Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Scoring Behind the Scenes

Rather than focusing on one specific movie, here is a compilation of behind the scenes of several recent scoring projects.  Enjoy!

After Earth - James Newton Howard
After Earth - James Newton Howard
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Howard Shore
The Lone Ranger - Hans Zimmer
Monsters University - Randy Newman
Oblivion - Joseph Trapanese
Oblivion - Joseph Trapanese
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Andrew Lockington
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters - Andrew Lockington
Planes - Mark Mancina
Saving Mr. Banks - Thomas Newman
The Wolverine - Marco Beltrami

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Christopher Young: The Thriller

Christopher Young was born in 1957 in New Jersey.  Starting as a drummer, Young was first interested in both jazz and was later introduced to the music of Bernard Herrmann.  He graduated from Hampshire College in Massachusetts with a Bachelors degree in music.  He continued his studies with some graduate work at North Texas State University.  Falling in love with film music, he moved to Los Angeles and began taking classes at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) film school.

At UCLA, teacher/composer David Raksin became his mentor.  While there, he composed the score for a student film, "The Dorm that Dripped Blood" was eventually released in 1982, becoming Young's first Hollywood score.

He started out with a wide variety of scores - some in part by his classmates.  His would work on some sci-fi, some action and some horror scores to films like Def-Con 4 (1985), Wheels of Fire (1985), entering the horror world with A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985).  He composed a segment of The Twilight Zone reboot in 1986, and director Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars (1986), to which Young's score was replaced in part by a synthesized score by David Storrs.  It was more of Young's horror/thriller work that attracted director Clive Barker to his music, lending Young to compose the score to Barker's Hellraiser (1987), a turning point in Young's film career.  The Gothic orchestral style mixed with synthesizer effects became a standard for Young.  Naturally, he also scored the sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) with spectacular results.  Branching out for some of his TV movies, he scored the war drama Bat*21 (1988) and scored the sequel The Fly II (1989).

Scoring several films a year was not usual for Christopher Young, which continued into the 1990s.  For the crime drama Jennifer Eight (1992), his score was both rejected and then reinserted after Maurice Jarre's replacement score didn't work out.  In 1993 he worked with horror master George A. Romero on The Dark Half (1993).  Surprisingly it was his drama score to Murder in the First (1995), that remains one of his career highlights.  That same year he composed the scores to the action film Virtuosity (1995), and starting a collaboration with director Jon Amiel with the chilling thriller Copycat (1995).  Breaking his mold yet again, his score to the TV movie Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996) was nominated for an Emmy.

Young continued getting high profile films, notably Murder at 1600 (1997) and the action comedy with director Amiel, The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997).  With Hard Rain (1998), he was given a mainstream action score and reunited with Unforgettable (1996) director John Dahl for the gambling movie Rounders (1998).  1999 would be another year for Young to really show off his compositional chops, with Entrapment (1999) with director Amiel, and returned to horror with Urban Legend (1998).  He also fit a dramatic score nicely with the bevy of pop songs for The Hurricane (1999).

He used a jazzy, blues score for Wonder Boys (2000) and began a collaboration with director Sam Raimi, on The Gift (2000).  His scores became numerous in 2001, with a wide variety of styles for Sweet November (2001), co-composing Swordfish (2001) with electronic star Paul Oakenfold, crime comedy Bandits (2001), thriller The Glass House (2001).  His Celtic-like score to Lasse Hallström's The Shipping News became one of Young's most melodic scores (following in the style of composers like Rachel Portman).  The score gave Young his first Golden Globe nomination.

Returning with Jon Amiel, he scored the action film The Core (2003), a score that remains a favorite.  Alongside Hans Zimmer and several other composers, Young wrote addition music for Something's Gotta Give (2003), which was put together after the original composer was dropped at the last minute.  He also composed the bluesy score to Runaway Jury (2003), and TV movie Something the Lord Made (2004).  For  last minute re-writes, Young was brought in by director Raimi for Spider-Man 2 (2004) after original composer Danny Elfman was unavailable.  Young brought his atmospheric horror writing to The Grudge (2004).  Back in thriller mode, he composed the score to The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and eventually the sequel, The Grudge 2 (2006).

Returning to the style of Hellraiser II, Young composed the score to Ghost Rider (2007), complete with blaring orchestra, electronic guitars, and Gothic-style choir.  Officially replacing Elfman, Young returned for Spider-Man 3 (2007) while still quoting the Elfman theme.  Additional cues were written by Deborah Lurie and John Debney, and the score has never had an album release.  He also re-teamed with Wonder Boys director Curtis Hanson for the drama Lucky You (2007).

Young's eerie music worked for Untraceable (2008) and The Uninvited (2009).  He showed that he was on top of his game with Raimi's Drag Me to Hell (2009), featuring a big orchestral sound and snippets of gypsy-inspired music.  Dramatically changing styles yet again, Young tackled the romantic drama Love Happens (2009) and touching score to Creation (2009) for director Amiel.  His jazz sensibilities and action scoring were used in the score for the video game The Saboteur (2009).

The mixed bag of jazz and Latin sounds fit well with The Rum Diary (2011), while his score to Priest (2011) returned to the Gothic blockbuster style with dazzling results.  With the 'Emily Rose' director, Young scored the horror flick Sinister.  His docket of films is ever-growing, with lots of thrillers coming.

His love for horror and thriller goes beyond the movies he scores, with his collection of autographs, masks and jack-o-lanterns.  When not composing, he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor at USC teaching film scoring, given lectures and hosted events around scoring, and served as president of the Film Music Society.  He also helps film students get into the scoring business.  While his main recognition comes from one genre, Young has shown he can break the mold.  His thriller scores have elevated the genre, an even given melody in horror films.  For that, he remains of the best of the genre.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spotlight On: Pixar

The newest Spotlight On takes a look back at the films in by Pixar Animation Studio.  

Music takes an important role in all of their films, rotating with composers Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino and Patrick Doyle.  In the current 14 films, they have netted 7 Academy Award Score nominations, and 6 Song nominations (with 1 win and 2 wins, respectively).  

Toy Story (1995)
Music by Randy Newman
Overall a fun and adventurous score by Newman.  A mix of slapstick, swing, western styles combined with a few of Newman's songs.  Not as cohesive as some later scores, but still enjoyable.  (Just listen to: You've Got a Friend in Me, Woody and Buzz, Infinity and Beyond)  

A Bug's Life (1998)
Music by Randy Newman
Newman continued his jazzy style with a brassier side, plus a lot of fun lilting melodies.  Not as memorable as Toy Story, but worth a listen to Newman fans.  (Just listen to: The Flik Machine, The City, A Bug's Life Suite)

Toy Story 2 (1999)
Music by Randy Newman
In this sequel, Newman expanded the themes from the original.  New themes include western style music for Jessie and the Roundup Gang, and sci-fi sounds for Emperor Zurg.  Listen to the score, but stay for Newman's heartbreaking song "When She Loved Me".  (Just listen to: Zurg's Planet, Jessie and the Roundup Gang, When She Loved Me, The Cleaner, Ride Like the Wind)

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Music by Randy Newman
Newman continued his swing sound with a big band style.  The enjoyable Main Titles is a enjoyable jazz rendition of the Oscar winning song, If I Didn't Have You.  Newman shows his sentimental side yet again in the score.  (Just listen to: If I Didn't Have You Walk to Work, Scare Floor, Boo's Going Home)

Finding Nemo (2003)
Music by Thomas Newman
Looking for a different style, Pixar looked to Thomas Newman for a more exotic and ambient score.  Thomas' distinct style of instrumentation and rhythm let the film stand separately as a highlight for Pixar.  The deceptively simple theme is effective when it returns through the score.  (Just listen to: Nemo Egg -Main Title, Field Trip, Filter Attempt, Fronds Like These)

The Incredibles (2004)
Music by Michael Giacchino
Giacchino burst onto films and into Pixar with the jazz-inspired (with homages of Lalo Schifrin and John Barry).  Full of adventure music and spy moments.  The highlight is Gordon Goodwin's Grammy winning arrangement - The Incredits.  (Just listen to: The Glory Days, Life's Incredible Again, 100 Mile Dash, A Whole Family of Supers, The Incredits)

Cars (2006)
Music by Randy Newman
Randy Newman returned with racing fanfares, and American folk music.  Newman also provided the sentimental song, "Our Town".  Notable is his sweeping music for McQueen and Sally's drive.  (Just listen to: Opening Race, McQueen and Sally, The Big Race)

Ratatouille (2007)
Music by Michael Giacchino
Giacchino returned with director Brad Bird, this time adding a French flavor, salsa rhythms and fun instrumentation.  A fun listen, with the title theme going through many changes throughout the score.  (Just listen to: Wall Rat, Colette Shows Him Le Ropes, Dinner Rush, End Creditouilles)

WALL-E (2008)
Music by Thomas Newman
Newman's unique style returned with director Andrew Stanton, with the music playing a larger part in this film.  His odd instruments and rhythms compliment the electronic sounds of the characters.  (Just listen to: WALL-E, EVE, The Axiom, Define Dancing, The Hold-Detector)

Up (2009)
Music by Michael Giacchino
Giacchino's main theme waltz goes through many iterations through the film - from jungle to menacing villain, to action and sentimental.  The score also features vintage jazz sounds, but is most notable for the tear-jerking wedding montage.  The score was the first to win the Oscar for Best Score.  (Just listen to: Married Life, Carl Goes Up, Memories Can Weigh You Down, It's Just a House)

Toy Story 3 (2010)
Music by Randy Newman
Returning to the Toy Story world, we get more Western influences, a new villain theme, Flamenco stylings and hints of past themes.  The finale benefits from Newman's tender farewell music.  (Just listen to: Cowboy!, Go See Lotso, The Claw, So Long)

Cars 2 (2011)
Music by Michael Giacchino
In this energetic sequel, we get a spy theme which covers a lot of the action.  We also get the bluegrass style for Radiator Springs, a villain motif, and the fanfares for the races.  (Just listen to: It's Finn McMissle, Tarmac the Magnificent, Porto Corsa, The Lemon Pledge)

Brave (2012)
Music by Patrick Doyle
For the Scottish set story, Scottish composer Doyle joined the film.  We get lilting Celtic-inspired melodies, jigs and a lullaby which transfers beautifully into the score.  (Just listen to: Fate and Destiny, The Games, Legends are Lessons, We've Both Changed, Merida's Home)

Monsters University (2013)
Music by Randy Newman
In this prequel, the drum corp sound takes command.  We get plenty of montages with the Scare Games, and the main school song heard in choral and instrumental versions.  The swinging jazz returns, without much thematic connection to Monsters Inc.  Still, a fun listen and has more identity than some previous other Newman scores.  (Just listen to: Young Michael, Oozma Kappa, Field Trip, The Scare Games)

Inside Out (2015)
Music by Michael Giacchino



Check out the others!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Scoring Stages: AIR Studios

AIR Studios
Lyndhurst Hall
Originally a church from the 1880s, Lyndhurst Hall was transformed into a new studio location in the early 1990s.  Along with Abbey Road Studios, Lyndhurst has quickly become a premier location for movie scoring in London.  Many scores double their recording at both AIR and Abbey Road, sometimes just recording smaller ensembles or choirs at AIR, but many titles will be repeated.  Smaller films and ensembles can additionally record at Air-Edel Recording.  

Scores recorded here include:
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993) - James Horner
Frankenstein (1994) - Patrick Doyle
Stargate (1994) - David Arnold
Legends of the Fall (1995) - James Horner
Lassie (1994) - Basil Poledouris
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) - Michael Kamen
Cutthroat Island (1995) - John Debney
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) - Joel Goldsmith
Emma (1996) - Rachel Portman
The Peacemaker (1997) - Hans Zimmer
Antz (1998) - John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams
The Red Violin (1998) - John Corigliano
Les Misérables (1998) - Basil Poledouris
City of Angels (1998) - Gabriel Yared
The Mask of Zorro (1998) - James Horner
The Mummy (1999) - Jerry Goldsmith
Unbreakable (2000) - James Newton Howard
The Cell (2000) - Howard Shore
Hollow Man (2000) - Jerry Goldsmith
Gladiator (2000) - Hans Zimmer
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) - Howard Shore
Hearts in Atlantis (2001) - Mychael Danna
Hannibal (2001) - Hans Zimmer
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) - Howard Shore
Die Another Day (2002) - David Arnold
The Ring (2002) - Hans Zimmer
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) - Hans Zimmer
The Time Machine (2002) - Klaus Badelt
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) - Edward Shearmur
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) - Howard Shore
Shark Tale (2004) - Hans Zimmer
Shrek 2 (2004) - Harry Gregson-Williams
Finding Neverland (2004) - Jan A. P. KaczmarekThe Passion of the Christ (2004) - John Debney
V for Vendetta (2005) - Dario Marianelli
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) - Patrick Doyle
Nanny McPhee (2005) - Patrick Doyle
The Great Raid (2005) - Trevor Rabin
Pride & Prejudice (2005) - Dario Marianelli
Madagascar (2005) - Hans Zimmer
A History of Violence (2005) - Howard Shore
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) - Harry Gregson-Williams
Eragon (2006) - Patrick Doyle
Blood Diamond (2006) - James Newton Howard
Casino Royale (2006) - David Arnold
Flyboys (2006) - Trevor Rabin
The Da Vinci Code (2006) - Hans Zimmer
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - Stephen Sondheim
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) - AR Rahman, Craig Armstrong
Atonement (2007) - Dario Marianelli
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - John Powell
Hot Fuzz (2007) - David Arnold
Twilight (2008) - Carter Burwell
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) - Hans Zimmer
Quantum of Solace (2008) - David Arnold
Milk (2008) - Danny Elfman
The Dark Knight (2008) - Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Kung Fu Panda (2008) - Hans Zimmer, John Powell
Iron Man (2008) - Ramin Djawadi
Sherlock Holmes (2009) - Hans Zimmer
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) - Alexandre Desplat
Terminator Salvation (2009) - Danny Elfman
Monsters vs Aliens (2009) - Henry Jackman
Gulliver's Travels (2010) - Henry Jackman
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) - David Arnold
TRON: Legacy (2010) - Daft Punk
Megamind (2010) - Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe
127 Hours (2010) - AR Rahman
Iron Man 2 (2010) - John Debney
How to Train Your Dragon (2010) - John Powell
Green Zone (2010) - John Powell
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - Alberto Iglesias
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) - Alan Silvestri
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) - Hans Zimmer, John Powell
Thor (2011) - Patrick Doyle
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) - Hans Zimmer
Unknown (2011) - John Ottman
Paul (2011) - David Arnold
Les Misérables (2012) - Claude-Michel Schonberg
Frankenweenie (2012) - Danny Elfman
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Hans Zimmer
Brave (2012) - Patrick Doyle
Dark Shadows (2012) - Danny Elfman
The Hunger Games (2012) - James Newton Howard
The Raven (2012) - Lucas Vidal
Man on a Ledge (2012) - Henry Jackman
Evil Dead (2013) - Roque Banos



Finding Neverland (2004)
Pete Anthony conducting Blood Diamond (2006)