Scoring Photo

Scoring Photo

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quick Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Music composed and conducted by Joe Kraemer
Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin
Music orchestrated by Matt Dunkley
Music recorded at Abbey Road Studios, British Grove
Album running time: 73 minutes
Available on La-La-Land Records
(Album exclusive tracks marked with *)

It's been a few years since we've seen Ethan Hunt and his IMF team in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).  Being the best in the series, that film is hard to top.  The franchise has seen an interesting group of composers from Danny Elfman’s Mission: Impossible (1996), Hans Zimmer’s Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), to Michael Giacchino’s Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Ghost Protocol (2011). 

Relative scoring newcomer Joe Kraemer steps up to the plate, after working with director-writer Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise on Jack Reacher (2012).  Kraemer’s score has a retro feel, using a completely orchestral palette.  Kraemer also weaves the Schifrin main TV theme (MI Theme), and the TV theme “The Plot” into the score and his own Ethan Hunt theme.  Other main themes include one for the baddies, The Syndicate, as well as turning the melody of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma into a leitmotif for the vixen, Ilsa Faust.

The A400 accompanies the opening larger-than-life plane stunt, setting up variations of Schifrin’s MI Theme.  The Plot theme makes an appearance among hints of Ethan’s theme as the suspense builds to a full main titles statement of the MI theme.    

Solomon Lane introduces the theme for our villain, a snake-like theme for the flute and woodwind section.  The theme grows and expands throughout the track with an almost hypnotic snake charmer feel.  Good Evening, Mr. Hunt builds more suspense with a brief nod to the Schifrin theme.  The brass enter with a large sting as Solomon Lane’s theme appears near the end. 

Escape to Danger starts the spy sound with ticking percussion and large orchestral hits and keeps it up without losing steam.  There are slight variations of Schifrin, so it can feel like it is part of the fabric of the score.  There is also flute solo of Nessun Dorma snuck in, which of course plays a larger part in the next few sequences.  Kraemer sets up Havana to Vienna with a Cuban flavor and Schifrin quotes.  The tremolo strings and ticking percussion continue, this time with a reference to The Plot and Solomon Lane’s themes.  A Flight At The Opera keeps the action going in this sequence with the brass and strings taking charge. There are some quotes of Schifrin and Ethan’s theme almost connected together. 

The Syndicate begins with Lane’s theme in a shadowy setting until the Mission Impossible trill appears and sets up The Plot theme (with a really interesting Middle Eastern variation).  The Plan brings us the classic spy sound, blending the Schifrin style and Ethan’s theme.  We get a lot of nice suspense music continuing into It’s Impossible*, a short cue featuring Lane’s theme spread among several instruments.  The cue ends with a brief statement of Schifrin’s main theme. 

The Torus, while not fully appearing in the film, is a great action cue.  Featuring several past themes (The Plot, Ethan’s theme, MI theme), the rhythm propels the track without being over the top or too busy.  The track stays under the radar until the last section where it has a strong finish.  The main themes get expertly mixed in again in Morocco Pursuit – a much stronger and highly energetic action cue. 

Grave Consequences returns us to the quieter, suspense-filled sound, with flute solos of MI theme and Lane’s theme making appearances.  A section of dissonance leads to a propulsive string section and Ethan’s theme.  Ethan’s theme starts off A Matter of Going, with a quiet reprise of Lane’s theme before one of the prominent versions of the Nessun Dorma theme for Ilsa. 

The Blenheim Sequence contains some nice variations of Schifrin’s theme and new harmonies attached to Ethan’s theme.  Starting quietly, Audience With the Prime Minister adds Lane’s sinister theme but rises for bold and exciting statements of the MI theme and Ethan’s theme.  This Is the End, Mr. Hunt* reprises several past themes (including plenty of statements of The Plot and Ethan’s theme) and crescendos to a big finish. 

A Foggy Night in London starts out as a strong action sequence for the film’s climax.  There are few fun percussion solos and thrilling brass and string writing.  Meet the IMF starts with a bold statement of the MI theme, and a rousing version of Ethan’s theme – now really representing the IMF itself.  It’s a short cue, but is effective.  Finale and Curtain Call recalls the Nessun Dorma theme and a classic reprise of the Mission: Impossible theme.  In a semi-suite, Kraemer returns to several bits of music heard earlier in the score before ending with one last Mission: Impossible theme.                     

It’s been a strong year for spy scores: Spy (Theodore Shapiro), The Man from UNCLE (Daniel Pemberton), Kingsman (Henry Jackman), and an upcoming Bond film.  Kraemer really delivers in this spy genre. Utilizing Schifrin’s material is a must, both Elfman and Giacchino handled it well.  Kraemer has it really woven into his score, and it sometimes blends in so well, it’s hard to tell where one composer ends and begins.  The opera scene in Vienna is set to the opera Turandot and Nessun Dorma (one of the most famous opera arias) is closely connected to the scene’s plot but it is interesting that Kraemer used Giacomo Puccini’s music as a leitmotif for Ilsa.  While it makes several appearances in the film, it never is too obtrusive. 

While Michael Giacchino’s score was big on musical action, Kraemer really gets the quieter moments in addition to the action set-pieces.  Many cues aren’t densely orchestrated, but have just enough momentum to keep it going.  It really is a thoughtfully crafted score, and it noticeable in the theaters, and even more so on the album. I hope this work brings Kraemer more success and more recognition.    

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Composer Cameos #4

Here is the 4th installment of Composer Cameos! Even more composers spotted in film and television! (Read the previous ones here: #1, #2, #3)

David Arnold has bit parts in 2 episodes of Little Britain (2003)

Bacharach plays piano in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Banos conducts in The Oxford Murders (2008)

Bates appears in the background as a Ravager in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Bource leading the band in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

Bource plays flute and looks on in OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009) 

Doyle leads the rousing Non nobis, Domine in Henry V (1989)

Ellington (as Pie-Eye) plays piano with Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder

Giacchino checks tickets at the World's Fair in Tomorrowland (2015)

Goldsmith plays poker in an episode of Stargate: Atlantis (2008)

Hamlisch (far right) parties in The Way We Were (1973)

Hamlisch's performance is interrupted in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Hollaender conducts in One, Two, Three (1961)

McCreary appears in a zombie nighmare in Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (2014)

Stollof conducts in Jolson Sings Again (1949)

Waxman sings and plays piano in Der Mann, der seinen Mörder sucht (1931)

Young conducts in the short, Hold That Tiger (1940)

Young conducts in The Country Girl

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Star Composers

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is the famed tourist trap that has been attracting crowds since the 1960s. Set up by the Chamber of Commerce, the 2,000+ stars match the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Recording, Radio, and Live Performance. 

Ranging from the likes of Clark Gable to Shrek, each star is purchased (for a hefty $30,000) and typically coincides with a new film's promotion.

That being said, sometime in 2015 Ennio Morricone will receive a star. I remember Hans Zimmer receiving one with the release of Inception. So it made me wonder what other film composers have a star.  Here's a list of these film composers (and the year their star was unveiled).  






Coming soon!










Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 Best Scores Turning 30

1985 was a great year for film scores.  There were a few tough choices, but here's what I consider some of the best from the year.  So here is my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 30!

Let's start the ranking!

10. A View to a Kill (John BarryWith the penultimate Bond score for Barry, he still packs a punch full of 80s synthesizer sounds, flute solos and good action cues for the large set pieces. While the Monty Norman theme doesn’t appear often in the film, some moments from past Bond scores appear, as well as instrumental renditions of the great Duran Duran title song.

9. The Black Cauldron (Elmer Bernstein) A forgotten Disney animated film, Bernstein’s score carries much of the film’s weight. It stumbles with jarring transitions of terrifically menacing and strangely comic moments. The dark moments work the best, which also showcase the Ondes Martenot. 

8.  Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (Danny Elfman) Starting the film career of Elfman (and the fruitful collaboration with Tim Burton), Pee-Wee is a quirky score that wears its inspirations on its sleeve.  Between the unique orchestrations and thematic work, the score matches the spirit of the film perfectly.  

7. Legend (Jerry Goldsmith) This truly epic fantasy score is one of Goldsmith’s best efforts in the genre. Effectively combining electronic and orchestral elements with a choir, the score matches the dark material in the film and romantic side better than the (semi) replacement soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. 

6. Return to Oz (David Shire) A hidden gem of a score.  Shire utilizes a large scale orchestra, and several varying musical styles and instrumentation for each specific character theme. With haunting sections and complex musical layers, the score stands out as one of Shire’s best.

5. Silverado (Bruce Broughton) One of the strongest scores in the Western genre, this Broughton score is rousing and then some. The main theme calls back the other Western greats, and brings back the large orchestra and brass to bring this score to the top.

4. Cocoon (James Horner) Horner’s score follows the heart of this film’s story. The emotional and magical moments are extremely effective with the reprises of his themes.  Also featuring big band writing, this wonder-filled score is a highlight of his resume.   

3. Young Sherlock Holmes (Bruce Broughton) 
A landmark for special effects, the score also stands out with a thrilling adventurous main theme that is woven throughout mixed with plenty of suspense. One of Broughton’s best scores, and worthy of a listen.

2. Out of Africa (John Barry) A lush orchestral score contains some of the most beautiful string melodies by Barry.  Matching the striking views of Africa, this score is a masterclass in lyrical writing. 

1. Back to the Future (Alan Silvestri) Both a start of a film music career for Silvestri and a crowd pleasing film, Back to the Future excels because of his score. The legendary theme stands out throughout the film and has stayed on the list of most recognizable movie themes since 1985.

Honorable Mentions: Witness, The Goonies, Brazil, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Flesh + Blood

Any favorites of yours from 1985 that I left off?  Comment below!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Screen Credit Quiz (All Comedy Edition)

It's time for a Screen Credit Quiz!  This time, let's have a few laughs with an All Comedy Edition!  All these films represented are comedies - both old and new.  I tossed in a few giveaways in there as well....Enjoy! 

Put your guesses in the comments! And have fun!!