources. Look at “Maniac,” “Driller Killer,” “Aguirre,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid…” The list is endless. Even John Carpenter did his first films because there was no budget and he knew what was needed.

In a way, given how many movies you’ve scored set in our backwoods, do you think you feel as American as you do Australians when it comes to composing?


I actually wish we were able to score more Australian films. They just don’t come our way for some reason. There is something about the vast vistas in the American landscape and the wildness that resonates as an Australian. There is a sense of space and isolation that is instantly recognizable to our own country of birth. Maybe that’s what it is.

What’s the biggest tip you may have learned to help you survive if you ever ended up in a blizzard at “Wind River?”


Be on the back of Corey’s buggy!


”Wind River” opens on August 4th, with Warren Ellis and Nick Cave’s score available from Lakeshore Records HERE

Listen to Warren Ellis and Nick Caves scores like “The Proposition,” “The Road” and “The Assassination of Jesse James” HERE

Visit Nick Cave’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

July, 2017 Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 19/07/2017 - 00:05

Soundtrack Picks: “WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES” is the top soundtrack to own for July, 2017

Also worth picking up: THE CAINE MUTINY, FRAGIL EQUILIBRIO, ODE TO BILLY JOE, THE PROMISE, PUPPET ON A CHAIN, THE YAKUZA and many more!

To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover

THE TOP PICKS

1) A ESMORGA / FRAGIL EQUILIBRIO

     


Price: $19.95

What is it?: Spain has increasingly yielded any number of composers using interesting combinations of sound to evoke the human condition. Zeltia Montes is one especially unique composer as she shows a strongly stylistic ability to play the downbeat worlds of men, and humans behaving badly, beginning with three Galacians raising hell in Franco-era Spain for “A Esmorga.”

Why should you buy it?:
Having composed a spiritually rustic score for director Ignacio Vilar’s 60’s set “Lovetown” (available on Quartet Records), Montes now journeys to the 1950s with the filmmaker, paring down her instrumentation to a single piano in the process. Joining the unplugged, white and black-keyboard ranks of Brian Easdale’s “Peeping Tom,” Michael Kamen’s “The Winter Guest” and David Grusin’s “The Firm” in conveying the lonely piano’s ability to evoke large emotion, Montes follows three men over the course of a doomed 24-hour bender, barely raising the volume above a lovely, tender pace. However, “Esmorga’s” poignant sound is deceptive when it comes to depicting debauchery awash in sex and violence, making the score an effective, thematic counterpoint that speaks volumes for these ne’er do wells. It’s a yearning score that’s about unspoken bromance, and the ultimately tragic lengths it goes to, all while bringing out a uniquely feminine side to these alpha males. Montes return to her classic pianist roots here for an approach that’s simplicity at its finest, with Caldera’s engaging CD also containing a lengthy interview where Montes reveals her own lifelong musical drive and the reason for her unusual approach to “Esmorga,”

Extra Specia
l: With “Fragil Equilibrio” (“Delicate Balance”), it’s using a wall of inventive sound to the send earth to hell in an industrial-ravaged handbasket, courtesy of a doom-laden documentary awash in mass isolation. Led with a haunted, wailing vocalese, Montes’ mix of world and alt. music is hypnotic in its dire warning. Guitars and flutes convey the Latin rhythm of Montes’ native Madrid, the Shakuhachi flute a Tokyo awash in materialism and ethnic percussion the poverty-stricken Sahara. Equally as interesting in painting a globally interlinked portrait of disconnection as Guastavo Santaolalla’s fictional “Babel,” Montes’ use of metallic sampling and organic instruments get across the film’s message about the evils of industrialization, while making striking use of metallic sample in its score. But whether it’s employing piano solitude or the warped musical high-tech, Montes’ “Esmorga” and “Equilibrio” mutually speak with the inventiveness of a brave new voice on the international scoring scene.



2) THE BOOK OF HENRY / SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING / WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

      

Price: $8.99 / $11.78

What is it?:
Whether he’s on board The U.S.S. Enterprise, stealing the Death Star plans or partying in the Himalayas with The Sorcerer Supreme, a big key to Michael Giacchino’s becoming the reboot franchise king of so many Gen-X favorites is because he’s a kid at musical heart with the talent to match his obvious enthusiasm, especially when it comes to two of the best recent franchise reboots– beginning with the climactic “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Having taken over the series’ from Patrick Doyle after his striking work on “Dawn,” Giacchino brought a sense of dark majesty to king Caesar for a “Rise” that saw him anointed as the leader of his tribe to face off against the rapidly dwindling humans. With “War,” Giacchino turns the first talking Simian into Moses, for all of the righteous fury and reverence that accompanies a warrior prophet. But as dark as this “Apes” film and score gets, particularly in the opening that sets Caesar off on the path to vengeance, it’s the tender humanity that’s just as impactful as the Goldsmith-ian battery of primal percussion. Any number of memorable themes that drive the score, the first powerfully rising with a sense of biblical purpose. Even more striking is the pure innocence of little Nova’s melody for piano and strings, music that impactfully speaks for the impossibly cute mute girl, especially when Giacchino brings in symphonic and choral depth for a slave water-giving sequence that would bring tears to Ben-Hur’s face. Caesar also serves to inspire Giachinno with images of Kirk Douglas and Steve McQueen, from orchestrally crucified defiance to using playful percussion for a great escape. Questing, John Barry-esque rhythm and even a bit of spaghetti-western’isms adds humor to a grimness that threatens at points to verge into ape torture porn. But it’s part of the film’s pleasant surprise that musical good and evil gets shadings here in the long, consistently enthralling cues that make up Giacchino’s thrillingly emotional work. It’s a war tribute to “Apes” scores past and present, while blazing its own, excellent path where ethnic percussion ultimately gives way to a fiercely moving orchestral sound – a sense of melody triumphing over the savagely percussive animal instincts of monkeys who end up becoming musically more human than human

Why should you buy it?:
Giacchino’s fanboy sense buzzes perhaps most strongly in the gee-whiz nature of Peter Parker, a kid who finds that being a superhero is pure joy as opposed to suiting up for depressing psychology examinations like many other costumed adults in town. “Homecoming” is just about as lightweight as a spider’s web, and just as strong at sticking with the pure fun. It’s a score that will have any Spidey fan of a certain generation in the palm of the composer’s hand blasts off the Marvel logo with a rousing take on the 60’s TV cartoon theme. As opposed to trying to be alt. rock hip for the first Spider-Man movie to take place in a multi-racial teen world, Giachinno’s vibe for organ, bongo beat and guitar is a cool retro shagadelic update. But that doesn’t mean his strongly orchestral spider sense isn’t buzzing any less as it draws from the rhythmically trumpeting, heroic wellspring that composer Danny Elfman used for Spidey’s first swing out for Sony. This score dances about with a giddy feeling of Stark suit discovery before upping the emotional ante, yet not in a way involving an uncle or girlfriend’s death to the musical equation. Here dark menace is relegated to a brassy, neo-Wagnerian theme for The Vulture, music that villainously plays evil pouncing from the sky. Giacchino effectively sets up their themes’ conflict between hero and villain, creating a terrific motivic momentum between a guiless kid out to nab a mature bad guy, not quite realizing the civilian stakes at play until the somewhat darker music of Iron Man zooms in to percussively save Parker’s skin, and lay his emotional vulnerability low. But make no mistake that Giacchino’s “Homecoming” is pure comic book stuff, a welcome musical return to the days before the genre becomes a cloud of dark, depressing strum und drunk. Here the emphasis is on bright, exclamatory orchestral colors and brass-pounding excitement that the orchestra never fails to plunge, soar or use a web shooter with while saving the day. “Homecoming” sings with delightful innocence about just how cool it is to be a superhero saving the girl or duking it out with the bad guy. Even better, its music is as much about how neat it is to be a composer knowing that with great power comes a responsibility not to take it so darn seriously.

Extra Special: For all of the epic sweep of Spidey and the Apes, “The Book of Henry” also stands tall as Giacchino’s little score that could. Working again with Colin Trevanow for a passion project after “Jurassic World” (and no doubt anticipating a return to dinosaur funland with him), Giacchino writes an impactfully small-scale score for a mother following her son’s instructions on how to take out the child molester next door. While not exactly the most savory subject to work with, Giacchino certainly knows something about kids in jeopardy, whether by a deceptively pubescent vampire in “Let Me In” or a pissed off alien for “Super 8.” Taking a classically-themed approach by centering on the instantly emotional instruments of piano and violin, then adding unusual percussion like the Indonesian gamelan to the mix, Giacchino conveys both bereavement and hope, as read by an oddball kid who only wants to help in a decidedly dangerous and adult way. At first sunnily capturing the magic of small town USA with a quirky, very subtle militaristic rhythm, Giacchino soon gets to the “Story’s” darkness with suspenseful percussion and foreboding strings. It’s out of the 70’s conspiratorial playbook of such classic scores as “All the President’s Men” and “The Parallax View,” as used here to put a boogeyman into a gun’s crosshairs, While this isn’t exactly kid’s stuff, there’s a heartbreaking gentleness to “Henry” that ends on a note of gentle hope that homespun normalcy will return. Though it’s might be the least seen, and heard movie on Giacchino’s deck, “The Book of Henry” is perhaps no better tale at showing off how prolific composers keep things fresh by opening the smaller volumes.



3) THE CAINE MUTINY / DUEL IN THE SUN

     

Price: $21.99 / $27.99

What Is it: There’s an inimitable passion to the golden age of scoring, a time when opera-trained, Eastern European expatriates could be boundlessly expressive as they captured a far-less repressed American society and its Hollywood dream machine. Hailing from Vienna and Russia, Max Steiner and Dmitri Tiomkin stand as exceptionally romantic and musically boisterous composers, their all-hands on deck way of expressing emotion on particularly glorious display via the mentally disturbed high seas of “The Caine Mutiny” and the torrid “lust in the dust” of “Duel in the Sun.”

Why Should You Buy It?
: There were few composers better at playing American gusto than Max Steiner. As the guy who essentially invented film scoring with 1933’s “King Kong,” Steiner made unquestioning orchestral valor in the military’s service the marching orders of any number of soundtracks – a manly patriotic sound that filled such scores as “They Died With their Boots On,” “Fighter Squadron” and “Operation Pacific.” Yet it was in that theater of combat that Steiner also showed the valor in disagreeing with orders with 1954’s “The Caine Mutiny,” as his Oscar-nominated score seized a battleship’s command from Humphrey Bogart’s Commander Queeg. Yet you’d think it was all normal anchors away, anthemic stuff given “Caine’s” symphonic approach, which begins romantically by using the jazz song “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love With Me” for its hero’s courting of a nightclub singer. GIven the comedic bassoon, high-hat hijinks the join with soaring, proud music and such navy standards as “Colombia, Gem of the Ocean,” and you might think that Steiner was captaining Popeye aboard McHale’s Navy. But soon his powerhouse way of combining original score with recognizable navy tunes, call-to deck bos’n whistles and bugle revelry starts twisting into something darker, along with an increasingly unstable Queeg. Leave it to Steiner to turn The Marine’s Hymn into the raging equivalent of escaping from a giant gorilla or fleeing charging Indians as Steiner plunges down the mentally unstable rabbit hole with crazed energy and ominously descending music, twisting the score’s smiling patriotism that came before it. Yet there’s a sadness to his approach that remains sympathetic to Queeg, playing both the steadfastness of his troubled officers and the outrage of their de-throned captain – leaving the mutiny trial itself essentially unscored. Steiner’s work couldn’t have finally found a better home than at Intrada, a label that’s giving new sonic life to such classics as “On the Waterfront” and “The Ten Commandments.” “The Caine Mutiny’s” original, dialogue filled release stood as one of the most highly prized LP collectables, sans benefit of the actual stand-alone score on the album. Intrada rectifies that here while destroying “Caine’s” Ebay value by finally putting out the album that Steiner’s classic should have been all along, with terrific sound as clear as a call to revelry in front of a captain going to musical pieces.

Extra Special:
The financial disaster that resulted from the out of control artistry of 1980’s mega-western “Heaven’s Gate” pales before the better financial, if no less crazed filmmaking glare of 1946’s “Duel in the Sun,” where “Gone With the Wind” producer David O. Selznick cast his wife Jennifer Jones as a half-breed Indian who brings disastrous results to the good and bad brothers torn between her. It also created a raging battle between Selznick and composer Dmitri Tiomkin, a composer with no small amount of hubris – but with the goods to back it up. Given a motherland of Cossacks rampaging across the plains, Tiomkin took like a fish to water with the Hollywood western and its cowboy / outlaw mystique, composing epic scores for the likes of “The Westerner,” “Red River,” “Last Train from Gun Hill” and “Giant.” “Duel” is his epic summation of the genre. Given especially sweeping themes for impossible romance and sweeping rancher pride, Tiomkin lets loose with every gorgeous musical trope you could hope for – among them furious tribal dancing, the thundering heroism of a cavalry riding to the rescue, Mexican folk music, snarling brass villainy, a fateful chorus and orchestral tragedy – along with the best use of Stephen Foster’s song “Beautiful Dreamer” this side of “Mighty Joe Young.” It’s western scoring as pure opera, mostly as melodically bombastic as all get-out, and all the more glorious for it. There’s too much to hold for just one CD, and the winning music re-performance team of producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus bring on the galloping, Wagner-by-way of Texas thunder that they renewed for such other Tiomkin classics as “The Alamo” and the similarly fiery “Fall of the Roman Empire.” Frank K. De Wald, who chronicles the facts behind “The Caine Mutiny,” details “Duel’s” history while deconstructing its lavish cues in his superb liner notes for a movie where it’s a miracle that Tiomkin himself didn’t get into a gunfight with Selznick at defending his mighty score’s honor.



4) LA CONQUETE / COMME UN CHEF (300 edition)

Price: $19.95

What is it?
: Best known in the America for his richly dramatic scores for such fellow Italian masters as The Taviani Brothers with “Night of the Shooting Stars,” and “Good Morning Babylon” along with his heartfelt, Oscar winning score for “Life is Beautiful,” the prolific composer Nicola Piovani isn’t as well traveled here for his zany comedic abilities. But thanks to France’s Music Box label, Piovani’s deft, clever handling of humor is on glorious display for this CD double feature.

Why should you buy it:
For the first soundtrack, Piovani puts on Nino Rota’s circus clown shoes for France’s political ringmaster with 2011’s “La Conquete” (“The Conquest”), a satirical look at the rise of Nicolas Sarkozy to the ranks of president. Having taking over composing reigns from Nino Rota after his passing for Frederico Fellini’s last three films, among them the nostalgically swooning “Ginger and Fred,” Piovani was no stranger to the circus-like whimsy. Here it’s a big top given a jazzily romping theme with Sarkozy as leading the amusement park charge. It’s a delightful, deceptively frothy approach given the stakes at play for France. But Piovani has his eye on more than a carnival ride of a political Macbeth and his lady, using portentous strings and a devilish to get across a real-life man of ambition who’s in danger of selling his soul, and losing his exasperated wife. Twisted music box bells and tick-tock percussion also get across a political snake pit of cutthroats, while wistful, and sometimes brooding strings become Sarkovsky’s strained marriage – all giving melodic depth to “The Conquest’s” loopy humor.

Extra Special:
Piovani serves a similarly delightful Rota-esque course for “Comme un Chef” (“The Chef”), a tasty piece of froth that had international tough guy Jean Reno as a gourmet losing his touch, only to have his creativity, and ire boil over when teamed with an upstart kitchen whiz. Piovani gives this buddy chef comedy a wistful, sad-sack jazz approach that is more about slow-burn exasperation that racing for head of state, with a fuzz guitar only adding to Reno’s exasperation at the new kid of the butcher block. Elmer Bernstein’s sardonic approach for scores like “The Grifters” also come to mind in Piovani’s clip-clop rhythms, whose French taste comes across with the ingredient of an accordion, with even pseudo-Spaghetti banjo strumming applied to escargot. Where Piovani’s clever stew also includes Flamenco and a a zippy show jingle, what shines through “The Chef” are its lovely, bouncy melodies that finally bond its adversaries over the sheer joy of food – a la such French cuisine porn scores a la Alexandre Desplat’s “Julia and Julia.” For a composer often given to weightier entrees, this is a soundtrack pairing that’s as effervescent as champagne popped in a musical clown car rounding politicians and gourmets alike.



5) THE PROMISE

Price: $11.99

What is it?: Throughout his career, Lebanese-French composer Gabriel Yared has shown a deep, lyrical empathy for the horrors of war and ethnic cleansing. Hearing both the epic sorrow of the masses alongside the intimacy of two lovers, Yared’s talent for tragedy has included America’s Civil War in “Cold Mountain,” a boy transformed into a human dog by The Holocaust for “Adam Resurrected” and soul mates turned into mortal enemies by the Serbian war “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” But where these subjects have often gotten play in the cinema, The Armenian Genocide has gone curiously unrecognized in any major multiplex way until “The Promise.” Realized by director Terry George, who impact dealt with the tribal massacre happening outside of the “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Promise” deals with Turkey’s still (and always) unrecognized genocide of the Catholics within its county, an act whose seeming acceptability among the world powers gave Hitler the idea he could also get away with it when it came to the Jews. But as opposed to making some treatise, George’s treatment is as resolutely old schooled and passionate as a movie you might have seen (sans its more horrific violence) during Hollywood’s golden age, if the studios had the balls to make a picture about the Armenian Genocide back in the day.

Why should you buy it?:
While Yared is more than capable of similarly rising his orchestra to understandably thunderous outrage a la Steiner or Tiomkin, this soft-spoken composer is more effective with sad, floating melody – though stormy, symphonic percussion is certainly on hand for the Turkish army’s march of annihilation. Centering his score around a love theme that encapsulates both couple and their ethnic birth rite, Yared creates a sense of poignant, shivering foreboding, if not the inevitable – music that’s full of shame at seeing a country, and civilized behavior going to unstoppable pieces. It’s a style that’s nearly universal to any movie about a Holocaust, but Yared’s intelligent, almost soothing approach is never mawkish in getting across desperate sorrow. There’s also a sense of unbeatable hope alongside dire brass, urgent rhythm and chorus that has the survivors determined to make a last stand. Where the west has the violin to conjure haunting sadness, an instrument that Yared uses effectively here, there’s no more effective, ancient wind instrument in “The Promise” than The Duduk to convey desolation. “The Promise” hauntingly resonates with its sound of humanity and love put to the ultimate test, delivering on both the film’s epic sweep and emotional intimacy that makes an event unknown to most, either through ignorance or outright denial, come alive with musically devastating and touching results as only Yared’s distinctively elegiac voice can deliver it.

Extra Special:
“The Promise’s” album showcases Armenian music, from the festive fiddling of “Lach Nazar’s Dance” to the gorgeous hymn “Gohanamk.” It’s a spirituality that’s also beautifully conveyed through Veronika Stadler’s haunting voice, and lyrics as part of Serj Tankian’s Duduk-topped Authentic Light Orchestra with “Sari Siroun Yar,” Unintended sadness comes from listening to Chris Cornell’s “The Promise,” his distinctive, and now sadly silenced voice adapting Yared’s theme into a orchestra-backed title song, its rising melody recalling Cornell’s far more rocking title track “You Know My Name” from “Casino Royale” in a more mellow, if no less passionate way.


ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

. THE BIG SICK

Michael Andrews has been a particularly busy composer on the funny-crass comedy scene, applying his alt. rock grooves to the Judd Apatow-approved likes of “Funny People,” “Bridesmaids” and “The Five-Year Engagement” among the even filthier likes of “Bad Teacher,” “The Heat” and “Dirty Grandpa.” While the Apatow-produced “The Big Sick” might not lack for F-bombs and one cute bodily function joke, it’s a far more gentle, and way better affair than anything bearing the Apatow brand before it – making for one of the year’s best, and most emotionally affecting films given Andrews’ intimately groovy score. “The Big Sick” resonates with the power of real life, as it’s taken from Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s culturally rocky relationship with a WASP that gets even more difficult when she falls into a coma following their break-up. He starts with a pleasant theme that gets across a tentative, sweet bond based on mutual joking, a guitar groove sending the irresistible pair down the happy lane of growing attraction. Where this kind of engagingly mushy stuff used to be expressed with lush, swooning orchestras, Andrews’ intimate use of piano, guitar and retro-synthy samples is the perfect exemplar of a new, hip generation of young lovers, with all of their charm intact through Andrews’ unplugged approach. But soon, the score gets more confused and nightmarish as unexpected life-or-death stakes strike, reflecting a guy who’s pretty much glided though life and meaningless hook-ups having his world blown up. As he can’t help stick by the hospitable bed, and deal with his ex’s none-too pleased parents, Andrews’ score grows even more lyrically moving in its mainly acoustical approach that ranges from melancholy to hope with each new medical development. Given a more affecting stage than before with the kind of hip characters that have comprised so much of his cool repertoire, Andrews’ often beautifully unplugged, theme-based scoring hears the comedy called life in all of its poignancy and warmth, making “The Big Sick” pack quite a moving wallop from the softest of musical touches, especially as graced with the catchily uplifting, hand-clapping rhythm of The Bird and the Bee’s end song “My Life.”



. CARS 3

Randy Newman has been there from Pixar’s starting line, with checkered flags waved for all three “Toy Story” movies, two “Monsters Inc.’s” and one “Bug’s Life.” Where he began the “Cars” saga, Newman was subbed by Michael Giacchino for the international spy action of the second-run “Cars 2.” But there’s no keeping an oldster from getting back on track, as Newman’s victorious return for the way better-reviewed “Cars 3” proves in reliably energetic style. Where the “Cars” movies have been Pixar’s youngest-skewing pictures with their bright, big-eyed vehicles, the new model gains a bit more maturity as Lightning McQueen faces the potential end of his racing career through a devastating accident. Leave it to Newman to go full, old-school orchestral speed with McQueen’s chance at redemption, bringing on the classic, Americana orchestral sound that’s defined his scoring career with the likes of “The Natural,” “Pleasantville” and even “Cold Turkey.” But if this new “Cars” is just a bit more serious, there’s gentle humor and rambunctiousness to spare in Newman’s approach. It’s all very much an enjoyable piece in his Pixar sound that hits every humorous bit and heartfelt emotion in a way that’s constantly shifting gears, but avoiding the Mickey Mouse’ing that’s a speed trap in toon scoring for any composer. A lush, sunny homespun quality powers “Cars 3,” with yokel guitar music drawing the once-hotshot McQueen back to his first consciousness-raising stop at Radiator Springs. Newman also has fun with Hawaiian fuzz guitar and sad-sack brass amidst the rousing, get-back-on-track momentum. For a composer who’s accompanied baseball players and horses through many laps of defeat and victory, “Cars” most effectively taps into the universal appear of sports-movie scoring, live action or not, slowing down here and there for Newman’s trademarked poignancy before trumpeting rhythm speeds McQueen out of the pit stop. As his hero spends “Cars 3” getting back into pole position, Newman’s lushly reliable gift for conveying the thrill of the race in an nostalgically understandable way for both the youngest, and oldest viewers is more energized than ever for his very welcome return to put the “Cars” saga back on track.



. GOOD MORNING VIETNAM / OPERATION DUMBO DROP

The Vietnam War and Disney live action might have seemed like very strange bedfellows, unless of course comedy and wild animals were involved. Such is the curious, and entertaining pairing of Alex North and David Newman on Intrada’s album of 1987’s “Good Morning Vietnam” and 1995’s “Operation Dumbo Drop.” Produced by the company’s Touchstone Division, which could give berth to star Robin Williams’ R-rated stream of consciousness as real-life DJ Adrian Cronauer, “Vietnam” is most famous for interspersing era-classic pop / R & b hits by The Beach Boys, James Brown and Them with Williams’ zingers. Yet there’s a score in here as well, by the rarely comedic Alex North, a master of soundtrack-changing expressionism with the likes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Dragonslayer.” But that balance between fairly serious scoring and Williams’ song-filled mania is likely what director Barry Levinson was looking for. Scantly, but impactfully used at around 17 minutes of airtime, North’s score doesn’t sell out, but is certainly a bit less rhythmically experimental than usual. Beginning with a boogie-woogie, many of North’s brief cues carry a subtle Asian flavor and an overall brightness to them, capturing a somewhat heroic funnyman becoming intoxicated by an exotic land during his downtime, with a dawning realization during the film’s second half that not everything if fun and radio games in some of the score’s more expressionistic detours. It’s a bit like briefly switching from “I Heard it through the Grapevine” to the classical station, creating an unusual contrast that makes these interesting segues as welcome tune-in for North completists. Making far more of an orchestral statement is Newman’s “Dumbo,” a play on another famed Disney character, here turned into a real-life “flying” elephant with no end of bodily function jokes for the GI’s trying to save it from the Cong. Newman had long been excelling with rambunctiously melodic kid-friendly scores like” “The Mighty Ducks,” “The Sandlot” and “The Flintstones” by the time this unique animal movie came his way. In a sort of dry run for the African-set adventure of “The Phantom,” Newman combines Asian winds and percussion with his wonderfully antic orchestrations, which blend with electronics for an alternately thrilling and meditative sound. Where there’s heartwarming emotion and dynamic action to spare, Newman’s score is most affecting as it majestically conveys the bond between Vietnamese culture with a very human animal, one that goes back to time immemorial. It’s a spiritual understanding that drives the score, and finally gets into the GI’s heads beyond their grousing – even if the often funny animals is in the score’s jungle surrounding bely a situation that’s anything but cute.


. I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE

Given the grippingly dark, lethally hushed quality of bros Brooke and Will Blair’s approaches for director Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room,” one might not expect much humor to seep through their music for another blood-drenched parable about the limits of vengeance. The no-relation Macon Blair (so great as a hapless vigilante schlub and a hapless skinhead schlub in those movies) is now the writer and director behind two losers out for payback against computer stealing psycho douches, and the world in general. Given an unbalanced homebody and a pumped-up dweeb with delusions of Bruce Lee nunchuck grandeur haplessly trying to take out the Manson Family-esque trash in their Silverlake hood, the Blairs get to have a bit more eccentric fun here without selling out their effective brand of simmering alt. doom. Taking on a twangy country music affectation, the Blairs use a weirdo Theremin-like sound to capture just how out of their league its heroes are, while haplessly bringing on payback with finger-snapping percussion, shouting voices and a 70’s-era funk-guitar sax action vibe. Having last played for Nazi punks, the Blairs are definitely on home turf with slow-burn chords and tribal percussion for “Home’s” druggie scum. As with their past scores, guitar is the attitude here, but it’s unleashed with righteous payback that ranges from thrash to the meditative, building to the film’s climax with evil metal-rock hits, their twisted music escalating with a sense of panic of two people who’ve gotten themselves into a whole lot more corpse-filled trouble than they reckoned. Taking their bad-ass energy up a notch, the Blairs continue to provide menace like few alt. composers out there, putting their metal groove into unlikely hands while revealing a surprising sense of very dark, if sympathetic humor in the process with a score you can imagine taking place in a Twilight Zone biker bar. Adding to “World’s” eccentric shitkicker feeling are any number of oddball, ironic song choices, from Jason Newman’s Tiki Lounge vibe of “Go Away (To Paradise),” the country balladeering of Texas Shapphire’s beatific “Bring Out the Bible (We Ain’t Got a Prayer”) and Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses” for good retro measure – all adding to a humorously unnerving experience that continues the Blair Brothers simmering theme that revenge is best left to the professionals.



. LADY JANE (1,000 edition)

Where many costume dramas are inapproachably adult, and stuffily regal when it comes to attracting a youthful audience, 1986’s unsung “Lady Jane” was a welcome, romantic difference in the true story of young royals thrust onto the throne during an insurrection against Queen Mary, only to fatally prove themselves anything but their elders’ puppets. It’s a likewise tragedy that this marvelously romantic score would be the only theatrical offering from Stephen Oliver, a composer well-versed in such Shakespearean TV adaptations as “The Winter’s Tale,” “Antony & Cleopatra” and “Othello” (among numerous operas) before his untimely passing at the age of 42. If there’s a Bard antecedent to “Lady Jane’s” star-crossed young lovers (played by Helena Bonham-Carter and Cary Elwes at the beginning of their oft-costumed careers), then it would be “Romeo and Juliet,” particularly in its swooningly romantic, Renaissance-era period score by Nino Rota. Sure the usual stalwarts of the off-with-their-heads genre were musically on hand here, with enough heraldic trumpets, regal Latin choruses and aristocratic drumming to fill any number of coronations. But where “Lady Jane” reigns supreme in its genre is in how Oliver bends the music of stuffed-shirt royalty into the growing love between two teenagers who are placed into a world beyond their imagination. Given a gorgeous theme that serves for orchestrally robust pomp and circumstance as well as budding romance, Oliver’s score seamlessly flows between the symphonic responsibility of the throne with the far more intimate guitar, flute and strings of a couple’s indifference growing into a bond they’d die for. There’s terrifically exciting suspense and alarm as well as the adult’s plans collapse in the face of the True Queen, a blending of the Baroque classical and contemporary that makes Oliver’s score especially vibrant, and even sadder when you hear the sound of what could have been. But at least this gorgeously majestic, and heartbreaking score, exceptionally well-performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, remains a hidden gem no more thanks to Quartet’s lavish two-CD release, seen under the auspices of Tadlow producer James Fitzpatrick and Film Score Monthly’s Lukas Kendall. With the first album devoted to the complete score, and the second a representation of the release that should have come out at the time had the movie not be ignonimously dispatched, “Lady Jane” finally assumes its rightful seat as one of the great scores about royalty that this distinctly English genre has ever produced, one all the more distinct for its youthful appeal for both a king, queen and composer who could have achieved greatness, but leave behind an impressive memory of their brief reigns.



. ODE TO BILLY JOE

Among movies based on country-fied hit songs like “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” and “Take This Job and Shove It,” one of the most unexpected cinematic treatments given to a Red State ballad came from 1976’s “Ode To Billy Joe.” With it’s folksy guitar and plunging string line, Bobbie Gentry spun the story in 1967 of how Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and how the narrator’s family tries to make sense of his suicide. It was fairly daring in the way that “Beverly Hillbillies” star-turned-director Max Baer Jr. revealed the reason as gay panic, putting a tragic spin onto the re-teaming of attractive young stars Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor from the previous big city bonding for “Jeremy.” With their love now significantly more tormented in “Ode’s” unaccepting, period setting of 1950’s Mississippi, there was no better composer to call in than Frenchman Michel Legrand. In a film scoring culture used to lushly playing tragedy, Legrand had a remarkably thematic talent for tearing romance asunder in such as scores as “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “The Happy Ending,” “Wuthering Heights” and his Oscar-winning “Summer of ’42.” As with many of his memorable orchestral works, Legrand’s “Ode” is mainly comprised of a melody equally capable of swooning affection and heart-rending doom, his string-laden emotions spinning from delicate strokes of the piano into a full orchestra. For even if the finally manic Billy Joe thinks that no one can understand the unspeakable urges his girlfriend can’t comprehend, leave it to Legrand to fully express them. It’s the kind of sweepingly tempestuous, symphonic music for young lovers that instantly grabs the heart, keyboard, flute, harp and strings aflutter with all of the unbridled emotion that comes from raging hormones that don’t go the way its doomed hero desperately hopes for. Gentry’s vibe becomes the stuff of Shakespearean lyricism in Legrand’s passionately melodic hands with a score that stands tall with his best dramatic work, which remains just as vibrant four decades later with Kritzerland’s sumptuous premiere CD release of the original LP, whose first side as such contains the Gentry classic and Legrand’s score, with the remaining soundtrack given over to the far more indigenous country pickin’, fiddlin’ and harmonica blowin’ source music that’s a contrasting hoedown to a kid born in the wrong place, and wrong time, even if that song never hinted at first to the reason for his jump into lush, symphonic and oh-so French waters of the Tallahatchie.



. PARIS CAN WAIT

Jet-setting Diane Lane drives about the French countryside with the business partner of her flighty husband Alec Baldwin (but when hasn’t he played one?) on this travelogue of food and wine where, thanks to the magic of the movies, no gains a pound. But as sheerly caloric musical fun goes, Laura Karpman’s score for Eleanor Coppola’s froth for the older set is an experience of imbibing in pure, hip delight. What’s better is that opposed to going for a dry, mature vintage of humor, Karpman knows how to soup this stuff up, while still incorporating everything we know and love about bubbly, French-accented scoring. Using a alternative beat to launch the gourmand road trip, Karpman brings on various courses of piano that play delicate romance and cafe jazz, while scratch-sampling such standards as “Je Te Veux,” “Que reste – il de nom amours” into musical molecular gastronomy. Fingersnaps, flute and strings unfold a picnic, while escargot is seasoned with reverbed female voices and a “Groovy Bistro” pops with accordion. While not taking a retro Michel Legrand approach as such, there’s a real freshness that recalls how dynamic those great, jazzily progressive French composers were at taking the classic sound of amour into a new groovy pop era, all without betraying their country’s swooningly affectionate tongue. As she accompanies a fellow American while absorbing all the pleasures of white privilege senses, Karpman provides an enchanting alt. road trip, at once lyrical and vibrant as her soundtrack flows with the rejuvenating effects of rhythm without losing sight, or hearing of what makes France so delightful, perhaps more than ever given her energetic sampling that puts a new spring in its heroine’s gentle step.



. PUPPET ON A CHAIN

One of Italy’s great practitioners of film scoring shagadelia with the likes of “The 10th Victim,” Piero Piccioni could bring a unhinged sense of abandon to his work when not doing more orchestrally serious scores. Perhaps its one reason that his songs have continued to be groovily heard in such Hollywood soundtracks as “The Big Lebowski,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” If there’s a highlight of sexual psychedelia in Piccioni’s prolific repertoire, then it would arguably go to the sensually liberated fuzz guitar and organ orgies of “Camille 2000.” So give Piccioni an Alistair MacLean drug thriller set in Amsterdam with 1971’s “Puppet On A Chain,” and the gloriously lurid result is like sending the “Camille” groove straight to the S & M room of hellfire club to be ravaged by brass-knuckle horns. “Puppet” is a grungily groovy score very much in line with the new, hep cop thriller music that was hitting at the time, most iconically overseas that year with Lalo Schifrin’s “Dirty Harry.” But if that Argentinian composer brought a female vocal fuzz guitar elegance to even the likes of the Scorpio killer, Piccioni’s treatment of smack-dealing Amsterdam sleaze merchants and a ruthless assassin is the psychedelic equivalent of slap in the face, as delivered via rocky rhythms in tandem with an delirious orchestra (performed by the London Sinfonia no less) and pseudo-007 horns. You’d better believe these cue titles mean it – from an “LSD Party” with bongo Indian rhythms to a weirdly distorted “Drug Hypnosis” the gnarled strings of “Fear” and the monstrous lurching of “Obsession,” “Puppet’ is engineered for maximum acid-action brute force – as dancing with filthy horns, electric organs and fuzz guitars at their sleaziest. “Puppet” is Piccioni gone gloriously grindhouse in a way that will delight his fans’ baser instincts, along with admirers of groovy treats like “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and “Barbarella.” Here, Piccioni’s sex kitten sound is a raging tiger, which is back on CD (and of course vinyl) thanks to this unexpected release from Silva Screen Records, awesomely straying a bit from the BBC respectability we’ve grown accustomed to. Let’s hope there’s more thrilling shagadelia to come from the label, especially when it comes to Piccioni.



. SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE / BAYWATCH (3,000 edition)

It seemed that animal-friendly, hip kids’ friendly composer Christopher Lennertz (“Hop,” “Cats and Dogs 2,” “Marmaduke”) was truly beyond redemption after using Disney-ready music to have an R-rated orchestral orgy in the animated supermarket food aisle of “Sausage Party,” But there’s hope yet that Lennertz can re-enter PG-rated grace as he helps those little blue devils find their kin with “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” Sure, seditious humor is now an ingrained part of even the most gentle children’s movie, which doesn’t mean that Lennertz takes his music any less seriously, or ambitiously for these Belgian-born icons in the first Sony movie completely set in a CG cartoon world. Lennertz paints such a symphonically wondrous blue color that you might think you’re listening to tale of “Avatar’s” planet of Pandora, especially given his use of tropical percussion and winds. He soaringly captures the spirit of great kid’s adventure-fantasy scores, if most definitely in funny terms, especially when using a sinister cimbalom to play the frustrated Smurf-obsessed wizard Gargamel and his exasperated cat. There’s a delightful rambunctiousness as the characters set off in pursuit of a great, neighboring mystery, given Lennertz’s terrific writing for any number of thrilling, comic chases that are as orchestrally lush, and pleasant to run through as the movie’s fantasy jungle. Where Lennertz has fun evoking superhero music as much as he does a Simpsons attitude via the Smurfs, what stands tall in his epic score for small people-things is just how nicely emotional it gets in pointing out Smurfette’s hope that she isn’t the last woman in town, in quite lovely fashion for Lennertz and Shaley Scott’s song “You Will Always Find Me in Your Heart.” There’s a real, exciting musical dimension a grown up score fan would never expect from a “Smurfs” movie, a fun sense of magic and wonder that Lennertz brings to his enchantingly shaded music.

Way more muscle-headed adult, and about as subtle as sunburn is Lennertz’s action spoof ‘roid rage score for “Baywatch.” Having accompanied director Seth Gordon for the raw jazz assault against “Horrible Bosses” and the Tex-Mex cons of “Identity Thief,” the duo now update the winkingly innocent David Hasselhoff show to hard-on R-rated raunch. Just as Elmer Bernstein took a straight-laced, symphonic approach to the disaster clichés of “Airplane,” Lennertz hits up “Baywatch” as if he was scoring a completely straight-laced Rock picture. Hence this is likely the most insanely serious score that never graced a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Hyper-electronic sampling that sounds like an od’ing rave concert mixes it up with brawny symphonic action, and very sad piano music for a hero’s tortured past. It’s everything old school score fans want off their lawn, but then that’s exactly the very humorous, sweaty point of just how well Lennertz thunderously apes multiplex action music. Way more suited to a “Fast and the Furious” score than jiggling babes, “Baywatch” is seditious, testosterone fun, exactly the kind of bombastic fireball music the Rock is usually running away from in slow motion – though it happens to be on a beach amidst exploding speedboats and a femme fatale going to hilarious firework pieces. But then given Lennertz’s own history with spoof scores like “Soul Plane,” “Meet the Spartans” and “Disaster Movie,” taking off the excess of todays’ action scoring with barely a smile is “Baywatch’s” most hilariously seditious act of all.



. THE YAKUZA (1,500 edition)

The beginning of a beautiful musical friendship was drenched with intoxicating fatalism, as director Sidney Pollack and composer David Grusin had the eerie stillness of east meet film noir west for 1974’s “The Yakuza.” Way more in the spirit of Sam Fuller’s “The Crimson Kimono” than Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” “The Yakuza” finds Robert Mitchum, the icon of still-life coolness, as a private dick back in Japan to rescue his war buddy’s kidnapped daughter from the country’s ancient, tatoo’d version of The Mob. As scripted by “Taxi Driver’s” Paul Schrader at the height of his nihilistic powers (along with his brother Leonard, then revised by “Chinatown’s” Robert Towne), “The Yakuza” was filled with lyrical sadness for all of its bloody samurai swordplay and Yank gun shooting – a stillness hauntingly met by Gaijin Grusin. But then, the musician had often distinguished himself as both a master of cool jazz and as a composer who’d grown from fun, swinging work on “Gidget,” “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Divorce American Style” to far more somber, and dramatically complex work with “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” and “Adam at Six A.M.” He’d then show his adeptness with the criminally-themed “The Midnight Man” and the Mitchum-starring “Friends of Eddie Coyle.” But with “The Yakuza,” Grusin ventured into a whole new underworld. Where many composers couldn’t help by westernize scores set in foreign lands, Grusin reached an uncommon level of ethnic truth in his scoring, matching a level of instrumental authenticity that could easily have him mistaken for Toru Takemitsu (“Rising Sun”). Using the indigenous winds, chimes and percussion, much of “The Yakuza” is impressionistic, if not outright experimental. It’s haunted, shivering and conflicted tone, twisted brush strokes for the most part instead of an outright musical attack in keeping with the formal, poetic restraint of Schrader and Pollack’s approach before all bloody hell breaks loose, along with honorably severed fingers. Where Grusin captures the disorienting experience of a gumshoe lost in a culture’s most violent recesses, “The Yakuza” is still very much a traditional noir score, from its gorgeously drunken sax and a symphonically lush love theme to ominous, threatening strings of thugs in the shadows. But it’s Japan that’s ultimately in charge of this strikingly distinctive and somber work, whose tonal ideas Grusin and Pollack would return to America in jazzier form for the conspiratorial “Three Days of the Condor” and “The Firm” (along with far more upbeat soundtrack pairings like “Tootsie” and “The Electric Horseman”). Previously released on an out of print Film Score Monthly edition, “The Yakuza” returns to CD as part of Varese Sarabande’s We Hear You Series, featuring Grusin’s signature piano and sax touch, Japanese action star Ken Takakura singing a Japanese version of the title theme “Only the Wind,” as well as the addition of score piano demos. Jon Burlingame’s perceptive liner notes make this intoxicatingly dark trip to Japan worth taking again for one of Hollywood’s most uniquely made, and scored take downs of a foreign crime syndicate.



CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Moviescoremedia and Screen Archives Entertainment

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Brian Reitzell

Vr, 14/07/2017 - 03:20

Surely one of the most deliriously strange and original composers working for Hollywood’s golden calves of television, film and videogames, it’s likely that Brian Reitzell would be playing for the both teams in “American Gods. Indeed, the old school overlords and shock of the new idols have been paid tribute. One on hand nightmarishly skilled in the classical instruments that serve as “Hannibal’s” favorite cooking accompaniment, and on the other showing that he’s keyboard-techno hip for the punk kids of “The Bling Ring,” the uniquely sorcerous sounds that resonate from Reitzell for the likes of “30 Days of Night,” “Boss” and “Watch Dogs” represent the height of eclectic music. And that doesn’t begin to cover the styles that capture the sacred and profane of this Starz series, which has just recently completed its first season’s road trip to reveal the true nature of the beings controlling the destiny of ex-con Shadow Moon, his sassily decaying wife Laura and humanity in general.

Adapted from the book by otherworldly fantasist Neil Gaiman by “Hannibal” show runners Bryan Fuller and David Slade, “American Gods” stands tall as one of the most visually striking and thematically profound genre shows yet put on cable – delivering on the graphic and intellectual promise that the cannibal stretched to the limits on network television. Delving into the need for belief that’s part of mankind’s DNA at figuring out their place in a universe so twisted and uncaring that it could only be ruled by supernatural figures, the first season of “American Gods” ripped open a curtain of rebooted deities, as masked for our particular culture. Here our iconic deities have masked themselves as media bros, a weapons manufacturer, an impossibly cheerful bunny wrangler, a surly slaughterhouse worker and a punch-drunk Irishman among many others.

Packed with all-consuming sex, gory showers and clever mini-episodes that show how prayers ironically deliver, “American Gods” is a field day for Reitzell’s most imaginative, and accessible work yet in the TV medium. Drawing on America’s indigenous jazz, the ancient rhythms of Egypt and the satiric pop of David Bowie for inspiration, Reitzell prostrates himself with unimaginable fusions of inspiration, whether it be hip-hop Celtic jazz, Wagnerian blood and thunder or the Arabic-cosmic lovemaking between cabbie and Djinn. Now with Reitzell’s work compiled by Milan fathomable and enthralling as its gods’ motivations. Reitzell’s music thrusts us into a world of ancient rhythm and the impossibly hip, at hypnotic peace in a way that new and old gods certainly won’t in the ensuing throwdown to come when “American Gods” returns – as heard by a lunatic composer who worships all.

Were you familiar with Neil Gaiman’s work, and this particular book before getting the series? And if not, did you dive into it once you had the show?

Yes, I was aware of Neil’s work but hadn’t read “American Gods.” David Slade had recommended it to me so I had a copy already on my shelf. I dove right in. Read the book, read the scripts and even listened to an audio book in my car. I wanted to totally respect what Neil had created. I needed to soak it all in and then I could decide where to go from there.

“Hannibal” allowed you to create some of the most unusual music ever heard on network television. With you working for that show’s creators on Starz, were the gloves truly off to just be as musically insane as you wanted?

Oh I took the gloves off long ago! “Hannibal” evolved into something that was uniquely it’s own. It had it’s own custom instruments. It’s own sonic language. Will Graham lost his mind and the music went there with him. I was blessed with having 100% creative freedom plus the love and support from Bryan Fuller, David Slade, Martha De Laurentiis and the studios. With “American Gods,” even though I was essentially working with both Bryan and David again, it was a very different situation. It was also a very different story and has it’s own universe. I approached it in a slightly more conventional manner because that felt right. There are moments when we are pushing things even further then we did with “Hannibal” but it’s certainly not as far out as that show overall. I did the show “Boss” for Starz a few years back as well and that was a lovely experience. They get it, and yes, the gloves are off. But the protective goggles are on!

Tell me about scoring the main titles, and what you wanted the music to convey about what was to unfold. How did the visuals inspire you?

When I was tasked with composing the Main Title sequence I was deep into scoring the show so I had to create it during after hours. Doing double duty in this business is very common as I’m sure you know. I knew it was coming so I started messing around with a chord sequence just based on the concepts that I was being fed by Bryan Fuller. When we had our first meeting with Patrick from Elastic who directed the titles I already had the chords and a full demo. He showed me a bunch of storyboards and he, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green talked me through the shape of it. I suggested doing it at 120 BPM which would make my chord sequence fit perfectly into 90 seconds. I originally wanted it to be more classic, more John Barry. Big orchestral. Pop. Bryan and Michael wanted it to be more percussive and dirty, and when I saw the images, that’s exactly what it needed. It all came together fairly naturally but it’s a monster. I maxed out ProTools. I wanted to score the images, not just play a song or background music. I also wanted a hook and for it to have lots of ear candy to accentuate all the visuals. I also wanted to cover the sound design with the music – engine sounds and such, but to do it musically and be cohesive. I wanted it to be thrilling and trippy and also to introduce Shirley Manson and Mark Lanegan’s voices as gods.


How did you want to get across the difference between the old, and new gods that represent blood and thunder tradition versus crass technology?

I wanted to give all the gods their own sound. I also liked giving a nod to both Monty Python and Looney Tunes so it goes over the top like a 50’s cartoon at times. I wanted it to be fun and to go deep. Most people won’t even get the reference of Norwegian Black Metal music for the Vikings but that’s where it started for me. I wanted Mr. Wednesday to be scored with a jazz combo and for the pre-historic Nunnyunnini animated sequence to sound like pre-historic music so I only used bones, shells, skins, wood and voice as my instruments for that cue. No digital or analogue effects even. I threw out all western musical forms and tried to make something that could have been made in pre-historic times. On the flip side for Techno Boy I only used a 909 drum machine and a computer program to score him. I love these kinds of challenges. Much of it is psychological rather than purely musical.

Many episodes would start with a self-contained tale that dwelt on belief, which often didn’t have the expected results for the gods’ worshippers. How did you view the importance of these pre-sequences and their music?

Those cues were pretty epic. They were standalone sequences and a chance for me to bring in whatever felt right regardless of what came before or after them. Each one was completely different from the next so all the instrumentation and style was altered to fit the particular scene / god / time / etc… I just try to get inside of the story and color it in a way that makes it as immersive and entertaining as possible. It’s always important for me to seduce the audience into the show so if the show would open with one of those sequences as it often did, then it was a way for me to have fun with the classic popcorn film score. It was a nice departure but it was also totally linked to the overall story of belief and worship. I wanted those scenes to feel connected but also be a very different experience.


Did you have a favorite god to score for?

I loved them all really. Each one had it’s own unique voice but the Nunnyunnini sequence was my favorite. I’m now very interested in doing more animation. I would like to do an entire episode or film that is animated. The only problem is that it takes them so long to make the picture. I think that scene took about 9 months and it’s only around 4 minutes long!

“American Gods” allowed you to also dig back into ancient, ethnic music, but with a twist. Could you talk about scoring the gods’ original homelands?

In between projects I like to travel, and when I travel, I always seek out indigenous musical instruments to bring home. I keep my studio as stocked with as many instruments as I have physical space for. It’s a bit out of control at the moment! One never knows when one needs a fish skin Riq from North Africa or a Chinese Sho. I like to play the instrument. Put my hands on it. To experiment with the different methods of making various sounds and textures. “American Gods” did afford me the opportunity to incorporate many of these instruments into the score. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any one style of music except my own. I am very interested in using instruments from all over the world and to have a basic knowledge of how to play them.

If I need something special or for something to be played by an expert of a particular instrument then I bring them into my world. This was certainly the case with episode 7 where I needed to create Celtic Doo Whop music. I brought in a couple of Celtic musicians to play on top of the Doo Whop tracks I created. That was fun. We had never heard Celtic Doo Whop and had no idea if it would work but it did! It wasn’t just the instruments either. We experimented with incorporating specific music forms on top of other musical forms, which was really interesting. We mixed a traditional Irish Reel on top of American Jazz with some Phil Spector.

The idea of making ancient music is very interesting to me. There aren’t any recordings of ancient music so there’s plenty of room for me to do it my own way. Over the years I have studied so many different musical time periods. I love it when I get presented with something that I haven’t yet researched to death. The greatest thing about music for me is how expansive it is. I will never learn or discover all of it so when I discover a music / musician / style / composer / instrument that I like and wasn’t aware of it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s been there all along but we were never introduced until now! I love the challenges that this show presented me. It’s just like cooking. You gather your indigenous ingredients, respect the traditions and make it your own using the most appropriate tools. This show took me to so many places but it’s important for me to be an individual. To make it my own, so maybe that’s the twist you mention. I have my strengths and I have my limitations so at the end of the day it all some how sounds like me.


“American Gods” had rather extreme, and stylish amounts of sex and violence, particularly in the all-consuming goddess Bilquis. Could you talk about scoring her, and her rather unusual lovemaking sequences?

There are a few Biquis scenes but they are all connected by the instrumentation. We made a flute sound for the melody by blending two very different wind instruments. I have been presented with some rather unusual sex scenes over the past few years. I just do my best to make the audience feel like they are in the film and in the case of that first Bilquis scene the audience is devoured! It was a very intense scene to score. It was all consuming to say the least!

“American Gods” had what’s arguably the most romantic, and explicit homosexual love scene been on cable between Salim and the Jinn. Could you talk about scoring this sequence?

That was the only cue that I scored and then had to throw out and start over. I originally did something more like legit softcore porn music – sax and piano. It was cheesy and romantic. It was hilarious! When I showed it to Bryan he said no, it needs to be sexy, primal. He wanted me to turn the audience on and get them all hot and bothered. I knew exactly what to do and in the end it came out really cool. Lee Scott, my music editor who also did “Hannibal” with me said it was the best cue he’d ever heard me do though it did get watered down a bit in the final dub. SO I have done a few sex scenes over the years, though nothing quite like this!

It’s all percussion and one horn. Many of the percussion instruments I played I wasn’t even aware of what they were called, so my engineer and I would have to Google them so we knew what to put on the track sheets. You can’t just put percussion 1 – 30 it would be too overwhelming. I learned a bit in that process. The VFX came in a bit late so I had to go back and hit all the fire FX after I had scored the scene. The VFX really need the music to make them work. To make them feel alive. If I hadn’t hit everything the way I did then it would have been filled with sound effects, which would have broken the sauce and cheapened the experience. It was a tremendous amount of work but it’s not every day that I get to score a gay Muslim sex scene. I wanted it to be very special. It had to be!

It’s often hard to get a grip on the gods’ motivations, and if they’re good, or evil. How was it to score characters that people viewed in moral absolutes, but were rather unknowable?

I just do what feels right to me. I don’t ever like for the audience to feel like they are being spoon fed or manipulated. I want to take their hand, strap them in and let them enjoy the ride. I’m just adding to the whole experience. Adding my color, my comments to what is already on the plate. It’s not always what you think it is on the surface. Laura for example found her way into the audience’s hearts but if you look at her story she did some unforgivable things. I loved that about what Neil, Bryan and Michael gave me to work with. It’s deep. It might be confusing at times but it’s always great to look at and it makes you think.

Music has always been part of worship and ritual, no matter the culture. How do you think that tradition plays into your approach?

I have studied sacred music of all kinds for many years. As a kid growing up with hippy parents in Northern California we even had our own ritual, something we called the “Riddim.” We would all grab an instrument, mostly drums, shakers, pots and pans and play them in unison as we danced from the house down to the Russian River that was basically in our backyard. We would all chant “Riddim, Riddim” and when we got to the river we formed a circle as the music reached a clamorous crescendo. The neighbors probably thought we were nuts but we did it for years. As a kid growing up, my gods were musicians. Concert halls were my churches. When I make music it’s a sort of worship to all the gods of music I worshiped and studied growing up and still continue to this day. Making a track that was influenced by Giorgio Moroder and then sung by the goddess Debbie Harry is certainly a form of worship! Same is true with the tracks I made with Shirley Manson and Mark Lanegan. It’s all ritual and worship really.

On the other hand, I found your music for “American Gods” more melodic, and fun as such. Would you agree, and how it important was it to play to the series’ satiric tone?

Yes, totally. It was fun to make that kind of music. To give a wink and be silly when it felt right. To go over the top and to honor a more melodic and traditional approach at times. In some ways it’s much easier to do that then to do something like “Hannibal” or “30 Days of Night” where I have to invent rather then re-invent. I really embraced the satire of it. Once I did the first episode and thought about all those great BBC shows of my childhood like Monty Python and Benny Hill even, it was very clear where I was going. I’m a very selfish composer. I take the jobs that allow me to make the music that I want to make so it’s always rewarding. But this show was so diverse musically that it took pretty much all I had. I love doing comedy and I love doing horror and it was a real pleasure to combine the two.


In the way that iconic visions of gods are warped here, how did you want to bend the music we’d expect from them, i.e. Irish jigs for Leprechauns, etc.

I’m always bending things! I like making music that fits a characters style but not doing what is always expected. The idea of using a jig for Mad Sweeney was too easy and surface. I liked using the Yamaha organ and doing something a bit more like Garage Rock for him. Of course when we got to episode 7 and we were in old time Ireland it made sense but the whole concept of using something like contemporary Irish music over him is just too expected and isn’t cool to me. I always want to do cool things so I try to add to the characters style to make something new rather than what everybody expects us to do. It’s too cheap!

Could you talk about the major role of jazz in its many forms “American Gods?” Was it because jazz is essentially America’s indigenous music?

When I started working on the show everyone around me assumed it was going to be Americana / Folk music and there is some of that. But to me when I saw Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday jazz felt right. Jazz is such an American hybrid. It’s magical. For me it seemed totally appropriate to go there. I think of Ellington, Coltrane, Bird, Monk, etc… as American gods. I could also permutate that music into so many emotions from a smoky piano combo to hard core Be Bop and everything in between. For me jazz is the deepest kind of music. You have to be able to play. It can’t be made on a lap top or just written out. I’m lucky to have a black book filled with some of the best musicians on the planet that I get to play with. New Orleans. Man, that place is America if you think about how Cajun / Creole food and jazz music came to be. It was the ultimate fusion of cultures and traditions.


There are a lot of cool “pastiches” of classic pop and rock in “American Gods” from Donna Summer to David Bowie. As a musician with a rock background, did that make the series particularly appealing in twisting about the iconic sound of the American rock songbook?

Definitely. There are places where it would have been easier to just license an existing track but for me it’s very appealing to create something special for the show that showcases those references. Bowie, especially the Berlin era and Moroder are in my blood stream. I have all the gear and instruments so those cues were quite fun for us to make. It’s nice to steer away a bit from scoring and to make a fully produced song and even better to connect it with the score that is very natural to me. Plus I’m the show’s music supervisor and Bryan Fuller is well aware of what we can do in here. He will sometimes put something in and say “you know something like this but make it even better and can we get Debbie Harry to sing on it.”

Shadow Moon is sort of our “everyman” guide as to what it’s like to be in the company of a god, while trying to comprehend this insane road trip he’s on. How did you want to reflect his flawed humanity in the face of the cosmic?

I used a whole bag of tricks for Shadow but I liked the more acoustic and minimal. That’s also where I first had Mark Lanegan in to sing on “In The Pines”. That track and especially Mark’s voice just nailed that guy. I was trying to bring a bit more emotion to his character because he played it very low key like Neil had him written. I had to be carful to not go to far. It’s a super fine balance.

Could you talk about playing the relationship between Shadow and Laura Moon?

It varied quite a bit depending on the episode but mostly theirs was a tragic love story and was pretty straight musically. Lot’s of cello, piano and trumpet.

Could you tell us about which experimental film composers you admire, and how they might have played a role in “American Gods?”

There are too many to name but Toru Takemitsu in my opinion was the greatest film / TV composer of all time and his sensibilities are something I really admire. There are nods to 60’s Morricone, Elmer Bernstein by way of Elmer Leonard, Bernard Herrmann, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Pierre Shaeffer, Carl Stalling and Treg Brown in the show. I loved being able to do jazz. To go over the top and make it fun in places. To improvise to picture like Miles did back in the day. I work without sound effects mostly so I’m covering everything with my instruments – locks turning, cards shuffling, ceiling collapsing, sun shining in your eyes, etc… I found myself thinking like a silent film composer, like I was behind a curtain with all my instruments. The dialogue is always my top line when it’s in.

Do you see a similarity between your work for “Hannibal” and “American Gods?”

Yes, it’s still very much me but “Hannibal” was more uniquely my own style and more me as the main musician. “American Gods” required more musicians, a slightly more conventional approach and massive stylistic diversity. Both shows have Bryan Fuller at the helm and Bryan loves for me to cocoon the audience with sound to create a heightened sense of reality, which I embrace to the fullest! Both shows share a similar approach in that there is a heavy emphasis on musical performance and gut reaction. I try to never repeat myself so I had to move some of my “Hannibal” instruments out of the studio and put into my storage room so I couldn’t rely on my past.

Could you talk about working on the vocal songs in “American Gods,” especially when it came to collaborating with Garbage’s Shirley Manson?

There was a scene in episode 4 where a Garbage song had been temped. I thought the song was lyrically off because it was too on the nose but Shirley’s voice and her whole vibe was perfect. Butch Vig (Garbage drummer / producer) is a friend of mine so I told him about the scene and thought I could go through their catalog and find something that would beat the temp. Everybody loved the temp – except me I think. Remember I always want things to be special. So since I didn’t find the perfect track in their catalog, Butch put me in touch with Shirley, who luckily lives in the neighborhood. She came by the studio and I showed her the episode. She totally got the episode and with the character of Laura Moon.

Since I was super busy scoring the show I brought in my friend Roger Manning to help me quickly co-compose and record a track. The scene starts with the sound and image of a punching bag so I took that as my starting place and built a rhythm track based around that sort of cadence. Slapping flam taps on my legs and then adding drums, percussion and keyboards. It had a really nice post punk feel to it. Shirley wrote lyrics and came down and sang on it. It all happened really quickly because it was so natural for all of us. I think Roger and I had the backing track written and recorded in a couple hours and Shirley popped in a day or so later and after an hour we were done. The mix took a bit longer. I then brought Shirley back in to sing on the Main Title sequence and again be part of our own little ABBA with Debbie Harry for the last episode. I considered Shirley, Debbie and Mark Lanegan all musical gods / goddesses and liked bringing them back through out the life of the show.

What was the most difficult episode for you to score, and why?

The first one took the longest, which it always does. The most demanding though was the final episode. It required so many styles from Bob Fosee to Vivaldi to Herrmann to Moroder to Bugs Bunny to Morricone to…. The arc of the episode was brutal and I knew when I watched it that I wasn’t going to sleep for a week. I only had a week because the shows schedule got super compressed due to the VFX. I worked 95 days straight to pull it all off and I was getting tired so seeing that episode and knowing what I needed to do was daunting to say the least. Luckily I had started on the Moroder track a few weeks ahead because I knew it was coming and I needed to get it to Debbie who was in Australia on tour. It all worked out great and I’m very proud of it. I have an excellent team and could not have managed it without them. I work pretty old school so it takes a whole kitchen crew to get the food out on time and at such a high level. Regardless of any past successes I want to keep my Michelin stars! Every score is like a new frontier.

You wouldn’t expect tearful emotion from this show, but we certainly got it in the episode where we find out about Laura’s Irish ancestor. Could you talk about taking a relatively conventional approach to elicit that response?

I always just score what they give me. That episode was the one where we made Celtic Doo Whop too. I brought in some incredibly talented Celtic musicians who I had never worked with. I wanted it to feel like a children’s fairy tale. Big strings, whistles, pipes and choir. It might be the straightest episode except for that Doo Whop slant. That was fun for me. I rarely go there, but the whole experience with scoring this show was to try and faithfully create what the show needed. Those sweeping shots of the sea cliffs, the visions of leprechauns, a grandmother telling stories to her grand daughter. It reminded me of so many films I saw as a kid and so that’s where I went. I can be the straight guy but I rarely get asked to do that sort of thing and honestly I rarely want to because it’s been done so well for so long. There are a 1,000 people in LA that can do that same thing effortlessly. I mostly like being myself rather than doing what’s expected. But I love a good popcorn movie and that episode was a treat for me.

What was it like for you to finally unleash the musical thunder when Wednesday reveals his true identity in the climactic episode?

You mean to bring in the brass! That was something that had been building really since the first episode. It was great to have a big orchestra and to play with the swirling of the storm. That whole last act goes from one three-minute cue into another. I felt like I was making side two of Abbey Road but with a giant orchestra it’s all connected but goes so many different places. Ian McShane is such a powerful actor, it’s thrilling to color his performances.

Do you think that “American Gods” shows that the sky is truly the limit for genre shows, especially in terms of their music? And how do you hope “American Gods” develops for its second season?

The sky is always the limit! We have definitely entered a new era yet again. The bar keeps going up and up. I have never worked on anything quite like “American Gods.” Nobody had. It’s not film, TV or a video game. It’s all three rolled into one! All the different departments were working harder, longer and doing things they had never done before to get to the finish line. We had two show runners so it was doubly intense for all departments. This show could not have been made five or ten years ago. The times and the technology have made any and everything possible. Everything that I have done in my career prepared me for this, which is what I say ever year. But seriously this show made me go to places I hadn’t been in years and made me stretch myself out to places I had never been to before. To work in styles I had only ever listened to or appreciated from the audience. My mind is being blown on a weekly basis. I hope that next season is 10 episodes and that there is more animation, more musical collaborations and more of the same only different just like the book.

There still remains hope that “Hannibal” can be resurrected. If so, what would your hopes be for a third season’s story, and relationship arch?

I trust Bryan Fuller completely with the story. If we get the chance to do a 4th season or a film version I would welcome that. That was such a special show. Working with Mads and Hugh on the screen is such a pleasure.

If you could create you own musical god, how you describe him, or her? And how would you play it?

To me the most powerful and beautiful sounds come from nature. I would like to have a Mother Nature god and to score her with musical instruments that sound like nature. Everything from thunder storms to ocean waves to birds to wind.


Worship Brian Reitzell’s score to “American Gods” on Mr. World’s foul new media digital format HERE, or go Odin old school CD HERE

Watch “American Gods” on Starz HERE

Listen to Brian Reitzell’s nightmarish seasons of “Hannibal” HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Announcing Rick Baitz’s NY Film Scoring Mentorship Program – Apply by 7/21

Ma, 10/07/2017 - 21:54

BMI composer Rick Baitz is again directing his “Composing for the Screen 2017: A Film Scoring Mentorship Program” at BMI’s New York office starting September 6. The BMI-sponsored program, which is free to accepted participants, will select a small number of emerging film composers for a series of six workshops that will explore a wide range of film music excerpts – studying, composing, recording, and sharing work in a supportive environment. Students will leave the workshop with greater confidence in their own voices as media composers, an enhanced sensitivity to the art of composing for the screen, several strong cues for their reel, and an increased understanding of the film music business.This opportunity is also followed up with year-round continued consultation and development.

Prerequisites for the program include the ability to read and write music, history of experience and credits as a composer with media scoring experience preferred, access to music production equipment: computer, DAW (Logic, Digital Performer, ProTools, Cubase, etc.), notation software (Sibelius, Finale) and ability to create MIDI or hybrid scores.

Applications must be received by Friday, July 21, 2017. All application materials should be emailed with links to your music to Rick Baitz at filmmusic@rickbaitz.com

All sessions will be held at the BMI Media Room, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St, NYC 10007, with the exception of Session 5 (the final recording session) which will be announced at a later date. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 4-7 PM

Wednesday. Sept. 13, 4-7 PM

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 4-7 PM

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 4-7 PM

(Two-week break to prepare final project)

Wednesday, Oct. 11 – Recording session – location TBA, 2:00-5:30 PM

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 4-7 PM

Download the application here!

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Daniel Hart

Di, 04/07/2017 - 01:03

There’s no greater question facing any living person than “What happens when I die?” It’s one that movies have answered since their birth with visions both horrifying and wondrous, painting visions of what’s facing the departed in terms both religiously absolute, and in defiance of the iconography of heaven and hell. Just as immediately recognizable is the image of a ghost that first comes to any child’s mind – that of a human figure buried under a white sheet, with only eyeholes hinting at expression.

Such is the stock in trade of director David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story,” in which the seemingly unbreakable love of “C” (Casey Affleck) and “M” (Rooney Mara) is unexpectedly sundered by the reaper. But as life, and new romance continues for his wife, “C” must hang around as a sheet in the wind as such, forever watching without being able to touch, haunted by all now denied him.

Just as this acclaimed picture brings back together Affleck and Mara from Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “A Ghost Story” continues the director’s collaboration with a composer who matches his soulful resonance in Daniel Hart. Familiar to alt. rock fans from his work with such bands as Broken Social Scene, The Polyphonic Spree and St. Vincent, Hart’s voice as a composer first resonated for Lowery on “St. Nick” before truly making an impression on the indie film scene with “Saints.” It was a dreamy score that brought new musical originality to the rural crime-scoring scene, matching Lowery’s lyrical touch for the genre. Their next collaboration would be a major step up into the sky with a reptile on the lam for “Pete’s Dragon,” a soaring, serious reboot of Disney’s animated musical that not only offered Hart’s folk-tuned emotion, but a sweeping orchestral sound to his repertoire worthy of James Horner at his fantastical height.

Now “A Ghost Story” brings Hart and Lowery back to earth, where it remains to watch life go on in artistically stark, determinedly independent terms. For a prodigy born from church musician parents, Hart paints a gorgeously sad plea for uncomprehending oblivion. His favored instrument of a violin abets a chamber approach reminiscent of such modern classicists as Arvo Part – scoring that conjures loneliness as opposed to fear as the score grows through the stages of ghostly acceptance. Guitar, glass-like sounds, voices and Latin chorus grow from from intimacy to a much larger, cosmic scope. Even that old afterlife scoring chestnut of an organ becomes something new and transcendent given Hart’s memorable evocation of what comes next, with his song “I Get Overwhelmed” creating an alt. plea for a spirit desperate to communicate. As far from a horror score as imaginable, Daniel Hart has conjured the musical afterlife in all of its melancholy, speaking for a silently anguished husband in a hauntingly unique musical voice. It’s “A Ghost Story” that typifies Hart’s increasingly impressive body of soundtracks, especially when in the company of a kindred spirit like David Lowery.


Talk about your first explorations of music. Did you ever imagine yourself becoming a film composer?

I’ve been playing the violin since I was three years old, but I think my first real explorations with music happened when I was a teenager. We learned and performed a piece in high school orchestra called “Jazz for Strings”, or something like that. I may be making some of this up, but I remember there being a very small section in the piece for a violin soloist to improvise. It was probably a five-second solo, but I volunteered to take it, and that small window into the possibility of musical creativity beyond learning Western Classical violin technique in the formal ways I had done so up to that point (violin lessons, high school orchestra, playing in a string quartet…) really shook me, planted a seed in me.

Then I got to college, and I started playing in a band called The Doubting Scholars. It was a band mostly made up of students, but spearheaded by Kevin Hanlon, from the composition faculty at Southern Methodist University. While I know Kevin enjoyed performing for an audience, he treated that band very much like a class for the students he had recruited to play with him. We learned Irish reels, American blues, Bob Wills covers, jazz standards, Beach Boys and Oingo Boingo songs, and we wrote originals. The songs I wrote for the Doubting Scholars were the first pieces of music I wrote that approached anywhere near worth hearing.

So I never set out to be a film composer. My main interest was in live performance, and I spent five years trying to tour full-time and then another five years touring full-time before I ever really tried to score a film.

How did you work with bands like The Polyphonic Spree and Broken Social Scene influence your own instrumental approach?

My main take-aways from my time in The Polyphonic Spree were more about how to be the best entertainer I could be, and about keeping my mind open to any possibility. Tim DeLaughter was a true frontman: he danced, he shouted, he called people to action, he was electrifying. I wanted to be that as a performer. And the fact that he could do that in front of a 26-piece band which somehow sounded cohesive…well the idea itself sounds impossible in an ever-shrinking music economy, but he and his wife Julie somehow pulled it off for years and years.

Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene was also a spectacle of a performance, and I greatly admired Kevin Drew’s ability to push that incredibly talented band to be so free on stage. But because I only toured with them after being a massive fan – and only for half a dozen shows or so – I think their music was much more influential on me. “You Forgot It In People” is still one of my favorite albums to this day, and I think they translated that freedom and energy from their live performances into their recordings, which is a rare feat. Though never in a conscious way, I’m sure that freedom, that human touch in their recordings, is one of the reasons I try to have as many live instruments in my film scores as possible. I want to feel that human element.

How did you come into David Lowery’s orbit for your first composing credit on “St. Nick,” What impressed you about his work as a filmmaker, and make you realize that you’d essentially become his go-to composer?

David had heard my old, old band – The Physics of Meaning – from his writing partner, Toby Halbrooks. Toby and I were from the same neighborhood in Dallas, and Toby and I were both in The Polyphonic Spree at the same time. After hearing that band, David asked me to write some music for “St. Nick.” I watched the film and wrote a couple pieces based on what I had seen, not meant for any specific part of the film, just a general feeling. David liked what I sent him and put some of that music in “St. Nick.”

Director David Lowery

I think David’s work as a filmmaker has a sincerity that resonates with me, that feels like a kind of storytelling I can relate to. But because I had never set out to be a film composer, I wasn’t thinking in terms of a lasting partnership when I started writing music for his films. I was just trying to help him tell the stories he was telling in the best way I knew how.

After “St. Nick,” David asked me if I would score his short film “Pioneer.” That’s when David and I really started developing a musical language based around our mutual aesthetic. I think all of his films have a very grounded quality to them, a very earnest quality. For whatever reason, when I see the films David makes, musical ideas immediately start popping into my head. He’s certainly not the only filmmaker with whom I’ve collaborated where this has been the case, but I think he may be the clearest one for me. He’s telling stories in the ways I want to be telling stories. I think “A Ghost Story” is the best testament to that feeling of mutual understanding we have when it comes to his films: over half the score in the film is my first draft, with no changes. That may not always be the case, but I feel like it gets easier with every film as we get better and better at telling these stories together.

Tell us about your collaboration on “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” and the unique spin you both put on an otherwise typical “crook on the run” story?

“Saints” has many elements of a classic Western – the thief, the sheriff, ill-fated love, questions about the nature of man in an unsettled land. But David moved those elements around, reorganized them in ways that felt less conventional to me. So I wanted to do the same thing with the score: use instruments commonly used in westerns (violins, banjo, mandolin, various percussion), but use them in less conventional ways. So I played the banjo with an e-bow, giving it a buzzy, sometimes twinkly, darker timbre. I fingerpicked all the mandolin parts, to make it feel softer, more vulnerable. I used old funk breakbeats as the rhythm templates for the handclaps and the knee slaps. “Saints” was the first feature I ever scored, and I was really shooting in the dark most of the time, but I’m still very proud of what we created there.

“Pete’s Dragon” took both you, and David’s work from the indie scene into a whole new studio stratosphere. What was that experience like, especially given how you were able to spread your symphonic wings on it without “selling out” as such on the qualities that attracted Disney to you as a team?

“Pete’s Dragon” was probably meant to be the real test of our collaborative relationship, a trial by fire. Because we were both treading in unfamiliar territory, I was apprehensive that I would be able to pull it off (by the time I started, it was already clear that David was pulling off a huge studio film with the most brilliant flying colors). I played in orchestras growing up, and I’ve done plenty of arranging for small ensembles over the past decade, but I had never worked on any musical project approaching anywhere near the scope of the score needed for “Pete’s Dragon”.

And yet, just as it’s been with all of David’s films, musical ideas starting popping into my head immediately. There are five or six big themes in that score. Of those five or six, three came to me in the first week I was on the film. The biggest theme, which first shows up at the beginning of the film, as the title card comes on screen, was one that I wrote on my second day of work, once I got to Disney and got started. To that end, I consider myself incredibly lucky, as we had such limited time for such a big score, and as Disney took a big risk in hiring me to work on the film.

“A Ghost Story” uses the iconic image of a person with a white sheet over them. Given the inherent goofiness possible from that image, how important was it for the music to make you take the movie’s conceit seriously?

I actually wasn’t thinking about this question at all when I was writing the score for “A Ghost Story”. Once again, this film of David’s is so grounded and so earnest in a way that resonates with me. The fear of cutting away at meaningful storytelling with goofiness, silliness, or ridiculousness never crossed my mind. I will say that I don’t think the film would work anywhere near as well as it does if our ghost was portrayed in any other way.

How do you think “A Ghost Story” fits into the more traditional genre of ghost films?

I don’t think it fits very well at all into the more traditional genre of ghost films, and that’s what I love about it. It’s not a film meant to scare you or shock you in any kind of horrific way. To that end, there are very few moments in the score where I had to write traditional haunting, scary music. This is more a film about a relationship between two people, and about what happens when one of those people can no longer participate in the relationship, but only observe it from afar. For me, it’s meditative and heartbreaking, full of loss and beauty.

How would you describe Casey Affleck’s screen presence, and what it adds to your music- even when covered with a sheet?

There’s a scene in the film where the ghost tries to run its “hand” over M’s shoulder and arm as she lays on their bed. It’s my favorite scene in the film. I just found out today that the day they filmed that scene was also Casey’s first time under the sheet, as the ghost. It’s an incredibly emotive scene, with Rooney’s character grieving so intensely, while the ghost of her former partner tries to comfort her in vain. There’s no dialogue happening, but both of the actor’s movements tell me more than any dialogue could.

Given that “C” never utters a word once he’s in ghostly form, how did you want the music to communicate his emotions? Or did the white sheet give you a blank sheet for you to transfer musical emotion onto?

I think the nature of the sheet gives everyone, especially the audience, a canvas onto which they can put their own interpretation of what’s happening in the ghost’s mind, or being. Since the dialogue is so limited once the ghost arrives, the music is often right up front and center, whenever it’s happening. To that end, I always want to be careful not to take over the scene. I want to avoid having the music become overbearing. It’s still only one element in the storytelling going on, so I was actually trying to avoid having the music communicate the ghost’s emotions too much. Instead, I tried to play to the action of the scene, which made my job much easier.

How did you want the score to grow from its chamber music beginning to essentially capture the emotional stages of death and the acceptance of it?

I realized pretty early on in the composing process for “A Ghost Story” that this should be a score with choral elements, with voices, and text being sung (as opposed to a solely instrumental score). The Virginia Woolf story “A Haunted House” is referenced a few times in the film, so I started by borrowing some text from that story, and using it in a couple of score pieces. Then I began looking for text from other sources that could be relevant to our story. I ended up with “Bardo Thodol”, the Tibetan name for The Book of the Dead, and with a passage from The Bible – Ecclesiastes 5:9. Being able to use these texts, which are all very different meditations on death in their own right, provided some guideposts for me, in creating a score that would also act as some kind of response to thinking about death, and the various ideas of what happens afterwards.

Given your lifelong love of the violin, what kind of emotions do you think are particular to the instrument, especially here?

Sometimes I think I’m better at communicating with a violin than I am at expressing myself with words. There is some solo violin in the score for “A Ghost Story”, but most of the time violin shows up, it’s part of a larger string section. And similar to the choral elements I wanted to incorporate into this score, I wanted a sea of strings floating around these images. And so I used quite a bit of what’s often referred to as “ghost harmonics” on the violin. They sound ethereal to me, and wispy, fragile: like they could break or die off at any moment. I suppose there’s no other movie where using ghost harmonics would be more appropriate than this one.

Did minimalist, yet emotional composers like Arvo Part play a part in your approach? And did you draw on any past scores for inspiration here?

Arvo Pärt has written some of my favorite music of all time, but also his influence is present in so many of the film soundtracks I’ve heard from the past 40 years or so like “Fearless.” Especially now, directors and editors love to use Pärt pieces as temp music while they’re cutting a film together. Consequently, I end up listening to a lot of Pärt as a reference when I’m starting on a film. The opening track from “A Ghost Story” – ‘Little Notes’ – has tintinnabuli strings near the beginning and the end of the piece, in the style that Pärt pioneered. Those same strings show back up in “Post Pie”.

Beyond Pärt, the other music David referenced directly in relation to the film was John Carpenter scores from the late 70s and 80s, like “Escape from New York”. We went in that direction for the scene in the hospital, but it ended up being too big, so most of the Carpenter-esque score elements were dialed back, or removed completely.

The other composer who influenced the score indirectly is Komitas. I scored Fox’s TV show “The Exorcist” last year, and as part of composing music for that show, I had to replace his stunningly beautiful “Chinar Es”, which was used as temp music in one of the Satanic ritual scenes. I wrote a piece called “Ha Ate Am Anane” for soprano, string section and piano to use in that “Exorcist” episode, and hired the incomparable Katinka Vindelev to sing the soprano part. I was so happy with the way that piece turned out, that I ended up writing a sister piece for “A Ghost Story”, with the same arrangement, and with Katinka singing again. This is the track “Viventes Enim”, which took its text from Ecclesiastes.

Talk about your music capturing the passage of time?

I have to defer to the film itself here. When I’m scoring a film, I always see my job as helping to tell the story that’s being told, to the best of my ability. I look at what’s happening onscreen, and I try to write music that is true to what I see. Because this film is indeed a meditation on not only life and death, but also the passage of time in a larger sense, then if I hit my mark at all, the music will have captured some of that story. But I think if I had set out to write music which would capture the passage of time, or had kept such a huge concept in my mind when I was composing this music, I never would have come anywhere near expressing that idea. It’s too big to capture.

Given that “A Ghost Story” is a supernatural movie, how much of a “genre” element did you want give the music, especially when it comes to the difference between being “eerie” and ”scary” in capturing a sort of life after death?

Both David and I found out pretty quickly that having the music veer towards “eerie” or “scary” didn’t serve the story very well, which is why we ended up losing a lot of the Carpenter-esque elements I wrote. For me, the film is more about love and loss than it is about fear and haunting. So if any words could live at the center of this score, love and loss would be the words in my mind.

How did you gradually want to bring human voice, as well as happier emotions into the score?

The first piece of music that went into this film was the song “I Get Overwhelmed”, by my band Dark Rooms. The song itself was written over a year before I ever read any script for “A Ghost Story”, and was never meant for the film. But when I played it for David last year, he decided to write it into the script. So the first piece of music related to the film already had quite a bit of the human voice in it, both through my vocals, and also through the synthesizer I made by sampling my own voice and re-pitching it. That may be one of the biggest reasons I felt motivated to put more vocals into the score. But I also think the lack of dialogue in the film made me want to fill some of the wide sonic space left open to me with words.

As for happier elements in the score, David told me early in the process that he wanted to end the film with a piece centered around a drum machine – that the drum machine felt warm and comforting to him. I don’t know if we were ever aiming for “happy”, but I think the closest we ever got to it was with “Safe, Safe, Safe”, the final piece of music in the film.

Did you own upbringing in a family of church musicians give any kind of religious quality to your approach in “A Ghost Story,” especially with your use of the organ and in its use of a Latin hymn?

There is no doubt in my mind that my upbringing in a family of church musicians influences every musical decision I ever make, one way or another. There are certainly spiritual qualities to this film, aren’t there? Since death and the afterlife are at the center of so many religions in this world, I suppose a film in which one of the main characters is dead for 2/3 of his time on screen is going to feel spiritual and possibly religious in some way, regardless of David’s intentions. I did turn to religious texts first, when I was trying to find words to use in the choral parts of the score. I chose Latin because it’s a dead language, and because it’s a fairly old language. And this film feels very old to me. I did also try to incorporate some Aramaic lyrics into the score, but it proved too difficult to find proper translations and pronunciations in Aramaic this time around. The same went for a couple other old languages I tried and failed to use.

How did you want the song “I Get Overwhelmed” to serve as a theme in the film?

I played the song “I Get Overwhelmed” for David for the first time back in February 2016, while we were working on “Pete’s Dragon”. I played it for him because I share all of my music with him, just as friends. He really loved the song immediately, and it was his idea to put the song into the film. Since it plays such a prominent role within the story, it seemed to me like the best starting point for work on the score.

To that end, I took stems from “I Get Overwhelmed” – the guitar track, the string section track, the vocal synthesizer track – and ran them through PaulStretch, which is an algorithm designed to dramatically slow down audio, often with the intention of turning it into an atmospheric soundscape. Pieces which are three minutes long can be made three hours long. I ran multiple elements of the Dark Rooms song through PaulStretch to create these washes of sound, and they became my first palette for the score. In fact, they’re the first music heard in the film, at the beginning of “Little Notes”, and then they show up many more times throughout the score as a theme. Maybe that’s the best way the music conveys the passage of time: as something incredibly slow, hard to identify, and pretty.

If there’s a running theme through David Lowery’s movies and your scores for them, how do you think “A Ghost Story” fits it?

Because I see David’s films as incredibly grounded stories, I try to write music that will also feel grounded in a similar way. Beyond that, I’m really happy that our films have allowed me chances to move in so many different musical directions. “Pioneer” and “Saints” were full of heavily folk-influenced music. “Pete’s Dragon” was mostly performed by a 96-piece orchestra, and a 32-person choir. “A Ghost Story” has 808 drum machines, atmospheric soundscapes, Latin choral parts, and a lot of synthesizers in it. I can’t wait for the next one.

Before “A Ghost Story,” you dealt far more overtly with the supernatural in Fox’s TV version of “The Exorcist,” which turned out to be a surprisingly great show. Could you talk about your experience on it, and what’s ahead now that the show’s been renewed?

Well, I will say that I’m really happy with so much of the music I wrote for Exorcist Season One. The show runner Rolin Jones knew more about contemporary classical music than just about anyone I’ve ever met, and he wanted a contemporary classical score for The Exorcist. That’s not something I get to do all that often, and I really enjoyed doing it.

What are you up to next with David?

Our next film together will be “Old Man and The Gun”, on which David just wrapped principal photography a few weeks ago. I visited set for a few days, and watched some incredibly entertaining outtakes between Robert Redford, Danny Glover, and Tom Waits. We haven’t gotten very far with it yet, but David and I are both thinking this will be a very percussion-heavy score.

What do you hope happens when you die? And would you want to stick around to see what happens to your loved ones?

I’ve been thinking about these questions too much since I wrote the music for this film. I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea what happens when I die. Whatever it is, my guess is that the consciousness I have now will no longer exist. Maybe I’ll become a star up in the sky.

The idea of becoming a ghost and watching my loved ones live on after I’m gone sounds as difficult and heartbreaking to me as the film makes it out to be.

“A Ghost Story” opens in theaters on July 7th, with Daniel Hart’s score available on Milan Records HERE

Listen to “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” HERE and “Pete’s Dragon” HERE

Meet Daniel Hart when he takes part in Fans of Film Music on September 2. Find out more HERE, and get your tickets from event head Peter Hackman at Peter@fansoffilmmusic.com

Visit Daniel Hart’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Lorne Balfe

Di, 20/06/2017 - 00:14

Even if one might not be able to comprehend the seemingly fantastical equations of Albert Einstein, music remains the great communicator in touching the senses, and imagination. Such is the wonder of Lorne Balfe’s score to “Genius,” National Geographic’s ambitious foray from the often-staid world of straight documentaries into fictionalized reality. With Balfe’s sweeping orchestra and sci-fi-like sampling opening up Albert Einstein’s revolutionary theorems about the nature of time and space, “Genius” conveys the magic of a mind realizing the secrets of creation.

Yet this Ron Howard-produced series is far from the iconic scientist chalking up a classroom board. Instead, “Genius” is far more concerned with showing how a man who could be so brilliant with math can be so grievously flawed in his personal life. As portrayed young and old by Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn through nine episodes, “Genius” reveals the violin player as a budding world-changer as capable of passion as he is indifference, leaving wreckage from the lives of his first, equally intelligent wife and their sons, while carrying on affairs in front of his beyond understanding second wife. For a vainglorious, yet somehow sympathetic “character,” Balfe draws on powerful, lush emotion that also captivatingly plays the greater canvas of Eastern European history through two world wars.

It’s a haunting, evocative and strongly orchestral sound whose spirit can be heard more intimately in “Churchill.” Dealing with another formidable true personage that held the weight of the free world on his stout shoulders, Balfe’s music here is more intimate and spiritually minded for a leader grasping with doubt about the invasion that he knows will cost thousands upon thousands of lives. It’s an epic intimacy that shows the versatility of this Scottish-born composer. Having risen up the ranks of Hans Zimmer’s musical brain trust on such scores as “Rango,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” to show his own stylish voice with “Beyond: Two Souls,” “Ironclad,” “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” the Emmy-nominated “Restless” and this year’s smash “The LEGO Batman Movie” among numerous works, Balfe’s “Genius” and “Churchill” hear the human heart of history with captivating lyricism. It’s music that makes the math, and history books open to their icons with immediately understandable, captivating melody that’s true inspiration.

How were you approached to score the music to Genius, and did The National Geographic Channel have an approach in mind for the show?

Ron Howard approached me, because I had worked with him and Hans. Ron knew that I had a background in television, and the “Genius” pilot was his debut as a director for television.

Did you do your own research into Einstein?

I wouldn’t say “research,” as I did know about the basic life of Einstein. Yet as “Genius” shows, there was far more about his life that people didn’t know about. The music was really about looking at where his story was going. The only research I did for the show was when it came to Einstein’s love of the violin. I don’t know how good he was at playing it, but if I had to make a guess, I’d think that maybe he was good at it. Some people say the same thing about most musicians being good at math, though that’s certainly not true when it comes to me!

Did it weigh on you that Alan Silvestri won an Emmy for his work on “Cosmos,” which is another show about the exploration about science, though one far broader in its scope than “Genius?”

“Cosmos” was an amazing soundtrack. But thinking like that won’t get you out of bed in the morning! The one thing I did learn from all of this is that you have to distance yourself from whatever you do, not to get too attached for too long or you will feel that pressure to outdo yourself every time. “Genius” was such a complicated work in its own way that to make all the themes for the theories to work together was something else. Television is far more complicated than film; with film, where you have an hour and a half to tell a story. With television, you’re musically telling a story for ten hours where you’re on this journey with the audience. It’s far more intense than your usual film. And viewers don’t watch television the way they used to. They sit down and watch five episodes in one go. So you have to monitor your use of themes, particularly nowadays.

Can you personally relate to Albert Einstein?

I I don’t think anybody really can. If they think so, then they’re very egotistical! Einstein was a complicated person and Ron wanted to make the score for him more of a classical storytelling experience as opposed to making it feel like a period piece. So it took me a while to figure out what the colors were to his story. .

“Genius” is far more about Einstein as a human being as opposed to being a “science show” as such, and in the process offers a lot of revelations about his personal life. Did any of them surprise you?

The most shocking thing to me about Einstein was his womanizing. I wasn’t aware of how much of a lothario he was! I didn’t know where he had the time to do all those great mathematical findings while chasing these women.

For all of crappy stuff that Einstein did to the women he was involved with, how do you want the music to maintain sympathy for him?

Einstein’s passion and his love didn’t make him a bad person. There was nothing malicious about him. He was a man that couldn’t help himself – a true eccentric. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and the people that he hurt. Musically, I didn’t want to make Einstein pitiful, but to hear him realistically so that it wouldn’t sideline the importance of what he’s contributing to science.

How difficult was it to musically convey the idea of scientific discovery, which make for some of “Genius’” most visually stunning sequences?

From the beginning, Ron always talked about that “sound” where, and when you have that “unique moment?” What is that piece of music when ‘all of a sudden” happens? Where you figured out that equation, or the conclusion to that theory? We’ve portrayed that with film music as a burst of energy. But on this television show it was important not overwhelm the viewer. The music has to sit back when Einstein’s demonstrating his theories, because had we been too intrusive it would’ve detracted from the information given. What he’s saying is so complicated and that I didn’t want to overwhelm the situation.

Did you combing “old school” orchestrations with more futuristic samples to show how Einstein was ahead of his time?

When we started the process, Ron would always unintentionally experiment with the two, but it wasn’t planned out to make “Genius” into a hybrid score. It just happened. The electronic elements provided us a way to look inside what was going on in Einstein’s head, the inside looking out if you would. I didn’t want to make a conventional score. I wanted to make one that, like him, was always evolving. The colors of the score had to match that evolution.

Was it important for the music to hold onto the audience that tuned in expecting Geoffrey Rush through the whole series, where in fact he essentially shows up at the very beginning and then the final few episodes?

I was more invested in the younger Albert Einstein, as that’s the person I never knew about. I actually yearned for even more with his earlier self. But you couldn’t have two different musical approaches for their ages. The music had to a whole, because it’s the same journey, a constant yearning by Einstein for passion and love.

How did you want to convey the scope of history that goes through two world wars?

It was an underbelly to the music that made for a sense of dread and brooding power that’s trying to overtake the viewer. It’s always a difficult thing to score when dealing with those dark themes. For example, when I was writing on “The Bible A.D.,” I had a theme for the devil, whose dark music could mean different things to many people. Sometimes that approach can end up being parody if you don’t watch it.

How did Hans Zimmer’s main theme inspire your own approach, or were you working on the score at the same time?

Han’s main theme was a difficult one, because it really isn’t about Albert Einstein. It’s about the concept of genius, as the series won’t be about Einstein next year. It’s about what the thought process is when you have that moment on inspiration – whether it’s writing the plotline for a great plotline for a piece of literature, composing a piece of music, or doing a painting, all of which will become iconic. My score is specifically about Albert Einstein.

How do you think “Genius” represents the move by channels like National Geographic from straight documentaries to essentially fictionalized shows like “Vikings?”

Viewers have a yearning and an appetite for knowledge, they want more content and this is an amazing dramatization that works as well as a feature film. That’s possible for shows, but very difficult to achieve. The process is even more difficult, because with a film, you have a certain amount of time to tell the story – whereas with television, you have more time spread out to tell the story, and to be more consistent in almost every aspect. People today tend to talk more about television more than they do about films.

Having now scored “Churchill” after Einstein, do you see anything in common with these two iconic figures?

This movie was also about discovering a side of a person you’ve never seen before. “Churchill” is about the end of his political career, when he was losing control. And it’s sad to see that happen. Like any character, that makes them relatable to viewers when they can relate their own emotions to them. While you can’t really relate to someone had the kind of lives that Einstein and Churchill did, you can relate to common emotions of vulnerability and loss. Both films are interesting to see because they also deal with the characters’ relationships with their spouses. “Churchill” and “Genius” are about men, not myths.

How did you want the specter of the D-Day invasion to be part of “Churchill’s” score?

“Churchill” isn’t about war, but the pride of the nation. He’s dealing with his emotional wounds, and trying to find a way back for a second chance. So to me, I never looked at it as a war film, but more as a drama. The director Jonathan Teplitzky (“The Railway Man”) was always keen on the authenticity of it, not wanting to make it epic. This was the story of a man who needed to make wrongs right.

You use voices in a particularly haunting, and hymnal way in “Churchill.”

British chorale music is the most beautiful pure music I remembered as a child. I think Churchill became the man he did because of his upbringing. He was brought up by his grandparents, and was alone for most of his youth. He wrote great poetry when he was young, so there’s a purity when you hear the voices in the score, as they for a man who sounded simplistic, but spoke from the heart.

Credit: Pierre Futsch and Nicolas Cabarrou

Do you think that scoring these films about legendary figures from the past will advance your own career?

I don’t care. I think that the most important thing I did was a documentary called “Salinger,” based upon the life of the reclusive author who wrote “Catcher in the Rye.” I loved every single moment on that project. The reviews were not good. Time Magazine called it the worst film of the year. I mean, Adam Sandler beat us! But that didn’t really matter, because there was a bigger message to be told. I think that if you’re lucky in life, you’ll get to work in different genres, it’s an amazing opportunity than just writing for horror films every single day, which can become monotonous, I think that in writing a score for Churchill and Einstein, you really want to learn about these men. It’s rare to be able to work on gems like “Genius” and “Churchill.” Albert Einstein was a rock star of his time. To be able to portray these characters so that people won’t think of them as stuffy and old is important to me, because we need those kinds of people again in our lives, and the future.

Listen to Lorne Balfe’s musical theories for “Genius” HERE on Milan Records, then listen to the sound of Britain’s wounded lion on Filmtrax HERE.

Watch “Genius” HERE. “Churchill” is now in theaters.

Visit Lorne Balfe’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Brian Tyler and Alex Kurtzman

Wo, 07/06/2017 - 01:07

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

Through the pedal to the metal energy of his “Fast and the Furious” scores to the explosive ramp-ups of “The Expendables” and the stealth, death-inducing percussion of the concluding two “Final Destination” scores, there’s no mistaking the franchise-friendly sound of composer Brian Tyler. With a muscular, pop-rock friendly mix of orchestra and sampling, Tyler has long had the multiplex testosterone musical fuel in demand by Hollywood heavy hitters. However, when the lid is taken off the coffin that will unleash a new series of classic Universal horror monsters for a rebooted “Mummy,” the striking music that issues forth isn’t the kind of Tyler score we’ve come to know. It’s a new, classic beast entirely.

With his most impressive score yet, Tyler recalls the richly atmospheric, melody-driven horror of such classic composers as Franz Waxman, Hans J. Salter and Heinz Roemheld – all Eastern Europeans who heralded a dark, romantic sound that powered the likes of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolfman” and “Dracula’s Daughter” (which isn’t to mention how Tyler also draws on the symphonic, sandstorm force that Jerry Goldsmith gave to the first “Mummy’s” vintage-set reboot).

Brian Tyler conducts a live performance of “The Mummy”

Very old school, sinister girl power is what this lavish, modern-age take on the mummy movie legend is all about in the increasingly seductive form of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a far more sensuous mummy than the soul-eating eating “Bubba Ho-Tep” that Tyler scored from way back when. As Ahmanet seeks to unleash hell on earth through her fatal attraction to roguish adventurer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), Tyler’s epic score goes for a sweeping sense of ancient fear quite unlike himself. A booming chorus, thrilling symphonic suspense, skittering evil and an enticing sense of Egyptian doom fill this “Mummy,” revealing a whole new composer whose princess seeks musically biblical payback.

Alex Kurtzman and Brian Tyler greet fans at “The Mummy”’s French premiere

Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Brian Tyler is joined by “Mummy” filmmaker Alex Kurtzman as they talk about a long-lasting collaboration that’s evolved from “Eagle Eye” to “Hawaii Five-0” and “Now You See Me” to reach its biggest challenge yet for a genre directing debut that’s drawn vital powers of grandly melodic, evil excitement as both men seek to create a new, Dark Universe for Universe Pictures’ most prized and fearsome properties.

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download


“The Mummy” strikes on June 9th, with Brian Tyler’s score available on Backlot Music.

Visit Brian Tyler’s website HERE

Convening after “The Mummy” concert (L to R) Courtney Vance, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise, Brian Tyler, Alex Kurtzman, and Sofia Boutella

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Rupert Gregson-Williams

Vr, 02/06/2017 - 19:11

Just as the Amazons have remained hidden on their Zeus-blessed Paradise Island of Themyscira, composer Rupert-Gregson Williams has essentially remained one of the best-kept secrets in the insular town of Hollywood. Now, the impressively skilled residents of their respective worlds finally get their blockbuster coming-out party with “Wonder Woman,” as the Greek-molded goddess Princess Diana fiercely fights for peace and love to Williams’ heroic strains – an inherent optimism that finally blasts the dark, draining nihilism that’s defined DC films to bright smithereens.

But if Diana is properly travelling the cinematic world for the first time since her comic book creation by William Moulton Marston in 1941, her English-born muse has been out doing good works for nearly two decades. The brother of Harry Gregson-Williams (“Man on Fire,” “The Martian”) rose from “Urban Ghost Story” and “Virtual Sexuality” to impress with his own rousing orchestral sound. His music made you believe a farting kid could fly into space with “Thunderpants,” conveyed the genocide outside “Hotel Rwanda,” captured the backyard animated antics of “Over the Hedge” and has given any number of Adam Sandler pictures magical maturity with the likes of “Click” and “Bedtime Stories.”

It’s been a diligent climb through any number of comedies like “Blended” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” in recent years for Williams (including the smarter laughs of HBO’s “Veep”). Thankfully, Williams’ heroic talents were finally allowed to come roaring to the fore with his energetic work for the seriously underappreciated “The Legend of Tarzan.” Capturing the noble adventure of the iconic jungle lord, Williams’ cache was elevated significantly further as he grippingly played the incredible WW2 heroism of the real-life savior Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge,” before hearing the introspective feminine drive of Queen Elizabeth for Netflix’s “The Crown.” But nothing in Williams’ increasingly impressive arsenal of conveying heroism socks it to the audience like director Patty Jenkins’ smashingly great realization of “Wonder Woman.”

Bonded to his brother and the Hans Zimmer school by their use of propulsive samples alongside a traditional orchestra in a way that’s more newfangled than John Williams’ superhero-defining style, this particular Williams’ hears just as much valiant, sweepingly melodic conviction within Princess Diana. With ethnic instrumentation and bold, sword and shield clanging percussion capturing this Amazonian champion’s mystical birthright, the composer sends her out into the world and its Great War in the company of secret agent Steve Trevor, employing sympathy, humor and the heart-rending emotion of a sheltered woman seeing male-made carnage for the first time. It’s a sweepingly noble approach that’s pure comic book movie magic as Diana charges through the trenches in full costume as sweeping strings build to the thematic fierceness of Tina Guo’s rocking cello playing. There’s also no mistaking pure good and evil in the dastardly music of its gas-loving Huns and higher-powered villains, combat that reaches cosmically choral levels for its exhilarating musical climax, and truly moving aftermath. Bringing back every hero-making musical element that DC had forgotten, Rupert Gregson-Williams “Wonder Woman” resounds with epic girl power in a way that distinguishes the long-awaited arrival of Princess Diana as much as himself.


Did you and Harry become interested in music, and film scoring simultaneously? And in what way do you think your styles are similar, and dissimilar?

Harry and I both trained in performance as youngsters, and our love for film and film scoring came later. I think our styles differ sonically, but harmonically I think we may have one or two similar traits – we both were choristers at Cambridge. That training goes deep!


Were you familiar with the character of Wonder Woman before taking on this score?

I’d seen the TV show back in the day, and of course, Gal’s Wonder Woman really made an impressive mark in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” I had wondered, like many fans, why such an important figure in the D.C. Universe had not been explored before, but never dreamt I’d be taking her to the big screen for the first time.

Did the Wonder Woman music that was heard for the character’s first appearance in “Batman v Superman” influence your approach here?

The theme used in that film represents a Diana who is already a super hero, and confident in all things-warrior. In our origin movie, I needed to write a fresh theme and original music for the young Diana to represent her naivety. I composed for Diana knowing where the journey might end tonally. I enjoyed using cello playing of Tina Guo to show glimpses of what is to come!

Tell us about your collaboration with director Patty Jenkins, and what she was looking for the score to accomplish?

director Patty Jenkins & Rupert Gregson-Williams - photo by James Gillham/Sting Media

Patty is smart. She’s also got a great ear, and is a fan of film music. We worked closely on how to develop themes, especially the journey that Diana’s theme should take in her development from young girl to super hero. She really wanted a strong theme that represented the heart and strength of Diana. We spent a long time together simply talking Diana – her naïveté, her compassion , her strengths , before I wrote a note. We spent a lot of time with themes going back and forth until we found The One.


Before “Wonder Woman” you scored another highly enjoyable, period-set superhero with “Tarzan.” Do you see the characters as similar in that they’re noble warriors thrust into a weaponized world that they try to make sense of?

Yes, both characters have a naivety about them and their need to help the weak. Both draw on years of training or survival in sheltered paradise for their strength. Ultimately Wonder Woman was a journey of discovery for her powers, whereas Tarzan knew his strengths only too well.

Do you think your heroic music for the horrors of war in “Hacksaw Ridge” came into play here as well when it came to Wonder Woman taking on the WW1 trenches?

Yes, it’s an interesting comparison. Both Wonder Woman and Desmond Doss seek to help the vulnerable through their love of humans differ. Diana’s strength comes from a lifetime of training, and of course being the daughter of Zeus helps! With Desmond Doss I had to drill down into the spiritual heart of the man and where he got his strength.

Tell us about developing your Wonder Woman theme and how it fit this new retro-vision of the character?

Patty and I worked hard on the theme. We wanted to show strength and beauty and love. She is from a proud and brave race, descended from Gods. Diana is also naïve and humorous. Simple nut to crack! Really I wanted to have a theme that could be noble, romantic and ultimately heroic as the film moves through to its climax.

How did you want to convey a mystical, ancient land of Amazonians, and the tribal heritage that Wonder Woman carries with her along with their very physical emblems of their might and magic?

The Amazonians are fearless, and their land is timeless, so I had to be very confident with the theme for them. Their land feels less ethnic and more wondrous and magical to me, so I set about it with that in mind.

What attributes of Wonder Woman were important for you to capture?

I felt I had to capture strength, beauty and compassion. Because her nobility, charm and humor shine through so well with Gal Gadot’s performance too. I had plenty of opportunity in this movie to explore all these attributes.

How did you want to achieve a balance between musical femininity, and strength?

Diana’s melody is feminine, but always underpinned with percussion and propulsion. She learns of the darkness going on in the world, which drives her to want to want to save humanity. As long as her theme sung out, I could explore ever more bold ways of accompanying it.

Even during its most furious action scenes, did you want to go for an overaching, brass-driven sense of nobility for Wonder Woman’s mission?

No, as I play each action scene differently. In the movie she encounters danger at her most naive on the island of Themescyra, and in the man’s world she develops her powers and we see her at her most confident. I tried to develop the strength and powers of the theme to reflect her journey in the action scenes.

In most male superhero films, the “girl” is usually left to play second fiddle. But here the relationship is essentially reversed with Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. How did that dynamic play into your score?

They have a great chemistry together, which I hope is reflected in the score. Steve isn’t left behind in any way. He holds his own, but Diana keeps surprising him as she develops. The themes become stronger and more about Wonder Woman as the dangers grow and her awareness of her powers develops.

Tell us about your more villainous music here, especially given their mix of the Germanic, and warrior godhood?

I loved writing for General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru – the theme is a low ascending figure on the lowest woodwinds with a counter line slithering downwards – it says pure evil after the first three notes play. There’s real darkness there, so I didn’t need to play the Germanic side of Ludendorff. I felt he represented a broader and older evil on the earth.

You’ve also scored a member of real-life female royalty with “The Crown.” Can you see any musical comparisons with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana?

No, though both are brave in their way. Elizabeth doesn’t show emotion in the way Diana does. Her strength is in restraint. Diana wears her heart on her sleeve. So Diana’s theme is both noble and overtly romantic and heroic. Elizabeth’s is noble, but emotionally restrained. That’s the English for you!


Though you scored some decidedly serious movies like “Hotel Rwanda,” comedies, especially those from Adam Sandler, have been a consistent of your career. Why do you think that relationship’s lasted so long, and do you think you bring a particular musical “weight” to his brand of comedy, most recently with “Sandy Wexler?”

I love working with Adam – We’ve lasted a long time because he makes me laugh. I sometimes make him cry and I try to make him laugh. He is one of the most loyal in the business and I admire him for that.

A lot of women campaigned to get this score, but you were the winner in this tournament. Do you think that a person’s sex should determine who gets a “women’s” picture as such, or do you think it should be left to the director and studio to determine who’s right for the job based on talent, regardless of their sex, given a film’s subject?

I don’t think Patty would have liked to hire someone based simply on their gender. Just as she is a director first, She is also a female director. I know she spent long time thinking about who would score her movie, and heard a lot of music from both female and male composers. When she made the decision, it was based on whom she thought would understand the character of Diana best. I hope she was right in choosing me, and I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity.

Photo by James Gillham/Sting Media


Like Harry, you’ve created a dynamic style that blends a strong, thematic orchestra with rhythm and samples. Would you say that’s the sound any composer needs to stay sonically current, especially when it comes to getting films like “Wonder Woman?”

I think it helps to feel comfortable with technology and current musical trends, not necessarily to follow them. One can’t help writing melodies, harmonies and rhythms that get you excited, so the best thing for me is to keep an open mind on what I hear and to make sure I play with new musical toys as they are developed with new technology.

Do you think that “Tarzan,” “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Wonder Woman” now truly show you’ve at long last “arrived” in A-level Hollywood? And what do you think will be the trick to staying in a place you’ve long deserved?

Well that’s kind of you. But once you feel you’ve arrived, you may as well flick to autopilot and put your slippers on and sit back. I will always feel fear at the beginning of a project – that’s how I’ll keep it fresh. It’s been a terrific and exciting year. I’m thankful and looking forward to the next year. Let’s hope I get half the amount of opportunities I’ve had this year.


Lasso the musically mighty truth of Rupert-Gregson Williams’ score for “Wonder Woman” on WaterTower Records HERE

Listen to Rupert Gregson-Williams’ scores for “Hacksaw Ridge” and “The Legend of Tarzan” HERE and HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

May 2017 Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 24/05/2017 - 18:09

Soundtrack Picks: “BARBARELLA and WONDER WOMAN: THE TELEVISION SERIES” are the top soundtrack to own for May, 2017

Also worth picking up: A FAMILY MAN, ALIEN CONVENANT, BABY’S DAY OUT, FAST COMPANY, GET EVEN, RICHARD THE STORK, ROCKET TO THE MOON, THRILLER and many more!

To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover

THE TOP PICKS

1) ALIEN CONVENANT / LIFE

     

Price: $11.49

What is it?: In space, no one can hear you scream. But you can certainly hear its terrifying music in these two auspicious, alien-centric scores from Milan Records.

Why should you buy it?: In “Alien Covenant,” we get the clearest view yet as to how these bioweapons work, as their spores and face huggers invade bodily orifices, bursting out with creatures that take on their victim’s shape. On that note, listeners of “Alien Covenant” might be searching for the creature running around in the form Jerry Goldsmith and Elliot Goldenthal. It’d likely resemble Jed Kurzel, whose striking, vicious creativity here is sourced from those composers’ DNA. Yet before his literal Hollywood breakthrough here, Kurzel made his own strong impression down under with his eerily tense work for “The Snowtown Murders,” “The Babadook” and “Macbeth.” Now Kurzel impressively insinuates himself among the giants that have come before him in “Alien’s” musical saga. Where director Ridley Scott had used just a bit of Goldsmith’s “Alien” theme in Marc Streitenfeld and Harry-Gregson Williams’ score for “Prometheus,” that legendary composer’s score has a far larger presence in “Covenant,” which is particularly ironic as Kurzel is called upon to use both Goldsmith melodies that were used in the original, as well as the ones that were rejected for a score that the Scott mostly tossed to use older Goldsmith work to arguable effect. Kurzel styles the orchestral side of “Covenant” in Goldsmith’s creepily orchestral fashion, using both minimal, gong-like percussion and well as grander gestures that at first reflect the optimism of seriously misguided space settlers. But as the invasive spore dust hits the fan on a deceptively pleasant planet, Kurzel introduces bizarre sampled and electronic elements, gnarled, percussive effects that get under your ears at conveying some alien civilization’s unknowable purpose in manufacturing civilization-killing dust. With the crew increasingly decimated in gory fashion, Kurzel brings impressionistic, brass heavy horror to the surface, modernistic music that veers from a whisper to frenzy in the tradition of Elliot Goldenthal’s nightmarish music for the lamented “Alien 3.” It’s an Avant-garde style that gradually consumes “Covenant” to impressive effect as eerie chorus and orchestra laments engineers destroyed by their own creations. Face huggers skitter about with terrifying percussion, and a chest burster is heard as a thing of tender beauty by an android with delusions of godhood. With a score that treads well between melodic fear and sound design, Kurzel’s unusual approach also delivers on the action set pieces, as rhythms, chopped vocal effects and orchestra capture the excitement of our heroine repeatedly hanging for dear life over the abyss, with gnashing double-jaws in front of her. Such is the intricacy of Kurzel’s work that more than a bit of it gets lost in the film mix, making this CD the best way to appreciate “Covenant’s” impressive hybrid of sound design and score that pays genetic tribute to the series’ musical heritage while skittering off in its own impressively unnerving way.

Extra Special: A major rebound for both director Daniel Espinosa and composer Jon Ekstrand from the interminably murky “Child 44,” “Life” is positively roaring with its more fiendish genetic aspects for a bald-faced, incredibly effective rip on that old chestnut of spacemen being chased about by a mutating creature with a decidedly bad attitude. However, Ekstrand really nasty trick is having his music make you think that it’s going to be a cosmically blissful close encounter between man and cute amoeba-like thing, as “Life” starts out with a richly symphonic sense of discovery and wonder. His music builds, its themes long and drifting as opposed to being forthright, reaching an “Also Sprach Zarathustra” transcendence with “It’s Alive.” But just as heavenly chorus sings with the promise of peace for “New Best Friend,” Ekstrand pulls the rug out from under the listener while severely tightening a protoplasmic handshake. “Life” from this point out builds with gripping desperation, suspensefully layering in the orchestral Where other composers might take a more frenetic route as the increasingly decimated space station’s dwindling crew try to outmaneuver the creature, Ekstrand goes for a more melodic than dissonant depiction of consuming fear. It’s scoring as relentless forward thrust, even amidst some blissful moments of dealing with the hopelessness of the situation, capturing the emotion of not only trying to save oneself, but also one’s blood brothers as well. Even when that clichéd used sonic bwwaammmm repeatedly pounds as a Soviet craft proves anything but a rescue ship, Ekstrand’s increasing momentum for blaring brass and strings is nothing less than riveting. Where “Gravity’s” Oscar-winning battle for survival against space itself showed how cool and unique one might make orchestra and electronics work for the vacuum, what distinguishes “Life” is how Ekstrand mainly uses the orchestra to convey heroes alternately running for their lives and trying to science the shit out their increasingly bleak and terrifying situation.


2) BARBARELLA / WONDER WOMAN: THE TELEVISION SERIES

     

Prices: $13.98 / $ 34.98

What Is it?: It can be said that Charles Fox’s prolific film and TV scoring career got off to cult fame right off the bat with “The Green Slime.” Having an equal ear for era-defining pop beats and brightly energetic orchestrations, Fox composed any number of eternally memorable TV hits (often in the company of lyricist Norman Gimbel) for “Love American Style,” “Happy Days” and “The Love Boat,” along with such beloved caper scores as “9 To 5” and “Foul Play.” Among his genre projects, “Barbarella” and “Wonder Woman” stand tall as much for their camp heroines’ eye-catching uniforms as much as their space Shagadelia and groovy patriotism, musical girl power that’s now finally on full display with the two long-awaited CD editions.

Why Should You Buy It?: 1968 was indeed an auspicious year for Fox to groovily suit up astronauts, or in the case of “Barbarella,” provide much of the acid-washed clothing for Jane Fonda’s barely-dressed sex kitten. Director (and then Fonda husband) Roger Vadim created as much of a delightfully wacky comic strip adaptation as he did a stunning pop art tableau, it’s a psychedelically humorous with-it attitude complemented by the chart-topping sensibilities of Four Seasons collaborator Bob Crewe and his Bob Crewe Generation Orchestra. But with its fat brass licks on “Barbarella’s” progressively torn covering, the sensibility here is also very much of a “Casino Royale” one – with both scores very aware of their high camp purpose. But if that Bond spoof had Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Crewe’s production expertise created a wall of sound that was like Phil Spector in space. Electric guitar stings, sensual percussive atmospheres, hep spy music and an electric organ create the kind of alternate universe where a shag carpet space craft crash lands on a planet from the combined Id of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. “Barbarella” has it every which way as Fonda’s character, not exactly the brightest bulb in the universe, becomes a love object for any number of lustful characters, from the sleigh bells of an hairy chested iceman to the sitar-like grooves of the black queen and her Sodom and Gomorrah domain. Musical pastiche reigns in the mocking vocals of killer dolls and the crazed symphony of an orgiastic organ that Barbarella overloads (back then, you couldn’t do a satire score without taking on the classics). Yet what makes “Barbarella” memorable is that it’s way more than fun shtick, wrapping its craziness in genuine adventure and memorable themes, no more so than in the joyous, ascending string and brass melody for Pygar the Angel after he’s been deflocked by Barbarella. A combo of the playfully hip and the musically otherworldly, “Barbarella” also offers memorable songs, from The Glitterhouse’s cooing opening title for Fonda’s unforgettable space striptease to the goofily pitched “Love Love Love Drags Me Down” and the Bacharach-esque romance of “I Love All the Love in You.” Crewe rings out the film, and album with his riff on Pygar’s curiously touching sign off of “An Angel is Love,” the singer’s voice climbing to the heavens with a sweet horn refrain. It’s a combo of 60’s hip grooves and thematic melody that blissfully pays of “Barbarella,” a long beloved album that finally soars with terrific sound from Varese after decades of one inferior release after the other – pure heaven for fans of Fox and Crewe’s triumph of sci fi and Shagadelia.

Extra Special: Excepting Spider-Man, the 1970’s weren’t a banner TV decade for costumed superheroes, as the motorcycle riding, barely recognizable Wonder Woman and Captain America proved to face-palming reaction from comic book fans. But one colorfully twirling exception was 1975’s reboot of Wonder Woman, whose origin in WW2 and red, white and blue emblazoned outfit were dutifully recreated on ABC, and embodied to winningly beautiful effect by Lynda Carter. Done with just slightly less camp than Batman, every enamored school kid in America instantly recognized the bullets and bracelets call to action of Fox and Gimbel’s punchy-funk brass theme, who deliriously excited rhythm and chorus extolled her Amazonian virtues. The theme was a driving force through WW’s first war-set season, a patriotically nostalgic approach set by Fox. The dastardly Nazis were given the sound of Teutonic evil, as contrasted with square jawed Steve Trevor’s noble brass and the timpani. Paradise Island’s most famous ambassador had femininity to spare in her warm strings, while a jazzy sax cemented her maybe not-so platonic attraction to her ersatz boyfriend. With light militaristic suspense setting up the inevitable scene were Carter would effortlessly throw Germans and fifth columnists about, Fox brought the theme’s chorus to the fore, the orchestra cleverly varying the melody, with brass pows every bit the uppercut that Nelson Riddle’s music landed for The Caped Crusader’s punches. Fox was also canny enough to give “Wonder Woman” a contemporary pop vibe to its percussion. With his work done after scoring the pilot, Fox left the show in the capable hands of such composers as Artie Kane and Robert Prince, who kept “Wonder Woman” very much in Fox’s vein, even as the show transitioned to the modern era and a new network for its second and third seasons. Their music was stalwart enough, with a tone familiar to fans of such sci-fi shows as “Buck Rogers” and “Battlestar Galactica,” as well as displaying the kind of jazzy suspense that could be heard in any number of cop shows during the era. But it’s on the third disc of this terrific La La Land Records presentation that “Wonder Woman’s” scoring really jumps the shark in glorious fashion, from the punchy-funk action of Johnny Harris to Robert O. Ragland’s neo blaxploitation beat that could’ve easily fit his score for “Trouble Man.” The usually more sedate Angela Morley of “Watership Down” created a tingling, ersatz sci-fi meets Bond score, Robert Prince brought the Cosmic Beam with crazed disco rhythm and Richard LaSalle applied goofy monkey shines to awesomely absurd effect. In short, “Wonder Woman” is the 40’s by way of 70’s TV scoring awesomeness that’s a delight to fans of this cult show that Charles Fox emblazoned with a pop-friendly cleverness, a musical saga entertainingly chronicled by comic book score specialist John Takis on the triple CD’s colorful booklet.



3) FAST COMPANY / TIMEMASTER

     

Price: $17.95

What is it?: Dragon’s Domain shows how two composers linked to the inexplicably popular horror franchise “Friday the 13th” are just as adept at playing the evils of drag racing, or the nefarious designs of alien overlords in an unusual western fashion.

Why should you buy it?: After making a bloody splash with the parasitic terrors of “Shivers” and “Rabid,” David Cronenberg took a brief pit stop on his way to becoming the cinematic king of body horror with 1979’s “Fast Company” an almost forgotten B-movie interlude where the director indulged in his love of drag racing. Fellow Canuck Fred Mollin was just hitting the road to a prolific scoring career that would include “Friday the 13th’s 7 and 8, along with 72 episodes of its vaguely connected TV series. But as opposed to grooving with the sound of haunted antiques or mutating humans for that matter, Mollin and his brother Larry crafted a cool, song-driven score that could easily be jamming on the jukebox of a New Jersey country-blues bar as some racetrack. But if the producers couldn’t get couldn’t get Bruce Springsteen to perform the songs, Mollin, Bat McGrath and Michael Stanley impressively filled in the working class groove as their throaty vocals jammed with a swaggering sax, electric organ and lite jazz vibes, with even some disco fever thrown in. Even more impressively, the band also featured future Toto members Steve Lukather on guitar and Mike Porcaro on bass. Where movies of this sort had forgettable source cues, the Mollin bros tunes are uniformly good, conveying the energetic grit of tough living and loose women that surround the racer rivalry, or a “shootout on a drag strip” as Cronenberg saw it. It’s a grooving atmosphere that even smells like stale beer and burning motor oil in the best way a late 70’s drive-in flick can. Mollin’s relatively brief, band-centric instrumental work (Cronenberg’s first original score at that) is similarly packed with that era’s rocking goodness, with travelling men piano percussion, electric flame-exhaust thrash, and drum /guitar suspense for simmering sabotage, energetic instrumentals that sound like songs waiting to happen, putting much-needed energy into Cronenberg’s laid-back direction.

Extra Special: While his “ki ki ki ma ma ma” theme for the “Friday the 13th” series will remain his defining musical signature, and the stalk-and-slash suspense of his numerous series scores his most popular works, Harry Manfredini has always been far more capable than musically embedding blunt instruments in dumb teenagers heads – as can be diversely heard in any number of scores like the darkly heroic “Swamp Thing” or the high flying action of “Iron Eagle 3.” But likely his most impressive score that you’ve never heard of until now is for 1995’s “Timemaster.” As made by James Glickenhaus, who had a definitely talent for spectacle with “Shakedown” and “The Protector,” as well as Jason-worthy grisliness with “The Exterminator,” the director’s last movie had something to do with alien overlords hijacking humans into virtual reality games before sucking up the energy of planets. Well, ok then. But for Manfredini, it’s a terrifically diverse and highly melodic playing field at conveying youthful sci-fi action adventure by way of the old west. Coming up with exhilarating action rhythms at one moment and then spaghetti western stylings the next before venturing into Shaolin Temple Kung Fu action, “Timemaster” is a score full of exhilarating diversions, and one with a magically emotion heart as well as a starstuff chorus, youthful boldness and rock-pop rhythms that jet its heroes from one time zone to the next with the help of Pat Morita and Richard Wagner. It’s music on the equal of Alan Silvestri or Michael Kamen without an orchestral budget to speak of. But such is Manfredini’s dynamic writing and enthusiasm that the symphonic emulation here never matters. It’s the quality of this terrifically exciting music that does as it propels the imagination. Dragon’s Domain’s liner note specialist Randall D. Larson’s liner notes effectively shed light on this gem, as well as “Fast Company’s” draghouse blues to illuminating effect.


4) PANIC / POWER RANGERS

     

Prices: $16.95 / $10.79

What is it?: For all of his effectively gigantic scores like “The Fate of the Furious” and “The Mummy,” many of Brian Tyler’s best scores center on slow-burn mood as opposed to the fuse leading to an explosion – though given his prolific output there’s certainly room for both ends of the arthouse and multiplex stick to just get along with “Panic” and “Power Rangers.”

Why should you buy it: Done very near the beginning of an auspicious career, 2000’s “Panic” showed much talent to come with a beautifully haunting, low key score for equally promising director Harry Bromell, for whom star William H. Macy twisted his mild-mannered persona as a hit man with daddy issues. As he reveals his lethal neuroses on a psychiatrist’s couch, Tyler creates a thematic bed that’s about the sad insides of the protagonist as opposed to his cruel job. Hearing a unique, transfixing sound caught between strings and orchestral emulation that would pay off well, Tyler employs the delicate sound of a piano for a hopelessly wounded character trying to heal himself through romance with another lost soul in treatment, his futile dreams of salvation played through Tyler’s own wordless vocals. It’s a choral-inflected rhythmic approach reminiscent of Tangerine Dream, but done in a different more directly emotional playing field. There’s a real tenderness to “Panic’s” music that makes it unusually moving picture for the tortured hitman genre, though with a fatalistic film noir sensibility that let’s us hear the only sad road it can end on, if one that gives us a sympathetic feeling of transcendence. Like the author gone too soon, “Fitzgerald” marked Brommell’s last movie before his sudden passing, but his powerful mood piece about the writer’s final days in Hollywood only added to the newfound vitality of Tyler’s music. Impressionistic in its detox of booze and creative madness, Tyler’s conjures the rich, sometimes hallucinogenic alcohol-drenched sound of going into the iconic night with atmospheric style to spare. Given a gorgeously fatalistic theme that sings with the lush jazzy blues of Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, “Fitzgerald” is beautifully sad and captivating, making for a tragic double soundtrack combo with a knockout punch, featuring exceptional sound and liner notes by album producer Zach Tow. It’s a CD a long time coming, but very much welcomed in displaying Brian Tyler’s muted, intimate touch at soulful, troubled tragedy.

Extra Special: There are few kid’s series more awesome in their rubber suited kitschiness than “The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers,” Saban Entertainment’s gonzo, Americanized reworking of an already absurdist monster battling Japanese show. But perhaps the most daring thing these “Rangers” have ever done was to fight for respectability as a big screen reboot, done as seriously as if its makers were trying to create “Superman: The Movie.” That these “Power Rangers” succeed at their lofty goals in an entertaining, thankfully non-goofy film is in no small part owed to Brian Tyler’s grand, and unequally uncondescending score. Having tackled the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot with equally fannish, if just a little bit more knowingly humorous energy, Tyler approaches the multi-colored cosmic avengers with a welcome mix of earnestness and zoid-roaring excitement, his music squarely aimed at a slightly older youth audience with its alt. pop-friendly guitar energy that brings out real heart from the teens underneath these way better-looking suits. Standing proudly next to his Marvel scores for Iron Man and Thor, Tyler’s dynamic fuel of rhythm, orchestra and futuristic samples are the stuff that emo superheroes are made of, the score powerfully building to the big morphing moment, with Tyler’s music socking him a real Jor-El valor to Bryan Cranston’s pixilated head as he tells his young charges to do their multi-colored change-o thing. It’s a score that’s no more in geek heaven that when Tyler gets to have his rocking orchestra crank it up with “Go Go Power Rangers.” Given a chorus and his way with creature-smashing percussion, Tyler’s mesh of symphony and sci-fi samples does its darndest to make you believe a bunch of kids can morph. That “Power Rangers’” score succeeds with almost amazing maturity shows a confidently energetic composer who’s suited up long ago.



5) RACE WITH THE DEVIL / MAKING LOVE

Price: $21.99

What Is it?: What does the gay journey of discovery between two men have to do with a bunch of RV road tripping pals trying out outrun Satanists? Not much beyond the composer involved in one the crazier CD double feature that spotlights the diverse talent of Leonard Rosenman. Taking scoring into new, avant-garde territory with his brash, impressionistic work for piano student James Dean on “Rebel Without A Cause” and “East of Eden” before such experimentally surreal work as “Fantastic Voyage,” Rosenman wasn’t a composer particularly known for relaxed melody, which is what makes “Making Love” the true shocker that starts off this soundtrack.

Why Should You Buy It?: Perhaps the most romantic, and altogether lovely score that Rosenman ever wrote, “Making Love” speaks for all of the tenderness that goes with the most personal of connections, here a love that dare not speak its Hollywood name until Arthur Hiller’s sensitive 1982 drama, where a perhaps not-so happily married doctor comes to terms with his gay identity as his wife grows increasingly distraught. A master of using unsettled harmony to reflect psychological turmoil, Rosenman impactfully reflects a man’s sexual confusion, while not making it seem like he’s plunging into a nightmare, as so many far less enlightened films and scores did back when homosexuality and lesbianism meant the moral comeuppance of ostracization, or often worse. Here, it’s a beautifully lush thematic journey of self-realization that never goes for the musical melodrama, though one still very much in Rosenman’s tradition of blending melody and dissonance, if to way more emotionally subtle effect, with a gorgeous, harpsichord-topped classical rendition of the main theme also showing that this was the composer who won an Oscar for his adaptations for “Barry Lyndon.”

Extra Special: When you hear how Rosenman twists the harpsichord into an instrument of sheer terror along with gnarled strings the main title of “Race with the Devil,” fans will know just as quickly that this is manic ghost rider behind the Satan-driven “The Car” and the mutant savagery of “Prophecy’s” killer bear. Subversively using playful rhythms worthy of a western puppy dog round-up as pals Peter Fonda and Warren Oates drive around the southwest, it isn’t long before an inadvertently witnessed sacrifice bring out the snaky percussion, raging tone pyramids and dissonance that’s the singular trademark for Rosenman’s dark, experimental side. Indeed, there’s no mistaking the foul pit its relentless, villains have emerged from as Rosenman uses feverish onslaughts of strings, brass and perverted electric violin for black sound mass, yet one whose fearsome motifs are still evident within the madness of its primal fear. It’s music that’s pure, unnerving panic, displaying Rosenman as one of the most uncompromising, experimental composers of his day, especially when in the service of cult horror in more ways than one. Admirers of “Making Love” won’t know what hit them, but for fans of Rosenman’s ferocious genre scores, “Race With the Devil” will be twisted music to their ears.


ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

. A FAMILY MAN

While Mark Isham has done any number of powerful, all-symphonic scores like “42,” “Quiz Show” and his Oscar-nominated “A River Runs Through it” that examined the male drive to win, his psychological journeys into a the orchestral-electronic realm have been just as effective, particularly the hypnotic atmospheres of “Crash,” “The Cooler” and “The Accountant.” Now the latter film’s producer Mark Williams brings along Isham for his directorial debut “A Family Man.” But Gerard Butler’s Sparta-avenging ferocity as a corporate headhunter seems anything but hearth and home as his hunger for success consumes all, until his son’s medical energy makes him seriously re-examine his life choices. Isham has certainly been direct about the right soaring path to take for any number of screwed-up macho men, but what makes his “Family Man” particularly effective is the overall hushed tone he takes. At first building on the kind of electric alt. rhythms that are now powering dramas about company climbers, Isham’s pulsing music earns its emotional makeover as the composer slows down with hushed, subtly transcendent atmospheres that made for the kind of haunted, electronic vibes that distinguished such early scores as “Never Cry Wolf” and “Mrs. Soffel.” Evocative piano sounds amidst haunting, voice-like sampling and vibe percussion to convey sadness, and an affectingly poignant, slow awakening, where more overt realization is conveyed through heart-rending performances for the strings and violin. “A Family Man” travels from the rhythmic rat race to the spiritual with the kind of soulful perceptiveness that’s long made for Isham’s often profoundly quiet dramatic work, of which this score is a beautiful, moving hush, heard digitally June 2nd on iTunes.


. BABY’S DAY OUT

Teen auteur John Hughes saw that he’d come into a good thing when he had an adolescent make mincemeat out bumbling burglars with “Home Alone.” So what better way to reprise what worked by adjusting the formula for a giggling infant to wreak city-wide havoc on a bunch of miscreants than with “Baby’s Day Out.” As directed by Patrick Read Johnston, this daredevil cherub didn’t exactly hit the Chicago upper class suburban payday, but it inspired an utterly delightful score from Bruce Broughton. With his lush, ultra-melodic child-friendly orchestral sound that defined such classic youth fantasy scores from the 80’s and 90’s as “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Boy Who Could Fly” and especially “Honey I Blew Up the Kid,” there was no better composer to pick up the whack-a-thug, hearth and home mantle from John Williams. Given a little, lumbering theme that’s quick to dash into playful panic, Broughton’s score comes across like a gossamer spin on “Peter and the Wolf,” with the sweet melody of Baby Bink being an unwitting hunter, and accident-prone brass the villain out to snatch him. These musical forces dances about as well in the spirit of Carl Stalling and the 30’s-style city symphony energy of George Gershwin. But while every skyscraper-ascending string, gorilla-charming bell and noggin-bashing horn tells you exactly what physical comedy is going on, Broughton is far more concentrated on melodic finesse than musical pratfall shtick. It’s a wise move that doesn’t let “Baby” devolve into busy music, keeping it consistently smooth and pleasing through all of its piano runs and sneaking flutes. But the height of “Baby’s” ingenuity is “The Construction Site,” as Broughton’s gorgeous orchestra spins “The Blue Danube” into a sparkling carnival of comic mishaps, his theme a perilously ascending and plunging waltz that makes for beyond-cute sweetness with death-defying irony amidst the girders. First released as a instantly collectable composer promo that ran around 30 minutes or so, Intrada has gorgeously remastered “Baby’s Day Out” to 79 minutes that never prove tiring, showing this score’s marvelous construction of comedy as perhaps his sumptuously melodic high point, even as nefarious adults here take the bruising brass falls.


. CARRIE PILBY

Girl power is too smart in Susan Johnson’s winningly intelligent, and sensitive directorial debut, even as “Carrie Pilby’s” peppy collection of alt. and rock songs by do their best to loosen her up, from Justin Dean Thomas’ Ramones-esque “Anytime I’m Feelin” to Chauncey Jacks’ Motown groove for “You Make Me Happy” and Mose Jordan’s soulful r & b “Be Your Man.” It’s a cool variety that speaks for a young, warmth-starved and intellectually confused woman trying to find herself in a musically hip big city. Thankfully, she’s got adept indie movie and TV composer Michael Penn (“The Last Kiss,” “Girls”) as her emotional wingman. In the welcome, brief score tracks on display here, Penn uses a gentle, sympathetic approach for strings, piano and guitar, dream-like samples yearning for something more. It’s a quietly memorable portrait of Carrie that has both tenderness and whimsy in evoking musical poetry from a wannabe novelist, much in the way that Penn has created emotionally fragile, female portraits in such scores as “Sunshine Cleaning.” Like “Carrie Pilby,” Penn has a poetic intelligence to his musical way, which points this soundtrack in a lyrically affecting emo direction.


. THE DEVIL’S CANDY

Black metal has certainly played its demonic part is horror scores from “Rock and Roll Nightmare” to “Trick or Treat” and “Ghost Rider.” But never before has it seemingly had the power to summon Satan himself than in the fevered fingers of Michael Yezerski (“Mental,” “The Little Death”), whose twisted power chords join with the artistic severity of Tasmanian director Sean Byrne, who last subjected a prom date to the looney tune family of “The Loved Ones,” and now loses any sense of humor when subjecting a rock-loving family to a serial killer’s musical fixation in the middle of Texas nowhere. But as opposed to slash, which certainly flavors this “Candy,” Bryne treats this potential grindhouse material with the visual art of Terence Malick, leaving an impressive playing field for Yezerski to work his dark incantations on. Like “Devil’s” dad’s fever dream painting coming to life, as the composer twists the screws in for his daughter’s peril with unbearable tension. Subsonic sustains lead to bone-splitting percussion, bizarrely sampled atmospheres reek with pure evil, with slicing power chords and pulse heartbeats unbearably build to relentless, howling attack. It’s a flaming climax that’s the equivalent of having a hair metal band thrash away to multiple homicides. In other words, easy listening this ain’t. But in terms of creating a score that will actually scare the shit out of you, while leaving the more adventurous horror listener transfixed, Yezerski creatively hits the insane, black mass sweet spot that makes your preacher’s worst warnings of metal come true.


. EMERALD CITY

NBC’s severe sword-and-sorcery reboot of “The Wizard of Oz” recently had Nielsen’s house dropped on it. But that’s no reason not to let the continuing imagination of Trevor Morris’ music fill your own quest down a colorfully twisted yellow brick road with this sumptuous presentation of the late series’ music. Having impressively accompanied a hero raging against the Greek gods for “Immortals” for Tarsem Singh, Morris now accompanies the visually opulent director for his take on Frank L. Baum stories. Just don’t expect affable munchkins and the heroic triumvirate of a scarecrow, lion and tin man, as displayed in child-friendly music terms. We’re talking about Dorothy getting water boarded by barbarians, with a steampunk wizard severely seek her termination. Morris, a composer with is own impressive track record in such genre series as “Kings,” “Dracula” and “Iron Fist” conjures an “Emerald City” that’s a world of darkly magical, musical possibility. Formidable choruses, ancient percussion and a miasma of creative sampling conjure mystical threat, where grand symphonic writing and an organ lead to a famed metropolis. Evil, good and the many green shades in between of just who are the heroes and villains are here are bound together with Morris’ impressive tapestry. But beyond conveying the constant threat to Dorothy, Morris also rejoices in the soaring beauty she encounters. From the raging brass of a locust attack to a lyrical crucifixion and the soaring, violin-topped tragedy of a cowardly lion, you never know what style of scoring you’ll encounter over this well-crafted collection of music for one of the network’s crazier fantasy efforts. “Emerald City” is a consistently invigorating quest of positively cinematic music that show just how much imagination Morris has when it comes to re-inventing iconically sunny music into something far more dangerous, or as trippy as a poppy field.


. GET EVEN

As one of the truly remarkable composers working in the often mind-bending videogame scene with his talent for melding expansive, classically-influenced melody with futuristic synth and sample rhythm in such scores as “Assassin’s Creed IV,” “Bound By Flame” and “The Technomancer,” Olivier Deriviere reaches new heights of surreal musical visions between the past and future as he plays a detective who wakes up in “Get Even’s” nightmarish realm. Trying to puzzle out where a bomb-strapped girl vanished to whilst mapping his way through Kafka-esque enemy territory. Deriviere creates entrancing atmospheres from heart beats, ticking clocks, human breath, train whistles and a siren, each creative sample morphing itself into music that recalls the composer’s brilliant time and pitch-bending game score for “Remember Me.” Action pulses merge with cues that recall Vangelis’ trippier noir scoring in “Blade Runner,” where other electronics bring to mind “Tron’s” game grid – as imagined here in a hallucinatory maze. “Get Even” probes as deeply into a sampler’s creative possibilities as it does a hero’s unsound mind, offering the most stunning use of classical impressionism and futuristic music since Garry Schyman explored the undersea metropolis of “Bioshock.” For more often than not, Deriviere’s score is in the haunted land of such modern classical composers as Arvo Part, using trembling, slowly drawn melody and chamber music to convey a sense of guilt-wracked tragedy and identity unraveling, the piano washing over the listener with lyrical loss. Though “Get Even” promises hard-edged music with its title, let alone with first person shooting, Deriviere is mostly in a fragile, tenderly emotional realm just as suited for a concert stage as a PS4, especially as beautifully recorded in Auro-3D technology, its all-enveloping audio making you feel like you’ve been thrown into a neo-classcial Twilight Zone you can perhaps shoot or map your way out of if you don’t go mad first.


. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

After his crazed, super fun, Eastern European-accented Cold War spy score to Guy Ritche’s unsung reboot of “The Man from UNCLE,” Daniel Pemberton applies the same punk rock sensibility to reinvigorating the round table into an electrified Rorschach test for the director’s far more uneven, if still enjoyable in-your-face spin for “King Arthur.” Proving that there’s truth in advertising for a film that trumpeted that this wasn’t your grandpa’s Camelot (likely to “Arthur’s” box office detriment), Pemberton’s treatment of not-so noble knights is as far away from the Wagernian take on “Excalibur” as you can imagine, let along Hans Zimmer’s “King Arthur.” Here the effect is like wandering into battle of the bands night at a particularly dangerous tavern in Camelot, as a director hell-bent to O.D. on style can imagine it. Going for striking themes comprised of heavy breathing heavy metal and all sorts of bare, sword-slamming percussion, this is more like some AC / DC 70’s album cover come to long hair waving, ultra-colorful life. Often, “King Arthur” is stripped bare to rhythm to accompany sarcastic storytelling rhythms, i.e. “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Swords.” Yet as hard as his score tries to reinvent the wheel, often to fun WTF effect, Pemberton actually does convey the expected period with Celtic-influenced strings, bagpipes and balladeering, creating a score that’s at once the most iconoclastic and authentic Arthurian scores in a long line of them. Yet for all of the delinquent fury that’s conveyed for a hero that’s anything but sterling, even Pemberton realizes that he’s got to go old school as a heroic orchestra shows up here and there, most notably for the iconic sword form the stone sequence. It’s the kind of go-for-broke work that fans of the musical legend will either love or hate. But at the least, “King Arthur” will catch their attention, which is more than can be said for many scores that follow the straight-ahead road to Camelot.


. MONSTER FROM GREEN HELLL

When it came to musically embodying the howls, roars and buzzing of any number of 1950’a bug-eyed, mutated monsters from “Earth Vs. the Spider” to “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “The Cyclops,” there were few composers as rampagingly prolific in the genre as Albert Glasser, especially when given already nasty wasps grown to beyond-Raid size by rocket radiation in 1957’s “Monster from Green Hell.” Where today’s horror scoring for far smaller ghouls is usually comprised of dissonant string and brass, the approach to these genre pictures from back in the day turned that frenzy up to 11, its strident orchestrations effectively conveying unstoppable terror beyond atom age imagination. While pleasantly strolling melody might not have been these pictures’ thing, what distinguishes Glasser’s approach in darkest, insect-infested Africa is that it’s got a titanic, distinctive theme to embody the wasps, an immediately evil three-note motif that hangs over the score. Better yet at giving these “Monsters” musical variety beyond the giant tarantulas and ants you’d find hanging in the American southwest is “Monster’s” exotic setting. Much of the score is trekking about the jungle to find what’s freaking out the tribes, allowing for native drums and tribal rhythms that make “Monster” sound equally like Tarzan score from yore. Ultimately ending up in a nest of smashing cymbals and shrieking brass, “The Monster from Green Hell” is pure hog heaven for enthusiasts of this delightfully over-the-top1950’s style, with the theme even becoming “Jungle Jazz.” As Monstrous Movie Music has seemingly ceased releasing these genre highlights, it’s great to have Kritzerland excavating these spine-tingling behemoths here and there with impressive, blasting sound, complete with a cavalcade of literal stingers for what’s arguably the most nightmarish flying insect of all, as well as one of Glasser’s more memorably insane creature feature. “Monster’s” inherent goofiness in the bottom half of drive in bills is hilariously chronicled in producer Bruce Kimmel’s liner notes for a glossy booklet that likely cost more than the movie itself.


. RICHARD THE STORK

Eric Neveux has had a long, internationally dramatic career with the spare likes of England’s “Intimacy,” Italy’s baroquely vengeful “Borgia” family and France’s lush artistic bromance in “Cezanne and Me.” But none of his scores have the migratory flight like the wonderfully energetic and surprisingly soulful “Richard the Stork.” Taking stylistic wing from the rambunctious, animated land of “Rio’s” John Powell, Neveux uses strongly melodic orchestral winds (exceptionally well generated by the Brussels Philharmonic) to jet between any number of constantly surprising approaches. Given a sparrow who thinks he’s a stork, Neveux goes for a thematically optimistic, rhythmic spirit that knows it will make the journey sans adoptive parents. Launched with catchy, can-do brightness, “Richard” dances about with ethnic, bird call elements for the oddball fowls he encounters, or cleverly panics with the theremin and improv jazz when chased by bats. Jazz of a soft shoe kind also inflects “Richard,” along with fuzz guitar rock, thrilling action, African percussion and a French accordion for the composer’s good, native measure. Not veering about quite as crazily as Powell’s similarly terrific efforts in the CG animal kingdom, Neveux’s firm grasp of symphonic melody make “Richard” consistently pleasurable, while also hearing real, wounded emotion from a character learning to take pride in his own species. That “Richard’s” most moving power comes from Neveux’s lush show just how well he’s jumped out of the gate for his first animated score, given Stacey King’s charming, pop-powered “Zootopia”-worthy song “We’re Coming Home” to send Quartet’s album off on striving wings of wonder.


. ROCKET TO THE MOON

From “The Great Race” to “The Magnificent Men in their Flying Machine” and “Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies,” transportation was grandly running retro amuck in the swinging 60’s. Competing multinational teams of eccentric inventors were just racing for the gun to go so they could engage in this genre of riotous demolition derbies, which got a comedic sci-fi spin with 1967’s “Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon” (soon changed to the adjective cash-in title of “Those Fantastic Flying Fools”). Aboard this cannon-propelled trip were of course the sputtering, iconically buck-tooted Terry Thomas, as well as Lionel Jeffries, who’d previously made the eccentric tip along with “The First Men in the Moon.” But there’s really no person aboard who propels “Moon’s” very English buoyancy that Patrick John Scott. A jazz band player as well as an esteemed session man for the likes of The Beatles and John Barry, “Moon” helped launch Scott’s career, then in its auspicious start with the Sherlock Holmes thriller “A Study in Terror” and the shagadelic femme fatales of “The Million Eyes of Sumuru.” Still standing as one of his most delightfully buoyant entries, “Rocket to the Moon” is ever so English in its approach, from the imperious brass of Queen Victoria to its bucolic orchestrations amidst the more overtly comedic music for dastardly villainy. Constructing a sturdily charming theme whose whimsy translates through marching bands to lush strings, Scott’s fondness for brass is apparent throughout, from the gamboling Victorian source music to the Teutonic swagger and blarting tuba of Gert Frobe’s explosive mastermind. His rising and plunging orchestrations are musical lessons in physics themselves as e a cliffhanging orchestra contributes to the joyous pastiche that powers “Rocket to the Moon.” Its given slapstick given gravity by Scott’s terrific orchestral writing that also manages to convey a sense of wonder at the insane enterprise of shooting man out of cannon. Now this decades-old rocket that’s been sonically polished up to snuff by Kritzerland for its trip from LP to CD (a greater voyage than anything in the film), with album producer Bruce Kimmel providing real appreciation for John Scott, and his robust approach to the kind of 60’s madcap comedy inspired by throwback traveling technology, as well as the bright melodic future that mostly seriously lay ahead for a most inventive composer.


. THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER

You might not have found an odder couple than Elmer Bernstein and John Wayne. One was a short, vastly talented composer who was nearly blacklisted, while the other was a towering performer who represented red-hating, God Bless America values. But The Duke certainly can thank Bernstein for adding immeasurably to his legendary Hollywood stature over the course of six, rousing western scores that included the likes of “Big Jake” and “Cahill U.S, Marshall.” Having released Bernstein’s climactic score for Wayne’s noble movie exit “The Shootist,” La La Land Records now goes gun blazing into 1965’s soundtrack for “The Sons of Katie Elder.” And it’s hard to imagine a more emblematic score at defining a Wayne western. A rousingly heroic theme, sonorous, desert-spanning orchestra and rough-and-tumble brass action are just some of the classic sounds that Bernstein brings to this Mexican-flavored round up as Wayne leads a brotherly four-pack out to avenge the varmits who’ve done their parents grievously wrong. But then, the year before he’d first saddled up with Wayne on “The Commancheros,” Bernstein had been part of the western game-changer with 1960’s “The Magnificent Seven,” a scored that defined an Americana brand of gunslinging heroism. Given the brotherly “Sons,” Bernstein has more of sentimental, bromance range to his melody, while the men’s punch-happy antics get treated with the most delightfully brawling Irish jig this side of Gerard Fried helping Captain Kirk give a beatdown to Finnegan in “Shore Leave.” With drumming suspense, a sturdy orchestral sense of righteous vengeance and a melancholy accordion, Bernstein’s score is great, rousing stuff that showed Bernstein as every bit the rough-riding gunslinger as Wayne. La La Land’s presentation offers rousing sound for “Katie’s” decades-old, eternally vital age, while offering three versions of its song along with Jeff Bond’s always interesting, well-researched liner notes on the legacy of Elmer Bernstein’s Old West.


. THRILLER

The golden age of television served as a fertile training ground for many great film composers to be, with perhaps none learning how to unleash terror from the cathode ray tube quite like Jerry Goldsmith. If there’s a program that sowed the seeds for “The Omen,” “The Mephisto Waltz” and “Poltergeist,” then it would two seasons of the unheralded anthology show “Thriller.” Sure Rod Serling may have gotten more popularity over in his CBS corner of “The Twilight Zone” where Goldsmith’s devilish fiddle conjured the tiny astronauts for its beloved “Invaders” episode. But Boris Karloff certainly was no slouch when it came to introducing tales of terror on NBC from 1960 – 1962, where Goldsmith applied said fiddle as well as a battery of chilling instruments to those in need of terrible moral comeuppances. Though given a TV-budgeted ensemble at the time, the dependable rescoring restoration team of producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra apply expanded symphonic weight to Goldsmith’s work, choosing six of the sixteen episodes he scores to make his “Thriller” work more impactful than ever before. Each episode is a malefic set piece. “The Grim Reaper’s” Shatner-cursed painting is personified by the retro-electric sounds of the Novachord, old scratch violins and the kind of eerily lovely waltz that would send a ghost down the Freling family’s staircase. A darkly lumbering theme and snarling brass push the listener into “The Well of Doom that recalls the more monstrously suspenseful music of Bernard Herrmann, where the shivering electronics and harpsichord of “The Prisoner” pave the way of Baroque psychological fright that would bring Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for “Freud,” as well as his truly unhinged asylum-set score for “Shock Treatment.” A girl’s ghostly protector “Mr. George” seems positively kind with a tender, tinkerbell-like theme, where “Hay – Fork and Bill – Hook,” offers Irish lyricism. But the perhaps the most striking suite is saved for last as Goldmsith pens “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” as signed in a delightfully diabolical way that suggests a drunken dance band stumbling about the fog-shrouded alleyways of Victorian England. Ace TV music journalist Jon Burlingame writes the liner notes that shed light on Goldsmith’s memorable contributions to this unheralded anthology series, whose music couldn’t be scarier given this impressive new Tadlow Recording that shows a composer grabbing onto the psychological, if not outright monstrous fear that would serve him so well on the big screen.



CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Moviescoremedia and Screen Archives Entertainment

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Geoff Zanelli

Di, 23/05/2017 - 19:02

In the franchise world of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” one rises up the ranks from deckhand to captain by scallywag subterfuge, mutiny and murder. In composer Geoff Zanelli’s case, it’s the far more mild, if no less impressive traits of hard work and talent to get ahead as part of Hans Zimmer’s crew. A mate on the very first ship named The Black Pearl, and dexterously jumping from one darkly enchanted sea craft to the next over the course of three more pictures, Zanelli is now having a not-so motley band of musicians answering to his beck and command with the rousing “Pirates” saying of “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” As overseen by Norwegian directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (who commanded the positively sedate journey of “Kon-Tiki” in comparison), “Dead Men” reprises the series’ stalwart, alternatively dead and undead characters as they combat the vengeful Spanish spirit of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a pirate-hating ghoul and his crew with a particular mad-on at Sparrow for afflicting them with their unholy condition.

Just as this film puts the band back together with a freshly villainous spin, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” arms Zanelli with a booty’s worth of memorable themes gathered from past “Pirates” scores, which abet his own hip, adventurous voice for the allegedly last adventure of Jack Sparrow. The Zimmer-commandeered series rudely re-invented all the wonderful clichés of pirate scoring into devilishly fiddling, jigging and brass-blasting in-your-ears rambunctiousness – yet still grandly paid off those clichés anyway. If anything, Zanelli’s swabbed these decks with just a tad of refinement for a terrifically exciting and fun score that delivers on the “Pirates” mish-mash of horror, excitement and punch-line humor – all of his gigantic musical cannons blasting with chorus, cellos and orchestra ablazing, and with some particularly gnarly and cosmic new themes for Salazar and Poseidon’s Trident to boot.

But then, one might say that Zanelli’s ascension to his biggest score shares much of the fateful destiny that drives the “Pirates” mythology. Composing on no end of soundtracks for Zimmer and his crew like “Antz,” “Pearl Harbor” and “The Machine,” Zanelli created a twisted Johnny Depp with his first major score for “Secret Window,” His prolific scoring career has since ranged from the arthouse (“House of D”) to thrillers (“Disturbia,”” “Hitman”) sweeping, Emmy-winning and nominated TV miniseries work (“Into the West” and “The Pacific”) sci-fi adventure (“Outlander”), charming romance (“Ghost Town”) caper comedy (“Mortdecai,” “Masterminds”) and the creepily kid-friendly (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”). As hard to peg down as a pirate leg in his styles, “Dead Men” now shows just how rockingly adept Zanelli is at making a sizeable ship his own as he impressively sails into the Memorial Day weekend multiplex with music that excitingly hits all the notes of The Enchanted Kingdom’s singularly seditious movie take on their most beloved ride.


As a California native, I imagine you’ve been to the Pirates ride at Disneyland as a kid. What impressed you about it, and what effect did it have on you?

Pirates was a favorite ride of mine, for sure. I loved how immersive it was, and that each scene had some sort of punch line, or story point. You’re being taken through a whole narrative at a pace where you can absorb it all. There’s a spirit of adventure in that ride, and that same spirit was in all of my favorite films as a child growing up in the suburbs. Those films, like “Indiana Jones” or “Clash of the Titans” and the rides at Disneyland are all part of that daydream, and they feel very much like they’re a part of me. That’s why “Pirates of the Caribbean” was such an easy thing for me to get involved in.

Tell us about becoming a mate at Hans Zimmer’s studio. And what does it take to survive, and learn from an experience that’s caused other less hardy souls to jump ship?

At this point, the only person who’s been at Hans Zimmer’s studio longer than I have is Hans himself, so yes, that means it’s an environment I’ve thrived in for quite a while. But “survival,” that wasn’t really the word that was on my mind. The very first professional studio I ever walked into was Hans’ place back in 1994. I was 19 years old when I came to Los Angeles without knowing a soul in music or in film. I don’t even know if there was a recording studio in my hometown, but even if there was, there still wasn’t much film music going on, so I had to make a move. I was really working against all odds, if you think about it. Somehow I talked my way into an internship at Hans’ studio and once I got that I just never went home. I didn’t get a foot in the door, or even a toe, it was just my toenail! Hans was writing “The Lion King” at the time and I was pouring coffee and cleaning the dishes so I could stay after hours to hear Alan Meyerson as he mixed, or absorb technical experience from the staff there, or my favorite: bringing coffee into Hans’ studio and walking back out of the room as slowly as possible so I could hear one or two more notes, or one more comment from a director as a meeting was going on. That was my early education, in addition to all the stuff I was doing during school months at Berklee.

I think over the years I just became a fixture at the studio. I don’t even recall a formal introduction to Hans or most of the people there; I just made myself trusted and dependable. Two years after that, I became John Powell’s assistant, which was really my first actual job in music. John was my mentor for three years and I wrote more and more additional music on his projects, and then one day Hans approached me to ask if I’d work on “Hannibal” as an arranger. So I found a little broom closet of a room there, set up shop and then for a few years, I was Hans’ arranger on all sorts of projects. We always worked well together, and you can imagine how much a young composer can learn from guys like John and Hans.

What’s the trick of writing in tandem to create a cohesive score, especially at Hans’ studio?

Scoring assistant Zak McNeil, additional music composer Anthony Willis (rear), additional music composer Phill Boucher, composer Geoff Zanelli, music editor Pete Snell (rear) Photo by Dan Goldwasser

The cohesiveness of a score that’s being written as a collaboration, in my opinion, is the responsibility of the main composer. All I do in the role of additional music composer is respond to the film, write something I feel strongly about, and from there it becomes a matter of Hans or whoever has their name is on the poster to direct it. So often, and Pirates is a great example of this, I’ll write something in isolation that works well or is compelling, or undeniably right for the film and then that starts to inform other aspects of the score. Tia Dalma’s theme, for instance, or the Cannibal Island music I wrote in “Pirates 2” are examples of something of mine taking on a life of its own. The score becomes cohesive as all those elements expand from their original form into other scenes. You can go find Hans’ original demos of “Pirates” themes and track the evolution of some of them through the film, to see another example what I mean. This is a testament to how Hans works, and how he collaborates with people. He never says, “Make it sound more like me” but he does say things like “I don’t know how you write strings like that. They’re very ‘Geoff.’”

How did your work on the “Pirates” movies evolve to the point where you captained your own ship in the franchise? And given that this is your biggest film to date, was that responsibility at all daunting?

I did find it daunting, but I found the first four daunting as well. There’s a lot at stake with every movie I work on and I commit fully to everything I do, so they all feel important to get right. This is a blessing and a curse, though. The work really does keep me up at night. The evolution of my role felt natural, though. Since I threw myself into the world of “Pirates” from the very first film, the commitment was identical on all five films. Being the composer of record was an organic extension of that, and in a funny way it was almost a non-issue. I was ready for it.


How do you think the first “Pirates” film upended that particular genre? And do you think its score did as well?

The score for “Curse of the Black Pearl” was one of a few crucial elements that elevated the film from being a very good adventure movie to being a franchise-launching, iconic and influential blockbuster. It was hard to know at the time how people were going to respond to it, but at least for me, as it was coming together, it really did feel like we were right out there on the edge as far as how you could write a pirate movie score. If you look at pirate music tradition, so often you arrive at flourishing woodwinds or sea shanties or something like that. We got more into the grit of it all, the splinters under the fingernails, the body odor and the muscularity of it. It’s really an orchestra treated as if it’s a rock band. As for the rest of the film, you can see Johnny Depp arrived at a similar conclusion. A lot is made of his using Keith Richards as inspiration. The cellos are our rock guitars, and we’re not afraid to put them through the guitar amp when we need to! And Gore Verbinski’s direction was crucial here, too. He talked about Elizabeth Swan being “Cinderella at a Metallica concert,” so it all adds up to the same thing. We were all approaching the whole thing with a rock and roll attitude, a sneer and a gallon of rebellion.

On the other end, did you want your “Pirates” to recall the more traditional sea adventures of yore?

Not so much, no. I think the strength of “Pirates of the Caribbean” is in that self-indulgent attitude. There’s a way of playing the romance of the ocean, or the mythology of the sea within that rock context. If anything, I pushed it even farther in that direction, particularly with Salazar’s music.


Given the rich history of the “Pirates” scores, did you do you own digging to see what old themes you wanted to bring into this score? And conversely, how “new” did you want to make your take on the music without rocking the boat too much?

I know and worked with all the themes already on the first four movies, so I didn’t need to go digging. Those are all part of my blood by now! But it was important to break new ground. There are so many new elements with characters like Carina Smyth and Salazar, a bigger focus on mythology, Poseidon’s Trident, plus Jack’s origin story that I really had to go experiment for a while to get those all to feel fresh. I didn’t think about rocking the boat or not rocking it. I just wrote what felt right for the film, and since I’ve been on board for all of the first four films my perspective is already part of the sound, enough so that it won’t feel like a departure.

Do you think that scoring such epic television series as “Into the West” (along with Blake Neely) and “The Pacific” put you in good stead for handling a movie with this kind of expansiveness?

I think my experience on the other “Pirates” films, as well as other Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer films was really what prepared me for this one. Actually, my work on the first “Pirates” film is probably what positioned me to take on “Into The West.” That additional music credit on “Curse of the Black Pearl” made a big difference, and people who worked on it were pretty vocal in praising my work, so there was more awareness of what I was really capable of after that. I don’t know that I’d have been entrusted to take on a huge miniseries like that on my own, if I hadn’t already succeeded on a big project already. I was still in my 20s when I got “Into The West”, and it’s hard to put into words how validated I felt to get a Steven Spielberg project.

A definite bit of fatigue had set in with the last film. How important was it to restore faith in the franchise, especially in terms of the energy the score could give this far better reviewed entry?

Well, I had a different experience with “On Stranger Tides” because I got to be involved with a lot of new material. I worked with Rodrigo y Gabriella on some of the legacy themes, and the Spain theme was mine, plus the mermaids’ sequence. So from my perspective, I was trying to get to a novel place with the music. Really all I did was carry that approach over to this one where the aim was to break new ground whenever we can, for instance with Salazar and Carina since they are crucial new characters. And then when I go and use themes from the earlier films I was trying to find a new way to play them.

Jack’s origin story comes to mind for that. That sequence starts with Salazar’s music that is new, but then it weaves through all sorts of things including many re-imagined versions of the iconic music from the earlier films. There were only a few places where I’d go and use the original arrangement of the earlier themes. That happens when you first see Jack, though. It turns out you really do want to hear Jack’s theme, pure and simple right then. Another cue comes to mind, which is actually the very first thing I ever wrote for a “Pirates” film all the way back during “Curse of the Black Pearl.” The one that’s called “Barbossa is Hungry” on the album, that was actually me working up a variation on “He’s a Pirate,” but it took on a life of it’s own. A version of that gets used twice, and that’s a great example actually of how my voice came through on the earlier films, without many people knowing it’s actually my voice.

One particular shot of freshness comes from the saga’s new directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who’d done the far artier sea adventure “Kon-Tiki” before this movie. What kind of sensibility do you think they brought to “Pirates,” and what was your collaboration like?

We had a great collaboration, right from the start. Both Joachim and Espen are huge fans of “Pirates,” and they poured themselves into this film in a big way. I think they made a smart choice in aiming the tone of the film, the story, the look, the attitude squarely at what made “Pirates” great in the first place, which is a concise but interesting story that deals with a few characters involved in a larger than life plot. “Pirates” isn’t really about giant armies fighting each other; it’s about a few people whom we get to know intimately over the course of the film, set in a world that’s enormous. And it’s not afraid to be emotional, or scary. Espen and Joachim recognized those things and it really shines in this film. They were with me every step of the way.

Given the long time that this “Pirates” was in post-production for, did that you give more room to experiment with the score?

We did have a good schedule for this film, and yes that allowed me to experiment for a while longer than usual. I had the gears turning before they even shot the film, though, cause I got to read the script and carefully consider things. I think where it helps the most is in the architecture of the score, the way the themes are laid out and how they can each progress from scene to scene. That’s the job when you’re getting the main credit, and it differs from the earlier films where I was working in support of Hans. What I try to do is look at the big picture, figure out what each theme is going to need to do, break that all down into smaller and smaller problems, and only then do I start writing the theme.

Tell us about your theme for Salazar and his particular curse?

Salazar has a big story arc in the film, so his music gets to evolve in the score. We meet him in the present day and he’s just a vengeful, hateful creature bent on destroying all pirates, so that music is raw, muscular and dangerous. That’s where I started layering all sorts of twisted sounds, like Adam Peters’ cello through a horrible guitar amp, plus Martin Tillman’s acoustic cello just digging in with such malice and attitude, layered with a choir, the orchestra and some bizarre woodwinds. They all add up to a single minded, nasty sound! But we also see his backstory where you can learn his history and how it intertwined with Jack’s, and there he’s a mortal Spanish captain, a military man. So all that music plays later in the film, and you can hear where his theme came from, but only after you have already heard where his theme and character ended up.

This “Pirates” gives us the origin of Jack Sparrow. What kind of musical opportunity did that provide in showing a perhaps more grounded take on him before turning into the eccentric scallywag we know and love?

Actually, in the same way that you hear Salazar’s musical origins in retrospect, you hear Jack’s, too. The sequence, to me, is really about the actual moment in Jack’s life when he becomes Jack Sparrow. It’s the defining moment for him as a young boy. It’s also the same moment when Salazar becomes the twisted, cursed version of himself. A double origin story! And their stories are intertwined of course.

This sequel also brings back a lot of fan favorite characters. How did you want the music to show their growth?

Jack, in the present day scenes at the start of the film, is down on his luck, so his music has undergone a turn for the worse. It leads him to set in motion some pretty drastic, bad events, so that all had to be played with enough seriousness that you can believe Jack would be desperate enough to make some questionable choices. And then you have Barbossa, who goes through some amazing revelations during the film. I took the approach that he becomes a legend in this movie, part of the overall “Pirates” mythology so his music is actually informed by what I would call the “Myths of the Sea Theme,” for lack of a shorter name for it. I mean, if the constellations were named after “Pirates” characters, this is the film that would immortalize Barbossa in the stars, let me put it that way. So while there are some nods to the old themes we used for him, there’s a lot of new material, and it even ties in with the mythology of other pivotal characters in the series. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’m tiptoeing around the answer right now, but I think of Barbossa as the quintessential pirate and I wanted the music to embody that. He transcends his own character. He becomes lore in this one.

How did you want to embody this film’s central mystical object of the Trident of Poseidon?

The trident is part of the myths of the sea as well, but in a different way. It’s a tangible object, and the thing that everyone is trying to get to throughout the film. There are puzzles to be solved, and it’s all linked to a hidden place called Blackrock that Carina thinks she knows how to find. Carina, being a scientist, thinks of it as a problem that science can solve, but as she learns more about the world she lives in she finds there are things that simply can’t be explained by science. Once she’s armed with that knowledge, she can combine elements of both approaches and arrive at the answer.

What’s the importance of balance contemporary instruments like the rock guitar with more ancient ones like the Duduk in creating the pirates sound?

I think the only time we used an electric guitar was the third film, but I’m definitely abusing some cellos by shoving them through guitar amps this time around. The whole orchestra even gets put through that mayhem from time to time. The thing is, with a world as colorful as “Pirates,’” you can really use any instrument you want if it helps tell the story. I used to say things like “it is the composer’s right to go looking for new sounds” when people would ask why there are synthesizers in a score about “Pirates.” Now, I double down and say, “it’s the composer’s responsibility to go looking for new sounds!” Anything that helps convey story is fair game, as far as I’m concerned. You’ll hear a Duduk in this score when I’m dealing with ancient ideas, like mythology or Poseidon’s trident. But when we get supernatural, like with Salazar, I’ve gone and searched for something distinctly contemporary.

What’s the challenge of balancing the often eccentric, wisecracking humor of a “Pirates” movie with suspense, often in the same cue?

The film really leads the way with that. I’ve always been good at making sharp turns as the movie dictates, and that’s why I wrote so much action music in my early career. I’m pretty energetic as a person, so it’s natural for me, and easy to understand when and where the gears are shifting. So the challenge really isn’t in knowing when to make certain moves with the music, it’s really more in designing the detail that I want to have in there, the stuff that makes me feel like I’ve finished the cue and there’s nothing left that I can do to improve it. And the guiding principle in all of that, always, is the story. In action sequences, the story might be divided up into tiny little slices that each need to be acknowledged. It’s different from building or sustaining an emotion, where you are writing a much longer gesture, and the “Pirates” films are full of examples of both approaches.


This “Pirates” also gives us a return to the more horrific elements since the first skeleton-filled movie. How did you want to convey the unholy forces at play here?

We might scare some people this time, I’m glad you point that out! Carina is really the audience’s entry point for that, I think, since we witness her whole world come crashing down. She’s spent her whole life believing that science is all you need to explain the world, and she learns that things can be supernatural, unexplained, and just plain terrifying. For all of that, I wanted a larger than life sound and a lot of that relates to what I do with Salazar’s music, looking for a combination of sounds and instruments that makes it distinctive and specific. I’m layering all sorts of sounds, some which are easily identified and some that are not, in hopes that it adds up to people wondering “what is that sound?”

Given how fast and furious the action and effects get in these movies, what’s the trick to scoring their action sequences?

Detail, and giving each setpiece and identity are two things that come to mind. And again, it’s about telling the story the best way possible. The filmmaker David Koepp (“Secret Window”) once told me that every person who works on a film in any capacity should have on their business card “assistant storyteller.” Music is crucial for that, it’s the thing that exists in the air in the movie theater, it bridges the gap between the audience and the movie, and that applies not only to action sequences but anything that you’re playing music for.

The chorus also gets a particularly stirring workout here. How did you want to employ it?

There isn’t an instrument that exists that’s as expressive as a human voice, so I find it’s a very direct way to involve the audience in something, particularly something extraordinary. If there’s a moment of awe, something that’s hard to process cause it’s so large in scale, I use the choir to keep you engaged. It’s also something I use for creating discomfort or mystery, so the trident and Salazar get some pretty odd usages of the choir. And of course it just sounds huge to have a mass of voices all singing.

Nick Glennie-Smith conducts the string session. Photo by Dan Goldwasser

You’ve got as much of a massive sound for this “Pirates” with its orchestra and chorus. What were the recording sessions like?

We had a huge group for this, nearly 200 musicians all told, and sometimes multiple orchestras layered on top of each other so there was no shortage of size at my disposal. That’s a rare luxury in this day and age, but I have Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer to thank for that. They’re the ones who understand the value of putting together an enormous session like that, and they really do help musicians by remaining committed to recordings at this scale. Right now, I think film music is doing a lot to keep orchestras alive and I feel privileged to be part of that.

Recording this was just a joy. Scoring sessions are like the World Series for me. They are tons of pressure that only goes away if you work as hard as you can in there. But one thing you have to know about the musicians that come and play on “Pirates” scores is that they just love to play this music. If you add up all the experience for all 200 musicians you’re looking at something like 4,000 years of practice, blood, sweat and tears, probably more! And all they want to do is make the best recording they can, day in and day out. So I get great results from them, I just talk with the players constantly about what the scene is about, why I wrote what I wrote, and then I leave space for them to come meet me, so to speak. And every single time, they lean into it and play their hearts out. Plus, Pirates has a unique angle, what with the rock and roll orchestra and some amount of irreverence. They get to loosen up a bit, play rougher, let the edges show a little bit and that’s exciting for all of us to get to hear.

One important musical voice that’s back is cellist Martin Tillman. What kind of voice do you think he brings to the “Pirates” scores, and particularly this one?

"Pirates" cellists Martin Tillman and Tina Guo

Martin is Jack Sparrow. It’s as simple as that. In fact, you have to look to Itzhak Perlman playing “Schindler’s List” to find as good an example of a piece of film music being inextricably linked to a specific musician. I got in touch with Martin when I started writing to make sure he could join us, and my blood pressure went back to normal when he signed up. I had Martin play the Salazar theme as well, but in a very different voice and attitude. It was just nasty, really scrape-y and it argued with Adam Peters’ electric cello, which was recorded first, perfectly. I love the idea that Jack and Salazar were both voiced by the cello, but Jack was just one guy and Salazar was layer upon layer of electric and acoustic celli, more massive, more dangerous and threatening.

But why stop at two when you can have three? Tina Guo also played on some of the Salazar music, in particular the crazy and fast stuff in the shark attack sequence and what we called the cannon fight. So there’s three distinct cello voices in this film, and sometimes they play nice together, and sometimes their sounds clash in such beautiful ways! Tina Guo, by the way, goes on tour with Hans and she plays the Jack Sparrow melody when they play “Pirates”, but she does a smart thing with it. She makes it her own so it’s not a Martin Tillman impression, which would cheat both the audience and her. That music plays great in a live setting. it brings the house down every time!

How do you think this “Pirates” film stands in the franchise, and your score along with it?

That’s for the audience to decide. I know that Joachim and Espen were as devoted to “Pirates” as Gore was, and that it wasn’t lost on me how important it was to really try and deliver a score that lives up to the legacy I was already a part of. I reminded myself from time to time that this really is going to be a lot of people’s favorite movie this year, or maybe ever, and it had to be fully committed. I meant every note of it.

Special thanks to Dan Goldwassar at ScoringSessions.com


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” opens on May 26th, with Geoff Zanelli’s soundtrack available on Walt Disney Records HERE

Visit Geoff Zanelli’s website HERE


See Geoff Zanelli live, and get your “Pirates” CD signed at Creature Features! For more info, go to www.creaturefeatures.com

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Aaron Zigman

Di, 16/05/2017 - 23:15

There’s dropping out of the rat race. And then there’s really dropping out. For the sardonic, disaffected Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), it’s using a breakdown in his usual commuter train route to NYC suburban malaise to take a trip straight into his garage attic. There he stays for months, and maybe forever, looking across his driveway to watch his wife and daughters cope with his seeming disappearance, and grow to discover a new life without their jaded breadmaker.

Staying mostly silent throughout (apart from the flashbacks that show what drove Howard to isolation), it’s Wakefield’s first-person narration that imparts the listener with his caustic viewpoint, sardonic self-recrimination that gradually grows into a far more meaningful spiritual realization. The same can be said for Aaron Zigman’s profound, hauntingly melodic score that gets into Howard’s headspace and makes us understand a man alone, even when he once was part of society. “Wakefield” is a multi-layered, multi-thematic score of dazzling complexity, the summation of a prolific composer who’s ranged from the tearful emotionalism of “The Notebook” to the epic fantasy that paved “The Bridge to Terabithia” and the wacky comedy of “The Proposition” among dozens of scores.

Zigman’s time with Howard’s physical, and mental transformation opens up a world of styles to explore here, searching through tender strings and piano, rat race rhythms, eccentric humor, jazzy hubris, blissful godhood and the panic of being chased by Russian scavengers among the many facets of Howard. Capable of intimacy and lush orchestrations, Zigman’s “Wakefield” is the height of musical introspection and suspense, as well as the vital glue that, along with Cranston’s daring performance, hypnotically fills Robin Swicord’s beyond-intimate film. For Zigman, it’s music that’s as much about his own journey to reach a personal, and professional apex as he fills a garage’s second story with an enormity of an unlikely hermit’s life choices.


You’ve always had a skillful approach to melody in scores like “The Notebook,” “The Bridge To Terabithia,” “Flash of Genius,” and “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” which you co-composed with Alexandre Desplat. Do you think that’s something missing in many of today’s scores?

I think that memorable tunes that are achieved primarily by the four bar phrase—or just melody in general—are somewhat diminishing in today’s film music.

You’d scored Robin’s directorial debut “The Jane Austen Book Club.” What was your collaboration like this time?

Robin Swicord - Photo by Gilles Mingasson.

The collaboration was only different in the sense that Robin and I had already worked together before, so there was a deeper understanding and a more intuitive process. I had known about this script four years ago, so I was able to send Robin a lot of material that we could cull from. We were also not emulating a piece of temp music, but rather working from a concept, which, in my opinion, paved the way for a more original score.

There are a remarkable number of themes in “Wakefield.” Could you talk about developing them?

Years ago when Robin was writing this script, she and I spoke and she said she wanted a score in the style of “Vertigo” by Bernard Herrmann. My response was a piece of music that I sent her in that style while retaining my own voice and she was really moved by it. That piece of music was like an overture to the story. One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about is that when a script is well written I don’t need to see the picture to write themes for the various characters. That was the case with “Wakefield.”

How did you want to convey the meaningless, suburb-to-city rat race that starts “Wakefield?” as well as Howard’s yearning to break free from it?

Jennifer Garner, Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

Actually, I did not want to stamp the story as present day, especially in light of the fact that the original story was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1835, with a variation of the story written by E.L. Doctorow. I trusted my instincts and used music that wouldn’t comment on modern present day but convey almost a timeless impression so that whatever “Wakefield” said in the narrative, written by Robin, it would not be foreshadowed by the music.

Most of “Wakefield’s” dialogue is heard through Howard’s first person narration. What challenge did that give you in the respect that a great deal of Bryan Cranston’s performance is silent, and your music has to speak for what’s going on in his head?

I so identified with Bryan’s character—not about doing the unthinkable—but with his yearning to break free of the things that bound him to a lifestyle that was not working for him because I am a person who believes in behavior modification. Over the last four years I have worked on myself and breaking free of chains that hold me back. I, too, am exploring a metamorphosis like this character.

When you have a film about a person secreting himself in an attack, it’s usually the domain of outright horror films like “Hider in the House.” How did you want the music to convey that “Wakefield” wouldn’t go in that direction, while also giving suspense to just what Howard is going to do?

Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

I wrote music not indicative of that style. It was actually the antithesis. I created music that used melody to convey an emotional fabric and I tried to stay away from being literal in any sense. To me the attic was not a creepy place, rather it was a place of refuge for Cranston’s character to sit with his thoughts, wrestle with his own human frailty and deal with his own self-grandiosity so that he could make his eventual transformation.

There are many spying sequences of “Wakefield” that recall “Rear Window,” as well as the danger of him going outside of his attic. How did you want the score to communicate that kind of on-edge creepiness, as well as the emotion of what he’s missing out on?

I used very dissonant harmony, not in the sense of the horror genre, but to convey anxiety.

Some people might look at Howard’s quest to find himself as a highly selfish act. Was it important for you to give the character empathy he might not otherwise have without the music? And did your scoring of Howard change your own opinion of the character?

Absolutely. It was important to use the music to create a path of emotionality and tenderness so that the viewer would be open and empathetic to the fact that this guy is not only a self-absorbed person but also a man who might be seeking to find himself. I wanted to create beauty in the music so that the audience would not interpret the movie in a myopic manner.

Did you want the garage attic to become a musically magical place, capable of bliss as well as danger?

I wanted the attic to become a place of quietness. I stayed very minimal in the attic and I wanted to sustain that sense of a place where the character could organize his thoughts and change his viewpoints on life. I didn’t see it as a magical place as much as a place of solace.


There are a surprising amount of musical styles to “Wakefield,” one of which is jazz, which is mixed with a particularly lush and sensual orchestra for Howard’s wooing of Diana in a way that’s film noir-ish. Did you want to go for that kind of classic, retro use of jazz? And were there any composers you wanted to pay tribute to in that respect?

Jennifer Garner - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

There were actually only two short jazz cues in the film, both of which were in the style of Thelonious Monk. I used these to convey some comic relief in an otherwise tense drama. The music of this film was more about paying homage to some of the great film composers of our past like Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann.

There’s also playfully twisted, almost waltz-like comedy to “Wakefield” to reflect Howard’s sarcastic worldview, and even very funny doorbell-ringing suspense. Is it difficult to put absurdist musical humor into an otherwise dramatic score?

I wrote some waltz-esque rhythmical cues, but I tried to stay away from the traditional pizzicato articulation. I had the strings play an arco articulation so that the chords could be heard and felt and you could feel the oddity and the skewed quality of its dissonance. I wanted the comedy to be left-handed instead of using a generic or more pedestrian approach. For instance, I even used gamelan instead of marimbas to create a percussive feel in the comedy sequences.

Howard develops an almost Jesus-like relationship to the challenged kids next door to him. How did you want to convey their giving, emotional purity and the potential salvation they deliver to Howard?

Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

The autistic children that were used in this film by Robin Swicord were an example of purity to “Wakefield” because they were untainted by life’s adversities and every day problems. They were a mirror for Cranston’s character to be able to see himself through a transparent lens rather than a translucent one so that he could reconnect to humanity in a different way, in a way that is loving and kind. Instead of being threatened by these characters, he realizes through these children all the things that he was missing in humanity, such as kindness and unconditional love that so rarely exist in the universe. So I wanted the music to have an emotional quality whenever he was with these two characters and have a real poignant effect on the viewer so that they could see “Wakefield” in a different light, as well as pave the way to make his journey toward redemption.

Given the intricacy of “Wakefield’s” score, what are some things about the score’s construction you’d want people to realize that might otherwise elude them?

The most important thing is that I want them to understand that this is a period score to a modern drama. And, in my humble opinion, with the exception of many of our great writers, the scores in the past were more sophisticated in their harmonic construction and I would hope that audiences sense that about this score, too.

I can only imagine how many endless hours you’ve spent locked in your studio. In that way, how did you draw upon your own experiences with the self-realization that comes from isolation, or even moments of madness, to create the musical character of Howard?

I do identify with this character because I have had to deal with a lot of adversity and I have had to take accountability to achieve redemption. I really responded to his metamorphosis. Especially the aspects of contrition, self-examination and being open to change and focusing on the things in life that is important. So, it was quite easy for me to stay in my studio for hundreds of hours and write this music. I could have happily worked on this score for a lifetime.

With all of the scores you’ve done, “Wakefield” just might be your best work to date. What do you hope that “Wakefield” does for peoples’ musical impression of you?

I’d like filmmakers to recognize that I know how to be emotionally evocative without being saccharin. I hope that my work conveys that I am a serious dramatic writer who can write music that can achieve a director’s vision while saying something powerful and meaningful without overwhelming a film.

What do you think that “Wakefield” and its score have to say about the human condition when a character so starkly deals with himself?

Aaron Zigman - photo by Eugene Powers

In contrast to the question, I want to respectfully say that Howard’s actions and condition never seemed stark to me. I saw his predicament as a matter of life and death. If Howard never left his family and the comforts of his seemingly successful career and lifestyle, he never would have become the enlightened human being he becomes and he never would have achieved redemption. He would have died an unevolved person. Every human being should have the chance to become the best person they can be. And that message is the power of this movie.

“Wakefield” opens in New York on May 19, then in Los Angeles and select markets and on VOD on May 26, with Aaron Zigman’s score available this summer on Decca Gold

Visit Aaron Zigman’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Tyler Bates

Wo, 03/05/2017 - 14:23

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

In a scoring career that began with 1993’s alien-filled “Blue Flame,” Tyler Bates has explored myriad worlds of music, whether it be the beat jazz of “The Last Time I Committed Suicide” the sexually-driven groove of “Californication,” the cool killer percussion of “John Wick” or the terrifying knife-metal of Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” reboot. But given his muscularly powerful work, few genres that Tyler Bates has played have been as impressive as films that take their origins from graphic novels and comic books – the last stand of The Spartans in Zach Snyder’s “300” rising Bates to a new level of musical adventure with its brash combination of rock and ancient orchestral tradition.

     

Often putting numerous stylistic approaches into the body of one score, Bates merged an elegiac symphony with bold anti-heroism and industrial kick-ass for Snyder’s epic take on the “Watchmen.” It was an unhinged approach that marked him as an ideal partner for the in-your-face attitude of filmmaker James Gunn. Their partnership has encompassed the deliberately gross-out approach to “Slither,” the God-like chorus that delivers a mission of violent justice to the unbalanced vigilante of “Super” and the satirically sanitized groove of the web series “PG Porn.” Yet though they share an indie spirit, “The Guardians of the Galaxy” truly rocketed Gunn and Bates into the stratosphere with their exciting treatment for the universe’s wisecracking saviors. But if this team-up of a tree, green Amazon warrior, a rabidly irate raccoon and cocksure human Starlord gave the finger to convention, leave it to Bates’ music to deceptively play their heroism for all it was worth. Delivering a theme as memorable as any superhero opus, Bates brought cosmic choruses, pulse-pounding excitement and best of all real humanity to these Guardians.

Now as Gunn flips open a second volume for “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” Bates returns to the hip fight with a score that’s as gigantic as Ego the Living Planet with it rousing orchestra, smashing percussion, a chorus as big as heaven itself and the sensual samples of sexy empathy. But perhaps most impressive is just how much heart and nobility that Bates’ supremely melodic score gives to these upstart space avengers this time out. It’s exciting musical camaraderie that ranks high amongst Marvel’s movie scores, a mix of adventure, humanity and humor that the composer discusses in a new edition of On the Score.

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Meet Tyler Bates at Burbank’s Creature Features on Saturday, May 6th at 2PM as he talks about “Guardians V2″ and signs V1 CD’s. Find out about the event, and how you can order your personalized soundtracks HERE

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 Buy the Soundtrack: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Buy the Soundtrack: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT SUPER SLITHER Visit Tyler Bates’ website
Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Mandy Hoffman

Ma, 01/05/2017 - 21:17

One might say there’s a waltz to the Pas De Deux of infidelity, the steps taken to hide illicit lovers while feigning the deadening routine of a longtime marriage, or long term relationship. But then, while we Americans might poo-poo this sort of thing, dallying with mistresses and Lotharios seems to go down just non-judgmentally fine in France, especially in their comedies. The American indie “The Lovers” delightfully has it both ways, no more so than in its gorgeously swooning score by Mandy Hoffman. Dallying with the classic romantic spirits of Georges Delerue (“Jules and Jim”), Nino Rota (“Amacord”) and Paul Misraki (“And God Created Woman”), Hoffman’s music casts a rapturous spell as schlubby husband Michael (Tracy Letts) and nonchalant wife Mary (Debra Winger) fall in love again. The neat conceit of filmmaker Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”) is that they turn into cheaters on the people the high-strung dancer and wannabe poet (Melora Hardin, Aidan Gillen) that they’re cheating in – resulting in the kind of roundelay that’s been the stuff of life for such directors as Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer – as transferred to our screens. But listening to Hoffman’s wondrously full-blooded thematic score will likely make cineastes think they’re back in the Gaelic glory days, a sound whose waltzing orchestral richness ironically belies a quite intimate indie film – music that captures the spell of rekindled romance, as well as the moral blowback that must ultimately arrive.

Residing in Manhattan as opposed to Paris, where this sort of ultra-melodic thing is also the norm, Mandy Hoffman has composed a score that will perk up the ears with its pure, unashamed lavishness. A dead ringer for Zooey Deschanel, and with a talent that will hopefully reach those converse heights, Hoffman has long been about the indie scene with a far more alternative sound. Beginning her scoring career with Jacobs’ “The GoodTimesKid,” then reteaming with him for “Momma’s Man,” “Terri,” and the HBO/ SKY series “Doll & Em.” Hoffman’s credits have included such character-centric shows as “The Mop and Lucky Files” and the forthcoming Amazon series “I Love Dick,” as well as the film “Ana Maria in Novela Land.” “The Lovers” is her biggest jump from the cool eccentricity to a Hollywood-distributed film, and her biggest sound at that, revealing a symphonic talent that will likely land her more creative affairs to come.

How did you get your start in the business?

I was a musician as a child, I played viola and piano. They came to me very easily. I also had a real problem with discipline, I would start making up my own music. I had friends who were also musicians, and wanted to form a band with them, they didn’t get it. For a while I stopped playing music altogether, up until my twenties where I had a serious relationship with a songwriter and rediscovered I ended up in this ten-piece band called The Rogue Burns Ensemble. They were great musicians, but somebody had to help organize it, and that fell into my lap. I played these toy instruments while another guy read his poetry. We did soundtrack music as well. I particularly liked retro film scores like from the sixties that had really moody instrumental stuff.

Dana (L) and Mandy Hoffman (R ) on the piano

I ended up moving to Los Angeles with this guy I was in a relationship with, and had a horrible break-up there. I didn’t know anybody in town, but I decided to stay and just be by myself for a while. He’d given me this four-track. As time went on I kept hearing from people that my music was very cinematic. Yet even when I was a child, I always thought of myself as musical writer of narrative, a storyteller. The scores of John Williams really took me into movieland. And I finally got to see it when a friend introduced me to Josh Mancell. He was working at Mark Mothersbaugh’s company Mutato Music. I was blown away the creativity I saw, and knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

I asked if I could work there, and was told that I should to go to UCLA”s film scoring program study serious composition. Right when I started I met Aza, who he asked me to do his film score for “TheGoodTimes Kid,” which was like a toned-down version of “The Lovers.”


“Toned Down?”

Yeah, really toned down! I was going to school with a lot of jazz people, and some of them played on my hodge-podge score. People still mention it to me, and it really is one of my favorites. I did things on it that I probably wouldn’t do now, because I didn’t really know any better at the time. It just seemed to work. I got a couple of write-ups from a few critics who said it sounded like Nino Rota’s scores were “being slowly digested by a boa constrictor!” That wasn’t intentional, it just happened, because I was just writing from my gut. It made realized how much the scores from the 70’s and 80’s really had an effect on me, especially Nino’s “The Godfather.” It was really an era when film music was all over the place. You had disco. You had Bernard Herrmann, whose work for Hitchcock I also particularly loved.

How was it for someone who was self-taught to have had to learn “self-discipline” in film score structure by taking classes?

It was challenging because I didn’t have this corporate goal in mind like the people around me, who wanted to be the next Danny Elfman or John Williams. I didn’t want to be that. When Aza asked me to score his next film “Terri,” I wanted to do something big, but Aza didn’t want that. So we kept it small and innocent because of the children in the movie. I ended up working backwards because I had written a piano piece for the end, which Aza really liked, and wanted to base the score on that sound.

“The Lovers,” is certainly a score that sounds big, which creates a sense of irony for such an intimate film.

I felt that “The Lovers” needed a big score. The actors were delivering these solid performances, and the music needed to fill in the gaps that that they were intentionally leaving out. It was like there was this conversation being said without a word being spoken, and I wanted to show that part of the story. When we started, Aza had asked me if I wanted to work on certain themes for different couples and characters. I didn’t want to do that, but to instead have this universal theme for them.

Was it important for the score to give a certain empathy to the characters that are constantly cheating on each other, something many people wouldn’t particularly approve as being a likable trait?

photo by Rob Rosenfield

I didn’t think I needed to get into the characters in that way. I felt as if I were a bird nearby, watching as these events as they were taking place. So I didn’t feel so much pressure to make a “statement” about anybody’s behavior. My dad was really into French cinema, which I watched a lot when I was younger. In those old movies, everybody cheated on each other, because that that’s the way it is in France! I don’t think that’s as commonly seen in that way for American audiences. Everybody in “The Lovers” is seriously flawed. The adults just seemed like children. So it was about my score catching the in betweenness of their lives, their grey areas that are not the black and white realities that we’re so used to.

“The Lovers” essentially is a French comedy in that way.

I have gotten comments that my film scores sounded French. I really don’t know what that means but maybe because I play the accordion? I really feel that most 50’s French scores have a uniqueness that doesn’t sound like the comedies in America tended to at that time. Today’s film scores tend to sound very homogenous, where they use the same clichés over and over, something they didn’t do back then. They had a voice, particularly in France, where they used strange instrumentations.

photo by Charchi Stinson


What about “The Lovers’” waltz-like quality?

Aza loves waltzes, so I knew I would be writing in ¾ time for those moments. The whole waltz thing happened when I was banging my head tying to write for a key scene. Aza had mentioned an old French film to me at that time. He wanted this carnival-carousel kind of music for the film, for this kind of ride to be taking place – this kind of youthfulness happening for these immature people playing games on each other.

If you were to strip away the music, “The Lovers” might not end up being as funny as it is. How important was it to capture the humor?

Well, I try not to score things as being “funny.” I’ve done a lot of comedies. For me, comedy is all about timing. I don’t like the music to dictate what should be funny. I had struggled with another project where the director wanted me to score funny for this scene that was already funny to begin with. Humor works better when there’s depth to it.

You’ve really captured the joy of being swept up in newfound romance.

I have written romantic music before but this was more like “soap opera” music without being a soap opera! I was really inspired by Alberto Iglesias’ music from Pedro Almodovar films, which are like soap operas, without the cheese.

photo by Rob Rosenfield

There’s this weird brass thing happening in some of the score, which seems like it might seem like a mistake, but it ends up being really funny for Tracy Letts’ husband – a guy whom you wouldn’t think of as a babe magnet.

I felt that that was my “comedy” music for “The Lovers.” I had these strings playing pizzicato, plucking where the musicians felt that I was doing a big mistake. We actually didn’t use much brass for the film, but when I did, I wanted this kind of growling for one of the character’s frustrations. I had written this crazy, 50’s inspired violin run for one of the female characters, making her seem like a real psycho, which I really loved but they made me take it out. They felt it was too dark for the film.

“The Lovers” does get increasingly dark by the end. How did you want the music to capture that tonal shift?

photo by Rob Rosenfield

I tend to go dark anyway, and “The Lovers” seemed like it needed this graveness to it. In the end, I was inspired by the score to “Vertigo,” which was an approach that had different textures that were not in the rest of the score. I had the harp doing these harmonics throughout the film but I made it more noticeable by the conclusion. I also brought in this xylophone to create this weird harmony.

How did you get such lush symphonic quality for your score?

I worked with a great orchestrator named Patrick Zimmerli, who’s a great jazz composer in his own right. He’s a New York guy and he does a lot of “new” music. He normally doesn’t touch the film world. I felt like he is such a great composer that I wanted to live up to his standard, and wanted him to dig what I was writing. I really wanted to challenge him, too and he really enjoyed it. We really didn’t work too closely together, I just more or less just handed him the score and he did his thing. There really wasn’t too much change from my mock-ups, but he made it all sound a bit more human.

photo by Pat Reynolds

I wrote “The Lovers” pretty much in the same e-flat key for continuity purposes. Of course, there were some changes here and there, but it was mostly in e-flat. As you know, strings don’t play too well in flat keys, which I did on purpose because it had a darker sound, and I didn’t want the score to sound too happy. I think the e-flat has been compared to a “majestic” key because there’s something rich about that. In the last two cues, I switched to “sharp” keys. You can hear that the string players are much more confident playing in their natural keys, which makes it sounds brighter and happier, because Aza wanted this happy resolve to the score. That’s why I shifted my approach. There was this piece of temp music at the end that I liked a lot but he said it wasn’t doing anything where it should be happy and sweet. I was scratching my head on what he was trying to convey towards me. Then it hit me. What Aza really wanted was a lullaby! He wanted me to put this movie to bed, so I wrote this piece what he wanted and that’s what closes the movie. It was the last week of the film and I was able to pull it off this lullaby that’s like the carnival that ends the film, I was very happy at his suggestion and the score turned out better for it.

What’s up after “The Lovers?”

I’m working on a new Amazon comedy series called “I Love Dick.” It’s a story about these people who move to this small town in Texas, where they don’t really belong. I get to write some crazy Tex-Mex music and country music for the show that I play on guitar, accordion and pedal steel guitar. Pedal steel is such an underrated instrument. It has this depth and wit to it that really brings out something in the score. I would really like to work more with that instrument in future. I also got some horn players doing mariachi-style playing, so this is “comedy” music that’s more on the nose than “The Lovers’ ever could be.

What’s it like to be a female composer in Brooklyn?

Pretty much all of my clients are in Los Angeles, so it’s been a challenge. I think I have been passed over a bit because I am a female composer, no matter where I live. I think most in this business thinks that it’s a man’s job. These days I’m very excited to see female composers such as Mica Levi having such a strong voice and breaking all these rules. She has made some fucked up shit. She’s such a huge hero to me. I think a change is happening these days because of strong people like her. And I’ve been working with a lot of women directors lately. I find it kind of easier in a way to work with them, because they give you more creative room and trust. Aza is an exception being a sensitive guy of sorts, but I feel that female directors tend to give up a little of their power to entrust it to me. They don’t want to micromanage me.

Director Azazel Jacobs and Mandy Hoffman (photo by Pat Reynolds)

How do you feel about the potential of doing big budget films after so much time spent in the indie world?

They kind of scare me because there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and so many opinions can make the end result not as good. I see a lot of it in advertising. If you look at it, most advertising music is crap. There are too many opinions, but there are a couple of companies out there that are doing good quality work.

Do you view yourself as a musical non-conformist?

My husband David Morrin is a classically trained guitarist who’s really versed in pop music. He loves The Beatles and The Beach Boys, which I skipped. Being the musician that he is, he doesn’t always get what I’m trying to do. Even I don’t try to conform to what I’m trying to do!

photo by Daniel Schweiger

In the end, what do you want people to realize about your score for “The Lovers?”

That there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this film, especially because I happened to get pregnant during it. For the first time I felt that I didn’t have to give an explanation on what I was doing on a movie score. This is music that just speaks for itself.

“The Lovers” opens in theaters May 5th with its soundtrack available on Milan Records HERE

The “I Love Dick” soundtrack will be available for download on Amazon Music May 12th

Visit Mandy Hoffman’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview


(cover photo by Daniel Schweiger)

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws