THE ROAD DANCE/THE DROVERS WIFE.

Another addition to the already excellent catalogue of film music that is Movie Score Media, The Road Dance, is a beautifully written score and contains an abundance of affecting themes which become haunting and fully immersing. The score is the work of composer Carlos Jose Alvarez, and is a work that I am sure will appeal to all. The film is set in the Outer Hebrides and focuses upon a young girl who lives in an isolated village there just before WW1. Her life takes a dramatic change when an awful tragedy befalls her. Written and directed by Richie Adams and starring Hermione Corfield, Morven Christie, Mark Gatiss, Will Fletcher and Ali Whitney. The movie is based on the 2002 novel by John MacKay.

The composer has fashioned a sensitive and emotive sounding score for the movie and has utilised traditional sounding instrumentation within the work and has supported and elevated these elements with richer sounding orchestral textures and colours.

The end result is a mesmerizing and affecting collection of themes that one will return to many times after the initial listen. This is a personal and intimate score, filled with fragility and oozing with delicate moods. Recommended.

Another film that has a score that has sounds that are traditionally laced is The Drovers Wife,-The Legend of Molly Johnson which has a score by Salliana Seven Campbell who is a freelance composer and multi-instrumentalist performing on five String Violin, Nyckelharper, Octave Mandolin, Baritone Bowed Psaltry, Piano, Hammered Dulcimer, Hurdy Gurdy and Vocals.

Salliana studied at the old Conservatorium of Music which was where she met her bandmates of Tulipan whose achievements include an Aria nomination for their debut album, two European tours, North American Tour and winning Triple J’s Unearthing the World. The Drovers Wife is the composers first film score, and I certainly hope will not be her last. The score is not a grand orchestral affair, but when you see the movie, you will fully understand why the composer wrote the score in the way she did and also will understand why the films producers and director asked her to become involved on the project.

The style employed is inventive, and effective, I must admit I never really noticed the music whilst watching the movie, but that’s a good thing, because I know that it must have been doing its job in the context of the film, as in supporting and framing scenarios and situations without becoming overpowering.

As for listening to the score away from the images, well it works for me, the composer has successfully fashioned a work filled with so much variety and containing a plethora of themes and musical interludes that are innovative,  and are a pleasure to listen to as stand-alone music. Well worth checking out. Available on digital platforms via Movie Score Media.

IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO LISTEN TO THE LITTLE VOICE INSIDE.

TALKING TO COMPOSER CYRILLE MARCHESSEAU.

CYRILLE MARCHESSEAU

Your most recent score is for the amazing short-animated movie Paper Birds, how did you become involved as composer on the movie?


Actually, this is not a short-animated movie but a VR Interactive film.

Ok, thankyou my mistake. So how did you become involved on the project?

We were in Los Angeles with the magic team from “Gloomy Eyes” for the Annie Awards, and German the 3DAR’s CEO tells me : “I have something to show you, let’s meet Toto”. And he showed me on a VR headset the Paper Birds’s prototype. I saw this little boy walking slowly on a bridge and then sat on a pontoon above the river and began playing a bandoneon piece which became fully magic with some sparkling effects in the night. I was totally blown away by it and almost cried because it was so emotive.  He then explained this was the new one, the new baby. A musical tale and he asked me to put my heart and soul and he never stopped repeating that because this is the Paper Birds’s essence.

Did the directors Federico Carlini and German Heller have set ideas about how the music should work in the movie or what style of music should be placed on the film?

No not really, but he was insistent that we will have some bandoneon here. (laughs). They did ask me to have a female singer for Azul and some percussion such as a hang drum for the other world. The most important thing is that they are both musicians, Federico is an amazing guitarist, so they have precise ideas of what they like and what they don’t like. They pushed me many times in the process, and I love that!  But they let me be free to propose things, this is the key. If someone trusts you, you can realise so much more than you think and overlap your own boundaries.

It is indeed a wonderfully thematic score, what size of orchestra did you utilise for the soundtrack, and did you also incorporate electronic support or samples?

Because of the Covid’s situation it was a little more complicated than expected. We had to be creative in many ways, that’s why there are many soloists as the great Juanjo Mosalini for the bandoneon, Pierre-François Dufour with his magic cello, Nicole Salmi for the song and many others in violin, percussion etc…The Orchestral parts were recorded with the Budapest Orchestra with 40 musicians. But for me this is mostly an atmospherically score as I create my own pad and sounds with many FX plugins, with lyrical climax indeed because I am into the romantic composer’s tradition.

There are voices utilised within the score, what choir is this and who are the solo performers?

All the choirs you hear in the score are samples which are combined and enhanced by electronic sound. Apart Nicole Salmi who brings her own universe for Azul’s track. I was looking for a classical singer but German suggested Nicole which turned out to be perfect! She is a well-known Brazilian singer and she brings a lot of charm to this scene.

Did you conduct and orchestrate the score or perform on it at all?

Yes, I orchestrated the score, but I didn’t conduct it, this was a full remote session. I do play the piano which is my instrument.

The music is delicate and emotive, how many viewings did you have of the movie before you began to formulate any ideas about how the score would work for the movie and what it would sound like?

Not so many times, I love to keep some freshness when I write a score, I always try the melody with and without the movie. In VR this is a game change. This is a new way of storytelling, and the music is a part of it, even more than in classical animation which is mainly illustrative. I always record some mock-ups which is so much better for Directors to feel the emotive intensions or the power of a part than a simple piano melody track.

The movie runs for thirty minutes, does the music run almost continuously in the film?

This is a musical tale, so there is a lot of music but luckily for the viewers some parts are only underscores so the SFX from Source-Sound and the amazing voices from Archie Yates, Joss Stone and Edward Norton can bring their magic too. As composers we have to keep in mind that we work for the film’s interest, we are a part of the team, so we have to help the viewer to focus on the story in the best way, but not use this opportunity to fill the gap with more music than we should…I hope so anyway. Silence is important too as well as the music’s placement.

There is a sound and style to your music for both Gloomy Eyes and Paper Birds that for me at times evokes the work of Italian composers such as Nicola Piovani and Luis Bacalov, what composers would you say have had an influence upon you and inspired you to write in the way you do for film?

Thanks for the comparison but I didn’t realize it. In a way I grew up with Morricone’s scores, so it makes sense I suppose. I also appreciate Franco Piersanti’s scores. There are so many composers I love but I didn’t think about influences…I really love the classical Russian composers and for movies’ composers if I must mention names, maybe Barry, Desplat, Coulais, Williams, Legrand, Silvestri, Bernstein, Magne, Mancini, Kilar, Delerue, Rota…and many others.

Gloomy Eyes is a favourite of mine, it’s a beautiful score for a movie that is I suppose essentially a dark love story, a kind of Romeo and Juliet storyline. Which has some beautifully affecting music including fragile nuances that are delicate and haunting. This is another animated short, is it difficult to establish a core sound for a particular character or a foundation to a score in such a short space of time?

You suppose right… This is exactly the theme, a love story between a little zombie boy and human girl. For me in this format we must be very efficient, we must define a set and keep it, but also play with it…In Gloomy Eyes there is this little riff like a little girl playing with her dog, whistling in a simple melody. Then I played with this idea and developed it on the whole movie. 

What was the musical line up on Gloomy Eyes, as in live performances and synth elements and where did you record the score?

Gloomy Eyes is so special to me. It was the first time in animation where I could be more an artist than a technician. Nothing pejorative, but directors, Jorge Tereso and Fernando Maldonado did not want a typical decorative score. I wrote maybe half of the score in an orchestral way. They heard it and told me “We don’t like it…This is not Gloomy. Forget everything you know about animation music and explore”. Instead of making me give up, I felt free. I kept the  themes and moods I had already created but I then used analogic sounds with a cello and a piano. The next day they asked for a zoom session, I was a little bit worried, and they said “Goosebumps”. Which I had to put into Google translate to understand the meaning. So after this we pushed further on in this way and it became very interesting because I can play between the illustrative parts and music which extend the narrator’s vision and feelings. I had the opportunity to get Colin Farrell’s voice over very early on in the process, so I wrote in the proper way to get something very connected. So, everything was done in my own studio,  which for me was very comfortable, and I hope to meet again Gloomy in the future…

Is there a difference between scoring animation and live action for you, and do you score projects in the order they happen in the film as in from opening theme through to end titles, or do you establish a central theme initially and build the rest of the music around this?

Yes..maybe unconsciously. I think I am sober in live action scores. In animation we can play more with this candid exaggeration in the feelings. Most of time I’m searching the melody/harmony in the visuals: Colours, Depth, and Rhythm are all very important to me, so it can be everywhere in the movie. When I find it, I start scoring from the beginning and draw the music from this giving some clues of what will be the music in the climax. I love movie scores where the music “Knows” everything but stays subtle and graceful both in the form and content.

What are your earliest memories of any kind of music, was writing music for film something that you always had in your sights to do as a career and what musical education did you have?

I started the piano at 9 and always improvised, composing some little melodies. I listened to many movie scores at that time, Morricone, Williams, Goldsmith, and many others but it wasn’t realistic to think I can become a music composer. So, I spent time playing Jazz in bands like a pastime or hobby. I studied orchestration and harmony at the University, improved my composing style, wrote songs in a Pop/Rock band…but I couldn’t find my way, so I gave up. I stopped playing piano, making music and I started working as a sound editor. Maybe it was fate I got the chance to work for some French composers which was a great experience, I learned a lot of their works and it helps me to reconnect to the little boy’s dreams. So why not? And I decided to stop that job and put all my energy into composing. It’s always a good idea to listen to the little voice we have inside 😉

What is next for you?

Next…some great VR films with  delicate subjects, a live performing art’ score and my first personal album which will be very cinematic.

ZARDOZ, SUCCESFUL SCI-FI OR NONSENSICAL FAILURE?

There are a few movies that I have seen which at initially, I just did not get, and did not understand fully, and whilst watching even had the thought in my head “Why have they made this, what is the point”? Which is a feeling I know constantly get when viewing anything on ITV especially if it involves Simon Cowell or Ant and Dec. There are a handful of movies that I still really do not understand totally, and without wanting to sound dumb don’t really want to, because if I did finally understand them, I would probably think that they were not worth watching in the first place. I am sceptical about the brilliance that is always mentioned when discussing movies such as 2001 a Space Odyssey, and I often have to say to myself well that’s your opinion when people hail the magnificence of things such as El Topo, and still to this day am confounded somewhat by the John Boorman movie Zardoz.

The latter is the focus of this article, the film, its director, its stars, and the composer, and of course Sean Connery’s costume (or lack of it). John Boorman started to toy with the idea of creating a futuristic world when he was working on adapting Lord of the Rings for United Artist’s, a project which we all know did not come to fruition, because the studio was not convinced that it could be filmed at that time. So, when United Artist’s cancelled the project, Boorman continued working on his idea for this futuristic world, which was inspired by the writings of Tolkien and eventually would become the rather warped, brutal, and fantastical world that was Zardoz.

So, lets look at the development of Zardoz, Boorman collaborated with William Stair, on the story whom he had worked with before. Boorman was said to comment at the time that he “Wanted to make a film about the problems of us hurtling at such a rate into the future that our emotions are lagging behind.” The original idea for the movie was it was set just five years in the future, (so late 1970’s early 1980’s) and it focused upon a University lecturer who was obsessed with a girl who disappeared and the lecturer went on a mission to find her, searching communes where he was told she had lived previously. Boorman did his research and visited a few communes but after a while decided to change the timeline of the story and set it far into the future, where he envisaged a society that had totally fallen apart.

Boorman’s end script was inspired not just by Tolkien, but he also credited the influences of T.S Eliot, Frank L. Baum and said that the Arthurian quests also inspired him. Zardoz was in effect a sci-fi movie which was about inner space rather than being set in the depths of outer space. The storyline is complex to say the least and although it is science fiction, it is a more abstract view rather than what was expected even during that time of men in space suits running around. When the script was finished, no one as in no studio was interested, many not understanding what it was all about. Warner Brothers turned it down, but Boorman’s agent managed to convince 20th Century Fox to take a look and eventually they decided to make the movie.

In the early part of 1973, Boorman announced that the movie would star Charlotte Rampling and Burt Reynolds, but Reynolds who had worked with Boorman on Deliverance had to pull out of filming because of illness, Boorman approached Sean Connery, who had stopped making the lucrative Bond movies and was finding it hard to get work and Connery agreed to do the movie. Whether Connery fully understood what it was all about only he would have know. Charlotte Rampling however was enthusiastic about the picture, and Boorman himself had a cameo role alongside his three daughters, in fact the movie was a bit of a family affair with Boorman’s wife at the time Christel Kruse, designing the costumes for the film. She decided that one set of characters The Eternals lives were purely hypothetical and colourless, this should be incorporated in their costumes.

As for the other characters The Brutals, these were a lower form of life and primitive beings, Christel decided therefore that they would not care much about what they were wearing, only what was functional and comfortable. To be honest I am not entirely sure if their attire was either comfortable or functional, and Connery’s costume was quite revealing, with his thigh high leather boots, Mexican style moustache, ponytail hair do, crossed bandolero’s across the torso and red bandages for want of a better description were more revealing and distracting than Borat’s infamous green mankini.

Yes, they were eye catching, and did put over the brutality and the raw masculinity of the Brutals to a certain extent, but often sparked giggles and laughter in the cinema. Connery joined the production in the May of 1973 and shooting started in August of that year in Ireland. It was rumoured that Stanley Kubrick was involved on the movie, but this has not been confirmed.

DAVID MUNROW.

Boorman was known for being something of a maverick filmmaker, and this was confirmed when the director became totally in control of all aspects of the movie including the soundtrack, with Boorman asking composer David Munrow to write the score. Munrow was an early music specialist, so it was thought to be an odd choice for a movie set far in the future in the twenty third century, but it worked and Munrow provided the movie with a score that was in many ways more outstanding than the picture itself. The composer also worked on The Devils and The Six Wives of Henry Vlll. Boorman said on many occasions that he believed although Zardoz was a futuristic tale that even that far into the future that music and instruments from the old world would have survived and still been utilised. The composer incorporated a plethora of medieval instruments within his score, most notably the notch flute, Gemshorns, and medieval bells. (The Gemshorn is an instrument that was made from the horn of a chamois goat and is a wind instrument with a distinct sound). It was said in the 1970’s that “David Munrow did not just emerge into the field of medieval and renaissance music, he quite literally exploded into it. He was credited and applauded for establishing a standard that can now never be ignored, and the stimulating shockwaves from his music will carry far into the future”. Munrow’s score for Zardoz, was supported by sections of the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony number 7.

A soundtrack album was not released, but this is probably because the movie was not as popular with audiences as the director thought it was going to be. Zardoz was released in cinemas on February 6, 1974, having premieres in both Los Angeles and New York. When the film was released more widely, it was immediately given dire reviews and along with these awful reviews the film was also rejected by the public, who it seemed according to Boorman did not understand the world of Zardoz. (not alone there then). Some members of the public were said to leave screenings of the film and go into the lobby of the cinema and tell waiting patrons not to bother buying tickets. I saw the movie in a specialist cinema in 1975, the Brighton Film Theatre would show mainly art house/world cinema movies or films such as Battle of Algiers, Queimada, Z, El Topo, and others that did not have that mass appeal. But even when the BFT showed Zardoz, the place was half full, and I did notice a few people leaving before the movie had even got halfway through, obviously struggling with Boorman’s analogies.

The film was officially declared a commercial failure by 20th Century Fox, and soon began to be shown on local TV stations in the States and also in late night slots elsewhere throughout the world, the movie was not issued on video until 1984, and had to wait till 2015 for a dvd/blu ray release. Reviewers did have mixed thoughts on the movie some commenting, “Zardoz is more confusing than exciting even with a frenetic, shoot-em-up climax” and others not being so condemning  “Direction, good; script is a brilliant premise which unfortunately washes out in climactic sound and fury; and production, outstanding, particularly special visual effects which are among the best in recent years and belie the film’s modest cost”. With a more recent review in 2013 by Empire Magazine saying, “You have to hand it to John Boorman. When he’s brilliant, he’s brilliant (Point Blank, Deliverance) but when he’s terrible, he’s really terrible. A fascinating reminder of what cinematic science fiction used to be like before Star Wars, this risible hodge-podge of literary allusions, highbrow porn, sci-fi staples, half-baked intellectualism, and a real desire to do something revelatory misses the mark by a hundred miles but has elements – its badness being one of them – that make it strangely compelling”.  

But in recent years critics and fans alike have come to the aid of Boorman and Zardoz, calling it “Boorman’s most Underrated film”, and “John Boorman’s finest Movie”.  Which have catapulted it to cult status. So conflicting views, some positive others negative, which I think sums up Zardoz very well.

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT SIXTY FOUR.

There seems to be an abundance of new scores for movies and TV out this month and last, one that you might miss if you are not aware of the production and look for the music from it is Paper Birds, this is a short animation movie, which has a stunning soundtrack penned by composer Cyrille Marchesseau,

Now I have been lucky enough to encounter this composer’s uplifting and affecting music before in a movie entitled Gloomy Eyes, which was also an animated short which was released in 2020.

Cyrille Marchesseau

Paper Birds is written in a very similar fashion, with the composer producing delicate and fragile sounding nuances and slightly darker and more edgy compositions which he combines and layers upon each other to create a soundtrack that is totally mesmerizing and fully supportive of the production. The music, the images, and the narration combine seamlessly and beautifully to relate a story that is emotional and poignant. The musical score playing an important part in the storytelling and becoming an integral component of the filmmaking with the composer adding sounds and tone poems like carefully placed brush strokes to which he applies to an already appealing canvas of events that is being rolled out on screen.

The score which is available on digital platforms, has a running time of just under forty minutes, and it looks as if the music is almost continuous within the film when one looks at the duration of the picture. It is a tantalising and haunting score, which is for the most part fully symphonic, certainly worth a listen and adding to your collection, and whilst online checking it out also pay attention to Gloomy Eyes as this is a score I never tire of.

From the big screen to three shows from the small screen. The final season of Better Call Saul wraps up the complicated journey and transformation of its central character, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), into criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. From the cartel to the courthouse, from Albuquerque to Omaha, season six follows Jimmy, Saul, and Gene as well as Jimmy’s complex relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who is in the middle of her own existential crisis. Meanwhile, Mike (Jonathan Banks), Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), Nacho (Michael Mando) and Lalo (Tony Dalton) are locked into a game of cat and mouse with mortal stakes. Produced by Sony Pictures Television, Better Call Saul has a score that is the work of composer Dave Porter and is now available on all digital platforms from Milan records. Porter steps back to the Breaking Bad universe after having scored the entirety of the original series and its corresponding film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, in what has been a longstanding creative partnership between the composer and series creator Vince Gilligan.

The soundtrack release features music from Seasons 3 through to 5 of the series and will be followed by a final volume of music coming out later this summer in conjunction with the series finale. The score is a mix of styles and sounds and not only works wonderfully with the series but is an exceptional listen as just stand-alone music.

Also released on Milan records and available on digital platforms is the score for Pleasure by Swedish composer Karl Frid. The soundtrack includes a mixture of original vocal tracks and instrumentals all of which are composed by Frid. The Plattform Produktion / NEON drama focuses upon an adult film actress as she finds her way through the complicated and sometimes seedy industry in Los Angeles. Frid’s 16-track album features performances from singer and rapper Mapei and Opera Soprano Caroline Gentelle successfully fluctuates between sacred operatic arias and hardcore at times aggressive sounding hip-hop performances, which would normally be a collision of colours, sounds, and textures, but in this case gel to mirror and underline the conflict at the core of the principal characters journey. It is an inventive score with the composer utilising elements and sounds that he experiments with to great effect.

 Director Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature film is a journey into the Los Angeles porn industry through the lens of newcomer Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel). Strong, self-confident and determined, Bella embarks on a mission to become the best at any cost. Pleasure is written and directed by Thyberg with an outstanding first-time performance by Sofia Kappel, who acts as an anchor to an ensemble of adult industry actors.

Again, this is a score that supports and punctuates the on-screen characters and scenarios but is also a soundtrack that is easily listenable away from those images, becoming a haunting, effecting, and highly entertaining collection of themes and vocals.  

Life after Life is a unique series that is now being shown on BBC TV, it’s a delightfully entertaining watch which consists of four episodes, it is wonderfully directed and superbly acted by all members of the cast. It is something that is at last worth watching in a schedule that is sadly nowadays filled with worthless and insignificant shows. The story is one that is deep and meaningful, containing both Philosophical, emotional, and spiritual levels. It tackles the subjects of death, life and the heartache that is caused by both loss and love, and every aspect of a life being lived out. It begins with Ursula Todd dying one night in 1910 before she can draw her first breath. On that same night in 1910, Ursula is born and survives.

The score for the series is by composer Volker Bertelmann, and it is a work that gives life to the series but at the same time underlines the many other emotions of it, these being the sense of loss and also the deeply emotional feelings that are shred and experienced by the series characters. The music is subtle but also effective in its support of the storyline, the composer never flooding or over scoring, but instead being more restrained and because of this approach the music is more affecting and far more supportive. It is filled with unassuming thematic material, by this I mean one can hear the melodies and hints of themes, but they never overwhelm the storyline or dialogue.

The composer making use of strings, and solo piano at times which become mesmerizing.

As for listening to the score away from the series, yes, it is an interesting, low-key affair, but a rewarding experience. Available on digital platforms and worth checking out.

The Last Champion is a movie that was released back in 2020, the score however has just appeared on digital platforms, and it one that warrants your attention. The composer Kazimir Boyle has written glorious, and heroic sounding themes to accompany the storyline which focuses on John Wright, a former championship wrestler and promising Olympian, who is forced to face his past when he has to return to his hometown because of his Mother’s death a place he left in disgrace twenty years earlier. The film is I suppose about second chances and also what we do with those in life. The score combines the heroic and anthem like flourishes with low key and romantically melancholy passages, the composer adding a country style in places via guitar performances.

This I think can be looked upon as like a Rocky or Karate Kid type of score, the music underlining and perfectly punctuating the proceedings and whilst doing this also whips up a triumphant and driving atmosphere which gets the listeners adrenaline pumping.  For me there are certain little nods and tributes to composers such as Conti, Horner, and Goldsmith present. Please take a listen to this.

As with anything that is created by Mike Myers, the plot or story is bound to be quirky, unlikely and at times even a little sick. But that’s Mr Myers and to be honest its nice to see him back on the screen even if it’s the small one and streamed. The Pentaverte is a Netflix movie, and has a score by Orbital, which I know many will already be saying Orbital, ok scroll, but just wait. The plot asks the question, what if a secret society of five men has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347?” As the series begins, one unlikely Canadian journalist finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and just possibly save the world himself. Remember, The Pentaverate must never be exposed.

Yes, a bit off the wall, oddball etc, but as I have already said its Mike Myers. The score is a delight to honest, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the music, and how Orbital applied the score to the movie, it remains very thematic throughout even in some of the more dramatic sections and the music works so well with the picture. But why am I surprised, ok Orbital are not known for scoring films, but neither were Daft Punk and they did ok with the Tron re-boot a few years back.

ORBITAL.

What’s that who are Orbital?  Well, Orbital are an English electronic music duo from, Kent, in the UK, consisting of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll. The band’s name is taken from Greater London’s orbital motorway, the M25, which was central to the early rave scene during the early days of acid house. Additionally, the cover art on three of their albums showcase stylised atomic orbitals. Orbital have been critically and commercially successful, known particularly for their live improvisation during shows. They were initially influenced by early electro and punk rock and performed on Tomorrow Never Dies for David Arnold, providing an upbeat re-mix of the James Bond theme. The score for The Pentaverate, is fully electronic, which one would expect, but it still has to it real thematic qualities, with Orbital getting the balance just right throughout creating solid cues that enhance and support. Take a listen to the track Skip Arrives, now this could be a look into the future, when Orbital score their own Bond adventure, and, the track The Box 3, which certainly goes into the musical territory of Italian Giallo.

The score is on digital platforms and has a duration of over an hour boasting fifty tracks. Inventive and totally entertaining, worth a listen.

The Apple TV show Roar offers an insightful, poignant, and at times comical slanted portrait of what it means to be a woman today. Featuring a unique blend of magical realism, familiar domestic and professional scenarios, and futuristic worlds, the eight stories mirror the dilemmas of ordinary women in accessible yet surprising ways. How they emerge from their respective journeys and to the resiliency that exists within themselves, and with all women. The music is composed by Isobel Waller- Bridge, who’s score is affecting and effective.

I love the intimacy of the music in places, it is filled with melodic and attractive airs, at times sounding classical and romantic, but also has to it slightly dark connotations and more contemporary styles.

So, a varied and highly listenable score. The soundtrack is on digital platforms, with a handful of her other works for film and TV, Munich the Edge of War being one of them which is another recent score from her. Go take a listen, ASAP.

The Other Side of Darkness is an action-adventure film about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery and the inner strength to overcome even the most challenging of obstacles. Set against the backdrop of America’s largest electrical blackouts, sixteen-year-old Taylor Jo receives a mysterious birthday gift that leads her and her friends on an adventurous collision course towards a plot to dismantle the countries power grid.

Music for this adventure is by composer Niklas Wempe, and I am probably totally wrong when I say this is a symphonic score, as nowadays one can never be sure how music for film is realised, samples and electronic elements being so polished and developed. All I know is how much I enjoyed the score, its relentless in its style and sound with its rich melodic and driving musical persona adding much to the impact of the movie.

At times I was reminded of Brian Tyler, because the music becomes so grandiose, with the composer making effective use of brass and strings, this could be a score for a big blockbuster such as a new Marvel movie, it has to it a stature and sound that is compelling, powerful and commands that you listen.

Plus, it has so many pieces that are intimate and romantic sounding, and an interesting take on the song Country Roads which is interwoven into a cue entitled The Bridge and a welcome surprise, as in “What is that tune” what I am saying is this is highly recommended. Go listen.

KES, JACK, JEKYLL, HYDE, AND FRANKENSTEIN.

THE MULTI PERSONA MUSICAL SKILL OF JOHN CAMERON.

John Cameron has worked on well over fifty movies, including the Oscar Nominated score for: A Touch of Class, and the Ken Loach movie Kes. His work for the small screen includes the Emmy Award nominated music for The Path to 9/11 and he is also active in the theatre working on the highly successful musicals Les Miserables, Zorro, (Co-Composer), Nils’ Wonderful Adventure, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, as well as working on shows such as Honk, Spend, Spend, Spend, and Mutiny. His arrangements for Joseph. Are still in use today and are heard in the recent presentation of the show at the London Palladium and its subsequent tour. He has also been active in song writing for popular artists such as Cilla Black and Agnetha Faltskog, penning hits such as If I Thought you’d Ever Change Your Mind, and the hits Sweet Inspiration and Tap Turns on the Water, Brother for Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon and CCS respectively. He was also responsible for the song Na na na na which was a UK hit for pop artist Cozy Powell.

In addition to writing songs he also arranged and orchestrated hits such as Sunshine Superman, Jennifer Juniper, Epistle to Dippy for Donovan, Whole Lotta Love, Walking for CCS, Brother Louie, Emma, Disco Queen, A Child’s Prayer, You Sexy Thing, So You Win Again, Every 1’s A Winner, Man To Man, Put You Together Again  for Hot Chocolate, Boogie Nights, Too Hot To Handle, The Groove Line, Mind Blowing Decisions, Always and Forever, Gangsters of the Groove  for the British funk group Heatwave, and Silver Dream Machine, and Tahiti for David Essex.

John Cameron

Your score for the TV mini-series Jack the Ripper, is probably one of the most requested scores to be released by film music fans. I was surprised when the series was on TV for the first time that the soundtrack was not released after all it was a popular movie and of course starred so many well-known actors including Michael Caine. Were there any plans at the time to release one, or has this never been discussed?

At the time, it wasn’t commonplace to release a soundtrack recording for made for TV Films and Mini-Series. I suppose it’s testament to the piece’s longevity that there is still interest in the score.

What size orchestra did you have for the score?

Around 50–54-piece orchestra for the main cues, less for some of the smaller scale cues, and the stings and FX were all manufactured in my own studio using a Prophet 2002 Sampler, a Roland 1080, and various “found” sounds such as stacked up screams, crowbar hitting metal door, detuned breathing etc.

 How did you become involved on Jack the Ripper?

I had worked with the director David Wickes on Silver Dream Racer (with David Essex) where I arranged David’s songs for the film and wrote incidental music, and then as composer on the TV series Marlowe Private Eye with Powers Boothe.

Did he have any specific ideas or requests regarding the music for the movie, or did he leave this up to you?

David basically wanted a main theme which was proud, confident, and late-Victorian-Imperial in character that could disintegrate into something darker and more sinister. He wanted the two sides of Victorian life to be uncomfortably close to one another. The stings and FX/Sound Design elements were largely my idea, but I worked closely with David to refine them and make sure they had maximum impact. In fact, in all three of my “gothic” collaborations with David, I would supply him with temp tracks, beds, drones, and stings to help him edit & set the mood.

The “Ripper-sting” we used on all the murders was premixed and allocated to a certain note on my master keyboard, and one night while I was working late in the studio, a good friend of mine came round to ask “Do you fancy a pint down at the Hollybush” while nonchalantly playing a random note on the keyboard, and of course, it was that one, and a full blooded scream FX roared out of my Tannoy Gold speakers. As George went white, I knew that yes, that would work fine!

Can you recall how much music that you wrote for the movie, and did you conduct the score?

I probably wrote around 60 minutes of music for the mini-series And yes, I conducted it.

You later collaborated with David Wickes on Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein, both of which contained wonderful scores. When working on movie’s how many times do you like to be able to watch the film before you begin to put together ideas about what style of music the project needs and is it sometimes helpful if the director has installed a temp track?

I made it a practise with DW to supply him with Temp music. In fact, on every project I worked on with him, I was involved from Script stage, often feeding ideas pre-shooting. Temp tracks can be dangerous, especially if a director uses well known pieces of music, and suddenly you’re competing with John Williams or James Horner. Some directors make creative use of temp tracks – David L Cunningham, who I worked with on To End All Wars, the Touchstone remake of Little House on the Prairie, and Path to 9-11 would put in a piece of music and tell me “I like the tempo/texture/orchestral feel of this passage”, or “I like the way this music contrasts with the action”.

On an earlier instance I recorded a temp vocal for Charlie One-Eye (with Richard Rowntree) back in the 70s, and then put a famous British Blues singer on the track but the director had got so used to my voice, he said he preferred it, and took a huge amount of persuading to change it!

Both Jack the Ripper and Jekyll and Hyde have striking opening themes, do you think it is important for a TV movie in-particular to have a theme that that sets the scene and will become familiar with an audience?

In both instances we wanted the title scene to convey the “public” face of late Victorian Britain. Then by deconstructing the theme, putting it into a minor key with darker orchestration we could unpeel the dark underbelly of Victorian society.  

Orchestration is said to be an important part of the composing process, do you orchestrate all your music for film and TV or is this sometimes just not possible because of tight schedules?

I’ve always orchestrated every note of my movie scores. To me orchestration, the choice of instruments, the use of different orchestral timbres, the choice of alternative chord inversions, and the incorporation of Sound Design elements is as important as the crafting of themes and the placement of the music. And for many of my film projects from Jack The Ripper on, I’ve started the whole process with pre-lays of samples, effects etc. that give me a bed on which to lay a live orchestral performance.

Staying with orchestration, you did the orchestrations for Les Misérables, how did this come about?

Record boss Mickie Most, with whom I had worked extensively in the 1960s and 70s with artists including Donovan, CCS, and Hot Chocolate was approached by his Parisian sub-publisher Alain Boublil, who was looking for an arranger with movie experience to work on a new show based on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, that he had written with composer Claude Michel Schonberg and lyricist Jean-Marc Natel. I flew to Paris, met Alain and Claude-Michel, spent an afternoon listening to a tape of C-M-S murdering pianos and impersonating the whole of Paris, all in French of course.

A few hours later I’m on a plane bound for London and I have a headache. “I think I said yes”… oh but the children need shoes… The rest is history, so they say. A French Concept Album recorded at CTS with a UK line-up led by Pat Halling, combined with French artists and a wonderful vocal ensemble led by Christiane LeGrand in Paris produced the original Concept Album that went double-gold in France, then the 1980 Robert Hossein Production at The Palais de Sport that nobody from the UK saw except my family and Andrew Bruce and Billy… who were in charge of the newly invented radio microphones. (David Essex was set to see it on his way back from the South of France but got caught up in a traffic jam!) Then nothing until Cameron, so the story goes, found the record in a record store in France. Then of course Trevor, John, Herbie, the whole new crew, the RSC, Palace, Washington, Broadway Productions etc. etc….

Do you think that film music today is as good as say the movie scores of the 1960’s and 1970’s, I ask this because the main title theme seems to have disappeared, I am not sure if this is the composers or the actual filmmakers decision to do away with it, but it seems gone are the days that one comes out of the cinema with the theme from the film going round inside your head?

The title theme hasn’t disappeared in long form TV pieces like The Bridge, but it seems to have morphed into a rather moody, wispy song sung over an intricate montage of images. The theme is then seldom heard after that. The other thing that I’ve noticed is the use of sample loops and patterns, which may be interesting to use occasionally but seem to take away the dynamism of the score if used incessantly under the action, which often seems to be the case in Scandi-Noir productions. But there are some interesting scores: I was particularly taken with Jonny Greenwood’s score for Power of The Dog, and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker last year was very effective and disturbing. Funnily enough, on Joker the director used a similar technique to what we had used on David Wickes’s pieces, having a pre-recorded theme played on set to create mood during the shoot.

Using Jack the Ripper as an example, do you have a routine when scoring a picture as in main titles through to end titles or do you like to establish a core theme and then develop and build the remainder of the score around this. Or is the process different for every movie?

Each project is different in approach and intent, so there is no set formula. For instance, on Path to 9-11, director David L Cunningham felt that the subject was so emotionally loaded that he wanted there to be an almost documentary feel to add to the credibility of the piece. Consequently, after the front title music which was very low key over black and white images, in the first hour of action the only music was “found” music, rock music on a car radio or in a rental agency, a street band, qawwali music from cassette player in an apartment. So that when the plot started to unfold in earnest, and we brought the main theme in, it would have a much bigger impact. However, Jack the Ripper, Jekyll & Hyde and Frankenstein adhered much more to a more traditional model.

The creation of themes would come first i.e. the main theme, striking and grandiose, less grandiose, more calm versions of it, the deconstructed versions for dark moments, a love theme, and then elements of sound design, sting etc. Having established all these signposts, my general method is to start from the top of the movie and write through sequentially, so as to always keep in mind how each cue flows into the next, or into Foleys, FX etc.

Can we go back a few years to your early film scores, I always thought that the 1969 movie Kes was your first score, but it was Poor Cow, which you scored in 1967, how did you become involved on the movie, and was the director Ken Loach hands on regarding the music for this and then for Kes?

I had been working with Donovan, in the studio and on the road for a couple of years, and he had been asked to set a Christopher Logue poem to use as the title music for Poor Cow. I wrote the arrangement, and we were in the studio listening to playback. I wasn’t aware that Don was contracted to write music for the whole movie. Perhaps he was going to do the new thing which was to improvise to the screen (as Sonny Rollins did with Alfie)?

But Teddy Joseph, the Executive Producer was Old School. “Who’s going to actually score it to picture?” he asked. “He is” answered Don, pointing at me. “Can you have it ready for a week tomorrow when we dub?” “Yes”. (Gulp!) Went back home, rang Elisabeth Lutyens, avant-garde composer and doyenne of Hammer House of Horror scores, whom I’d met through my father (her aunt taught him violin). “Elisabeth, how do you write a film score?” Ten minutes of no-nonsense method and logistics, me frantically scribbling, a meeting next day with Don, where he played me the themes and songs he’d written, Thursday, where we spotted the film (decided where music should be), got the timings Friday and then, on Saturday I was playing rugby, so wrote through all of Sunday, had it copied Monday, recorded it Tuesday (straight to mono optical – no mixing) and they dubbed it Wednesday. Ken must have been happy because he then called me up to score Kes as composer.

Kes was recorded at Olympic studios I think, the movie was a personal, intimate, and very raw kind of film, which was perfectly enhanced by the music that you wrote, how many players did you have for the score?

It was quite a small line-up, must have been around 20. A lovely woodwind section, with classical and jazz players, including Harold McNair on Alto Flute, a small string section, bass, drums, percussion.

PSYCHOMANIA, was a movie that you scored, I noticed on the soundtrack lots of electronic sounds, but this was released before synths and the new styled sounds that we are now used to, so how did you achieve these sounds on the score?

You’re right. Robert Moog’s set-up took up a whole room, mini moog’s were still just a dream. But guitars had a certain amount of pedals by then, (phase wah wah etc) and added to that we used all kinds of tricks, playing inside the piano, stroking and plucking and playing with mallets, feeding Musser vibes through a phase pedal, and similar effects on bowed bass, using solo voice in a weird unison with the flute, and then a large amount of processing, tape echo, feedback etc on the mix.

When you record a film score do you try to make sure that it can be preserved in some way in case at the time of the film’s release or in the future someone is interested in releasing it?

I do now! I do have a certain amount of ¼” tape copies from the 70s, 80s, some DATs of 90s projects & digital copies from 200 on, but in the early days the music was considered very much part of the overall package and the final movie was what you were aiming for, so a separate soundtrack was very seldom considered.

Many thanks to Mr Cameron for agreeing to answer my questions.