Scoring Photo

Scoring Photo

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scoring Stages: CTS Studios

CTS Studios
(Bayswater/Wembley)
London, England


Cine-Tele Sound Studios Ltd was formed originally in 1956 at Kensington Gardens Square in London's Bayswater district. Smaller than some scoring stages, the convenient location had top sound equipment run by Eric Tomlinson and John Richards. By the 1960s, the studio became a recording spot for composers John Barry, Henry Mancini, Ron Goodwin and Burt Bacharach.

By 1972, CTS moved to the Wembley location (De Lane Lea Music) adjacent to Wembley Stadium - known as The Music Centre. Due to the odd acoustics, the Wembley sound in the 1970s was distinguishable and by the mid-1980s the equipment received an upgrade while the location underwent acoustic renovation. With the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium set to begin in 2000, the studio complex closed and eventually was demolished in 2004.


After the acquisition of CTS Wembley in the late 80s, it became known as CTS Lansdowne. Following the 2000 closing, the CTS staff set up recording at the Watford Colosseum with inaugural scores by Alan Silvestri and Howard Shore (The Mummy Returns and the Lord of the Rings, respectively).  CTS Lansdowne closed its doors in May 2010.


Films scored at CTS Bayswater:
Dr. No (1962) - Monty Norman (including the first recording of the James Bond Theme)
From Russia with Love (1963) - John Barry
Charade (1963) - Henry Mancini
Zulu (1964) - John Barry
A Shot in the Dark (1964) - Henry Mancini
Goldfinger (1964) - John Barry
The Ipcress File (1965) - John Barry
Thunderball (1965) - John Barry
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) - Stephen Sondheim, Ken Thorne
Casino Royale (1967) - Burt Bacharach
You Only Live Twice (1967) - John Barry

To Sir, With Love (1967) - Ron Grainer
Goodbye Mr Chips (1969) - Leslie Bricusse
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - John Barry
Diamonds are Forever (1971) - John Barry
Frenzy (1972) [rejected] - Henry Mancini

Films scored at CTS Wembley:
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) - John Barry
The Omen (1976) - Jerry Goldsmith
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - Marvin Hamlisch
Superman II (1980) - Ken Thorne
Time Bandits (1981) - Mike Moran
The Secret of NIMH (1982) - Jerry Goldsmith
Superman III (1983) - Ken Thorne
Krull (1983) - James Horner
Octopussy (1983) - John Barry
A Passage to India (1984) - Maurice Jarre
A View to a Kill (1985) - John Barry
Santa Claus the Movie (1985) - Henry Mancini
The Mission (1986) - Ennio Morricone
The Last Emperor (1987) - David Byrne, Ryûichi Sakamoto, Cong Su
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - Alan Silvestri
Batman (1989) - Danny Elfman
Henry V (1989) - Patrick Doyle
Year of the Comet (1992) - John Barry
Judge Dredd (1995) - Alan Silvestri
The Phantom (1996) - David Newman
Shakespeare in Love (1998) - Stephen Warbeck
The Cider House Rules (1999) - Rachel Portman
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) - Rachel Portman (The last score recorded at Wembley)
Eric Tomlinson at the console, CTS Bayswater

John Barry conducting You Only Live Twice, 1967

John Barry and Nancy Sinatra - You Only Live Twice

John Williams, Petula Clark and Leslie Bricusse behind a row of boys - Goodbye Mr Chips, 1969

Henry Mancini and Hitchcock together on the soon-to-be rejected score, Frenzy, 1972

Wembley exterior, circa 1980s

Wembley interior and the lovely color palette

Richard Band conducting in Wembley

John Barry working on Year of the Comet, Wembley, 1992

Barry outside Wembley, 1992

Liner notes for Legend of Bagger Vance, 2000

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Director/Composer

Many directors are multi-faceted - with cinematography, writing and editing also in their credits.  Composing the film's score is also one talent that several composers use.  For most, they compose music for their own films, with a few composing for other directors.  


The reason why I do not work with professional composers any more is that I get too many musical ideas of my own, and composers, understandably enough, resent being guided too much - Satyajit Ray

Here are 12 directors that took up the task of composing.  For each, you'll find a short list of films they've directed as well as the scores they have written.

Clint Eastwood
As Director: The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Pale Rider (1985), Unforgiven (1992), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), American Sniper (2014)
As Composer: Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Flags of our Fathers (2006), Hereafter (2010)

(Golden Globe nominee: Best Original Score - Million Dollar Baby, Grace is Gone, Changeling)

Charlie Chaplin
As Director: The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Limelight (1952)
As Composer: The Gold Rush [1942 edition] (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), Limelight (1952)

(Oscar winner: Best Original Dramatic Score - Limelight.  Won in 1973)

John Carpenter
As Director: Assault on Precinct 13 (1974), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982)
As Composer: Assault on Precinct 13 (1974), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Big Trouble in Little China (1986)


Robert Rodriguez
As Director: Desperado (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Spy Kids (2001), Sin City (2005), Machete (2010)
As Composer: Spy Kids 1-4, Sin City (2005), Kill Bill Vol 2 (2004), Planet Terror (2007)


Tom Tykwer
As Director: Run Lola Run (1998), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), The International (2009), Cloud Atlas (2012)
As Composer: Run Lola Run (1998), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), The International (2009), Cloud Atlas (2012) [all composed with Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek]


Satyajit Ray
As Director: Apu Trilogy (1955-1959), The Music Room (1958), Charulata (1964)
As Composer: Shakespeare-Wallah (1965), Baska Badal (1970), The Golden Fortress (1974), The Home and the World (1984)


Trey Parker
As Director: Cannibal! The Musical, South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, Team America World Police
As Composer: Cannibal! The Musical, South Park (TV), South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, Team America World Police

(Oscar nominee: Best Song - Blame Canada)

Dario Argento
As Director: Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977)
As Composer: Suspiria (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Anthony Hopkins
As Director: August (1996), Slipstream (2007)
As Composer: August (1996), Slipstream (2007)

John Ottman
As Director: Urban Legends: Final Cut (1999)
As Editor: The Usual Suspects (1996), X-Men 2 (2003), Superman Returns (2006) , X-Men Days of Future Past (2014)
As Composer: The Usual Suspects (1996), X-Men 2 (2003), Fantastic Four (2005), Superman Returns (2006), Astro Boy (2009), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Benh Zeitlin
As Director/Writer: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
As Composer: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) [with Dan Romer]

David Lynch
As Director: Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Mulholland Drive (1997)
As Composer: Eraserhead (1977)
Additional Music: Blue Velvet (1986), Lost Highway (1977), Mulholland Drive (1997)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Quick Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri

Music performed by Hollywood Studio Symphony
Orchestrated by Mark Graham
Score recorded at 20th Century Fox (Newman Scoring Stage)
Album time: 58 minutes
Available on Varese Sarabande


Our first Ben Stiller museum adventure started in New York in Night at the Museum (2006). His next adventure led him to Washington DC in Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) and now he's in England for his last with Secret of the Tomb (2014).

Along with the same main cast and director, this is composer Alan Silvestri's second complete trilogy in his film career, (the other being Back to the Future). That being said, there is a bit of thematic holdover between films: mainly the main title museum music, Larry's lighthearted theme, the tablet motif and the blend of comedic and action.
The album begins with The Ahkmnerah Expedition and a brief statement of the museum theme before setting the Egyptian locale (always nice to go back to The Mummy Returns style).  We get drama and mystery with the unveiling of the tablet before the speed picks up.  Performance Prep starts with a grand orchestral statement, before adding the twinkling sound of the mark tree.  Larry's playful theme heard in all the films appears as the tone shifts to something mysterious.  LOL contains the playful style with pizzicato and triangle in the forefront.  Suddenly, the music stops for a brief jungle interlude (complete with steel drums) before the original playful theme returns.  A bombastic fanfare interrupts this time and ends the track.


The Grand Re-Opening begins with the same theme as Performance Prep, and contains some sweeping moments and brass chorales.  The action quickly turns to playful chaos with a trumpet cavalry charge thrown in.  One of the highlights of the album.  "The End Will Come" has a gentle percussion beat with a rising string ostinato building to the end.  Sneak And Greet hits little comedic beats, punctuated by the Silvestri three note rising pattern (it's in almost every of his scores).  A little rising tag ends the cue.  


Sir Lancelot starts out with dissonance and some electronic effects mixed in.  The mood turns to the comedic playful tune from the first film before ratcheting up the action.  The low brass get some powerful moments, but it's great when it builds to action theme that can only be called Silvestri-esque.  Where Are Jed And Octavius? presents more British Museum drama, and includes a theme heard in the first film's great Stage Coach.  This track also sets up some more mystery before ending heroically.  

Main Hall starts with the Museum theme with lighter variations performed with celeste, harp and triangle.  There is a nice melodic section with cellos, slowly transforming back to a mysterious and dissonant atmosphere.  A Chinese-style flute and piano solo change the mood once again.  Xiangliu is a nice action set-piece for the new hydra-style creature.  The choir chanting enters, a mix of Mummy and Beowulf styles.  Silvestri certainly keeps the momentum and action moving throughout until a triumphant brass chorale ends the track.  Male Bonding builds to a shimmering reprise of the main theme, before reprising Larry's theme and the rising string ostinato.  

The Legend Of The Tablet sets up a tablet motif leading to a racing finish.  The Escher Fight starts slow before adding a drum loop and continues the action throughout.  Camelot starts like an action cue, shifting to moments of Larry's theme to bold brass statements.  The action picks up near the end with a strong brass phrase.  The Quest brings the choir back for a rousing and sweeping moment that ends too quickly.  

“Seeing Your Boy Become A Man” is a sentimental track, beginning with a piano solo and sweet string writing.  Laaa Love continues the same sweet territory as before, with some sections similar to his writing for the miniseries Cosmos.  A Farewell Kiss, similar to before, is led by a piano solo.  Teddy's Goodbye is a fitting farewell to the Museum trilogy characters, using Teddy's trumpet fanfare and a brief choir shine.  A reprise of the finale from the first film is extremely fitting.  The orchestra crescendos to a big finale but then quickly fades away.  Where a song or end credit suite would usually be on an album, this just ends abruptly.  

Of course the sad connection is the goodbye of Robin Williams, in one of his last film roles.  The music in the last few tracks are fitting without getting too sappy.  Each film in the trilogy has saved a bit of sentimentality for the finale, but this feels more poignant.  

Overall, Silvestri has maintained a nice balance of score for these films.  Falling into an odd genre of comedy, fantasy and action, Silvestri balances between each one.  All three albums have relatively short running times, however this one is the longest.  Seemingly stitched from many short cues, the flow of the music is very stop-and-go.  This is part of the balancing act of comedy versus action, but they've always had a jittery nature to them.  Even with that in mind, Silvestri has kept the "mickey-mousing" level fairly low and kept the music straight even with Dexter the Monkey's hi-jinks.  

There are few standout moments in the score (nothing like the fantastic Wright Brothers sequence of the 2nd film).  It's nice to see Silvestri returning to certain themes, without over-repetition or variation.  I can't imagine re-listening to the album straight threw very often, but picking certain highlights.  With the trilogy at an end, go ahead and make a playlist of the best cues of all three scores for a strong listening experience.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Original Score Awards Roundup

Here's the Roundup of Original Score nominations and winners from various associations. Winners will be marked in red as they happen!


ACADEMY AWARD
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
Mr. Turner (Gary Yershon)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)


GOLDEN GLOBE
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE 

*The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS (BAFTA)
Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)
Under the Skin (Mica Levi)

ANNIE AWARDS
BEST MUSIC IN AN ANIMATED FEATURE PRODUCTION

Cheatin' (Nicole Renaud)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell, Jonsi)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Danny Elfman)
Song of the Sea (Bruno Coulais, Kila)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Joe Hisaishi)

SATELLITE AWARDS (INTERNATIONAL PRESS ACADEMY)
ORIGINAL SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Fury (Steven Price)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
The Judge (Thomas Newman)


LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST MUSIC SCORE

*Inherent Vice (Jonny Greenwood) (tie)
*Under the Skin (Mica Levi)


SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
*Nightcrawler (James Newton Howard)


WASHINGTON DC AREA FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)
*Under the Skin (Mica Levi)

BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS
BEST USE OF MUSIC IN A FILM

*Inherent Vice (Jonny Greenwood) 

CHICAGO FILM CRITICS AWARDS
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
*Under the Skin (Mica Levi)

DALLAS-FORT WORTH FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION
BEST MUSICAL SCORE

*Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

HOUSTON FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)

LAS VEGAS FILM CRITICS SOCIETY
BEST SCORE

*Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)

LONDON CRITICS CIRCLE FILM AWARDS
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT (FOR MUSIC)

*Under the Skin (Mica Levi)

CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS
BEST SCORE

Birdman (Antonio Sanchez)
Gone Girl (Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
The Theory of Everything (Johann Johannsson)

SATURN AWARDS
BEST MUSIC

[nominations to be announced TBD]

Friday, December 5, 2014

2015: Top Anticipated Scores

It's always fun to look into what films and scores are on the horizon.  2015 has some major tentpole films and some director-composer reunions.  In an era of sequels and reboots, there are some original films and promising scores by top composers.  So here's looking to 2015 with my list:   

The Music Behind the Screen's 
Top Anticipated Scores of 2015

1. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (John Williams)
Of course this is the top of the list.  Not only a new Star Wars film, but a brand new Williams score.  Returning to that galaxy far, far away will turn me (and many others) into happy piles of mush.      

2. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (Brian Tyler)
While sadly not scored by Alan Silvestri, this followup will be great for Tyler, who has become the unofficial voice of Marvel Studios.  

3. ST. JAMES PLACE (John Williams)
A Spielberg Cold War thriller seems like a great new setting for some of Williams' smaller works like Munich.  This film will mark collaboration #27 between Spielberg and Williams.     

4. SPECTRE  (Thomas Newman)
Bond is back.  With Sam Mendes back as director, Thomas Newman is bound to return as well.  I can't wait to hear the next installment's score.  

5. THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Thomas Newman)
Even amid the early production problems and crew switches, Thomas Newman's efforts with Pixar (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) are so strong, this is a must hear.

6. TOMORROWLAND (Michael Giacchino)
Another score based on past work - Giacchino's efforts with director Brad Bird have been top notch (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  The mysterious nature and sci-fi adventure of the film looks promising for a strong score.  

OTHER SCORES TO HEAR IN 2015
Ant-Man [currently unknown]
Chappie (Hans Zimmer)
Cinderella (Patrick Doyle)
Crimson Peak (Fernando Velázquez)
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (James Newton Howard)
In the Heart of the Sea (Roque Baños)
Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)
The Jungle Book (John Debney)
Jupiter Ascending (Michael Giacchino) 

Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino) 
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Hans Zimmer) 
The Martian [currently unknown] 
Mission: Impossible 5 (Joe Kraemer) 
Pan (Dario Marianelli) 
San Andreas (Andrew Lockington) 
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Thomas Newman) 
Victor Frankenstein (Craig Armstrong) 
The Walk (Alan Silvestri)