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The Best Scores of 2017

Wo, 13/12/2017 - 16:36

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(Bear McCreary / Lakeshore Records)

A master of all musical genres from playing “Outlander’s” vast Scottish highlands to the intimacy of a doomsday bomb shelter at “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Bear McCreary unleashes his most improbable musical juxtaposition of pitting Godzilla worthy, city-stomping orchestral stains against the indie guitar groove of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But it’s that unlikely style versus style match that makes “Colossal” so memorable as it makes the link between monster-spawning psychic power and abusive, alcoholic dysfunction. McCreary’s grooves take what seems to be loser comedy into a far bigger emotional dimension, skillfully cohering both approaches into terrifically thematic music that’s both epic and empowering for this demonstration of musical grrll power unlike any other.

(Michael Abels / Back Lot Music)

Concert composer Michael Abels makes a stunning feature debut into horror scoring with this subversive takedown of a genre where black usually means dead. That he survives with new career life to spare says much about how Abels not only excels with the genre’s musical expectations of creeping strings, chilling harps and rampaging percussion, but he also goes well under the musical skin to chorally convey the anguish of his kin trapped in the bodies of ersatz slavemasters. Hypnotic melodies literally sink us into a black hole, sinister, tick-tock rhythms bet on bodies and a ukulele evokes white suburbia as a sinister plantation. That spiritual, hushed voices mix with the classic jazz standard “Run Rabbit” mark “Get Out” as a breakout of scary subversity that at once goes for the genre while flooding it with a social conscious subtext.

(Daniel Hart / Milan Records)

Given the simplest, silent evocation of a white sheet and two eyeholes to conjure a specter, composer Daniel Hart literally has a white canvas to fill with unwanted eons of the afterlife for his most profound teaming with director David Lowery after the rustically inventive “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “Pete’s Dragon.” But as opposed to scariness, the haunt here is one of poetic sadness, as a classical chamber sound shivers with the unbearable yearning to touch a loved one whose grief can only be witnessed. As an incalculable Moebius loop of time passes, Hart’s poetic, sometimes abstract score brings in other elements with sampling and voices to open the score up with a sense of the cosmic destiny. It’s a long-waited step into the light whose sheet is also given thematic structure by Hart’s beautiful song “I Get Overwhelmed,” an emotion that his “Ghost Story” conveys with the moving, unimaginable intimacy of being dead.

(Oneohtrix Point Never / Warp Records)

When resurrecting the 80’s synth sound is all the rage, no artist has quite mainlined retro synths into a nerve-blasting primal scream like alt. electronica artist Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin). Hitting you like a kick in the face with its blazing, scumbag-enabling force for a robber’s desperate journey to round up bail for his slow bro, Oneohtrix plunges us into a miasma of guitars, keyboards and metallic percussion that run hell bent through NYC over the course of a night. If Tangerine Dream’s landmark “Thief” score was about a higher class of criminal, Oneohtrix’s score is the evolution of groove for a drug gutter punk. He doesn’t give a damn in the coolest way if you’re smashed in the face with sharp-edged rhythm of blissfully tripping with his hallucinatory music. It’s a insanely creative stew of a score that puts you into desperate mind, and situation of a villain like few other druggie soundtracks before it, or likely after it in terms of warping retro technology into one brilliant hot mess.

(Roger Suen / Notefornote Music)

The blazing, racially fueled conflict of the LA Riots gets seen through director black and white eyes, as given powerfully unexpected, musical color by composer Roger Suen. Like some absurdist city symphony, retro synths play over noir jazz, Melancholy guitar replaces hip-hop for the inner city wasteland, while a sales frenzy becomes a cooing Latin rhumba. A lyrical, French-accented theme a la Debussy stands for the relationship between a black girl and two Korean-American shoe store owners, whose playful Shangri-La of sorts gets rudely interrupted as the cinematic vibe of “Clerks” tragically transforms into “Do the Right Thing” in director Justin Chon’s audacious, emotionally impactful indie. Suen’s work is as scrappy and inventive as the characters struggling for their slice of The American Dream, music that’s at once poignant, wacky and gut-wrenching, steadfastly refusing to slip into the musical clichés you’d expect as it takes a toned-down, eccentrically lyrical approach to a tragically heated situation, at the end overwhelming with the simply stated thematic poignancy of an unlikely friendship’s paradise lost in an urban wasteland where people just can’t get along.

(Jon Ekstrand / Milan Records)

The increasingly old mummified chestnut of an unwelcome critter on a spaceship gets significantly rejuvenated in this major comeback for composer Jon Ekstrand and director Daniel Espinosa after the positively DOA thriller “Child 44.” Given the opportunity to unleash his big, orchestrally imaginative guns an evil E.T. squid (even as everything the astronauts throw at it proves horrifically ineffective), Ekstrand at first does a neat fake-out. Indeed, his score couldn’t be more wondrous, giving heavenly voices and “Also Spach Zarathustra”-like swells to what seems to be man’s newest best friend, hearing all the majesty of first contact. But when the blob hits the ventilation shaft, it’s go time for Ekstrand. Approaching the genre like he was the first person to be scoring it, Ekstrand dexterous use of growling, metallic rhythm goes from one relentless build to the other, all the while keeping desperate human emotion front and center. As musically developed as its steadily growing creature, Ekstrand unleashes a scarily exciting musical presence that shows that horror sci-fi scores of this type can indeed be generated from a melody-based life form.

(Mandy Hoffman / Milan Records)

Azazel Jacobs’ witty, French-styled movie about a roundelay of cheaters is about as low key and indie as you can get, which is all the more reason to grace it with an impossibly romantic orchestral score by Mandy Hoffman. Certainly knowing something about falling head over heels with her work on Amazon’s “I Love Dick,” Hoffman channels the string-swooning, harp glistening ghosts of such incurably romantic melodists as Georges Delerue and Nino Rota for a thematically lovely score that’s as big as the movie is small, in all the right ways. Rarely have American scores of this type captured the starry-eyed, waltzing magic of blissful attraction, the score practically singing with unbridled passion. It’s an ironic counterpoint that also enriches the comedy of characters that’d seemingly rather not speak at all. And when the almost perfect affairs begin to collapse, Hoffman’s impossibly lush approach isn’t afraid to go for drama that might befit a Shakespearean tragedy. But all’s well that ends well in Hoffman’s witty, heartfelt dance that doesn’t stint on the strings and crashing cymbals for a rapturous, yet quite droll score that will likely make you fall in love again with a dearly departed style of unabashedly emotional scoring that, like its suddenly interested husband and wife, certainly isn’t past its prime in Hoffman’s wonderfully attuned hands.

(Alexandre Desplat / Decca)

A distinctly adult and sensually fulfilling beauty and the beast fairy tale, the enveloping attraction between a mute washwoman and Amazon Gillman is certainly a match made in heaven for Alexandre Desplat, who’s dealt with supernatural romance in such poetic scores as “Birth,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and his “Twilight” saga entry “New Moon.” Given French composers’ natural love of the sea, Desplat jumps into La Mer by way of America’s Cold War. It’s a fluid mix of “Amelie”-worthy whimsy, spy suspense and the lurching strains of a classic monster-on-the-loose score, all graced with a sympathy that befits one of the best works of director Guillermo Del Toro, a lover of beasts if there ever was one. There’s a delightful sense of the off-kilter with whistling and instruments approximating Theremins and accordions that drift across “Water’s” lovely melodic structure. You certainly won’t find a more beguiling love theme than the one that wraps around the bliss of inter-species consummation here, as done with lush grace by one of film scoring’s great melodists. “Water” is heart-melting, breathtakingly gorgeous music that resounds with empathy for the freakish outsider, where the real musical menace comes from violently prejudiced humans. That Desplat conveys those weighty emotions with the most gossamer of orchestrations for its mute characters says much for the poetry of his unabashed dive into Del Toro’s enchanted, if still dangerous worldview.

(Michael Giacchino / Sony Classical)

The Caesar of composing for movie sci-fi franchises, Michael Giacchino puts a biblical period onto perhaps the most nostalgic of all the iconic serials as he’s tackled by delivering an ape Moses to The Promised Land. After placing the crown of leadership on the hero’s head with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Giacchino powerfully develops his themes with a pilgrimage through a homo sapien forbidden zone that’s not only full of primal fury, but surprising humor as well. Painting a most human portrait of The Lawgiver as war veteran with delicate bells, haunted voices, military marches and imposing brass, Giacchino also doesn’t forget his animal side by mutating Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic, tribal approach into an array of ethnic drums and wind instruments, a defiant, proud melody a la John Barry leading the ape exodus. Matching Caesar in musical intensity is the steel-eyed metallic coldness of his Colonel Kurtz-like adversary. While Giacchino’s monkey will certainly make you cry, perhaps even more clever than the hosanna-filled dramatic grandness of deliverance, perhaps no cue in his “Planet” is more clever than an extended breakout sequence that builds on witty, pokey rhythm to have a pounding, chanting chorus outsmart the devolving soldiers. Giacchino has effectively built on the ape ancestor soundtracks before him into a towering, unexpectedly moving score for what just might be the best “Apes” movie of all time, with extra monkeyshines of turning one his many memorable themes into a Latin tango during the end credit roll.

(Rupert-Gregson Williams / WaterTower Music)

Rupert Gregson-Williams might not be a woman, but he’s certainly channeled his inner Amazon to create one of the most mythically emotional scores for a DC superhero since John Williams gave flight to “Superman.” There’s an undeniable female strength to his proud themes, music whose ethnic beat and female voices speak for her Zeus-spawned powers as much as the important occasion of the first major superheroine movie, pitting a soaring sense of goodness against the darkness of Teutonic armies and a warrior-god. Rarely has emotion blended so well into action scoring, especially in a trench run that orchestrally energizes Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman theme that was the best thing about “Batman Vs. Superman.” With Tina Guo’s electrifying cello playing, Wonder Woman’s big heroic reveal makes viewers shed tears as well as clap their hands. Even better, Gregson-William’s rhythmic chops never make the score seem dated, a vital factor for any superhero film set in a pre-MTV era. As much of a thrilling thematic fanfare for Wonder Woman’s long-awaited big screen arrival as it is about the dismayed, and tragically romantic feelings of a sheltered innocent abroad in the battlefields of the war that didn’t end all wars, “Wonder Woman” is a cinematic and scoring triumph of the genre that any Man of Steel would envy.


(Mark Todd / Filmtrax)

Where Arnold Schwarzenegger is used to gleeful musical payback, the star has his revenge served cold, and with no fulfillment other than an “Aftermath” that gives the star his most human role. Given the truth-based story a bereaved father who goes after the air traffic controller who seemingly sent a plane to its doom, composer Mark D. Todd has taken an approach that’s full of grief, yet done so with shattering subtlety. Having scored director Elliott Lester’s last film about a man going mad in “Nightingale,” Todd’s haunted, often ethereal melodies build with the character’s psychosis, his sustaining use of melody bringing to mind the use of modern classical music in the other devastating plane crash film “Fearless,” as enhanced here with crystalline percussion for the collision between two devastated men– a haunting downer of a score that builds on its simmering emotion to anguished, transfixing effect.

(Nicholas Britell / Sony Classical)

Given the clownish media spectacle surrounding the Billy Jeanne King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match, it would’ve been easy for Nicholas Britell to score “Battle of the Sexes” with the satirically hyper style he gave to “The Big Short’s” financial meltdown. However, the composer’s unexpected power serve is in going for the meditative mood of his Oscar-winning score for “Moonlight,” which is perfect given that this film is even more about a woman coming to terms with her same-sex attraction as it is about winning the day for her sex. The result is a score that nicely acknowledges Bobby’s buffoonery and the groovy 70’s, but is even more impressive in developing a sensually hypnotic sound for Jean’s attraction, and a captivating theme for her desire to win on the court. It’s a motif that grows in power to an orchestral-organ epiphany that’s like “Rocky” in the ring with “Interstellar.” Britell’s ten minute-plus thematic volley between Billie and Bobby is a lesson in how to develop a singular idea and make it utterly captivating for a long, suspenseful stretch, a smart thematic serve that gives Britell another big scoring win.

(David Wingo / Lakeshore)

A composer especially skilled in playing societal castaways in “Mud,” “Midnight Special” and “Loving,” David Wingo now keeps memorable company with a man-child shanghaied into an especially skewed children’s show. His rude awakening to society, and desire to complete his particular story arch to the insanely cosmic “Brigsby Bear” is done with touching, gentle empathy by Wingo, who uses ethereal, near sci-fi atmospheres of 80’s era electronics, along with a sense of fantasy grandeur. Communicating a joy of discovery with a whole new universe of DIY movie creativity, along with poignant self-realization, Wingo and this wonderfully unique film from SNL’s Lonely Island crew make something truly touching out of a wackadoo universe that could easily be mocked. Wingo’s poetic themes are the moving, eccentric starstuff of a deeply personal kid’s stuff.

(Benjamin Wallfisch / WaterTower Music)

From the often frenzied supernatural scoring of “Lights Out” and “Annabelle Creation” to the elegantly waltzing rot that was “The Cure To Wellness,” Benjamin Wallfisch knows what scares you, especially when it comes to balancing the seat-jumping dissonance that’s horror scoring’s rage with sumptuously chilling old school melody. They’re the shades of evil and innocence that are contrasted for his truly epic and terrifying score to “It.” Mixing unearthly samples with tingling strings, screaming brass and the howls of a demon clown’s victims, “It” has the circus come to fear town, hearing real youthful tenderness and then gleefully distorting it at the next instant. It’s the sound of innocence facing off against evil that gives “It” an emotional resonance uncommon in genre scoring that still has its cake and eats it too, with strings played like knives and brass becoming blunt instruments as children’s’ voices alternate from angelic to the satanic. Wallfisch’s atmospheric scoring throws us into the heart of sewer drain darkness, where the only hope is the lyrical bond between its barely post-pubescent loser’s club. “It” springs menace upon them like a cosmically deranged clown car to massively unnerving and taunting effect, while still holding onto the characters’ tender bond that ultimately guides them to the light – at least until Wallfisch returns to terrorize them as adults in Pennywise’s next outing.

(Henry Jackman / WaterTower Music)

Henry Jackman certainly has a thing from investing action scores with a 60’s groove, especially when giving both Kingsman and X-Men a hep British swing. But even given it’s Vietnam War-era setting, this Kong isn’t up for snappy groove outfits. Instead, Jackman joyously goes full Jimi Hendrix on the Big Ape, jamming rock guitar solos with ethnic tropical rhythms and doomed military gusto. It’s a score that beats its chest with incredible cleverness, yet isn’t so apart from the thematic, Wagnerian spirit that Max Steiner used to give life to Kong, and film scoring itself in the first place. Noble, swaggering melody gives heroic weight to the rumble in the jungle between ape, serpents and army madmen, delivering a terrifically exciting, brass-trumpeting knockdown monster mash whose mighty orchestra sings with god-like majesty. That Jackman puts equally big emotional feeling into Kong makes us root for his win all the more in a score that starts like a hippy but ends with wonderful symphonic convention.

(Johann Soderqvist / Varese Sarabande Records)

A master of Nordic noir from “King of Devil’s Island” to “Murder Farm” and the vampiric “Let the Right One In,” Swedish composer Johann Soderqvist effectively transports his mesmerizing, lethal sensibilities to Victorian England in pursuit of a Jack the Ripper-styled serial killer. Chasing the thematic clues with a suspenseful orchestra, “Seven”-worthy statements of lurching brass and harps tingling the spine like fog masking another gutted victim. Soderqvist effectively swings the score’s pendulum between icily creeping fear and gorgeous, tragically sweeping romance for a detective out to save a female suspect whom he views as a victim of sexist society itself, her plight made all the more sympathetic with tender piano and lilting violin. Sleuthing about with lush melody and tingling, sinister gestures, Soderqvist builds to the big, surprising reveal with the orchestral impact of fate pointing its doom-possessed finger, making an orchestral statement about the killer nature of celebrity that positively chills the blood in its Bernard Herrmann-worthy operatic blend of tragic romance and thunderous orchestral outrage. Scoring murder is an international language indeed for Soderqvist.


(Thomas Howe / Sony Classical)

Given the love triangle behind the ultimate, dual identity example of female empowerment and bondage, Tom Howe’s flip side to the origin of Wonder Woman’s most miraculous feat is in musically convincing us that being tied up can be a musical thing of emotional warmth and beauty. That truth is told in Howe’s ingenious use of magical rhythm to convey the inventor of the lie detector, the heartbeats of his wife and best student awakening to the erotic possibilities with gossamer, waltzing melody. It’s lovely music for a taboo-breaking romance, with society’s intrusion giving the score its dramatic bite. Like Princess Diana’s glowing lasso, Howe’s thematically binding, lushly magical score holds us utterly in its super heroine-to-be sway, as brought to earth as forbidden fruit that’s deliciously explored with good taste.


(Carter Burwell / Varese Sarabande Records)

A master of scoring Midwestern crime tales from his work with The Coen Brothers on the likes of “Fargo,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” Carter Burwell has an unmistakably humorous sense of dramatic irony with sin-tolling bells, gravely somber pianos and the portentous strings of biblical punishment. These three on well on display on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” for a violent chain of events created by frequent English collaborator Martin McDonough (“In Bruges,” “Seven Psychopaths”). But what truly sets Burwell’s immediately recognizable brand of flyover noir is the deep empathy he has for a cantankerous, grieving mother who won’t take her daughter’s unsolved killing lying down, feeling her rage with galloping Spaghetti Western strains as much as her sorrow through poignant flute and guitar melodies. For if we’re gleeful spectators to Burwell’s repertoire where innocents often get lethally caught up murderous shenanigans, “Billboards” carries a new depth of understanding, capturing the film’s often shockingly hilarious outbursts of rage, but also feeling for the wounded emotions that drive them, no more so than when he lyrically underscores a suicide note to poignant effect. Not only do the twangy, thematic “Billboards” join together a sense of angered community, but even more importantly tells of its tragically, if often bemused wounded heart.

(Thomas Newman / Back Lot Music)

After two stays at The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Thomas Newman certainly knows his way around the upbeat rhythms of modern India – just as much as he does with England’s pomp and circumstance after having spent time with Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” “Victoria & Abdul” is the composer’s quite lovely culture clash, a real-life drama set during the time of Britain’s most seemingly repressing queen, who’s presented with a spiritually enervating emissary from her colony. How this warm man of the turban brings Victoria out of her shell is the endearing, magical stuff of Newman’s score that pokes humor at the stuffed-shirt affectations of the crown, while unveiling a moving, emotional bond between two human beings above all. One of Hollywood’s most progressive composers from the start who’s wrapped his family’s symphonic majesty in experimental grooves, Newman’s deeply sympathetic masala of ethnic grooves, whimsical winds, hip percussion and old school orchestral royalty wears its crown high at putting new life into costume drama scoring, music that’s both wonderfully imperious and down to hip Indian raga earth.


(Christian Wibe / Varese Sarabande Records)

You can find the rhythmic, racing fusion of orchestra and electronics in just about every dystopian action score to feature heroes dodging bullets amidst bleak industrial landscapes. Hell, you could say that about just every present-day action score as well. But what makes “What Happened To Monday?” so thrillingly unique as it accompanies the feats of seven diminishing twins in a single child or die future is how composer Christian Wibe amps up the emotion of his full-throttle chases. He makes you care about who will stay two steps ahead of his breathless, surging rhythms during an even more wonderfully nutty collaboration with director Tommy Wirkola after the zombie Nazi hijinks of two “Red Snow” films. Building an imposing wall of sound for endless legions of foot soldiers out to severely enforce birth control, Wibe shows how well one can combine pounding rhythms and snarling brass while still keeping melodic humanity in the lead. It’s a cool, assured rhythmic approach with a real, singular personality, having that ever-building action score dance take some especially thrilling steps as it leaps from one rooftop to the next as it rousingly takes on the powers that be.


Music and romantic mates Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick have been exploring the ghost in the alt. machine as the Toronto-based “synthpop” duo Electric Youth, who now make a black box to the afterlife resonate with “Breathing” (Milan Records) that meshes the ever-popular retro 80’s vibe with a beautifully haunting string and song presence. That the score itself exists in an alternate dimension outside of the ultimate, still unreleased afterlife thriller says much about Youth’s potential.

While the real-life inspiration for Rocky named “Chuck” is still waiting to be a soundtrack contender, there’s no counting down the likeable, punching bag, especially given how up and coming composer Corey Allen Jackson (“Painted Woman”) has given the boxer a hangdog rhythm and blues spirit. Like every other loveable mug, there’s nothing better than the sweet science of a Hammond organ, drum kit and sax at conveying a palooka, especially when backed up with military timpani that’s a call to arms, or in this case to lay them back for a volley of good-natured punishment in the ring, even as “Chuck’s” grittily groovy score comes out swinging.

Russian composer Alexei Aïgui captures an authentic American groove of black writer James Baldwin, whose insistence to a condescending society that “I Am Not Your Negro” (Music Box Records) channels the black music experience, from the bitch’s brew jazz fusion of Miles Davis to passionate solos of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, their inner city styles coalescing into a vibe that’s both film noir and social justice anger. It’s impressive documentary scoring that plays a literary revolutionary as much as it does the urban vibes that that inspired him.

If metal is indeed Satan’s favorite music, then “The Devil’s Candy” (Death Waltz) hits the horrifying sweet tooth. Given nice guy metalhead parents dealing with the serial killing ramifications of their tunes, Michael Yezerski uses gnarled chords and barely perceptible, pulse-quickening samples to build an unholy atmosphere that’s steadily coming for blood, exploding for the final attack like a psychotic longhair symphony. Electric guitar scoring blazes with furious hell’s bells, with Yezerski’s terrifying, head banging chords brilliantly capturing every thing that’s wrong about metal – and very right when it comes to horror scores that take no prisoners.

The pathetic vanity of social media is most definitely the tempo of Jonathan Sadoff (“The Mick”) and Nick Thorburn (“Sundowners”) when they join snarky forces for “Ingrid Goes West” (Mondo). Their approach couldn’t be more joyously satirical in its takedown of everyone’s life that’s better than yours, especially when playing the just-want-to-be-loved madness of an anti-heroine, who at least gets some poignancy as opposed to the fake strains of the poseur she idolizes. It’s memorable comedy scoring that at once makes scary, Hawaiian-flavored fun of a trend that’s driving everyone nuts, while having a sympathetic heart even as it rhythms spin about with the machinations of just wanting to be loved.

Following up a musically authentic turn-of-the-century journey to America for filmmaker James Gray’s vastly underrated “The Immigrant,” composer Christopher Spelman once again proves himself an ideal tour guide for the director’s intellectual approach into more exceptional, unsung territory to find “The Lost City of Z” (Filmtrax). Though his delicate string melodies are redolent with the English countryside its explorer returns to, Spelman’s fixation lies with his pursuit of an ancient Amazonian city, a contrast between proper civilization and tribal, South American music that ultimately goes up the river to discover drifting, transcendent melodies that prove that the journey isn’t so much the destination, but instead a beautifully mystical place of mind that mesmerizingly transports the listener to a place of legend.

Alt. rock bands once again prove to be a creatively fertile source for musicians that bring a unique sound to scoring, especially in the case of Son Lux’s Ryan Lott, who accompanies a teenager on the run from his girlfriend’s especially nasty sheriff dad in “Mean Dreams” (This Is Meru). While the impossible hopes of young love on the run might be familiar thematic territory, this is a deeply poetic, and disturbing film that takes anything but the usual path. That’s especially thanks to Lott, who’s howling, primal fusions of instruments and samples create an powerful wall of percussive rage, all the more disturbing to contrast his poetic, tender music for the likable couple that reverberates with an eerie, elegiac sense of childhood lost in the backwoods, sensing a future that will likely have no happy ending given Lott’s alternately enraged and spiritual moods.


While it’s a guess as to what kind of music they played during Ireland’s Dark Ages, leave it to that country’s composer Stephen McKeon (“Black Mirror”) to give us a good, violent taste of its ancient instrumentation that pursues a hapless band of monks and their holy relic in “Pilgrimage” (coming soon on Movie Score Media). It’s guttural, violent instrumentation that evokes a beautiful countryside whose rigid holiness is under siege by pagans, an impressively unplugged action sound that ferociously throws us into the period in way that far more modern orchestral scoring can’t. The score is all the more mace-in-your-face impactful for it – balancing musical brutality with a sense of religious dogmatism that’s leading its holy men to ruin. McKeon’s delivers a poetic and percussive approach whose iron and skin instrumentation practically drips with the moss and blood of humanity far from being remotely civilized with old time religion.

After supervising music for the frequently super-powered characters that emerge from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, Charles Scott IV makes his feature scoring debut with a comic book movie of sorts – a feat made all the more impressive in that the do-gooding hero of “Sleight” (Lakeshore) is a drug dealing street magician. Scott gives him a memorable identity that reflects his ragtag origins as opposed to any Wagnerian Avengers-worthy music, a clever hat trick whose ersatz Iron Man powers are embodied by futuristic synth-rock vibrations, cool Massive Attack-like beats, and urban heritage given voices that could befit a church spiritual. But even if the mood isn’t about playing bullet-halting heroics, the attitude of saving the hood is very much there in the composer’s ethereal approach, whose magnetism varies between hypnotic ambience, rock guitar determination and muted hip-hop beats to impressively suits up a new brand of hero.

West Dylan Thordson segues from playing a real-life, Jack-of-all identities killer in “The Jinx” to M. Night Shyamalan multiple personality supervillain for “Split” (Back Lot Music). The composer prowls through the sympathetic string passages of a tormented man’s more likable inhabitants and his plight of his victims. But given that one inhabitant is a cannibalistic beast, Thordson creates a twisted, guttural personification that’s a force to be reckoned. Striking an eerie, affecting balance between the tortured childhood that links both villain and victim, Thordson’s psychologically incisive score to blends emotion and unbearable tension truly gets under the skin until finally letting lose with a subterranean presence that grinds its growling, metallic fury to terrifying effect for a score that really gets under the skin in more ways than one.

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Dave Porter

Vr, 01/12/2017 - 01:48

With his legitimately good talent, composer Dave Porter has often been called upon to play characters that are swaggering geniuses – even if it’s sometimes within their own minds. Rising from the ranks of Philip Glass’ braintrust, Porter went from scoring “Saved’s” crazed cable paramedics to a “Smiley”-faced serial killer and an adrenalin junkie in “Bigger, Stronger Faster*” to truly hitting it big with “Breaking Bad.” Creating the entire musical run for one television’s most acclaimed shows firmly put Porter on the TV map with his prolific scoring on “The Blacklist,” “Flesh and Bone” and “Preacher” A teacher-turned-meth dealer, a crime kingpin, ladder-climbing dancers and a super-angel possessed cleric certainly added to Porter’s repertoire of driven characters. Yet their need for success just might musically pale before the cinematic desire of Tommy Wiseau, the swaggering, real-life auteur of “The Disaster Artist.”

While those populating movie multiplexes might not necessarily be in the know, Wiseau is a legend to his bad movie cult as the architect of “The Room,” a haplessly inept, transfixing hilarious 2003 drama. Seemingly set in another dimension by a filmmaker with a skewed grasp of dialogue, let alone human behavior, “The Room” was the vision of an actor, writer and director who cut an unintentionally fearsome figure for a movie of its sex-filled type. Balancing Wiseau’s striking brand of charisma was the California surfer dude looks of co-star Greg Sistero (played by James’ younger brother Dave), whose book about The Wiseau Experience has now been turned into “The Disaster Artist.” But if “The Room’s” spoon-throwing appeal is making fun of Wiseau’s deeply personal work (one that its director has none-too-convincingly passed off as comedy for his sold-out crowds), “The Disaster Artist” does the furthest thing from mocking the tireless commitment of the enigmatic figure whose movie has entertainingly outlived far better ones.

Listening to the memorably proud, can-do theme that Dave Porter gives “The Disaster Artist,” one might think that he’s scoring a picture dealing with young, upstart people readying themselves for a rocket launch against all odds. And that’s the point for the composer as he joins uber-“Room” fan director / star James Franco in paying heartfelt tribute to Wiseau and Sistero’s unlikely bond. Joining strings with rock guitar, Porter counts down for “The Room’s” climactic premiere with the warmly inspirational string sound of the hopes and dreams driving so many fresh-faced (and likely older than that) Hollywood newcomers. But as rhythmically inspirational as Porter’s work is, the composer’s alt.-accented tribal darkness and off-kilter percussion are also a big part of the picture in hearing Wiseau’s perception of himself as “Frankenstein” out to find a personal connection. For if the similarly-themed “Ed Wood” was about a handsome director who wanted to finally make a truly good film, even more important for “The Disaster Artist” is finding a true friend. It’s an unexpected, emotional complexity for a mystery man that helps Porter create a score that’s both oddball and hopeful, one where obviously comedic music isn’t part of the equation.

Now with a score for a film that’s gotten way more legitimate acclaim than the disaster that gave it birth, Dave Porter’s stay in a greatly refurbished “Room” will hopefully help him enter a bigger cinematic domain, all as he continues to provide feature-worthy television with some of its most uniquely eccentric scoring.

Had you seen “The Room” before you got this film. And if so, what was your reaction to it, and your favorite “Room” moments?

I was aware of the “The Room” and the cult status it had attained, but had never seen it before I started work on “The Disaster Artist.” Once I was in discussions to sign on to the project, I read Greg Sistero’s book first and then watched “The Room.” Or tried, at least. I have to be honest and admit I’ve never made it through the whole thing in one sitting. By now I’ve seen all of it many times, but all at once has always been too much for me.

Have you ever walked away from a project because you knew it was bad, or taken up the challenge because you needed the bread, or hoped your music could somehow make it better? If so, what’s it like trying to musically hold up something that you know is doomed, or that you might be laughed at for doing?

I’m very fortunate at this point in my career that I can be more selective, but every composer coming up in the business has had to work on things that he or she wish they didn’t — either to gain experience or just pay the rent. My goal in those situations was always to do the best work I could, and learn something from the experience.

At what point did you realize you’d truly made it with “Breaking Bad?” And how do you think the show made people perceive you as a composer who could really capture characters with a rebellious streak?

If by “made it” you mean feel like I’d reached a point where I was comfortable in the belief that I would have a sustained and successful career as a composer, that didn’t happen until quite recently…. long after the end of “Breaking Bad.” One show doesn’t make a career, even a wildly successful one. You have to win the trust of a lot of people over the course of a lot of projects to get to that point. As for writing for rebellious and flawed characters, I think those are just the projects that tend to resonate with me the most. Human, relatable, intricate stories of characters at war with the system and at war with themselves… and discovering things about themselves through that fight.

How did “The Disaster Artist” come your way?

I’ve had the pleasure over the past few years of working with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on the AMC/Sony television series “Preacher.” I believe that it was during one of those meetings that I overheard them talking about “The Disaster Artist” and was quickly intrigued enough to inquire about working on it with them. Luckily for me, they thought I’d be a good fit and introduced me to their friend and frequent collaborator James Franco.

Could you talk about your collaboration with James Franco?

Dave Porter and James Franco

I really enjoyed working with James, and his enthusiasm for the project was infectious. His level of preparation for everything related to the film was absolutely next level, which is immediately clear once you’ve seen him onscreen as Tommy. James and I, along with producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Alex McAtee, James Weaver, and picture editor Stacey Schroeder, spent most of our time discussing the tone of the film, which has to walk a very thin line…and the music plays a big role in that. The easy route would be to use the score as a means to make fun of these guys, or be overly foreboding in the knowledge that this was all going to turn out disastrously — but that was never the film James wanted to make. Finding that tonal balance was a process of trial and error, but ultimately I think we found a way to get to where we wanted to be — using the score as a thread that binds Tommy and Greg together and supports them throughout the film on their unique journey — viewing it all from a higher vantage point and highlighting their common struggle and then ultimately their success. When they are apart, the music tells differing stories, but whenever they are together, we connect those moments through the score. In fact, I believe the single repeated melodic theme throughout the film … written for guitar, bass and orchestra… is only used when they are together on screen, which was intentional.

Were you inspired at all by previous films, and scores about self-styled auteurs with the best of intentions, a la “Ed Wood?” And did you try to meet any of the original “Room” people?

No, I didn’t because I really felt like this film was unique… and also current. I’ve had some friendly conversations with Greg Sistero, and I credit his book as the bible that I followed throughout my creative process. For me, his viewpoint of the story is the most interesting and in some ways the moral backbone of the film. If you end up enjoying “The Disaster Artist,” by the way, I highly recommend reading Greg’s book — for all the crazy shit that is in the film, the film only has time to squeeze in a small fraction of what’s in the book.

How important was it for you to play the mindset that Tommy Wiseau was setting out to make the greatest movie ever, even if that’s certainly not what came out?

I do think it was important to underscore and appreciate how much Tommy believed in himself — even when no one else did – and how much he accomplished all by himself. His drive and confidence are the most important factor behind “The Room” — both its failures and successes.

Given that Tommy is a mystery in many respects, and has put on a great front with “The Room,” how important was it for the score to find the “real” person in him?

My hope is that the score is able to both heighten the mystery surrounding Tommy and also truly empathize with him — for me that very mystery and the strange mixture of being both shy and bold makes him all the more human. We were all able to follow James Franco’s lead in illustrating that Tommy is a complicated and multi-faceted person…. like all of us.

There’s also a primal, drumming vibe to whenever Tommy is trying to “act.” How do you think that showed his “process,” especially when he’s freaking out on the set?

I did use a lot of percussion in the scenes where Tommy is auditioning and doing his best to be a good actor – particularly when those scenes were ultimately humorous. Percussion can have the wonderful ability to be less emotionally judgmental than melodic instruments, which was part of my reasoning. The other was that I was trying to instill a sense of futility and frustration… that literal banging of one’s head into the wall that everyone who has ever tried to do something creative has felt.

Do you think your use of the strings imparts a necessary seriousness to the score?

An orchestra is a wondrous and powerful thing, but I very much believe that power is overused in a lot of film and TV scores. I think there is a sense that it is required to add “seriousness” or credibility when in fact it can easily overwhelm. I love writing for orchestra, but in some cases –“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” for example, it simply isn’t the best creative choice. But if there was ever a movie that could support an orchestra, it is “The Disaster Artist,” which after all is the most Hollywood of Hollywood stories. My goal was to try to recreate the sweeping scale and emotion of the classic Hollywood film scores through a more streamlined and modern sounding score… and only an orchestra would do.

What did you think of Mladen Milicevic’s score for “The Room,” and did you want to capture any of its spirit here?

The score from “The Room” appears briefly during the premiere screening and again during the side-by-side “making of” comparisons at the end because in those moments we wanted to be authentic to the original film. I didn’t reference it in my own score. I wanted them to sound distinct, because the score of “The Disaster Artist” is telling a different story than that of “The Room.” Keeping them distinct did play into some of my orchestration decisions —- I avoided using piano in my score, for example, because it is featured in the original.

Could you relate to Tommy and Greg trying to make it in Hollywood?

I absolutely can. I had been struggling for many years before any success came my way, have had many highs and lows, and stumbled into roadblocks that made me want to quit. But I didn’t. And success, when it did come, came from a path I never expected…. and I’m sure that’s true for many of us.

In your own life, have you come across composers similarly deluded about their own talents, especially after you’ve watched a screening where the movie, and music was less than brilliant?

Yes. Me.

I’m a big fan of “Preacher.” Could you talk about scoring such a gleefully heretical show? And how do you expect to play God when he shows up?

I’m glad to hear that. It is such a brave show, and such a hard show to create, that I’m always gratified when folks are drawn into it. Obviously, it isn’t for everyone. But for those who can wrap their heads around it, it’s an amazing ride. In terms of the score the greatest challenge to “Preacher” is simply that there aren’t any rules or constraints… and in fact the more unexpected the better. That challenge is why I love it so much and also why it is sometimes so daunting to work on. As far as a score for God goes, we’ll have to see… but I can guarantee it won’t be harps and boy’s choir. That wouldn’t be “Preacher.”

Do you think it’s ironic that a good score, and film can be made from one of the most hilariously awful films of all time?

Not at all. There is no success without failure, and whatever I’ve learned about scoring films and television I’ve learned by making mistakes. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some terrific talents who understand that and allow for it in the creative process.

How do you hope that “The Disaster Artist” would help you break into features with the same success you’ve found on television?

If you had asked me when I was 15 years old what I wanted to be doing I would have told you I wanted to be scoring films. Anything else would be merely a stepping-stone to that pinnacle of the craft. Now, of course, the landscape has changed greatly. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on television shows that are the envy of most films, and the level of craftsmanship between the two mediums is no longer different. I will always love scoring great television dramas, and like most of the composers of my generation I relish the unique challenges and the creative variety of working in both mediums. Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to continue to do so.

In a way, do you think your score, and “The Disaster Artist” has retroactively helped make “The Room” better? Would you hope that “The Disaster Artist” reaches the cult popularity of people throwing spoons at it? Or is it just too good for that?

I think “The Disaster Artist” will help make “The Room” better understood, and will certainly bring a new audience to it. I don’t believe that “The Disaster Artist” will be a cult film – quite the contrary. From the screenings I’ve attended it has all the makings of a film that will be broadly enjoyed, both by diehard fanatics of “The Room” and those who don’t know anything about that film. And that’s a great testament to the brilliance and hard work of James Franco, the entire cast, and everyone else who invested themselves so passionately into the project. The response has been very gratifying, and I feel very fortunate to have been a small part of it.

“The Disaster Artist” opens on December 1st, with Dave Porter’s score available soon on WaterTower Music.

Go “Breaking Bad” with Dave Porter HERE as he calls Saul HERE, then goes dancing with “Flesh and Bone” HERE and puts himself on “The Blacklist” HERE

Visit Dave Porter’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Alexandre Desplat

Wo, 29/11/2017 - 02:10

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

Since his international breakthrough score for “Girl with a Pearl Earing,” Alexander Desplat has painted memorably melodic portraits of impossible love from “Birth” to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Danish Girl.” But Frenchmen are ever the romantics when it comes to pairing unlikely soulmates, especially when they happen to be a mute, American washwoman and an Amazonian Gilman. Mix their obsession with France’s amour of aquatic music, and you just might hear the Oscar-winning composer’s wondrously romantic, and not just a little bit scary achievement at giving magical form to “The Shape of Water”.

Desplat has his own perfect filmmaking partner in Mexico’s Guillermo Del Toro, a visually ravishing director hopelessly captivated at digging into audiences’ primal love of the monstrous outsider with the likes of “Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Crimson Peak.” In a career spent making characters fall head over heels for demons and ghosts, “The Shape of Water” now unleashes his sympathy for these misunderstood outsiders like never before. It’s a decidedly adult, and carnally fulfilling fairy tale that Desplat bathes in his country’s unmistakable language of love, creating utterly gorgeous themes of whimsy, sensuality and heartbreak that are as perfect a fit for Paris as they are an heroine’s Hollywood-fed dreams in the dangerous, spy-filled reality of America’s Cold War. It’s in a facility’s lagoon lab in which she finds the creature of her dreams, their growing bond communicated with such musical elements as whistling, dark suspense, heartbreaking tragedy and lush, sweeping strings that all conjure beauty and the beast like never before.


Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Alexandre Desplat reveals the alchemy of the year’s most unlikely, romantic score for “The Shape of Water,” as well as talking about his twisted period take on the human monster land of “Suburbicon” and taking his symphonic talents to deliriously fun heights alongside “Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets.”

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Buy the Soundtrack: THE SHAPE OF WATER Buy the Soundtrack: SUBURBICON Buy the Soundtrack: VALERIAN & THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Visit Alexandre Desplat’s Website
Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Dario Marianelli

Wo, 22/11/2017 - 02:21

For a 54 year-old musician hailing from Tuscany, Dario Marianelli has seemingly been part of British history more than many English composers. Possessed of the kind of sweeping lyricism that seems to a birth rite to those compatriots born on either side of The Channel, Marianelli’s early works for Irish filmmaker Paddy Breathnach on “Alisa,” “The Long Way Home” and “I Went Down” yielded explorations of The French Revolution (“Pandaemonium”) an ancient Indian clash (“The Warrior”) and the Pakistan refugee crisis (“In This World”) before his bucolic talent finally landed Marianelli in the romantic English countryside of “I Capture the Castle.”

Marianelli’s costume drama-tailored talents were a natural fit for the Jane Austen landscape of “Pride and Prejudice,” his first collaboration with filmmaker Joe Wright that yielded an international, Oscar-nominated breakthrough. Marianelli’s since shown his diversity from battling a witch alongside “The Brothers Grimm” to the animated fantasies “Boxtrolls” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” His ravishing sense of feminine empathy has distinguished “Jane Eyre” “Agora” and “Anna Karenina,” a tragic sense of love lost that swept over his next teaming with Wright for the English WW2 drama “Atonement,” a score which brought him the acclaimed film’s sole Oscar win. Now after hitting the mean, classic streets of Los Angels for “The Soloist,” time is on the backwards march again for Marianelli and Wright as both give all of their rallying passion to a speech that signaled Britain would overcome its “Darkest Hour.”

Marianelli’s steps into historical drama have certainly sounded dire, especially when playing a dystopian fascist England in “V for Vendetta.” Here that threat is very close, and real for a German invasion that almost happened to a besieged island nation. Its newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill spends his time combatting his own party as much as the German army, to whom Nazi appeasers urge a peace treaty in the face of an overwhelming defeat at Dunkirk. But this wily bulldog of a political leader isn’t about to be overthrown, a resistance that Marianelli’s rhythmically alarmed music signals with surging brass and bombs bursting in air. However, there’s wily humor as well to his score given Gary Oldman’s sputtering, irascible leader whom at times seems more Benny Hill than savior of a nation. He’s also a man filled with self-doubt, as the soundtrack tenderly expresses. Given a hubbub of suspense and emotion, Marianelli is certainly at the top of his thematic, nationalistic fervor here in leading the charge against Hitler, strings rising with pride for the speech to end all valorous stands for England’s fighting spirit. But then, given Marianelli’s own connection to this beloved country, one can’t imagine a more powerful, or humane salute to all that England defiantly stands for in the face of its devastation, as embodied by its thematically stout of heart, slightly crazed champion in his “Darkest Hour.”

How important has living in England been to you as a composer, especially when it comes to the country’s role in your creative evolution?

Anyone who has learnt to speak another language to proficiency will recognize that with the new language we discover also a new part of ourselves. This has definitely been my own experience, and I know that I have been profoundly changed by my almost 30 years in England. It is pretty impossible to qualify or quantify the effect that this has had on my music, but I have no doubt that the effect is there. Some of my scores brought me closer to the work of some of the best British writers, and that has also shaped every successive work.

How did you first come to Joe Wright’s attention with “Pride and Prejudice?” And did that set a classical tone of sorts for your future collaborations?

I was introduced to Joe by producer Paul Webster, who very perceptively imagined what Joe might need at that point in his own development, and had seen some of that in my music. “Pride and Prejudice” was probably the most important of all our collaborations, in the sense that we learnt to trust each other in many different ways, we discovered a number of things that are important for both of us. As for the classical tone, I am always at a loss when I hear that word, and I am certain that “classical” means different things to different people. I’d rather stay away from those dangerous words.

Did you do your own research into Winston Churchill after getting the “Darkest Hour” assignment?

A little: initially to find out if Churchill liked music, and what he would be listening to, if he did. Not much, it turns out. Joe was thinking of having some soldiers singing at the end of the movie, while my initial vague notion for the score was to incorporate in some way the “voice of the people”. I started researching old British folk music from the past centuries. I was following the idea that those old tunes carry something of the people from which they sprung. I also imagined that “the people” were present all along, even if what we see on screen is mostly the upper class wrestling with the nation’s destiny. I intended to rework the accompaniment of some old folk tunes, and some of that work is still in the score, even if the folk tunes have completely gone. In fact, we ended up abandoning the idea of using voices altogether, even if we recorded some. It wasn’t feeling right, because it introduced a note of nostalgia that we wanted to stay away from.

What was your collaboration like with Joe on “Darkest Hour,” and what was he particularly looking for the score to accomplish?

Like always, a number of early experiments start our conversation about what is or isn’t working. Joe was keen for the score to maintain a forward sense of propulsion, reflecting Churchill’s restlessness, his mind forever throwing around new ideas.

A big appeal of Gary Oldman’s Churchill is the humor that he brings to the role. How did you want to capture that wit and outsized character, while not making it buffoonish?

I think the job of capturing what you describe was already done brilliantly by Gary, and I never felt the need to double up what is already amply visible on screen. It’s a good thing, I think, that when an actor does all that very detailed and layered work, the music is free to do something else. In this case the music could try following the momentum of the events and of an increasing sense of dread; and give a presence to the invisible but never stopping the interior motor propelling Churchill from one idea to the next. In a sense his pace is a good match for the speed at which events unfold at the start of the war. A lot happens very fast in those first few weeks of war, and the right man for the job was one with the type of mind in which a lot happens, and very fast. Joe showed me very early on a photo of Gary Oldman as Churchill walking briskly, leaning forward. It was a good image to keep in my mind when I was writing the first few pieces, trying to lean forward with the music as well.

While Winston may have been from the higher classes, he was anything but a stuffed shirt. How did you want to get across the cultural clash between his brusque manner and the far more refined politicians and royalty that he deals with?

The only place where the score goes anywhere near what you describe is the meeting between Churchill and the King at Buckingham Palace. It is an odd piece, the “odd one out”, if you wish, and it was meant to underline the pomposity of the occasion, which Joe so unashamedly sends up.

While we see some of the conflict of World War II, most of “Darkest Hour” is concerned with the political maneuverings in the English Parliament. How did you want to capture those dealings, while also telling us about the far bigger global stage the movie takes place on?

The “dealings” are there, in the story, the global stage also, well in view. Instead of capturing anything that might already be there, I think of music as something that can help building a unified world within the boundaries of the film, something that contributes to the aesthetics of what the spectator is exposed to, and has some emotional resonance. It is obvious that the film is not shot as a documentary; that it is stylized, to a great extent. The construction of that stylized, self-contained world is a pro-active endeavor. There’s nothing to capture until we have built it. For me, rather than capturing, it’s more a matter of building another voice that “sings” the story from a different, non-verbal, emotional place.

How did you want to capture the mobilizing military in the score? You use some particularly interesting techniques that sound like exploding artillery in “Darkest Hour” as well.

That’s exactly what they are: I built a rhythmical percussive track using the sound of artillery, of explosions. It continues an ongoing experiment with the blurring of boundaries between what we see and what we hear. I didn’t particularly want to capture the mobilizing military. Loud explosions have a more primal, disturbing effect on me as a listener, and I imagine on many other people too. My parents remember those sounds from the war, their home towns were bombed heavily. I have often imagined what lasting affect that can have on a child: it goes much deeper than being a token sound for the military.

The outcome of Dunkirk weighs heavily on Churchill’s decision. Having scored those events for Joe’s “Atonement,” do you think of this as a “sequel” score as such?

Not really, although the thought crossed our mind that we might have musically quoted that earlier movie. This was especially when at the start of the work with Joe we were entertaining ideas of male choirs, and soldiers singing. We abandoned that line of thinking quite soon, to concentrate instead on the more propulsive function of the music.

One of my favorite scores of yours is “V For Vendetta,” a more relevant-than-ever movie about a fascist takeover. Given that England was facing this, do you think there are thematic ideas in how you played Hitler’s threat that connect “Darkest Hour” to that score?

This is interesting. I can recognize in the music of “Darkest Hour” a faint connection to the music of “V for Vendetta.” There is an “aspirational” harmonic sequence, something that is forever trying to “raise”, in both scores, and they both use a particular chord shift. I didn’t do it particularly consciously, but it is there, and it might be a reflection of my gut musical reaction to the idea of freedom from bullying and oppression, literally an “up-rise”.

It’s rare to see a pianist noted on an album. Could you tell us about Vikingur Olafsson and what makes him so import to “Darkest Hour?”

Joe asked me to have a listen to Vikingur’s album of Philip Glass piano music. I agreed that it was beautiful, and that it had the right balance of expression and clarity without being overly “romantic” (another dangerous word!). As there was a fair amount of piano in the score, we thought Vikingur would be the ideal interpreter.

Many films have that “big speech” score. With “Darkest Hour” centering around one of the most famous speeches in history, how difficult was it to score that central sequence?

It turned out it wasn’t particularly hard: my very first draft is what’s in the movie. It was an exercise in not doing too much too soon, but keep the sense of swelling until the last moment.

Do you think’s there’s a thematically old-school, highly melodic feeling to your music that makes your particularly right for historical films such as “Churchill?”

I have never thought of this, and I am not sure that my approach is more “right” than any other. I scored a specific film called “Darkest Hour” by Joe Wright, and I approached, as I always do, on its own merit, and not thinking that it was a certain “type” of film. The couple of films I scored before, “Everest” and “Kubo and the two Strings” couldn’t have been more different, and I have just finished “Paddington 2″. None of them are historical films, but I suppose there is some consistency in the way I approach a movie. I’m not sure if it is “old school”: I might be the worse person to ask that kind of question, I am not even sure that I have a “style”, whatever that means; never mind belonging to a school.

How do you think “Darkest Hour” stands out among your collaborations for Joe Wright?

I am very proud of all my collaborations with Joe: he is a very “inspiring” director. I always feel that he actively makes space for me, to allow the music to become a character in the movie, and that’s a rare gift to any composer. On every further collaboration with him I end feeling I really have learnt something new, about music, and about storytelling.

“Darkest Hour” opens on November 22, with Dario Marianelli’s score available on Deutsche Grammophon Records HERE. Then flash back with Dario and director Joe Wright’s collaborations on “Atonement” HERE and “Pride and Prejudice” HERE

On Friday December 1st at UCLA’s Royce Hall, join such composers as Thomas Newman, John Debney and Robert Folk as they bring Drew Struzan’s poster art to musical life with the Golden State Pops Orchestra. Get your tickets HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

November Soundtrack Picks

Di, 21/11/2017 - 02:11

November Soundtrack Picks: “THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM” is the top soundtrack to own for November, 2017





Price: $9.49

What is it?: In their nearly two decades together, the Dynamic Music Partners trio of Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Kristopher Carter have risen from being under the wing of composer Shirley Walker on “Batman: The Animated Series” to becoming the principle animated avengers for what seems to be nearly every superhero from Marvel and DC to hit the TV and DTV universe.

Why should you buy it?: Nothing quite brings out Dynamic’s origin story like being in the company of The Dark Knight, even if that got a bit too pessimistic for its own good with “The Killing Joke.” Thankfully, the retro “Return of the Caped Crusaders” (on La La Land Records) gave the trio permission to musically laugh again as they resurrected that jazzy, bat-tusi style of Neal Hefti for the voice talents of O.G. dynamic duo Adam West and Burt Ward. Now “Batman Vs. Two Face” and “Batman and Harley Quinn” continue that groovy crime-fighting sound, if with unintentional, melancholy emotion in the first soundtrack’s case given West’s passing. With a singular, musical identity, the partners pour on the hip brass punches, while swinging with William Shatner noir cool as he takes on the dual identity of worst D.A. ever Harvey Dent. Even as he’s given dark and stormy orchestral stylings that might befit a 1940’s Universal monster, “Two Face’s” score does its best to approximate what you might have heard if you turned this cartoon on during Saturday morning, circa 1967 – if done with way more musical finesse, though that doesn’t mask some hilariously cartoony moments like Egyptian riffs or game show music as part of “Two Face’s” wackiness.

Extra Special: While “Two Face” also offers some seductively purring rhythm for the inclusion of Catwoman, “Harley Quinn” most definitely puts out with vixen-ish girl power. Likely the most gonzo animated feature (as well as the most WTF fun one) to come from DC’s animated features, this present-day set adventure teams the Joker’s psycho sexual squeeze with a decidedly uninterested Batman and a sidekick not displeased to get his nightwing waxed. With them out to stop Poison Ivy’s plans to turn everyone into trees, you might see why the Dynamic trio weren’t particularly afraid to go for the gonzo gusto here. While there is a fair amount of sleuthing and tree-thing fighting action that gets played excitingly straight, “Quinn” really shines in its sax-y Jessica Rabbit-worthy passages that radiate bad girl panache. It’s a nice return to the brass and piano vibes that distinguished the more smoldering noir elements they abetted on “Batman: The Animated Series’” scoring (including one outright Shirley Walker theme tribute quote). But that doesn’t stop “Harley” from rocking out with electric guitar action, or goofing on big, bell-ringing music for that big hero reveal, even if Swamp Thing’s appearance is as much of a witty anticlimax as everything else about this toon. Thoroughly fun from start to finish on both counts, “Two Face” and “Harley Quinn” shows the magic that happens when dark knight toon music isn’t trying to be so serious.



Price: $26.99 / $29.99

What is it?: From the silent era of a pianist accompanying “The Ten Commandments” in a movie house to a sound stage’s massive orchestra recording the score to “Gladiator,” the time-worn sword-and-sandal genre has always given composers epic chances to play ancient clashes for old time religion, or mythic blood and fury. Now two excellent examples of bronze and silver age spins on The Good Book and godly legend shine with the full releases of Miklos Rozsa’s “Ben-Hur” and James Horner’s “Troy.”

Why should you buy it?: That Tadlow producer James Fitzpatrick announced his release with “Oh no, not another ‘Ben-Hur!’” should tell you just how many times that Rozsa’s masterpiece has done a turn around the chariot lap spinner to the point of exhaustion. But given his excellent, re-performed work on such other Christian avenging Rozsa epics as “El Cid” and “Sodom and Gomorrah,” there’s no doubt that Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus wouldn’t bring more hosanna resonance to this understandably oft-played score. Where the whole nature of these Eastern European versions of classic Hollywood scores used to be the sonic equivalent of a Roman slave galley, their ever-increasing handle on some mighty oars to row (as well as satellite performances for new Hollywood films) has grown exponentially to the point where they’re the indistinguishable equal to the real deal. The passion of the Christ, and a Hungarian composer who could play his trumpeting radiance like few others certainly makes this take on “Ben-Hur” into a religious experience. Legions of trumpeters unleash chariot fanfares, resplendent melody announces a Son of God whose face we never clearly see, and the punishing anguish of the Cavalry procession connects the anguish lashes against the Son of God with the Judean hero. But for me, the drum-pounding, ever accelerating highlight has always been Rozsa’s sea battle, which breathlessly builds its rowers to darkly symphonic, relentlessly pounding ramming speed. Tadlow’s new “Ben-Hur” is certainly that last word on a score that will doubtlessly get redone a few more times, with all of the composer’s mighty score on deck, including cues both unreleased on album and unused in the film. Given what seems like a choral and orchestral cast of hundreds here, complete with organ for the healing blood of Christ, “Ben-Hur” rocks out like never before in a way that sounds like it was recorded back in 1959, yet given modern resonance. If we weren’t believers in the restorative miracles that Fitzpatrick and Tadlow have been performing, this ultimate “Hur” is manna from the heaven of epically emotional scoring the Rozsa way.

Extra Special: While Rozsa certainly would have appreciated composer Gabriel Yared’s unabashedly old-school orchestral approach to 2004’s “Troy,” a test screening killed his effort more surely than a sword battle with Achilles would have. Scrambling for a replacement score, Warner Brothers gave James Horner the Herculean task of composing just about two hours of music in two weeks, with no chance for a retreat. But then, for a composer at the top of his game, who’d more than proven his battling worth on the likes of “Glory,” “Braveheart” and “Enemy at the Gates,” there was never doubt that he’d deliver a memorable score that would show no evidence of timely duress. However, it wasn’t as if Horner turned his back on an old-school approach. The difference is that he’d imbue it with a mythically modern feeling to squeeze inside of the famed wooden horse, starting by combining electronics with an orchestra. Another factor in contemporizing “Troy” was to play the Greek legend with a historically “accurate” feel, using alternately moaning and angelic female voices. The drum hits of ancient percussion instruments and winds, that while not being exactly native to the time, certainly felt like they were from it. But most importantly when it came to orchestration, Horner knew how to use a brass-driven orchestra for all of its darkly heroic and noble worth. “Troy” is a score that’s wonderfully replete with “Horner-isms,” from trilling horns to darkly rumbling pianos and enough quotes from Prokofiev’s style to make you think the Russian revolution was being waged here as opposed to a Greek attack. As he’d shown to Oscar-winning effect on “Titanic,” another of Horner’s memorable talents was to capture the emotional feeling of lovers trying to outrace a tragedy beyond their reckoning, a balance between fury and feeling that impactfully plays into “Troy’s” fleshed-out depiction of gravely flawed heroes, warriors and star-crossed lovers alike, making the kind of bad judgments that ensure them a place in legend. In the annals of scoring as its own myth making, there were few golden gods like Horner, and given the swift chance to play the likes of Achilles. Ajax and Helen of Troy, Horner delivered a grandly thematic score that in its own right was one for the ages of a tragically cut short career that was already the stuff of scoring legend when he perished. Intrada’s two-disc set gives us “Troy” in all of its sweeping glory, while also showing off Horner’s exceptional talent at turning a main melody to song with two versions of the Josh Groban-performed “Remember.” That even “Troy’s” approach almost seems like ancient history says much about how the best past and present, shield-bearing scores had no better weapon than a composer who was highly skilled with the lessons of maestros past to wield their thematic shields in both battle, and belief, a valor nicely recounted in John Takis’ liner notes.



Price: $15.98 / $11.66

What is it?: Murder most foul stalks two superbly atmospheric soundtracks, as a practitioner of Nordic Noir investigates a mad slasher in London, before an American composer often faced with serial killers traces one across a snowy expanse.

Why Should You Buy It?: Sweden’s Johan Soderqvist made an international impact in the company of a not-so child vampire with his haunting score for the unequaled “Let the Right One In.” Since then he’s kept in good, sinister company for “Murder Farm,” “The King of Devil’s Island” and the original Scandinavian TV version of “The Bridge” – all of which validate his passport to his first full-blooded English language, Cockney-accented thriller. London never had a chance as he announces his cruelly suspenseful intentions for “The Limehouse Golem” with a thunderously soaring, brass-pounding theme that might make you think Fedex has arrived at the door with Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box. There’s very much a feminine quality to the composer’s investigation, especially given a woman to save from an unjust hanging, who’s seemingly murdered a husband who was the gnarliest killer this side of Jack the Ripper. Given Soderqvist’s empathetic work for Susan Bier on “After the Wedding” and “Love is All You Need,” the composer’s knife-like melodic precision creates a lovely damsel-in-distress motif for an always gravely concerned Bill Nighy to rescue. When the music isn’t lurching through the city with the panache of a Hammer horror film, Soderqvist’s score displays surprising tenderness, all the better to employ eerie metallic effects and fog-like strings for the neat twists and turns from music hall to courtroom and the executioner’s gallows. Soderqvist captures the lower women-for-sale classes alongside aristocratic refinement with a piano and violin-topped orchestral, all while never forgetting to unleash the visceral, brassy goods. It’s the aural equivalent of following a killer in the London fog from a slow, suspenseful walk to a full, terrifying bolt. It’s a superbly constructed score that swoons with the woe of humanity at its most sodden and cruel, yet does so with real Gothic beauty, as well as some naughty dance hall songs to boot – with all cobblestone alleys leading to a mad crescendo that’s this year’s most bone-chillingly romantic celebration of the audience applause celebrity that slashing brings. One can only hope that Soderqvist continues to keep in the good company of fictional serial killers after this terrific score.

Extra Special: Given a serial killer thriller that critics pilloried as if “The Snowman” was the devil himself, one might expect Hollywood’s English-language take on Nordic noir to be as appetizing as yellow slush on a sidewalk. And while it’s super genius killer might be stupider than a know-it-all Scooby Doo foe when it comes to watching his step, “The Snowman” is actually a fairly engrossing and atmospheric film, certainly better at its goals than the D.O.A. redo of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” especially given a score by a Malibu-ite and his forensic team who’ve musically handled more serial killers than a few seasons of “Mindhunter” – not to mention the sound of icy death in “Snowpiercer.” Both senses for cold, and twisted psychologically come into play very well here in a score that’s a Scandinavian-accented landscape of strings, piano and the crystalline sound of the native Nyckelharpa, all conjuring vibe of a Hans Christian Anderson child-eating ghoul if there ever was a signature for supernatural evil. The winds above are full of eerily howling textures and ghostly voices, creating a texturally, and unnervingly spellbinding score. Certainly gifted with the melodic touch of his mentor Jerry Goldmsith, Beltrami conveys a burned-out master detective steadily building his case, each chiming bell, anguished string and delicate piano layering on a gripping sense of mystery in a way that Bernard Herrmann would also likely admire. There’s a welcome intelligence at work in Beltrami’s nicely lyrical approach that doesn’t hesitate to lay on the bigger, symphonically pounding thrills that the composer often applies to more supernaturally monstrous subject matter. But for the most part, “The Snowman” is smarter than the average bear when it comes to the serial killer score genre, wickedly clever in laying on its geographic touches while treating a taunting murderer with suspensefully melodic finesse that shows there are few better, or more creative expatriate composers than Beltrami at solving Norwegian murder most foul, or frozen.



Price: $11.78/ $11.49

What is it?: Whether using world beats, massive orchestras or barely perceptible electronics, Thomas Newman has long combined the ethereally experimental with pleasing melody, or gone for confrontational darkness when the subject ordered it. Now he once again shows his diversity with two scores that take a look at abetting one’s commander in chief, whether he’s an uncaring army bureaucracy or a queen looking for a servant who isn’t afraid to speak above his station.

Why should you buy it?: Thomas Newman has served two musical tours of duty in Iraq and the Homefront before with “Jarhead” and “Brothers.” One was an ironic crazy-quilt that captured the madness of a man trained to kill (who never quite does), with the second a guitar-centric score that chronicled the mental dissolution of a soldier who can’t escape the bloody barbarity he was forced into, even when back in hearth and home. Following the psychologically, and physically walking wounded on their return to America, Newman balances a lyrical guitar theme with haunted, crystalline sampling that reveals men who can’t go home again in one piece. Even with a somber orchestra, it’s a score that mostly whispers for its characters’ problems as opposed to dramatically shouting about them – a bold, underplayed approach given the suicidal emotion at hand. But having played any number of protagonists repressing their inner darkness in his repertoire, Newman has a poignant understand of violence’s clamming-up effect on people – understanding and conveying their musical feelings like a sympathetic VA shrink would. Its instrumentation plays a gritty, woodsy America where panic-inducing flashbacks lurk behind every loud noise or fitful slumber, nightmarish sampling that makes for “Service’s” most troubling passages. Yet there’s hope for redemption amidst the weird PTSD passages of Newman’s score, melody that comes from the ghosts of Iraq, as a weirdly angelic female voice and alt. chords give a sense of potential redemption ahead on a poignantly haunted road that he’s welcome to return to for another perceptive tour of duty.

Extra Special: As the son of Alfred Newman, a symphonically regal composer often given to playing period film and royalty, it was only natural that Thomas would shine with regal orchestrations in such scores as “Little Women,” “Oscar and Lucinda” and “The Iron Lady.” Going back in time with an English matriarch from 10 Downing Street to Buckingham Palace for “Victoria & Abdul,” Newman immediately trumpets the formidable presence of Queen Victoria. But then with a quick segue into the kind of alt. Indian raga that was particularly good company with him for two stays at The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Newman just as effectively announces the cultural music masala that will make up this tasty score as an honorable native of Britain’s colony makes the trip to present Queen Victoria with a token of appreciation. That the beyond-genial Abdul doesn’t behave like the silent, subservient Coolie the royal court is expecting gives no end of playfulness to the score, which uses harpsichords, chorus, piano and snooty lushness for the aghast reactions to a turbaned interloper as he swiftly, and innocently ingratiates himself with the seemingly crotchety monarch. Newman opens up their ersatz mother-son relationship with tenderness, using the lightest, gossamer touch for strings, percussion and ethnic winds to get across a friendly match that’s the best of both worlds. But there’s also the feeling of how heavy hangs the crowned head in the somberness that Newman also conveys for this intimate, ultimately sadly soaring cultural bond amidst a far bigger, and colder political landscape. With his pomp and circumstance, Newman never makes us forget we’re in the presence of a Queen. But it’s the humor and humanity of its Indian-inflected music culture swapping that very much puts us in the lovely presence of two down-to-earth people seeking the best from one another’s cultures that makes Newman’s score sing in an especially resonant way.


Price: $9.49

What is it?: When going down the list of potential composers to score a superhero that Marvel has been trying to figure out what do with over two enjoyably uneven solo films, perhaps the last guy you might pick for the gig would be Mark Mothersbaugh. The 70’s puckish pseudo-punk anarchist who helped define synth pop wackiness as part of Devo, Mothersbaugh has since channeled his scoring talents into the obvious realms of kid animation and ironic comedy, two places where he could let his musical wit romp about – even though his terrific, unexpected action score for “Safe” showed there was distinctly more adult stuff lurking underneath his kooky Clark Kent veneer. But leave it to Mothersbaugh’s absurdist, superhero scoring for the anything-goes “Lego Movie” to show Marvel that he could indeed cross the Bifrost Bridge to demolish Asgard in colorful style. That Mothersbaugh treats the Son of Odin with due Wagnerian respect while throwing him into a bleep-bloop wonderland of 80’s video arcade stylings makes “Thor Ragnarok” easily the most delightfully crazy score of the MCU movie bunch with a soundtrack that rides with the Valkyries into a Donkey Kong disco.

Why should you buy it?: That Mothersbaugh can jet dimensions for a deeply moving, Norse violin farewell to Odin to a colorful junkyard world of absurdist aliens who might decorate an episode of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” that he scored says much about “Ragnarok’s” continual, joyous inventiveness. Hela, as delightfully played with Tallulah Bankhead drollery by Cate Blanchet, is given the super villainess formidability of a dastardly, pounding symphony and chorus that would put Darth Vader to shame. But if his music takes her seriously, his approach to the always eccentric Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is a terrific return to the electronic days of Devo, if considerably souped up in keyboard silliness that that begs for a retro stadium death match with Tyler Bates’ equally goofball take on The Guardians of the Galaxy, When goldilocks-minus Thor takes on ultra-armored Hulk in the arena, the raging duel between orchestra and primal Atari-synth energy is utterly unexpected, and totally genius as to how seamlessly Mothersbaugh combines life-or-death seriousness with an exciting game of Dig-Dug. Throwback synths a la John Carpenter might start a “Flashback” of the Valkyries’ heroically futile fight against Hela, but voices make their slow-motion destruction especially eerie. In perhaps the score’s most delightful cue “What Heroes Do,” Thor’s big noble breakout starts with a beat that you swear to the All-Father is going to go right into Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” yet Mothersbaugh retains an exciting nobility that never derides into making his music a joke.

Extra Special: “Thor Ragnarok” might have one big Devil’s Anus of stylistic wormholes to jump through, but leave it to this solidly thematic, and crazily melodic score to make this into a cohesive thrill ride that shows just how far a traditional superhero score can be pushed into the dimension of Atari generation geekiness while still retaining its might. It’s a colorful comic book movie splash page that’s beyond clever in all of the enthusiastic, best ways fans of a certain Jack Kirby, Pong-playing audience could hope for that at last gets Thor and his universe right, even as it annihilates most of them. I can’t wait to see what retro universe Mothersbaugh might be jumping to alongside these characters, with Wagner in tow of course.



The evil spawn movie that really started an onslaught of killer kid pictures, 1956’s “The Bad Seed” was blessed with a deliciously twisted score by Alex North, then making a newborn move into horror-suspense after slashing the conventional notions of dramatic scoring with such seminal works as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Viva Zapata!” Right from a brassily swirling, modernist main title that quotes the 18th century folksong Au Claire de la Lune (which sounds quite a bit like “Itsy Bitsy Spider”), North weaves a malicious web for the adorable, pig-tailed Rhoda to murderously rend asunder the unsuspecting adults around her. Like such Avant-garde composers of the time as Leonard Rosenman (“Rebel Without A Cause”), North snuck about the system, playing nice with melody until he could twist it about with dissonant effects, a technique which does much to suggest the malicious intent of an eight year-old. Using the kind of instrumentation one might expect for the kind of little kids who’d be romping about with Lassie, North gradually warps their pleasantness with an eerie, electric Novachord. Yet he also whole-heartedly conveys the genuine, parenting affection that’s shown to Rhoda, setting the grown-ups for a rude, heartbreaking awakening before God can finally take charge of the situation. It’s a mix between brooding suspense and feverish bursts of evil with genuine, pleading emotion that makes “The Bad Seed” a particularly memorable genre segue in North’s career, one that he’d latter revisit with his distinctive work on killer rats of “Willard” and a zombie-spawning Marcel Marceau for “Shanks.” Now soundtrack lightning again strikes for Rhoda with La La Land’s vibrant CD debut of “The Bad Seed,” which carries more innocently sinister power than ever given its transfer and always-incisive notes by classic score specialist Frank K. De Wald, making for an album that’s both treat, and trick.


For a documentary about a hedge fund manager unmasking a pyramid scheme, it’s only fitting that “Betting on Zero” has rolled its musical dice on a musician who’s propped up well over a hundred major scores as a conductor, orchestrator and arranger, yet somehow has no feature composing credit beyond two TV films. But given the reaction this acclaimed movie about a financial whiz attempting to crap out Herbalife, it’s fair that numerous glowing reviews lobbed via a 100% rotten tomatoes rating will entail future, fictional assignments for Peter Anthony. Everything from “An American Tail” to “Patch Adams” and “Logan” attests to the decades-long span that Anthony has abetting such talents as James Horner, James Newton Howard, Thomas Newman and Marco Beltrami. Much of their talent has passed through Anthony’s own skills, which beautifully come to the fore with this riveting, theme heavy orchestral score that mixes it up with the best of them that he’s heard on the conductor’s podium. Becoming the determination of Bill Ackman as he risks billions to unseat a company dependent on its desperately hopeful salespeople, Anthony treats “Zero” with the rhythmic power of a Hollywood movie whose crusading journalist heroes are marching steel-eyed through the halls of an impossible to defeat foe. It’s a plot theme strong enough to be a central, but varied driving force through much of “Zero,” the stuff of which great montage sequences are made of. Given a film that’s as compelling in its real-life events as any fictional story, it’s an approach that pays off great dividends in giving a terrific momentum to the film. There’s a cunning, somewhat sinister to the music of the little-big guy going against smug forces confident of their win. But with Anthony’s mad skills, there’s no chance of a musical loss here, given beautifully lush playing from the orchestra and Anthony’s ability to keep the score continually interesting in its variations the play a corporation’s might to the devastation of buying into the American Dream. In the end of “Zero,” it’s Anthony’s assurance in making other composer’s fictional narratives so interesting that hoodwinks the listener into thinking this wasn’t done for a documentary at all. But given how musical truth is often stranger than Hollywood fiction, Anthony’s thrilling, utterly gripping score is rock solid at selling anyone on the power of his own voice. Now his number has finally come in given Kritzerland Record’s impressive presentation of this knockout score that is certainly in a top percentile.


Just because a score, or even a film’s director, have been sucked into the netherworld doesn’t mean the ghost of their contributions continue to hover over a film in question – in this case the spirits of the “synthpop” group Electric Youth and filmmaker Anthony Scott Burns. Together at one point they haunted the still unreleased film “Our House” (itself a remake of the 2010 indie “Ghost from the Machine”), wherein a bereaved genius resurrects the spirits of his parents through a high-tech device. The black box’s voice to the other realm is delivered with a strong musical presence by the Toronto-based duo of Bronwyn Griffith and Austin Garrick, whose collaboration with the group College for the breakthrough song “A Real Hero” proved an MTV breakthrough by providing fuel to “Drive.” While fans of the pulsating, retro 80’s groove of “Stranger Things” (let alone the O.G. “Blade Runner” score) will no doubt dig the stripped-down keyboard rhythms and eerie tonalities here, what makes “Breathing” truly resonate is the strong, symphonically thematic nature of their ghosts in the house’s machine. From the lush strings and angelic voices that dance around their central melody, Electric Youth conveys a serene, utterly transfixing otherworldliness that feels like Tangerine Dream’s wavelengths made orchestrally whole, or done with the unplugged intimacy of a piano. You can practically hear “Poltergeist’s” Carol Anne, in just how well the duo nails the fairy tale, sing-song bond between children and deceased parent’s, a poetic sense of loss, and somehow hope that’s especially memorable given the organ-like religiosity of the Youth’s electric church. Way headier than horror in its approach, whatever the intended score morphed into to create “Breathing’s” album, also helps it come across like meditative concert performance (complete with the striking theme song “Where Did You Go”). It says much for Electric Youth’s alt. street cred as it does their composing potential. Like the best scores detached from a film, whether it was used or not, “Breathing” puts you into a mesmerizing dimension of sound caught between organic musical material and a whole other synth dimension that’s particularly well suited for incorporeal beings made musically whole in this soundtrack house that could have been.


It’s been a plethora of piñatas this year when you imagine them as one terrific score after the next for Michael Giacchino with “Book of Henry,” “Spider Man Homecoming,” “War for the Planet of the Apes” and now this sometimes scarily festive Pixar celebration for Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Journeying to the other side as a boy takes his appreciation of a singing legend to skeletal extremes, Giacchino hits everything we love about Mexican scoring in this virtual buffet of Latin music styles that effortlessly jumps between hat dances, bull fights and Zorro-esque swashbuckling action. Guitars, accordion, pan flutes, violins and brass join with Giacchino’s rousing orchestra to create a one of his most vibrantly animated landscapes. But then, whether it’s a ratty French restaurant or a hidden South American peak, Giacchino’s Oscar winning and nominated sojourns with Pixar have always been a wonderful journey of discovery for the composer, all linked with a wide-eyed, youthful sense of wonder that take on lyrical resonance here. It makes “Coco” was more than just an ethnic travelogue, as the composer deals with both meeting and letting go of loved ones, yet also has the music abounds with cartoonish pratfalls and humorously squelching guitars, as well as eeriness that might remind you of Giacchino’s fantastic emotional voyage for “Inside Out” at points. Nicely tying up “Coco’s” score is the song “Remember Me,” performed with festive bounce by Benjamin Brett then then as a guitar serenading lullaby by Gael Garcia Bernal. It should make for an entertaining duet on Oscar night.


Italian songwriter Pino Donaggio would be put on the international scoring map, and start an American career renowned for romantic suspense with his first soundtrack for 1973’s “Don’t Look Now.” One might say it was Donnagio’s lyrical touch for melody and vocals, not to mention his birthplace of Venice that made him so well red-coat suited to prowl the city’s canals with a deceptively child-like score. A tender piano theme becomes the spirit of a tragically lost girl, who still haunts her visiting couple. Their unfortunate pursuit of a similarly garbed figure is the red herring of director Nicolas Roeg’s classic thriller, whose often beautifully melodic score provides a notable contrast to the movie’s often shockingly experimental style, perhaps no more so than when Donaggio passionately escalated his memorable theme with flute and guitar for a love scene that broke both the boundaries of cinema sex and the editorial treatment of time. Even more importantly, “Don’t Look Now’s” lush use of strings recalled Bernard Herrmann, making Donaggio a virtual Kim Novak for director Brian De Palma when it came to finding a musician who could step into that recently deceased composer’s shoes when it came to scoring “Carrie.” Fans of Donaggio’s dearly missed collaborations with the Hitchcockian auteur on “Dressed To Kill” and “Body Double” will certainly hear the seeds of those notable thriller scores in “Don’t’ Look Now,” especially when it came to music that could voice both sympathy and tragedy for female characters. What particularly distinguishes “Don’t Look Now” from Donaggio’s latter efforts is its classical rhythms for the elegance of Venice, as well as a rapturous organ for the churches abounding its waters. His equal talent for embodying razor-edged implements can also be heard in the ratcheting gestures for one of film’s more memorably unexpected slashers. Donaggio certainly knew how to use melody as a lethal aphrodisiac to draw victims to their fates, a gift that’s more ravishing than ever given Silva Screen’s new release on CD and vinyl. As graced with especially clever art by Benio Urbanowicz, this new “Now” has the first-ever inclusion of Iva Zanicchi’s lovely vocal version of Laura’s theme with “I Colori De Dicemebre (Laura’s Theme)”,” which starts the album’s original track sequence for Donaggio’s ever-memorable death in Venice.


When the ageless Jackie Chan’s fists of fury fly, you can usually be assured that they’ll be accompanied with some sort of musical Asian sauce, or your average synth beats in his awesomely tried-and-true formula of taking the bruised bad guys to the cops. “The Foreigner” punishes that formula in many notable ways, no more so than with Cliff Martinez’s cold-as-ice score that throws Chan headfirst into the real movie world, as such. That this long time Chan fan doesn’t crack any sort of smile as his synths and samples pummel us into oblivion shows the favor his approach does for Chan’s wish to show himself as a real actor, here playing a bombing bereaved dad determined to make IRA renegades pay in an England out to stop him. Don’t even expect anything remotely chopsocky in Martinez’s pummeling, ultra-rhythmic approach that’s all about Chan dealing with musically harsh situations that could actually kill him. Having played no end of hard-asses from crime Uber to a revenge-bent Limey, Martinez knows how to use pulse as a deadly weapon. But it’s adrenalized to weirder, and harsher effect than ever in “The Foreigner” making us feel both the dismay, and steel-eyed determination of an otherwise nice guy with a special set of skills, who’s thrown into a madhouse of loss. His payback is served cold with bone-breaking drum percussion, wailing rock and severe rhythm that’s closer to Martinez’s trippy score to Cinemax’s dearly missed hospital show “The Knick” then any of his action films as such. About the only introspective emotion one gets is in the ethereal remembrance of a dead daughter. That “The Foreigner’s” avenging beats-per-minute of her murder are far more ruthless, and faster than Chan’s fists and feet says much about how Martinez has helped to truly grant the star his wish of being absolutely believable in a battered, refreshingly gassed-up vehicle.


Directors were as hard-hitting as they came with Samuel Fuller, a WW2 vet who brought a viscerally pulpy punch to his movies. Fuller’s entertaining, no-nonsense attitude certainly proved an inspiration to the composers at 20th Century Fox, whose terrific work is collected on Kritzerland’s two-fisted, two-CD collection. First up is Alfred Newman’s rousing score to 1954’s “Hell and High Water,” a CinemaScope-filling picture where Richard Windmark, his crew and alluring Daryl Zanuck squeeze Bela Darvi set sail in a retrofitted Japanese sub to stop the dastardly nuclear plans of Red China. There’s certainly no mistaking virtuous American good versus Asian commie evil given the terrifically rousing score by Alfred Newman, who seems particularly delighted to take off the religious gloves from the past year’s “Robe” and get to manly business. His spy mission is propelled by a marching, patriotic theme that goes straight into the sinister, gonging rhythms of Oriental evil. Beyond his music’s action-packed jingoism, what’s particularly notable is just how well Newman captures the shape of water, particularly in the shimmering, downward strings and dark piano chords of a sunken sub, the brassy orchestra raising it triumphantly to the surface. There’s also sweet violin romance on board for the one women amongst 29 sweaty guys in this timpani-saluting score that might not be Newman’s best-known work, but is certainly right up there amongst his most thematically fun works. Japan is the rousing musical territory for Fuller’s 1955 American Yakuza movie “House of Bamboo,” the mix of orchestral noir and romance scored by Leigh Harline, a composer best known for scoring, and co-writing the songs for “Pinocchio.” In far more adult territory here, Harline gives poignant, dramatic impact to the “geisha girl” caught between two GI’s out for good and bad in the land of the rising sun, employing beautiful, Hollywood Orientalism to the culture-crossed romance, emotion that helps gives extra, romantic impact to the suspenseful passages. The brief, jazzy detours within “Bamboo” make up the breadth of Harline’s “Pickup on South Street.” Fuller was once again taking on the Reds for this 1954 movie, though they were on the home front of Manhattan. Coming up with a rapid-fire, city symphony theme to propel the pickpocket “Pick Up” of enemy agent secrets, Harline cleverly mixes his sharp, rhythmic theme with the sax of Richard Windmark’s wallet shark. It’s playful stuff for the Damon Runyon-esque antics of no-goods mixed up with a bigger picture than they’d reckoned with, with Harline once again proving his effectiveness at dramatically conveying hoods of any stripe. But the charm of “South Street” is its woozy brass, a cool film noir sound as jazz was finding its way around Hollywood, nearly always in the company of reprobates, though romantic for the most part here as the sax and strings join for the swooning theme of thief and “B-Girl. “A triple-hit of classic dramatic scoring on all fronts, “Fuller at Fox” is studio scoring at its best in service of an iconically impactful director, as nicely spiffed up by Kritzerland.


Just as John Williams rejuvenated comic book movie scoring with “Superman,” Danny Elfman wiped the camp face from “Batman” with a dark knight dose of Wagner to reboot the musical genre once again. It’s been decades since Elfman’s last DC score with “Batman Returns” as he brought a lighter touch to such Marvel properties as Spider-Man and The Avengers. Now he’s back to bring that desperately needed sense of fun to his former teammates. Better yet, Elfman’s got some iconic themes in tow to strike up a new, merrier DCU band for “Justice League.” The composer unleashes all of his trademarked bells and whistles onto this colorful gathering, uniting the “League” (minus the “of America” for some reason), as he trumpets their assemblage with a noble sense of motivic purpose. Certainly no ordinary crime kingpin would do for a villain, and the armored, extra-dimensional forces that assault Earth give an extra cosmic boom to Elfman’s orchestral forces, full of clanging armor and the biggest woeful chorus this side of Sleepy Hollow. It’s furious, fun stuff that doesn’t stint on the bombastic excitement. And while Elfman’s rhythms certainly suggest speed for The Flash and a high tech human tool box with Cyborg, the heroes who get musically defined with immediate geek-gasm recognition are the composer’s Batman, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s rocking Amazonian theme for Wonder Woman, and even a snatch from Williams’ Superman. Having Elfman incorporate his own past triumph, and other composer’s work into his new score is a particular thrill to his “Justice League” score that rarely lets up for a moment as it wows us with exhausting excitement, reveling with the orchestral team-up possibilities like a kid using a symphony as his own sandbox to play with action figures. Elfman’s enthusiasm certainly lets you know that all is musically right in the DC universe again, especially as it heralds from a composer who helped start its big bang.


With the gleefully sadistic human parables of “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster,” Greek director Yorgos Lathimos has inflicted ironic cruelty on audiences with the mortal-tormenting zest of an Olympian god. Now his brand of cinematic biblical punishment goes for the Kubrickian gold with a beyond mannered tale of eye-for-an-eye psychic vengeance on the family of a doctor who drunkenly botched the surgery of a psycho kid’s dad. Given said venue of crippling, eye-bleeding payback, it seemed natural that Lathimos would complement his sterile visual style with the kind of avant-garde dissonance that could serve as Muzak at “The Shining’s” Overlook Hotel. So you’d better take your melody where you can get it on this album, which sings with Schubert “Stabat Mater” religiosity before a chorus turns to “Carol of the Bells” to set up the story’s quasi-religious theme. Like Kubrick’s use of Ligeti and Bartok, Lathimos certainly knows how pick ‘em when it comes to the patience-testing hits of what’s called “modern classical music.” The tortuously extended, yet weirdly beautiful pieces focus on Sofia Gubaidulina, a Russian female experimentalist who gives Ligeti a run for his modernist money when it comes to creating “music” that has as much a physical effect on the listener as a madness-inducing one. Her trance-like interpretation of belief takes creeping strings to abstract, time-bending ranges with “Rejoice IV,” while rattling percussion and a spastic accordion “Sonata” is an iron man triathlon of bizarreness at nearly twelve minutes. Ligeti is also in the house with works that comparatively have the melodic content of John Williams (discounting “Images” of course), from a twisted “Piano Concerto” to a fifteen-minute “Konzert” of bizarre violin and orchestral passages that recall just how effectively Kubrick used the composer to approximate “2001’s” mind-bending journey to an alien’s Victorian bedroom. That Lathimos judiciously uses these abstract works often in short, jarring excerpts, only adds to “Deer’s” thoroughly unpleasant, skin-crawling effectiveness. But when experienced as a whole on this album, the effect is a full-on plunge into madness that somehow rewards those willing to take the trip By the time the movie ends with an excerpt from Bach’s St. John Passion, one can imagine a listener gasping for this sort of purely gorgeous melody like a fish gasping for air. That we get a “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”-esque piece from Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles,” or the teen radio like ballad of Ellie Goulding’s “How Long Will I Love You” might just be Lathimos’ most twisted music here on this transfixing endurance test of an album.


As an entirely unique alt. composer whose scores’ charms often come from sounding like a one-man band subway busker, Jon Brion’s unhinged work has perfectly suited any number of the odd ducks in “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Step Brothers” and “Wilson.” It’s a raw, eccentric vibe that’s perfect to capture the too-smart-for-Catholic school charisma of “Lady Bird,” indie darling Greta Gerwig’s winning transition from actress to filmmaker. Where alt. guitar is the with-it sound of teen scoring, leave it to Brion’s unplugged, hangdog approach to use this increasingly conformist instrument as a big, whimsical finger towards the establishment, as flipped by a young woman who just can’t wait to fly outta Sacramento to The Big City. While Gerwig’s stand-in might also have her cinematic roots with horn-rimmed Enid in “Ghost World,” the self-named Lady Bird is a friendlier, far more likable heroine even in her desire to spread her wings. Her appeal gives Brion’s sound extra whimsy, with his unplugged acoustical approach often flying downwards with an attitude. His strumming themes can have the glee of stealing an assignment book, or possess the melancholy of a strained daughter-mother relationship. A reverberating piano also brings the score a tenderness that Lady Bird herself might be loath to admit in this lovely, intimate portrait of a musical coming of age from a composer whose characters often thumb their noses at society while secretly wishing to have their own slice of normalcy. That Brion encompasses them all with an instantly composed-from-scratch feel is the triumph of his miraculous eccentricity with “Lady Bird.”


While the electronic light has rightfully shown on the fearful directing / scoring talents of John Carpenter, the unsung, hopefully not one-shot orchestral crown for genre double-duty just might go to Frank LaLoggia. His first 1981 movie “Fear No Evil” conjured high school satanic panic with his impressive “Omen”-esque synth riffs (hunt down the Percepto soundtrack on Ebay), But LaLoggia’s true cult masterwork would 1987’s “The Lady in White,” for which he’d compose an ghost story score that was old fashioned in the best ways. A movie that both traumatized and fascinated a borning generation of horror fans back in the endless rerun cable days, LaLoggia’s homespun, and seemingly autobiographical tale mixed youthful innocence with terrifying adult threat. A post-“Witness” Lukas Haas was the boy who at first fears, than befriends a girl’s spirit whose murder puts him in present day danger. Evoking the layered richness and emotion of a Stephen King tale, LaLoggia brought a similarly nostalgic monster on the loose feeling, along with poignant emotion to his richly thematic score, transforming haunting voices into blissful, touching innocence. It’s the lyrical spirit of two best friends separated by life and death that’s this “Lady’s spooky magic, which doesn’t hold back on its menace and sorrow as symphonic thrills come to wreak terrifying havoc on a beautiful friendship (as well as race relations). LaLoggia is quite fearless in his approach, varying from cartoonish comedy (at one time bringing in hosanna for some unhappy nuns), to the throttling brass of strangulation. “The Lady in White” is a film and score that knows the kids watching it can handle the scares, especially when given the inherently warm emotion of family bonds that triumph in a waltzing swell of a heavenly, and earthly reunion. Intrada does a terrific job of resurrecting LaLoggia’s thrilling soundtrack, though I wish they’d been able to include the classic 40’s song “Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking,” which plays an integral part in the plot. But what the soundtrack does offer on a second CD is the now Italy-located filmmaker’s delightful score for “Frankie Goes to Tuscany.” With a positively Fellini-esque synth spirit, LaLoggia evokes his travels with a rambunctious city symphony of sirens, operatic pastiches and nutty rock and roll that’s all about La Dolce Vita. Amid his joyful, wacky appreciations are calmer, new age-esque tunes and religiously-themed pieces that evoke the craziness and beauty of his adopted country, even as re-listen to his gloriously haunting “Lady in White” begs a return to Hollywood.


Given the sordid state of the presidential office today, it seems that even lefties are longing for the days when once-vilified presidents behaved with a measure of respect and admiration. The same might be said for big, unabashedly melodic scores that proudly weren’t afraid to give sympathetic emotion to even the most irascible characters. Now those wishes get paid off quite nicely as unapologetically democratic filmmaker Rob Reiner takes a look at “LBJ.” He’s given the kind of production value he hasn’t had in a while, all the better to fill this swear-filled White House with one of the bigger dramatic, and symphonic scores that his chief of musical staff Marc Shaiman has gotten to play in some time. Making his scoring debut for Reiner’s notable detour into Stephen King territory with “Misery,” Shaiman became best known for his rollicking comedic gifts with the likes of “First Wives Club,” “The Addams Family” and “Hairspray,” It’s remained through Reiner that Shaiman has gotten his most serious-minded scores with “A Few Good Men,” “Ghosts of Mississippi’ and of course “An American President.” While Michael Douglas’ chief executive might have seemed a model of decorum when compared to Woody Harrelson’s Lyndon Baines Johnson, Shaiman invests a similar, thematic spirit of history in the making to him, all while concentrating on the humanity of a misunderstood Texan who never imagined a Dallas assassination would propel him to the Oval office. While proud brass and military timpani get across the big picture of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement that made this President’s tenure no walk in the park, Shaiman’s gorgeous music reflects a soft spot for the more than plainspoken Johnson, his yearning melody showing a man trying to do good in the only cantankerous way he knew how. But then, Shaiman’s music has always been sentimental in the best way, making it a perfect match for Reiner’s humanistic approach. Shaiman’s certainly got all of the instrumental cover you’d expect in a presidential score, from military timpani to an elegiac horn and history-on-the-march percussion, all performed with a terrific, lush quality that’s always distinguished Shaiman’s distinctive voice. Here it’s a throwback to a time when even the most controversial president could be played with a mark of melodic decency.


Two game changing revolutionary icons of the political and literary worlds are joined by powerful, fist shaking scores by Russian composer Alexei Aigui, who rises to the challenge for their singular director Raoul Peck. It’s only fitting that on the 100th year of the Russian Revolution we get a movie about the system-shaking friendship between the idealistic Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, whose ideas for banding together mistreated laborers will grow beyond their reckoning for better and way worse. Hailing from the country that essentially created the notion of massive orchestral film scoring, it’s reasonable that Aigui would marshal a strong, symphonic voice for two heroes of the motherland. Yet while there’s an undeniable sense of importance with its drum-pounding moments and voices, “The Young Karl Marx” has a scope that’s more intimate than you’d expect for two young men risking all to take on the captains of industry. Aigui builds the political passions of his characters with determined, noble strings, as well as militaristic rhythm and crafty percussion. It’s the sound of revolutionaries steadily undermining capitalists, yet in a bold way that avoids musical propaganda. “Alexander Nevsky” this isn’t, though Prokofiev’s bold warrior spirit is certainly there in Aigui’s notable dramatic talent, no more so than when he nails the kind of striving, noble orchestra for that big, drum rolling rallying manifesto that might accompany any historical icon of a Hollywood movie. With “I Am Not Your Negro,” Aigui’s is given real life footage of black poet James Baldwin, whose manifestos are read by Samuel Jackson, Aigui starts by applying a similar, rhythmic passion that might make you think he’s beside Karl Marx. But that’s where this score’s similarity to Karl Marx ends, as Aigui goes for a jazz approach that’s just authentic for Baldwin’s upbringing and worldview. Channeling the spirits of such musical revolutionaries as Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker, Aigui’s “Negro” is a bitches’ brew of styles that beautifully captures the vibes of the civil rights era that Baldwin was awakening in his own radical way. That being said, the approach here ranges from smooth playing to shouts of brass rage. Aigui balances more traditionally, small-scale cues for strings and piano with an soulful inner city ambiance whose solo trumpet, drum kits and keyboard anger tell you that this is a noir score of sorts where the real criminal is The Man. A memorable documentary soundtrack that uses black jazz in the same way that live white musicians accompanied beat poets, I Am Not Your Negro” is alternately stirring and cool cat, marking Aigui as composer to watch in an era when the revolution is televised for Marx’s big win, and Baldwin’s sad loss.


From Madagascar to Kung Fu China, audiences the world over love sarcastic funny animals playing hero. Now France makes its contribution to cute, furry sass with “The Jungle Bunch” as an Avengers-worthy group that runs the food chain gamut does their loopy best to protect their land from an evil Koala. It’s one thing to know the universal musical language of these kid’s movies, but it’s another to play them at the kind of Hollywood level a la John Powell, Henry Jackman and Hans Zimmer. It’s a giant, rollicking leap that’s made effortlessly by composer Olivier Cussac, Having started in St. Nick’s workshop with “Spike” before moving onto “The Jungle Bunch’s” numerous appearances on French TV, Cussac certainly has gotten his animated animal scoring chops down for these characters’ two movies (available in America via iTunes). Music Box Records release of the first “Jungle Bunch” is a delightful collection of riffs that might make you think John Powell scored this gaggle of beasts. That’s because Cussac has nailed that composer’s ability to jump to different styles on instant notice, all while retaining an energetic, thematic cohesiveness. Getting a Hollywood-worthy performance from the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra definitely helps when it comes to delivering the goods, whether its 70s funk, bongo spy suspense, playful pizzicato antics, dastardly brass, a dire chorus or blazing rock and roll. Like any of the “Ice Age’ or “Kung Fu Panda” flicks, “The Jungle Bunch” delights with its constant twists and turns, giving them musical panache as opposed to stylistic sugar overdose ADD. There’s a real feeling of magic and love for these crazy beasts in Cussac’s approach, which takes on a majestic, western worthy feeling, whether it’s riding the range Jerome Moross style or giving it a blast of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western sauce. With “The Jungle Bunch,” Cussac conveys a universal, musical language of a satirical, good-hearted animal kingdom that swings with here with catchy energy.


As a member of director Joseph Kosinski’s band of musical brothers, Joseph Trapanese has abetted Daft Punk on the game grid of “Tron: Legacy” and M83 for “Oblivion’s” clone-conquered earth, creating hybrid worlds of booming orchestras and rhythmic electronics. Showing just how far he could stretch as a filmmaker, Kosinski has gotten back to earth with “Only the Brave.” His stirring tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots is made all the more imposing by offering no happy ending than survival itself for the one man devastated by the loss of his comrades in firefighting arms. It was only fitting that Trapanese would finally venture out with his first solo credit for Kosinski here, even as his own resume impressively grows with the likes of “Straight Outta Compton,” “Shimmer Lake” and “Wolf Warrior II.” But just because we know how this story will turn out doesn’t make the sacrifice any less powerful, especially given the decidedly meditative approach the composer takes. An almost mystical hand of fate is held over the score, given angelic female voices and a religious, organ-like sustain that leads us into an impactfully told film. Guitar also figures heavily in the score given “Brave’s” southwest setting, a land of tree-filled mountains and open ranges that’s cowboy country. Trapanese’s chords also capture the good ole’ boy, military hard-ass friendship of men facing off against a foe they both admire and fear, electric guitars chopping like helicopter rotor blades as they’re propelled from one battle to the next against alternately simmering and blazing music. At one point the percussion is Bruckheimer-action ready, and at other sounding off with wood-like hits for the felling of a Juniper tree. But a sad fate is inevitable throughout the score, a martyrdom achieved with an almost eerie, ethereal nature, though not without rhythmic suspense as A devastating wall of sound that rises to overcome the hotshots, the sustaining music building in layers with the hits of impending doom, until the volume cuts out with a ghostly chorus of realization. It’s devastating, yet not melodramatic given Trapanese’s alternative approach. That “Only the Brave” tenderly ends on the guitars that resonate through the score says much about true American heroes without the attendant musical flag-waving we might get, a testament to the hotshots that’s all the more moving for transcendent subtlety. “Only the Brave” is a powerfully thematic score that feels as much of the heartland as it does a primal force bent on destroying it.

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

On Friday December 1st at UCLA’s Royce Hall, join such composers as Thomas Newman, John Debney and Robert Folk as they bring Drew Struzan’s poster art to musical life with the Golden State Pops Orchestra. Get your tickets HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Graham Reynolds

Vr, 03/11/2017 - 01:28

Of their five films as composer and director, fellow Austin-ites Graham Reynolds and Richard Linklater have journeyed together through any number of genres, among them the romantic drama of “Before Midnight,” “A Scanner Darkly’s” cerebral sci-fi, “Bernie’s” quirkily grave comedy and a girl’s globe-trotting search for her mother in the forthcoming “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” What unites each moviemaking venture beyond these collaborators’ mutual, alt. music-friendly home is how they’ve shined a distinctive light on relationships with all of the eccentricity, marital burn-out and head trippiness they might entail.

Perhaps no distinctive film from Reynolds and Linklater might be as relatable to an audience of a certain political, or moviegoing age in our polarized nation as “Last Flag Flying.” It’s been 44 years since we meet the hellraising trio of Buddusky (Jack Nicholson), Mulhall (Otis Young) and Meadows (Randy Quaid), two Navy MP’s and the prisoner they escorted to the slammer, but not before giving him a blow out sex and booze time before hitting the brig. As directed by Hal Ashby from Darryl Ponsican’s novel, the Oscar-nominated film stands as a counter-culture classic about men equally trapped by and rebelling against the military system. Now reunited by the same author, but under the different names of Sal (Bryan Cranston), Reverend Richard (Laurence Fisburne) and Larry, these grumpy old salts give the finger to military decorum in service to Larry’s son, a casualty of Iraq. Shanghaiing his casket from the forces’ preferred internment place at Arlington Cemetery, the trio becomes a personal escort to take the slain youth for his final rest in Larry’s New Hampshire hometown.

Along the incident-filled way to Larry’s old digs, comedic bickering and heartfelt emotion ensue, fueled by a distinctively thematic score that’s also the closest to musical home for Reynolds. With movie composing one of his many gigs, Reynolds is even more frequently on the stage with The Golden Arm Trio, The Golden Hornet Project (a composer laboratory for the 21st century) and any number of theater and dance works (including a new opera about Mexican neighbor Pancho Villa), “Last Flag Flying” is Reynolds’ heartfelt salute to the kind of 70’s guitar and organ grooves that these men listened to, and likely haven’t stopped to since their first politically incorrect misadventure. Here Reynolds gives that melodic style humor, energy understandable melancholy, as joined by piano and atmospheric synths to remind the men of the sad, honorable purpose of their venture, a musical destination also abetted by military timpani.

Through its understated journey, you can feel how “Last Flag Flying” comes from Reynolds’ heart, yielding his most memorable theme yet that singularly drives the score for these codgers who aren’t going to go gently into the night. Particularly striking about Reynolds’ old-school rock waving is just how well it captures the spirit of Tom Petty in its southern rock instrumentation – a rock god’s passing that now gives extra, moving resonance to Reynolds’ score for another perceptive road trip into the human condition by Linklater, their tank never running dry.

As “Last Flag Flying” is the sequel to “The Last Detail,” did you go back and watch the original film before starting this one?

Yeah. I read both of Darryl Ponsican’s books, and watched Hal Ashby’s film. I just wanted to be informed by them. There’s also just a touch of a nod to Johnny Mandel’s score as well, which had a lot of military-style drums and horns. The main three characters have different names in “Last Flag Flying” than they did in “The Last Detail,” so this film wasn’t meant to be a direct sequel. But at the same time you can see the connections.

How do you think these men have changed since “The Last Detail?”

The most overt change is in Laurence Fishburne’s character of Richard Mueller, who’s now a reverend. They were mischief causing bad boys in the first film, but now he’s turned his life around in a deep way. Sal and Larry are deeply attached to their pasts, and are continuing from where we left them in the first film. So it’s them meeting in the middle – the two that are more dedicated to their past find a way to move forward into the future, and Richard finds a way to reconnect with his previous self. That gave a couple of different palates to the score. One is meant to reference the songs that these guys would like and agree on – music that’s guitar and drum based. It’s super Tom Petty influenced. I was also listening to a lot of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and The Band. Then we end up moving up a little later to listening to Bruce Springsteen and most importantly Tom Petty.

How did your relationship with Richard work on this film? Or is it a shorthand thing by this point where you just go off, do your thing and come back with a score?

Richard Linklater

Each film we’ve done is different. Some are easier, and some are harder. For “Last Flag Flying,” we talked about a more intimate score at first that would use acoustic guitars. But that wasn’t really quite working, so we needed to adjust. I didn’t know if we’d be starting again with new material or developing what we had. It ended up being that, and adding more layers to it. When my scoring schedule works out, I try to start each morning in my studio by listening to a track to be inspired by for the rest of the day. So one morning on “Last Flag Flying” Richard and I listened to a Tom Petty song, and it was like “That’s what we need to do to these tracks.” So we took sketches that were more acoustic guitar-based, and then we layered on bass, drums, the organ and other elements that made the music a full band thing. It transformed the score and made it much more relatable to these characters, and just fit the world more effectively.

All of Richard’s movies are about relationships. How do you think “Last Flag Flying” carries on that thematic thread?

It’s a buddy movie of sorts, as they haven’t seen each other for decades. So it’s about the complexity of these deeply bonded relationships that have grown far apart, and where they go when you reunite. That’s the central thread of this movie.

There’s essentially one theme in “Last Flag Standing.” Why not create three separate ones for the characters?

As distinct as the three characters are, the core of the movie is their bond. So that theme represents that bond. It never felt like “Ok Bryan Cranston’s on the screen, so we need the high-energy music! Now Steve Carell’s on the screen, so let’s have something quiet and shyer. Or now Laurence is on the screen. He’s a preacher, so let’s have religious music!” The score’s about their singular relationship, so that’s where the music went.

Yet it also reflects their distinct personalities within the one theme.

Sure. You take that musical core and adapt it to the different scenes. If it’s a higher energy thing, like when they set off on their adventure, then the music goes with them. But what’s changed is that the more intimate, delicate music that plays with them in a way that I don’t think you would’ve heard back when they were young.

There have been mournful movies made about escorting the war dead, like “Taking Chance” and “The Messenger” Yet these aren’t exactly inward characters like those movies had. How important was it for your score to create that sense of playful ribbing between these guys, as opposed to music that would have been just solemn and potentially depressing?

It’s important, because all three actors are amazing, and they’re also very funny. Even though the movie’s dealing with a tragic subject, you need permission to enjoy them and be able to laugh at the film without disrespecting its tragic elements. So it was trying to find that right balance of levity combined with the seriousness that was also needed.

How did you also want to play the emotion in a stripped down way that defines Richard’s subtle style?

Dealing with how much emotional information that the music needed to carry here was also a big question about this score. We had some delicate music under dialogue in a way that we often don’t have when we work together. So we stepped very lightly and didn’t hit things too hard. That gave us a little bit of support for what was happening without the music screaming “You must be sad now!” or “You must be happy now!”

Do you know any military families who’ve lost someone overseas?

No one comes to mind, but my dad was in the military during Vietnam, though he was stationed in Germany. He’s the demographic that these characters are from. So when I’m wondering “Will the guys like this music?” I’m also thinking, “Will my dad like this music?”

Is there anything you notice about guys from that generation?

I think the war of course lingers more for people who were in Vietnam. But being in the army was a huge deal for my dad, even if he didn’t go there.

How do you think your score fits the “road trip” aspect of “Last Flag Flying?”

When you go on a road trip, music sounds and feels different. Once you get on a highway, you experience this freedom where there’s a lot of driving music, a lot country and rock music. It’s not super fast, or super slow, but steady as she goes. That makes it a real pleasure to sit inside of while your car. And then when you’re driving at night you just hear that music is so much more detail. Being in your car is just a different kind of listening. So for their driving in “Last Flag Flying,” we tried to have music that sat in that “feel good” place, that feeling of being on a road trip.

There are some cool, dreamy sampled atmospheres to the score as well.

Yeah. That’s a totally different palate from the Tom Petty-influenced thing. It’s delicate for the dialogue to sit on top of. Sometimes it’s tricky to have two different palates like that in a movie, but I tried to loosely tie them musically and thematically a bit.

“Last Flag Flying” is a relatively brief, but impactful score. Do you think movies in general need a lot of score?

I think Richard’s movies play well with no music. There’s so much about character, dialogue, relationships and conversations in them, so I need to step lightly to help frame and support Richard’s vision without getting in the way of what his films are already doing. “A Scanner Darkly” had a lot of music and “Bernie” had a fair amount of music. So when there’s a heightened element, like the animation for “Scanner” or the comedy for “Bernie,” then I think his films can work with more music. But in movies like “Before Midnight” and “Last Flag Flying,” I don’t want to overstep. It’s a delicate touch kind of thing.

Tell me about your opera about Pancho Villa that you’ve been performing?

It came from a commission out of West Texas, which I was doing a musical portrait of. It’s a huge part of the United States, but super sparsely populated. The first piece was a country and western big band piece. The second drove the audience out to the middle of the desert to hear a live score from sunset to moonrise. The director and I wanted an operatic figure from West Texas, for the third, and we and ended up in a hotel in El Paso where it turned out Pancho Villa had lived in during the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. He immediately became the obvious, most operatic figure we’d found in West Texas, and we latched onto that for “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance.”

As an Austin resident, do you think there’s a “Texas” thing that goes through most of what you do?

Yeah. I think Texas is such a distinct place. And even in Austin, which is culturally different from the rest of the state, there’s still a huge stamp of Texas on it. For “Pancho Villa,” I dove into country influences quite a bit, but hesitated to dive too much into Tejano or Mexican-American influences for fear of cultural appropriation. Yet I live four hours from Mexico. You drive straight and you’re there. The Tejano population is obviously a huge part of the state. So I finally decided to artistically engage and start that musical dialogue. We ended up with a lot of Mexican and Mexican-American artists who collaborated on the opera. It’s been an exciting world to explore and I’m glad I finally started to engage in that conversation.

As intimate as your collaborations with Richard mostly are, would you ever want to venture together into a Hollywood blockbuster like a “Transformers” movie?

I think it’d be super fun. I’d love to see what Richard would do with a big blockbuster summer kind of movie. He dove a little into that with “School of Rock” and “Bad News Bears.” So he’s got his personal films, and then he’s got his studio pictures. I’d love to see a “Transformers movie by Richard Linklater. It’s a pretty fun thought!

Do you think there’s a direct relation between Richard Linklater and Hal Ashby in terms of their filmmaking styles?

I love both of their work. I would’ve necessarily drawn the line between Richard and Hal’s movies like “Shampoo” and “Being There.” without working on this project. But now I see that line, it made it even more exciting to score a movie that touched on both of their voices.

The Last Detail director Hal Ashby

“Last Flag Flying” is the oldest-skewing film that Richard has made. How do you think it’s going to appeal to his hip, indie crowd, as well as fans of “The Last Detail” who’d want to see these characters’ continuing adventures?

I’m really curious to see how “Last Flag Flying” is received. It has a huge potential to speak to a wide range of people because Richard’s a very sophisticated director. He doesn’t answer the questions for you. These are all working class military guys who are positively portrayed. At the same time they’re often questioning the military, especially its leadership. So “Last Flag Flying” is both patriotic and pro-military, but also questioning the army. Given the polarized state this country is in, this has the potential to be appreciated by both sides of the political spectrum. And I’m curious to see if that will be the case.

“Last Flag Flying” opens on November 3rd, with Graham Reynolds’ score available on Amazon Music HERE

Find out about a performance of “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance” HERE

Get intimate with “Before Midnight” HERE, listen to the comically murderous twang of “Bernie” HERE and enter the psychedelic animated grooves of “A Scanner Darkly” HERE

Visit Graham Reynolds’ website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Carter Burwell

Do, 26/10/2017 - 18:43

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

With over 90 scores, Carter Burwell has amassed a singular voice from a wildly diverse body of work. One might say his melodically lush, often orchestral soundtracks are joined by a sense of irony and wistfulness, no matter if he’s playing inside of John Malkovich’s head, gloriously riding a gritty old west or haunting a woeful Hollywood director. From his career-defining start with the Coen Brothers on 1984’s “Blood Simple,” Burwell’s music’s has prolifically pushed the emotional possibilities of the art, no more so now than with three films centered on the theme of children.

Most recently put up is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which marks Burwell’s reteaming with Martin McDonagh, a filmmaker well matched to Burwell’s enthusiastic sense of violent, criminal absurdity with “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths.” McDonagh’s brutal humor and in-your-face characters are displayed all over these “Billboards,” abetted by Burwell’s galloping Spaghetti Western sound. Yet McDonagh brings a new sense of empathy to his trademarks, giving Burwell the opportunity for the rural-flavored emotion of a no-nonsense mother out to tell the local cops to solve the murder of her daughter in a particularly brash way.

Another longtime collaboration with an adult-skewing director yields far more innocent and magical results as Burwell scores the first child-friendly film by Todd Haynes (“Mildred Pierce,” “Carol”) with “Wonderstruck.” An especially memorable theme links two deaf children through two different time periods as they venture through New York City, circa a silent black and white 1927 and a colorful 1977 – joining them with a true sense of melodic wonder that speaks for the music of imagination and exploration, especially when sound itself can’t be heard.

Burwell brings a darker, thematic subtext to a children’s fairy tale that’s always seemed to be full of gentle whimsy in “Goodbye Christopher Robin.” Simon Curtis (“Marilyn and Me”) reveals the true story of how a shell-shocked WWI veteran named A.A. Milne turned his son’s private world of play into the worldwide phenomenon of Winnie the Pooh, success that made the real-life friend to a stuffed bear anything but happy. Burwell’s ultimately impactful score conjures the verdant enchantment of the English countryside where stuffed animal friends live, only to gradually capture the dramatic strain on an unthinking author’s family bonds – lost innocence that gives an sharp musical edge to a children’s classic we only thought we knew.

Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Carter Burwell talks about a distinctly powerful trio of scores, as united by a composer’s always-keen sense of drama and exploration about how youthful past catch up to the present for worse, and better.

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Buy the Soundtrack: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Buy the Soundtrack: WONDERSTRUCK Buy the Soundtrack: GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN Visit Carter Burwell’s website
Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Rob

Do, 19/10/2017 - 21:24

In a wave of retro-horror scoring that’s sweeping film and television the world over, few composers are as diverse in channeling the golden synth age of Goblin, John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream with a stylistic voice far beyond them than France’s Rob (aka Robin Coudert). Starting off in his country’s alt. rock scene with such instrumental albums as “Don’t Kill” and “Satyred Love” while also playing in the band Phoenix, Rob made his scoring debut with the short “Pink Cowboy Boots,” directed by wife-to-be Maria Larrea. Rob’s striking synth voice truly made its bloody splash with director Franck Khalfoun’s slick POV reboot of the grindhouse slash film “Maniac” in 2012. But far from remaining an acolyte of sinisterly pulsing keyboards, Rob expanded into the realm of revenge caught between heaven and hell with the American-set “Horns,” dealt with the cold evil of Islamist terror with “Made in France,” and created the symphonically mesmerizing sound for Natalie Portman’s starstruck ghost talker in “Planetarium.”

Now in another, twisted move from France, Rob takes up residence in a house that’s internationally known as a place to get out of as Dimension’s long-delayed remodel of “The Amityville Horror” has finally, and officially landed on the net and dvd. Once again pairing Rob with Kahlfoun, this latest unwise residency finds Jennifer Jason Leigh’s single mom moving her comatose son to the Long Island neighborhood for medical care, where he awakens with a severe case of “Patrick” possession – mute, but communicating terrifying visions of flies, ghastly rashes, mayhem and ultimately murder as the house once again tries to convince a young man to kill.

Yet what’s unexpected is Coudert’s approach. Though again drawing on his love of old school 70’s and 80’s horror scoring for his score’s foundation, Rob conjures another haunting and vital score that doesn’t go for the musical scares you’d expect. Instead through the use of female voices, undulating rhythm and bizarre samples, Rob’s stay has the mesmerizing, melodically otherworld power of a waking nightmare one can’t break out of. It’s a hypnotic approach that shows the continued creativity emanating from Rob, whose own scoring back home continues to range from wacked-out drug smuggling suspense to an epic, symphonic apocalypse in a career that suffuses whatever genre it touches with the unexpected.

Tell me about your initial explorations into music, and what part film scores played in them?

I started to play the trumpet when i was 8, but I soon faced some lung issues that made me quit and move on to the keyboards. I had the chance to possess an AtariST with MIDI plugs, so when I was 10, I discovered the pleasure to observe the relationship between computers and musical instruments. I was tripping for hours by playing some Bach midi files with synths sounds, or to play them slower or reversed. My passion for music started with an electronic approach.

As a kid i also watched tons of cartoons and shows on TV. French networks were filled with Japanese programs during the 80’s, and the scores were beautifully made by a guy called Shuki Levy, mainly on synthesizers. “Les Cites d’or” and “Ulysse 31″ are still a huge inspiration, Those scores were adventurous, cosmic and mystical, which was exactly the kind of music I loved. I should also mention the TV show “Chapi-Chapo,” a program for pre-school kids, scored by the great French composer Francois de Roubaix, who was an electric pioneer. I think this show traumatized everyone in my generation !

How did the name “Rob” come about?

It’s taken from my full name, which is Robin Benoit Cecil Norman Coudert.

You started out working on instrumental albums, and with the band Phoenix, before transitioning to film scoring. What gave you the impetus to move into that arena?

My music’s always been cinematic, I’ve always tried to create music that makes you experience a journey that brings pictures and strong feelings to your mind. I’m not really interested in composing for the dance floors, nor for the radios.I first wanted to be a painter, and i did some fine arts studies in Paris, which might have influenced my work as well. I married a director, and my first score was actually for her first movie “Pink Cowboy Boots.”. She was studying in a Parisian cinema school, where I also met Rebecca Zlotowski, Teddy Modeste etc… I’ve been quickly surrounded by directors, and they simply asked me for music, so my way towards cinema was very natural, and was probably meant to be.

Your international breakthrough was with 2012’s “Maniac” for director Franck Khalfoun. What inspired a retro horror synth approach to it?

Alex Aja had seen Zlotowski’s “Belle Epine” and he loved it. This movie takes place in the 80’s so the score was already kind of Tangerine Dream, or Suicide sounding. It’s the sound i dig anyway, but Alex had the intuition this would fit the aesthetic of “Maniac.” But more than this, what was important to me was to sound very emotional, in order to embrace the feelings of the murderer instead of the victims. And this is how i like the synths the most, when they get very sad, melodic and emotional. The fact that they sound 80’s brings a lot of nostalgia, that comes with the melancholy, that i was looking for – something related to childhood, and primal emotions. Giorgio Moroder is a great inspiration for this in the way he uses synths and melodies, especially in “The Neverending Story.”» They’re so sad and truly beautiful.

You’d soon be able to show an orchestral side to your work. How difficult was it for you to write for one?

Working for an orchestra has always been a fantasy. I’m a huge fan of French arrangers from the 70’s like JC Vannier (who did beautiful arrangements for Serge Gainsbourg and Melody Nelson), Michel Colombier and Georges Delerue.I started experimenting while working on my first album “Don’t Kill,” but working with modern computers has brought me to the next level.It is quite easy now to compose for a symphonic orchestra using some samplers and sequencers, and even though I’m self-taught in that matter, I start to understand how it works. I go to the classical concerts as soon as I see one interesting, and I also work with a great assistant/arranger, Moritz Reich, who helps me translate my demos into proper scores. I feel that my electronic and rock background is real plus, because it pushes me towards unexpected orchestral fields. My unexperienced naive vision forces me to sound original. And anyway, a 50- piece orchestra is an instrument among others, with a larger manual, But after a few sessions, step by step, you get to know it better. It’s like a ultra large new synth.

Your next genre release for “Horns” showed a very different side to your horror scoring with its mix of spiritual emotion and hellbent revenge. What was this opportunity like for you, as well as the chance to work with “Maniac” producer Alexandre Aja on an American horror movie?

I have a lot in common with Alex, and especially a romantic, almost naive and childish vison of human feelings. We like to cry at movies. So again, Alex wanted me to sound very emotional. Then the movie is also about faith, and the relationship between inner good and evil. So this was a great occasion to sound spiritual, almost religious and elegiac. I really loved the twisted mood in “Horns.” It reminded me of David Lynch’s features, where everything seems normal, but nothing is actually, with a dark humor omnipresent. This was also a great chalenge because this was my very first experience working for an American studio, with screenings etc…I learned a lot then because it is very different from the French way, where the director is the person who decides in the end. The industrial aspect of the cinema wasn’t that obvious to me before. I much admire Alex Aja to manage to keep his movies that much original and personal working with studios.

What are some of your favorite horror scores?

I think “Rosemary’s Baby” is one of my favorite movies ever, and Krzystof Komeda’s score for it is sublime. I think the contrast between the tenderness, the emotional melodies, and the satanic moods work amazingly. I love the use of the choirs and the vocals in general. The idea of having Mia Farrow singing the main title is pure genius and make me fall instantly for her.I am an enormous fan of Komeda and Polanski’s American career. “The Fearless Vampire Killers” remains my #1 movie AND score. I love the jazzy input mixed with harpsichord and satanic choirs, it is so cool! I love how evil is designed here to be hilarious and terrifying. DePalma’s “Carrie” is also one of my favorites. Once again, the balance of fear and tenderness, the psychotic and the sweetness, makes it really unique. And Pino Donaggio is a true master to me. « Carrie’s « score is a masterpiece, in every aspect.

Were you aware of the “Amityville Horror” legend, and films before you took on the remake? And did you believe in the actual haunting?

I don’t believe I’ve seen any of the Amityville movies, though i knew about it of course, as it is legendary, even in Europe! I think the concept of haunted places is part of the American culture, probably related to the history and birth of the nation, the “Poltergeist” case of the Indian cemetery, the voodoo vibes in New Orleans or Key West, or even the « Ghostbusters » scenarios. Ghosts are part of the American mystic. My family owns a house in the French countryside, in a swamp area. It was built in the 16th century. During the war between Catholics and Protestants, a pastor had to hide in the house and his kids got killed in the underground tunnel under the house that was meant to let them escape. He buried them in there. I have to say that knowing this story makes the sleeps there a bit agitated. But It’s always better to believe in instead of not believe, there’s a benefit for sure when you’re living in a world where there are ghosts, it makes it more thrilling.

Given the explosion of retro genre scoring in projects like “It Follows” and “Stranger Things” after “Maniac,” how much of a “throwback” score did you want to make “Amityville?”

I didn’t intentionally make a retro score for “Amityville.” It wouldn’t have made any sense! Plus, I worked on “Amityville” in 2015, so there’s no link at all with the retro thing in scoring it. But, the sounds of John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder are really part of my DNA. It is pretty obvious for anyone visiting my studio in Paris that I’m into synthesizers, and i love to use them whenever I can. They’ve been very helpful on “The Amityville Horror.”

What’s the difficulty in playing evil that’s essentially inanimate – from a possessed structure to the comatose man it’s possessing?

In “Amityville,” evil is in almost every shot. Whenever you see the house, you should feel an evil presence. The house is the main character in a way, and it gives its tone to the movie. So I tried to design a general mood or tone that would bathe the whole movie. You want to feel the house breathing without even noticing it, to make it alive and powerful.

There’s an effective sound design quality to the “Amityville” score, with one sample even sounding like the Martian death ray from the original “War of the Worlds.” How did you want to create a flow between effects and melody?

The movie uses some traditional effects, like “jump scares” for instance. They’re very classical, yet effective, and i tried to emphasize their power as much as i could. I love when music jumps out of the picture, when it becomes almost too loud and annoying, and i felt this was great on Frank Kahlfoun’s pictures. Also, as I said, i’ve tried to create a sound that would be almost present during the whole movie, like a mud bathing the whole thing, in order to create a permanent, subtle discomfort. I believe it’s a great thing to approach the music with, keeping in mind it has a to be also a physical experience, and to work on the textures and melodies all along. That’s why it’s very important to me to produce the music myself, to be able to control precisely the sound and create my own original sounds.

Your main theme has an interesting, “chopped” effect in its rhythm. How did you accomplish that?

This is a typical producing trick i like. It’s a synth sound that goes through a noise gate, synchronized with the tempo of the song. It’s simple, but nicely violent. I’ve heard that the « chopped effect » has a very strong impact on the brain, that’s why it’s often used in the trailer As a sound design effect. I chose to use it on the theme.

Where more visceral scoring a la “The Conjuring” goes for outright fright, your approach to “Amityville” is more dream-like than dissonant. How did you arrive at this approach?

It’s a bit too easy to be dissonant to express fear or discomfort. I’ve tried to reach the same feeling with melancholy and sadness in the chords, to use what’s good in the characters and situations to contrast with the sordid out of it – to hear a beautiful and emotional melody while watching a disgusting or uncomfortable situation is very powerful to me. It really makes me feel bad, and I love that mind twisting effect. Also, this movie is much about brotherly love, and faith, so it had to be nice sometimes. There are a lot of dream hallucinations in the movie, and the feelings are always a bit mixed in a dream, with good and bad frontiers that are blurry. This is a very interesting thing to explore.

How important in a film like this is it to set up a creepily placid atmosphere before the real horror gets unleashed?

It’s all about creating the right state of mind to allow the audience to let their feelings go, to abandon themselves in a way, so that any emotion will be emphasized. It’s like musical hypnosis that puts the audience is in a trance state, and then slashes them up with a huge sound effect. That’s quite amusing, because it’s what you expect when you go to see a horror movie. It’s like a roller coaster, highly sensational.

Tell us about the use of female vocals in the score. Would you say they give the music a religious quality?

I didn’t mean it that way, but that’s interesting point of view. To me, using voices was more the reflection of the innocence, the inner voice of the main character and her purity. So considering this, the voices have something religious about them, because it’s good against evil, something like sort of an angel, maybe? But really, I just thought it was nice to hear some pure female vocals, where I could have otherwise used the flute.

With this “Amityville” being produced by many of the people behind the Blumhouse brand, do you think there’s a “formula” as it were in terms of genre filmmaking, and what they want their scores to accomplish?

I was hired by Frank Kahlfoun directly, as we did « Maniac » together. So he was my only contact during the whole process, We did it in a very short schedule, so I didn’t really had time to realize what I was doing. But retrospectively, I think there’s both good and bad things in every formula. Good is that you know what works, what’s efficient, and you go straight for this. You should always try to invent within the formula, to be original, to never repeat things. I had the feeling that Frank had to fight to save his genuine idea of the movie. And i’m glad he succeeded in keeping the score in its original form. But again, cinema is an industry.

Photo by Charlotte Ortholary /

When you do a film like this, is your goal to scare yourself?

My goal is to explore new directions, and to serve the purpose of the movie. So in that case, it had to be scary, but I wanted it to be moving, to make the scary parts even darker. But it’s true that it is very intense to work on a movie like this, especially when you have a tight schedule, because you literally live with it for a few weeks, and you reach some weird states of mind. It happened to me, to stay up late at night, alone in the studio. I experienced some really scary hours then. But I took that as a sign of good work!

Now having come out of two remakes of cult genre films with Franck, what do you think makes the re-imagining of these stories work, especially when it comes to their music?

I think it’s important not to consider the remake as a tribute, but more to consider the original as a mythology that you can interpret your own way. It’s not even trying to modernize it, but rather doing another reading of the story. To me mythology’s important because it contains the essence of our culture, and “Maniac” or “Amityville” could pretend to contain some roots thoughts about fears, neurosis and family. It’s nice to think this movies have a meaning, at least it helps me find inspiration. But for sure, I didn’t take Lalo Schifrin’s original as a source of inspiration for my music. I tried to create some real new vision of the story, along with Frank’s work.

It’s rare that horror films of this sort have an end song, especially one as cool as “True Love” with Chloe. Could you talk about writing it, and how you wanted it to match with the score that’d come before it?

Photo by Charlotte Ortholary /

I like the idea of placing this type of movie in the pop culture. And what’s better than a pop song to aim for it? I did work with Chloe Alper for the ending song in “Maniac” already, and I loved the effect of achieving this hard journey with a sour candy feeling, a pop song that’s sad and sweet. We worked on it in the very beginning of the process, so we knew from the start how it would end, and it sort of showed us the way. Chloe is amazing, i just need to send her the instrumental and a short brief about the mood of the movie and she does everything else by herself. She writes, sings and sends back the vocals, it’s as easy as this. To be able to compose songs for cinema is a great way for me to continue to express my love for pop music along with a great cinema tradition of an end title song. The two songs composed by Pino Donaggio for « Carrie » are classics to e, and that’s the kind of detail that I adore in a score.

You have an equally impressive talent for unusual, dramatic scores, some of which of are out on France’s Music Box label. A particularly stark soundtrack is for “Made in France,” which is about homegrown terrorism. Does it make it far more emotional to score a film like this having been in a city that’s been repeatedly attacked by Isis?

We worked on this movie before the wave of terrorism we just had in Paris. So it was rather a very scary prophetic thing. It’s been a big question to know if it was right or not to release this movie in theaters. The mood in France after the Charlie Hebdo attack was very tense and emotional, and though the movie is very clever and tries to ask the right questions, there was a real ethical question of releasing it in that context. We didn’t want to take any profit out of this nightmare.It was very interesting to find the right tone to score this story, and the idea of telling the story from those lost guys’ point of view was very challenging and made the film very strong. It allowed me to compose a genre score whose subject is very serious. The music makes these men even more pathetic.

Some of your most unusual and striking work is heard in “Planetarium,” which collects your work for director Rebecca Zlotowski, with a range that goes from “Maniac”-like retro grooves for “Belle Epine” to intimate ethnic music in “Grand Central” and then the symphonically lush and magical approach to a period film about cinema-obsessed mediums with Natalie Portman. Could you tell us about that collaboration and the creative avenues it’s given you?

Rebecca Zlotowski is the first director to have asked me to score a long feature. We started 10 years ago with “Belle Epine,” and we’ve been working together ever since then. It feels like our careers have grown up together. It is a very nice feeling to share that level of artistic intimacy with a director. It’s like we understand things along with someone who’s the same age. That’s a very precious collaboration to me. She is a very demanding person, and one of the most brillant I know. Her brain is very powerful machine, and I feel she needs my more intuitive way of working. Rebecca really uses my sensitive inspiration along with her rather intellectual approach, which is why we complement each other so well. We have tried to re-invent the nature of our work on every movie together, so these three sound very different, as you mentioned. I learned a lot working for her.

With “Seuls,” you’ve composed your first score for the “YA” sci-fi genre with an emotional, epic “fusion” score for orchestra and electronics. What was it like to approach the genre here given kids in a seemingly depopulated Paris?

This movie was very ambitious. I don’t think i’ve ever seen any French movie of this kind. The atmosphere is very unique because it is a genre movie, sort of a film noir, quite dark and pessimistic but for kids! Then it is quite violent, epic and wild. It had to be scored with these strange and specific directions so I decided to use a bigger orchestra and some synths all together that allowed the music to be huge, violent, experimental and modern. I’ve worked quite a lot on this one to make the score sound massive, which was a great challenge.

With your recent score for the drug smuggling comedy-thriller “Gangsterdam,” you have an obviously great time mashing together the sound of orchestral suspense, Tangerine Dream, club music and “The Third Man.” Do you look towards opportunities where you get to be musically all over the place like that?

My love and interest for music has no boundary. Any type of music can reveal its treasure, and I’m always in demand for new fields of expression.
It’s true that I had fun scoring « Gangsterdam, » even though comedy remains the hardest type to score. But the director really trusted me and let me go for it! So I mashed up different styles, thinking it would be fun to create such a colorful soundtrack. Plus it was a fantasy to do a “Trouble Man”-like score, with funky grooves, orchestras and mini Moog solos. That could all sound very random so the challenge here was to stay coherent and to bring a strong artistic direction to the movie. But it’s not an exercise that I especially look for, though i really like to explore new directions like « Gangsterdam » whenever I can.

Do you think scoring is now meant for artists who can stylistically move between the alt. music, rock and film worlds?

I think the cinema industry has always been looking for original profiles to work with, depending on the project. That is why Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh or Francois de Roubaix appeared, from other circles, and opened up the width of cinema scores. Even if you think of Quincy Jones, who would be considered as kind of classical composer, he’s a jazzman, and produced songs for Michael Jackson, so… That is why i like scoring so much, because it’s all about music, any kind actually, as long as it serves its master, which is the movie itself.

What’s up ahead for you, especially when it comes to getting your name out their for American projects?

I just finished the third season of “The Bureau” that is out in the US too, and I just started another TV show for Netflix called “Troy,” which is about the Greek mythology. Next month also start my new collaboration with Alex Aja, it’s VR project called “The Campfire Creepers,” which is horrific obviously. And I’m on tour with my teenage friends Phoenix. We’ll be playing in New York and at the Hollywood Bowl. So it’s been pretty busy times for me !

At what point do you think you’d move out of a house like “The Amityville Horror’s?” Or would you stay for the musical inspiration?

I believe i would never have moved in, because me and my wife are very sensitive to the vibes that come out of a place, so we would have instantly felt bad. I remember, i puked once staying in an old French house that I found out later that was a Nazi headquarters during WW2. So just trust your instinct !

Watch “Amityville the Awakening” in the comfort of your home on Googleplay HERE, or on dvd HERE

Get Rob’s scores for “Maniac,” “Planetarium,” “Seuls” and “Made in France” from Music Box Records HERE

Get Rob’s score for “Horns” HERE

Visit Rob on Spotify HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Tom Howe

Wo, 11/10/2017 - 12:22

A memorable super hero often arrives like a bolt from the blue, the same can be said of a gifted composer, especially when riding the phenomenon of “Wonder Woman.” But when it comes to Tom Howe’s beautiful score for “Professor Marston,” we aren’t talking about musically embodying a potentially Sapphic, and likely one-man woman given the discretion of a PG-13 rating. For in this decidedly adult, if still tastefully restrained R-rated movie, non-prudish fans of Princess Diana will be likely surprised, and then aroused to find that she hails from the decidedly progressive mind of William Moulton Marston (aka comic book writer Charles Moulton), who turned his intelligent and erotic passion for a long-lasting ménage a trois into a kid-friendly, if bondage-heavy icon that’s stood the test of time. That the polyamorous relationship happened way before its time in the late 1930’s, to be hidden with the secrecy of Clark Kent, gives the score a feeling of erotic discovery, iconic creation and fear of being found out that makes for Howe’s standout soundtrack.

Directed by “D.E.B.S.’” Angela Robinson, “Professor Marston the Wonder Women” chronicles the shackles that come off between Marston (Luke Evans), his hyper-intelligent wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their student aid Olive (Bella Heathcote) who becomes far more to these inventors of the lie detector and the wielder of the truth-telling golden lasso. It’s a glowing hue of discovery that Howe at first conveys with playfully sparking, clip-clop percussion and lush strings. They weave a gossamer, yet strong emotional bond through memorable themes that define Marston’s ethos of dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Indeed, where bondage has usually been portrayed as a dangerous, forbidden fruit in the movies, Howe’s score captures restraint with tenderness and desire, no more so than when Olive is transformed into a backlit vision of a super heroine to be. Awash in gorgeous rhythm, romance and then heartbreak in the face of an uncomprehending, hopelessly square world, Tom Howe’s score is indeed a thing of romantic wonder, no more so than when it might seem that super-strong symphonic themes might be going the way of the golden age of comic books.

A well-storied composer back in England with over seventy credits, Howe has gradually been creating his own breakout in Hollywood with additional music for such Rupert Gregson-Williams scores as “The Do-Over,” The Legend of Tarzan” and ironically “Wonder Woman.” But it’s the revelation of the real women who provided Marston with his inspiration that’s going to open up new solo pages for a composer who can capture delicate femininity with all the assurance of an Amazon.

Tell us about how you got into composing? And were you always drawn to melody?

Although I had a classical background, I initially pursued songwriting as a career. I supplemented this with composing music for adverts and jingles (and some teaching in schools). All of these disciplines are short form and require not only different stylistic approaches but also a strong hook and melody. I also sung as a chorister and later in a band so melody has always been king for me. I think that has filtered into my writing, or at least I hope it has.

You’ve done quite a lot of work on British television. What were your favorite shows to score, and why? How do you think it contributed to your work as a film composer?

I have been fortunate enough to score a lot of varied projects in the UK. The one that is probably best known is “The Great British Bake Off.” I had just finishing working, with director Andy Devonshire, on something else for the BBC when he called me and said, “You’re not going to want to do this but please can you help me out with some music for a baking show”. The show went on to become a global hit. No one knew it would be. It was just one of those things where the stars aligned. The music had to have a British sensibility about it and I had a great time doing it. Other things that I have loved being a part of are “Locked Up Abroad” and “Paranormal Witness”. These were both quite cinematic and the production wanted a “Hollywood” sound. Trying to sound like the latest Hollywood score on a small budget is a great thing to try and accomplish. I did so many different things ranging from classical to dubstep and I think that all helped on my journey to be a film composer. Getting used to tight deadlines helped too!

You have the distinction of scoring both Marston and his creation. Could you tell us about your additional composing on “Wonder Woman?” And did that lead directly to “Doctor Marston?”

I had written additional music for Rupert Gregson-Williams on several other projects when he called me about “Wonder Woman.” I had spoken to Angela around the same sort of time, but I knew that I would have time to work on “Wonder Woman” before I launched into “Marston.” Though working on “Wonder Woman” did not lead to “Marston,” it was interesting to see the character from different perspectives. I had no idea about her “real” origin.

Tell us about your collaboration with “Martson” director Angela Robinson.

Tom Howe and director Angela Robinson

Angela and I were introduced by a friend. We set up a skype call as she was on set at the time and about to start shooting, so we couldn’t initially meet face to face. I had read the script and loved it so we spoke about story arc and character and what she wanted the music to try and achieve. I went away and wrote a 15-minute suite of ideas based on our call and the script. Angela told me she listened to this on set everyday and the main “Marston” theme came from this. Once filming had finished Angela visited my studio often and I would write with her in the room so I could try and get things just how she wanted them and understand from her the nuances of the and scenes. She has a real energy and it was a great way to work. I was also able to try things out with instant approval, or not! These sessions together also bore the idea of spanking and bondage sounds for percussion.

How did you want to convey the sense of erotic discovery in Marston’s polyamorous relationship with Elizabeth and Olive, as well as how “forbidden” it was?

We didn’t want the music to accent the taboo of their relationship. Instead, Angela wanted the music to play to the heart of the film: A passionate, defiant, sometimes even naïve, love story.

How did you want to play both the gradual bonding, and character differences of Elizabeth and Olive?

Throughout the film, we really focus on the dynamic between Elizabeth and Olive. Initially the music highlights the tension between them, but as the film develops we realize that, unlike Professor Marston, Olive is able to make Elizabeth more of a submissive, even though she perceives herself as being in control. It was important for the music to guide us through the development of their relationship.

Your score has an interesting, almost metronome-sense of percussion. How do you think it embodies Marston, let alone his invention of the lie detector?

As a psychologist, Marston is naturally inquisitive and a thinker. The “metronome-sense of percussion” felt right to capture this mood. There are many moments in the film when he is thinking what he might do next or how something will play out.

What’s the challenge of having a protagonist, who’s a psychologist, yet has some particularly unorthodox personal approaches to sex and bondage, ones that people try to declare him a deviant with?

The challenge is treading the fine line where music captures Marston’s beliefs without superimposing an idea of what is right, wrong, taboo or normal.

There’s a lush sense of classical, thematic elegance to “Marston” that recalls the period. How do you want to capture that sense of a “period” score as such, while making it contemporarily vibrant?

It’s always a challenge with period dramas because, as you say, there needs to be something that gives it a fresh voice. In this case, I kept the orchestration fairly traditional but peppered in some unorthodox sounds, percussion-wise, to try and add a fresh approach. Some of the more percussive cues are actually recorded with sounds of spanking and bondage, with things like belts and whips.

There’s also a real charm, and non-judgmental attitude to the Marstons, let alone one that has a sense of fun. How did you want to play that “magical” approach?

I tried to have fun with the music and instrumentation. That was key to keeping the score light throughout the first half of the film, and then to juxtapose that with what happens later into the film.

Which character were you most drawn to?

Elizabeth. She seemed to go on this journey of being in control of everything and then ultimately giving that up for Olive.

There’s the cool, if anachronistic use of the Nina Simone “Feeling Good” when Marston, Olive and Ethel finally realize their passion. What do you think that unexpected song adds to the film, and how did you want your score to come in and out of it?

I think it plays a big role in the pacing of the film. As far as the score, we wanted to fade in and out of it using long reverb tails, almost to imply a shift into a dreamlike haze that lingers.

How did you want to score the sequence where Olive becomes the real-life embodiment of Wonder Woman?

It’s the final phase of her “transformation” both emotionally and physical. Even though she knows that Elizabeth doesn’t approve of her interest in “rope tie,” she gets in costume. I wanted the music to guide us through the transformation, some hesitation at first, a bit of Elizabeth’s initial reaction, and finally a downplayed grand reveal of Olive dressed as Wonder Woman. There was very little foley in this scene and after we get the grand reveal and having built to this moment I decided to go small. This felt right, as even though Olive is an amazing spectacle in her outfit, she is also very self-conscious about it at this stage.

Do you think it’s particularly hard for a male composer to capture the emotional idea of feminism, much in the way that Marstron drew on Elizabeth and Olive to empower Wonder Woman?

I think it’s a question of time, an open mind, and a deep desire to empathize with the characters on the screen. It is difficult, but as a composer part of my job is to try and develop a sensibility so that I can understand the characters I’m writing for. I was also lucky enough to have Angela to help guide me.

There’s also some fun big band music from the era in your score. Was it particularly fun putting jazz into a bit of the score?

Whenever there is an opportunity to write a cue that contradicts the rest of the score it’s always great fun. One of the things I studied was jazz, so I really enjoyed doing those cues.

How did you think the score changes as the Marstons are seriously buffeted by the morals of their neighbors, and society at large?

There is a very clear moment when their bubble is burst. It all spirals downhill from there and it was important for the music to drive home this abrupt shift. All of a sudden we go from an almost dreamlike state to “reality”. From this point onwards, the score drops all of the “plucky” and “playful” instruments and I introduce darker harmonies to add weight and density to the energy of the film, that was key to scenes like the one where Olive leaves.

Recording Professor Marston

On that note, given how emotional your score becomes, what do you think that “Marston” have to say about true love and all of its possibilities?

That we’re all deserving of it, and happiness. Who cares what people think?

Tell us about your upcoming score for “Charming.”

“Charming” comes out through Sony in the New Year. It is an animation fairytale score, so it’s very different to “Marston.” I was lucky to have Harry Gregson-Williams as the score producer. The score wasn’t a million miles from “Shrek” sonically (as both films have the same producer) so Harry’s input was valuable. I scored at Air Studios in England over a few days with a big orchestra and choir and just had a lot of fun doing it.

Given that “Professor Martson” is the movie that truly introduces you to Hollywood, what do you think they’ll take away from your music and your abilities?

I hope they enjoy the film and get a sense of how much I enjoyed scoring it, especially with how source music and non-score tracks weave into the fabric of the film to guide us through the decades and time period.

How do you think that “Wonder Woman” fans drawn to this film will react to “Professor Marston?”

I’m hoping that after the success of “Wonder Woman” that people are eager to dive into an origin story like no other.

“Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman” opens on October 13th, with Tom Howe’s score available October 20th from Sony Classical Music HERE

Visit Tom Howe’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Joseph Lo Duca and Don Mancini

Wo, 04/10/2017 - 00:57

In the annals of knife-wielding psychopaths seeking to slit your throat while needling your funny bone, no killer has cut quite a diminutively powerful, Comedy Store-ready figure like Chucky. Ever since Charles Lee Ray used his dying breath to transport his twisted soul into the body of a Good Guy in 1988’s “Child’s Play,” there’s been no putting down the sinister brainchild of Don Mancini over the course of seven pictures. Grabbing the franchise as both writer and director with 2004’s “Seed of Chucky,” Mancini sowed an even crazier, fourth-wall slashing mythology for his characters that even possessed real-life doll bride Jennifer Tilly. The filmmaker wouldn’t miss a one-liner beat when he picked up The Good Guy’s adventures with 2013’s “Curse of Chucky,” which took the idea of the Chucky-verse to even more wackily ironic lengths by having the Brad Dourif-voiced doll torment his actress daughter Fiona Dourif as the wheelchair-bound Nica, as well as bringing the very first kid he menaced Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) back into the grown-up fray.

Now Charles’ embodiment pushes Nica right over the edge of her previous mansion abode into a sterile madhouse for “Cult of Chucky,” where of course no one will believe that trying to cure her with multiple Good Guys might not be such a good idea. Mancini once again turn his undying saga into a family affair by drawing on Chucky’s past mayhem, while showing a fiercely hilarious and frightening panache that makes the series more vital than ever as the last doll standing among the 80’s psycho superstars. The same can be said for the fiendishly fresh voice of “Cult” composer Joseph Lo Duca, who broke out with friend Sam Raimi in 1981’s “Evil Dead.” Suddenly transformed for Detroit rocker into horror score star, Lo Duca has often brought his rampaging (and sometimes darkly funny) talent to any number of terror soundtracks like “Army of Darkness,” “Boogeyman,” “The Messengers,” “Pay the Ghost” and “Burying the Ex,” all while charting a prolific career composing for such fantastical shows as “Hercules,” “Xena” and “The Librarians,” and now a groovy return to “Ash Vs. the Evil Dead.”

But nobody quite brings out Lo Duca’s little devil like Chucky, as could be heard in the claustrophobic, crazily escalating Grand Guignol strains of his first teaming with Mancini for “Curse.” Now thrust into a sterile looney bin whose white walls are escalatingly splattered with blood, Lo Duca first joins Mancini’s “Cult” with weird samples and twisted electroshock rhythms, yet with an old-school orchestral resonance – or course topped with evil child-friendly bells and tinkertoy percussion. But given multiple dolls with a mission, it isn’t long before this fiendishly thematic score becomes more twisted and funny with Chucky’s growing confidence for chorus, rock guitar and crafty metal ratcheting. It’s a killer stand-up act that’s refined itself like never before for a composer-filmmaker team made in horror-comedy hell – especially given just how well this “Cult” takes on an operatic, Herrmann-esque swagger that Brian De Palma would likely smile at, let alone a killer doll before making mincemeat of his two enablers at the top of their Good Guy game.

As a lifelong fan of film scores, what are some of your favorite horror-comedy soundtracks?

DM: I love horror-comedy, and I love the challenge of walking the tightrope between legitimately frightening an audience, and then making them laugh at what has frightened them. “Death Becomes Her,” the Danny Elfman-Tim Burton stuff like “Beetlejuice,” Jerry Goldsmith’s “Gremlins”… These movies also all bear the unmistakable signature voices of their composers. I liked that. I’m not into anonymous-sounding scores. I wanted “Curse of Chucky” and now “Cult of Chucky” to have the unmistakable, unabashed voice of Joe Lo Duca.

In particular, how did Joseph’s scores for the genre impress you?

DM: I was always impressed with his versatility, his dexterous comfort-level and expertise in any number of genres and even media, as well as his ability to mix traditional orchestral elements with modern electronics. His scores were romantic but not sentimental; witty without being silly; and never condescended to the material. Plus, of course, I am a huge fan of his work fro Rami’s “Evil Dead” universe.

Right from “Evil Dead,” you’ve often been in a position of scoring horror films with no small amount of laughs in them. What do you think makes your style suitable for that kind of gory black comedy?

JLD: Perhaps it is because I truly like and get the filmmakers I work with in that genre. In my experience, the writers and directors who make horror movies are among the nicest people I know! On a dramatic level, it’s all about tension and release, predictability and surprise. When it’s well done, it’s like great music. Comedy can be the release, but sometimes-gory violence can be the release, too. It puts a temporary end to the suspense and dread you have worked together to set up.

How did you become involved with “Curse of Chucky?”

JLD: Richard Kraft, my agent for many years, introduced me to Don Mancini. He thought we would be a good fit. And he has uncanny instincts about people and pairings. The fact that I composed the scores for the “Evil Dead” trilogy didn’t hurt. I have learned it gives me instant street creed in that world.

What did you think of the previous Chucky scores? And what did you hope that Joseph would bring to them with “Curse of Chucky?”

As a film score fan, this part of the process is always very exciting for me — meeting with the composer, talking with him or her, spotting the film, and the thrill of hearing the cues for the first time… I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of very talented composers over the years throughout the Chucky series. But working with Joe has been my favorite experience, and has resulted in my favorite music from the franchise. His Chucky motif is perfect — sinister yet playful, as befits a child’s toy. I knew Joe would bring an exciting mix of traditional orchestral elements blended with a modern, electronic vibe. And he always plays the characters, not just the situations.

Having scored some of genre’s most iconic characters, how did Chucky stand for you in horror superstar pantheon? And was he a character you hoped you’d score one day?

JLD: A film composer never knows or expects when he will be invited to the dance. Getting to work with Don on “Curse” was a welcome surprise. Honestly, I did not seek out horror movies growing up. They made me queasy. Then I got to know Sam Raimi, and I came to view horror as the exercise of a prankster who gets unabashed glee from getting a rise out of an audience. But even though there is a lot of humor in the “Chucky” and “Evil Dead” films, the humor is rarely reflected in my scores for them. But every once in a while we go for it!

What do you think makes a good director-composer team?

Communication, a shared vision and a common language certainly help -which theoretically can get tricky if the director is not a musician, which I am not — although I do have a musical background (I sang in chorus throughout my school years). But what I do have, like your readers, is a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of, and passion for, film music — including, specifically, the music of Joe Lo Duca. I am definitely a fan of his! It’s definitely helpful (as well as incredibly fun) to discuss film scores with Joe in the course of our work. Joe also approaches the music character-first, which is how I approach writing and directing. And then there are the surprises, the stuff he did that was completely unexpected. He had to create a whole weird soundscape, to capture the warped psychologies of these mentally ill characters.

Given that Don is a horror and music fan to begin with, does that give you shorthand when collaborating?

JLD: Don has immense background in all things film-related. The fact that I could see the link between “Curse of Chucky” and “Lady in a Cage,” an obscure 1964 thriller starring Olivia de Havilland and James Caan, got us off to a great start. The best directors sweat all the details. Don is one of those. He is also aware of the expectations of his fans. In a few scenes on “Cult,” he resisted my taking a classic Hollywood approach because his fans might consider them glib. I find that if I ask the right questions, we can address challenges that are posed in the music. It helps that we have a lot of respect for one another.

Do you hear the unborn score in your head as you’re directing?

DM: Well, I’m listening to stuff all the time for inspiration, and like a lot of writers I raid my soundtrack collection and cull a bunch of stuff that seems in the ballpark, musically and dramatically, for what I’m writing at the moment. While I was writing the “Cult” script, I listened mainly to a combination of Joe’s score for “Curse” and Cliff Martinez’s score for “The Neon Demon,” the latter of which of course has a distinctly trippy, electronic vibe. That sound struck me as evocative of this world, a somewhat abstract sound for a mental hospital populated by a bunch of warped minds. A kind of psychedelic feeling is what I was after. Joe captured that, in his own way, of course; the resulting score sounds nothing like Cliff Martinez. Nor did I want it to. I just wanted Joe to give me HIS version of an abstract, psychedelic vibe.

With “Cult,” did you want to return the series back to the first film’s idea of having a doctor doubt an inmates “ravings” about a killer doll on the lose? And how did you think music could add to that?

DM: I thought the setting provided for a fun twist on the traditional “boy who cried wolf” scenario we exploited in the first three films, but in “Cult of Chucky,” it’s “the whacko who cried wolf.” Before, no one would believe a kid; now, no one will believe a crazy person. Also, our goal really was to humanize the patients, to depict and convey their sadness… And Joe’s score really does manage to capture a certain bleak mournfulness, which is of course augmented by the modernist environment and the freezing, snowy realm outside.

Right from its title, the idea of a perverted child’s plaything has been embodied in the “Chucky” scores. How did you want to convey that twisted “toy” bell motif here?

JLD: Coming on board on “Curse,” it was surprising and liberating to me that this iconic character did not have a theme. The idea of an out-of-tune little jingle came to me immediately. “Chuck-y is my spe-cial friend…”. What’s creepier than a beat up toy piano?

When you’ve got a lethally wisecracking character like Chucky, how do you want to balance the humor and horror?

JLD: Most of the time, you stay away from the humor and let the score play the straight man. I’m Dean Martin; it’s actually funnier that way. Musical camp usually involves parody. I tend to stay away from that. Chucky gets all the good lines. Let’s let him have them.

DM: One of the things that most impressed me about Joe’s score was his ability to navigate these hairpin turns, to juggle serious, even tragic horror on the one hand, and the wackiness that Chucky and Tiffany represent — sometimes in the same scene. The music is a really crucial factor in making such tonal changes work. It can make or break the movie. And Joe just has great taste; he’s very sensitive, for example, to the danger of tipping over into the objectionably goofy, or the too sentimental.

Like our best horror “heroes,” there’s an evil part of us that roots for Chucky to succeed. How do you think the score adds to that?

DM: Well, there’s an intrinsically humorous aspect to Chucky, a twisted playfulness that’s appealing. Chucky really loves his work. Joe captures that sense of mischief with his toy piano motif for Chucky, which he introduced in “Curse,” and which in “Cult” is lavished with all kinds of thrilling new orchestrations and variations.

JLD: The music imbues Chucky with immense, unstoppable power. For example, despite his diminutive stature, his musical footprint is always huge. He is mischievous, but the music tells us to be very afraid. He always wins, so one might as well join him, ‘cause you can’t beat him. And he’s a funny guy, though I can’t say the score adds to that.

Is it more fun to score a character that enjoys killing?

JLD: I talk to my fellow “decomposers” about this. Horror movies are the most fun to score for the sheer fact that there are no rules. You can be as crazy as you wanna be, and if the psycho killers are having fun, too, so much the merrier. With Chucky, there is as much a “Gothcha’!” aspect to his murders as the poetic injustice of the murders themselves.

What would you say are the links, and differences between your two “Chucky” scores?

JLD: Both are rather lush and traditional in many respects. Both have central thematic material. “Cult of Chucky” has a more modern sound, with a lot more electronic sound design and manipulation of traditional instruments. I’ll confess. I like melody and harmony. Constructing dissonance is merely an extension of those elements.

Chucky has always involved the idea of family, whether it’s the doll tearing apart Andy’s life, or trying to create his own “nuclear” family of sorts. With the gang back together here, how do you think that idea plays into the score?

JLD: I think the score informs the viewer that the characters are all damaged people that have been literally ripped from their families. So their sadness and despair, and the desperate measures to which they are driven are very much in the music. I guess you could say fate has brought Vincent, Nica and Tiffany back together as a cursed, dysfunctional codependent family. You might say that the reflection in the score is the sense of doom, futility and inevitability.

The dulcimer gets a particularly fun workout here. What do you think makes the instrument so ideal for Chucky?

JLD: In “Cult,” what you are calling a dulcimer has more of an electronic bent. There’s something about the biting, percussive nature of the sound that feels right. It is sinister, and let’s not forget that Chucky’s favorite method of execution involves cutting of some kind.

What does having multiple Chucky dolls bring to the score?

JLD: Each Chucky has it’s own personality. The score gets to have a little fun with that. It is not a major feature, though. Without giving anything away, what happens to Nica is a much more important to the score and the story.

“Cult” makes use of some particularly creepy sampling that’s both echoed and metallically gnarled. Could you tell us what went into this score?

JLD: I did a lot of programming and processing of the sounds in this score. Don and I are very pleased with the result. There are sounds and techniques I discovered on this project I never thought to try before – processes like time stretching already warped string samples, and ring modulating the brass into shards of metal.

You could call both “Chucky” films “old dark house” pictures in how he maneuvers about them to terrorize his victims from a mansion to mental asylum. On that end, how hard is it to score those sort of “creeping about” sequences?

JLD: I don’t find those challenging; the fun is always in setting up a good scare that will likely follow. I do find extended action sequences tiring. I find there is a physical component that goes along with scoring the action. ”Curse” most definitely plays on the haunted house trope, but I found “Cult” quite different. The asylum is stark, cold and blue, so electronic sound was a better choice. By contrast, Andy’s cabin is warm and woody, so strings and woodwinds predominate.

DM: Well, while we on set, I’d often hum a tune, or a rhythm, to get the camera operators in the mood, and to ensure that our timing is in the right ballpark. And on “Cult.” very often I was humming something of Joe’s — whether from “Curse of Chucky,” or sometimes something from an “Evil Dead” movie. I knew those staccato string pluckings from “Evil Dead” would totally work for Chucky wandering around and spreading mischief.

Was it important for Joseph’s scores to start out “straight” and then get more satirically demented as they go along – especially in the case of “Cult?” where organ, evil chorus and a Spaghetti Western rock guitar ultimately join the jam?

DM: Yes, because that’s basically what the movie is doing — it’s going crazy. The story and camera work are designed to make the viewer feel that he or she is right there with Nica as she starts questioning her own reality and her own sanity. As I said, one of the huge accomplishments of Joe’s score is that it manages this tonal change with such style and energy and wit, really. Joe’s “main title” music is, to me, like a thrilling celebration of the psycho-slasher genre, complete with his own version of shrieking violins, and Chucky’s “toy-piano” motif interpolated. The rock guitar at the end was an interesting case, because the scene in question represents a huge turning point for Chucky – a moment of incredible, unprecedented, swaggering triumph for him. We knew it had to be “big” in an interesting way. At first Joe had a choral element there, but it wasn’t quite right. While the voices captured the supernatural gravity of the situation, it was still missing something — a sense of Chucky strutting. Ultimately we realized what it needed to be: Chucky as rock star. Hence the guitar. (Which Joe had utilized at one point in the “Curse” score, as well).

JLD: All of the Chucky movies ramp up to a rollicking climax. So goes the music. Anything goes. However, the palette remains fairly consistent. If a new sound pops up during a score, I hope there is good reason for it. That said, the rock guitar idea might have come from Don.

With its voices and rampaging dulcimer and finally hugely sinister orchestral statement, would you call “Cult” a Grand Guignol score?

JLD: I think my favorite parts of the score would classify as ‘psychological thriller’. Chucky is on the loose in an asylum. The patients project their psychoses onto him. And he kills them for it. It’s more like “Snakes on a Plane” of the insane!

In the midst of this madness, what it important to give genuine emotional empathy to the wheelchair-bound Nica?

JLD: She is our doomed heroine, yet she is also survivor. Fiona Dourif is so good in this role. Her performance needs no help from the music. Yet at times we want to underline her powerlessness, or her growing panic. There are long sequences that Don portrays this sans dialogue, doing it instead with crafty editing and music.

You’ve made a specialty of bringing musical presence to smaller-budgeted horror films. What tricks have you learned along the way to getting the biggest musical bang for the bloody buck?

JLD: I am the only performer on both scores. Don told me that Pino Donaggio (“Carrie”) was a bit miffed because he told Pino he did not have budget for a live score. Pino was surprised to learn my score was all samples. I’ll take it as a compliment. I am always trying to realize the music I hear. And that takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, we had so little time. 80+plus minutes of music in three and a half weeks is not humane. But there are no short cuts.

Can you tell us a bit about your work on “Ash Vs. the Evil Dead,” and what we can expect from the upcoming season of “Ash Vs. Evil Dead?”

JLD: “Ash” is just as nutty as ever. I had to score a scene where he is attacked by all the instruments in the high school band room. Who knew a harp could also be a face slicer. Need I say more?

You’ve also scored the pot comedy series “Disjointed” on Amazon. What’s it like to be able to do something unexpected like this?

JLD: D.J Javerbaum, our show runner and creator, is also a gifted lyricist. We have written some great songs together on this show. I work with the cast, headed by Kathy Bates, on their performances. I got to record LA’s finest jazz players for all the bumpers. That just doesn’t happen on a sitcom, that is, unless you have David and Chuck Lorre behind you. Wait till you see how next season opens. “Disjointed” has been a real highlight for me this year.

What do you think that Joseph has brought to the “Chucky” series? And how do you see his music continuing for them, or your movies in general?

DM: Joe has brought his distinct voice, and his impressive pedigree and experience from his iconic work in the horror genre, but also other genres and media, as well. I’m excited to see where we’ll go together next… both in the “Chucky” universe, and hopefully in other frontiers, as well.

There’s never an end to Chucky. Where do you see your films, and scores going from here for him?

JLD: The answer to that is in the mind of Don Mancini, and I’ll gladly go with him on Chucky’s next adventure!

Join the “Cult of Chucky” on Netflix, blu ray and digital asylums HERE

Listen to Joseph Lo Duca’s scores for “Curse of Chucky” and “Cult of Chucky” on Backlot Music HERE and HERE

Fight the Evil Dead with Ash and Joe HERE

Visit Joseph Lo Duca’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Nathan Barr

Wo, 27/09/2017 - 23:59

When Nathan Barr scores the grim reaper’s representatives on earth, one can be assured that he will be granting no pleasure trip for their one-way ticket to the great beyond. From the flesh eating disease of “Cabin Fever” to the thrill kill torturers inhabiting the “Hostel” and the immortal vampires of “True Blood,” Barr’s sanguine, multi instrumental talents have viewed death in terrifying ways – which is now what makes his latest voyage to the other side particularly unique for “Flatliners.

With a fresh young cast of afterlife thrill seekers, Director Niels Arden Oplev (“Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) gives a new jolt to Joel Schumacher’s 1990 thriller, for which composer James Newton Howard originally provided a mixture of heavenly chorus and pulse-pounding thrills for medical student out-daring themselves to momentarily die for a glimpse of the other side. And as with that cult film, this reboot once again proves that there is some things that man was not meant to know, as forces from death’s domain hitch a ride back to the earthly plane to pull them back to the final destination.

Though Howard’s work, and much of the memory of “Flatliners’ precursor might be wiped from Barr’s memory, his soundtrack proves a worthy spiritual successor to score that first impressed with its mixture of hipness, wonder and fear. Using electro-rhythm like an EKG, Barr energizes his score with the thrill of stopping and starting hearts in the nick of time, while cool alt. rock rhythms impress with the groove of exhilaration, then fear. Creating an eerily transfixing atmosphere of unearthly sounds for visions of the afterlife, Barr elongates the score’s suspense, nervously waiting to shock the system before it’s too late. And when showing that the ultimate answer is left itself, Barr creates some of his most beautifully emotional orchestral work in his prolific career. It’s a new take on “Flatliners” that doesn’t sever its melodic chord to the past, all while showing how next-gen composers like Nathan Barr are pushing the boundaries of scoring with death-defying attitude to spare.

Though you’d begun your career with scores like “Beyond the Mat,” “Going Greek” and “Double Down,” were you surprised that genre scoring for films like “Cabin Fever,” “2001 Maniacs” and “Hostel” provided your most popular way into Hollywood?


A lot of composers first cut their teeth by scoring horror films, and I have been no exception. I happen to be a huge fan of the genre and so I was happy that many of my early scoring experiences lived within the world of horror films. I think my abilities as a composer span across many genres and my career has really begun to expand in many other directions as of late. I think if anything, my musical beginnings speak to an ability to walk between multiple genres and styles, and I am grateful I have a career that allows for that.

How did the first “Flatliners” impress you?

I have not seen the original film since it came out 27 years ago, so I remember very little about it other than that it freaked me out and left an impression.

“Flatliners” fits into the “mad doctor” genre. Do you have any favorite scores in that domain?

“Young Frankenstein” immediately comes to mind. Also, and it may be a bit of a stretch as far being a part of the “mad doctor” genre, but Coppola’s “Dracula” film with Tom Waits as the mad doctor has that beautiful score by Wojciech Kilar, which is one of my favorites.

How did this new take on “Flatliners” come your way?

I put together a reel for Spring Aspers who is the head of music at Sony. She distributed that to the director Niels and the producers and based on the strength of the 16 tracks on that reel I was brought on board to replace the first composer. I had 31/2 weeks to compose over an hour of score so the fact that I can write very quickly when required also put me at the top of the list.

What was your collaboration like with director Niels Arden Oplev, and what kind of fresh take do you think he brought the story?

I came onto the project so late in the process that we never had a spotting session. I was hired on a Monday and hit the ground running on Tuesday. And so three weeks later I had 45 minutes of score written and an orchestra session just days away. It was a wild ride!

Niels asked the picture editor Tom Elkins to give me direction at the very beginning because Niels was tied down with a mountain of visual effects and reshoots. And so I didn’t have my first conversation with Niels until I’d written about 20 minutes of music, or about 10 days into the process. Fortunately, Niels and Tom were generally in sync with what they wanted the music to accomplish, and Niels responded very favorably to that first batch of cues. From then on we were in regular touch.

If I had to sum up Niels’ direction for the score it was to always make sure that there was breath in the score so that each scene had the opportunity to develop organically. He wanted to avoid being too manipulative with the score. A couple times he humorously gave me the same note the King gives Mozart in Amadeus, “too many notes.” But I knew right away how to adjust, and so it was a good piece of direction. I really enjoyed my collaboration with Niels and the sense of humor he brought to discussions about serious things.

I avoided re-watching the original, as I know Niels wanted to approach the story through a contemporary lens, and I believe he achieved that. There’s a youthful energy to these characters that is a bit different from that of the original, if I remember correctly.

Could you talk about your approach to “Flatliners,” especially when it comes to the difference that music takes for young, hip doctors then and now, especially when it comes to the alt. rock elements in the score?

Having a strong electronic component in the score was important to Niels as he felt it was a good way to acknowledge the target audience of film that is rated PG-13. And so the orchestral elements were really about bringing some cinematic grandeur and emotional depth to the story, while the electronic elements were about the fun, intensity and ambition of the characters in this story.

What are your own thoughts about what happens when you die? And how were they reflected in the score?

My belief in what happens when we die varies from day to day so it would be hard for me to pin down a philosophy. Having said that I can say my own feelings about death was not a part of the composition process. It’s all up there on the screen for me to enjoy and interact with!

How did you want to approach the “flatlining” sequences?

Some of the more complicated sequences in the film to score from a technical standpoint involved navigating the back-and-forth between the afterlife and the hospital room while sounding cohesive. Oftentimes what a character is experiencing in the afterlife has quite a different emotional space than the panic of the hospital room where their bodies await their souls’ returns. And so finding a musical thread that could exist underneath both was a challenge.

How did you want the score to reflect the high-tech equipment the Flatliners are using to kill and resurrect themselves?

I think the electronic and synth elements that drive the score in many scenes all help reflect the high tech equipment and feel a part of that world.

Could you talk about the “heartbeat” of your score?

The heartbeat in the score is an electronic pulse that propels the score forward in a way that can feel contemporary even if there are orchestral elements over the top of it. It’s perhaps a bit on-the-nose at times to have a heart-beat element in a score about flatlining, but it’s also a way to have some fun with the overall conceit of the film.

Flatliners Scoring Session

How did you want to combine the electronic and orchestral elements of the score? And what do you think your approach has to say with the more human, emotional element of the story as opposed to the technology and excess the characters indulge in?

When Niels and I spoke about the score, he wanted to be sure the score was breathing with the characters and not forcing a feeling on the audience that wasn’t earned. Oftentimes he would give me a note that he wanted half as many chords in the cue. What I came to understand he was asking for was more space between chords so the scene had a chance to unfold without interference from the score. This note was largely limited to the orchestral elements in the score. I was constantly pairing the orchestral parts back as Niels felt they were too adult and traditional for these young characters. In another case he literally had me cut the tempo of a cue in half and that gave him the emotional impact he was looking for in that particular sequence.

Could you talk about your sampling here, from the eerier moments to the rhythmic element of the score?

As a general philosophy I shy away from using samples created by sample libraries. But when there is so little time to write a score I inevitably lean into samples more than I usually do. I definitely managed to get some of my homegrown sounds into this film, but in other cases I was grateful to have ready-made samples to aid in a jump scare or quick set of cuts that needed accenting.

What were some of the more unique instruments you used here?

I used an instrument called an Array Nail Organ which was built for me by Bill Wesley and Patrick Hadley who created another instrument I own called the Array Mbira which is essentially an electric kalimba. I love the way these guys think about creating and making musical instruments and had seen them demonstrate their Nail Organ online. It’s a series of nails of different lengths mounted to a resonant wooden box with pickups. Once you apply powdered resin to the fingertips and rub the top of the nail head it produces a pitch determined by the length of the nail. The highest pitches, or shortest nails, produce a whistle sound you will hear clearly in the main title track of Flatliners, as well as throughout the film.

I have a harpsichord and have all sorts of fun recording that and manipulating the sound afterwards. That can be heard in a couple of the film’s more tense moments as a 16th note pattern that floats over the top of various propulsive elements. Another favorite of mine that started all the way back with “Cabin Fever” is a bowed Indian instrument called a Dilruba. All of the above instruments are part of my process in bringing a unique sound to my scores.

How did you want to use voice in “Flatliners?”

Even though it’s a bit cliché at this point to musically associate voices and the afterlife, there is nothing more ethereal than a group of human voices, and so I, like many composers before me, leaned into that trope a bit in several of the afterlife sequences.

What about the score’s more horrific elements that go back to your more visceral genre work?

I’ve gotten pretty good with several of my bowed instruments at creating the sound of sheer terror and so I leaned into those a bit, as with the Dilruba I mentioned above.

How did you want the score to cross over from the wonder of near-death to the terror that comes back from the other side?

Niels wanted the scary moments to be scary regardless of whether they happened in the afterlife or post-flatline. And so there wasn’t much to do with the crossover between the two, so long as the emotional impact was achieved.

When you’ve got a film where characters might, or might not being imagining things coming to get them, what kind of freedom do you think those “hallucinations” give to the score?

The perspective of the score depends on what the director wants to accomplish in a given sequence. In the case of this film we wanted to play up the horror of certain moments regardless of whether it was in the character’s imagination or not.

I do think however that as a general rule hallucinations in films do free a composer up to really explore tone and texture and instrumentation just at the director might experiment with camera angle and color and editing. A sequence in “True Blood” and one from the first season of “The Son” both come to mind as musical moments that I had fun with because they occurred over hallucinations.

You’ve also been exceptionally busy on television with “Sneaky Pete,” “The Son” and “The Americans.” What kind of doors do you think the boom in the medium is opening up for you, and is there a particular kind of show you look for?”

I look for a show with characters I can imagine spending many hours with. In the case of the three shows you have mentioned, each one has very intriguing and complex characters that are a joy to write for. Interestingly, each of these shows centers around a protagonist who is the epitome of an anti-hero. And so it’s gratifying to take the con man from “Sneaky Pete,” two Soviet spies from “The Americans” and the murderous patriarch from “The Son”” and humanize them with the music so they become more relatable to audiences. I think on some level everyone likes the irony of rooting for the dark side of a human being who may be trying to achieve something good through dubious means.

I think we can all agree that some of the most entertaining, intriguing and smartest storytelling in the world right now is happening on television. It’s exciting to see so many companies committed to creating top-notch stories driven by complex characters.

You’ll also be dealing with death in your forthcoming score for “The Parting Glass.” What can you tell us about it?

“The Parting Glass” is a film directed by Stephen Moyer, written by Denis O’Hare, and starring Anna Paquin, three members of my “True Blood” “family”. It’s a deeply moving autobiographical story from Denis O’Hare’s life that deals with suicide and a family’s struggle to process and recover from it. Steve shot it in a very naturalistic style and so there is not a lot of score in the film, but when there is score, it’s very important. It was so great to be back in creative mode with these three talented artists.

From L to R_The Parting Glass composer Nathan Barr, director Stephen Moyer and singer Sam Lee

In your spare time, you’ve been assembling an organ? What’s your attraction to that instrument, and what do you hope to do with the end result?

Three to four months from now the studio I have spent the last decade-plus envisioning will be complete. I didn’t want to build just another recording studio, but instead wanted to create a unique space that really spoke to my diverse interests as a composer and musician and also showcased my large collection of musical instruments, some of which are quite large. I also wanted to build a space that would be a meeting place for musicians from all over the world to come together and record and make music and be inspired.

My imagination was first captured by a pipe organ when I was around 10 years old and my mother explained to me that when I pressed the keys on the organ’s manual at church there were pipes in rooms up in the walls that when filled with wind made a sound. This was a musical “aha” moment for me and filled me with wonder and mystery. Years later I heard a Wurlitzer Theater organ accompanying a silent film and it went straight into my heart and imagination and cemented my fascination with pipe organs.

Nathan and his unrestored Wurlitzer organ

I started to get to know people in the pipe organ community about 8 years ago, and when I mentioned I was keen on installing one in my studio, a gentleman who owned the former Twentieth Century Fox Studios Wurlitzer offered to restore and sell me that instrument. I jumped at the chance to include it in my studio. It “lived” on the scoring stage at Fox from 1928 to 1997 and was used by everyone from Bernard Herrmann in Journey To The Center Of The Earth to Alex North in The Agony And The Ecstasy to James Horner in “Cocoon,” and many more. It’s an instrument that physically occupies 6 rooms and so the possibilities for experimentation are endless given all the exciting pipes and other instruments that make up the entire beast of this organ.

Seeing the instrument restored and given a proper place to live has been an obsession of mine over the past couple years. I have literally built the building around the organ, and it speaks onto a scoring stage that will accommodate up to 60 players. I look forward to reintroducing this important piece of film music history to the world in new scores and music. The first film it will find it’s way into is my next collaboration with Eli Roth, “The House With A Clock In It’s Walls,” which stars Cate Blanchett and Jack Black and hits theaters next year.

In the end, do you think there’s a spiritual connection to your work and James Newton Howard’s original score?

I always strive to keep my voice as a composer as unique as possible and so I deliberately avoided listening to JNH’s score because I wanted this score to be as much my own as possible. At times being completely unique was a struggle on this one given the schedule gave me no time to experiment and a temp score existed that some were very committed to. But now that I am done, I intend to watch the movie again and give it a listen out of sheer curiosity. And if there are indeed similar elements, that would be pretty amazing, and then yes I would say there would be a spiritual connection between the two.

What do you think makes “Flatliners” different from the genre films you often score? And what does it show about where you can continue to venture in the worlds of horror, and now science fiction?

“Flatliners” is more sci-fi and psychological thriller than straight horror. And this was a conscious choice on the part of Niels. There are certainly some very scary moments in the film, but at its heart it wants to be more. And so there are a couple of story moments that allow for beautiful scoring that one might not expect in a straight-ahead horror film. In that way, I’d say “Flatliners” has more sci-fi elements than I have worked with before.

Do you think the ultimate mystery of death is both the creepiest and most wondrous thing you can score?

I don’t honestly know – certainly one of them!

If someone offered you the opportunity to flatline, with the surety of coming back, would you do it?

I don’t think I would because I would never look at life on planet earth the same way. I think there’s something very important in knowing that our time here is limited and that one day we will be gone from the planet with no idea of what’s next. Embracing the fear and excitement that comes with that brings a richness and mystery to life that would probably go away pretty quickly if we knew what existed on the other side.

“Flatliners” opens on September 29th, with Nathan Barr’s score available on Sony Classical Music

Visit Nathan Barr’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

September Soundtrack Picks

Di, 26/09/2017 - 19:26

Soundtrack Picks: “IT” is the top soundtrack to own for September, 2017


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



Price: $8.99

What is it?: This year has provided a virtual renaissance of great independent filmmaking, small-scale movies that have born similarly resourceful scores from budgetary resourcefulness. Perhaps none is more uniquely powerful than “Gook,” Roger Suen’s abstract city symphony, which plays in searing service of triple-threat writer, director and star Justin Chon. With a profanely in-your-face balance of humor and tragedy, that returns us to 1992, the year that LA’s ethnic enclaves were set upon during the city’s riots. Singled out were the stores belonging to Korean immigrants, strangers in a strange land trying to make a hardscrabble life from a financially devastated hood, the more vengeful members of whom use the titular slur for their perceived exploitators. “Gook’s” impactful emotion derives from the relationship between a black girl who hangs out at the truancy-enable shoe store owned by argumentative Korean brothers, a hilariously good-humored relationship that you’d expect to see in “Clerks” but ultimately turns to the far darker impact of “Do the Right Thing.” But thanks to Suen’s provocatively creative score, “Gook” manages to sample both films and their urban vibe to far better effect than either.

Why should you buy it?: With work as a programmer on “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” and “X-Men Days of Future Past,” Suen’s additional composing is more in the superhero realm of “Daredevil” and “The Defenders,” with sole credits on the dramas “Sacrifice” and “Lady Bug.” Taking an alternately realistic and surreal approach here. With a malleable, intimate theme that varies from poignant piano to plucked bass, Suen captivates with his urban tone poem. He constructs an isolated store from melancholy guitar and lonely jazz trumpet, while giving its sneaker-hungry clientele oddball pep with a tango. Sometimes using retro synth beats straight outta Casio alongside free form jazz riffs, Suen casts an oddball mood for its unlikely cross-cultural friendship, charting the film’s course from humor to anger and reconciliation, then all out madness as a fire-lit night descends upon the area.

Extra Special: Suen handles the tonal shift of “Gook” with devastating results, while creating near unbearable tension for characters on a tragic collision course. He ends on a note of somber self-reflection that makes “Gook’s” can’t-we-all-just-get-along message all the more impactful as a female singer providing a heavenly elegy. In a movie where characters are constantly screaming at one another to hilarious and gut punch effect, Suen is a real voice to watch out for.


Price: $11.99

What Is it?: Since making his first Hollywood splash with the kinetic conspiracy score to 2008’s “Vantage Point,” Icelandic composer Atli Orvarsson’s action stylings have mainly veered to swords and crossbows with the entertaining likes of “The Eagle” “Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters” and “The Mortal Instruments.” Now he comes roaring back to the present with “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a gleeful R-rated cavalcade of car chases, shootings, stabbings and barroom brawling.

Why Should You Buy It?:
Given a virtual checklist of multiplex action mayhem, both score and film invest a welcome screw-this attitude that thankfully makes this “Bodyguard” a bit more than going through the usual motions. One big reason is that a Sam Jackson is holding a gun in one hand and a harmonica in the other as he belts out the F-bomb blues. Similarly, this is a score that gloriously doesn’t give a shit as it’s pouring on a comic world of hurt. Orvarsson goes for a sound that’s way more caper than crime from its opening theme title track with voice, organ, funk guitar and orchestra, setting up a mighty fun ride. Like a descendent to Danny Elfman’s “Midnight Run” score on steroids, Orvarsson’s score is all badass attitude at embodying Jackson’s too cool for school assassin. It’s antic energy versus facepalm exasperation in how groovily “Hitman” gets its funk on, the fact that it’s playing in international locations making the approach all the more fun. A bit of sadness almost turns into a gospel lament, while “Kincaid’s Gospel” gets an Eric Clapton-style guitar theme that “Lethal Weapon’s” Martin Riggs would be proud to call his own (the theme even getting a sweet accordion and Hammond organ spin later on). Gary Oldman doing his scene-munching villain thang gets an evil Eastern European cimbalom, because who can musically call himself a tyrant from the region without one? Yet it’s a cliché that gets a big boost when a metal guitar roars in with an orchestra. Composer Dimitri Golovko is also on hand to abet this craziness with the retro flutes and guitar for a boat chase. It’s all part of the truly fun, subversive quality that makes Orvarsson’s score, and the film, so much more enjoyable than the kind of action sampling we’d usually get for this kind of stuff, let alone filmmaking.

Extra Special: When you’ve got the kind of smirking, blood-covered humor of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” you’d better count songs being used to obvious, yet impactfully ironic effect. You can be sure that Sam Jackson’s got the blues soul with “Nobody Gets Out Alive,” preaching it with a hand-clapping ending. Authentic, harmonica-blowing hangdog grooves are provided by Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, with retro R&B by Chucky Berry giving the soundtrack its soul power, Other iconic, now gooey love songs play out against ultra violence to obviously knowing effect, from Lion Richie’s “Hello” to Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight,” while Spiderbait does a cool heavy metal spin on “Black Betty.” The end result is a song-score soundtrack that’s a blast on both ends, killing clichés, while indulging in them with delightful vengeance.

3) IT

Price: $13.49

What is it?: Having last musically terrorized a bunch of kids with “Annabelle Creation,” Benjamin Wallfisch gets perhaps the ultimate evil play pal to work his dark magic on with Pennywise. Indeed, the possessed doll and dancing clown could be kissing cousins given the lush, melodic approach that the composer applies to the idea of bonding against the cackling face of childhood-friendly evil. But if “Annabelle” is a quite good spin from Blumhouse’s “Conjuring” franchise with all of the expected shocks, Stephen King’s iconic creation definitely gives Wallfisch’s music a bit more young meat to chew on.

Why should you buy it?: Perhaps it’s Wallfisch’s English background that’s given him an unusually classy approach to horror scoring with such ghostly works as “The Thirteenth Tale” the criminally underrated insanity of “A Cure for Wellness” – while also showing he could go for the scare-a-minute approach of “Lights Out.” But with a generation-spanning story “It” Wallfisch gets a horror epic on an small scale It’s fertile storm drain ground from which to weave a mythic fairy score. Given how many horror soundtracks are now are all dissonant shock and awe, Wallfisch’s generally symphonic approach comes across as a welcome, lush throwback to the days when composers like Bruce Broughton and James Horner created the nightmare fuel of a geek generation brought up on the likes of “The Monster Squad” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” But make no mistake here that twisted, raging impressionism is lurking around in doorways, basements and drain pipes amongst the evil carnival music, waiting to spring while hypnotizing us inside with bells and whispered voices. It’s the rare score that really does scare the shit out of you, no more so than in Wallfisch’s sampling of screaming kids. But if Pennywise were just Jason in white makeup as opposed to a hockey mask, it’s likely no one would care about the film. For it’s that we’re rooting for these kids to triumph not only against ancient fiend, but real-world bullies and parents alike that make the film and score particularly affecting. Wallfisch’s empathetic score helps make us truly care this Loser’s Club, creating a feeling of camaraderie even within the darkest cues, all while giving a cosmic sense of the much bigger bright light dimension from which Pennywise hails.

Extra Special: Horror films seem to demand as much music as comedies, and Wallfisch’s hypnotic score is spread over two generous CD’s, never becoming tiring amidst the tension. Better yet amidst a veritable amusement park of musical evil, we get a delicious bit of calliope for Pennywise doing his happy dance. It’s an evil organ that to send us off salivating for what Wallfisch will be doing for the next even more tormented, grown-up chapter of “It.” In the meantime, there’s much to savor from this rare example of a horror score being as moving as it is terrifying.


Price: $24.95

What is it?: There was a cool futurism to the Tangerine Dream scores that distinguished their 80’s heyday, a moodily electrified sound that made fantasy all the more beautifully strange in such soundtracks as “Legend” and “Firestarter.” The German collective gave a surreal atmosphere to such distinctly American locales as upscale Chicago (“Risky Business”) and the southwest (“Flashpoint,” “Near Dark”). But TD was no more beautifully chilling, or percussively suspenseful than when thinned to two members with group founder Edgar Froese, whom along with Paul Haslinger was awakened in the middle of the LA night, answering a phone call that signaled the end of the world for 1989’s “Miracle Mile.”

Why should you buy it?: Though dealing with the nuclear end of the earth, filmmaker Steve De Jarnatt’s powerful conceit was to make “Miracle Mile” an intimately scaled love story, beginning as a tar pit museum meet-cute between a musician and a waitress. The score accompanies their dream date with ethereal voice and melody, creating a saintly glow about the adorable couple. But the minute night falls, time becomes the score’s essence, especially as the seemingly milquetoast sax player turns into a warrior for true love, risking everything and everyone around him for the impossible goal of saving the instant meaning of his life from Armageddon. Tangerine Dream’s percussive clock starts running out from the moment its hero takes a fateful phone call outside of a diner, gloomy, sizzling sustains sinking in the shock of the missiles flying. Much like anyone’s perceptions at some ungodly hour, Dream’s music makes Harry’s race all the more surreal, their thematic rhythms winding into breakneck, rock and roll pace with a driving electric guitar. Dream’s talent was to layer in elements while keeping a straight line, a trademarked groove that keeps the music frantic, yet in melodic control. All roads lead inevitably to the heartbreaking rhythm of doomsday clock, music that’s all the more devastating as any sense of hope drains amidst its relentlessness, making “Miracle Mile’s” elegiac ending all the more devastating as its music is stripped back to a singular, tragic theme.

Extra Special: “Miracle Mile” was first released on an out-of-print soundtrack on Private Music, it’s soundtrack essentially different from the films with remixes, something Dream often did with their official releases, But now Dragon’s Domain Records reveals the full, rhythmic scope of this more relevant than ever cult film in a two-CD edition. The first contains the entire score and its especially unsettling washes of nuclear dread, as well as several ambient and rhythmic tracks, making its unwinnable race against time all the more suspenseful and emotional. The second disc reprises the original soundtrack that stands as its own conceptual album, with Randall D. Larson providing informative liner notes on a movie that’s sadly, and scarily more relevant than ever, even as the rhythmically inimitable sound of Tangerine Dream sound has found new retro favor amidst the likes of “Stranger Things” and “It Follows.”


Price: $29.98

What is it?: As one of the most notable composers to rise from the post-John Williams generation, James Newton Howard has often been called upon to unleash his massive orchestral skills under apocalyptic scheduling situations – emerging with a masterworks that sound like he’s had years to develop their wealth of themes. One big case in point is 1995’s “Waterworld,” a much-maligned Hollywood “disaster” that was actually nothing of the sort for the kind of press that would later try to sink “Titanic.” Though awash in the usual creative differences, longtime Kevin Costner-centric director Kevin Reynolds (“Fandango”) essentially turned his star into Namor the Sub Mariner (even given that last name) in a globally warmed and flooded-over earth. The result, which Costner ended up taking over with his “Wyatt Earp” composer on deck, was an entertainingly lavish film whose zillions of dollar were on the screen, and hugely abetted by Howard’s veritable tsunami of symphonic forces.

Why should you buy it?: Having delivered vast, yet atmospheric scores with “Flatliners,” “The Fugitive” and “Outbreak,” “Waterworld” balances a haunting, synth-inflected world music portrait of a drowned earth with cliffhanging heroics that might take place had the planet been covered by Sherwood Forest. With humanity collected into armadas of rusty ships, Howard brings in tribal percussion with exotic percussion and wind instruments, as complimented with rhythmic keyboards that show Howard’s own musical origins arranging in the pop world. A biblical chorus impresses as it bestows judgment upon the sunken ruins of civilization, while the evil “smokers” are given brash, brassy imperiousness – no less than the positively Nazi-esque Sturm und Drang march of Dennis Hopper’s oil tanker pirate commander. The Deacon’s,” foe is at first a surly Gillman only out for himself a la Mad Max, an attitude conveyed with apprehensive strings. But give The Mariner a ragtag woman and a kid to soften him up, and Howard is happy to oblige with rousingly noble music that explodes with old-school swashbuckling excitement, often as Costner is swinging like Robin Hood over fireballs. While at times beautifully languid for its water ballets, Howard invests furious pace into “Waterworld,” especially in The Mariner’s climactic assault on “The Deez, the music’s thundering momentum positively western. But then given that Howard was awarded “Waterworld” based on his epic score for Costner’s “Wyatt Earp,” it should come as no surprise that his hellbent-for-dry earth approach plays like that sheriff is back in town.

Extra Special: “Waterworld” is filled with enough music to make two-CD’s worth, fluidly connected by Howard’s inter-weaving of any number of striking themes. Having done similarly terrific jobs with such copious scores from the composer as “Wyatt Earp” and “The Fugitive,” La La Land’s reveals this complete “Waterworld” as a masterwork of take-no-prisoners action scoring, complete with demo versions of several cues that show just how good that Howard’s orchestral emulation was. The composer also offers unusually candid thoughts on the unbridled zest that he threw himself into with this awesome “orchestral violence,” as spoken within Tim Grieving’s entertaining liner notes. But perhaps most touchingly on a label known for its end-of-album treats is six minutes of sincere humbleness as Howard gives his appreciation for the orchestra’s yeoman work, followed by Costner’s own sincere tribute to what the composer pulled off under the gun.



“The Battle of the Sexes” may have been tennis version of a grudge wrestling match, but it had the very real effect in showing people that professional tennis wasn’t a boy’s club. Still, one might have expected the fateful game between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King to have been played with the wacky spirit of “Dodgeball” and scored as a sports comedy by way of Bill Conti. However, viewers will likely be surprised to find that the team between “Little Miss Sunshine” have made an unusually meditative movie that at first concentrates far more on Jean’s discovery of her sexual identity. So it’s no surprise that they’ve brought in the Oscar-nominated composer of “Moonlight” to play Jean’s awakening with that same muted sensitivity, giving a hairdresser’s touch a beautiful, translucently echoing approach for piano and synth that typifies the movie’s psychological approach to the match of that century between women’s libber and chauvinist pig, whose antics betray an ironic, circus-like emptiness in Britell’s hands. It’s an interesting, interior way of playing the expected the demands of a “sports” score that highlights the difference between a loveable, talented yahoo who’s putting on act for the world to see, and the interior tenseness of strings and percussion for a woman out to win a personal struggle as much as she is to prove her brethren’s worth. Yet that doesn’t mean that Britell can’t have some traditional sense of excitement, as a swirling, rhythmic orchestra carries inspiration that could fit a Rocky training montage. As we get to the big day, Britell creates a sense of introspective apprehension with organ and piano, finally landing on the thunderdome with a sound so mighty you’d think that Billie Jean was about to enter an alien’s space rift. It’s an unexpected, impactful way of translating the awe of just what she’s gotten herself into. But even the most alternative sports film or score has got to pay off for the big game, which Britell does in style as he brings his orchestra to the fore with thematic back and forth, taking a singular melodic idea and terrific varying it about for nearly ten minutes that conveys both the breathless excitement, and suspense of two competitors stripped of their soundbytes, with their eye on the bigger picture ball. It’s a bit like hearing a poetic bookworm suddenly run for a touchdown, and Britell’s always-intriguing approach shows just how well-crafted his building thematic strategy is. Equally empowering is the concluding song “If I Dare” by Sarah Bareilles, her powerful voice over Britell’s melody soaring with a pride that shows the way bigger picture of a game its composer wins with unexpected, cerebral serves, game, set and match.

. BODY DOUBLE (Reissue)

When Bernard Herrmann passed away before he could continue an association begun with Brian De Palma on “Sisters” and “Obsession,” the filmmaker came up with a solution worthy of “Vertigo” in finding an Italian composer who spoke the same grand guignol language, then having him dress in operatically thrilling, if sensitive garb. But to say that “Don’t Look Now’s” Pino Donaggio was just some Herrmann imitator is to miss how wonderfully he gave it his own deeply personal style with the likes of “Dressed To Kill” and “Blow Out.” But no film in the Donaggio-De Palma collaboration reached the bombastically lurid awesomeness of 1984’s “Body Double,” which almost broke some kind of film scoring fifth wall in having Donaggio sex up Herrmann into a porn star’s leather and lingerie outfit. Had Herrmann been given more years, he just might have picked up on the Reagan era’s pop groove in the same, cooingly delicious way as Donaggio does here. Right from the shrieking, shivering strains of a cheesy B vampire movie that finds its rather pathetic hero unable to act his way out of a coffin, Donaggio of his score’s insane and romantic wares hang out. And that’s part of this deliriously thematic score’s delicious, bat-flapping, power-tool penetrating humor, as well as its far more demure passages for silken pantie suspense. As its protagonist is lured into an impossibly labyrinthine plot of deception, Donaggio one-ups his suspenseful music-only passage from “Dressed to Kill’s” Museum of Modern Art spying, convey a pseudo-stalker’s desperate yearning that’s certain to end in bloody disaster. In other sequences, wonderfully cheesy synth work captures a groove that would fit easily into porn as much as 80’s horror, while wet synth rhythm and hypnotic female cooing leads us into a self-exploratory silhouette dance. But it’s a measure of Donaggio’s score of how he transfer it’s melody into shimmering sensuality, of course to be interrupted by the roaring brass of an ominous “Indian” stalker that embodies camera-swinging claustrophobia. Listening to “Body Double” now not only makes us hear how much we miss Herrmann, but just how well Donaggio suited the twisted Hitchcockian auteur at his most insanely devoted. As we pine for Donaggio to really give up the ghost for De Palma again, it’s certainly great to have the long out-of-print “Body Double” back on Intrada with even better sound, with the trailer music by Jonathan Elias to boot for this edition that we like to watch.


Television has yielded any number of dramatic contrasts for Mac Quayle (“American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story”), especially when it comes to two women fiercely in the pubic eye and a male computer hack struggling to stay off the grid. While “Feud” may have sadly taken home no gold in an Emmy ceremony awash in suburban white privilege as opposed to retro Hollywood’s, Ryan Murphy’s miniseries about the legendary rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford will likely stand the test of time as a wondrous tribute to tinsel town’s glamour and its sad, if not vicious underbelly. Beautifully done from start to miniseries finish, a real gem in “Feud’s” Emmys that should’ have been was the gorgeous, spot-on soundtrack by Quayle. Given lush strings worthy of the golden scoring age, Quayle channels the spirit of every composer from “Vertigo’s” Bernard Herrmann to Henry Mancini a la “Charade,” if not Robert Aldrich’s favored Frank De Vol and the raging strains of “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane” and “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.” What made “Feud” so good was that Murphy let the story’s camp value speak for itself, having some catty fun with the material without ever treating it without condescension. Quayle’s alternately sleek and operatic sound works in the same way. With an ironic noir theme, he captures two grand dames whose movie personas rule their real lives, while also hearing the scared souls inside of their PR personas. Wounded violins interplay with the glamorous high life of cha-cha’s and big band jazz, while a smoky trumpet positively calls Jake Gittes romping ground. But Quayle isn’t after period pastiche, let along a Louella Parsons-worthy poison pen at these fallen idols trying to claw their way back up top over each other. It’s swooning, sympathetic work that’s way more big screen than small in capturing movie magic, and the façade behind it.

Things are considerably colder for hacktivist Elliot Aldersson as “Mr. Robot” enters its third season, which is a particularly good time for Lakeshore Records to release a third volume of Quayle’s electronically intensive scoring – cleverly packaged yet again with the soundtrack’s “let’s play a game” instructions. Where retro Tangerine Dream scoring is now in vogue, especially when it comes to computer-intensive shows, Quayle’s antihero is too quirky for even that cool, rhythmic sheen. Instead. “Mr. Robot’s” latest musical hacks are far more foreboding and unique. You’re not about to hear an ersatz “Tron” game grid on this lonely, often harsh soundscape as Quayle conjures string ghosts in the machine, weaving them with isolated piano, child-like bells and crafty percussion. The result is ever-mutating, hypnotic rhythms and gnarled samples that resound with the threat of shadow government data. It’s suspense served in droning, bubbling and synthetically growling style, as frightening and hypnotic a musical approximation of being sucked into circuitry and a topsy-turvy conspiracy world as you’re likely to hear. All the while, Quayle doesn’t forget to digitize the haunted, human factor whose musical virus only continues to be consumed in the dawning age of Skynet.


There’s a special magic to Bruce Broughton’s music when it comes to capturing the pure, child-like innocence of so many beloved kid-friendly genre films like “The Boy Who Could Fly,” “Harry and the Hendersons” and even the perhaps not-so adolescent “Monster Squad.” Yet it’s that fear factor that Broughton delightfully subverted as he leveled up the cheerfully destructive antics of “Honey I Blew Up The Kid.” On the film’s 25th anniversary, Intrada unleashes what’s arguably Broughton’s most thoroughly fun genre matinee score in its full, outsized form. With James Horner taking a Nino Rota-esque circus approach for the original “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” Broughton gives the sequel more of 40’s-style big top sound that salutes the classic toon stylings of both Bugs Bunny’s Carl Stalling and Tom and Jerry’s Scott Bradley. Indeed, Broughton’s main theme sounds like mad science itself as personified by Rick Moranis’ lovably dweebish inventor dad, baby bells and big brass. But that’s only a small part of the enormous wealth of melodies that fill up the score that show’s Broughton’s range with a full orchestra, The often woozy brass is used at its lowest register to impress us with a toddler behemoth on the march, his rhythms bouncing about like “Peter and the Wolf” while familial bonding is conveyed through sweet electric keyboards. “Honey” is no more delightful then when its kid takes on Vegas, as Broughton turns the rampaging music of so many 1950’s giant monsters-on-the-loose scores on their juvenile head. He delightfully infantilizes them with a pounding lullaby melody and ice cream truck bells, yet doesn’t forget truly adventurous chase music that gets across the danger at giant hand, if not exactly its threat. Even pausing to play a western hoedown at the sight of Vegas’ famed neon cowboy, Broughton turns the outsized son treating The Strip as a toy into a whirling, dance-like number. Intrada’s new release of “Honey” sounds bigger, and better than before, offering numerous alternate takes, as well as Broughton’s delightful music for the “Honey”-accompanying animated short “Off His Rockers,” where he applies the Americana western sound of his majestic scores to “Silverado” and “Tombstone” to turn on a rocking hose dime.


Crafting a score for a movie where music itself is an essential part of the story can be as challenging as it is a wealth of opportunity, no more so than when seeking to embody an Israeli composer haunted by her parents’ Holocaust past. But composer Cyrille Aufort makes the Hitchcockian most of it with “Past Life” as an Israeli musician and her scandal-reporting sister gradually discover an especially troubling act that enabled their existence. Aufort, whose credits include the richly emotional costume drama “A Royal Affair” (alongside Gabriel Yared) and the murderously sensual genetic creation of “Splice” is clearly someone who can get into a womens’ emotional skin, especially when given a journey of personal discovery. While he recalls the dark romance of “Basic Instinct” in his score’s sensually foreboding use of strings and piano, Avi Nesher’s powerful, truth-based film is about uncovering the devastation caused by love, both romantic and familial under unimaginable circumstances. Aufort’s lush, melancholy score makes effective use of haunted, female voices, the score at once subtly tragic and dangerous as it wavers between innocence and collective guilt. Particularly impactful is “The Concert,” a crazily modernistic piece written by Avner Dorfman for chorus, electric guitar and orchestra that are suspensefully used to counterpoint its performance alongside a desperate medical episode. Giving “Past Life” its deeply moving conclusion is The Time Will Come.” As composed by Ella Milch- Sheriff, on whose life the movie is partly based, the choral concert work brings together a haunted past with a plea for healing, making “Past Life” an especially resonant soundtrack in a powerful repertoire that hinges upon the emotional devastation wreaked by The Holocaust.

. POPEYE (Deluxe Edition)

Robert Altman was a director who marched to his own drummer, and any studio brass that might have expected a remotely traditional musical from him would be woefully mistaken. Yet the chance to have the superstar comic madman Robin Williams apply his stream-of-consciousness hilarity to an iconic one-eyed, freakishly muscular sailor, was to good to be true, leading Walt Disney and Paramount to threw the big budget dice on 1980’s “Popeye.” Altman and his eccentric repertory company built the surreal town of Sweetwater off the coast of Malta, with a script by famed playwright and fan Jules Feiffer creating one of the most visually faithful comic strip adaptations ever, while losing none of Altman’s own absurdity in the bargain. But even if the non-sequitur dialogue overlapped as always, the lyrics of Harry Nilsson shined through to similarly oddball, if sweetly poignant effect. That the distinctively voiced, and singularly named musician hailed from Swedish circus performers, creating a an often whimsical, if not regretful view of life in any number of hit movie and TV songs like “Midnight Cowboy’s” “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me,” the tune-filled cartoon “The Point” and “All That Jazz’s” beautifully woeful “A Perfect Day.” For all of its scope, “Popeye” would be no less personal, with characters poignantly pining for true love, or hamburgers. Often using a Tinpan Alley approach that was well-suited to a turn-of-the-century look (even as the opening anthem “Sweet Haven” almost turns into the American one), “Popeye’s” tunes were all the more charming for seemingly not having a trained musical theater voice among the cast outside of “Damn Yankees” veteran Ray Walston, who does a hilarious proto-rap about every reason why he hates “Kids,” The brutishly typecast Paul L. Smith exclaims the joys of bullying with “I’m Mean,” Paul Dooley rationalizes that “Everything is Food,” Robin Williams proudly proclaims “I Yam What I Yam.” and Shelly Duvall deliciously gives reasons for adoring the oversized with “He’s Large,” Some lyrics are ear-catchingly adult, as when the town drunk number “Din’ We” reminisces about lost love in New York City. Varese Sarabande’s lovingly assembled two-CD edition of “Popeye” with excellent liner notes from Jerry McCulley, gather a number of unreleased tunes, along with a cliffhanging underscore by Tom Pierson (who scored Altman’s “Quintet” and “A Perfect Couple” that sounds like Wagner as crossed with the music of an old Republic serial. But better yet is the second CD that features Nilsson himself demo’ing the songs in his inimitably soulful and whimsical voice. It doesn’t get better than a ten minute take of the musician working with Shelly Duval to achieve the right, yearning tone to sing along with the pump-organ of “He Needs Me,” his sympathetic accompaniment making for the magical take that not only got her the part, but ended up much later in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love,” which likely will remain the lasting legacy of “Popeye.” It’s funny how a beanpole wallflower pining for a squinty, punchy sailor worked so well as the theme song between an occasionally violent, bipolar pudding lid collector and a lovelorn bank worker. And you’re not likely to have an insight into Nilsson’s magic, let alone the creative process of songwriting itself, as wonderfully lovelorn as that song might be.


Anyone expecting a heartwarming exemplification of the can-do “Boston Strong” spirit won’t find any sugarcoating on this unsparingly powerful film about the a man who was thrust into embodied the resilient phrase, but was anything but that. After losing most of his legs in the marathon bombing, Jeff Bauman (excellent played by Jake Gyllenhaal) sinks into a morass of anger and infantilism that makes recovery seems impossible despite the efforts of a more-than-understanding girlfriend and an overbearing mom. It’s a situation that’s dramatic enough without having a score manipulate uplift. Thankfully, composer Michael Brook only has to subtly push to let the full emotional weight of the film sink in. Having shown a talent for ethereal scores that convey young people cut adrift from life and struggling to find meaning with “Into the Wild” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (not to mention scoring the swear-filled Boston townie spirit of “The Fighter”), Brook creates a score that’s truly light on its feet. With only a cheerful cue to begin the film on a note of way happier and ambulatory times, Brook plunges Jeff into the smoky haze of the terrorist attack’s aftermath with somber, almost transparent melody for strings, piano and synth. It’s music that’s as much about atmosphere as mood, creating a dispiritng sense of loss without being depressing about it. Through his poignant, transfixing approach, we can hear both the resilience of tender guitar and shell-shock of dark electronics. Judiciously using his orchestra, Brook’s lyrical score elevates his hero slowly, but steadily, the striving music finally triumphant with an organ and march rhythm that becomes a saying that’s frequently bandied about by every well-meaning person in the film, but one infinitely harder to reach than any patriotic feel-good reporting might have it. For a movie that wears its realism with gritty, unforced pride, Michael Brook’s powerfully subtle, poetic score knows the true meaning of what it really takes to be Boston Strong.


It’s rare when a soundtrack oldie compilation hits you like a bolt from the blue, especially given a composer you’ve likely never heard of (though you’ve certainly heard of his piano session player John Williams, whose praises open the album booklet). Yet such is the hillbilly excitement that Jack Marshall unleashes in La La Land’s totally unexpected, but greatly welcome release top-lined by the composer’s “Thunder Road.” Imagine a finger pickin’ country guitar doing swing time excitement as Robert Mitchum runs moonshine past smokies and mobsters, and you’ll instantly light up with the delirious inventiveness of a composer who really brought the guitar into orchestral scoring. With stringed instruments in his blood from “a banjo-playing oilman” dad, Marshall is best known for his groovy fuzz guitar theme for “The Munsters.” But it’s Marshall’s harmonica-blowing, guitar pickin’ score for this 1958 actioner that set him in good course to score such seminal western TV shows as “Have Gun – Will Travel,” Wagon Train” and “Laredo.” Marshall certainly knew how to drive a great theme through the score in this drive in classic precursor to “White Lightning,” with swooning symphonic romance and two-fisted melodrama to spare. But it’s when his score hits the gas that “Thunder Road” achieves a crazy “orchestral rockabilly” nirvana in a good ol’ boy symphonic jam session, an unlikely dance between upscale sophistication and lowdown energy that’s positively inspired. “Thunder Road” also includes numbers from jazz chanteuse and co-star Keely Smith, with “The Ballad of Thunder Road” and “Whippoorwill” both co-written by Mitchum. Less crazy, but no less effective is Marshal’s score for 1959’s “Take A Giant Step,” a quite daring film about a black teenager finding his way in the white suburbs. Marshall takes a dynamic symphonic approach here, his strings giving sympathy to a rebel with a cause. “Giant” is also full of 50’s pop-jazz goodness, from big band swing to ice cream parlor jive to accordion beat burlesque. Filling out the album is Marshall’s score to 1959’s “The Rabbit Trap,” with “Marty’s” Ernest Borgnine as a more upscale working class schlub who can’t take a vacation for the life of him, leaving a caged rabbit in his distraught son’s wake. With harmonica and more jazz inflection, Marshall draws a line from the harmonica great outdoors to the big city workplace, giving a charming, upbeat tenderness to the score. As nice a discovery as a vintage release can be, “The Film Music of Jack Marshall” has ace TV music journalist Jon Burlingame filling us in on this unsung composer for a nicely designed booklet, that also features a touching appreciation from Jack’s famed producer son Frank. If anything, I can only salivate for a release of Marshall’s hot rodding score to “The Giant Gila Monster” and of course Elvis’ “Stay Away, Joe” score after these delights.


Matching his beyond-prolific output with continually interesting and inventive scores. Bear McCreary has often dealt with horror from the full-blooded orchestral fear of “Ten Cloverfield Lane” to the rustic eeriness of “The Walking Dead” and the southern-fried suspense of “Rest Stop.” But somehow he’s ever dealt with the awfulness of a seemingly inexplicable, real-life zombification of chronic fatigue syndrome, where once-healthy and vivacious people have the life sapped from them. Such was the disease that befell Harvard PHD student Jennifer Brea. But as opposed to letting bedridden exhaustion consume her body and soul, she decided to document her struggle to get back her life, while finding kindred spirits in this acclaimed film. It’s a still mis-diagnosed condition that creates an eerily spellbound vibe to McCreary’s work, with a chamber-like intimacy that fans of his Philip Glass-ian work for the revamped “Battlestar Galactica,” as well as the more eerily meditative music within “The Walking Dead” will appreciate listening to. Beginning with a rhythmic violin and string melody, McCreary’s perky music suggests something is off, his approach becoming more troubling as the beat of an MRI machine fills the soundtrack, a quite dreadful feeling that anyone who’s been inside of one these consuming metal beast can attest to. Yet McCreary somehow makes it remotely musical with the cello to cut through the white noise. Brea’s isolation is conveyed with piano and electric guitar as samples whip about her, the score’s consciousness descending into piercing, metallic sounds. Yet humor isn’t lost as mock theremin and lurching percussion convey “mysterious green stuff.” The essentially unplugged, subtly thematic nature of “Unrest” does much to convey his subject’s difficult switch from depression to activism, as the exotic Gamelan bells of “Joyful Tears” and sustained poignancy of CSD victims get across a muted sense of hop, but one that’s very much there. It’s a finally reassuring attitude powerfully voiced in the alt. folk of Ren Gill’s “Patience” and McKian’s “And After All.” McCreary does exceptionally well within the intimate range of documentary scoring with “Unrest,” a truly interesting score that takes us through the inner world of a heroine, and her internet-connected world of fellow sufferers, conveying the psychological power to take command of life against a spirit-against-body affliction.


After twice resurrecting Nazi zombies for fellow Norwegian Tommy Wirkola, composer Christian Wibe gets to indulge times seven in the director’s most excitingly twisted picture yet by asking the question “What Happened To Monday?” Though made under the Netflix prestige of dystopian respectability this time out, Wirkola is no less insane, or fun as hidden septuplets brave a one-child law to diminishing, if exciting effect. But what’s new for Wirkola is the real emotional investment that comes with the twinning effects and “Bourne”-worthy chases, especially given the distinctive performances by original Libeth Salander Noomi Rapace. Unleashing dense, propulsive rhythms for a succession of near escapes and being brutally by Glenn Close’s evil minions, Wibe’s score is terrific, throttling stuff that might speak the same alt. orchestral sample language of many action scores of its type. Yet he manages to give his propulsive energy its own identity, especially with electronics that get across an overpopulated near future that gets trimmed a bit here. But what’s particularly special about the desperately suspenseful pulse of “Monday” is the thematic feeling that Wibe gives the score, conveying the loneliness of seven sisters who’ve spent their always threatened lives in service of becoming one person for the good of the many. It’s a yearning to be free that’s reflected through a powerful, beautifully melancholy theme that invests no small amount of emotion in “Monday” as Wirkola makes the film way more than the sum of what could have been clichéd future shock Eastern Euro-shot parts. It’s a suspenseful, fun score with feminine heart, as adept at unleashing foot chases and ingenious evasions as it is making you melodically care about its singularly multiple heroines. Hopefully at the least, “Monday” will let Wibe make a deserved mad dash into a Hollywood action-scoring scene that needs all of the unique composers it can get.

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

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Clint Mansell

Vr, 22/09/2017 - 00:11

Since his mad science scoring debut with the brain-drilling mathematician of 1998’s “Pi,” the former member of Pop Will Eat Itself has often gorged on excessive characters – from drug addicts destroying their bodies for the ultimate high (“Requiem for a Dream”) to an ultra competitive ballerina’s descent into madness (“Black Swan”) and a biblical prophet driven to the sacrifice his daughter to survive the ultimate flood (“Noah”). But of all of the movies where Clint Mansell has weaved mesmerizing, tone poems of electronics and orchestra to convey self destruction, perhaps no subject is better known for flaming out with such beauty as Vincent Van Gogh.

While the artist’s end is no more tragic than any other Mansell muse, the visual, and musical path to reach the final notes of a misunderstood life passionately lived has yielded an uncommonly gorgeous and haunting score with “Loving Vincent.” But then, it’s hard for any creator not to be sparked with this film’s achievement. As conceived by directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, “Loving Vincent” takes the “rotoscoping” technique of pre-filming animation as live action, and then turning the subjects to toons to a whole new dimension. Rendered as hundreds of original oil paintings that morph from one classic Gogh drawing and painting to the next, “Loving Vincent” traces the mysterious life and death of an painter way before his time, as told to an admirer from those who knew Van Gogh in the rustic village where he breathed his last.

It’s a rich palette for Mansell to color from in his fusion of sound, its waves of melody building from strokes and circular motions to fashion a sympathetic portrait of the first modern artist. French inflections weave with escalating melody, spare piano and strings fathom a tortured soul through his own narration, and echoed percussion becomes the mental illness that finds expression in the harm that he brought to himself. It’s an uncommonly rich and sympathetic portrait that finds a sense of peace uncommon for Mansell’s often rhythmically visceral work, while being equally as hypnotic in hearing creativity at its most revolutionary – as heard from a composer with no small imprint of his own with giving scoring the shock of the new.

Before you started on this film, what did Vincent Van Gogh mean to you as a creative person?

Like most people, I knew of some of the paintings and of the ear incident, But for the making of this film, the directors gave me lots of books for research, especially this book called “Van Gogh: The Life,” which was really insightful because I knew absolutely nothing about his struggles and failed career attempts, his castigation from his family, who disowned him, the loneliness and his mental health which really worked against him. Van Gogh was a troubled individual, which gave me a very rich background to work with, musically speaking.

How did you get involved with “Loving Vincent?”

Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela

Dorota Kobiela started working on it back in 2008. She was originally was going to make a short film on Van Gogh. But when she met Hugh Welchman, he had told her that it should be a bigger project than just a short feature. So, she started writing it as a film script, and only listened to my music while doing so. When it came time to decide who should score the movie, she did not want anybody else doing it except for me. She and Hugh had been trying to get in touch with me for years. I was basically non-committal because it was not quite there yet. But then I finally got to meet Dorota, I read the script and was completely sold on it. I then asked whom they had in mind for scoring and Dorota said that it had to be me. So I guess I didn’t have a choice in it!

This is the first animated film you’ve scored. Given that most of this genre is aimed at kids, what was it like to score something as bold as “Loving Vincent?”

I must admit I didn’t think about that at first, at least not in the animation sense. Since I’d never done a movie like this before I had nothing to compare it with. When I first saw the film, I was watching the live action version as opposed to the animated film it ultimately became. So Initially I focused on the emotions that were required from the storytelling aspect. When the animation was more complete I got to see a better picture of what needed to be done. Animated movies themselves seem to be rooted in pastiche, which is something I avoided completely as to compliment the story we were trying to tell.

Did you feel like a painter while scoring the film?

Arles Café Terrace at Night

Yes, to some degree—as all creative people start off with nothing and end up with something. Whatever medium you take, it doesn’t really matter, you know? There’s a process in finishing your work. A painter adds and adds and subtracts –very much what I do with music. Like the great Alan Moore said, “All artists are like magicians because they make something out of nothing.”

There’s a running theme in your work about obsessive characters that pursue their goal to the point of madness and self-destruction. How do you think that “Loving Vincent” fits into that?

I think he fits in well, actually. But where those films I’ve worked on before were works of fiction, this one is a work of reality.

The structure of “Loving Vincent” reminded me of “Citizen Kane”’s, where there’s a person trying to get the true story behind an icon’s death. Did the steady revelations about Van Gogh influence your approach?

Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) in colour

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really know much about Van Gogh, so I scored it as if it were in real time. It wasn’t like I went into the project fully armed. But once I spent time scoring it and had a chance to listen to what I did coming in, I was able to make the needed changes and grew closer to the project as I got closer to the truth of the film.

Of all of the classic works of Vincent that the film replicates, did you have a favorite?

There are about a hundred of his works represented in the film, which made it a particularly great thing to work on. I do have a favorite but it is not in the finished film. It’s a drawing of his called “Sorrow” I found it to be very profound.

Van Gogh put layer upon layer of color into his work so that they came across as three-dimensional. Did you view your own layering of your scores with orchestral and electronics in the same way?

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) arriving in Auvers by train

Though I didn’t really approach scoring “Loving Vincent” in that way, I’ve got to say that it had that same quality. One of the things I looked at was where Vincent was at that time of the film’s setting. Yet I didn’t want to do a Gaelic-sounding score. It would seem very confusing to many watching the film. So when I was writing I was focusing on those instruments of the time, I also wanted to feel his speed where he would make pieces in such short amounts of time.

Your scores have always been hypnotic, very mesmerizing. We feel lost in them, the same way we would in becoming absorbed by Vincent’s work.

I want to be transported as viewer, and I try to do the same with my scores. I don’t know if that’s the right thing for films at times. But if I can get people lost in the movie with the music, then I feel that was what I wanted to achieve. So, there is a sort of hypnosis to my work.

You use female voices in an especially haunting way for “Loving Vincent.” Do you think they make the film tragic?

Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan) at the piano

You get to feel that Vincent’ life was tragic, even though he has been immortalized. He’ll probably be around as long as we’re around. Even though he made magical work, he never got away from himself.

The film ends with Don McLean’s song, “Starry Starry Night,” which I never realized was about Van Gogh until I saw this film. Can you talk about Lianne La Havas’ version for “Loving Vincent?”

Landscape Starry Night over the Rhone

I knew it as a kid back then, but I never retained that information until later in my life. When the film came up I sort of remembered it, almost to the point where I almost joked about it, like “Oh, we’ll never do THAT.” But as time went on, it started to make sense, especially when I did a version with me on the acoustic guitar. It just sort of grew from there. Matt Dunkley and I worked out an orchestral arrangement that would have the flavor of the score, and everybody just loved it. We asked Don McClain for the rights to re-record it “Starr Starry Night,” and got a letter back saying that we’d need X-amount, which we couldn’t afford. So we sent Don a package with a clip of the film with the music. And when he saw that, he just loved it and said we could have the song. Then we needed someone who cold bring it to life, and Lianne La Havas was a friend of a friend.

You scored the most popular episode of “Black Mirror” this season with “San Junipero.” What was it like working on the Emmy-winning episode, especially as it centered around songs?

“Black Mirror” was really strange. I liked the episode I worked on. But I thought, “My God, this is so different from the other episodes. Is this going to tank?” I did the mixes, but never produced them in stereo, as I thought we’d never need them, especially as there wasn’t much time to score it So when the episode came out and people went crazy for it, I went back in the studio and did new mixes for the Lakeshore album. I wasn’t prepared for the reception “San Junipero” got. It’s quite amazing, and really wonderful. The songs weren’t a problem to be honest, in as much with working with them. They figured them all out from the get-go. It was sort of like finding the right tone, because the director Owen Harris wanted the score to feel like a John Hughes movie, which felt right to me. I did some stuff that he felt was too dark. So we did another take on it that lightened it a little bit. But then the show’s creator Charlie Booker thought my score had to be darker than that, so we found a middle ground between the two approaches. But finding the right tone is no different than any project really. It’s those nuances that make it work. The next time I do some live shows, I’ll be playing music from “San Junipero.”

If you could score another animated film about an artist done in the same way as “Loving Vincent,” whom would it be about?

I’d love to do one about Jack Kirby and call it “Loving Kirby.” That would be great!

“Loving Vincent” opens on September 22, with Clint Mansell’s score available on Milan Records HERE

Listen to Clint Mansell’s score for the “Black Mirror” episode “San Junipero” HERE

Visit Clint Mansell’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for his transcription of this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Matthew Margeson

Wo, 20/09/2017 - 14:27

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

Just as Harry Hart apprenticed an upstart punk named Eggsy into wearing the Savile Row suit of a Kingsman in ass-kicking style, the slightly less violent English composer Henry Jackman oversaw the not-quite as defiant Yank named Matthew Margeson through such scores as “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,” “Man on a Ledge” and “Monsters Vs. Aliens” to the point where his protégé became his own memorable man of action on “Skyline,” “Eddie the Eagle” and “Rings.”

Matthew Margeson (L) and Henry Jackman (R)

Yet perhaps neither either musician is quite as wackily memorable as when called to save the world by filmmaker Matthew Vaughan, a filmmaker often in satirical superhero service to graphic novelist Mark Millar with “Kick Ass” and “Kingsman.” Sure the latter’s retro espionage scoring might not have been new. But it was the sheer thematic joy with which Margeson and Jackman wore their John Barry suits that made the first “Secret Service” into a joygasm of lush, 007-tailored excitement as it breathlessly took down a magnate with dreams of apocalyptic grandeur.

Now faced with an even more attractive evildoer out for domination, the dapper Kingsman must team with their ugly American counterparts the Statesman in “The Golden Circle.” For Margeson and Jackman, it’s a deliciously adrenalized opportunity to combine British spy spirit with the twangy Spaghetti Western-isms of cowboys with attitude. It’s a hoedown of brassily symphonic excitement, steel guitars, lightning-fast fiddling and flag-waving pride that puts a new spring into their music’s lethally fun step – a spy action rodeo that Matthew Margeson now talks about suiting up for in a new episode of “On the Score.”

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Buy the Soundtrack: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (available September 26th) Buy the Soundtrack: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE Buy the Soundtrack: KICK-ASS Buy the Soundtrack: EDDIE THE EAGLE

Celebrate the legendary Lalo Schifrin’s 85th Birthday on October 7th at Glendale’s Alex Theater with an all-star band and special guests! Buy your tickets HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws