Sunday, May 8, 2016

Shakespeare on Film

Since the invention of film, William Shakespeare's works have appeared in countless adaptations.  It is said that some of the first Shakespeare films date back to 1900.  Many silent and sound version of his quintessential plays have made it to the silver screen in the 1910s-1930s.

Notable example:
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935).  Directed by Max Reinhardt, it contains a star-studded cast and fantastic dance sequences.  It is also the film that brought Erich Wolfgang Korngold to Hollywood, re-orchestrating Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music.

Through 1930s-1960s, actor Laurence Olivier took to the screen with several high profile Shakespeare adaptations.  Musically, Olivier went with mainly classical composer William Walton to score As You Like it (1936), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), and Othello (1965).

Notable example:
Hamlet (1948).  Considered the definitive filmed version was directed and starred Laurence Olivier.  While his other Shakespearean scores contain fantastic material (complete with period-sounding styles, harpsichords and folk songs), Walton's Hamlet is a darker score fitting the melancholy tone of the play.

Walton's music for Henry V was turned into two different suites, and remain both popular as film music and as part of Walton's classical repertoire.

Marlon Brando brought The Bard to the screen with Julius Caesar (1953), with a supurb score by Miklós Rózsa.  One of the most popular film adaptations is Romeo and Juliet (1968).  The lush score by Nino Rota had the love theme become a heavily recorded radio hit.  Roman Polanski's extremely dark take on Macbeth (1971) used a fascinating variety of music by the avant-guarde group Third Ear Band.

With actor/director Kenneth Branagh, Shakespeare plays had a resurgence in the 1990s. Utilizing fellow actor/composer Patrick Doyle, the duo have collaborated on several play adaptations - Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).

Notable example:
Henry V (1989). The film debut of Doyle and directorial debut of Branagh happens to be their strongest. While the score brings out the best of the story as William Walton did years before, the battlefield tracking shot with the stirring Non Nobis, Domine is a spectacular piece of film music. Doyle also appears as the solo singer at the beginning of the scene.

Doyle's Overture and "Sigh No More Ladies" from Much Ado About Nothing are also some of his best works for Branagh.  

Several interesting Shakespeare scores appeared in the 1990s and beyond. Baz Luhrmann's updated and anachronistic Romeo + Juliet (1996) features a gentle score by Craig Armstrong.  Elliot Goldenthal provided scores to Julie Taymor's Titus (1999) and The Tempest (2010).  Utilizing a wide range of orchestral styles and instruments, the scores provide a unique atmosphere to the film.


Notable example:
Coriolanus (2011).  Ilan Eskheri's modern sound matches the grim, modern setting of the tragedy.   

There are plenty of other plays put to film, and several more added every few years.  Of course there are other versions, like 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) with a score by Richard Gibbs, West Side Story (1961) with the stage score by Leonard Bernstein, Shakespeare in Love (1998) with a Stephen Warbeck score, and the Japanese interpretations Ran (1985) with a score by Toru Takemitsu and Throne of Blood (1957), music by Masaru Sato.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Top 10 Scores Turning 20 in 2016

Back to our musical score time machine!  It's hard to believe that 20 years ago was 1996.  Here's a look back at 1996 with my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 20!

Let's start the ranking!



10. Mars Attacks (Danny Elfman)

After a film apart, Elfman and Burton return with the campy/wacky sound of the 50s.  Interesting percussion, electronics, choir and Theremin help sell the over the top comedy style.     

9. Twister (Mark Mancina)
Mancina brought a strong Western flavor with a mix of electronic guitars to this disaster flick.  The choir moments are particularly memorable and the movie benefits from a thoughtful score rather than noise.  
8. Mission: Impossible (Danny Elfman)
After the departure of Silvestri, Elfman was tasked for an operatic orchestral score with the jazz influences of Lalo Schifrin's original theme.  Elfman features some nice flute, percussion, and bass work while focusing on a new action theme and love theme.  

7. Emma (Rachel Portman)
This score is pure Portman, a sweet and romantic score to match the source material.  Her melodies, warm string sound with woodwind solos have been duplicated - and sometimes by Portman.  With this score, Portman became the first film composer to win an Oscar.    

6. The Rock (Nick Glennie-Smith/Hans Zimmer)
This score is a slice of the mid-90s.  The score features music by Zimmer in the same vein as Crimson Tide, and most material by Glennie-Smith and Harry Gregson-Williams.  It's cheesy, action fun.       

5. The Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith)
The score for this has something of every style - a sweeping epic, frightening lion motifs and a strong choral African elements and a stirring main theme.    

4. DragonHeart (Randy Edelman)
Okay, I like sweeping romantic epics.  This certainly fits the bill within a few seconds of the main titles.  His mix of electronics and orchestra add to the strong thematic work. You've probably heard the main title after being used in many movie trailers. 

3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Alan Menken)
While Menken is known for his songs and use of songs incorporated in the score, this one feels like a separate score. The serious tone is represented by powerful choral chants and tolling bells.    

2. Star Trek: First Contact (Jerry Goldsmith)
After a few films off, Goldsmith returned to the franchise with this strong entry.  His main title theme and Klingon motif make reprises.  His son Joel (of later Stargate fame), added a few cues based on other material.  The most memorable part of the score is the new pastoral theme representing the first contact.    

1. Independence Day (David Arnold)
In a perfect example of a score elevating a film, Arnold adds an orchestra boldness in its militaristic and patriotic approach.  The main fanfare is fantastic, orchestration really lets the orchestra shine and he even brings the warmth for the more human side of the story.  A solid score from start to finish.      





Honorable Mentions:
Muppet Treasure Island (Hans Zimmer), Fargo (Carter Burwell), The Phantom (David Newman), The English Patient (Gabriel Yared) , Michael Collins (Elliot Goldenthal)

Any favorites of yours from 1996 that I didn't include?  Comment below!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top 10 Scores Turning 30 in 2016

Time to take a look back at the musical score time machine and see what I consider some of the best from the year 1986.  So here is my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 30!

Let's start the ranking!

10. The Three Amigos (Elmer Bernstein)
Bernstein had several straight-faced comedies in the 1980s, this one a riff of the many 1960s Westerns he scored.  It's not often composers get to write a parody score of one of their own score/styles.  Throw in the over the top Randy Newman tunes and you've got a new classic.   
9. Platoon (Georges Delerue)
While the standout of the film is Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, Delerue offered his own similar version and more that wasn't used in the film.  Thankfully his (mainly unused) score was released on album.
8. The Great Mouse Detective (Henry Mancini)
A generally forgotten Disney film (shortly before the animation renaissance), Mancini's first animated film features plenty of mickey-mousing, a heroic main theme, love theme and decent songs.
7. Labyrinth (Trevor Jones)
While generally overshadowed by David Bowie's songs, Jones' synth score is seeping with pure magical 1980s sound.  
6. The Fly (Howard Shore)
For this Croenenberg film, Shore turned to a large operatic orchestral style.  Utilizing an atonal sound, he vamps up the horror and romantic aspects.  Years later, Shore turned The Fly into an actual opera. 
5. An American Tail (James Horner)
Somewhere Out There may be the takeaway hit theme/song for the film, but the rest of the score has a lush orchestral sound, exciting melodies and a strong Russian influence.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Rosenman)
One of the lighter Star Trek scores, Rosenman brought a heroic and very cheerful sound to the franchise.  While not necessarily fitting the mold of previous or future scores, it remains a well written, lighthearted score.   
3. Hoosiers (Jerry Goldsmith)
A strong sports score, featuring a strong main theme mixed well with the electronic elements.  The use of themes at the end is a particularly memorable moment.  A stirring score, topped only by Goldsmith's later score to Rudy.  
2. Aliens (James Horner)
Even given Horner's penchant for reusing bits of other works, this score stands out as Horner's best action work.  This thrilling score is just a strong without the film - with driving percussion and virtuosic ensemble performances.  The process was horrible for Horner, who vowed to never work with director James Cameron again....  
1. The Mission (Ennio Morricone)
Matching the beautiful scenery, the score is often in the forefront through the film.  Morricone crafted some of his most stunning thematic material, notably Gabriel's Oboe.  The serene score also heavily features choir and emphasizes the crossing of cultures musically.      






Any favorites of yours from 1986 that I didn't include?  Comment below!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Scoring the Series: The Lord of the Rings

Scoring The Series continues with a look back at The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Here are the credits to each film with some scoring photos tossed in.   

The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Music composed by Howard Shore
Conducted by Howard Shore
Orchestrator: Howard Shore
Recording Engineer: John Kurlander
Scoring Mixer: Peter Cobbin
Music Editors: Suzana Peric, Nancy Allen, Simon Kiln, Andrew Dudman, Michael Price, Jennifer Dunnington
Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Choir Performed by The London Voices, The London Oratory School Schola

Recorded at Colosseum-Watford, Air Lyndhurst-London, Abbey Road Studios-London, Wellington Town Hall-New Zealand






The Two Towers (2002)
Music composed by Howard Shore
Conducted by Howard Shore
Orchestrator: Howard Shore
Recording Engineer: John Kurlander
Score Mixer: Peter Cobbin
Music Editors: Michael Price, Andrew Dudman, Steve Price, Mark Willsher, Raphael Mouterde, John Wriggle, Jonathan Schultz, Becca Gatrell, Tim Starnes, Malcolm Fife, Nigel Scott, Simon Kiln
Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir Performed by The London Voices, The London Oratory School Schola
Recorded at CTS Colosseum-Watford, Abbey Road Studios-London, Air Lyndhurst-London, Henry Wood Hall-London






The Return of the King (2003)
Music composed by Howard Shore
Conducted by Howard Shore
Orchestrator: Howard Shore
Recording Engineer: John Kurlander
Score Mixer: Peter Cobbin
Music Editors: Johnathan Schultz, Tim Starnes, John Wriggled, Michael Price, Andrew Dudman, Steve Price, Becca Gatrell, Malcolm Fife, Marie Ebbing, Nigel Scott
Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir Performed by The London Voices, The London Oratory School Schola
Recorded at CTS Colosseum-Watford, Abbey Road Studios-London, Air Lyndhurst-London





Monday, February 29, 2016

Scoring the Series: Indiana Jones

Scoring The Series continues with a look back at the Indiana Jones series.  Here are the credits to each film with some scoring photos tossed in.   

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Music composed by John Williams
Conducted by John Williams
Orchestrator: Herbert W. Spencer, Al Woodbury
Music Editor: Kenneth Wannberg
Recording Engineer: Eric Tomlinson
Recording Supervisor: Lionel Newman 
Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded at Anvil Recording Studios, London; Abbey Road Studios, London

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Music composed by John Williams
Conducted by John Williams
Orchestrator: Herbert W. Spencer
Music Editor: Kenneth Wannberg, Alexander Courage
Music Scoring Mixer: Lyle Burbridge 
Recorded at Sony Scoring Stage

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Music composed by John Williams
Conducted by John Williams
Orchestrator: Herbert W. Spencer, Alexander Courage
Music Editor: Kenneth Wannberg
Music Recorded: Dan Wallin 
Recorded at Lorimar Studios (Sony Scoring Stage)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Music composed by John Williams
Conducted by John Williams
Orchestrator: Conrad Pope, Edward Karem
Music Editor: Ramiro Belgardt
Music Recorded and Mixed: Shawn Murphy
Recorded at Sony Scoring Stage

Below: first five photos from "Last Crusade", others are from "Crystal Skull"