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Interview with Rob

Do, 19/10/2017 - 22:24

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did the name “Rob” come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your favorite horror scores?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Charlotte Ortholary /

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Charlotte Ortholary /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Rob’s score for “Horns” HERE

Visit Rob on Spotify HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Tom Howe

Wo, 11/10/2017 - 13:22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Howe and director Angela Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which character were you most drawn to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recording Professor Marston

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

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

Tell us about your upcoming score for “Charming.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Tom Howe’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Joseph Lo Duca and Don Mancini

Wo, 04/10/2017 - 01:57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does having multiple Chucky dolls bring to the score?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fight the Evil Dead with Ash and Joe HERE

Visit Joseph Lo Duca’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Nathan Barr

Do, 28/09/2017 - 00:59

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

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

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

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


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

How did the first “Flatliners” impress you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flatliners Scoring Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nathan and his unrestored Wurlitzer organ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Nathan Barr’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

September Soundtrack Picks

Di, 26/09/2017 - 20:26

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


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



Price: $8.99

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

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

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


Price: $11.99

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

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

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

3) IT

Price: $13.49

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

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

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


Price: $24.95

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

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

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


Price: $29.98

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

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

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



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

. BODY DOUBLE (Reissue)

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


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

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


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


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

. POPEYE (Deluxe Edition)

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Clint Mansell

Vr, 22/09/2017 - 01:11

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get involved with “Loving Vincent?”

Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela

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

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

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

Did you feel like a painter while scoring the film?

Arles Café Terrace at Night

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

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

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

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

Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) in colour

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

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

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

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

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) arriving in Auvers by train

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

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

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

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

Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan) at the piano

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

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

Landscape Starry Night over the Rhone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Clint Mansell’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for his transcription of this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Matthew Margeson

Wo, 20/09/2017 - 15:27

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

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

Matthew Margeson (L) and Henry Jackman (R)

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

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

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

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

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

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with David Wingo

Do, 10/08/2017 - 19:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

What surprised you the most about “Brigsby Bear?”

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

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

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

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

Gigglesnort Hotel

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

Michael Montes

Tell me about your “grounded” instrumental ensemble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigsby and David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit David Wingo’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Warren Ellis

Do, 03/08/2017 - 17:50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warren plays with The Dirty Three

What particularly drew you to ethnic and folk instruments?

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

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

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director Taylor Sheridan on the set of Wind River

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

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

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

Warren and Nick compose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vincent Cassell as Gaugin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be on the back of Corey’s buggy!

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

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

Visit Nick Cave’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

July, 2017 Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 19/07/2017 - 00:05

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


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




Price: $19.95

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

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

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



Price: $8.99 / $11.78

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

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

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



Price: $21.99 / $27.99

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

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

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

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

Price: $19.95

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

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

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


Price: $11.99

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

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

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



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

. CARS 3

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


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


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

. LADY JANE (1,000 edition)

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


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


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


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


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

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

. THE YAKUZA (1,500 edition)

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

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

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Brian Reitzell

Vr, 14/07/2017 - 03:20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you have a favorite god to score for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch “American Gods” on Starz HERE

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

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

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

Ma, 10/07/2017 - 21:54

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 4-7 PM

Wednesday. Sept. 13, 4-7 PM

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 4-7 PM

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 4-7 PM

(Two-week break to prepare final project)

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

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 4-7 PM

Download the application here!

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Daniel Hart

Di, 04/07/2017 - 01:03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken Social Scene

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

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

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

Director David Lowery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about your music capturing the passage of time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you up to next with David?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Daniel Hart’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws