Back in 1991 Full Moon records or Moonstone records as they were called being a division of the Full Moon film company run by Charles Band, were very active in the release of soundtrack compact discs, a number of these were by Richard Band who is a composer I have always admired and one who is noted for creating some magnificent soundtracks on a shoestring budget. There were also a number of scores by other composers released on the label. SUBSPECIES (the night has fangs) was one such score, the music is by a collective of composers Richard Kosinski, Michael Portis, John Zeretzke and Stuart Brotman. This quartet of music-smiths produced a soundtrack that was to say the least original, inventive and interesting and for a horror score it contained its fair share of highly melodic moments. Performed by the Aman Folk orchestra the soundtrack contains a number of unusual instruments and these were bolstered and supported by an array of synthetic sounds. The score also contained choral effects and solo vocals which were stunningly effective. SUBSPECIES tells the story of a long blood feud between two vampire Brothers, one Stefan is trying to overcome his animal lust for blood but the other Radu is intent on perusing his insatiable thirst for blood and also wants more power so that he may rule the vampire world, he can do this only if he posses the bloodstone and to get this he must do battle with his sibling. The storyline to SUBSPECIES is greatly aided by the use of a highly atmospheric score and it is the use of numerous ethnic instruments such as Turkish oboe, duval, fuyara, tilinca, fulier, gardon and an eerie sounding cimbalon that enable the composers to underline, support and enhance the scenarios that are unfolding on screen so effectively and also so authentically. The movie which was the first Horror film to be filmed in Transylvania, boasts a score that utilises sophisticated synthetic sounds which are cleverly and seamlessly interwoven with music that is more traditional to Eastern Europe. The more traditional dramatic horror soundtrack being provided by composers Richard Kosinski and Michael Portis using growling synths and weird short sounds to create a sound-scape that is ominous and fearsome. Synthesised choir too plays an important part within the score, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The folk and traditional material being written by John Zeretzke and Stuart Brotman. The end product is stunning and wonderfully effective. There is one track that seems to stand out among all of the others this is track number 16, FUNERAL FOR LILLIAN, a lone drum sets down the tempo for the cue, and is relegated to being a background to a female voice which performs a short but memorable lament which is itself unnerving and unearthly. The score intermingles and fuses Bulgarian, Hungarian, Turkish and Romanian musical flavours and successfully merges these with contemporary sounds to create a chilling and unsettling cocktail of music. One to watch out for, worth a listen.
At a time when a number of soundtracks are seeing a re-release with extra music I would have thought that some record company some where would have taken a look at Dave Pollecutt,s score for the TV mini series SHAKA ZULU, I have always thought that this soundtrack deserved an extended version release as there was far more music in the series than what was actually released on the original Cinedisc compact disc and the EMI disc that had a release in Holland. The series was a sprawling and also an exciting and interesting account of the Zulu king Shaka who was responsible for bringing many tribes in Southern Africa together under the collective name of the Zulu nation. He was responsible for establishing the Zulu, s fearsome and highly effective military strategies it was also Shaka who introduced the short stabbing spear the Assegai and the ominous looking war shields that covered a warriors body giving them a better protection against enemies, it was also Shaka who dispensed with sandals for soldiers in the Zulu impis, making it possible for them to run faster thus getting to their enemies before they had even realised the Zulu’s were amongst them. This TV mini series charted Shaka, s rise to power and his brutal but at times necessary actions to bring his people together. The series had an A list of well known actors for the time(1986), these included Edward Fox, Robert Powell, Trevor Howard, Christopher Lee, Fiona Fullerton, Roy Dotrice,Gordon Jackson and Henry Cele as the mighty and highly unpredictable Shaka.
Cele was an imposing character in real life and fitted well into the title role, his acting career was cut short in 2007 when he suffered from complications brought on by a chest infection and passed away in November of that year. His other movies included RAGE TO KILL and THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS. The series which was shown late on the independent channels in the UK on a weekend was quite graphic and certainly pushed many boundaries for a television production, it included copious amounts of bloodshed and also nudity but all of this was essential to the telling of the story. Directed by William C. Faure who was also responsible for the script Shaka Zulu begins with a party of whites landing on a beach, they have been sent there because of reports of an amassing African army that threatens the English settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. Lord Bathurst (Christopher Lee) asks for military reinforcements but is denied by King George IV so he despatches Lt. Francis Farewell (Edward Fox) and an expeditionary force to locate and confront the leader of the strengthening Zulu tribe, this is done under the guise of a trading proposition for ivory between the Zulu, s and the whites and to establish a trading post near the royal Kraal at Bulawayo.
Lt. Farewell hires a crew of sailors and proceeds up coast and into unfamiliar territory. His real mission is to see the strength of the Zulu’s and find out if he can what their leader Shaka is proposing to do about the settlement in Cape Town and maybe attempt to set up a diplomatic alliance with the Zulu nation. Shaka reigns over his people with a bloody assegai, they dare not speak against him for fear of death, the shrewd King is straight away guarded against the white visitors, but after taking an interest in some literature that they have brought with them he begins to relax a little and also recounts his rise to power to one of the party Dr. Henry Flynn (Robert Powell). Flynn begins to compile a chronicle about Shaka and this is how the story of Shaka unfolds within the series via the writings of Flynn. Based upon the book by Joshua Sinclair the series had 10 episodes and is an epic production in every sense.
The South African scenery is awe-inspiring from the unspoiled white sanded coast to the magnificent mountain ranges and what we must realise is that this was produced before the days of computer enhancement and the complex special effects that are common place in movies today, it had a cast that numbered thousands, the Zulu villages and the Royal Kraal were re-created to perfection Made in the days before computer-assisted everything was commonplace. The narrative encompasses the drama of Nandi’s (Dudu Mkhize) Shaka,s Mother and her ill-fated romance with a reckless Zulu prince in the 1780s, her illegitimate son’s growth as a fierce warrior and his premature demise in 1828. The series also has a mystical feel to it as in many scenes Shaka is guided by dark forces to reach his goal. Dave Pollecutt,s score is brimming with effective and authentic sounding themes, the composer employing brass and percussive elements to create a tense and driving atmosphere with support from choir and also the inclusion of strings and solo vocalists such as Margaret Singana, Mallie Kelly and Stella Khumalo the music enhances and underlines wonderfully the sheer expanses of the storyline and accompanies Shaka on his uphill struggle to establish him self as the paramount Monarch of the Zulu’s. The compact disc opens with The opening titles, WE ARE GROWING which is the infectious and stirring central theme from Pollecutt,s soundtrack, performed by Margaret Sigana who also co-wrote the piece with the composer Pollecutt, Julian Laxton and Patrick Van Blerk.
Be a man of greatness now
a man so tall, a man so kind
Be a man of wisdom now
A man of mind, a man of blind
Be a man of kindness now
A man so big and strong in mind
Be a man so humble now
A man of men, now let it shine
Are the opening lines, backed by the Baragwanath choir and pounding drums that are laced by strings and enhanced further with brass.
This is what you are
This is how it was planned now
This is what to be
Every kind of man now
This is what to say
With a kind of meaning
This is what to feel
With a kind of feeling
This is the song that opened each and every episode and set the scene for the all action story that was on screen. The score is a collective of various themes which the composer wrote to accompany the stories central characters, the opening is the theme that we associate with Shaka himself, then in track number three, we hear the theme that will become the underlying music for the British, a more subdued and serene if you like sound with strings and harpsichord making an appearance in the opening seconds of the track SHIPWRECK these soon evaporate and give way to a more dramatic sounding mood which the composer relays via strings and brass with an upbeat sounding percussive background that is supported further by driving strings as we see the British thrown onto the beach after a storm at sea. Track number four, FIRST SIGHT OF KWA-BULAWAYO is a fusion of both the central Shaka theme and also a variation of the British theme, light woodwinds being introduced and also tense strings coming into the equation to heighten the drama slightly as the British arrive at the Royal Kraal. Track five, THE HORSE RACE is an upbeat affair its main stay being driving and rhythmic percussion and also Zulu voices that are underlined by brass flourishes throughout. Track number six is the delightful and beautiful NANDI’S THEME again this is a vocal, performed on this occasion by Mallie Kelly. A low and easy sounding background of percussion and shakers laced with plaintive flute introduces the amazing vocals,
Nandi my name is Nandi ,See me and then just think of me, I’m Nandi.
Nandi they call me Nandi, so lonely, but then I never was like the others,
All I want from life is more than just a life.
For it was spoken in the prophecy my son will rule through me.
There is also another vocal performance on the score which is track number ten, PAMPATA (Wemsheli Wami). Sung in both Zulu and English again this is a delightful piece performed by Stella Khumalo and choir. The composer also employs a scattering of electronic support and this is most noticeable in track number 11 THE MAKING OF THE SPEAR, this is a mysterious and tense sounding composition and oozes drama and mystic. Track 12, THE CORONATION too is highly dramatic, fervent percussion and a sprinkling of electronic stabs open the track, as strings segue into the proceedings ushering a choir vocalising a celebratory offering to the newly crowned king Shaka as his reign commences proper. The score also contains a number of more low key and melodic sounding pieces these manifest themselves in tracks such as DEATH OF DINGISWAYO, MANDI’S FUNERAL and the subdued but elegant Morricone influenced ELIZABETH’S THEME. Overall SHAKA ZULU is a score worth adding to your collection, although I fear it could be difficult to find and this is why maybe a re-issue with extra tracks should be looked into. Find it, Buy it, enjoy it….
Deep in the Darkness is one of the latest offerings from the Kronos / Movie score Media (Scream Works) stable, this fairly recent collaboration between the two labels is producing some fine soundtracks and they seem to be coming thick and fast with the accent on the quality as well as the quantity. I love the releases on these labels because in the main they showcase the talents of composers who ordinarily we as collectors would not hear of until they get to do a big feature or we stumble across them by accident etc. DEEP IN THE DARKNESS is a wonderfully lyrical score but it also contains an air of darkness and an underlying atmosphere that is richly macabre and thickly menacing. Composer Matthew Llewellyn has crafted a score that works as a horror score but it also posses an abundance of melody within its running time. Directed by Colin Theys, Deep in the Darkness follows the journey of Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas) who decides to leave the chaos of New York City for the more calmer and quieter location of Ashborough, which he hopes will eventually bring his family closer together. Soon after arriving, however, he discovers that the town has a dark and ominous secret which is a horrifying and controlling race of creatures that live amongst the darkness in the woods behind his home. Matthew Llewellyn is no stranger to film scoring both as a composer in his own right with scores for DEAD SOULS and REMAINS but also he has worked on several other movies providing additional music, these include IRON MAN 3, NOW YOU SEE ME and THOR THE DARK WORLD, he has also worked on a number of video games, MODERN WARFARE: CALL OF DUTY and ASSASSINS CREED IV: BLACK FLAG where he acted as musical arranger. DEEP IN THE DARKNESS is the composers third assignment for the Chiller network which is associated with NBC-UNIVERSAL and for me has to it a sound and style that is not dissimilar to that of composer Daniel Licht and at times I was reminded also of the work of Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio, of course both Licht and Donaggio excelled within the genre of the horror movie, providing musical mayhem and gut wrenching musical stabs for movies such as THE HOWLING, TOURIST TRAP, CARRIE and CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT etc., but like Llewellyn they to managed to retain a certain amount of melody even a the most harrowing or frightening and tense moments in their soundtracks. Llewellyn’s music is strong and forthright and near Herrmanesque in places, filled with a richness and luxurious ambience and also has within it a sound that easily conjures up a sense and atmosphere of menace, foreboding and malevolence. The composer fuses both brass and strings to create a commanding and vibrant work and also utilizes piano, rumbling percussion and woodwind to augment and further embellish the proceedings.
It is a work that I am confident will be popular among collectors of fine movie music and also a score that radiates a certain kind of lushness which is at times romantic but at the same time is unnerving. Totally recommended.
What would you say is the purpose of music in film?
The purpose of music is to tell what cannot be said in words or visuals, to express the inner feelings of the characters or to communicate directly to the emotions of the public (spectator?). Other times it complements the narrative or propels rhythmically the action.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1950 but my parents lived in the country, near the town of Tacuarembó, up in the north, almost by the border with Brazil.
Did you come from a family back ground that was musical at all?
Not really, only a cousin of my mother was the director of a band that played in ballrooms. But we were not very close because he lived in the city and we lived in the country. My mother used to listen to zarzuelas and light classical music and my father was an enthusiastic tango dancer and listener.
What musical education did you receive?
In the beginning I’ve learned to play the guitar at school but not in a formal fashion, just learning songs and chords. Later, when I came to Montevideo, to pursue studies in teaching literature, I began to take formal training in classical guitar with Daniel Viglietti (he is also a very popular singer-songwriter until today) and theory with Miguel Marozzi that’s also a great composer of avant-garde academic music. Later on, I studied harmony with Yolanda Rizzardini and composition, musicology, electro acoustic music, music history (with an emphasis in Twentieth Century music) with Coriún Aharonián and Graciela Paraskevaídis. I also assisted at the Latin American Courses on Contemporary Music in Buenos Aires, Uruguay and Brazil (it was an itinerant course held yearly in a different city). I’ve had the opportunity to be taught by some great international composers like Gordon Mumma from the USA, Hans Dietrich Schnebel from Germany, Dieter Kauffman and Wilhelm Zobl from Austria, Oscar Bazán, Eduardo Bértola and Gerardo Gandini from Argentina, Folke Rabe from Sweden, among many others. Those were very turbulent years in Latin American countries and the Universities were practically closed if you wanted to study music in an open way, with no restrictions. I was “soaked” with music coming from all over the world, even from Middle East and Asia. Simultaneously, I performed popular music (that was encouraged also by my teachers that were very open minded) and learned a lot of different genres and styles.
Was it always your intention to write music for film and television?
I don’t know really… In my teens I went to the movies at least five days a week. We lived in a very small town where there were two cinemas. The programme changed almost every day and it was two pictures in a row. So cinema was my main entertainment for many years and I loved it. But composing for audiovisual media came slowly because there wasn’t a steady film production in my country. The output was something like a film every ten years! So becoming a film composer was not a career you had in mind… I began performing music in theatre plays. One day a director asked me to compose music for a play he was staging and, from then on, I began to compose lots of music for theatre. A little later, the Uruguayan Cinematheque was producing a feature film and, because the producers knew me by my popular music and theatre work, the director asked me to be the composer. Until then I didn’t have any idea about composing for films so I had to “invent” what was already invented but nobody knew how to do in our country. It was in 1981 and there were no studios designed to record music for films, no post houses. Synchronization was something that nobody knew how to achieve. Imagine that… I watched the entire movie only once in a projection room, I didn’t have a moviola or something in which I could watch the movie many times. Video was not available. It was a nightmare I was diving in with a smile in my face… But everything went right. The movie was edited in Buenos Aires. So the director’s wife took all the timing of the scenes in which it was supposed to be (?) music and gave them to me. I figured out how to work with the timings and a metronome. I recorded the music with a little chamber group of guitar and a string quartet trying to attach as much as possible to the metronome but trying also that it was musical. To make a long story short: when they synchronized the music with the picture everything went right. But it could’ve been the other way, isn’t it? I think I was lucky.
What would you say have been your musical influences?
Oh, this is a hard one. I like any kind of music, I’ve listened to lots of different music. But regarding film music I was impressed as a child with the main theme of The Magnificent Seven and later by the music of Italian westerns, the likes of Morricone, Nicolai, et al. I’ve also seen many movies by the Nouvelle Vague directors (Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer) and many thrillers of the late 40´s and 50´s (Houston, Hawks), then I think that when I’m composing some of those influences can slip in, but in a very unconscious way. I could say that a great influence were the tango orchestras of the late 40´s (Troilo, Salgán) that my father listened at all times, and Piazzolla whom I was a fan of and performed many times live in Montevideo. I’ve also listened to all kinds of jazz from Satchmo to Coltrane to Miles Davis. And music from distant cultures like Japan, China, Java, India. I find every kind of music interesting. And, of course, I’ve always loved Bartok Satie, Debussy, Ravel but never tried to compose in their styles. Twentieth Century composers I love are Ligeti, Varese, Webern and Nono.
What was your first scoring assignment, and how did you become involved on the project?
This I think I’ve answered before but didn’t mention the title MATARON A VENANCIO FLORES a period film happening in our 19th Century civil war. It was a kind of thriller or suspense movie.
Do you orchestrate and conduct all of your scores for films and TV?
I always orchestrate my scores because I think it’s an integral part of composing. As I always work with small ensembles, due to budgetary reasons, much of the conducting is just marking time to the performers. I always try to use performers with a taste for popular music because I think their sense of timing is more relaxed and, at the same time, they don’t need a director too much. When I score a film I also have to do all the paper work, the production, music contractor, music editor, you name it. It’s a tremendous task but I’ve always managed to accomplish it.
Do you have a favourite score, either of your own or by another composer?
Lots of scores by another composers: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Bernstein), THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI (Morricone), DRACULA (Kilar), AMERICAN BEAUTY, ERIN BROCKOVICH (Newman). In the case of my own work, It’s difficult to chose one of my “children”. I can say I like them all for different reasons, one was the first, the other the younger, you know, their all mine.
What is the largest orchestra you have utilised on a project?
I never could use a large orchestra. Budgets are small, imagine that the most expensive movie made in our country cost 2 million dollars and they were raised mainly abroad (Belgium, Italy, France, Italy). Then there is not much money left for music and performers. The largest group of performers I’ve used, comprised Piano, Double Bass, Cello, Viola, Violin, Bass, Alto and Soprano Flutes and Bandoneón.
Have you ever declined to work on a movie or had a score rejected at all?
Until now it hasn’t happened to me.
When composing for a film, how many times do you like to look at the movie before deciding what kind of music is required and where the music should be placed?
I always have a spotting session with the director talking about how the music should go, where and when, the pathos that should be emphasized, the characters, the story, where is it going and so forth. Later, I watch the movie lots of times, like fifteen or twenty before committing to compose. Sometimes the music comes to my mind in the most unusual situations, generally when I don’t have an instrument at hand… Those are almost epiphanic moments, I enjoy them the most!
Do you have a preference regarding what type of movies you work on, or are you happy working on any kind of genre?
I like any kind of movie. Sometimes I wish I could score a horror film because it could give me the opportunity to experiment more, to come with a more abstract kind of music than in naturalistic movies. But I like movies because you can express feelings, it doesn’t matter the genre.
How do you arrive at your musical solutions, by this I mean how do you work out your musical ideas, on piano, keyboards or maybe computer?
I work with everything at hand. Sometimes it’s pencil and paper, later maybe the piano or guitar and finally the computer. At other moments I work exclusively with the computer. I like to have always my guitar at hand because it’s the instrument that I play best and it’s easier to get ideas out quickly.
What would you say has been the most difficult project to work on?
Every one of them. I always try to remember what Fassbinder said: “Experience makes you stupid” and, accordingly, try to start fresh, as if I don’t have made anything before, leaving room to surprise myself. I’m not saying I can do that easily but I try. I love to surprise myself with music I didn’t know I could come with. When that happens, I listen to it a few months later and, sometimes, I can’t believe I’ve composed that. It’s a weird feeling but a good one at least.
What do you think about the use of temp tracks on films, is it a help or is it at times off putting for you?
I’ve been lucky. Nobody gave me a temp track in the movies I’ve worked in. In advertising it’s usual and it’s also a pain in the neck to get away from them. I understand that they need something to inspire them in the process of editing but most of the time they become so in love with the temp tracks that it’s very difficult to convince them to let you give them fresh ideas or different angles. Nevertheless I can manage to work with a temp track but don’t ask me to copy it or approximate it in some way, just use it as an inspiration regarding maybe tempo or colour.
When a compact disc of one of your scores is being put together, do you have any input at all as to what music will go on the disc?
So far there’s only one of my scores in CD and they gave me all the freedom to assemble it.
What project are you working on at the moment?
I’m finishing a record with my group ‘Desde el alma’ that will be out in October. We play tangos, milongas and waltzes. You could listen to some samples here.
What is your opinion of film music today, as opposed to movie music from the 1960s?
Things have changed. In the 40s all movies had music wall-to-wall. On the other hand, the work in the field of sound was scarce, just what was needed. Today, sound plays an important part in movies and has become another element of the narrative. So, music is gaining a place that I think, in some cases, is better than in the past because they’re using it in the right doses and it becomes more apparent. It’s not anymore some kind of background, pleasing noise but a real complement to the narrative. The most interesting films, these days, use music in this way and you notice it more because it is really necessary. With some films I feel that there is too much, unnecessary music.
A low budget sci fi/ contemporary western ? Well that’s what this is, I caught the movie late one night on the horror channel, and even though it is a low budget affair its not a bad yarn, the action is served up in the bucket load and certainly has originality about it. The score by composer Chuck Cirino is also something of an action packed and powerful item. It has everything that a collector of film music, (sorry that should have read quality film music), requires. High octane powerhouse action cues that ooze pure drama and propel forward at break neck speed creating tension filled musical passages that have the listener sitting on the edge of their seat even without the images present that the music was written for. But this score has many aspects to it and contains numerous musical styles and an equal number of twists, turns, as well as the hard headed action material we are treated to a fair amount of softer and more poignant moments, as in track number 3, The Train Station, which utilizes solo guitar played in unison with vibes and underlying strings supported by synths and a hint of piano, which is a welcomed haunting and touching melody within a score that is in the main a action work. Track 4, THE DIG too has to be mentioned, it is in this cue that we hear for the first time the composers gentle but obvious homage to the Spaghetti western score, a Good The Bad and the Ugly drumbeat is present underneath an opening of atonal sounding woods which soon segues into a more threatening and ominous sounding composition, complete with martial sounding percussion and urgent use of woods, rasping brass and low sounding almost guttural choir interlaced with strings that reaches a crescendo and then melts away back to the drum beats. Track 5 SABLE RANCH has a definite spaghetti feel to it, the composer utilizing chorale sounds and a harmonica which are enhanced by percussion, this is a short lived but highly atmospheric composition. Track 6. POW WOW, is a return to a softer sound, again solo guitar takes forefront supported by underlying strings that act as a perfect backdrop to a haunting melody, this is one of the longest cues on the compact disc running at almost 4 minutes. It is not really until track number 7, GHOST RIDER that we hear the full extent of Chuck Cirinos homage to the spaghetti western score, racing snares, whips and full blown electric guitar are heard backed up by exciting brass and growling voices in this wonderfully exhilarating tribute to the music from the genre of the Italian western.
The composers attention to authentic sound on this is fantastic as the guitar sounds as if its straight out of a score by Nico Fidenco, Francesco de Masi or Bruno Nicolai, it has that 60,s rawness to it.
Other sounds from the Italian western can be heard on the score i.e., bells, whistles, choir, trumpet, guitar and fuzzy sounding electric guitar, and are probably more prominent in tracks 12 and 16, and it is track 16, THE SHOWDOWN that is for me the highlight of the work, and what a showdown this must be too, the music is double high octane, triple powerhouse and must have references to more than a fistful of spaghetti musical trademarks within its 6 minute running time. It begins with a rousing opening, then the return of the GBU drumbeats that themselves develop into a more frenzied and substantial piece, these melt away and are replaced by a lone trumpet supported by strident sounding strings and determined and proud brass, add to this woods and choir with that electric guitar and a piano picking out the theme and we have one hell of a cue here, and it does not end there things get upbeat and more forthright, Cirino goes to town and throws everything into this track, it’s a spaghetti fans dream come true. To say I recommend this release is something of an understatement, lets just say, if you don’t go and buy it you must be loco, it’s the most entertaining thing I have heard for a long while. There is so much music here and good music too, its hard to think it all comes from one movie.