Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quick Review: Brave

Music composed by Patrick Doyle
Orchestrated by: Patrick Doyle and James Shearman
Conducted by: James Shearman
Score performed by The London Symphony Orchestra
Score Recorded at Air Lyndhurst Studios (London)
Album time: 65 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

Pixar for a while used the same group of composers, starting with Randy Newman.  Thomas Newman and Michael Giacchino jumped in with several films, and now Patrick Doyle joins the bunch.  Patrick Doyle really has impressed me over the last few years with nice scores to last year’s Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  To say the least, I was intrigued by what Doyle was going to offer this animated tale.
As a fan of the Pixar films (who isn’t?) and their scores, Brave doesn’t quite reach the levels of those films.  The film itself just feels trapped in two worlds, possibly the outcome of the writer/director dilemma the film had during production.  The score doesn't seem affected by that, as it provides a solid listening experience.
I won’t reveal plot points, but track names are used. 
Beginning the album are three new songs used in the film.  First we have Touch the Sky.  Music is by Alex Mandel (who has done a few projects with Pixar before) and performed by Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis.  The song matches our lead character of the movie, and the arrangement of the song fits with the Scottish score.  Into the Open Air is another song by Mandel performed by Fowlis.  Again, not terribly memorable, but fits the soundtrack nicely.  The last song (which is featured in the end credits) is Learn Me Right by Mumford & Sons and performed by Birdy.  Overall these songs aren’t too intrusive, so I can’t complain. 
Now onto the score itself.  The score features some great Scottish rhythms and instruments that Doyle did some research on for the project. 
Fate and Destiny first introduces the jig theme, which is often used in the lighthearted/upbeat moments of the score.  These opening tracks feature the most of the Gaelic instruments as they set the tone and setting.  The Games is reminiscent of a similar scene Doyle scored for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), but it works well and features the most bagpipes I’ve heard in a while.  It is a rousing theme that I wished was in the score a bit more.
I Am Merida features more ethnic instruments, but doesn’t feature a rousing character theme like the track title implies.  The next main theme in the film, the more sentimental family theme, often used for the mother/daughter relationship first appears in Remember to Smile.  It is a very pretty theme that gets expanded throughout the score.  In Merida Rides Away, the music begins to really drive but turns spooky as she follows the wisps into the woods.  The music is full of high tremolos and low strings and even a hint of the Dies Irae.  
The Witch’s Cottage music turns light, as the scene has tons of strange humor.  It also features some creepy sections, also including very dramatic music.  On the flipside, the Song of Mor’du is the drinking song featured in the film, sung by cast members.  The song was written by Doyle, so it fits snugly with the jig theme heard earlier in the film. 
I won’t spoil anything about the film, but Through the Castle is played against some of the comic scenes.  The Song of Mor’du theme comes back in various forms, and the “sneaky” bassoon/bass clarinet and pizzicato strings are prominent.  The track Legends are Lessons is generally quiet, featuring the sentimental family theme in a full rendition that works very well both in film and on the album.  This is certainly one of the best tracks to feature that theme.
Show Us the Way is mainly a cue that underscores the suspense of Merida in the woods following the wisps, eventually turning into an action cue.  Mum Goes Wild features some nice underscoring; featuring versions of past motifs until the percussion kick in.  
In Her Heart, shows more of the lyrical themes Patrick Doyle excelled at for this score.  The solo fiddle and pipes really work nicely for these themes.  The lullaby Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal) (music by Doyle, lyrics by his son Patrick Neil Doyle) has Emma Thompson singing.  This family theme has been in the score before, this time accompanying with fiddle and harp.
Not Now! is an action cue from the beginning, with a mix of past themes.  Get the Key is another climatic track, featuring the lullaby theme in an action setting, with the driving rhythms in the background.  The longest track on the album is We’ve Both Changed.  This track basically covers a good chunk of the film, with the characters and music both wrapping up.  The ways the themes build up slowly really give the scenes some emotional weight.  We get a reprise of the lullaby theme on fiddle, before a full rendition of Noble Maiden Fair.  When the orchestra comes in, it is a really beautiful moment.  If you love the family theme, there is another version of it in Merida’s Home – this time featuring the whistle.  The percussion gets added in as the album crescendos to the end.              
This album follows the score pretty nicely, although there seem to be a few sections from the film not on the album.  The album itself is a nice progression of themes, which works great without the film.  There really isn’t a theme for Merida, but that follows most Pixar scores as well.  Patrick Doyle’s score fits with the other films - not as memorable as The Incredibles or Toy Story, but they fit the characters and their stories. 
And yes, avoid the score if bagpipes and Uilleann pipes sends shivers down your spine (in a bad way).
Featured Performers:
Celtic Fiddle: Christopher Stout
Celtic Percussion: Jim Sutherland, Neil Percy
Uilleann Pipes: Jarlath Henderson
Celtic Whistles: Matheu Watson
Bagpipes: Lorne MacDougall, Craig Munro, Kyle Stuart Howie, Kyle Warren, Willie Armstrong
Celtic Harp: Bryn Lewis

Bagpipers with Patrick Doyle (center)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Collaboration in Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann (1956 - Man Who Knew Too Much)
Tim Burton/Danny Elfman

Tim Burton/Danny Elfman (2011 Anniversary Box Set)
Steven Spielberg/John Williams (1977 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
Steven Spielberg/John Williams (1982 - ET The Extra Terrestrial)
Steven Spielberg/John Williams
Sam Mendes/Thomas Newman (2008 - Revolutionary Road)
Robert Zemeckis/Alan Silvestri (2000)
Robert Zemeckis/Alan Silvestri (2009 - A Christmas Carol)
David Fincher/Alexandre Desplat (2008 - Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Frederico Fellini/Nino Rota
Andrew Adamson/Harry Gregson-Williams (2005)
Bryan Singer/John Ottman
M. Night Shyamalan/James Newton Howard (2006 - Lady in the Water)
David Cronenberg/Howard Shore (2008 The Fly opera)
John Lasseter/Randy Newman (2009 - The Princess and the Frog)
Garry Marshall/John Debney (2010 - Valentine's Day)
Hayao Miyazaki/Joe Hisaishi (2009 Concert)
David Lean/Maurice Jarre
J.J. Abrams/Michael Giacchino (2009 - Star Trek)
Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone (1985)
Christopher Nolan/Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard (2005 - Batman Begins)
Peter Jackson/Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Howard Shore: The Success

Howard Shore was born in 1946 in Toronto, Ontario.  He studied music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  In 1969, he was one of the original members of the Canadian rock band Lighthouse.  Shore played alto saxophone in the band until 1972.  In 1975 Shore began his tenure as musical director and band leader of the Saturday Night Live Band.  He composed the music for the show opening as well as the closing theme Waltz in A (which can be seen here).  A variation of this theme is still used on the show today.  Shore again played saxophone in the band and was seen on screen conducting the band as well.  Shore (and the band) appeared in several skits appearing as “Howard Shore and his All Nurse Band” and “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band”.  He also was a main part in founding the Blues Brothers act, including giving the band its name.  He stayed at SNL until 1980, in which he had begun to score for various movies.
His first foray into motion pictures was with fellow Canadian director David Cronenberg.  Their first film together was 1979’s The Brood.  They collaborated on several dark films, including Scanners (1981), and Videodrone (1983).  While not composing the music in the film, Shore was the music director for Mike Nichols’ Silkwood (1983).  In 1984 Shore reunited with SNL creator (and old camp friend) Lorne Michaels for the sketch show The New Show (1984).  In their first work together, Shore collaborated with director Martin Scorsese for After Hours (1985).  He also scored one of the most popular Cronenberg films The Fly (1986).  In addition to many dark thrillers, Shore also composed the music to the lighthearted Penny Marshall film Big (1988).  Also in 1988 was the disturbing Cronenberg film Dead RingersDead Ringers is also the score Shore is first credited as conductor. 

The 1990s gave Shore a wide variety of styles and genres as he continued to be established as a major composer.  He reunited with Mike Nichols as music supervisor for Postcards from the Edge (1990).  The Silence of the Lambs (1991) marked Shore’s first work with director Jonathan Demme.  The score for Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991) featured sax great Ornette Coleman.  By this point in the 90s, Shore began scoring more films each year like M. Butterfly, Mrs. Doubtfire and Philadelphia all in 1993.  The latter marked another score with director Demme.  Shore also composed the theme to Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1993, which was produced by Lorne Michaels.  During an Danny Elfman/Tim Burton fallout, Shore stepped in to score the Burton film Ed Wood (1994).  Shore also connected with director David Fincher for the thriller Se7en (1995).  He continued his thriller scores for Cronenberg, notably Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999) and for Fincher - The Game (1997).  His comedy scores around this time included That Thing You Do! (1996), Analyze This (1999) and Dogma (1999).            

Howard Shore’s rise in film music certainly had reached a peak by 2000.  He was not quite a household name among film composers, but his relationship with great directors and great movies brought him acclaim. 
A new chapter in his film career began when he got signed on to The Lord of the Rings.  He took up the monumental task of the trilogy with director Peter Jackson.  Creating tons of opera-like motifs for the films was certainly a challenge.  The scope of the films and orchestra was the biggest for Shore, who utilized large choirs and many featured instrumental and vocal soloists.  The first film, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), won Shore his first Academy Award statue.  Due to temporary Oscar score ruling, The Two Towers (2002), was ineligible as an “original score”.  The rule was quickly overturned for the next year, as Howard Shore won Oscars for both original score and original song for The Return of the King (2003).  He also won the Golden Globes for the same awards.  The massive scores put Shore on the map to a whole group of film score fans and movie lovers. 

Even as the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released, Shore continued scoring other films, reconnecting with directors David Fincher for Panic Room (2002), and Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York (2002).  He won another Golden Globe Award with the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator (2004), which joined Shore and Scorsese yet again.  Shore continued to go from epic to subdued music as evidenced in 2005’s A History of Violence (directed by Cronenberg).  Even after the massive success of The Lord of the Rings, Shore and Peter Jackson had a falling out over King Kong (2005), and Shore’s score was replaced at the last minute with a score by James Newton Howard.  (Shore still appears in a cameo as the conductor near the end of the film). 

Shore continued with top-notch and extremely varied scores to Best Picture winning The Departed (2006), directed by Scorsese.  He continued with Cronenberg with crime drama Eastern Promises (2007), and a very subdued score to Doubt (2008).  Shore joined the popular Twilight franchise with his score Eclipse (2010).  With Cronenberg, Shore composed the music to A Dangerous Method (2011), but more acclaim went to his score for Martin Scorsese’s children fantasy Hugo (2011).  For Hugo, Shore was nominated for the Oscar (which marked his appearance since Return of the King).  His score for Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) features the Canadian band Metric.  His most sought-after score is his return to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson.  They are reuniting for both parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and There and Back Again (2013).

Shore’s success also has arrived in other forms.  For example, he has his own record label, Howe Records.  He wrote the score to the MMORPG Soul of the Ultimate Nation in 2004.  His entry into concerto music has also been successful.  His concert work include Concertino for violin solo and chamber orchestra (based on themes from Eastern Promises), piano concerto Ruin and Memory (2010), cello concerto Mythic Gardens (2012) and an opera  of The Fly (2008).  In a great blend of concert and film worlds, Shore put together the Lord of the Rings Symphony, featuring highlights of the film scores, which has played around the world.  The films have also been projected with live symphony orchestra performing the score around the world. 

Howard Shore’s ability to adapt and vary his scores and technique make him a master at the craft.  His often subdued and brooding scores for David Cronenberg, to his dramatic scores for Martin Scorsese or his stunning work with Peter Jackson, his range of styles is apparent.  In this age of teams, Shore prefers to compose, orchestrate and conduct throughout the entire process.  As his output has continued to increase, his work has remained consistent among many genres. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Who Conducts? part II

So the question continues....who conducts a film score?  At the scoring session, the composer can either conduct themselves, or have a separate conductor.  See here for the post about composers as conductors.  This post is all about conductors who are not the composers.  

Since many music directors or conductors are uncredited in older films, I have featured more modern films.  Just like orchestrators, many composers collaborate with the same conductor over and over.  Many of these conductors are also orchestrators.  Some of these conductors have even gone on to compose.

There also may be multiple conductors for one film, often others getting uncredited.  Repeating composer collaborators are noted in green

[James Newton Howard, Marco Beltrami, Christopher Young, John Debney, John Powell]
(The Sixth Sense, Spider-Man, Hellboy, The Village, King Kong, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Bolt, Alice in Wonderland, Real Steel) 

[David Arnold, Andrew Lockington, Jeff Danna]
(Independence Day, Casino Royale, Capote, Journey to the Center of the Earth)

[Craig Armstrong, Clint Mansell, Tim Atack]
(The Quiet American, Sunshine, The Incredible Hulk, Inception, 127 Hours)

LEO F. FORBSTEIN (1892-1948)

[Warner Bros. Studio, Head of Department]
(The Maltese Falcon, I Was a Fugitive on a Chain Gang, Mildred Pierce)

[Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Henry Jackman]
(Gladiator, Shrek, The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, How to Train your Dragon)

[Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackman]
(Crimson Tide, Transformers, Angels and Demons, X-Men First Class)

[Trevor Rabin, Mark Mancina]
(The Rock, Twister, The Great Raid, Hancock)

[James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, Marc Shaiman, John Frizzell]
(Jurassic Park, A Few Good Men, Waterworld, Good Will Hunting, Snow Falling on Cedars)

[Rachel Portman, Alan Menken]

(Marvin's Room, Hercules, The Manchurian Candidate, Enchanted, Tangled)

[Mark Isham]
(A River Runs Through it, Quiz Show, October Sky)


[Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt, Steve Jablonsky]
(The Last Samurai, The Day After Tomorrow, The Island, Michael Clayton, The Simpsons Movie, Hancock)

[Jerry Goldsmith] 
(There's No Business Like Show Business, The Sand Pepples, Hello Dolly, The Omen, Alien)

[Clint Eastwood] 
(Mystic River, Flags of our Fathers, Changling)

(Defiance, The Corpse Bride, Finding Neverland, The Passion of the Christ, Shakespeare in Love)

[John Ottman] 
(X-Men 2, Superman Returns, Dreamgirls)

(Bobby, Invincible, Lions for Lambs, American Gangster, Bedtime Stories, The Hangover)

[Gabriel Yared]
(RoboCop, Masters of the Universe, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain)


[Klaus Badelt, William Ross]
(Beetlejuice, Jennifer Eight, My Dog Skip, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Poseidon, TMNT)


[Patrick Doyle] 
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Eragon, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Brave)

[Elliot Goldenthal]
(Alien3, Batman Returns, Interview with the Vampire, Batman Forever, Heat, Titus, Public Enemies)


[Michael Giacchino, Graeme Revell] 
(Titan A.E., The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Super 8)

[Rachel Portman]
  (Cliffhanger, Tombstone, Cutthroat Island, Emma, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat)

MORRIS STOLOFF (1898-1980) 

[Columbia Pictures Music Director]
(Pal Joey, From Here to Eternity, 3:10 to Yuma, None But the Brave)

IRVIN TALBOT (1894-1973)
[Paramount Studio, Head of Department]
(Of Mice and Men, Our Town, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Donovan's Reef)

[Dario Marianelli] 
(Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Jane Eyre, Tower Heist)

SHIRLEY WALKER (1945-2006)
[Brad Fiedel, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman]
(Scrooged, Batman, Black Rain, Dick Tracy, Days of Thunder, Edward Scissorhands, True Lies, Final Destination) 


[Danny Elfman]
(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Milk, Terminator Salvation, Dark Shadows)


 [Craig Armstrong] 
(The Bone Collector, Moulin Rouge, Love Actually, Ray)


[Tyler Bates]
(300, Halloween, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Watchmen, Super, Sucker Punch)