SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT SEVEN.

 

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There has been a lot of soundtrack releases recently which are from new movies and other new productions for either TV or games. Plus of course we can always rely on the re-issue market with record companies all over the globe, bringing out special editions or expanded versions of scores that are already familiar and have already established themselves as the favourites of collectors, LEGENDS OF THE FALL for example,

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Horner’s superb score being expanded into a 2 disc set by the ever obliging Intrada record label. Which opens a whole new prospective to the grandness of the score and of the importance of it within the movie.

 

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THE RIVER by John Williams too has received an expanded release also on Intrada records and is well worth acquiring. But some of the newer scores we as collectors might have missed or not even noticed due to things such as the lockdowns in various countries and also because most movies that were due for a release did not receive that release as yet because of the virus and what seems to be its unstoppable spread around the world.

 

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Thus, the soundtracks maybe managed to sneak under the soundtrack collectors normally high alert “release” radar. The majority of the new releases have been from motion pictures, with a handful being for the ever growing video game market, but a number of them have been for TV productions, with composers such as Mathieu Lamboley, Paul Leonard Morgan, Stephen Rennicks, Matthijs Kieboom escaping our attention, the four composers I have mentioned I think have excelled in their latest musical creations for the small screen, Stephen Rennicks in particular catching my ear with his understated but also powerful music for the equally as powerful TV drama NORMAL PEOPLE which has been aired on the BBC in recent weeks, the series which is adapted from the book by Sally Rooney, has become essential viewing for many, it is a tale of the lives of two young people Marianne and Connell who drift in and out of each other’s’ lives, it is a journey in which sex and desire are focused upon and also about love and the need to be loved, it is a riveting watch, with the musical score nuancing and underlining various key points and scenario’s within the lives of the series central characters. Rennicks music although effective is never overpowering and remains forever supportive allowing the story and its characters to breathe and develop without ever being intrusive.

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Composer Matthijs Kieboom also is to be congratulated for his work on the re-boot of the 1970’s cop show VAN DER VALK and I for one was pleased that the composer did not reference the original shows “Oom pah pah” sounding theme EYE LEVEL which was an unlikely number one record back in the day, which was not a bad result seeing as the music was not specifically composed for the show. Instead Kieboom (BLOODY MARIE and WILD), presents us with a dark and somewhat low-key soundtrack that is filled with a tense and nervous musical style, the composer was successful in adding tinges of suspense and quirky droplets of nervy and apprehensive moods to the proceedings via this subtle approach. Sadly, the show did not seem to create a lot of interest in the UK, but we will see if or when it returns at some point in the future if viewers might give it another chance. The brooding and darkly atmospheric score added much to the drama and the composers economic use of musical textures, colours and sounds on the first three episodes certainly aided the production.

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Mathieu Lamboley has written an emotive and intensely moving score for the documentary SIGMUND FREUD, UN JUIF SANS DIEU, the composer writing poignant and haunting tone poems for cello and other stringed instrumentation and piano to accompany the story. The pleasing and heartrending score is exquisitely emotional, and completely envelopes the listener via its lilting Yiddish sounding themes. Emotional is a word that I feel fails to even begin to describe the atmosphere of this soundtrack, it is not only expressive and sensitive but also we hear a true sense of passion within the work that works so well and lingers within the listener long after the recording has ceased to play. The beautiful and delicate piano solos are a key feature of the work.

 

 

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Another series that has been aired by the BBC during these days of isolation and lockdown is  THE NEST, it is a drama about the trials and tribulations surrounding Surrogacy. It focuses upon a couple dealing with infertility and is set against a rather dank and depressing backdrop that includes urban and country locations. The couple have been unsuccessful but do have some embryos which are from several attempts at IVF, their surrogate who is the sister of the male in couple decides that she can no longer carry on due to a number of failures, but the couple come into contact with a rathe unpredictable teenage girl who at eighteen has just come out of care.
The girl Kaya says that she will carry the one remaining embryo, which the couple agree to because it is possibly their last chance of becoming parents. I think the reason that this five part drama was successful and popular partly due to it being aired at the time of the lockdown, it is compelling viewing with the subject matter for a change being treated with sensitivity and given a more realistic persona. The musical score for the series is also a little down beat, but also has to it a handful of attractive subtle themes, I would not say that the composer Paul Leonard Morgan has achieved any grand or lushly effecting level here, but the music plays under the drama giving it more weight and a diverse vitality throughout. Although it can be understated at times, smouldering, and slowly building beneath the drama. The composer managing to create an atmospheric musical identity for the story that somehow makes the series more interesting and alluring.

 

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Staying with TV we go now to ONCE UPON A BITE, SEASON 2, which is being aired by NETFLIX, the first season was filmed over a period of four years and it explored the popularity and also the changing aspects of Cuisine in China and also the influences of Chinese cooking and food in 22 other countries, it is I suppose a kind of foodies version of East meets West. Which is strangely relevant in these uncertain days. The music for season 2, is the work of composer Roc Chen, who has provided the series with a collection of elegant and eloquent sounding themes, for a documentary about food the composer has written a score that is surprisingly romantic and richly thematic, the composers subdued and at time melancholy musical contributions are well matched with the images on screen, the composer utilises solo piano to great effect and laces and underpins this with subtle use of strings, that seems to entwine themselves around the piano performance as well as integrating themselves into it. There are occasional heightened moments with the music bursting into something more up-beat or up tempo, and also there are a handful of more tense or apprehensive moments, which all go to make an interesting score and also an entertaining listen.

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To the big screen now, and to ADVENTURE OF RUFUS THE FANTASTIC PET, yes that’s right. A fantasy, this is certainly one for kids of all ages. Two young friends Scott and Emily discover a strange creature whilst staying at Emily’s Grandmothers house. Rufus and a Wizard Abbott are planning to find some secret ingredients so that they can manufacture some special magic dust that will they say help save their magical world. Scott and Emily decide that they will help and go with Rufus and Abbott who have a magic spell book in search of the ingredients.
But the foursome come up against numerous obstacles which include three servants who decide that they want the book for themselves because they think it will turn everything into gold for them. The musical score is by composer David Stone Hamilton who last year wrote a wonderfully innovative and inventive soundtrack for the sci fi horror DARK ENCOUNTER. The composer does not disappoint on this outing either, providing RUFUS with a plethora of adventurous and action led music, that is not only filled with bravado and urgency but has to it an almost Golden/Silver age sound to it. I think that the composer pulled out all the musical stops on his previous works DARK ENCOUNTER and SOLIS and to be honest I have to say he has done it again for this his most recent work for the cinema, certainly a robust and theme laden score, which again for me personally evokes the sounds and the styles of Goldsmith, Williams and to a degree Barry in the more romantic or thematic sections of the work. Filled with romanticism, power, and carried along by an energetic superhero vitality, that snaps at the heels of any Marvel or DC hero.

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BAYALA A MAGICAL ADVENTURE or THE FAIRY PRINCESS AND THE UNICORN is not due to be released until mid-August 2020, and I have to say I am not sure if that will still go ahaead. Maybe it will be one of the many movies that will eventually be released straight to DVD or even made available via Sky or Virgin etc. This animated feature looks interesting if nothing else. With the fantasy Kingdom of BAYALA in danger it is left to twin sisters Surah and Sera to save it. The delightful musical score is by French composer Pascal Le Pennec, who has written a charming and glittering soundtrack that is for the most part fully symphonic but also includes a handful of vocals. The film was supposed to be in cinemas in the latter part of 2019, hence that is why the score is available now before the films official release. Its impish and cheeky themes are mesmerising and have to them a sense of mirth and quirkiness. It is also a score that throws up a few surprises, with interesting and inventive compositions popping up here and there keeping things lively and fresh. Check it out on Spotify and other digital platforms. I am sure you will enjoy it.

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LANDGERICHT or LIBERTY ROAD was released in Germany in 2017, the soundtrack has only just found its way onto digital platforms, so I thought I would mention it because it contains some fine music by composer Lorenz Dangel, the film tells the story of a German Jewish Judge and his family, whose lives are thrown in to disarray by the Nazi’s during the years leading up to the start of the second world war. The children of the family are sent to England the Father goes into exile in Cuba and the Mother is made to remain in Germany throughout the war until 1947 when the family is finally re-united. The score is a driving and emotional one, with the composer utilising for the majority of its duration a more conventional instrumentation, but on occasion enlisting the aid of synthetic or electronic support. Solo piano performances also feature and open the score in the cue entitled ANTIQUARIAT, which although brief is also a beautiful and haunting piece to open the work. The music oozes a quality and a vibrancy that is filled with hope, melancholy, and emotion but at times is tainted slightly with a mood of uncertainty.

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A more recent score by the composer is DUETSCHSTUNDE which was released in 2019. Again the composer employs symphonic elements alongside that of synthetic to fashion a score that although cannot in any way be referred to as grandiose or anthem like still has to it a likeable and interesting sound and style, there is a sombre and brooding persona to this work the composer conjuring up a sense of confusion or maybe of indecisiveness. At times in cues such as WARNUNG (track number 5) I was reminded of the work of Bernard Herrmann, the use of the string section being inventive and imaginative. So, two scores by composer Lorenz Dangel that are well worth a listen, and both on digital platforms whilst maybe compact discs are made ready for release?

 

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STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS FINAL SEASON EPISODES 9 TO 12, music courtesy of Kevin Kiner, these scores are great, such fun and also it’s like being on a nostalgia trip hearing segments of the familiar STAR WARS theme cropping up her and there, Kiner’s original music for the series is just wonderful, powerful, pulsating and relentless, in the cue ASHOKA VS MAUL the composer whips up a frenzied and urgent mood via the use of an array of percussive elements that introduce the track, these then segue into a powerhouse piece of action music complete with choral support, brass flourishes strident strings, and the ever present John Williams sound being incorporated into the proceedings. It is hard I would think not to incorporate familiar musical phrases and themes into a STAR WARS score, but what I love about the Kiner scores is that although he does do this and does it well, he also manages to employ his own original ideas alongside the established ones, creating something that is new but also classic. STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS is a set of scores I would definitely recommend that you at least check out, but I am sure once you have listened to them, they will soon enter into your collection proper.

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SUSI SUSANTI the movie was released at the end of last year, the score by Cyril Morin is a triumph and a wonderfully emotive work, that although delicate and fragile in places can also be robust and forthright. The film tells the true story of the young Indonesian athlete, who found herself in the spotlight after she rose to heights of a supreme athlete in the eyes of her countryman. Her career hit these heights at the same time that her country was going through the worst economic turmoil in its history. The young woman decides that she will display to her country and the people that heroism can only really be measured by personal sacrifice and an individual’s dedication and faith in something that they believe in. The composer has penned a score that is filled with a deep sense of faith and is also overflowing with determination and has to it I think a joyous and uplifting sound. Another for your consideration.

TOBY

 

Ok an ordinary pooch who is loved by all his family, but at times he doubles as a secret agent. Yes unlikely, but then again sounds like fun. AGENT TOBY BARKS if nothing else has a frantically fun score and one that is filled with references to many movie scores of the late 1960’s through to the end of the 1970’s. The style employed by Lalo Schifrin in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and DIRTY HARRY films comes to mind straight away, add to this a little bit of OUR MAN FLINT some riffs from the JAMES BOND MOVIES and a little of the quirkiness of the MATT HELM film scores and what do you have, yep an entertaining score. The music is composed by David Bateman, who does a great job of parodying all the aforementioned as well as throwing in a little bit of musical madness from the OSS films that were produced in France. It’s a soundtrack that I guarantee you will listen to and will want to return to it straight away, ok its probably not the most original sounding score around, but it is entertaining, and with shades of Schifrin, Goldsmith, Barry, Bource, Bernstein and Montenegro, who would not be happy with it, good stuff.

 

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HOMELESS ASHES, was for me a nice surprise, the score is superb and composer Mark Wind is someone who I am of the opinion should be given more projects and bigger assignments as soon as possible, he has a tender and poignant touch and is able to reach just about every emotion via his cleverly placed music in this drama. Frankie is a young lad who stands up for his concerns and fears and decides that he must run away from his home, ending up on the streets and sleeping rough. It is the story of his attempt to stay safe and foremost stay alive on those streets. The composer’s music is sublime, it is supporting and affecting, a truly tremendous score filled with so much sadness so much spirit, purveying loneliness, and desperation, with some enchanting and mesmerising cello solos and subtle use of choir and solo woods in places. I do not normally rate things as in 1 out of 10 etc, but this is an 11 out of 10. Spot on.  I hope for many more scores from this Dutch composer. HOMELESS ASHES (HOMELESS NOT INVISIBLE) won best Music composer Garland at the New York Pitch to the Screen Awards.

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Lastly in this latest soundtrack supplement is MALPASO a score by talented French composer Pascal Gaigne, released in 2019, this compelling drama is set in the border town of Malpaso, where Braulio works alongside his Grandfather. Braulio has a twin Brother Candido who is afflicted with albinism and remains hidden away. After the boys Grandfather dies, it is up to Braulio to carry on working and provide for Candido. Which he does willingly, but all the time is hoping that their Father will return to help them. The score by Maestro Gaigne, is sheer perfection. The fragility of the boy’s situation is reflected in the touching and delicate music, the composer painting a picture of the harsh reality of their existence via his light yet richly coloured musical brush strokes. Adding texture, emotion, and a sense of humanity to the proceedings. This is one that I must recommend, your collection will be so much poorer without it.

 
As a footnote other soundtrack releases worth mentioning are, 1 BR by Ronen Landa, SANTUARIO by Fernando Velazquez and Alfred Tapscott, PHOTOGRAPH by Peter Raeburn and THE QUARRY by Heather McIntosh.

ADOLPH DEUTSCH.

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Composer and conductor Adolph Deutsch was born in London England on October 20th 1897, but was to emigrate to the United States of America in the December of 1911. By the time 1914 had arrived the composer was working in picture houses in Buffalo where he had settled accompanying silent movies. Some six years later the composer began to work on Broadway and between 1920 and 1930 would be involved on several shows as either arranger, composer or musical director. He orchestrated musical shows for both Irvin Berlin and Ira Gershwin most notably AS THOUSANDS CHEER and PARDON MY ENGLISH, respectively.

 

In the latter part of the 1930.s the composer began to work on Hollywood movies and in 1937 wrote the music for the drama THEY WONT FORGET, which starred Claude Raines. In the same year Director James Whale called upon Deutsch to score his historical comedy THE GREAT GARRICK a film that is often overlooked and forgotten in favour of Whale’s horror movies, but nonetheless made it onto the 100 top American films list. Between 1937 and 1961 the composer was responsible for scoring some 60 movies. During the 1950’s he won Oscars for his scores for films such as OKLAHOMA and acted as conductor on SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN for which he was not credited for on screen.

 

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Deutsch was also nominated for his contributions to SHOWBOAT and THE BAND WAGON. In 1950 he scored the comedy FATHER OF THE BRIDE which starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a busy year for Deutsch as he worked on five movies including PAGAN LOVE SONG a musical for MGM which starred Esther Williams and Howard Keel. He became known for the music that he either composed, conducted, or adapted for Hollywood musicals. The composer also became associated with the genre of the Hollywood western during his career and also composed the scores for movies which are now looked upon as classics, including, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, NOBODY LIVES FOREVER and the 1949 version of LITTLE WOMEN (with Max Steiner).

 

 

The composer also collaborated with filmmaker Billy Wilder on two of the director’s well-known movies THE APARTMENT AND SOME LIKE IT HOT. Deutsch also wrote the scores for the movies, GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE, HIGH SIERRA and NORTHERN PURSUIT.

 

 

One of the Maestro’s last scoring assignments was GO NAKED IN THE WORLD,  in 1961 and starred Gina Lollobrigida and Ernest Borgnine, directed by Ranald MacDougall it was shortly after this that the composer retired. One of the composers most outstanding and accomplished dramatic scores for film, must be for the 1944 production THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS. Directed by Jean Negulesco, the movie features the acting talents of Sydney Greenstreet, Faye Emerson, Peter Lorre and Zachary Scott.

 

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The music is typical of Hollywood film noir productions and has to it a presence and style that can be likened to that of Miklos Rosza. Adolph Deutsch passed away on January 1st, 1980.

ENEMY LINES.

 

The genre of the war film has always for some reason been a popular one. During the 1950’s and 1960’s many films had musical scores that at times were indeed as memorable or even more enduring than the memory of the films they were written for. In fact, it was not always the scores but mainly the theme that either opened or closed the movie that was the musical item that made people remember such films as 633 SQUADRON, WHERE EAGLES DARE and their like. In recent years there have been numerous war movies, taking their storylines from true events or fictional ones from many different wars let us face it there have been enough of them. But one thing that has been missing in the more recent productions is a score or a theme that the audience can identify with, a tune or a phrase even that they can latch onto and maybe even hum or whistle as they leave the cinema. The trend being for a composer to write largely a no thematic work, and place drone like soundscapes onto the film, ok in some cases it works as in DUNKIRK which although I have to say I hated the score did bring a sense of tension and a raised mood of apprehension and even hope to the proceedings. But other than the re-working of NIMROD I the closing minutes of the movie ther was no real theme, was there?

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ENEMY LINES is a 2020 fairly-low budget movie, but the small budget has not in any way discouraged the composer Philippe Jakko from producing a stirring and highly emotive sounding work. The films story is set in the frozen war-torn landscape of Poland during the second world war. The story centres on a group of highly trained commandos who are sent into Nazi occupied territory to bring out a rocket scientist. Directed by Anders Banke and featuring in the lead roles John Hannah, Ed Westwick, Jean-Marc Birkholz, Pawel Delag and Vladimir Epifantsev. The music is largely symphonic and has to it a bittersweet sound that is not only inspiring, and action led in parts but also contains a deep and affecting element of fragility and poignancy. Although a war movie the composer fashions a rich and emotionally vibrant soundtrack, strings and brass working together to create tensions and purveying a more romantically slanted or pastoral sound on other occasions within the score. This for me was a wonderful listening experience from start to finish, the composers eloquent and delicate touch in places yielding an affecting sound, plaintive woods also come into the equation throughout and convey a sense of solitude as well as melancholy.

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It is a score that I have to say please go and check out, as because of the COVID 19 situation the films premiere or screenings have for the moment been postponed, it is one of those soundtracks that you go into not really knowing what to expect, but once you begin to listen it is hard to stop and once you have listened through the soundtrack you feel compelled to go back and start again. On this occasion not to hear again what the music is like but to savour and appreciate it even more and appreciate the themes that the composer has created for the work, yes themes, this is a score that has them and they are haunting, effective and welcomed by this reviewer at least. Ok, there maybe not be a strident or bombastic sounding central theme or march that dominates or suddenly jumps out at the listener, but what there is here is plenty of soul and certainly lots of musical heart the composer writing in at times a low key way but this style becomes powerful and commanding because it is not intrusive but supportive. The action led pieces for example: AMBUSH PT 1, is certainly filled with tension and oozes drama, but there is also present an underlying sound that is less forceful and creates a sound that is patriotism and determination personified. THE CHASE too is an up-tempo affair, with strings and brass working together punctuated and supported by percussion to add a greater sense of urgency. The track MOTHERS DEATH, is a wonderfully mesmeric and beguiling cue, filled with so much emotion, so much sadness. Thus, conveying a yearning and a heartfelt sense of sorrow and loss.

 

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Track 13 LOVE, too is hauntingly beautiful, with harp opening and then passing the piece to the strings and solo piano, which is a combination and performance that you cannot possibly listen to without becoming involved in the moment and emotionally entangled. This I know is a soundtrack that so many collectors will adore, the music has to it a contemporary feel but also contains a sound and style that is from bygone days of movie scores. It is a work that you will return to many times.

 

 

 

 

I have to say I have been following the work of this composer since hearing his score for the movie QUE D’AMOUR, which is also a work you should as a discerning film music collector check out alongside LE COUER EN BRAILLE and ALLIES.

 

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ENEMY LINES is a Movie Score Media release and is available on digital platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. Recommended.

 

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TALKING TO COMPOSER REBER CLARK.

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Thank you so much for agreeing to do this, I hope the questions are ok and not too many, thank you best wishes John.

R.C. Thank you for asking me. It is my pleasure.

 

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Q: Can I start by asking what was it that attracted you to writing music for film, and was this something that you had in mind to do as a career right from the start?

A: I have always loved the movies. My mother was a big fan and when I was younger, we would go see all sorts of things. She also would buy the soundtracks and there was music playing in the house all the time. She especially loved musicals and movies with big orchestral scores like Max Steiner’s “Gone with the Wind”. There was a theatre within walking distance from our house in The Heights in Little Rock, Arkansas – The Heights Theatre – and when I was old enough I would walk the two or three blocks on the weekend and use my allowance money to see all sorts of things. I was not consciously attracted to the music at that point but the whole experience. Only later did I realize that the music is what fascinated me the most.

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Q: Are you from a family background that is musical at all and what are your earliest memories of any kind of music?

A: My family was not a particularly musical family. Nobody played an instrument or sang. My father played trombone in his school band, but he gave it up early. Mom majored in biology and minored in theatre and wrote and produced a one-woman show when she was in college. That is the extent of anything direct. But they loved music and played all sorts of recordings at home. Big bands (they loved to dance), soundtracks, even Mantovani … large ensemble sound was a mainstay in our home.

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The memory in relation to orchestra that stands out in for me is when I was on a field trip with my class, maybe in fourth or fifth grade, and we went to hear what I remember as Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra which was visiting our town. I had no idea what live orchestra was about, and my friends and I were messing around, as boys do, in the balcony when suddenly the orchestra started up. It absolutely floored me. What was this?! Where had this been?! I was completely hooked and have been ever since. The sounds and pictures of that event are still very vivid in my memory. It was amazing.

 

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Q: Your score for HOUSE OF THE GORGON is tremendous, for me it evokes the music from the 1960’s AIP and Hammer gothic horrors, how did you become involved on the project and what amount of time were you given to complete the score?

A: Thank you, that is nice to hear – I was trying to get that sound. I became involved through a very roundabout way. If you want the entire chain of connections I will be glad to elaborate but the short answer is that I was in Boston for the dedication and unveiling of a bronze bust of Edgar Allan Poe at the Boston Public Library that a sculptor friend of mine, Bryan Moore, had completed. I had provided music for his promotional campaign for the project and was included in the “entourage”.
During my stay in Boston I was introduced to producer Mark Redfield, who was the original producer on House of the Gorgon and was friends with producer / director Joshua Kennedy. When Josh was looking for composers Mark recommended me and I was contacted.

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Q: Did the director of HOUSE OF THE GORGON have any requests about the style of music for the film?

A: I don’t recall anything that specific. I put together a demo of what I had in mind for a main theme – which is almost completely what is heard in the film’s title – and sent it to Josh. He loved it and we were “off to the races”.

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Q: What musical education or training did you have?

A: I am classically trained and hold a Music Education degree. My parents were very worried that I would not be able to support myself as a musician and we made a deal that if I’d get an education degree and teach for two years after graduation then they would pay for college. I fulfilled my part of the bargain, as did they, and then I jumped the academic ship for more commercial pastures – although I would lecture here and there at colleges, universities, and high schools – as well as accept commissions for wind ensemble works most of which are still in print.

Q: What composers or artists do you think have influenced you or maybe the way that you write or approach a movie or a musical project?

A: Two big questions! Classically I’m more of a Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovich fan (you get the idea). For movies my main influence is the music of Bernard Herrmann., of course the work of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (along with a host of others) directly influenced me. While at college (which became a university while I attended) I was employed as a projectionist in the town’s local theatre. Jaws, Star Wars, The Omen, Zardoz, The Hindenburg, Towering Inferno, etc,. etc. all came out (as I recall) while I was in school there. These were great scores that helped me determine that I wanted to write for movies. But how? There were no resources in Arkansas to do such a thing.

For the second question – approaching a writing project was a nebulous proposition until I finally got a composition teacher who knew what he was doing. His name was James Perry and he wrote theory and ear training texts for the US Military School of Music. His brother was at my school and a teaching opportunity opened up and “Dutch”, as we called him, left the military to teach for two years which radically changed my musical life and thinking.

Approaching a movie project, however, was the result of poring over the writings of various movie composers on the subject. For a composer starting out I would recommend Richard Bellis’ excellent little book “The Emerging Film Composer” and Karlin and Wright’s massive tome “On the Track”.

 

Q: Do you conduct at all, or is this something that you at times assign to a conductor so you can monitor the recording of the music?

A: I am trained as a conductor and have conducted almost everything from orchestra, symphonic wind ensemble, concert band, circus bands, to pit orchestras. One opportunity I have not had is conducting an orchestra to score for film. I have conducted for recordings however, and love doing it. I have tried to get comfortable with film conducting techniques by using “streamers and punches” – which are methods for syncing specific events in a film score with the on-screen action – in my desktop scoring. When recording virtual cues, I place each instrument in the orchestra by sound and I do this by pretending I’m on the podium and pointing to where I know each instrument should be. Recording is certainly a separate discipline from scoring the music and I have had to, reluctantly, learn a bit of it just to survive and be able to navigate new digital waters. When reviewing recorded cues, I conduct them as I listen. I then adjust timings – fast, slow, etc. – to make things flow more musically – as a real ensemble would do.

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Q: Likewise, do you orchestrate and arrange all of your music for film?

A: Yes. I would love to have a team of orchestrators and copyists but like Bernard Herrmann and others my scores are well thought out orchestration-wise as I compose them. When I started out there were no computers and I did everything by hand. I still have my writing callus on my right middle finger. I would not only do scores in pencil but copy them in ink – and all the parts. Reams and reams of paper. When computer music printing came in, I gladly left behind years and years of hand cramps and exhaustion. I still use pencil and paper, however, for sketching but rely on a music notation program, “Finale”, for print work.

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Q: THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK is such a theme laden work, its dark and rich in its overall sound, and filled with an unsettling atmosphere. I thought it sounding Herrmann-esque in places, especially the strings and the use of organ, how much music did you write for the project and what conventional or symphonic instrumentation did you use on the work?

A: There was quite a bit of music in the movie. Maybe 30 to 45 minutes in all? I do make a distinction between “writing” and “recording”. Many times, I will make a pencil sketch – really just a “skeleton” guide – of how a cue will work and then I record it. There’s no real “writing” as in formal scoring and orchestration, involved. If I were to use musicians other than myself, I would absolutely write them clean parts – in pencil or maybe ink depending on time, money, and depending on what happens to the paper music afterward. The option now to produce PDFs of the score and parts bypasses the need for paper (and the hand copying thank God) in many cases and players will read from their tablets.

For House of the Gorgon I attempted to score for large orchestra and several small ensembles within that orchestra as well as selected soloists. Strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, voices, and organ – all accessible on the desktop and, if handled well, can sound remarkably close to the real thing. Of course, it is nothing like a live ensemble but again, time and money in commercial ventures limits things.
I happen to take the view that limits are freeing. There is always a way to do something within the constraints you are presented with.

 

Q: How many times do you like to see a potential scoring assignment before you decide 1) if you are going to become involved, 2) what style of music you think the film needs and 3) Where the music is best placed to serve the picture? Maybe use HAUNTER OF THE DARK as an example.

A: Recently I have learned to ask the questions – “Who is directing?” and “Have they ever worked with a composer before?” In the past these questions weren’t even considered as I just wanted to work, and I’d take anything to get it. It was a good way to learn and I came up against all sorts of situations which taught me huge amounts of things. I work for a flat fee – nothing about counting measures or logging time spent – because the client is paying for my expertise and not my time, as I see it. Money is the most uncomfortable part of the discussion for me. I want to see the film and begin making music, not be worrying about money. Once the money talk is out of the way and we have an agreement, and everybody knows what their job is and what to expect – then we can get down to the real business of making the project.

If possible, I like to see as near a finished cut of the film when they send it to me. Dialog and sound effects included if possible. Then I can watch the entire thing as an audience member and get a feel for the whole experience. I’ll then just “walk it around” for a few days not committing much, if anything, to paper. I let my mind work on it on its own and soon something emerges that’s an idea or the beginning of an idea.

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As far as placing the music in the picture that is an exchange between myself and the director. In House of the Gorgon Josh sent me a near-final cut with timecode running at the bottom of the screen. As I watched the movie, I would see places where I thought music would work and I would note the timecode where I thought each cue would start and where it would end. As you may know this is called “spotting” a film. Since Josh was in Texas and I’m outside of Chicago this was done separately. Ideally we would have been in the same room. Once I completed this phase I sent the spotting sheet to Josh who would approve the spotting or make changes. When that was settled, I would begin scoring.

(NOTE: Haunter of the Dark is a radio play. However, music spotting happens in much the same way as a film but cues off of dialog and events instead of timecode.)

Q: Do you have a set routine when scoring a picture, by this do you firstly establish a core theme and build the remainder of the score around this, or do you work on the score before establishing any central theme?

A: Every project is different. That said I’ll walk the picture around for a few days and will usually get a sense of what sort of ensemble to use. I prefer large orchestra but sometimes, like in Saturnalia which is a Josh Kennedy project that I am working on right now I am imagining something like a Henry Mancini score – big band with added strings and French horns. I am also working on Josh’s Mantopus which has been shot on actual 16mm film and needs to sound like a film from the 60s or 70s – so I am using a small orchestra to try to get the right sound. Now on hiatus, Cowgirls Versus Pterodactyls called for an epic American western score – something along the lines of Big Country or Silverado. There is a sort of “hush-hush”project which will reunite the House of the Gorgon cast, along with other Hammer Film Studio actors, that will require a lush full orchestra score. I’ve done a main theme and some small work on it and it should be a lot of fun.

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Q: You write music for the H.P. Lovecraft historical society, how did you become involved on these projects and how different is it writing for a podcast as opposed to writing for film?

A: The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society is a separate group from the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. I have done music for the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, which are recorded radio plays. They are a blast to do. For the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, hosted by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey, I have provided some original music and some tracks from other productions. In both cases these are highly professional, yet relaxed, people who absolutely know what they are doing, and it is a pleasure working for them.

I became involved with the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS) when their composer was indisposed and recommended me as a substitute on a project. This led to being used off and on in the podcast as well. Both organizations share people and talents back and forth even though, now, Chris Lackey lives in Yorkshire (UK) and Chad lives in California while Sean Branney and Andrew Leman (who founded and run the HPLHS) reside in LA. I reside in a small town outside of Chicago – so the internet has been invaluable in getting these productions done.

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Q: How do you work out your musical ideas, at the keyboard, or straight to manuscript or by the more hi tech and contemporary fashion of computer?

A: Singing in the shower, out on a walk, these are when the best ideas for me happen. I will jot them down whenever they occur to me because for me retaining the ideas has always been a challenge. Then usually to computer and pencil sketches. I use separate programs for recording and writing which are very separate disciplines. No one program “does it all” where music is concerned but they keep trying to make them.
Q: What do you think of the current trend for composers to utilise a drone like sound in their scores, rather than writing thematic music to support a scene?

A: I love drones when they are used well. Drones of all sorts and sounds have been utilized in music for thousands of years. Drones as they stand today owe everything to those traditional music and musicians, the Aussie Aborigines, the Scottish, the Irish – anybody using a sustained or repeated sound under an improvised or free melody/sonic idea.
I have always loved playing over a drone or a monochord because there is such freedom in where you can go. Drones seem to convey a tribal aspect to things, similar to the rhythms of a drum circle, and it’s easy and fun to get into.
Drone or theme or combination? I suppose it depends on what is going on onscreen.

 

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Q: In recent years we have seen the demise of the Main Title theme or an actual opening theme for movies, do you think that this is just a passing trend or maybe something that is more permanent?

A: I am not an adept cultural predictor. I have no idea where the movie-going experience is headed. I do like title themes and main themes, intros, and even the lights going down and the curtain going up. Presentation matters and too often our local movie theatres don’t care enough to present a film in this way. I think we lose something when they ignore presentation. After all, it’s called a “show” – where one shows something – so let’s do it well. As far as a central main theme, or basic sonic idea, it really is (as I think Henry Mancini said) the composer’s secret weapon. Projecting material from a main theme can serve all aspects of the picture and create an integral whole over the span of the film that helps attain a more coherent structure. Form in film music is a nebulous thing and themes, or central sonic ideas, can aid in creating a tighter, more integral, work. A theme can be played faster or slower, backwards, upside down (where the intervals are mirrored), or backwards and upside down. Many times, these “projections” will yield material that can be used. The rhythms of lyrics or related poetry, used in the film or not, can contribute to the rhythms of music used. I suppose I would say I’m an advocate of the use of a main theme.

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Q: Do you think that a great score can maybe help make a not so good move a little better?

A: There’s a related expression “we can fix it in the mix” – which is never a good idea. If a director or producer wants the music to be a magic bandage that will somehow fix any problems the film has, I regret that it most likely is not possible. I have seen films where they have tried to fix it with the music – usually by adding more music – and it never works. I think, many times, that there is too much music in film in any case. Things are so noisy in many films – in an effort, I suppose, to prod younger viewers into thinking “something’s going on”. It is a sensory overload I can do without. Of course, it has its place but has been used injudiciously lately. A big part of music and sound are the silences.

It’s a collaborative effort. No one element can save or sink a project.

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Q: The practise of the temp track is something that seems to have become more popular with film makers, have you encountered this and is it something that you think is helpful or maybe distracting for a composer?

A: I have a love/hate relationship with temp tracks. They are fantastic for conveying what the director thinks he wants and what the music spotting is – all in one go. Sometimes, however, directors get so married to their temp tracks that they end up using them even after having a composer (and his team) create an original score. Again – film is collaborative. Let us see what everybody we have chosen (an art in itself) brings to this project and maybe, just maybe, something wonderful will happen.

 

 

https://www.reberclark.com/

VASCO VASSIL KOJUCHAROV.

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Vasco Vassil Kojucharov worked on many Italian made movies and excelled it seemed within the genre of the Italian or Spaghetti western. Although the composer was not Born in Italy he is as far as many are concerned an important Maestro when it comes to discussing Italian made movies. Born in Sofia Bulgaria, in 1940, the composer not only worked on westerns, but all genres and his score for IL PLENILUNIO DELLE VERGINI is one that many fans and critics alike regard and interesting to say the least. This Hammer style Gothic tale was released in 1973, at times called THE DEVILS WEDDING NIGHT or FULL MOON OF THE VIRGINS it was directed by Luigi Batzella who the composer collaborated with on a number of occasions with sections of the movie being overseen by filmmaker Joe D’Amato. It starred Mark Damon and Rosalba Nen.

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The film, which was a tale of bloodlust, sacrifice and vampires, revolves around two Brothers who are searching for a ring which is said to have magic powers. The ring of Nibelungen is a mystical and beguiling gem that supposedly can give its wearer incredible powers. The brothers Karl and Franz are in search of it for two different reasons, Karl who is an archaeologist wishes to find the piece of jewellery to give to an institute who would study it and safeguard it. However, Franz, is looking for it for his gain and hopes that it will make him rich and famous. Franz steals Karl’s research into the ring and heads to Transylvania and to the Castle of the infamous Count Dracula. He arrives in a village close to the castle and is told that on the first full moon of the summer five Virgins from the village are selected by evil powers to be taken to the castle where they are sacrificed. He is also told that the area is filled with many vampires who are all out to drain the blood from humans.

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Franz is given an amulet by the village innkeepers daughter, which is for his protection. After Franz spends the night with the girl, he leaves for the castle but forgets to take the amulet. When he arrives at the castle Franz is made welcome by the housekeeper a girl named Laura, he is introduced to Countess Dolingen De Vires who he is told is the widow of the Count. Franz discovers that She uses the ring to bring the Virgin girls of the village to the castle where she murders them and bathes in their blood. The Countess soon turns her attentions to Franz and bites him and thus has power over him, they are married and soon after the sacrifice of five new Virgins takes place. It is not long before Karl realises what has happened and follows his Brother to Transylvania.

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It is an interesting take on the Count/Countess Dracula tale, and Kojucharov’s score adds much depth and atmosphere to an already dark and sinister storyline, and at times is wonderfully supportive of scenes that in all honesty desperately need music to make them work. It is a score that has to it a hypnotic sound with the composer utilising organ, strings, percussion, and brass to fashion a work that will probably be more memorable than the film it was created to enhance, available on BEAT RECORDS there is an eerie and apprehensive aura to Kojucharov’s soundtrack, the composer providing low key but at the same time sinister sounding passages alongside sections that are at times up-tempo and more robust in their overall sound and style, the score also includes choral work and I did think at times that certain themes or phrases could easily be from a western score, but this is in no way a disparaging remark or observation. In fact, it is these short interludes that keep the work fresh and vibrant throughout. I would not say it is one of the composers best, but its also not a score that I can say is dreadful and is one that I found entertaining. There are certain similarities within the music that maybe could be influenced by the work of Bruno Nicolai or even Stelvio Cipriani, but there is too present a distinct and original musical fingerprint.

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Kojucharov graduated with distinction and honours in conducting and composition from The State Conservatory in Bulgaria. He studied with Khachaturian in Moscow from 1961 to 1963 and then after this re-located to Italy. It was here in Rome that he began to do work for Nino Rota where he worked on many of the composer’s film scores as an assistant and occasionally carrying out orchestrations. It was also whilst working for Rota that he began to compose Ballets, chamber pieces and suites of music. Kojucharov also began to teach and became the founder of The SINFONICA S, CARLINO ALLE QUATTRO FONTANE and conducted it in many concerts in the Italian capital.

 

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Between 1966 and 1969 the composer scored a dozen westerns in his own right and also began to collaborate with fellow composer Elsio Mancuso on several others including DJANGO IL BASTARDO, which is due for release on BEAT records early in June this year under the pseudonym of VASCO AND MANCUSO or at times VASCO MANCUSO. The sound that he achieved as a composer in his own right was in many ways typical of the Spaghetti western genre, although probably not as grandiose as that of Morricone, it still contained fast paced and catchy sounding themes that became firm favourites with connoisseurs of the genre.

I think if asked I would have compare the sound that the composer achieved with the flavour and musical textures as created by Nico Fidenco or Francesco De Masi it has to it a colouring of a pop sound as well as being dramatic and vibrant and always action led, in fact two other composers also come to mind who seemed to achieve this type of sound and put it to good use within westerns, they are Mario Migliardi and Amedeo Tommasi, because both of these always incorporated a kind of rock or pop orientated style within their scores and although it at times sounded odd and different in most cases it did work. Kojucharov would utilise the trumpet solo to great effect, and often lace this with strident strings and an array of percussion, he often used harpsichord that added much to the overall sound of his scores, adding a flourish here and there giving them an elegant sound.

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His score for LA COLT ERA IL SUO DIO (GOD IS MY COLT 45) I feel is rather neglected, but for why? I am not sure as it has some remarkably interesting themes, the composer creating a style that although can be identified as being pure Spaghetti western also has to it an individual and original array of instrumentation. Released in 1972, the movie is the work of director Luigi Batzella who again was assisted by Joe D’ Amato, although a fairly solid film and an entertaining entry into the Spaghetti western genre, it contains a number of scenes from two other westerns directed by Batzella, PAID IN BLOOD (1972) and ANCHE PER DJANGO LE CAROGNE HANNO UN PREZZO (1971).

 

The former being scored by Elsio Mancuso and the latter containing a score by Kujucharov. Other westerns that Kujucharov penned on his own included, GOD WILL FORGIVE MY GUN (1966), ONE BY ONE (1968), SARTANA THE GRAVE DIGGER (1969), A CRY OF DEATH (1971), A BOUNTY KILLER FOR TRINITY (1972) and many others.

 

 

His collaboration with Elsio Mancuso was a fruitful one, and the composing duo wrote the scores for several westerns. Kujucharov at times also conducted scores for other composer, Franco Salina for example on the movie CHURCHILLS LEOPARDS in 1970.

 

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But it was not just westerns that Vasco was involved with, he provided soundtracks for many genres of film, KILLERS GOLD (1979), HEROES IN HELL (1974), BYLETH-THE DEMON OF INCEST (1972) among them. The composer died a few years ago, but the specific or exact date is not publicised and was not made known outside of Italy.

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BEAT records in Rome have embarked on a series dedicated to the film scores of Kojucharov, and already have a number of compact discs available, it is a series I recommend that you check out as the film music of this unsung hero of the silver screen score is something to be treasured and savoured.