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Interview with Geoff Barrow

Vr, 23/02/2018 - 17:44

As sci-fi scoring reaches new realms of transfixing weirdness, perhaps no composing team is pushing the outer limits like Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, both in the service of adult-themed genre auteur Alex Garland. Even when Barrow began his music career as one of the founding members of the alt. band Portishead, it wasn’t hard to hear a film noir vibe in such soundtrack favorite songs as “Glory Box” and “Roads.” Salisbury has a more traditionally scored road to the big screen with numerous TV documentary scores for the likes of “The Life of Mammals,” “Life in Cold Blood” and “Ocean Giants.” But put together their talent for surreal grooves with more conventional scoring, and the fusion is the sound of the experimental soundtrack future, as done for a critically acclaimed filmmaker who’s about mad science at its most meditatively profound.

Mixing the visceral with the esoteric in his writing credits for Danny Boyle’s zombie and solar apocalypses in “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” Garland’s directing debut on “Ex Machina” was a technologically sterile chamber piece in which two scientists find themselves seduced by a sensual avatar of artificial intelligence. “Machina’s” calculating mad science was given a spellbindingly cold score by Barrow and Salisbury, their haunting, high-tech sound drawing on the rebirth of classic 80’s synth stylings, evolving it with the calculating melody of the ghost within their state of the art gear.

Geoff and Ben

Now the composers are given a far bigger stage to play on with “Annihilation,” as an alien force steadily transforms our planet into a region of life forms both beautiful and terrifying. As a team of female scientists is sent into “Area X” to discover the origins of this weird, multi-colored force, Barrow and Salisbury create their own, eerie world of tonalities that fuse organic sound into another sonic life form. As opposed to going for the rugged adventure that might distinguish an eye-candy Hollywood approach to the material (based on Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” book trilogy), “Annihilation” takes an unexpected route thanks to the pensive approach that signifies Garland’s voice.

Given a colorful force that’s warping reality, Barrow and Salisbury create an ever-shifting wall of sound – yet one that still isn’t too far afield from the musical world that film audiences inhabit Female voices dance about eerie metallic effects, hushed strings and a humane guitar, the score building with a sense of spellbinding revelation and washes of retro electronics. In a sci-fi scoring world ever-intent on creating an utterly unearthly sound with the likes of Mica Levi’s “Under the Skin” and Johann Johannsson’s “The Arrival,” Barrow and Salisbury’s own unique synergy makes for a soundtrack that’s its own weirdly evolved animal – harmonically strange, but thematically accessible – all in service of a filmmaker who’s doing his best to regress the genre back to its philosophical glory days. It’s a twilight zone that “Annihilation’s” eerily involving tonal score hypnotizes us into entering.

When you helped start Portishead with Adrian Utley, did the band strive for a “score” sound?

No, but we’ve always been influenced by film scores. We loved the Italian gangster stuff and John Carpenter scores. Composers like John Barry influenced us as well. Adrian and I also loved Jerry Goldsmith’s work on “Planet of the Apes.”

Portishead – Adrian Utley(L) Beth Gibbons(M) and Geoff Barrow(R)

Portishead songs like “Roads,” “Scorn” and “Glory Box” have been used in movie soundtracks from the days of “Tank Girl,” “Stealing Beauty” and “The Craft.” Do you think that was because of the songs’ cinematic quality?

There were a lot of needle drop points here and there. I think it was more for the mood, really. The most recent one was in Ben Wheatley’s “High Rise, for which we did a cover of Abba’s “S.O.S.” We kind of used that song as a cry for help in the film, which worked out quite well. We get people asking us if they can use “Glory Box” for a sex scene and we just tell them “No,” because they don’t get what the song is about to begin with.

One of your first scores was for “Exit from the Gift Shop,” a fun documentary about the prankster artist Banksy.

It was on that film that I met my composing partner Ben Salisbury. We’d played soccer together, but someone we had no idea what we did for our livings! Originally they were going to use stock film library stuff. But when they found out they couldn’t, I was called in to “Gift Shop.” I knew very little about scoring, but I did understand where the music would go to what was onscreen. I learned a lot working with Ben on that movie, and I’ve been at it ever since. Ben’s got a lot of experience writing for television and films, so I’ve learned a lot from him. And because I’ve brought a lot of my own musical oddness to him, we’ve made a good team. We next did music for Alex Garland on his pitch for a Judge Dredd film. But the financers did not like what we were doing so we walked off it, saying that we didn’t want to play music that the producers didn’t like to hear on their film. The good thing Is that we released it as an album called “Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One,” and it did really well.

What was your experience like with Alex and Ben on “Ex-Machina?”

It’s wall-to-wall atmosphere, and not like your typical score where it’s all blaring at you. “Ex Machina” crosses the line with sound design, where it can be like an air conditioning unit making that sound – it all goes hand in hand. Alex is very generous with sharing ideas, very open to suggestion from the whole team—to have everyone work for the film as a unit, not just departmentally. Ben and I loved doing John Carpenter-styled scoring with “Ex Machina,” as if we were scoring a film from the 80’s. Ben and I just did “Free Fire,” where it was a Lalo Schifrin kind of score. That was really fun.

How would you describe Alex’s brand of sci-fi?

Alex is a serious filmmaker. He’s been in the business for over 20 years and has got a voice and people really like. That’s because they want to see interesting science fiction, not the kind where it’s robots smashing into walls. His work is subtler, and has more depth.

Filmmaker Alex Garland

How did you want to make your minimal approach for “Annihilation” interesting?

At first we were not sure if it was interesting at all! But we knew it was to be about a journey the characters would take, knowing that something wasn’t quite right. The original “Blade Runner had that sense of growth. These days you have films where it opens up big with an amazing shot of the city. But if it doesn’t have a big battle scene in the beginning, where do you go from there? It’s like you just blew all of your marbles. With both “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” we hope that we got to bring across some sense of growth to both the score and the story – so that when you get to the end, you get the feeling like you’ve been taken over with something, both sonically and visually.

The female voices and metallic sampling you use in “Annihilation” certainly get you into that trance state.

Well, hopefully not to the point where the music might take you out of the film. Ben and I have always tried to stay away from “stock” scoring. If go to see a Marvel film, you kind of know what you’re gonna get. But not on “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” Here we wanted to move away from synths, which have become the stock, go-to instruments to compose with. We wanted to go about this score in a completely different way that would make this film its own story.

What was your ensemble on “Annihilation?”

It was acoustic guitar, which I don’t really play well at all. Though we brought in far better guitar players, we ended up with mine! We also used the water phone a lot, which we tried to make tunes out of. But while I really wanted to make the score exclusively with the water phone, it has way too many limitations. Eventually we used some small string sections as well. With the choir we tried not to be too religious sounding. We ended up doing some different recording tracks to give it a more immersive sound.

Do you think there’s a trend where some composers try to “out-strange” the other in creating these utterly bizarre and alien musical environments like “Under the Skin” and “The Arrival?”

I don’t think it’s about getting “weird.” It’s more about being interesting. You think about how many years film scores have been around. I don’t know if some of these scores are helping the film or not, because I think that the audience has tuned out. It’s gotten so predictable that sometimes I don’t think that the audience can hear the music anymore.

How did you want to both be interesting for “Annihilation?”

Ben and I are literally like the alien from “The Thing.” We’ve absorbed each other. What you’d think would be by me, and what you’d think would be Ben, is now all mashed up. We do both do of each other’s stuff now. Ben brings the ability to really write, and to have that non-stop ability of bringing his musical understanding to the project with an effortless talent. As a producer, I have more of a musical overview, knowing what might work and when we might need something else.

What do you think about “Annihilation” going to Netflix overseas, while getting a theatrical release in America?

It’s a real shame for the rest of the world not to experience it in theaters. I think that the people feel that Alex has made a great film with this because it’s so subtle. I don’t understand the politics of film distribution. But I think they were wrong about how they handled it, because people are intelligent, especially when they’re fed with so much rubbish these days. I think that audiences will love “Annihilation” and “Ex Machina” equally.

You work for Alex has been about evolution. In “Ex Machina,” it’s a robot transforming in a human. And in “Annihilation,” it’s an alien force that’s transforming the earth. How do you see your and Ben’s music evolving in the way?

It’s really positive. We’re currently about to start a series. Delivering under that pressure should be interesting. We’ve gotten a few ideas and it looks like it’s working out nicely. Ben and I are both learning every day. And that’s a great thing.

Venture into Area X with Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury for “Annihilation” on Lakeshore Records HERE. Then listen to them turn a turn a robot into a real woman with “Ex-Machina” HERE before venturing to “Mega City One” HERE

A special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

February Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 21/02/2018 - 19:38

Soundtrack Picks: “ZOMBILENNIUM” is the top soundtrack to own for February 2017


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




Prices: $9.99 / 14.98

What is it?: Not only is Jeff Russo just about the hardest-working composer being heard on television right now with the likes of “Waco,” “Ghosted,” “Power” and “Counterpart,” but he’s also one of the most continually interesting at pushing its scoring’s outer limits. That can mean taking Carter Burwell’s approach for “Fargo” into completely new realms of portentously humorous and dramatic scoring (netting Russo two Emmy nominations and a win in the criminal process), or hearing the many insane personalities of the mutant named “Legion.” It’s in the sci-fi genre where Russo has been doing some of his most impressive work, especially when casting his ear towards musical futures where every old concept is made new again in sad, rain-filled tones or a reborn franchise’s new sense of musical discovery.

Why Should I Buy It?: Adapted by Laeta Kalogridis (“Birds of Prey”) from the first entry in Richard K. Morgan’s book series, “Altered Carbon” makes a “Matrix” like impact for Netflix, bending oft-repeated “Blade Runner”-isms, cyberpunk and bloodily gushing scenes of sex and violence into a complete new and stunning Private Dick animal. It’s a future noir show that’s just as haunting for spectacular visuals as the deeper psychological ramifications sleeved beneath the eye candy. It’s into those haunted ears that Russo goes with his meditations on virtual eternity. Given a propulsive theme graced with the voices of Ayana Haviv, Tori Letzler and Holly Sedillos, Russo’s aching electric cello, guitar and orchestra set a quasi-religious tone for the show. Percussion, eerie samples and humming are his version of an unhappy limbo where death is just a dream for a jaded populace that can clone jump on a whim. Given a hero’s who’s tortured in both body and mind by his inability to save his loved ones, Russo does much to give poignancy to this sullen bastard. Voices are the thematic, Ligety-like link that migrates through the cues with the fluidity of the human frame, strings providing a somber, subtly emotional counterpoint to the often gleefully adult, very black-humored material on screen. Using Asian-styled flute playing to create the character’s original Asian body, and his distinctly screwed-up sister. Russo’s music is an eerie, empathetic ghost in the machine. It’s a hypnotically elegiac layer of “Carbon” that I wish this had way more music on this album, especially given what could have been gleaned from ten beyond-binge-able episodes. But what’s here is a tantalizing taste for sure, distinctively abetted by “Altered’s” songs. A twisted, reverberating lullaby plays “The Patchwork Man” where Sune Rose Wagner brings techno-rock to “Let My Baby Ride,” and a “Halloween”-esque rhythm to the Katana-swinging “More Human than Human” for a character who really knows how to make an entrance. Providing a mythic end is the jangling, guitar western ode of Renee Elise Goldsberry’s “Ain’t No Grave,” a song that hits the regret of a tragedy-cloaked, ever-wandering hero on the head with the throaty impact of a six gun.

Extra Special: The bright, and mostly optimistic first TV voyage of “Star Trek” was renowned for distinctive themes that have become an indelible part of pop culture – a musical boldness that was completely lost in space for every series variation since by network brass that had as much love for melodic themes as Klingons had for tribbles. Now, the mostly noodling musical voyages since have finally reached a promised land, thanks to Paramount, which at at last allows a composer to go boldly for the franchise’s pay-platform venture with “Star Trek: Discovery.” The series itself got out to a decidedly rocky start for the first half of its insanely violent, and overly dark first season (before doing a significant course correction within the mirror universe), “Discovery” shined right off the bat by being powered by music that isn’t afraid to be music. Russo certainly captains the optimistic Federation spirit with a main orchestral theme that promises “Discovery,” an almost ironic brightness (of course topped off with a salute to the famed Alexander Courage TOS theme). It’s an undeniable warmth, and nobleness that made the season’s faulty start watchable with its theme-driven approach. If anything, Russo’s music is so good here because he’s scoring an epic “Trek” movie as opposed to any series – a domain that rejoiced in the melodic likes of Jerry Goldmsith, James Horner, Cliff Eidelman and Michael Giacchino, when the small screen versions mostly hit an anti-melodic force field, no matter the shows’ quality. “Discovery’s” music takes what’s best about that feature work with big screen sonic polish. Using strings and horns to heroic effect, Russo’s music is about the stalwart bond of characters thrust into war, with the nasty Klingons given a brooding, ethnic sound that Goldsmith pioneered from their first, jagged-headed appearance in “Star Trek – The Motion Picture.” Russo runs with that twisted, primal sound as he goes for the symphonic excitement of space battles and the mystical wonder of exploration, all with a hopefulness that’s positively O.G. OTS. Throughout “Discovery,” there’s the sense of enthusiasm that really cuts through on this album, from alien atmospheres to intimate piano and pokey synth controls, with all points leading back to the very human musical mission that Gene Roddenberry set his composers out on. The melody on constant display here truly unites the show in a way that even the episodic nature of the first three TOS seasons couldn’t do with their repetitive, budget-mandated tracking from a distinctive music library. Indeed, “Discovery” has the most musical cohesiveness of any “Trek” show. I can only hope that Russo’s truly epic scoring of “Discovery’s” terrifically redemptive episodes make for a second album on a TV pay-for voyage that I now hope goes way beyond four years.


Price: $21.99

What is it?: Firing off the last major bottle cap missile when it comes to releasing every last piece of Jerry Goldsmith’s most-requested arsenal, Intrada comes up with an ingenious solution on how to finally quench a seemingly unrecoverable holy grail in the composer’s repertoire. Sure Goldsmith had conjured the American apocalypse with the likes of “Planet of the Apes” and “Logan’s Run,” but rarely had his combination of primal eeriness, rousing patriotism and kick-ass staccato action been put to the wonderfully berserk test as it was in 1979’s “Damnation Alley.” Reteaming with director Jack Smith after his loopy black comedy score for “The Traveling Executioner,” Goldsmith also found himself behind the wheel with his “Blue Max” star George Peppard, here down to scorched earth as he pilots a giant all-terrain vehicle called The Landmaster (once a familiar site to any commuter on the 101 making the nightmarish trek to LA). His destination under irradiated magenta skies is the utopia of Albany, New York, and damned if this terrifically exciting score isn’t going to get us there.

Why Should You Buy It?: Goldsmith was certainly gaining a new audience of fans in the late 70’s, and “Damnation” isn’t to be slighted amidst the sci-fi likes of “Alien” and “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” Treating the likes of mutants, giant scorpions and killer cockroaches with epic seriousness, this also just might be Goldsmith’s most terrifically noble militaristic score outside of “Patton” as the soundtrack’s swelling timpani and brass hits the ex-military nature of its team. But amidst the desert forbidden zone this soundtrack traverses, it’s Goldsmith’s music for killer cockroaches that just might be the score’s standout, a wonderfully nightmarish, over the top attack of horns, gnarled voices and hissing, until his throttling theme comes to the rescue. Along with his unique orchestration for orchestra and electronics, there’s also a quite lovely, bucolic melody that makes you also recognize this is the composer who wrote “Lilies of the Field” and “Patch of Blue,” the score’s hope for humanity providing the rousing kind of deliverance heard in “Logan’s Run,” soaring melody that’s a reaffirmation of the human spirit against all the harsh tonalities the apocalypse can throw at it.

Extra Special: It’s exactly those ultra-70’s synth parts that have prevented “Damnation Alley” from getting the album it should have had long ago, as that electronic music was lost While that didn’t prevent Varese Sarabande from doing an impressive re-performance of “Alley’s” symphonic music on a compilation CD, Intrada has now ingeniously, and seamlessly had score restorationist Michael Matessino join the existing orchestra’s surround tracks with a spot-on keyboard re-performance by Leigh Phillips. The result of retrofitting the symphony with state of the art “old” synths is true genius in finally letting the full-on musical Landmaster reach long-denied fan ears. “Damnation” at last has found salvation, fully revealing a succinct, powerful score that showed a composer who inventively knew how to pilot a score through a post-nuke landscape like no one’s business.


Price: $14.98

What Is it?: The official soundtrack to “Goodfellas on Ice,” or at least the kneecapping skater version of it, “I, Tonya” knows that nothing captures criminal attitude like the classics. Where Martin Scorsese has always been sure to give mobsters a mix tape drawn from the hits of 50’s into the early 70’s, “I Tonya” picks up that attitude from the bad hair days of the 70’s to skate with it right through the 80’s in a colorful blur of jukebox favorites and more cleverly unusual song choices.

Why should you buy it?: Whether you’re talking about “Goodfellas” murderous R & B intent or Simon and Garfunkel’s poetic folk for nice boy Benjamin Braddock, any memorable song-driven soundtrack tells the story of its (anti) heroes. And “I, Tonya” has a doozy with a lower class trash-talking snow queen out to prove herself to the Olympic snobs. Or at least that’s the impression everyone’s had of her, as the lead off of Cliff Richard’s “Devil Woman” immediately gets across. A triumph of song storytelling, the electric guitar attitude of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (also put to great use in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”) get across Tonya’s take-no-prisoners attitude on her way to the top, an inner, mom-created rage that fuels her every move in the rink. But as opposed to being painted as just a hellcat, more lyrical songs like “Romeo and Juliet” and Chris Stills’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” paint a far more tender picture of a little girl lost who just wants to be loved, and the pathetic romantic aspirations of her abusive husband. Where her squeaky clean rivals chose Prokofiev for their musically boring routines, leave it to Tonya to pick En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” and Heart’s “Barracuda,” hip hop and hard rock that put fire into her impossibly great moves, while projecting a big middle finger from her hand-made outfits to the stuffed shirt judges. Other album selections are terrifically ironic, from the lyrics of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger” that question “the undisputed truth” to Siouxsie & the Banshee hearing Tonya as “The Passenger.” As squeaky-clean Doris Day innocently coos “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” “I Tonya’s” astounding soundtrack asks us what’s the price of being a tabloid celebrity that dragged ice-skating into the tabloid fire? Whether the tunes are deluded, or aware of her actions, all are as sharply to the point as an iron bar to the leg – if with an impact that’s way more fun.

Extra Special: Perhaps “I Tonya’s” biggest scream of rage is made by composer Peter Nashel, whose score might be brief, but certainly makes a rude impression. A smart, under-the-radar composer who’s work has graced the likes of “The Deep End,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Marco Polo,” Nashel gets some cool exposure here with his brief, but truly impactful work. “The Incident” hammers in rapid-fire metallic percussion with a growing sense of outrage as it tracks Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecapping, the rhythm and howling all evil determination and then outright panic of the criminals who couldn’t shoot straight. Nashel’s “Tonya Suite” uses a surprisingly elegant classical piano rhythm to launch into a Philip Glass-like rhythmic theme that behooves an evil ice queen, complete with organ, eerie strings and sleighbell percussion. It’s ruthless, mastermind stuff, hammering in the contrast between “Tonya’s” truth and fiction with no small sense of humor, deliciously bombastic music for an outsized, sports villain if there ever was one in the rink of public opinion.



Prices: $11.19 / $11.98

What Is it: As the composer whose gift for melody made film music appreciated the world over like never before, John Williams stands as the modern Mozart of his craft, a composer whose populist touch spans generations past and future as his energy continues unabated into his astounding 86th year. Williams understandably never fails to bring award nominations with each one – splitting the difference in 2018 with Oscar gold recognition for the latest edition of an intergalactic saga that truly put film scores on the map, and Golden Globe recognition by foreign entertainment “journalists” to a score for American reporters who put their jobs, and potentially their vocation’s freedom on the line.

Why Should You Buy It?: Though he’d long been handling blockbusters before “Star Wars,” George Lucas’ odyssey was truly the soundtrack that allowed Williams to put grand orchestral scoring on the map like never before. Thankfully the seemingly eternal Williams has remained along for the ride as the “Star Wars” saga has swung from happy ending optimism full of victorious rebels to an ever-darkening future with a skeleton crew of survivors. The latter ending is perhaps why “The Last Jedi’s” hope against all odds has made this one of the best “Star Wars” films, especially coming off of a painfully infantile “The Force Awakens,” where no one was functioning at their best capabilities. “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson’s course correction is nothing less than astounding (in spite of dissatisfied fanboy raving), allowing Williams to create a mature score that draws its power on his ability to write one terrifically memorable theme after the other. His force of leitmotifs is the stuff that binds this score together, drawing on a wealth of heroism and villainy, and playing it somewhere in the middle of deeply flawed valor and evildoers we can sense the good in. Like Luke, Williams’ “Jedi” is brooding and intensely emotional. When Skywalker’s theme pulls Leia back from space or Yoda’s melody shows up to give his novice one last lesson, it’s like being amongst old friends, our love of the saga rushing right back in to tearful effect, or an amusing one as a gambling planet’s jive recalls a dive on Tatooine. It’s also certainly busy as Williams’ orchestrations make you feel every dip and dive of its spaceship battles and light-sabre swinging. If there’s one fault for “Jedi,” it’s that the action music is tremendously exciting, but lacking the cohesive flow of an asteroid chase or Endor forest battle, with a central melody keeping pace from beginning to end. Here, it’s all about the character themes, which certainly do the Jedi mind trick, especially in an epic choral face-off as such between Luke and his pissed protégé. That Williams will hopefully be able to finish the third “Star Wars” trilogy is astonishing in itself. That the force is really back with him and these films (despite the dreadful thought of J.J. Abrams returning to the franchise) is truly reason to rejoice beyond admiring that a man of his seasoned years can still keep delivering with an energy half his age, especially given a saga, especially for this entry that isn’t afraid to go way beyond the kid’s stuff to reach the dark side sweet spot.

Extra Special: From “Munich” to “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg has been interested in politics of the past with a resonance in today’s climate, no more so than in the battle for press freedom as depicted in “The Post.” Though far better in good intentions than as an actual movie, the suspense of publishing The Pentagon Papers in the face of presidential wrath certainly is a great opportunity for Williams to play in the real world of “the little guy” going against an Empire of government avarice. It’s territory Williams has impressively trod for Oliver Stone with “JFK” and “Nixon,” a suspenseful, humanistic sound that makes a welcome return to headline “The Post.” Though the film itself is mostly comprised of positively civil whitebread breakfast meetings, Williams relatively sparse score plays the events as if America’s liberty itself was at stake (which it arguably was). Pulsating synth rhythm and dark orchestral flourishes suggest that anyone who touches “The Papers” will meet a fatal end from Tricky Dick’s administration. “Nixon’s Order” carries a feeling of solemn gravitas, while “Mother and Daughter” shows Williams’ talent for the tenderness of piano and strings to reach the emotional heart of a relationship. In lighter moments like “The Oak Room, 1971” and “Two Martini Lunch,” Williams gets to return to his “Johnny” jazz roots, But the score’s undoubted highlight is “The Presses Roll,” Williams’ brass propels us through the printing process, the anxious orchestra turning to sweeping triumph with the publication of the vital issue, brass finally announcing itself like a Lincoln address about to happen – a yearning nobility that pays of with a vindicating “Court Decision.” Its music poignantly, and patriotically urges us to stay vigilant before the score dramatically swirls again with the film’s one truly inspired moment of becoming a prequel to “All the President’s Men.” “The Post” is stirring, important, though not self-aggrandizing “news on the march” scoring that packs the momentum of history, as well as a sense of craftiness about how to literally sneak the news out from under Nixon’s long nose.


Price: $19.95

What Is It?: If you were longing for American kiddie creature bashes like “Mad Monster Party” and “Hotel Transylvania” to have real comic bite, then a journey to France’s ghoulishly hip theme park “Zombillenium” is in order. But if that admission is unlikely until this quite wonderful, often cruelly funny (and very French) cartoon gets exported to the English language, you’ll definitely get a great sense of the cheeky enjoyment that lies within from the rambunctiously clever score by Eric Neveux.

Why should you buy it?:
Having given clever flight to the animated “A Stork’s Journey” (also on Quartet Records), while also being on live action display for his score to Lebanon’s Oscar-nominated “The Insult,” Neveux hits a new high note for this wonderfully stylized film and soundtrack. Here a greedy businessman gets his comeuppance after being killed by a vampire, then is essentially turned into Hellboy in the service of the big boss downstairs. Given a film that has fun with glitteringly handsome bloodsuckers and union difficulties in equal measure (while almost strangling a disagreeable big-nosed teacher in front of a terrified daughter’s eyes), Neveux seamlessly treads comedy and horror action with a 1950’s rockabilly attitude. The musical genre tropes delightfully abound amidst electric guitar with deathly gongs, mock sympathy violins, organ, moaning choruses and metallic samples that play the ultimate fiery furnace. Neveux also gets across an unholy carnival atmosphere with loopy calliope music and Theremin-like wailing and of course a greaser music twist on Handel’s funeral march. It’s this who-gives-a-damn damned scoring attitude that makes “Zombillenium” particularly delightful in its often transgressive humor, while also hitting the emotion of an scarily transformed dad and his orphaned daughter, somber melody getting across that he’s really, really sorry for being such a dick to get into this horned spot, especially as a chorus beats out a doomed march to the ultimate theme park sub-basement. For the big zombie versus vamp finale, Neveux lets his orchestral rhythm fly to exciting heights, the dramatic stakes zooming about with the speed of a Goth witch’s broom. Where such great horror-comedy scores like “Young Frankenstein” symphonic horror homage, Eric Neveux certainly has that spirit in his golden ticket to “Zombillenium,” paying delightful thematic homage to stalwart horror musical trademarks of the past with a hellbent for leather attitude that energizes the score with more energy than a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Extra Special: Songs also play a fun part in “Zombillenium” with Matt Bastard’s hard rocking “Rosemary” and the catchy, empowering anthem “Stand as One” that captures “Zombillenium’s” message of monster power. But perhaps no tune hits the transgressive sweet spot like Mister Modo & Ugly Mac Beer’s “Diggin’ in the Crates.” It’s definitely not the kind of safe urban tune you’re going to find on a “Hotel Frankenstein” soundtrack, a rap tune that’s sure to delight hip kids while making their parents’ mouth drops with the impact of one F-bomb after the other, which is exactly what the trickster spirit of this theme park is all about.



The most infamous ruling family next to Donald Trump’s got its back stabbing, conspiratorial laundry aired out over three seasons on Showtime, beginning in 2011. For this European co-production about Italy’s murderous clan, Cyril Morin (“The Syrian Bride,” “The Sentiment of the Flesh”) was chosen to make cruel history come alive over the twelve episodes of its first season. He delivered a vibrant, contemporarily painted tapestry that’s now collected into this sumptuous release from Editions Musicales Francois. “The Borgias” Showtime ancestor from another bloody reign was “The Tudors,” for which composer Trevor Morris used a combination of modern electronics and traditional orchestra to make Henry V come alive for the tastes of contemporary listeners – an approach powerfully expanded upon by Morin. A luxurious feeling of being masters of the Renaissance world, and doing anything to get there resounds through the music, which employs instruments of the era from hurdy-gurdys to classical guitar, viola de Gamba and wooden recorders, all creating an richly mesmerizing acoustical feeling that joins with strings and contemporary keyboards in a way that’s accurate, while pulsating with a menace that thankfully isn’t anachronistically hip for the period. Rather, it enriches “The Borgia’s” sound, which giving the family’s seat at the head of the church a dark spirituality as it relishes in the pleasures and pains of the flesh. Gorgeous, Latin chorales and organs create a melodic sense of holiness that’s increasingly taken to sinful places, sinister percussion leading to the next kill on the ascent to absolute power. Beyond conjuring its Italian settings, a strong Middle Eastern sensibility also fills “The Borgias,” making interesting use of Morin’s talent for the region in such scores as “Little Jerusalem” and “Zaytoun.” Through a succession of over 100 cues over 4 ½ hours, Morin’s score, comprised of both music used, and unheard in the show, never ceases to mesmerize as it creates a lush ever-darkening tapestry that never ceases to be relevant as composers the world over tie in today’s rulers to ancestors just as cruel and conspiratorial.


Having ravaged Alaska with a terrifying combination of metallic sampling and orchestra for the fury of an unholy polar bear in “Unnatural,” Edwin Wendler shows he’s equally adept at waging The War for Xmas in “Christmas With a Capital C” (the C standing for “Christ” of course). That the film itself is strident Christian agitprop against heathen Daniel Baldwin bringing his atheist, manger display-shattering ways to town is no reason to think that Wendler’s score is on that bandwave. For divorced from religion and relegated to pure listening pleasure, Wendler’s “Christmas” is indeed a very pleasant gift. A Vienna native with a musical bloodline firmly rooted in the orchestra (with this one very nicely performed in Prague under the watch of Prometheus contractor James Fitzpatrick), Wendler conjures a warm, sensitively reassuring score packed in lush, flute-tied themes, with just a bit of country guitars to spice the eggnog. With trouble afoot in snow-covered paradise, Wendler brings interesting, electronic effects into the mix, while also using such Christmas score stalwarts as cheerful bells, angelic voices and peppy rhythm, all in a way that recalls Tom Newman in rustic mode. Overall, it’s a score that’s nicely sedate for the jingling jingoism on screen, using just the right, light comedic touches, magical warmth and tender emotion to make his Christmas work with a Capital M, as in melody. Whatever your religious persuasion or complete lack of it, it’s nicely enchanting music pure and simple that would charm even a godless Grinch.

. DOV NON HO MAI ABITATO (Where I Have Never Lived)

Many foreign composers come to leave an indelible mark on American genre cinema, only to return to their home countries, leaving behind a mystery to their whereabouts to match any movie they’d score. In the “Where are they now?” annals, Pino Donaggio casts a particularly lush, suspensefully romantic shadow given his De Palma collaborations on “Carrie,” “Dressed To Kill” and “Blow Out” (though he’s resurfaced here and there with the decent thriller scores for “Patrick” and De Palma’s “Passion”). But if you really want to hear Donaggio return to his classic Hitchcockian heyday, then look no further than the domestic drama “Dov Non Ho Mai Abitato.” While broken hearts instead of bodies might reside within its residence, Donaggio is stalking in his most gorgeous form in years here. While “Dov” might not fly to the lavish, uber-orchestral heights of “Dressed to Kill,” that spirit is very much present as pianos tenderly lead the strings into lush anguish, his melody circling about with a sense of poignant, anguished discovery. While you’ll need to go to Donaggio’s most visceral scores for his “Psycho”-like menace, “Dov” is like a gorgeous cornucopia of his distinctive sensual sound. Gliding themes bring back imagery of museum seductions and spying on lonely housewives immediately to the ear of American fans pining for the composer’s glory days. The assured performance of the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra certainly abets this romantically suspenseful score, one that’s all about the gorgeous anguish of broken hearts as opposed to Donaggio’s talent for plunging knifes, razors or power drills into them. For with the hushed melancholy of “Dov,” Pino Donaggio is back like never before, showing a mystery continued en Italia as opposed to stopping when he left Hollywood.


It’s a musical culture clash between stone and bronze age, as played on the field of football (or soccer as we Yanks call it), quite wonderfully tag-teamed by Brit composers Harry Gregson-Williams (“Shrek”) and Tom Howe (“Professor Martson and the Wonder Women”). Williams certainly knows his way around the cute stop motion style of England’s Aardman Animation given his wackily robust scoring on “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away,” while Howe is now making inroads to the ever-ironic realm of kid’s entertainment with the forthcoming “Charming.” Though they might be dealing with inch-high figures, Williams and Howe bring an eccentric sense of the epic here in this match off between a pathetic tribe and low-tech civilization. The zeroes-to-heroes side is embodied with primal grunts, sad sack orchestrations and daintily strumming instruments that might make you think you’re in Italy. Putting them under the iron boot is a gigantic, brass-fueled orchestra and imperious, imposing themes as loopy, cartoonish strings unite the humor. The score’s rousing climax is the big game, a competition for civilization itself that’s heard with real, emotional stakes and suspenseful excitement that could befit any live-action sports comedy. Trumpeting fanfares kick it with charge-ahead symphonic writing and a biblical chorus, with ears keenly on the melodic ball for sweeping impact. In Aardman’s annals of cheeky scores, “Early Man’s” music stands tall amidst sheep, dogs, rodents and bald human simpletons with its rousingly fun approach. Indeed, if these clay cavemen had these kind of inventive musical smarts, they wouldn’t be in their situation in the first place.


Just as John Powell changed the face of action soundtracks with his world beat for “The Bourne Identity” series, his musically hip, wackily orchestrated forays into the talking animal kingdom with the numerously distinctive likes of “Chicken Run,” “Kung Fu Panda” and any number of “Ice Age” scores have made animated soundtracks an eccentric wonderland where just about every composer tries to out-hip the other. But there’s no matching the O.G. musician who built a Noah’s Ark of ethnic rhythm and boisterous orchestrations, as “Ferdinand” continues to prove with delightful style. Taking on the legend of a bull who didn’t want to fight that’s now Oscar-nominated for Best Animated film, “Ferdinand” is virtual fiesta of Mexican-centric scoring. Powell has certainly run with a Latin beat in such adult fare as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Knight and Day,” but there’s a particularly luxurious joy that he gives his plethora of musical piñatas here. With trumpets singing, castanet percussion clopping away like hooves and Spanish guitar strumming on top of a symphony, the red-baited “Ferdinand” might just as easily be wearing the black cape and mask of Zorro the Avenger (or occasionally the Spaghetti western sombrero of Clint Eastwood) given its boisterous heroism that positively swings into the fray. Yet given a bovine that wants nothing but peace, Powell’s score has an unusually relaxed mood through a good deal of the soundtrack, a nice sense of siesta and smelling the flowers that the often antic demands of his animation don’t allow. But there’s plenty of Powell’s trademarked humor and energy here as well, from making fun of the strides of arrogant Lipizzaner horses to the swaggering brass of Bull Olympics and the rousing orchestra that takes us to the arena, music whose drama also hears the appalling cruelty of bullfighting. All paths lead to the dizzying, twelve-minute “Madrid Finale” as Powell shows how he can charge from one escapade to the next in a way that would make Carl Stalling jealous, yet with a terrific control of melody, and thematic footwork that pulls his scores for the peppy genre together. An equal match for Michael Giacchino’s Mexican fiesta in “Coco,” “Ferdinand” is a delightful celebration of musical culture, as heard through Powell’ especially festive voice – a composer who can dance with the rhythms of cartoon scoring with the dexterity of a peaceful toreador with an approach that hits new heights in “Ferdinand.”


While I wouldn’t say that Danny Elfman has been shackled by being best known for his darkly magical and often rambunctious collaborations with Tim Burton, the composer has an equally memorable talent for drama in such Oscar-nominated scores as “Good Will Hunting” and “Milk.” But it’s likely his explorations into the real world have never reached as big of a sensually appreciative audience as when opening the red room of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movies – which now reaches it climax (as the ads have coyly exclaimed again and again) with “Fifty Shades Freed.” It’s difficult enough to play sex in a Hollywood multiplex cinema that’s mainly shied away from explicit erotica in favor of outright violence since the glory days of “Two Moon Junction” and “9 ½ Weeks” let alone to musically embody the more outré reaches of passion as depicted in these fairly restrained S & M forays. Given the delicate job of treading between pleasure and pain, Elfman wisely chose an overall romantic, if somewhat tense approach, as embodied by a theme seemingly capable of every erotic variation. “Freed” stretches his motif like never before as the series enters thriller territory with its even-darker counterpart to Christian Grey. At once brooding, tender and threatening as the sex scene or suspenseful moment calls for, Elfman’s string and piano melody is the bed, or rack, for him to lay down techno rhythms, a gauzy orchestra or lyrical violin to keep the scores interesting, especially here given the treat of real danger. With a heroine who wants an emotional connection and an impossibly rich bohunk who’s terrified of truly bonding with anyone despite the wedding ring, Elfman’s biggest accomplishment with “Freed” to get real feeling from the gloriously silly appeal of these female-centric “dirty” movies. As waves of orchestra come in to tie the whole thing together with Anastasia’s final flashbacks, the feeling is beautifully nostalgic. It’s music that could have sent a couple with more old-fashioned tastes to a straight and narrow conformist future as they reflect on their times together. And that might just be the most subversive musical message of all in these hit movies whose appeal is teasing their audience with transgressiveness – all while showing Elfman’s skill at both master, and submissive in knowing how to create thematic ties that lyrically bind, this time with true love.


By the late 60’s, studio releases were swimming in a romantic wave of French composers, among them Maurice Jarre (“Gambit”), Georges Delerue (“Anne of the Thousand Days”) and Michelle Legrand (“The Thomas Crown Affair”). What united their unique voices was a talent for lush orchestration and memorable, theme-driven scores. Few would hit the universally tearful heights of Francis Lai, whose lyrical theme for 1970’s “Love Story” (its soundtrack just out on Quartet) won an Oscar, even as his other American-financed efforts were a bit more obscure, if just as lyrically rewarding. Now France’s Music Box Records does their part to shine a beautiful light on the musician’s English-language pictures with a captivating, two-CD release of a Lai triptych. Set in England, 1969’s “3 into 2 Won’t Go” is about an unwitting love triangle between Rod Steiger’s salesman, who sets up house with his Judy Geeson’s wild child hitchhiker and an at-first oblivious wife (real-life mate Claire Bloom). Lai concentrates on a uptempo, classically-themed approach for lush strings and harpsichord-like percussion, distinguishing characters’ longing in an unhappy residence. Yet there’s a mod quality for a much more youthful, swinging London that the Geeson’s new romantic blood embodies, with the main theme’s rhythm picking up with harpsichord-like percussion, mod organ and bits of lounge jazz – a musical meeting of adults lost in a hopeless relationship and the unlikely promise being afforded to the man of the house, all three showing the composer’s romantically perceptive approach. Lai was on his home turf as a body in the Seine starts off the French / Italian international fascist conspiracy of 1969’s “House of Cards.” Cooing voices, strong cimbalom-esque percussion and threatening brass create a lovely, waltz-like melody that will drive the ever-stacking suspense. But even at its most threatening, Lai can’t help but paint Paris is lovely tones, as his use of symphony, lilting harps and keyboard exoticism brings to mind John Barry’s intrigue for “The Ipcress File.” The spirit of Lai’s own eternal theme for “A Man and a Woman” also graces the opening titles (no more so then in its lovely French performance by an unknown vocalist) , from its more classical variations for string quartet to groovier bits for the rock guitar and organ .Lai’s similar, if more poignant foray into spy vs. spy action yields a terrific score with 1970’s “The Berlin Affair,” a TV movie featuring Darren McGavin and Fritz Weaver as two operatives mixing love and murder during The Wall’s lethally cold height in the 1960’s. Roaring out of the gate with pulse-pounding brass action, Lai brings fun exoticism to the setting in a style familiar to any fan of such Cold War shows as “Mission: Impossible” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Lai comes up with two memorable themes here, one for hard-edged danger, and the other a far more romantic one that sings with regret, at one point with a female voice. With East German repression heard with taut, string suspense, what makes the score fun is its very mod sound for sitars, psychedelic organ and swinging jazz – if not in a ragingly shagadelic way. But as always with Lai, it’s the romance that makes the most impact, romantic pathos for flute and guitar giving real empathy to a world of hardened hearts. But no matter the setting of Lai’s all-too few forays into Hollywood, it’s a universal language of melody that unites these three captivating and unsung scores that are now given new vibrancy in this long-overdue album debuts, the stories behind these obscure Universal co-productions fascinatingly chronicled by foreign score specialist Gergely Hubai.


Having gone solo from the musical collective of Pale 3 alongside Tom Tykwer and Reinhold Heil after “Run Lola Run,” “Perfume” and “Cloud Atlas,” German composer Johnny Klimek has found a potent Aussie director collaborator with Greg McLean, the creator of the particularly nasty “Wolf Creek” survivalist slasher series. Having provided the visceral score for its sequel as well as the director’s Native American exorcist movie “The Darkness,” Klimek now ventures with him into the Bolivian “Jungle” that’s littered with body horror, a repertoire that for poor Daniel Radcliffe includes fire ants biting at his skin and worms burrowing from his head. But as opposed to what one might think will be a grisly cannibal movie, that fact that its true Israeli hero was on his lonesome makes this far more of a spiritual odyssey, which in turn gives Klimek a score that’s as potent for its fear as its emotion. Beginning with gentle strings and lyrical ethnic instruments that promise adventure to a young man possessed with wanderlust, Klimek’s meeting of indigenous Latin music with orchestra nicely recalls Guastavo Santaolalla’s guitar-centric work on such scores as “The Motorcycle Diaries.” But soon enough more ominous rhythms are entering the musically scenic picture, a foreboding that’s practically a warning sign to turn back. Yet proceed its young man must with a German guide who’s hiding the fact that he’s out of his element. With the kid soon enough left to fend on his own, Klimek brings in dark drumming and nerve-rending electronics, the score progressively getting more hallucinogenic with the illusions that come with absolute hunger and isolation. But through even its most nightmarish passages, Klimek doesn’t forget to let the orchestra be the guide to salvation. As intimate string and piano tenderness mix with swells of symphonic hope and the sinking, sampled feeling of throwing in the towel, Klimek’s score makes the listener truly feel the struggle for survival, and a moving, religious sense of deliverance. Really coming into his composing own in the most haunting, solitary ways in this “Jungle,” Klimek and McLean create a “Revenant” worthy quest that makes the audience feel they’ve been through green hell, and heaven.

. LE MAGNIFIQUE (500 edition)

Jazz-centric French composer Claude Bolling (“Borsalino,” “The Gypsy”) essentially got to do his version of “Casino Royale” for Jean-Paul Belmondo’s super spy for this screwball comedy, known in America as “The Man from Acapulco.” Where Burt Bacharach had The Tijuana Brass at his disposal, Bolling’s beyond zany score offers a Latin fiesta for the imagined adventures of Bob Saint, the macho alter ego of positively boring espionage novelist Francois Merlin. Transforming his lame reality into swinging, Bondian adventure down Mexico way is just the excuse that Bolling needs to delightfully jump from one style to the next, matching “Royale” for its 007 absurdity. Festive mariachi tunes join with brassy spy skullduggery as sexy lounge music and groovy Shagadelia lures the ladies, of course along with a Parisian accordion. The effect is joyously dizzying giving so many short cues, as united with hangdog Latin trumpet theme and even a classical, derring-do concerto to boot. Yet even as Bolling dexterously swings between spoof to mundanity with the height of absurdity, there are nice themes that give the stylistic escapades a sense of cohesiveness. Indeed, there’s a quite lovely, understated romantic whimsy at play in the musical contrast’s most affecting moments, especially in the love theme’s tender piano. But if all of the rapid-fire cues of the original “Magnifique” score prove to be a bit dizzying for you, Music Box Record’s two-CD release also includes the original album presentation, with longer tracks that show the more luxurious method to Boling’s spy spoof madness. It’s all a delightfully madcap score just as well suited to a French agent in Acapulco as it might be Peter Sellers in Bond get-up, or Austin Power’s in full shagadelia costuming for that matter.

. MULLY / THE RENDEVOUS (500 editions)

While Varese Sarabande puts out major Hollywood scores, some of the label’s most impressive offerings can be found in their vastly reduced run of limited edition releases, albums for under-the-radar movies that resound with their composers’ passion – two notable cases in point being “Mully” and “The Rendevous.” In the first case, the documentary about a Kenyan mogul is musically ironic in that Benjamin Wallfisch spent the better part of 2017 terrorizing children with his scores to “It” and “Annabelle: Creation.” Perhaps that’s why “Mully” is so full of rich, enervating melody that’s all about the saintly help given to street kids by a man who came from less than nothing. Having powerfully dealt with the humanitarian crises of “Bhopal’s” chemical spill in India and artistic expression breaking free of Iran’s repression in “Desert Dancer,” Wallfisch knows how to bring a common, universal voice for finding light in the midst of darkness. Avoiding making the score African-centric as such, Wallfisch softly uses piano and strings, both joining with a lush orchestra and angelic chorus. However, that doesn’t avoiding the awful reality of the children’s’ situations, as heard through gritty strings and eerie, hushed atmospheres. Like the best composers working in the emotional arena, Wallfisch knows the fine line between inspiration and manipulation, the strength of his main theme guiding Mully’s charges to the Promised Land. With “Mully,” Wallfisch captures a real spirit of melodic empathy for a deeply moving and captivating score, his theme given powerful voice through both the children’s native tongue and the beautiful title song “Love Will Be Your Shelter,” an Oscar nominee that should have been written by Wallfisch and its singer Siedah Garrett.

Having first joined forces with Jordan-born filmmaker Amin Matalqa for the tender orchestral score of “Captain Abu Raed” before venturing to hipster LA with the beyond quirky soundtrack to “Strangely in Love,” composer Austin Wintory returns once again to the director’s home turf with “The Rendevous.” Now he journeys to far sandier, and humorously adventurous locales for this Showtime treasure hunt that features the unlikely pairing of Stana Katic’s Jewess with Raza Jaffrey’s dashing Muslim government agent. It’s a bickering odd couple who’s cliffhanging pursuit for the dead sea scrolls will of course ultimately end with romantic sparks, which gives Wintory license to particularly recall Henry Mancini, a composer who certainly knew how to navigate sensual jazz and energetically romantic caper music with ethnic rhythm and an orchestra. Wintory has that West meets Middle East vibe down with style to spare for this “Rendevous.” Arabic winds join with sumptuous strings to convey the time-honored tradition of musically seeking melodically glittering treasure and lost civilization. Percussive avarice creates a wealth of scoundrels in rhythmic pursuit of our couple, a sound that also playfully expands his horizons to Spanish guitar fandangos, giving “The Rendevous” a true sense of musical discovery as the composer shows off his old school orchestral chops among some eerier effects and woozy brass, There’s also a fun John Williams-esque vibe to the score as we reach the cliff-carved destination of Petra, it etched-in-stone city familiar to any fan of “The Last Crusade.” At once dusting off theme-driven, argumentative-couple-on-the-run scores like “Charade” with the cliffhanging vigor of Indiana Jones, Wintory’s score is at once traditional and wackily off beat, It’s just the latest “Rendevous” in a collaboration where Wintory never fails to delight with his increasingly loopy sense of discovery, all while unearthing another fun homage to ancient soundtrack albums, as well as a particularly touching tribute to Matalqa’s wife that gives the soundtrack its special resonance.


Taking a stylistic 180 from helping Churchill convince Britain of the advancing storm clouds of Hitler’s evil, composer Dario Marianelli has his sweetest hour with the adventures of England’s favorite ursine. Taking up the honey trail from Nick Urata the last time we saw Paddington, Marianelli creates a lovely, utterly charming child’s eye view of the closest thing to a talking bear, Toy piano percussion and gentle melody ingeniously fills his CGI stuffing in a way that’s nicely sweet without being saccharine. Given how Paddington’s essentially Mr. Bean with fur, Marianelli accompanies his path of innocent destruction with loopy fiddles and brass. Where guitar and soft-shoe percussion is used for window cleaning, even more mischievous is the way in which Marianelli employs religious voices for an unusually attractive nun, or to convey the wonders of marmalade. Where pizzicato skullduggery and rousing chases accompany the ever-humiliated villain’s antics, “Paddington 2’s” pursuits are never too musically threatening, even taking on a waltz-like rhythm with ticking clocks to set the time. There’s an irresistible sense of joy that runs through “Paddington 2”’s score, one that doubtlessly helped this become the best-reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. But then as Marianelli has proven with the diverse likes of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Atonement” and “V for Vendetta,” thematic melody is a thing that comes with seeming ease to the composer, who’s at his magical best here. Popping in just as delightfully is the calypso duo of Tobago And d’Lime, their jazzy kettle drum rhythm urging Paddington to “Rub and Scrub” teaching him to “Love Thy Neighbor” and giving new groove to everyone’s favorite Beetlejuice standard “Jumping the Line” for the album’s finale. The Teddy bear-filled likes of “Sesame Street” should be lucky enough to get these Rasta dudes. The same can be said of children’s scores when it comes to this composer.


Whatever one thinks of the idea that “film music should be invisible,” Johnny Greenwood has certainly decided to be heard. One of the more daring composers in service of the one of the more increasingly pretentious filmmakers, Johnny Greenwood’s scores for P.T. Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master” and “Inherent Vice” weren’t exactly stitched from rapturous melody, but rather the need to say something strange for the sake of being unique. While that certainly resulted in interesting scores for an array of obsessive Anderson characters, these soundtracks often called attention to themselves in a way that yanked the viewer into the hauntingly weird music itself as opposed to watching the movie – which is the case again with Anderson’s typically confounding, if more accessible “Phantom Thread.” But while the score might be sometimes be grating in the film, it’s easily more beautifully listenable than Greenwood’s other albums. The fact that “Phantom Thread” is so ravishingly melodic in parts is certainly owed the movie’s setting of haute couture for an English fashion fetishist, who gets more out of assembling the bonds of dresses than any S & M enthusiast in the “Fifty Shades” franchise. For a man who inhabits a world of ritualistic, impeccable taste, Greenwood draws on classical music in all of its elegant varieties, from chamber to a full, ravishing complement of strings. With most of the cues centered on the intimate, Greenwood’s use of strings is often pitched to the highest, nerve-rending reaches, a piano joining in the rhythm to get across its antihero’s beyond anal-retentive personality. Listening to the weaving of one lyrically skewed piece after the next here is like attending a recital where the cellist’s bow seems ready to go out of control, a poetic approach on the edge of a nervous breakdown, yet still melodically hiding its madness. The full use of strings show Greenwood’s ability to be lovely beyond measure, providing a lush balance to the near violin-claw on a blackboard cues that speak for the film’s increasingly masochistic relationship. Though the music is dolloped over one scene after the next to the kind of confounding effect that Anderson delights in, “Phantom Thread” as an album is nothing less than ravishing, masking its lunacy in pointed refinement, even as it distracts in another medium.


Michael Kamen made his Hollywood bones on exasperated American cops wreaking mayhem in Los Angeles, establishing a muscular, melodic sound that would finally put him in Sherwood Forest to play England’s most iconic robber-hero – even if he had a flat American accent. That being besides the arrow point “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” would gift the composer with perhaps his most beloved and popular score next to “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon,” mixing derring-do with a rich sense of history. Given Yank director Kevin Reynolds’ slightly revisionist take on the material (updated with a Muslim warrior buddy and a not-so comely Maid Marian), Kamen wasn’t exactly going to go swinging about the trees previously rappelled to classic effect by Austria’s Erich Wolfgang Korngold. But then, Kamen’s gloriously entertaining scores of this type weren’t about stopping the show to launch into bold, swashbuckling music. It’s an approach as organic as Sherwood Forest, letting one melody roll into the next with music that surrounds the listener with romance, excitement and environment, a melodically dense approach that now really lets listeners get lost in those atmospheric, thematically thick woods. Of course it’s not like fans won’t recognize that Korngoldian touch in Kamen’s sense of adventure that comes swooping in and out of the two hours of score, brass trumpeting as Robin and the Merry Men dispatch the minions of the lovably snide Sheriff, whom Kamen last shoved off the Nakatomi skyscraper with celebratory jingle-bell brass. Here the tone is of Olde England. But as opposed to going for “historic” instruments, the composer with a proven taste for period films captures that spirit with his lush orchestrations. Indeed Kamen may never have been as gorgeously lyrical for a blockbuster as he was in “Robin Hood,” capturing a bucolic sense of romance in his theme that gave birth to the Oscar-nominated hit Bryan Adams tune “Everything I’ve Done, I’ve Done For You” (which you’ll have no trouble finding outside of this otherwise packed special edition). As a composer whose rock and roll background took orchestral scoring into an exciting new direction during his heyday in the 80’s and 90’s, “Robin Hood” more than ever shows how Kamen took bold new steps into with a more adult approach to time-worn material. The result is a “Robin Hood” score that gave new, thrilling voice to an action legend.


As the mournful, joyous and angry musical voice of Spike Lee, jazzman Terence Blanchard has become the de facto composer of the modern black movie experience, as chronicled by its brashest director. “Music for Film” highlights the choice cuts from this creatively incendiary collaboration by showing how surprisingly diverse it is. As much a student of the Aaron Copland Americana as he is trumpet-graced vibe of New Orleans, Blanchard’s orchestral music is distinguished by just how melodically thick it is, a solemn approach packed with the wages of sin and social oppression. It’s tragedy at its most musically stirring, whether it’s for a white criminal returning to prison after the fall of the twin towers in “25th Hour,” conveying the weight of somber history in “Malcolm X,” or making time in the drug trade with “Clockers.” Few composers have given such impassioned voice to the trumpet and the brass section as Blanchard, instruments that add to much of the selections’ soulful melancholy, casting a spell of film noir to listeners who might not be familiar with Lee’s work. Yet there’s a fun, jazz groove to be had on this excellent compilation, especially in two of Lee’s most underrated movies with the sultry sax and castanet groove of “She Hate Me’s” sexy dramedy to the wistful main theme of the commercial satire “Bamboozled.” Another impactful unreleased track is the main theme from “Chi-Raq’s,” which has a swelling sense of nationalism for the allegorical Chicago-Greek streets. But it’s likely that no Spike Lee joint had as much personal resonance to Blanchard as When the Levees Broke,” an excellent multi-part HBO documentary about the catastrophic New Orleans floods, and following government indifference that laid waste to the composer’s family. Blanchard’s use of trumpet and orchestra is hauntingly evocative, calling forth the spirit of Alex North’s Orleans-set score to “A Streetcar Named Desire,” as the music of man-made disaster ranges from jazz improv to plaintive strings. It’s some of Blanchard’s best, and most elegiac scoring that I can only hope will see a full release (along with his atypically creative action score to “Bunraku” among the many genres he can explore). But fifteen minutes of “Levees” is certainly one of the reasons to pick up Silva Screen’s memorable trip though Blanchard’s distinctive scoring, which getting an excellent impassioned performance by conductor Dirk Brosse and the Brussels Philharmonic.

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

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Alex Gibson

Vr, 16/02/2018 - 22:56

If the art of composing is akin to being a general following creative orders dictated by the director, then that bigger budget leader must have a stalwart support staff who knows the specific troops need to be recruited, how said formations need to be maneuvered, what equipment is necessary to win the battle. Of the multitudes needed from positions ranging from programmers to orchestral contractors and music mixers, a vital, if often unsung rank belongs to music editor. Helping to set the tone with temporary music, taking down director’s notes, or even creating “new” music from various elements the composer’s already recorded, the editor ensures the battle will be won, or at least make it to safety in some semblance. Hence the historic accomplishment of Alex Gibson, a vital lieutenant in the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated collaboration between composer Hans Zimmer and filmmaker Christopher Nolan that now reaches its metaphoric, Oscar-nominated apex for “Dunkirk.”

Starting his career in the booming LA punk scene as the guitarist and songwriter for The Little Cripples and B People, Gibson made an electrifying scoring debut with the ragingly authentic punk soundtrack for Penelope Spheeris’ 1983 cult film “Suburbia.” After the album “Passionel” and one more score for 1988’s noir satire “From Hollywood to Deadwood,” Gibson segued into a prolific career as a music editor. With Hans Zimmer’s scores to “Point of No Return” and “I’ll Do Anything” among his first credits, Gibson worked with such composers as Elmer Bernstein (“Devil in a Blue Dress”), John Lurie (“Get Shorty”) and Mark Isham (“The Getaway”), working on any number of genres from comedy (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) to musicals (“That Thing You Do”) and political suspense (“Thirteen Days”). Now as an editor at Formosa Music Group, Gibson has established himself as a go-to guy for Hollywood action blockbusters, among them “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Mad Max Fury Road,“ the Transformers” series and the forthcoming Zimmer-scored “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” among his prolific credits.

Alex Gibson (second left) and The B People

First teaming with Christopher Nolan on the David Julyan-scored soundtracks to “Insomnia” and “The Prestige,” Gibson would turn from these flowing, suspenseful approaches to the rhythmically hard-driving sound of Hans Zimmer when the filmmaker began working with the composer on “Batman Begins.” Spanning the bat-flapping percussion and atmospheric superhero noir of “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” Gibson would help chart the beyond-complex thematic dream flow of “Inception,” then take an organ-fueled spaceship through “Interstellar’s” wormhole.

With “Dunkirk,” that synergy falls to earth for the first, true time to grasp victory from utter defeat as the British army receives a last second rescue from the shores of France. Time is of the essence to Zimmer’s hypnotically rhythmic approach, as far afield from any traditional war score as one might imagine. But abetting in a composer-director partnership that’s all about defying convention is what Gibson’s partnership has been all about in this case, literally keeping track of a time-jumping structure to help Zimmer ensure musically seamless momentum. “Alex is our creative brother,” the composer enthuses, “’Dunkirk’ was mind-blowingly complicated and stretched us all to the limits of the possible. Chris made a hugely experimental film, and it takes a truly adventurous spirit like Alex to embrace what so often during the process seems to be the impossible. Sometimes the phrase ‘I couldn’t have done it without him’ is far from an exaggeration.”

While Gibson has certainly received numerous professional accolades for his work among industry peers, it’s in the sound design of “Dunkirk” that he’s truly reached above the line with an Oscar nomination for Sound Editing. Shared with Richard King, Gibson’s achievement is a first for recognizing music editing as a vital part of the entire sound process, the kind of achievement made on his dual talents for insuring both invisibility of music cutting and its maximum impact. As the general of his own troops, Gibson now reflects on a partnership that’s helped his profession take its most visible leap yet, very likely on the stage of the Dolby Theater on March 4.

You began your music career in the seminal punk wave of Los Angeles. Could you talk about that experience, and how it led to you scoring “Suburbia” for Penelope Spheeris?

Coming out of art school in the late 70’s, a group of us formed a band that got good reviews but wasn’t a big seller. It was in the arty side. I wrote most of the songs. We were playing a gig on La Brea when Penelope Spheeris approached me and asked if I would score her movie. Of course I said yes.

How did you make the transition from film scoring to music editing? And do you think starting out that way helped distinguish your approach?

I did not transition directly from scoring to music editing. I did try to make the band work. But I needed an income, so an opportunity to get into film editing came about and I took it as an assistant on “Point Break” and “After Dark, My Sweet.” It was from there that I transitioned from picture editor to music editor, because I enjoyed it more

Your initial films with Christopher Nolan were on “Insomnia” and “The Prestige,” which David Julyan scored. What were your perceptions of Christopher, and his taste in film music?


I thought Chris had his own clear likes and dislikes. He’s adventurous, and willing to take giant risks if he believes the music is working for his film.

The partnership of you, Hans and Christopher truly started with “The Dark Knight.” Was there an instant synergy there, and how did it differ from your previous music editing experiences?

The Prologue to the film with the “clowns: robbing the bank was going to dub in two days, and Hans gave Chris a piece of music that he couldn’t connect with, frankly not liking it all. He was going to just put something together from “Batman Begins.” I said I’d like a try with Hans’s new piece,
So they printed it as wide as they could and I cut away at it all night long, using the bits I liked and the ones I thought Chris would like. I totally rebuilt a new cue. It’s what’s in the movie, and that was the beginning of our process.

Hans is known for the team effort that goes into his work. How would you describe the dynamic of his process?

With his team, they can generate a lot of material. And that suits my approach perfectly.

“Inception” was an especially ambitious collaboration that truly started the heavy use of music, and time-jumping framework in your work for Chris and Hans. What was it like finding that thematic rhythm that could hold an audience’s “place” in the film?

That’s Hans’s job. He had the simple piano motif. I suppose the wacky,spaced-out Edith Piaf was a thematic element as well. Really the rhythm of the scenes is also the doing of Lee Smith, who was the picture editor. He went first, and then we danced around that.

Alex Gibson and Oscar nominated Dunkirk editor Lee Smith

“Dunkirk” stands as Christopher’s first film based on true events. Yet it’s also very much one of his movie’s with its narrative structure. What were the first explorations like into how its score would sound?”

The endless rhythmic lines came first and was examined and tested before any tunes came. We also had Elgar’s Nimrod that we turned inside out.

Tell us about your own team on “Dunkirk.”

Well, it was me, fiddling around and Ryan Rubin keeping it all together. It would have fallen apart if he weren’t involved.

What was it like to create a temporary soundtrack for “Dunkirk?”

Chris doesn’t really do temps in the traditional sense. Our temps are suites and ideas from Hans that are used to track it out. It’s actually the beginning steps of the final score, which is just the end result of that first temp.

Hans has often used rhythm as a ticking clock in his scores, but perhaps never to the all-important degree he does in “Dunkirk” to represent the limited time the troops have. How did you help in that pace?

Ryan Rubin and myself laid down these ever increasing rhythms. From there we could see what tempo each “cue” would need to be to remain in sync. Then we had to redo cues if picture changes affected it too much. As we did all that, Hans would be still writing material as we put it together. Remember, Hans hasn’t gotten picture in the last few movies with Chris. He writes to what he remembers in s screening or script. He doesn’t write synchronized cues. We put his music to picture.

What was the most challenging sequence to edit in “Dunkirk?” And would you find yourself creating score sequences from Hans’ material?

Alex and Hans

The final action scene was difficult, mostly because of where we were in that variable tempo rhythm. A lot of precise cutting was needed to keep sync and hit the action beats. We were not allowed to cheat the underlying rhythm.

How did Elgar’s “Nimrod” come into play for the score?

That was Chris’s idea early on. I then started to see how far we could get cutting it, changing the phrases and having it played 1/4 speed. Once we had disguised it to Chris’s liking, then it went in. “Nimrod” stays hidden until the very end of the movie.

Given how contentious the use of source can be in a score when it comes to determining Oscar eligibility, was there ever a worry that Elgar could knock “Dunkirk” out of the running?

Well, we thought he would not receive a nomination. We were convinced. So apparently the percentage of source to score or whatever they use to determine this, was fine and “Dunkirk” was allowed to compete in The Oscars.

Hans Zimmer and Christoper Nolan

A music editing relationship often leaves the editor out of the actual process of helping to create a score. Were you surprised in how that would differ with Hans and Christopher, especially in the case of “Dunkirk?”

No, I’m not that surprised. That’s been the process of late. Hans writes and Chris and I create the cues to picture. Then Ryan and myself do these ideas with precision (we have to follow that underlying rhythm). There were many scenes that I would work on myself, and then show Chris. Ryan was a part of that as well.

How did you work with fellow nominee Richard King in making sure that the sound effects and music would work in tandem?

Dunkirk Sound Editor Richard King

We were fortunate to start the final on the first temp. We all had material and having that time allowed us to experiment, discuss and assign the various sounds to either music or sound fx. Richard had tonal elements that sounded like music and carried many different sounds cut to the variable tempo. Boat motor idling was our main one. Those are all in sync with the rhythm, so we could go from boat to plane. Some of the fx stay in sync to our rhythm. The results were interesting for sure.

Music often plays a second seat in the final mix. Given how Christopher likes to favor the score, what extra importance does that give to your job?

Well, it certainly makes it hard to hide edits! Everything has to be properly worked out.

“Dunkirk” marks the first time a music editor has been included in the award for Sound Editing. What do you think that says about your work on the film, and the potential for music editing to become more visible to the general Oscar viewer?

I think my inclusion as a co-sound supervisor is a direct result of how Chris uses music in his films. It seems my style plays into what he wants. I don’t know about the chances of another music editor to follow this specific path because the Academy thought this was an unusual case. “Once in a lifetime,” they said. Hopefully music editors will find paths into the Oscars, because the last I listened, music was sound. We should be a part of the sound-editing award.

In many ways, “Dunkirk” is Christopher’s most popular film with both critics and audiences. Why do you think it’s hit such a popular note, especially given it’s a “historical” film? And what part do you think music and sound design plays in that?

Christopher Nolan and Kenneth Branagh making Dunkirk

I’m not sure why it was more popular, but sound (music included) plays a huge roll in his movies, and that does translate to audience approval.

How has your work for Christopher and Hans stretched you as a music editor, and where do you see the collaboration going in terms of pushing the traditional boundaries of the editor-composer-filmmaker relationship?

It has certainly given me a lot of creative input. With Chris, anything can happen. He will explore boundaries and will keep taking huge risks in his approach with music. A composer that can work in that way, following the director closely, and still pushing their capabilities, will allow the “team” to go into uncharted territory in film music.

Could you see yourself stepping back into scoring?

I think about that a lot. But having a style that gives me a lot of creative input is enough for me now.

Buy Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-nominated score for “Dunkirk” HERE and take a walk on the wild punk side with Alex Gibson’s score to “Suburbia” HERE

Visit Alex Gibson and the score editing troops of Formosa Music HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Ludwig Göransson

Do, 15/02/2018 - 21:45

From “Ant-Man’s” groovy 60’s spy hijinks to the retro 70’s and 80’s eccentricity of “Deadpool” and “Thor Ragnarok,” Marvel Movies have certainly allowed some interesting takes on the superhero scoring standard – which today usually means a big, old-school orchestra joined at the caped hip with pop-friendly electronic rhythm. But if Marvel’s unrivaled success in their domain has come from playing a different tune, perhaps no soundtrack entry in this hit fiefdom has gone as powerfully off-field as the African sound that Swedish-born composer Ludwig Göransson has magnificently captured with “Black Panther.”

Where many attempts at musically conveying the Dark Continent have now become a clichéd singer on the ethnic drum savannah, Göransson’s soundtrack for Marvel’s most critically acclaimed film yet is the real street deal for the imagined kingdom of Wakanda and their black-suited ruler T’Challa. It’s a land, and character where ancient nobility meet high tech. Chanting voices, furious drumming and echoing wind instruments bring a raw, primal power to “Black Panther,” musical authenticity that creates a costumed, avenging animal totem on the prowl. Percussion and howling, grunting singers play action and nobility where a symphony otherwise might to thrillingly naturalistic effect. Given his Grammy-nominated production chops in the world of urban beats for the likes of Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino, Haim and Chance the Rapper, “Panther” is just at home in the world of black grooves.

But then, this is a comic book movie score after all. And Göransson knows what that audience digs by bringing on beyond-mighty orchestral excitement, creating a fusion of brass muscle, future rhythm and rich string emotion for a hybrid genre score unlike any other, melody and primal percussion joining with gee-whiz thrills that satisfy fanboys and socially conscious, authenticity demanding listeners with equal, thrilling measure. Sure “Black Panther” might not be the O.G. black superhero film or score, but it’s hard to imagine either before this landmark.

“Black Panther” hits a new high for the collaboration between Göransson and filmmaker Ryan Coogler. First meeting at UCLA, Göransson brought a muted, alternative approach to Coogler’s debut “Fruitvale Station,” an understated approach that made its depiction of police brutality all the more devastating. The simmering anger was made palpable with the triumphant punches of “Creed,” Coogler’s excellent entry in the “Rocky” franchise that brought out a new orchestral power from Göransson, allowing him to hit with Apollo’s son in a way that played a black vibe while being in the spirit of Bill Conti’s iconic score, brilliantly dancing in the ring with the new soundtrack’s take on “Gonna Fly Now.” Now Göransson fearlessly takes on another iconic pop culture figure, leaping with T’Challa and his kingdom with an assurance that makes this innovative composer to the Wakandan musical throne born.

As a kid in Sweden, what was your exposure to film scores like, and were there any scores that particularly inspired you? Could you see a future as a composer, even back then?

I probably didn’t understand at the time, because I was a small child, but Danny Elfman’s “Edward Scissorhands” really got to me emotionally. It was only when I was twelve that I truly understood that it was the music that really drew me into the movie. And that’s when I discovered film scores. I went from “Edward’ to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and then onto the John Williams scores. When I was in high school, I got the impression that if you actually worked as a film composer, then you could get to write in all different kinds of genres. But I didn’t know how to go about getting a job like that.

Ludwig Goransson & Ryan Coogler

How did you first meet Ryan Coogler?

Ryan’s from Oakland, and we both met at the University of Southern California. I was a music major, and he was a film major. I had just moved from Sweden, and our backgrounds were extremely different. But as soon as we met, Ryan just started telling me about his favorite Swedish bands! And I was like, “How do you know about all of these Swedish artists?” So the start of our collaboration was this friendship.

Your first major score was with Ryan for “Fruitvale Station.” It’s a subtle score for a brutal instance of police brutality. Why did you choose to downplay your approach, and how do you think the film helped you establish an enduring creative relationship with Ryan?

Ryan and I had done two student movies before “Fruitvale Stations,” and both were extremely realistic. They didn’t need a lot of music. The first cut of “Fruitvale Station” was exactly the same. I told him that I didn’t think it needed any music at all. We ended up just experimenting and putting score in different spots. From the very beginning, Ryan told me how he wanted the sound of the BART train to be a character in the movie. I said, “Well, if you want that sound, let’s try to sample it and bring it into the musical world.” It ended up coming in and out of the score to make the film even more uneasy and unsettling.

Even before “Black Panther” came along, you both worked on another iconic character with Rocky Balboa for “Creed.” What was it like for you to come up with a truthful urban vibe for Apollo’s son, but yet so wonderfully integrate the Bill Conti sound as well as the song “Gonna Fly Now?”

It was difficult. Here you have this iconic music for Rocky. And now here comes a 28-year-old filmmaker and a 29 year-old composer. We were just hungry to create something new, and this story was completely different from the other “Rocky” films. Right from the very beginning, Ryan was like, “Let’s just focus on creating something new.” It wasn’t in his mind that we needed to pay musical homage, or use any of the original themes. It was a really creative way of starting that score with a blank slate like that. Then as the movie and character grew on us, it was just natural to put in some of the old, original themes, especially for Rocky and also the special moment at the very end, where Creed stands up. You really needed to give the audience a musical payoff there that they’d been waiting for.

I think a lot of people hear the “Creed” score and think that it pays homage to Bill Conti. But I think the way of using a jazz tonality language worked in a way that made the score feel fresh. So, for me, the sound that we eventually ended up with on “Creed” was nostalgic, but also new in the same way. Ryan and I were both very happy with that.

Even though you’ve been doing “serious” scores, you’ve also in the meantime done a bunch of straight-ahead comedies and TV shows like “Central Intelligence,” “We’re the Millers” and “New Girl.” Is it fun to take that “lighter” break?

I think the nature of being a film composer, is being able to move like a chameleon amongst genres. That’s one thing that I’ve always been drawn to, like in the way that I can move from producing a hip-hop album, to scoring a 30-minute sitcom. That’s two extremely different experiences as a workflow. But I’m still writing music. It’s just for different genres, and that’s the joy of my work, and why I love being a film composer. It’s being able to move around and do different stuff.

Before you were even signed on to do “Black Panther,” what was your reaction as an audience member to seeing the character first appear onscreen in “Captain America: Civil War?”

I just thought he was a badass. As soon as he came in, I just felt like the shift of the movie had changed. It was in the way he moved, and the way the Russo brothers shot him and the kinetic energy that he brought into the movie, He just lifted the film. I had no idea at the time that I was going to write his main theme or score his personality. But The Black Panther was definitely one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe before I got to do this project.

Once you got the film, what kind of research did you do for it?

I’ve worked with Ryan for almost 10 years now, and he begins by sending me the first draft of his scripts. He not only directs, but he also writes all of his movies, So when I got his initial script for “Black Panther,” I was like, “Okay, if going to do this movie justice, then I have to go to Africa to start my research there, before I can even write a single note.”

“Black Panther” is certainly one of the most authentic “African” scores I’ve heard.

I think what’s significant about T’Challa’s country of Wakanda is that it was never colonized. So what would music sound like in an African country that didn’t have Christian music influences? Essentially, we all know that all music comes from Africa. So my goal was just trying to research and discover as much “pre-colonization” music that I could. And go to places where you still had the “Griots,” which is the African term for “musician.” They come from a bloodline of musical families that go thousands of years. And being able to talk to them, and to be around them was my goal in researching the score. But at the same time, Wakanda is also the most highly advanced technological country in Africa, and the whole world. So that opens up the doors to Western classical music, modern production and this whole melting pot of music. But it was always important that the skeleton of “Black Panther’s” musical foundation be come from pre-colonization African music.

How long were you in Senegal for? And were there any kind of “Eureka!” moments where you truly got the sound of the score?

Baaba Maal

I was in Senegal for three weeks in the end of 2016. A friend of mine introduced me to this well-known, esteemed African musician named His name is Baaba Maal, I got his number, and called him a few weeks before my trip, and told him, “Hey, you don’t know who I am, but I’m a film composer working on an African superhero film, and I’d love to meet you and do some research.” Baaba invited me to come on his tour he was going to do on in Senegal and some of its smaller villages. My fiancée Serena and I bought plane tickets to Dakar, where Baaba’s assistant picked us up at the airport. After traveling for 20 hours in the car, we finally arrived at three in the morning in a little stone house, where he was sitting and waiting for the concert to start Baaba started playing at four in the morning. People had been waiting months and months for this concert. And as tired as we were, the energy he brought to that room turned it into an out-of-body experience for us. We were just mesmerized. And ever since that first moment, when I heard him for the first time, I was like, “That’s the feeling that I’m going capture in this score.”

From there we followed Baaba around for five more days, and we started to get to know his band and his musicians. He then he invited us to his house and to some amazing musicians. He let me use his home studio. And one of the instruments that really stood out to m there was the talking drum, which is the first type of communication device. You can basically say it’s the first type of telephone. It’s a drum that you put it on your shoulder and hit. You can, can basically pitch it with your arm by pressing on it in different ways. And you can “talk” with the drum. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago in every village, you always had a talking drum player. So, when the tribal leader had a message that he wanted to deliver to his tribe, he always called the talking drum player to his house, and told him, “Can you let everyone know tomorrow at 8:00 PM we’re gonna have a council meeting in the village.” Then the talking drum player goes into the middle of the village and starts playing that message, and everyone at the same time hears it, and understands exactly what’s going on, and what the message is.

The Talking Drum

So, I was talking to Baaba Maal’s talking drum player, whose name is Massamba Diop, and we decided to put together a six-person talking drum ensemble, which I recorded for a day. Something else that kept running through my head was how do you say “’T’Challa’ on the talking drum?” I asked them to play that for me on the talking drum. It’s basically three hits with different pitches. That was my “Eureka!” moment, because I knew this would be a really interesting color for T’Challa’s main theme, to be heard every time his name came up.

Another sound that comes back and forth is an instrument called the Fula flute, which comes from a tribal name. It was like its player was talking, and sometimes screaming into his flute. I got goose bumps on my arms because it sounded so mysterious, impulsive, and dark. I knew that sound would be perfect for the movie’s villain Killmonger. So I pulled the player aside and told him about Killmonger’s character, how comes from Africa and how he wants to take over Wakanda. Then the player improvised. He started screaming “Killmonger!” into the flute, and just kind of turned into this other person. I was so mesmerized. And that became Killmonger’s theme.

Unlike film scores, which have to be written, true African music is improvised, just like it’s later form of jazz. How did you want to adapt such an untamable voice into the strict nature of a movie soundtrack?

One of the biggest differences in Western classical music and African music is that “our” music isn’t considered music until it’s written down on paper. African music is someone creates a rhythm for a specific moment, say a ceremony for a king, and then the rhythm is there for everyone to play. There’s no sheet paper for it. It’s a knowledge that passes on through families, and through tradition, and through ceremonies. So essentially, all traditional African music has rhythms with a specific meaning to them. There are thousands of different rhythms that are written for a coming of age ceremony. There are thousands of rhythms that are written for confirmation ceremonies. I wanted to know how you could use that rhythm for a challenge in this film? I asked a master drummer, “Can you play me some different challenge rhythms?” He was able to match real traditional rhythms that are used for real ceremonies into the specific scenes of this movie. That authenticity was very important.

But yet, on the other end, this is a superhero movie. And superhero movies have a western orchestral tradition. How did you want to bring those worlds together here?

That was the biggest challenge of the movie. Because as soon as you start including an orchestra over African sounds and rhythms, it stops to sound African. So, how can you infuse an orchestra into the African sounds and rhythms, in way that doesn’t hurt the African mood? That was really difficult. I just kind of reconfigured my brain in the way of writing western music, where we have counterpoints, melody and harmony as a music theory. In African music, you do have counterpoints and melody, but that’s all in the percussion and rhythm. African music has 10 other polyrhythms and counter-rhythms that goes under that. So, how can you use the orchestra in that way? That’s what I was trying to do, but still keep it in a way that was big and cinematic, because that’s obviously very important to this kind of movie.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

In “Civil War,” T’Challa is pretty much invincible. How did you want to make him both physically and emotionally vulnerable here?

This movie is basically about finding your identity and knowing what your purpose is. That’s a theme in the music, which I create by writing a string melody for him. I’d say that T’Challa has two themes. One is this big, brass fanfare with the talking drums that announces that this is T’Challa. It’s my “royal” theme. T’Challa also has a more emotional theme that’s a lot longer as It plays with him trying to find his way in life. There’s also an ancestral string theme that comes anytime he has any disbelief or struggles to find out who he is. A fragment of that theme is also Killmonger’s theme, which is played by the flute in a “broken” way. They’re musically connected characters with the flute and talking drum. When you put a big orchestra on top of that, it makes the whole score come together for their climactic battle.

As T’Challa is the king of Wakanda, there’s a regal, and mystical majesty to the score.

Definitely. His theme is extremely rhythmical. It’s more a rhythm than a melody, sometimes.

With your background as a producer on urban albums, how those production techniques play into this score?

It’s a big part of the score, as Killmonger is an American. He’s a very complex, strong-minded and impulsive character. So for his sound, I was really playing around with in a modern African-American production way, which is more of a hip hop, rap type of production, which I do have a lot of experience with, because I produced a bunch of rap and hip hop artists. It’s a sound that I’m very familiar with which I’ve incorporated into other film scores. It also couldn’t be better to do with an African-themed movie, because if you can break the sore down, with a lot of these rap beats, if you just change the sound, it’s African drums. So, when you come into the battles towards the end of the score, you have these crazy rhythms and patterns, just in African percussion, but then suddenly it comes in with modern hip hop production, and it doesn’t take you away from the purpose of the music. It still feels like it’s one piece, It’s really fun for me to combine an orchestra with hip hop sounds in a way that hasn’t been done before.

After “Black Panther,” you’ll be scoring another iconic avenger with Paul Kersey in Eli Roth’s remake of “Death Wish.”

Bruce Willis in Death Wish

I wasn’t familiar with “Death Wish” at first until Eli Roth called me up and asked me to score it. I was totally fascinated by the script, and watched the original movie, which has an amazing score by Herbie Hancock. So now I really wanted to do the movie! It’s such an interesting score. Herbie used these string quartet pieces in there, and there’s some crazy percussion. My score ended up feeling extremely dark. It’s an organism of itself because I was trying to create something that sounded like the really twisted part of someone’s mind. Just listening to my score alone would probably feel extremely claustrophobic, because it’s hearing a man who thinks he’s healthy, but is definitely not. He’s just going crazy. And hopefully I was able to create the sense of that with my “Death Wish” score.

What do you think your “Black Panther” score shows people about how unique a composer can be when coming from a production background like yours?

I started out very early as a musician and songwriter when I was just writing music for myself on the guitar. And then in high school, I got the opportunity to start writing for orchestras and have classical training. I wrote a piece for a symphony orchestra in Sweden in last year of high school, which kind of opened up my mind to that world. Then I started to do a lot of training in theory, and classical music. In college, I put all my time and effort into studying improvisation in jazz, and theory at one of the best colleges in Europe. Straight out of college, I had my own jazz quintet, where I wrote these crazy jazz songs. I toured all over Europe with that group. So jazz was in my background, as it is with many composers, like John Williams. So, I guess in that way, maybe I come from a different background, but I never really saw myself as an outsider.

Marvel is often very hands-on with their music. Given how unusual your approach for “Black Panther” was, were they extra watchful?

No, I couldn’t have had a better experience. Ryan and I work right from the beginning. I scored the first version of his director’s cut, which was four hours long. We didn’t use any temp music during the process. And through it all, Marvel was extremely supportive and so excited to hear something that was different like this, especially when they heard the mash-up of all these styles. From day one they were supportive of Ryan’s vision. He’s one of the most incredible geniuses I’ve had the pleasure to work with because he has such a clear vision of what he’s doing. This was the music that he envisioned.

Venture to Wakanda with Ludwig Göransson’s “Black Panther” score album on Hollywood Records, available for digital download on February 16th HERE. Take a tragic trip to “Fruitvale Station” HERE before triumphantly standing in with ring with “Creed” HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Pulse College Annouces “Beyond The Music”

Vr, 19/01/2018 - 23:20

“BEYOND THE MUSIC” charts the emotional journey involved from evolution, to execution, of his Major Project, this short documentary is an intimate, behind-the-scenes exploration of Alexander Pedersen’s final Major Project for the MA in Scoring for Film and Visual Media.

For the MA in Scoring for Film and Visual Media, each student is individually required to compose, orchestrate, and conduct an original orchestral piece, recorded professionally in the world-class facilities of Windmill Lane Recording Studios.

Click here to watch the short documentary.

Click here for more information about Pulse College.

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Jason Hill

Vr, 05/01/2018 - 01:18
(photo by Victoria Smith)

Just about the last thing anyone wants to do is enter the mind of pure evil, let alone hear it meticulously, and deliciously describe its murderous exploits. That a view inside of its horrifying headspace has resulted in such eerily intoxicating music is a testament to the powerfully emerging voice of Jason Hill in “Mindhunter.” Created by serial killer media enabler par excellence David Fincher, this acclaimed Netflix series’ twist is that we barely see any violence at all. Rather, the acts and its reasoning are told to FBI profilers Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who traverse the country to find out what makes madmen tick. That the birth of the agency’s serial killer profiling unit is no work of fiction makes their subjects’ descriptions all the more terrifying, if no less fascinating in the awfulness that’s drawn entertainment to these predators again and again. That Jason Hill hears the recording sessions, and their effect upon the agents, with such dark poetry is all the more unsettling.

If the interview subjects of “Mindhunter” have seemed to emerge from the shadows, seemingly out of nowhere, the same might be said (if not murderously) about how Hill’s innovative talent has burst upon the binge-watching scene. With only one scoring credit for a dirt biking madman behind him, Hill’s production work for the likes of David Bowie, The New York Dolls and The Killers along with his band Louis XIV have led him into Fincher’s company – a band of musical profilers whose work has ranged from the raging orchestra of Howard Shore’s “Se7en” to the subtle, conspiratorial piano of David Shire’s “Zodiac” and the piercing electronics of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ “Gone Girl.”

Hill’s realization of a twisted psyche is just as uncommon and original, eschewing the kind of dissonance that scores most associate with serial killers, Hill’s soundtrack for this hit, ten-part series is poetic, even beautiful in its crystalline use of sound and samples, music that suggests a voyage to an alternate, shimmering universe far more than it does a basement torture dungeon. Its ethereal, even poignant stuff, yet with a tonality that tells us something is unholy in its deceptively surreal bliss. Even as brilliantly crazy as Brian Reitzell’s music was for the equally astounding “Hannibal,” there’s never been quite a serial killer show, or soundtrack like “Mindhunter.” In no small part, we can thank an essentially newfound composer who’s brave enough to hear shocking words that might drive others’ insane, and turn the description of the deeds into things of hypnotic, unearthly beauty that dares us to turn away. And like the subject of the increasingly unnerved agents, Hill is the killer who keeps the tape machine running, now describing in detail to us how he draws listeners ever deeper into “Mindhunter’s” entrancing madness.

Tell us about your musical background, and what got you into scoring?

I began playing guitar around 13, finally realizing these annoying little things in my head were actually melodies and if I could only figure out how to play this thing, then maybe I could get them out of my head and into the cosmos. As so many new musicians realize, it is a very frustrating thing at first and for a very long time. In some ways it never goes away. But the fog eventually lifts as you become more and more proficient. From the time, I learned 3 chords I began to write songs. I wasn’t interested in learning other people’s styles or music. I just wanted to write my own music. Of course, I would learn little bits of others’ music over time but my main focus was always making things up.

Not even knowing a single chord, I formed a band with my neighbor. He was to sing and I would play guitar and we would write the songs. I was focused like a laser from then on, not understanding why any band members wouldn’t be as serious as I was about it, ”What do you mean you have soccer practice!” I wouldn’t tolerate it. I was ridiculously driven to grow in music. It wasn’t the usual trappings of wanting girls, for me it was about getting creative, making things up, exploration and discovery. But I also wanted to be able to do this and not have to do anything else. There was never a plan B sort of thing.

From the first mono tape cassette recorder I owned I was enamored with recording. That first tape recorder had varispeed and I realized that if I slowed down or sped things up, they became less ordinary than dull real life, and I was awestruck by it. Also, we would record over and over on the same tape until we got a particular song right. In the process, the tape would retain artifacts from the past performances. They would sound like angels in the background. The glimmer and shimmer of ghost vocals and guitar harmonic chimes would peak through. There was magic in that tape.

At 16 my bandmates and I had worked jobs to afford time in a “big” studio, with a lot of help from my Mother and Father, whom were always tremendously supportive. Although I was happy at the time to work in the “big” studio I remember vividly my singer at the time, Ryan Ramos doing a vocal and it didn’t sound right – not the performance, the SOUND. The engineer said to me, “That’s how you get a vocal.” It was a U87 thru an MCI board and just a small touch of compression probably. But it wasn’t right, and I had no idea why. I couldn’t articulate it and it upset me internally. I hated his answer, instinctively knowing there was never ONE way to do things. So I set out to learn everything I could about recording so I could control and never be at the mercy of someone else.

By 18 we were touring the California circuit constantly, although this would be several bands later as the bands would change and members would come in and out. I also began playing piano and drums and anything I could get my hands on. At the same time I began to collect recording gear. And by my mid twenties we had signed a record deal with my band Convoy. A few years later feeling unsatisfied I left the deal on the table and formed another band Louis XIV. Louis XIV would sign with Atlantic records and take me around the world for years, making records and playing to massive crowds. I loved it but after a while I grew tired of the touring and wanted to grow more as a musician and in the studio. The touring, mainly the waiting around doing nothing between performances took its toll and I grew restless creatively and in life. I think you have to NEED the adulation from others in order to be a successful artist, and I had no longer needed it. I wanted roots to set.

Louis XIV

I would produce, mix and engineer all our records and I had begun the same for other artists at this time. So in 2010 I moved to Los Angeles with the mindset of focus on producing. Even while being an artist I was always most interested in recording and thought of myself as a producer first and artist second. I had a vivid memory of playing the O2 arena in London. It was a sold-out show that 25,000 people, were at. The crowd was going wild but my mind was somewhere else and I was feeling unfulfilled and I knew it was time for me to move in new directions. Life is fragile and short. I was fortunate, a couple of years later when David Fincher reached out, and thus began my new journey into scoring.

How do you think working with artists like The Killers, David Bowie and The New York Dolls, as well as your own band Louis XIV shaped your voice as a composer?

That’s hard to say. I think since the beginning I was always the leader in the bands I was in, which I think every band needs. Nothing will get done and things will fracture when multiple leaders try to take the reins. That doesn’t mean fellow bandmates don’t make the band what they are and aren’t as important, but it’s just like a football team which can only have one quarterback at a time. But that football team still needs a wide receiver, blockers and what not. Understanding the dynamics of what makes a great band has helped me to be a producer. As a composer, I think my command and understanding in the studio has been one of my greatest assets so far. The ability to PLAY with sound in the studio and experiment. In many ways, it’s all just about creating and being liquid when it comes to following inspiration and getting to something tangible.

I’m very new to composing for picture and still very much learning and growing. Which is what is exciting for me. My approach to recording has always been very sonically based. It’s quite often the sonics that inspire me. Finding new sounds and then reacting off of them. As a composer and artist, I haven’t wanted to sound like anyone else. As a producer, it is very much the same. Songs and “compositions” have different forms, but my approach toward being turned on by original sounds remains. Also, whenever you work with talented people it brings out the best in you. Most importantly, it inspires you to achieve greater things and learn.

Your first credit before “Mindhunter” was 2009’s “The Mind of the Demon.” Where you might expect it to be about a serial killer, it’s actually a documentary about a self-destructive dirt bike racing pioneer. Do you think it helped pave the way for “Mindhunter?”

One of my oldest friends, Adam Barker, made “The Mind of the Demon.” He’s a very talented and driven guy. He was the kid that always had a massive video recorder on his shoulder. Lazy is not a word that he knows. He was always filming these tremendous skateboarders or motocross guys, and up for anything they did, so everybody loved him. Because of that he was welcome anywhere, around the best of the best. He and I were always creating things together – for no reason but to do it, which has been the mantra of my life…JUST CREATE. The rest will sort itself out. When he made the documentary, he asked me to do some music for it but I wouldn’t say I really scored it in the traditional sense. I made some really cool music for it, with guitars and strings, as I have always had a tremendous affection for strings. I’m not sure why, especially from the old songs – Burt Bacharach, old black music of the 60’s-70’s, old country music, I’ve always loved the songs with the big string arrangements. It was a small dose of the excitement of composing for film, so in a way I suppose it opened that door.

How did you meet up with David Fincher, and become part of the scoring team for “Gone Girl?” And what do you think it was about your contribution that gave you the big break for your first major soundtrack with “Mindhunter?”

I was originally asked to do the teaser/trailer for “Gone Girl.” Cean Chaffin called and set up a meeting with David. They were fans of some of my music and we just hit it off. He asked me to produce a version of the old French artist Charles Aznevour’s song “She”, a beautifully dark love song. Fincher focused on that dark side of it. The true nature of the song, in between the lines, was spectacular for the two main characters in “Gone Girl.” In the shadows of this gorgeous love song, was a song about dysfunctional relationships and codependency and being in love with a woman that kind of isn’t right for you. At least that’s the way I saw it as well. Most people probably see it as a song about true love. David thought it would be perfect for the teaser. His teasers are always a big deal, I had remembered the boys choir doing Radiohead’s “Creep” for “The Social Network.” Very iconic and probably the only teaser I ever remembered.

The song “She” was originally done in the 70’s but Elvis Costello had done a fairly vanilla version for the film “Knotting Hill” focused on the surface love song in it. No slight to Elvis, as it’s a good version but David wanted something different. And I think the “Knotting Hill” aspect only added to Fincher wanting to use it, which allowed for more of a twist. He wanted this dark version sung by someone who was sort of this reclusive Count on the hill, a man who has LIVED. It needed to be a more disturbed and conflicted version and he wanted Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs to sing it. I had been in a relationship with someone for several years but literally 3 days before I got the call to meet with David, we had broken up, on Valentines Day. So it was still tender and fresh and I was LIVING this song. It was fate. I poured everything I was into it and I think it turned out remarkable. One of my favorite productions I’ve ever done.

I worked mostly in Phil Spector and Brian Wilson’s favorite room at Studio 3 at East West, which was the old Western Recorders, of which I wanted to use the iconic Steinway they had there. I pretty much just stayed there for a month, brought in a choir, an orchestra. It was a dream. David let me make something special and I loved working with him. I learned a lot about his approach to editing and dialogue during the vocal mixing. He had me move vocals a frame this way or that way and made what appeared just fine fantastically better by little increments. Something that now working on “Mindhunter” I saw him do on a grand level. Like a sculptor he would whittle down. Ultimately, I think David saw that I put everything I could into it and appreciated that.

What did David Fincher’s work mean to you in his approach to the serial killer genre, especially in the scores he’s gotten from his composers?

David Fincher

“Zodiac” is one of my favorite films of all time. “Se7en” as well. At the time I met David he had just released season 2 of “House of Cards,” for which those first two seasons were a masterpiece. “Mindhunter” shares the perspective that David had on “Zodiac.” With David you know you are going to get very thoughtful, minutely detailed and purposeful stories that look phenomenal. He also marries an artful classic cinema approach to framing shots but with a very futuristic use of digital technologies. Most of all, his filmmaking is very unique. I think David’s approach to visuals is very similar to my approach sonically. And, like a broken record that I probably sound like, we both want to do something original at all times.

David Shire did the score for “Zodiac” and he is one of my favorites, I adore his score for “All the Presidents Men,” which was a film I associated a lot with “Mindhunter” in its concept about two men on the hunt for information. Of course, Trent and Atticus’ shadow loomed over me having scored David’s last three films. They are very distinct as well, but mostly I realized I had to go somewhere else. If I tried to go anywhere near their sound it would be just like Trent and Atticus light. I’m not someone who flourishes with copying other composers, I have to find my own path. Jeff Beal did a terrific job on “House of Cards” too. He really defined the sound of that show and the moment I heard the title sequence I was hooked. These were all big shoes to attempt to fill.

What were your initial meetings like about what David Fincher wanted to achieve with “Mindhunter’s” music, and to give it a distinct identity?

The very first conversations were talking about Bernard Herrmann and “Psycho.” BUT this wasn’t going to be “Psycho,” no shivering stabs. We weren’t going to have any moments that called for that. This music was going to be a big tease of sorts that was about the psychological. So I immersed myself in Herrmann’s music, really to realize that our score wouldn’t be anything like his, even though it was a part of the process. One of the best pieces I wrote for the show was after digesting “Taxi Driver.” I think it only made the end credits, which of course no one hears anymore, because of the way Netflix quickly goes to the next episode. But for anyone interested, they should try to listen through the “Mindhunter” end credits, because some of the best music is in them.

There was so much music made, it was like a faucet pouring out daily. TIME was talked about a lot as well, building a sense of something to represent that the more time that goes by, the more death will happen. There is consequence to remaining in the dark. That is what is most underlying about the show, that because of this fog bad things will continue to happen and then happen again – because without lifting it, we won’t have the knowledge to be able to catch these terrible people. In many ways, it’s a futile project. But like in so many other ways, it is imperative. We also talked a lot about very high, extended violins. Although again, the final score ended up somewhere different, it’s all about the initial dialogue, which became the prompt for me to then go search and discover. David throws out these very articulate but sometimes just conceptual ideas that I would run with to find myself experimenting down these very strange paths. If it were somewhere I‘d never been and was turning me on, I would know I was on the right path.

What brilliantly sets “Mindhunter” apart from other shows, and movies of the serial killer genre is that there’s practically no violence shown about the murderers’ exploits. It’s all about the aftermath. How did that cerebral take on the subject affect your approach in conveying the horror that took place before we meet these psychopaths?

Even though it’s about serial killers, I never really thought of the score as something in that “genre”. It was something that was its own. It had to live more in the mind, be more liquid – slippery and elusive. Ultimately the music took on this glistening aspect. But just as the mind is very slippery, drifting from thought to thought, these intangible things surfaced. So the music needed to mirror that.

“Mindhunter’s” dialogue is balanced between the psychological jargon of the FBI with the far more terrifyingly down-to-earth “explanations” of the killers for their urges and modus operandi. How did you want the music to link that vocabulary?

To be honest I’m not sure I really ever thought of it in that regard but it’s an interesting concept. Just as those two bricks built the house, I suppose I wanted the music to be the mortar, or really the water that makes the mortar turn to something concrete.

David Fincher’s projects are notable for their main title sequences. How did you want to set the series’ tone with “Mindhunter’s?”

David’s title sequences are legendary, which I think comes from his music video days. He’s probably The King of music videos and title sequences. I knew it had to be unmistakable. It couldn’t follow in the footsteps of anything. This was my main goal for the show in all ways, as I’ve said. I wanted a person to hear it from another room and in two seconds know what it was. David mentioned the film “Klute,” which inspired me a lot in the end for other aspects. I had begun thinking about the title sequence since day one and did a number of potential pieces. But the one that ultimately was the ONE happened very late one night and all in about an hour or two. The writing and recording of it as well as the mix. I think I was out that night and came back to the studio sometime after midnight. I sat down on the piano and started playing the piece. It just sort of wrote itself. I was conscious of simplicity. The main piano part came quickly, focusing on the chords dancing with each other, never more than two notes for the chords, leaving a hole for melody to dance in between them. Then the rest I just completely improvised each part on the spot. Press record and play an instrument, and then move to another.

It all came out on first takes without knowing what I was going to play. And in a very short time, felt like 20 minutes, but I’m sure it was more. It was loose, which I loved, in three sections, not to time or a click, all just free and flowing and emotional – like thoughts in the mind. Slippery. I wouldn’t be surprised if tears may have come down my cheeks, because music can take me there at times. I love those moments. The piece was simple and without too many elements. I remember really wanting to go to sleep, exhausted but forcing myself to finish. I did a very quick rough mix. Then I went to bed. The funny thing is I had totally forgotten about it. I had been making a lot of music in those days and it was just a part of the pack and actually was recorded after another piece on the other pieces session, and wasn’t even labeled as its own. It wasn’t until a month or so later that I found it, randomly looking for something else, and sent it to David. When I saw him a few days, he had cut it into the title sequence. I didn’t write it to picture and hadn’t yet seen the title sequence. When I saw it, I was floored because it was so good.

I would go on to attempt to make it bigger, bringing in all sorts of elements, string sections, drums, trying to make the third act of it more grand, but in the end we went with the rough mix from the night of its creation. There was this magic that happened and it never felt as good. In fact, there is a fairly atonal or really out of key low thing that happens at the very, very end. I can’t remember the instrument, maybe a cello, that always sounded so out of tune on later mixes. So I had to lose it on those later mixes but in the original mix it sounded fantastic. I still don’t comprehend why, but in the end, we just decided not to question the magic and go with the purest version. There was also a bit of crackle to that original mix, pushing the Neve console to the point of distortion, for better or worse.

For a show set during the 70’s, did you want the music to capture any of the rock / pop vibe of the period?

I would say no as far as rock/pop of the period. David had said to me to specifically NOT do anything reminiscent of the era but I wanted to in my own way. I think David was possibly thinking of the rock and pop of the era when he said that. The soundtrack, however, would be only of the period, in the actual years of the show, never beyond and we were really tight on that. It needed to reflect the period and what was on the radio and what the characters would be listening to. A lot of care was put into that. But score-wise, what I consider of the period isn’t necessarily going to reflect what David perceived as of the period. My view is more peripheral, especially because David is so educated in Cinema.

I’m a big fan of the films of the 70’s, so in my mind I went there. But not in the popular music of the time but to film scores like “Last Tango in Paris,” “Chinatown,” “The Conversation,” “All the President’s Men” and that sort of thing – but from my peripheral point of view. It occurred to me that a lot of film and TV scores had moved to this unmelodic thing and I wanted to think more melodically. I wanted to think more thematically. That was something I brought up in the early discussions as well.

What’s the trick of scoring interview as opposed to action?

Well I haven’t scored an action film so I’ll be able to answer that better when I do, which would be fun. But I think probably I was able to make things creep and breathe as opposed to attack. I lived in the space of air and mist, less in the earth. Action would live more in the tangible earthy places – more proactive and less reactive. With this approach, I could swim in the back end of things where, as with action, I think you would be more on top of the beats. And on a sonic level I could live in the sub lows and highest highs. Action seems to live more in the more present middles.

Did you have any particular “favorite” killer, or interview that you scored?

That’s too hard to say. I ultimately like most all of what came about. I’ve had enough distance to appreciate it. While working, I would have a favorite, but then I would score a new scene and that would be my favorite… till the next one. I was conscious of trying to have each killer or case have their own sonic identity. Though everything in a way was thru the lens of Holden.

Would you find yourself getting disturbed while scoring the series?

No, I don’t think so. I was brought on to the project so early, far before I even saw picture, reading the scripts and immersing myself in it all. I wanted to learn as much as I could from working with David. But I have always been someone drawn to these sorts of things in a way, the documentaries about human darkness. And as I said, “Zodiac” is one of my favorite films. I think human beings are capable of terrible things It’s all around us, all the time. Human Beings can be awful, selfish, ugly creatures. It’s in the way we eat, our approach toward dominion and how we treat animals, the way we treat the earth, each other. Humans think we are so special. The center of the universe. Which to me is complete bullshit. We are insignificant little ants, which are inadvertently an inaccurate slight on ants because we are far worse, because ants don’t seem to have the egos or selfish needs like we do. We are capable of such beauty and love but sadly too often such pettiness, cruelty and selfishness. Humans never stop amazing me in their cruelty and smallminded ways. The psychological aspects I understand, I despise, but I understand them. Ultimately, I’m a realist. It’s hard to faze me and I have a very dark sense of humor. I believe it is something David and I share.

Conversely, “Mindhunter” has a tone that you might expect more from a science fiction series as opposed to a “horror” one as such. Did you want to avoid a truly dark and bleak sound?

I never thought of “Mindhunter” as a “horror” thing. I agree it lives in more of a science fiction space in that regard. We wanted to go dark, but not dirge-like. It is much more complicated, then mere horror. And even in its’ darkness there was light. This is Holden’s story mostly, and his story has light. With this complexity, I wanted the music to sparkle and glisten at times as well.

Could you talk about your haunting orchestrations, and want went into their particularly eerie effects?

David initially told me to just ruminate on it all for a while before making music. And it was simple and great advice. So I spent most of my time in perpetual thought about it all. Once I began working, a lot of time was spent experimenting with sounds and combinations of effects and studio things. Trying to find the SOUND. That was what was most important. Once I ultimately did, everything just poured out of me easily. I didn’t use any sound libraries, not really any plug-ins either. I made all the sounds that you hear, which was extremely important to me. I built a lot out of plate reverbs and tape echoes, hooking up tape machines together for phasing and length in the decays. I also recorded directly onto tape machines as well to give it that saturated warm sound. Things would go from tape to computer to tapes and back again. I would build pieces, mess them up and then build again from them. Sometimes I would bring in the built piece and play it like it was a new instrument in a sampler. It was complicated in its process, and not the same from one piece to the next. Although I did want them all to swim in the same sea, I would always say that they were “going to the same party”.

There’s almost a weird poignancy to “Mindhunter.” Is it difficult to capture conventional emotion when using such an unusual approach?

Ultimately most all of the pieces of music were done very quickly. I might take my sweet time building sounds. But when it came time to create I work very fast and I improvise so much. I prefer to never look at things to directly. Because if you do, the magic will disappear. Again, I would look from the peripheral. So if I felt something coming, this unexplainable feeling when you just know there is something about to come out of you if you let it, would happen. I would sit down with an instrument and just play. Then I would pick up another instrument and just play another reaction off the original thing – first takes mostly, and then another and so forth. I would try to think little and just react. Music when played great is about listening and a dialogue between instruments. This approach, no matter how sophisticated the process to build sounds was, made it so that the actual score became entirely about the emotion.

You use a water bowl sound in the cue “Beyond the Pleasure Principal,” an instrument that was heard quite a bit in 70’s film scores, especially by Jack Nitzsche. Then there’s reverberating, bell-like percussion for “The Man from the Alarm Company” that could have been in Michael Small’s “Klute.” Did you hope to capture the dark, conspiratorial sound of the period’s soundtracks as well?

I know Jack’s arrangements from his rock/pop records of the 60’s-70’s. The Phil Spector stuff, Rolling Stones, I love the orchestration he did on Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.” He is responsible for countless of the most compelling orchestrations in existence. Jack’s work is spectacular. I adore their sophistication. He scored William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” which is such a wonderfully weird movie. It’s full of holes, but it’s terrific. However, I absolutely did vibe off of Michael Small’s “Klute” once David turned me on to the film and I had already been thinking about “Marathon Man,” which was also Michael Small. So yes, and I think that is a very apt description of the period’s “dark, conspiratorial sound.” I very much love films of that period. And I also love the sound of the foley in films of the period, like in “Cruising” or “Blow Out” or “The Conversation,” where things sound so much like they are in a vacuum. Like when a man is being chased at night and we hear the click clack of the footsteps and breathing, but only those things. Not the sounds around them of the night like would sound in a modern flick. I responded to that but in a musical direction. Not about realism as much as artistic effect.

The water bowl sounds were several things including glass amonica on other tracks. But on “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” and many others, it was just regular crystal wine glasses taped to half of a broken guitar case set on a keyboard stand. I set them up like a piano and tuned them up with water into a couple of octaves. I could bend the notes by pushing my hips up to the case and turning it on its side a little, making the water move around. But I didn’t get that idea from anyone, although I know I’m not the first I am sure, but I sort of thought of it one day and tried it. Although having 24 glasses full of water set up for a year in a recording studio surrounded by electricity everywhere is a VERY VERY sketchy thing. The moment I was finished I packed them up. In the days ahead I will be breaking them back out to begin work on Season 2.

What’s the balance between organic instruments and electronic effects in “Mindhunter?” And how did you achieve some of the more surreal sampling, especially the kind of chopped, bubbling insanity we hear inside “Ed Kemper’s Cage?”

There is actually very little electronic synths, only in a few pieces, most all were built upon organic sounds but then morphed through studio magic like tape machines and plate reverbs and often played again thru samplers and such. Or for instance on one or two of the pieces I made an old 70’s drum machine trigger the wine glasses allowing for different octaves then I could make in real life, and looped them at unique rhythms. On “Ed Kemper’s Cage,” I wrote a very elaborate classic cinema type piece for the second half of it during the early period of absorbing Bernard Herrmann and being inspired by his stuff. If you heard it without all the crazy tape savagery it is quite fantastic and complex. But, of course, I had to fuck it all up and that is essentially what we hear. I had to do away with any preciousness toward beauty and allow the work to be twisted into sonic clusters. The violin at the top of the piece is my good friend and magnificent talent, Davide Rossi, playing off of me on violin. And at the end, the music’s insanity was playing with that pristine piece running through 4 tape machines and funneling into another one, feeding back and phasing while I messed with the varispeeds, slowing and speeding the tapes off of each other so it went nuts. Basically, I would play and conduct the recording gear like it was an instrument.

Given how insane the scoring could be in a show like this, “Mindhunter” is surprisingly melodic, and even beautiful in its eeriness and stillness. Did you want that kind of contrast with the horrifying, visceral words your score is accompanying?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier. I wanted to bring in melody like in the old films I adore. But I think I bridged it with a modern approach to soundscape.

How did you want to play the difference between the approaches of agents Holden and Bill?

They were both so different, generationally as well. Bill Tench was older, in his forties and Holden in his late 20’s. They had different perspectives, responsibilities in life and tastes, so the themes reflected that. Just as Wendy’s themes reflected her in such a different way than the others.

How did you want to reflect how Holden was basically losing his mind over the course of the show? And how did you want that disintegration to musically affect the relationship between Holden and Debbie?

Holden ultimately gets stronger mentally as well as sort of losing himself simultaneously. That conflict was important. There’s only one use of a guitar on the entire score and that was in “Weird Thing,” which was Holden’s “failure” theme. It happens several times, or variations of it, in several points of failure for Holden. First in the beginning after the failure of the botched hostage situation and again in his failures with his relationship with Debbie. There was something about the single use of the guitar with the live piano and strings that made it special and also of the period in a way. With its open tuning it reminded me of a memory of walking the undeveloped hills of my hometown, listening with headphones to a cassette of Led Zeppelin III, the acoustic album. It was my neighbors cassette, hand made.

Their song “That’s the Way” blew me away. It was my first real introduction to Zeppelin, I was probably 12 or 13 and I have that vivid memory. When I first played my cue “Weird Thing,” it just reminded me of that for whatever reason. For the very climax of the season, we end the show with Led Zeppelin’s “Into the Light” for Holden’s panic attack, which I believe editor Kirk Baxter first brought in but before “Weird Thing” was also placed there. I think he unconsciously associated that piece with Zeppelin as well, prompting that inspiration. I am sort of just connecting those dots at this moment. “Weird Thing” is one of my favorite pieces, and one I get a lot of feedback about from fans of the show. It is very emotional yet stylized in such a way with this glistening transcendent quality.

With “Mindhunter” running ten episodes, what was the challenge in doing a “best of” cd? And what are your favorite cues here?

To put together the album I enlisted the help of Jonathon Stevens, who was the music editor and a tremendous help. Ren Klyce, who has done sound design for Fincher for years as well, added some great ideas to the process. It was Ren’s idea for instance to combine the “Main Titles” with the piece that now forms the tail of it on the album. Before that I had them as separate pieces. Jonathon helped combine some pieces. He’s amazing at his job. And on a couple of tracks, he took elements of several pieces and combined them together to make something new as in “Rose Confession.” He was invaluable in the whole process.

I was conscious of making the cues for the show stay within the same keys so as to be able to layer them to make new pieces from the elements. For this “Best of, ” we had to look at all the material used, which was a lot and many variations upon main themes, then try to combine them and edit out bits that became too repetitive. There were threads and melodic elements that purposefully would float from one piece to another. But we needed to be very conscious, to not be too repetitive for this album.

I also wanted the album to feel cohesive so some of the pieces from the show that didn’t make it were ones that were on the fringes of the sound of the show, or little cues. It was such a great thing to do, because it really helped solidify what was the CREAM of the music and give me perspective on it all, allowing us a place to build from for Season 2. Of my favorites, in a way, I sort of stacked the deck, meaning I arranged the album putting some of my favorites on the top, although I do like all of the pieces that make the record. But the ones I come back to are often “Four Windows,” “Weird Thing,” “Main Titles” (mostly it’s outro which isn’t featured in the show’s main titles, but in other places), “Fantasies,” “Wendy’s Suite,” “A Bird in the Fan” and “Welcome to Nowhere.” But truthfully, I like them all. I was just looking at the album line up and if it’s on there that means it’s one of my favorites. There was a debate on whether to put it in the order of how it appeared on the show vs. what would make the best listening experience. In the end, I decided to make it more a stand-alone album and make the listening experience its own thing.

Given “Mindhunter’s” critical and ratings success, it looks like Holden and Bill will be on the case for many years to come. How do you hope the show and its music develop? Would you like to see it deal with multiple subjects, or center around a particular case that might take it in a more “traditional” serial killer show direction?

I am excited in the same way a fan is of the show is. I want to see and hear what happens next. Just like when I walk into the studio to create and explore I don’t like to know what is going to come out. It’s boring if I do, then it means it’s just connecting dots and it becomes paint by numbers. When making records I can get bored if the song is there and the band has to merely record their parts. Drums, then bass, then guitars and so forth it can be a snore. Sometimes that’s the right approach but it’s not where the magic is for me. I like to discover, to react and play, leave the thinking aside. We have to be in a state of play to find new exciting things. And I love working with David Fincher. He’s a brilliant man and he puts together brilliant people and let’s them push themselves to try and find greatness. Good leaders do that. So I just want to explore as the seasons go forward and see what we discover with no preconceptions about where this story goes. I just want to react off of it.

Tell us about your “collective” studio the Department of Recording and Power?

I bought a building in 2016 and built my dream studio with the help of my wonderful partner in life, Keely King. It’s a great place and a continuing art project for us. We have our offices to handle our business and rooms for art and all sorts of projects. It’s a large building and has been a blast working on it, aside from a drainage pipe on the roof busting during the big rains two days before Christmas last year where there was literally a waterfall pouring over our beautiful vintage NEVE console. That was one of the worst nights of my life, helpless and spending the entire night with buckets and trash cans trying to avoid meltdown. The morning after I was set to meet with David to watch the show and spot where music should be happening. I sent him a video of the waterfall at about 4am saying I would be there but I would be wet. But now things are back to normal, things have been fixed or replaced and the place is a gem.

I like to build things as I make music, switching back and forth, which I find clears my head. It’s very big with isolation rooms, with large movable walls on wheels so that rooms of all sorts can be made inside the very large live room. It’s an analog lover’s dream, and my temple of sound. It has a big kitchen, several offices, shower, residences to sleep when working late, and it sounds spectacular. The control room has been scientifically designed and is tremendous. It’s best control room I have ever worked in, very accurate. It is open for others to work in as well. All the usual top studio stuff and we master records as well.

I often refer to it as a collective because of the many talented friends, like Mark Leone, whom I have an animation arm of the company with. They come by and help me in various ways and the broader company we are forming to collaborate on future projects. When I would visit my Grandfather he would always put me to work, whether helping to build garage or mowing his lawn, I am sort of the same way. People come by and we get into projects. To me it makes life fun.

With “Mindhunter,” do you hope to be part of the crowd of “come from nowhere” composers like Mica Levi, Oneohtrix Point and Brian Reitzell who are coming up with bizarrely hypnotic and unique scores for film and television projects like “Under the Skin,” “Good Time” and “Hannibal?”

I can’t say I know of Oneohtrix Point’s work yet, but I adore Mica Levi’s score for “Jackie.” It’s just incredible and so exciting. Those bendy swells just melt me, that are the main component of Jackie trying to hold onto herself and the legacy of her husband. I immediately bought the soundtrack after I saw the film and played it over and over for days. Brian has oddly become a new friend of mine lately, and I love his work very much. JC from Milan records, who released the “Mindhunter” score, along with some of Brian’s work, introduced us because our studios happen to be about 100 yards away from each other. To be mentioned in a bucket with them is an honor. “Come from nowhere,” I’m not so sure that’s apt. But in terms of the composing for film, I suppose it does apply. I’m just happy to be challenging myself, growing and working with amazingly talented people and being a part of something I love.

Now that word is out to your scoring, where do you hope your own career goes? And would you welcome projects that are far happier in tone?

Yes, in fact I would prefer to do different things and not be asked to repeat myself. If someone said to me to do the “Mindhunter thing” I wouldn’t want to do it. For me it’s always about finding new places to go musically. I know if I stay stagnant for too long I will get restless and it won’t serve me. I’m best when I’m moving into new uncharted directions.

Watch “Mindhunter” on Netflix HERE, and buy Jason Hill’s soundtrack on Milan Records HERE

Visit Jason Hill’s The Department of Recording and Power HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Inteview with Daniel Pemberton

Wo, 20/12/2017 - 15:27

Money, as they say, might be the root of all evil. But for composer Daniel Pemberton, it’s one big Christmas stocking full of musical gold with the twin debuts that day of “All the Money in the World” and “Molly’s Game.” At first glance, the two movies, and scores couldn’t be more disparate other than their links to real life. One is the story of a billionaire John Paul Getty’s Scrooge-like behavior when it comes to paying his grandson’s kidnappers. It’s an appalling act now paling in notoriety to original Getty senior actor Kevin Spacey being replaced at the last minute by Christopher Plummer due to sordid behavior. In contract, the heroine of “Molly’s Game” uses the avarice of men, and the US government in particular to win against the odds with her celebrity-filled poker games. Combine both stories, and it’s cash being used for evil, good and the gray areas in between, providing a rich playing ground for Pemberton.

With the Golden Globes taking a nominated shine to the composer with his work on “Gold” and “Steve Jobs” (two more films about money buying visionaries anything but happiness), Pemberton’s wealth of stylistic scores has impressed from the crazed spy antics of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” to the classically chilling “The Awakening” and this year’s distinctly un-knightly music for “King Arthur” and the ticking suspense of “Mark Felt” bringing down the Nixon administration. First given a big Hollywood spotlight by director Ridley Scott for the notorious “The Counselor,” Pemberton’s new, captivating score for the filmmaker contrasts the almost satirically classical strains of unimaginable, robber-baron riches with the ethnic rhythms of kidnappers out to cut a slice from his pie in the form of a terrified young man. It’s an astonishingly varied “World” of scoring that mixes the voices of the angels with hallucinatory, Arabic-styled rhythms as we plunge into a nightmarish rabbit hole, music that mixes melodic beauty and percussive barbarity to powerful effect.

Equally hip in its own way is “Molly’s Game,” where Pemberton deals in on the alt. rock rhythm and blues game played by movies where gambling and shady behavior are king, especially when dealt by a queen of the game. Here the chips are the rapid-fire words of Aaron Sorkin, now typing as well as taking the lead behind the camera for his card sharp directorial debut. Pemberton is focused on the dialogue’s fun, crafty rhythm for music the crackles with energy as it mixes retro and alt. rhythms. Yet Pemberton also knows when to hold his percussion to hear inside of a woman for whom image, and intelligence are everything when calling the not-so bluffing hand of a man’s world out to shut her down. Play Pemberton’s two big holiday scores back to back, and you’ll clearly hear a composer with a straight flush style both refined and raw when it comes to a potential winning hand at the awards derby.

Your first score with Ridley was for “The Counselor,” which a lot of people feel was underrated. Why do you think that the audiences who saw it had a strong reaction, one way or another?

I think that people had a problem with that film because it’s not your typical Hollywood film. It’s a very bleak one, with no happy ending. It goes against all the rules in cinema in that sense, I think people were expecting it to be something else. What’s fascinating is that it’s a very divisive film –a great number of people really hated “The Counselor.” But at the same time there are those in the audience who are hardcore who really loved it. I even met a guy who tells me who watches it every day! Every time I see Ridley he always tells me that it’s one of his favorite film he’s done. He also told me that since “Blade Runner” he doesn’t care what people think about any movie he makes. He just wants to move on to the next thing. We always stayed in touch after “The Counselor,” and he told me one of these days that we’d work together again. And now here we are. It’s really great working with him again, fantastic, really.

Director Ridley Scott and Daniel Pemberton

How did your collaboration differ on this one?

It’s really not that different. I went to visit Rome where they were shooting. We sat through the rushes to decide what music would work. At the time I had this idea of using local folk singer they had in Italy. But in the end it didn’t seem to work with the imagery in the film. So we started playing around with ideas, such as the grand way that Getty Sr. didn’t live in a modernistic world. His was more of a classical one, which had a very grand style. We used that element of his world through music. Ridley is fascinated with architecture as well with the way he shoots around buildings, I think you get a real sense of that in this film, especially when you see Getty’s mansion.

Whenever you think of the idle rich, there’s always this kind of sinister quality about how music plays their money. Yet there’s also a satirical quality to it that you capture here.

Getty Sr. is a very enigmatic character, and the orchestra is always the grandest, slickest piece of music you can create. That symbolizes the kind of power and confidence the wealthy have. If you were to just give them the lonely oboe, they would look a lot more vulnerable. Now if you look at the kidnappers, they live in a separate world. Their lives are quite rough so the music for them had to be very different.

In that way, you certainly traverse a whole bunch of styles that symbolize “world” here.

When I saw Ridley in Italy, I played him some music that I wanted him to hear of these folksingers from there. He said “I love them! Record them!” But I told him that we didn’t have that much time. Ridley looked at me and said, “I’m sure you can make it happen.” I had to go out and record them the following Saturday! We managed to track them down in Sardinia. Sardinia, But they couldn’t read music. I showed them what I wanted and we ended up getting them on they score. They added a very different vocal texture. I think the score is about voices in that way. We have a lot of sacred medieval voices, which harken back to the grand, operatic nature of Getty and his flamboyant world of luxury. For the kidnappers we have this equally beautiful but very different Italian folk singing which has this almost Arabesque sound in Italian.

There are so many beautiful themes in the score, with one of the most strikingly haunting being a flute and brass motif that you hear on “minotaur” cue. It’s music that could have easily been in one of Ridley’s “Alien” movies.

That was a simple flute and brass motif that opened the film. I felt that it was very effective in depicting the enigmatic quality of Getty Sr. Ridley would always come to me saying, “Getty is an enigma. You cannot work him out. I want to have something that is quite simple that doesn’t say a lot about him. You should never feel one hundred percent about Getty.” Sometimes we played that theme straight and sometimes we wanted to make it more uneasy I would double that with this kind of microtonal clarinet note which is basically in D, slightly detuned. That created a basic uneasy feeling, which we feel is very effective in the film.

The score gets stranger and stranger as if you’re falling into this rabbit hole with Getty Jr.

The score definitely has got different elements in it. It gets darker and weirder because I wanted to capture that state of isolation and violence of the kidnapping, which give the score its edge as well. That also contrasts with Getty Sr.’s life of luxury and show how much he is removed from the world of his grandson, as well from the kidnappers.

What was your reaction when Ridley decided to reshoot all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes as Getty Sr.?

Kevin Spacey as John Paul Getty

I was in America when I heard about it – at the same time everybody else did. I found it to be crazy, but I know Ridley and I know what he’s like, he’s an amazing character. He has so much energy, more energy than you might and what I might have, or anybody else. He is this guy who says, “Let’s get this done. Go!” Half the thrill of working with Ridley is that you have to keep up with him the whole time. He is the captain of the ship. He can do anything.

Do you think it was necessary to replace Kevin?

Yes. The public perception around the person outside of the film influences how you watch their character, and the movie. So I think it was a crazy, ballsy move from Ridley. And I think it will be proven to be the right move.

If Christopher Plummer was originally cast in the movie would you have scored it differently?

Christopher Plummer as John Paul Getty

Kevin’s performance was a lot more cold and distant. I think Plummer’s is warmer and more charismatic. But I think both actors had valid performances. It’s fascinating to see this film twice now in that way. Ridley certainly knew what he was doing, and he’s made a fantastic movie with “All the Money in the World.”

How did you come across Aaron Sorkin’s attention for “Molly’s Game?”

Aaron told me he was a big fan of my score for “Steve Jobs,” a film that he wrote. We ended up going to the Golden Globes, with the real Molly Bloom, and it was there where he asked me to score the movie.

Given all the scripts that Aaron has worked on, it’s almost surprising to think that “Molly’s Game” is his first outing as a director. What kind of collaboration did that make it?

I was really amazed at how comfortable Aaron was as a director,. It was as if he had been doing it all his life. He was very open about what he wanted the music to do, and, had a bunch of ideas about it, especially the idea of a theme that would carry out to the end of the film. He also talked about orchestral stuff, whereas I wanted to do something more contemporary – an approach that he did let me do at first. Aaron was just really opened to whatever I showed him. He was a really strong collaborator, very supportive and very enthusiastic.

With a director and writer who really loves dialogue, did you find Aaron’s use of words was essentially like music?

Yes. There is a lot to process about Aaron’s dialogue, which is a very important part of the film. Musically, you’ve got to give the words space and match their tempo. You want to give them a personality, yet at the same time not get in their way.

Composers usually employ kind of a retro, rock and roll, rhythm and blues approach when they’re scoring gambling movies centered on gambling like “Ocean’s Eleven.” How did you want to put that kind of stylistic spin on “Molly’s Game?”

I always felt that poker movies seemed a bit more jazzy in terms of their approach. I wanted to go for something more contemporary like “Oceans’” did. While I love those scores, they’re also kind of self-consciously retro. I wanted “Molly’s Game” to be more like it was being written by a band than by a film composer. But I wanted it also sound like the band had the skills of a film composer to make it all work out.

When you’ve got a character as tough as Molly, is it important at all to give her a “feminine” quality in the score?

I didn’t look at as giving her a sense of “femininity,” because Molly is a very strong-minded person. I think I would have scored Molly in exactly the same way had she been male or female. But there were also definitely moments where I wanted to give the score a sensual, emotional edge, especially because there are some characters in the film that use their sensuality to influence people. But most of the time I tried to score Molly as a fighter, to give the idea that she doesn’t give up.

The score has a “western” quality to it, at times playing Molly as if she was some gambling gunfighter.

I originally wrote her theme on a baritone guitar, which Aaron liked. But we had had to change it a little because it sounded even more western than what was in the final version. I thought that sound just really worked for her character, as it had a theme that could build through the film and resolve in the end.

What was it like scoring Watergate with “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House?”

That was kind of crazy. “Mark Felt” was another Ridley project, and he recommended me to that film, I came in rather late in the production and had to score it very quickly. It’s another movie that’s very dialogue heavy. The score is like a supporting actor that helps the story move along. I wanted to infuse it with a 1970’s paranoia to create a very David Shire-like score in the tradition of “All the President’s Men.” I also tried to infuse it with more modern elements as well to create something that had a sense of period and paranoia. I think that “Mark Felt is a fascinating kind of film.

Another movie, and score that got quite a strong reaction was for Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur.” I’d never quite heard a score, or watched a movie for the legend that was quite as crazy as this.

Bold and unusual scores it can have a really powerful effect on making a movie feel a lot more fresh. “King Arthur” was a crazy, crazy experience. It’s a crazy bit of cinema and I loved it. Guy wanted something that didn’t sound anything like a film score. And that is a very big challenge when you’re trying to score a film! Guy isn’t big on melody. He’s big on sound. A lot of it was very unusual. I tried to make something that’s not from the period, and something that you have never heard before. But I also tried to capture the texture of Arthur’s world, which is an important part of that score.

“Black Mirror’s” new season is returning to Netflix on December 29th, with one standout “Star Trek”-esque episode being “U.S.S. Callister.” What was it like scoring what looks to be a satire on sci-fi’s most famous show?

It’s a nutty episode. I am a massive “Black Mirror” fan myself. Weirdly enough, I used to work on a video game magazine with “Black Mirror’s” creator Charlie booker back in the nineties. I was like, “We should do something one day.” So this turned up. I was very busy but I wanted to do the episode. It’s really complex stuff, I can’t give too much away about “U.S.S. Callister,” but it’s almost like two film scores that slowly collide. One is very retro 1960’s soundtrack inspired by Jerry Goldsmith. The other is something that’s a lot more near future and something you’d expect from “Black Mirror.” It was fun to write unashamedly overly dramatic orchestral music for it.

“All the Money in the World” and “Molly’s Game” are essentially both movies about money. How do you see their thematic link about how money is spent and what it does to people?

Well, you know “Star Wars is about people with money, and how they want to take over the universe and all! I don’t know how much bearing this has on the scores but there’s a sense on the sound. I always try to encapsulate the worlds of the films through sound. Here, one has the adrenaline rush while the other is about living a life of luxury. These guys are both incredibly rich, but their worlds are completely different. But yet they’re all kind of equal.

What’s more fun for you to do? Stories based on stranger than fiction characters like these two movies, or fictional ones?

If it’s a job that is different than my last, I get excited. Different projects keep me on my toes.

How good are you at poker and how much should your ransom be if you’re kidnapped?

I’m very bad at poker. I have only played it once, I must have the worst poker face on earth. I’m very easy to read, very bad at lying. And how much should my ransom be worth? It depends on who’s paying it. If I were paying it, I’d probably pay a lot. But if I could pay that, I could get kidnapped! If they kidnapped me now, they can have a box of my CDs!

“All the Money in the World” and “Molly’s Game” open on December 25th, with Daniel Pemberton’s scores on Sony Classical. Buy “Money” soon, and play “Molly” HERE. Then go Deep Throat with “Mark Felt” HERE and rock out to “King Arthur” HERE

Thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

The Best Scores of 2017

Wo, 13/12/2017 - 16:36

Click on the album covers to purchase albums from this list

(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