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

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.      

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.  

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)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Scoring Stages: Anvil Denham Studios

Anvil Recording Group
Denham Studios
Denham, England

Built by Alexander Korda in the 1930s, the Denham Studio was akin to the Hollywood studio backlots.  Located in Denham, Buckinghamshire, the large studio was the filming locations for several films by some of England's best - Powell & Pressburger, Laurence Olivier and David Lean.  Eventually the studio worked on less films, partially due to the work done at the nearby Pinewood Studios (still in use today).  In 1952, the Denham Studio closed as a major film studio.  After a location change, the Anvil Recording Group moved into the large scoring stage on the Denham property in 1966.  Some early scores recorded there include a few Bernard Herrmann scores (due to Hollywood musicians' strike).

Some of the best sound equipment and people was used there, including the new Neve console, Ken Cameron and Eric Tomlinson.  Many films were scored there before developers demolished the entire Korda Studios in 1980.  Along with the studio, many recording tapes from the studio's history were lost.  That same year, the Anvil team created Anvil-Abbey Road Screen Sound, and began the long history of film scoring at Abbey Road Studios.    

Scores recorded here include:
Black Narcissus (1947) - Brian Easdale
The Red Shoes (1948) - Brian Easdale
Vertigo (1958) - Bernard Herrmann
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960) - Bernard Herrmann
Mysterious Island (1961) - Bernard Herrmann
Dr. No (1962) - Monty Norman
Fahrenheit 451 (1966) - Bernard Herrmann
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) - Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman, arr Irwin Kostal
2001: A Space Odyssey [rejected] (1968) - Alex North
The Battle of Britain [rejected] (1969) - William Walton
The Battle of Britain (1969) - Ron Goodwin
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) - Miklos Rozsa
Ryan's Daughter (1970) - Maurice Jarre
Jane Eyre (1970) - John Williams
Fiddler on the Roof (1971) - Jerry Bock, arr John Williams
Frenzy (1972) - Ron Goodwin
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) - John Addison
The Omen (1976) - Jerry Goldsmith
Star Wars (1977) - John Williams
Superman (1978) - John Williams
The Boys from Brazil (1978)  - Jerry Goldsmith
The Great Train Robbery (1978) - Jerry Goldsmith
Dracula (1979) - John Williams
Alien (1979) - Jerry Goldsmith
Flash Gordon (1980) - Howard Blake
Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - John Williams

Eric Tomlinson at the Neve mixing console
Recording Star Wars, 1977
Recording Star Wars, 1977

Recording Superman, 1978
Recording The Empire Strikes Back, 1979

Recording The Empire Strikes Back, 1979

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rock Star Composers

You know what they say, everyone has to start out somewhere.  I've compiled a list of some composers who started out (and perhaps still continue) in the rock world.  

Danny Elfman 
One of the more famous names on the list, Elfman was actually a founding member (along with his brother, Richard) of Oingo Boingo in the 1970s. While in the band, Elfman connected with now long-time collaborator Tim Burton to begin his film score endeavor. Some of Danny’s more popular scores include Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), the Men in Black trilogy, and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Stewart Copeland
As a founding member of The Police, Copeland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. His most notable scores are Wall Street (1987), Highlander II: The Quickening (1981) and She’s All That (1999).  He recently composed a new score to the silent film, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (1925)

Mark Mothersbaugh
The lead singer and a founding member of popular ‘80s group Devo, Mothersbaugh is also composer of such TV shows as Rugrats, The Carrie Diaries, and House of Lies.  He has also scored many feature films including Happy Gilmore (1996), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and The Lego Movie (2014). Mothersbaugh frequently collaborated with director Wes Anderson, having scored Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

Trent Reznor
While Reznor is most famous for being in ‘90s rock band Nine Inch Nails, he is now gaining momentum as a film score composer after winning the Oscar for 2010’s The Social Network. Quickly becoming a frequent musical partner on the haunting works of director David Fincher, Trent has also scored The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Gone Girl (2014). As of October 2014, Nine Inch Nails is nominated for induction into the 2015 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Charlie Clouser
Another member of NIИ, Clouser is known for scoring all of the Saw films. He has also scored Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), The Stepfather (2009), and the TV shows Las Vegas (2003-2008) and Numb3rs (2005-2010).

Trevor Rabin 
Rabin was a member of ‘80s prog rock group Yes. His notable scores include: Armageddon (1998), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Remember the Titans (2000), and National Treasure (2004).

Cliff Martinez
A member of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Martinez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as the group’s longtime drummer. He provided scores for Wicker Park (2004) and Drive (2011). Martinez is also a frequent collaborator of director Steven Soderbergh, having worked together on Traffic (2000), Solaris (2002), and the Cinemax series The Knick.

Daft Punk
While widely known as the electronic music duo in the robot helmets, Daft Punk also famously scored 2010’s TRON: Legacy.

Tangerine Dream
Speaking of electronic music groups, 1970s German group Tangerine Dream have also scored such films as: Risky Business (1983), Legend (1985), and the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V.
(side bar: Tangerine Dream’s Paul Haslinger has scored several films on his own, including three entries in the Underworld series.)

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Both members of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (the ‘80s Aussie alt rock band), they have also collaborated on a few film scores, such as: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Lawless (2012), and the documentary West of Memphis (2012).

Alex Ebert
The lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Ebert won the 2014 Golden Globe for Best Score for the Robert Redford-led All Is Lost. He has also recently completed the score to A Most Violent Year, which will be released December 2014.

Lisa Gerrard
An Australian solo singer and part of the group Dead Can Dance, her noted scores include collaborations with Hans Zimmer on Gladiator (2000) and Tears of the Sun (2003), The Insider (1999) and Ali (2001) with Pieter Bourke, and a solo effort in 2002’s Whale Rider (2002).

Randy Newman
While Newman is certainly known as a solo artist from the ‘70s and ‘80s for such hits as “Short People” and “I Love L.A.,” he has made his mark on the film score industry by scoring many Disney-Pixar classics. These include the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc. (2001), Cars (2006), and Monsters University (2013). Newman’s other notable scores include: The Natural (1984), Maverick (1994), Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003) and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009). He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Popular EDM artist BT (aka Brian Transeau) began scoring films in 1999 with the fast paced Go (1999). He has also scored The Fast and the Furious (2001), Monster (2003), Catch and Release (2006), and the Disney-Pixar short Partysaurus Rex (2012).

Co-founder of ‘90s hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, RZA (born Robert Diggs) began scoring movies in the late ‘90s. His first major credit was Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003). Other scores include Soul Plane (2004), Blade: Trinity (2004) with Ramin Djawadi, and The Man with the Iron Fists (2013), which he also wrote, directed, and starred in.

Mark Knopfler 
Most famously known as part of Brit rock band Dire Straits, Knopfler made the jump to film composer in the ‘80s with the score to The Princess Bride (1987). His credits also include Wag the Dog (1997).

Nancy Wilson
Half of ‘70s-‘80s powerhouse rock duo Heart, Nancy crossed over to scoring films during her 24-year marriage to writer/director Cameron Crowe. She has composed just three feature films, all of them being works of Crowe - Almost Famous (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001), and Elizabethtown (2005). She also scored the 2002 documentary short Hitting It Hard, which was written/produced by Crowe. Nancy was inducted (as part of Heart) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

David Byrne
Another rocker on the list that has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2002), Byrne is a founding member of New Wave group Talking Heads. He began his scoring career in the ‘80s and collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su on The Last Emperor (1987). The film would go on to win nine Oscars, including Best Original Score. His other works include Married to the Mob (1988) and several episodes of the HBO series Big Love.

Anne Dudley
A Brit composer and pop musician, Dudley was a member of the ‘80s synthpop group The Art of Noise. In her twenty-plus-years of scoring films, she won the Oscar for Best Original Score for The Full Monty (1997). Other notable works include: Say Anything… (1989), The Crying Game (1992), American History X (1999), and Pushing Tin (1999).

Giorgio Moroder 
Italian producer/writer/DJ Giorgio produced many hits for Donna Summer, David Bowie, Blondie, etc. In 1978, he wrote the theme and score to The Midnight Express, winning him an Oscar for Best Original Score. He would go on to share the win for the 1984 Oscar for Best Original Song for Flashdance (‘What a Feeling’) with Keith Forsey and Irene Cara), and again for the 1987 Oscar for Best Original Song for Top Gun (‘Take My Breath Away’ with Tom Whitlock). Moroder also scored American Gigolo (1980) and Scarface (1983).

Jonny Greenwood
A founding member of the rock band Radiohead, Greenwood’s first film score credit is Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007). He also scored Anderson’s The Master (2012) and the upcoming Inherent Vice (2015).

Pharrell Williams 
A true Jack-of-all-trades, Pharrell has been on the music scene since the early ‘90s.  He first gained notoriety as half of the producers group The Neptunes, then later as part of hip-hop band N.E.R.D. He has also dabbled in being a solo artist, with his biggest hit to date, “Happy,” released in 2013 as part of the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. Although Pharrell’s scoring career is a short one thus far, he counts fellow bigwig composer Hans Zimmer as a colleague, so I am sure we will be hearing more from him in the future. His scores, thus far, consist of Despicable Me (2010) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) as part of Zimmer’s ‘Magnificent Six’ scoring team.

Honorable Mention -
James Newton Howard

Although, JNH was hardly a rock star in the traditional sense, he did tour as a keyboardist for Elton John in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He also briefly toured with Crosby, Stills and Nash before beginning his extensive career as a film composer. While I won’t name all his credits here, I will list some ‘biggies:’ Pretty Woman (1990), My Girl (1991), Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992), Wyatt Earp (1994), Waterworld (1995), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), The Sixth Sense (1999), Signs (2002), Batman Begins (2005), King Kong (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Hunger Games films.

[Thanks to Taylor Victor for this guest article.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nothing Lasts Forever: Top 14 Rejected Scores

Rejected scores are as old as film scores themselves.  Nearly every film composer has had a score rejected at some point in their career.  Some perhaps more than others, and all at different stages of scoring production.

Sometimes the unused music is recycled into another project, released years later, or in some cases left as a musical "what if?".  I picked my top 14 rejected scores, each with a different interesting backstory.

14.  The Exorcist (1973)
[Lalo Schifrin, Jack Nitzsche]

Director William Friedkin originally wanted Bernard Herrmann for the film, before turning to Schifrin.  Schifrin's score featured typical big orchestral horror elements.  His music did appear in the trailer for the film, with the apocryphal story of Friedkin tossing Schifrin's tapes in the studio parking lot. Looking for a more subtle replacement, he turned to Nitzsche for some atonal music which he didn't finish scoring.  This score was also replaced with modern classical music by Krzysztof Penderecki, Anton Webern and the now-famous Mike Oldfeld's Tubular Bells.

13.  The Wolfman (2010)
[Danny Elfman, Paul Haslinger]

For an orchestral Gothic horror sound, Elfman seemed a perfect fit.  Elfman completed his score, all the while the post-production was delayed and the newly edited film didn't support the score.  Unable to return for fixes and re-scoring, Elfman's score was rejected.  Paul Haslinger (of Underworld fame) was brought on for the replacement.  After his electronic score was complete, Haslinger's score was replaced by...Elfman's original score.  Still unable to rework the score, composers Edward Shearmur, TJ Lindgren and Conrad Pope were brought in for additional music, and re-track sections.    

12.  Platoon (1986)
[Georges Delerue]
Writer/director Oliver Stone fell in love with the classical piece Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber as a temp track.  Meanwhile, Delerue wrote a 20+ minute beautiful score.  One cue, "Barnes Shoots Elias" remains in the film and album, with the rest of the movie filled instead with pop songs and Adagio for Strings (conducted by Delerue).

11.  Alien (1979)
[Jerry Goldsmith]
In this case, many parts of the score was replaced by Goldsmith himself.  Composing the score for director Ridley Scott, Goldsmith wrote romantic sections with suspense throughout.  He eventually had to rescore several cues, including the main titles.  Editing cut parts of the score apart and the final film includes parts of the temp track.  Those moments include cues from Goldsmith's own Freud (1962) and Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 as the end credits.          

10.  The Scarlet Letter (1995)
[Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein]
Originally turning to Morricone, his demos didn't please director Roland Joffé.  Turning to Elmer Bernstein, he wrote and recorded the entire score with a more historical sound.  Still not satisfied, they turned to John Barry, on suggestion from star Demi Moore.  Given a limited time, Barry's score is reminiscent of his sweeping, romantic scores.  

9.  Air Force One (1997)
[Randy Newman]

While Newman captured "Americana" nicely in past scores, his score didn't fit with director Wolfgang Petersen.  His take seemed goofy, full of "Micky-Mousing", with an over-the-top comical notion for the villains.  All good music, just not fitting to the film.  Before finishing recording, Newman was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith at the last minute.  With 2 weeks to compose and record the new score, Goldsmith turned to Joel McNeely to write additional music.   

8.  White Fang (1991)
[Basil Poledouris, Hans Zimmer]

Poledouris started out scoring the film, using folk styles and having that Western feel.  As he finished his scoring, they brought in Zimmer to compose the replacement in about three weeks.  Zimmer brought his modern sound and also brought Fiachra Trench and Shirley Walker to write additional music.  With two film scores complete, a hybrid of both was created - picking and choosing cue by cue.  Ultimately more Poledouris appears in the final film, with action sequences done by Zimmer. 

7.  Legend (1985)
[Jerry Goldsmith]
Ah, another Ridley Scott and Goldsmith collaboration.  With the original cut of the film running "too long", the film was cut and cut - taking out a quarter of the film.  Needing a more youthful appearance, Goldsmith's score was removed and replaced with a techno-pop score by Tangerine Dream.  Goldsmith's score appeared in the European longer cut, with the music slightly butchered (and containing a cue from Goldsmith's Psycho II). 

6.  Gangs of New York (2002)
[Elmer Bernstein]
Despite a number of films with director Martin Scorsese, Bernstein's fully recorded score was rejected mainly by producer Harvey Weinstein.  Utilizing an Irish influence, the strong score was cut due to editing changes.  The score ended up being from a variety of sources - folk music of all types and cues composed by Howard Shore.     

5.  King Kong (2005)
[Howard Shore]
One of the most anticipated scores, Shore was to reunite with director Peter Jackson after their Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Writing and scoring a good chunk of the score, the pair split after "creative differences".  With limited time, and almost 3 hours of music to write, Jackson turned to James Newton Howard.  The score was recorded in LA, with Jackson and Howard communicating via technology - the two never meeting in person until the premiere.       

4.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
[Alan Silvestri]

After working with Silvestri on a handful of films, director Gore Verbinski hired Silvestri.  Upon hearing demos, producer Jerry Bruckheimer disapproved of the "classic pirate sound" with flutes and woodwind passages.  Even before anything was recorded, Bruckheimer fell back to his go-to composer, Hans Zimmer.  Having just six weeks, and a contract not letting him take on the full score, Zimmer composed the main themes.  The main credit went to Klaus Badelt, with no less than eight other Media Ventures composers adding to the mix.  

3.  2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
[Alex North]

Another temp track story.  After editing, director Stanley Kubrick sat with North and listened to the temp music picked by Kubrick for the film, leaving North to use them as guidelines.  After recording the first half the film, North was told not to continue, since not much more music was going to be used.  Instead, Kubrick used the now-famous classical temp music: Blue Danube Waltz, Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Ligeti pieces.  It was at the premiere that North apparently found out all his music was rejected.  

2.  Troy (2004)
[Gabriel Yared]

Yared was hired by director Wolfgang Petersen a year before the film's release (an unheard of long length of time for a film score).  Jumping into researching authentic styles of music, Yared began working on the source music needed for filming the epic.  He also amassed an extremely large orchestra, chorus from Bulgaria and female vocalist Tanja Tzarovska to record the score.  Shown with unfinished mixes of the score, the focus groups reactions were to remove the "old-fashioned" over the top score.  Petersen begged James Horner to compose the new score in an incredibly short 4 weeks.  Horner's score used many similar ethnic ideas as well as singer Tzarovska.     

1.  Torn Curtain (1966)
[Bernard Herrmann]

One of the most successful and well known composer/director pairings, Herrmann and Hitchcock...ended with this film.  As communication between the two slowly faded, Herrmann provided a score that the film needed, not what Hitchcock (and the studio) requested.  Wanting a less old-fashioned score and possibly a hit theme song (as was popular at the time), Herrmann reworked several cues.  Hitchcock came to the recording session, stopped the orchestra and had them leave (even wasting money in the process).  John Addison came in to re-score the film (apparently giving Hitch what he wanted).  

For you score detectives out there, here's the list rundown with a listing of how to hear some of these rejected scores.
The Exorcist (1973, Lalo Schifrin, Jack Nitzsche)
A 2001 anniversary edition of the soundtrack featured 3 tracks by Schifrin, including the 11 minute "Suite from the Unused Score" and "Music from the Unused Trailer"
Platoon (1986, Georges Delerue)
A 1995 Prometheus Records album released the 20 minute unused score.
Alien (1979, Jerry Goldsmith)
A 2007 Intrada Records release includes the final score, Rescored Alternate Cues and demos. The 2010 Blu-ray release includes Goldsmith's "Final Theatrical" and "Composer's Original" isolated score tracks.
Legend (1985, Jerry Goldsmith)
Goldsmith's score was released on a Silva Screen CD in 1992.  His European score can also be found on the Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-ray.  
Air Force One (1997, Randy Newman)

Besides bootlegs, Newman and McNeely's efforts haven't been publicly released.
The Scarlet Letter (1995, 
Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein)
This score can be found on a 2008 Varese Sarabande Club CD titled Elmer Bernstein - The Unused Scores.       
Gangs of New York (2002, Elmer Bernstein)
This score can also be found on the 2008 Varese Sarabande Club CD titled Elmer Bernstein - The Unused Scores.     
White Fang (1991, Basil Poledouris, Hans Zimmer)
Both full scores by both Poledouris, Zimmer and the additional Trench/Walker cues were included in a 2012 Intrada Records release.
Torn Curtain (1966, Bernard Herrmann)

A re-recording of Herrmann's score has been released twice - once as an LP in 1977 (conducted by Elmer Bernstein), and one CD with more score released by Varese Sarabande in 1998 (conducted by Joel McNeely).      
King Kong (2005, Howard Shore)
While parts were recorded, none of Shore's score has been released.  There were snippets heard in the scoring production videos made.  Shore's cameo at Kong's NYC debut is still in the film.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Alex North)

North's score was first released by Varese Sarabande on CD in 1993 (conducted by Jerry Goldsmith).  The complete score (original tapes) were released by Intrada Records in 2007.  
Troy (2004, Gabriel Yared)
Yared's rejected score was industry-released as an agency promo in 2004.  The score was also available on Yared's website with a lengthy story of his rejection.  He was later asked to remove the audio.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Alan Silvestri)
None of Silvestri's original demos have ever been released.  This musical "what if..." will remain a mystery.
The Wolfman (2010, Danny Elfman, Paul Haslinger)
The Haslinger score has never been released, while a bootleg of Conrad Pope's additional music has been seen.  Elfman's reinstated score was released on CD in 2010.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quick Review: Field of Lost Shoes

Field of Lost Shoes
Music composed by Frederik Weidmann
Orchestrated by Hyesu Yang
Score Recorded by the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra
Album time: 72 minutes
Available on La-La Land Records

Right off the bat, you probably haven't heard of Frederik Weidmann and you probably haven't heard of the film, Field of Lost Shoes.  Young and relatively fresh in Hollywood, Weidmann has done a bunch of direct-to-video releases as well as composed music for plenty of DC Comics animated films and television series.  The film on the other hand is a retelling of the Confederate victory at the Battle of New Market, a 1864 Civil War battle which featured many cadets from the Virginia Military Institute.  

The album begins with the Main Title, a noble theme first introduced with chorus and violin solo before the orchestra comes in.  The Issue of Slavery is string heavy and features a weighty sound, a peek at the dramatic tone heard later in the score.  Young John Wise features a bluegrass folk sound, but really just capture the mood rather than authentic Civil War styles.

The Initiation of a Rat includes a bit of suspense and action, before adding more folk elements.  The string writing is reminiscent of Thomas Newman, with mixes of modern film writing.  The Flower of His Youth goes back to the darker side, while building thematically to the finish.  Sunstruck Rat mixes some unique sounds, the folk music element into a fast-paced cue.  From an Artist’s Mind is a short and sweet string cue.  

Libby gives us the tender love theme, heard throughout the score.  Old Men Make the Promises is a melancholic track, with a clarinet solo often taking the lead from the strings. The Recruited keeps the suspense with the pulsing electronic rhythm and low strings. Halfway through, we a sweeping moment, with chorus overlaying the miliary snare rhythms.  It swells with the main theme, with a refrain to a solo fiddle and solo trumpet. Fans of Horner's Glory will no doubt see some comparisons in this track.

Love at First Sight is that love theme, a gentle piano solo leading at the melody.  Young Cadets Marching sets more of the film's locale with marching drums and trumpets before dissolving into a stirring string section.  A Picture of the Past, while brief, gives a rendition of the main theme.  The Conversation contains more of the love theme, with the strings keeping the melancholy tone.

I Will Fight for My Family keeps the heroic tone under the surface, finally rising as the track ends.  The Language of the Winners keeps the tension from before, with dissonance in the strings that always feel the need to resolve.  The Helpless has the slightly exotic and eerie sound, building to a sweet and gentle piano and strings moment.  

Thoughts of War begins with a mournful-yet-optimistic trumpet solo.  The fiddle leads the main theme in a quieter moment, before the chorus joins in.  The string pattern and percussion adds an interesting quality to the end of the track.  The overall cue may feel Horner or Kamen-esque, but the emotions are right on track.  May 15, 1864 begins with the pulsing rhythm before leading to an action cue, not unlike 'modern' non-1800's scores.  

The main theme makes another rising appearance in New Market Heights.  We get hints of the action side of the score, with the electronic pulse, percussion and chord progressions matching likes of Brian Tyler.  Vadimus Miles contains both the sweeping style and action style heard earlier, utilizing the main theme in a grand reprise.  

Send the Boys In starts with the calm before the storm, the fast paced action music.  There are sweeping and dissonant moments throughout, and doesn't always rely on the pounding percussion to keep the tension.  The choral chanting add a great effect to the end.  Storming the Hill is a great continuation of the action music, with some typical action string ostinatos.  The ideas really get to expand in these longer tracks, clearly the culmination of the battle.  The vocal solo is haunting, and the string passionate, and the militaristic style comes back in with booming percussion and the trumpet solo.

Aftermath is a powerful elegy, without being too over the top.  The track always balances on the sorrow and hopeful, with the end somewhere in between.  A Soldier's Heart returns us to the love theme, with a trumpet solo and chorus coming to the front.  Field of Lost Shoes starts with the eerie tune heard earlier.  The haunting vocal solo returns, before transitioning to the main theme - which now has new found optimism. 

While it's impossible to compare, you can tell the seeped in influences of Thomas Newman, Michael Kamen, James Horner and John Barry.  (He mentions Barry's Dances with Wolves as an introduction to film music).  

Able to write on a large epic canvas, Weidmann was able to flesh out a story though the music.  Neither the action nor soulful drama seem forced.  It's refreshing to see such a string-driven score, one that relies on melodies that help bring the emotional weight to the score.  I had heard parts of his popular Green Lantern scores, and his range for this film really surprised me.  I'm glad La-La Land Records released this score, which would otherwise not have been released at all.  Weidmann's list of upcoming films continues to grow, and I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of him in the future.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Film Score Orchestras

Discussing film scores would not be complete without the orchestras themselves.

In previous posts, I've highlighted the scoring stages and recording studios that most Hollywood film scores are recorded.  Now it's time to turn to the orchestras used.

The first thing to know about film score orchestras is that they don't have set musicians.  When you see a typical concert orchestra, it's the same set players every time.  The "Hollywood Studio Symphony" is quite misleading, as there are no set names and each musician is contracted individually and just known collectively as the "Hollywood Studio Symphony".  This contracting is done for every HSS score, and is an easy way to adjust for orchestra size, instrument numbers and specific players.  If the orchestra members for a specific film are listed in the CD booklet, you'll notice many similar names over the years.  (trivia tidbit:  both John Williams and David Newman started out as session musicians)

In the Hollywood studio system, each major studio had their own orchestras, e.g.
The Twentieth Century-Fox Symphony Orchestra, The MGM Symphony Orchestra.  They naturally played on their own scores with the contracted players and composers/conductors.  

Since the end of that era, studios have been able to use a variety of orchestras.  The topic of moving a huge chunk of recording to Europe is still hotly debated.  

But it is worth highlighting the orchestras that have played on some favorite film scores.  Here's a look at some orchestras both in America and abroad.  

Hollywood Studio Symphony

The majority of score recordings in Hollywood are done by this collective group.  These top musicians go from session to session, performing at the various LA scoring stages.  The orchestra received its name in 2002, after union negotiations with AFM and AMPTP to keep scores in Los Angeles instead of abroad.  
Scores recorded include: Back to the Future, The Village, Star Trek, Godzilla 

Northwest Sinfonia

A recording-specific orchestra in Seattle, made up of musicians from other orchestras originally set up in 1995 for films and video games.  Used as one of the first live orchestras used for video game scores, which continue to this day.    
Scores recorded include: Medal of Honor, Brokeback Mountain, The Incredible Hulk, Mirror Mirror

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

A traditional concert orchestra, used on two special projects: recording of classical pieces for Fantasia 2000 and fittingly for John Williams' score to Lincoln.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

A traditional concert orchestra, used for a few projects such as Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Mystic River.

London Symphony Orchestra

Outside of Hollywood, the LSO have probably recorded the most film scores.  Still a concert orchestra, they started recording film scores in the 1930s, but began their recent popularity with the Star Wars series. 
Scores recorded include: Henry V, Star Wars Episodes 1-6, Aliens, Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Munich Symphony Orchestra/Graunke Symphony Orchestra

A concert orchestra, used for many film and television scores.
Scores recorded include: El Cid, Sleeping Beauty, The Wind and the Lion, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Masters of the Universe, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, The Silence of the Lambs

The London Philharmonic Orchestra

One of the other popular orchestras to record with in London and a favorite of Howard Shore.
Scores recorded include: Lawrence of Arabia, TRON, The Mission, Naked Lunch, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Thor: The Dark World

National Philharmonic Orchestra

The orchestra, set up by Charles Gerhardt primarily for recording, recorded in England and used often by Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Kamen.  The Gerhardt recordings of classic film scores are one of the orchestra's highlights.  
Scores recorded include: The Omen, The Elephant Man, Alien, Brazil, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Total Recall, License to Kill

The Sinfonia of London

A session orchestra on many classical albums in addition to the film scores.
Scores recorded include: Tom Jones, Young Sherlock Holmes, RoboCop, Tombstone, Lost in Space, The Mummy Returns.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

A concert orchestra known for their numerous classical albums.  Known in the film world for their re-recordings of Bernard Herrmann (among others) scores led by John Debney and Joel McNeely.  

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
A film score orchestra primarily known for their re-recordings and compilations, but they have appeared as the orchestra in new film scores.

Scores recorded include: The Ninth Gate, Oliver Twist, Pan's Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, Grand Piano  

Take a look back at the Scoring Stages:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Screen Credit Quiz (Round Alexandre & Alan)

It's time for a Screen Credit Quiz!  It's been a while since our last quiz, so let's get this started.  For this quiz, all films are either composed by Alan Silvestri or Alexandre Desplat.  Because why not?!  Enjoy! 

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















Sunday, July 13, 2014

Quick Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Music composed by John Powell
Conducted by: Gavin Greenaway
Orchestrated by: John Ashton Thomas, Andrew Kinney, Randy Kerber, Dave Metzger, Tommy Laurence, Pete Anthony, Germaine Franco, Jeff Atmajian
Additional music/arranging by: Paul Mounsey, Anthony Willis
Score Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, AIR Lyndhurst
Album time: 68 minutes
Available on Relativity Music Group

How to Train Your Dragon 2 continues the adventures of hero Hiccup and his dragon Toothless.  It's also the follow-up to the massively successful How to Train Your Dragon (2010), both a box office gem and two time Oscar nominee (Best Animated Feature and John Powell's first nom for Best Score).  Both the first film and score are personally held in high regard, I was slightly nervous yet optimistic about this score.  Taking more personal time out from scoring, Powell has done only animated films since 2011, including Rio, Kung Fu Panda 2, Happy Feet Two, The Lorax, Ice Age: Continental Drift.  This year he also scored the sequel Rio 2.

For lovers of the first score, I can say this score can be held proudly next to it.  The strong themes from before appear throughout the score, often with variations in context and orchestration.  Three major new themes appear in this score, one for Valka, villain Drago and for the song For the Dancing and the Dreaming.  These themes are often interwoven with past themes for some breathtaking moments.

It is hard to talk about some of the score/film without spoilers, and even the track names spoil - so I give fair spoiler warning here.    

The score opens with Dragon Racing - a knockout track full of magnificent writing and rousing returns past themes.  One of the highlights of the album, this track will bring you back right into the sonic world Powell started.  The Berk theme is used a lot in the track, but the flying theme with choir will put a smile on your face.    

Together We Map The World is a sweet track, with a great melody heard later.  There are bits of lighthearted moments to match the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless.  Hiccup the Chief/Drago's Coming begins with a tender rendition of the romantic theme heard in Romantic Flight.  The second half introduces the large choir and propulsive rhythms for Drago.  The Berk theme appears slightly hidden under different arrangements.  

Toothless Lost sounds frantic at points, with the choir crying out and the melody heard earlier in Together Map the World.  Should I Know You begins with the gentle female choir and Valka's theme before combining with statements of the Berk theme.  Valka's Dragon Sanctuary is another highlight of the score (and film).  Utilizing the choir and Valka's theme and the Map the World theme, there are some magical and majestic moments.  Losing Mom/Meeting the Good Alpha begins with a bit of drama before a tender version of Valka's theme rising to a stunning choir crescendo and dropping off to a piano solo.

Meet Drago begins with Drago's theme over a metallic rhythm and choir.  His music is menacing at times with quick fluttering blasts, with an exotic flare.  In addition, themes from the past film make appearances.  Stoick Finds Beauty has some more great usage of a choir and woodwind solos.  The bagpipes make a subtle entrance with Valka's theme.  Flying With Mother (another highlight), begins with a twinkling intro right into Valka's theme.  The melody becomes slightly rollicking, with the addition of female choir and the change for the theme to get a lively full orchestral rendition.  For The Dancing And The Dreaming begins as a Celtic tune whistled by the characters, before adding lyrics and turning into a quick jaunt.  The song has some comedic moment interruptions, but is a great tune (written by Powell and Jonsi).  The melody has been compared to a theme from Brave, and they certainly do share some Celtic DNA.  

Battle Of The Bewilderbeast is a massive cue - featuring Drago's fluttering blasts and Hiccup's heroic theme.  The flying theme makes an appearance with more excitement and choir this time around.  The momentum races to the end with the brass charging ahead until the percussion tag.  Hiccup Confronts Drago begins with a martial version of the Dancing Dreaming theme.  The bagpipes arrive with a repetitive pattern over a brutal percussion pattern.  Stoick Saves Hiccup lets Powell transform themes like Valka's into powerfully emotional moments.  The moment the choir comes in is spectacular.  Stoick's Ship continues that emotion, with the orchestra, bagpipes and choir bringing the Dancing Dreaming theme into another powerful moment.  The swell of the main Dragons theme - first starting as a clear trumpet duet is fantastic.

Alpha Comes To Berk builds slowly, until it reaches the heroic main theme.  It also contains some of the brass and choir bubbly sound heard earlier.  Toothless Found builds on past themes to an exciting climax full of brass, choir and lends itself to some triumphant moments.  The heroics continue into Two New Alphas, a mixture of the film's themes ending with a bow on top.  The new themes already feel familiar at this point, and give the score a nice extension of the musical world from the first film.  We end with one more flying theme appearance.  The album ends with Where No One Goes (sung/co-written by Jonsi).  It actually appears early in the film (and end credits) and is based on themes by Powell.  I prefer this song to their song on the last film - Sticks & Stones.             

It was worth the Powell hiatus to hear his continuation of the How to Train Your Dragon series.  While the first film had so many standout cues, this score fits right next to it.  The new themes are strong and match the tone of the past themes.  As I probably mentioned before, the use of choir in this score is fantastic.  The tone of the film really let Powell expand the world and give a bit of maturity to the music.  While parts of the first film had more lighter music, this score sounds more grown-up, like the film's characters.  I know they plan on making this at least a trilogy, and I can't wait to listen and see what happens next.  This album begs to be listened to and enjoyed over and over again.