All posts by jonman492000

THE BEASTMASTER, THE FLY and THE MOLLY MAGUIRES.

 

Cast your mind back if you can, lets take a trip own memory lane, a walk among the scores from yester year that inspired and entertained and are now looked upon as being iconic or classic. I thought I would re-visit a handful of scores that were at the time of their release must have items. This was in the days of the LP record remember, and when record labels such as Varese Sarabande I suppose were in their infancy. But it is because they released scores that were maybe obscure or a little out of the ordinary that they became what they are today.

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The first is score I am talking about is, THE BEASTMASTER (1982) music by Lee Holdridge, this is an epic and rousing work, the composer was hard pressed to finish on time as he was given just two and a half weeks to write approx.; eighty minutes of music, and the score had to be recorded in Rome. What Holdridge produced was a magnificent and wonderfully lyrical sounding work that has a rich and abundant cache of themes, which are not only robust and fully symphonic but contain a romantic and exuberant energy that is infectious and inspiring. The score was released in the United States on a Varese Sarabande long playing record, and in Italy on the CAM label. The film is an entertaining yarn and the score helped create a heroic and epic feel to the proceedings. Many critics at the time of the film’s release referred to it as a watered-down version of CONAN, THE BEASTMASTER was released three months after the John Milius movie and to be fair there are certain similarities, Directed by Don Coscarelli, it starred Marc Singer in the title role, Rip Torn and Tanya Roberts. The soundtrack has been re-issued a number of times on compact disc and a suite from the score was also recorded and released on the Citadel and Varese Sarabande records label by Charles Gerhardt.

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On listening to the soundtrack recently it has not aged at all, it remains a vibrant and haunting listening experience and is a score that you should have within your collection. The composers proud sounding A HEROS THEME/THE LEGEND OF DAR is superb, but that is just one example of this score’s musical treasures.

 

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From fantasy to horror and the 1986 score for the remake of Vincent Price classic horror, THE FLY starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Directed by David Cronenberg it had a powerful score by composer Howard Shore. The soundtrack in my opinion was somewhat overlooked and even ignored at the time of its release, but of course with the composer putting his stamp on a number big box office hits, including THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT movies in future years, many of the composers fans via these scores were tempted to seek out earlier soundtracks that Shore had penned. THE FLY is a dark and sinister sounding work, but also has to it lighter parts that the composer fuses and incorporates into the shadowy and uneasy sounding fabric of the score. The composers use of strings within the work is stunning and effective. Shore creates a thickly ominous sounding soundtrack that is an integral and important part of the film, at times becoming almost operatic in its sound and style.

THE FLY was originally released on a Varese Sarabande LP record, and later was made available on compact disc, it was also re-issued on a CD that also contained the score for the sequel THE FLY ll, which had a score by Christopher Young. Shores score for THE FLY is at times complex and atonal but has in recent years become one of the composers most appreciated works for cinema. It has to it a macabre and at the same time alluring musical persona and, in my opinion, makes a gentle nod in the direction of Bernard Herrmann. Certainly, one to add to the collection if you do not already have this.

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Now, to something more mellow initially and not horror or fantasy, THE MOLLY MAGUIRES, was released in1970, the story was part truth part fiction and was set in the mining community of Pennsylvania in the 1870’s. The score is by Henry Mancini, many people associate him with syrupy and sweet sounding melodies such as MOON RIVER and THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, but Mancini was also capable of creating some dark and very dramatic music for film, just listen to CHARADE or MASTER OF THE ISLANDS to confirm this.  MOLLY MAGUIRES is a score that I think encapsulates the style and the sound of Mancini, it has to it some of the most beautiful and wonderfully thematic compositions, plus it also includes a darkness and apprehension that is filled with a tense and dramatic atmosphere. The score was released on the Paramount label on record back in 1970, and was given a new lease of life on the Bay Cities label when they re-issued it on compact disc.

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It also got a release on Kritzerland which also featured the rejected score by composer Charles Strouse. The central theme which we hear in the opening cue on the recording runs throughout the work in various guises as the composer arranges and orchestrates this to suit the scenes and scenarios within the movie. Mancini employing traditional sounding Irish instrumentation at key moments within the score, Irish Harp and Penny whistle feature as does flute and fly away sounding strings, the composer consolidates the sound and style by underlining these elements with faraway sounding horns and other brass instrumentation alongside percussion and accordion. It is simply a classic soundtrack, and one of Mancini’s finest and that is saying a lot considering his prolific output. The love theme from the score THE HILLS OF YESTERDAY is itself a variation upon the central theme, but the composer fashions a more subdued and softer tone poem which has appeared on many of his compilation albums since as well as being performed in concert. THE MOLLY MAGUIRES is another valuable addition to any film music collection.

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BRUCE BROUGHTON.

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Bruce Broughton is best known for his many motion picture scores, including Silverado, Tombstone, The Rescuers Down Under, The Presidio, Miracle on 34th Street, the Homeward Bound adventures and Harry and the Hendersons. His television themes include The Orville, JAG, Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toon Adventures and Dinosaurs. His scores for television range from mini-series like Texas Rising and The Blue and Gray to TV movies (Warm Springs, O Pioneers!) and countless episodes of television series such as Dallas, Quincy, Hawaii Five-O and How the West Was Won. http://www.brucebroughton.com/biography/

 

Bruce Broughton is in my opinion one of the great film music composers, his scores have delighted and excited audiences both when heard underlining and supporting the  movie or TV series and also away from any images it was written to enhance. His scores are varied and vibrant and are always filled with themes that are memorable and entertaining, in short he is a talented and extremely innovative composer, who is at home scoring any genre. My thanks to the composer for agreeing to answer my questions and for being so courteous and obliging, taking time out from his busy schedule to bring this interview to fruition. 

 

Can I begin by going back to RESCUERS DOWN UNDER, how did you become involved on the movie, and what was it like working for Disney?

I simply received a call from Disney about the movie. I interviewed with the producer, Tom Schumacher, who told me what the film was and what it was about and asked if I’d be interested in doing it. What Tom didn’t know was that as a kid I wanted to be an animator and Walt Disney was my childhood hero, so it was really easy for me to answer positively and quickly. I think he was surprised, because a lot of composers really don’t like to do animation. Once I got started on the project, it went smoothly. The people I worked with were wonderful. Aside from Tom, I had two tremendous and very talented directors, Mike Gabriel and Hendel Butoy. From start to finish, it was a great job. I had to turn down “Home Alone” to do it, but I never regretted it.

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One of my own personal favourites from yourself is YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, what size orchestra did you have for the movie and how much time did you have to write and record the score?

The orchestra by today’s standards was not all that large. I think it was probably around 65, give or take a few musicians. I wrote the score in 4 weeks, immediately after “Silverado,” and took a week to record it at Abbey Road. The producers were happy with the result and gave me an extra week in London to enjoy on my own afterwards. The sessions were memorably fun.

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SILVERADO is a great score, did Lawrence Kasdan, have any specific ideas and requests as to what style or sound that he wanted or indeed where the music should be placed?

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Yes, he was very specific about what he was doing and what he wanted from the score. He was trying to make a western for people who had never seen a western before, which essentially were kids who were all a lot younger than we were. Although “Pale Rider” came out the same time as “Silverado,” westerns were no longer being made, The last successful western had been “Blazing Saddles,” which was a parody, a signal that the genre was through. For a score, he wanted a “big, traditional Hollywood score.” That made me think immediately of Jerome Moross (“The Big Country”) and Elmer Bernstein (“Magnificent Seven”). I wasn’t interested in copying the music, but I did take on the big, rambunctiously energetic style of those earlier iconic scores. It seemed to work well. As far as the placement of the score, the music was spotted with the two of us. There wasn’t anything in this movie that wasn’t intentional.

You have worked on so many genres and also scored shorts, television series as well as feature films, do you approach a short in a different way that you would a feature film, and what would you say were the main differences between working on a movie and scoring a series for TV?

The whole point of music in a film is to help tell a story. When the story is very short, the need for music will certainly be different than if the same story was lengthened to the size of a feature film. For one thing, there won’t be as much as it and for another whatever the music does likely has to be specific and get to the point quickly. One difference, however, between a feature film and a TV show, aside from the general formatting issues that series have (like commercial breaks, for example) is that TV tends to be watched on smaller screens. You can be a lot subtler with a 35’ image or sequence than with the same image at 2 feet. But in general, what works in one visual medium should work in another.

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I think your first scoring experience came in 1974 on a TV series called, DIRTY SALLY how did you become involved on this?

Actually, I don’t remember writing any music for “Dirty Sally,” although I may have. My very first scoring experience was earlier on a show called “Men at Law.” My first composer credit was on “Gunsmoke” in 1975 and my first complete episode that was entirely original was on “Hawaii Five-0” and I got my first Emmy nomination for it.

 

 

What were your earliest memories of music or a musical instrument?

I grew up in a musical household. A grandfather was a composer; an uncle was a songwriter; an aunt was a professional pianist; all of my grandparents could play musical instruments or had musical training; my parents each were very good amateur musicians, played two instruments each and could sight-read and sing; my brother was a trombonist, arranger and composer and worked in the studios doing each of those jobs for several years. It was hard to avoid music, so my earliest memories are about the same as those for preschool and whatever. The first instrument I learned was piano, which was my primary instrument, but I also learned to play brass instruments, as well. I was a mediocre French horn player, but it got me into the Army band and out of harm’s way when I got drafted during the Vietnam war.

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What is your preferred method of composing, piano, keyboard or more contemporary methods?
In general, I prefer beginning at the piano and moving directly to the computer for notational software. I rarely compose on sequencers, although I have. I’ve done a couple of movie scores that way and a few TV jobs. Sometimes, if I don’t have access to an instrument, I’ll simply write without a sonic reference. I don’t think it matters how you compose music as long as you get it out.

 

Do you think it is important for a score to have themes as in pieces of music that the cinema goers can remember? I ask this because of the current trend of a handful of composers utilising a drone like soundscape as opposed to composing thematic material, and do you think this fashion of scoring is a trend that will pass?

Themes are hard to write, but easy to disparage. It’s not a time for melodies at the moment, not in the movies, not in pop songs, not even in Broadway theater. However, in a movie a theme or a melodic fragment, i.e., a motif, can definitely attach itself to a dramatic idea or character. One of the best examples is in “Jaws.” It only took two notes to announce the possible presence of the shark, and was used even when the shark wasn’t there to keep the tension high. I think the use of drones, pads or repeated figures in the same key is the musical moron’s way of composing. They’re very easy. It’s not to say that at times they aren’t valuable techniques to include in writing a dramatic score, but if it’s the only arrow in your quiver, you’re inadequately prepared.

Having said that, I think that some sound design scores are wonderfully creative when used by a good musician. There are, however, many more musical amateurs in the score-writing business than ever before, a result of the techno explosion and digital music production. Apple’s Garage Band, as an example, has spawned a lot of bedroom songwriters. But even simple devices like banging on tom-toms can be used to good and creative effect with some musical work.

 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to the recording sessions for TOMBSTONE. at Whitfield studios in London many years ago now. You did not conduct the orchestra on that occasion, can I ask do you conduct your scores, or do you prefer to use a conductor so that you are free to supervise the recording?

“Tombstone” was the only score I didn’t conduct. In general, I always prefer to conduct my own work because I’m in direct contact with the people who are performing It. I can also get away from using clicks on everything, so that I can make the music more expressive. Some composers who could conduct choose not to because their priorities are somewhere else: In the recording booth with the director, for example, or with the recording mixer or with the studio execs. There’s a lot of conversation that takes place during any recording that the composer won’t hear unless he/she Is there In the middle of It.

Is orchestration an important part of the composing process?
Absolutely. Whether the orchestration Is with acoustic Instruments or with digital Instruments, It’s the sound of the note or the phrase that makes the essential connection between the score and the llstener. Music Is very associative, meaning that we associate certain feellngs with certain musical or aural combinations and every composer who works In film, even the amateurs, know this. The one composer who understood this first was Bernard Herrmann.


Your score for MONSTER SQUAD was initially not released on CD, but was issued later, do you have any influence or input into what scores of yours will be issued, or is this down to the film company?

This has been a decision that has been primarily out of my hands. It has had to do either with the production company or with the record company. I’ve been fortunate, however, in having essentially one record company, Intrada, as a loyal fan for many years. We’ve done over 50 albums together, and they still have more planned. It is Intrada that can be thanked for the reissue of both ‘Silverado” and “Young Sherlock Holmes” on to CDs.

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Did you always want music to be your career or was this something that just happened?

It just happened. Probably due to entropy. My family was very musical and I learned to play a couple of instruments as a kid. I was always connected to the piano, but, as I mentioned above, what I wanted to do was to be an animator. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t carry through with that. Life turned out okay with the composing, and I’m happy with it.

 

 

How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to put together ideas about the music?

 

I generally will not start working on a movie or a TV show until we’ve spotted the film. If I don’t know where the music is actually going to be placed or what the purpose of it will be in the film, I won’t start thinking about it. Once I know what the role of music is, I’ll start thinking about the theme and how I want to write the score.

 

You write for the concert hall, is this something that is more difficult do you think because with film and TV music at least you have images?
The images and emotions involved in a movie go a long way in helping the success of any score. With a concert piece, you only have the music. You can write some mediocre music in a good film and the film will carry it along. In fact, there are a lot of famous films with a lot of mediocre music attached, but you’ll generally only hear a mediocre concert piece once. It just won’t get played again. With a mediocre concert piece, it wiil be mediocre from start to finish. In general, I think the bar is a lot higher in concert music than in film music to write well and involve an audience.

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Temp tracks I have found are treated with mixed feelings some composers do not like them, others think they are a useful tool, what is your opinion of the temp track?

I live with them. I don’t mind hearing them. If nothing else, it’s a starting point for some interesting conversation. The worst thing about them, of course, is whether they’re good or bad, whether the director likes them or not, everyone’s used to hearing them where they’ve been placed and it’s difficult to compete with the familiarity.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s you worked on a number of popular TV series such as LOGANS RUN, DALLAS and QUINCY I think, how does working in TV then compare to working in TV now, and when you worked on a series did you ever recycle any music that had been used in a previous episode?

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I’ve never intentionally recycled music. When I was doing Dallas and Quincy, because I knew I’d be doing a lot of the episodes, I made a conscious decision to always change the orchestra. That way I couldn’t write the same thing twice. New orchestration brings along fresh composition. Along the way, as a result, I became a good orchestrator, so I benefited. The producers always enjoyed knowing that something new would be coming up on the next show.

The biggest difference, I think, between then and now is that we didn’t do mockups back then. Everyone heard the music for the first time when it was recorded and there was often a lot of excitement, if not gratitude. I wrote every score once. Now with mockups and producer’s “notes,” composers sometimes have to write cues two or three times. It’s dumb.

You have also taught film music, but what musical training did you have?

Academically, I have a BMus in composition from USC. In terms of training, I have over 50 years’ experience in television, motion pictures, games, theme parks, concert music and concert performance. I think I’m qualified to teach.

What composers or artists would you say have influenced you or what composers do you think are particularly interesting?

If you’re thinking of movie composers, there’s a long list: Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Miklos Rozsa, Carl Stalling, Jerry Fielding, Mort Stevens and many of my co-composer friends like Al Silvestri, Tom Newman, Randy Newman, John Powell and Ben Wallfisch. Having just written these names, I’ve left a lot of people – a LOT of people – off the list, because life is short and the truth is I’m influenced by just about everyone. But there are some specific scores and techniques that come to mind with the above list of names. I wouldn’t take my list too seriously, however.

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You worked on THE ORVILLE how much music did you contribute to that project and did Seth Macfarlane have any specific requests about the score?

The music for ‘The Orville” begins and ends with Seth. He called me about working on the pilot and contributing the main title. We had lots of conversations about the series, what it was, what he wanted it to be, as well as how he saw the music. He works with good people: Walter Murphy, Ron Jones, Joel McNeeley, John Debney, Andrew Cottee are the guys I know and they’re all very, very good – as good as anyone I know writing for film.  Add them all to my list above. Seth makes sure the music budget is big enough to do what he wants done with it. I wish there were more people like him, because he understands what music does and what it is. I couldn’t say enough good things about either him or his contributions to the music on his show.

Out of all of film scores is there any that you have particularly fond memories of?

A few, but for different reasons. By passing some memorable TV episodes and events, I have warm fuzzies for when we recorded “Silverado.” There was an enormous amount of energy surrounding that movie and the people were wonderful to work with. I have a special fondness for “Young Sherlock Holmes,” because it was a great film and a great opportunity; again, I worked with wonderful people; I had a sensational week recording it and it was the first time I laid eyes on Belinda, my wife-to-be, playing in the violin section, although that part-to-come took several years to happen.

 

I liked “Baby’s Day Out” because I thought it was funny and the people were terrific on it. I liked “Tombstone’ because it was a lot of fun and a really entertaining movie. I liked “Miracle on 34th Street” because it was a really great film. And I really enjoyed working with John Hughes. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven with “Rescuers Down Under.” Again, the movie was terrific and the people were tremendously special. Like my composers’ list above, I’m leaving a lot of stuff out. But I have no regrets over the movies or for the years of television. I learned a lot, and I continue to hear from people all over the world about how much this or that score means to them. For being an unintentional composer, I think I did pretty well for myself.

 

JAPANESE COMPOSERS.

 

Music for Japanese movies has been an area that I have always been drawn too, maybe because it was something of an unknown quantity to me personally? It was the score for THE SEVEN SAMURAI that first awakened my interest, mainly because I had seen the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and was curious about the film that the classic western was based upon. As we all know the story is very similar, but the SAMURAI movie in many ways is better than the colourful western take as produced by Hollywood. SEVEN SAMURAI had a rawness and a stark reality to it within its many fights and battles and also because of the honourable codes observed by the Samurai, it was a look at the culture of Japan from bygone days and also because of the way in which the movie was filmed it was for me at least very real and affecting. The score featured a sound and style that was of course essentially Japanese in its overall style and sound, but there were also musical passages and hints of orchestration that leaned towards the film music as produced outside of Japan during this period in time, the composers use of brass and percussion was particularly effective and underlines and supports the many action pieces within the film. It keeps in step perfectly with the storyline, never encroaching upon the dialogue or overpowering any of the many important scenarios and scenes within the film.

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I remember owning the LP record many years ago, it was during the 1970’s when many soundtracks were issued in Japan THE SEVEN SAMURAI being one of them, the recording on TOHO records was a gatefold edition beautifully packaged as was the norm with Japanese releases. The one downfall as far I was concerned was the inclusion of dialogue, so the album was basically a soundtrack of the movie literally with the dialogue being the focus of the release with music taking a back seat. This was rectified in future releases with one or two of these just containing the score, which was wonderful to hear with no dialogue and FX sounds, in later years the score was reconstructed and re-recorded.

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Composer Fumio Hayasaka wrote what is now looked upon as a classic soundtrack for the movie which was directed by the great film maker Akira Kurosawa in 1954, who went on to make so many iconic motion pictures that themselves influenced directors all over the world. Producers and actors. The composer sadly passed away just one year after scoring THE SEVEN SAMURAI he was 41 years of age, but his music for this movie in-particular has become synonymous with the Japanese film industry and especially with the work of director Kurosawa. After Hayasaka’s death, Kurosawa turned to composer Masaru Sato amongst others.

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In a career that spanned some 40 years Sato scored approximately 300 movies, his key works for Kurosawa included YOJIMBO and SANJURO, YOJIMBO being the film that director Sergio Leone based his first western movie A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS upon.
Sato’s style was not dissimilar to that of Hayasaka, not surprising because it was Hayasaka who mentored and schooled Sato, but Sato did use more of a developed theme approach, where as he would create motifs for certain characters and his style of scoring was also influenced by European and Hollywood soundtracks as opposed to the more traditional Japanese approach.

Saying this the style that the composer employed was all his own and he placed his own musical fingerprint upon each movie he scored. Yojimbo for example opens with a rhythmic and rousing theme that has hints of jazz in its make-up, or at least a scattering of orchestration that could be linked to jazz slanted styles, we hear harpsichord flourishes, guitar and brass underlined by percussion at times Sato employing saxophone to play out the core theme or to just add a note here and there along the way, in fact listening to the entire score one can hear where many of the Italian composers who worked on westerns (Piccioni, Ferrio) and even the later crime or Giallo movies got their inspiration. Sato would often add a single note or two when a character appeared on screen, which is something that Ennio Morricone employed within the score for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Like with all composers in Japan that worked in film, Sato did work on films about monsters and the best known and feared monster of them all GODZILLA. Sato’s soundtracks were melodic, dramatic, original and always entertaining. Masaru Sato was born in Japan on May 28th, 1928, after studying with Hayasaka the composer was employed at Toho studios, one of his first assignments was to carry out the orchestration on the score for THE SEVEN SAMURAI, when Hayasaka passed away suddenly in 1955 he was in the middle of scoring two movie, Kurosawa’s RECORD OF A LIVING BEING and film maker Kenji Mizoguchi’s NEW TALES OF THE TIARA CLAN, so Toho studios decided to let Sato complete the work on these two projects.

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It was also in 1955 that Sato worked on his first movie as a composer in his own right, this was for GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN. During the next ten-year period Sato wrote the scores for all of Kurosawa’s films, these included titles such as THRONE OF BLOOD and THE BAD SLEEP WELL. The composer also collaborated with director Hideo Gosha at this time and soon established himself as a rising talent within the film music arena. Scoring movies for numerous film makers and working on a wide variety of genres. HALF HUMAN, THE H-MAN, THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD, GODZILLA VS THE SEAMONSTER and SON OF GODZILLA amongst them. He enjoyed a 44-year association with Toho studios and during that time worked on over 300 motion pictures. Sato also worked on television and scored the popular series THE WATER MARGIN for which he was nominated to receive the Japan Academy Award. Sato died on December 5th 1999, leaving behind a rich and innovative musical legacy.

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The same can said of fellow Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who produced some diverse and innovative works for cinema, one of which was for the movie, RAN, again directed by Kurosawa. Takemitsu wrote an epic score for the picture and one which is regarded by many as being his finest. RAN certainly contains some moments of musical excellence, with the composer creating a powerful score that is overflowing with an array of moods and atmospheres. It has to it a taught sense of the dramatic in certain areas and is at times filled with apprehension and darkness, but it remains powerfully epic and supports, enhances and gives a greater depth and atmosphere to the tense persona that is already purveyed by the picture’s imagery and script. There is also a more melodic side to the score with the composer employing woodwind and strings to fashion a mood that is vaguely romantic and fleetingly melancholy. Takemitsu also utilises flute to great effect creating traditional sounding passages that are at times shrill but strangely attractive.

 

Takemitsu was born in Japan on October 30th, 1930. He was a self-taught composer and became renowned for his ability to fuse the traditional sounding music of his homeland with that of a contemporary style. The composer wrote hundreds of independent musical works and was responsible for scoring nearly one hundred motion pictures, he was also the author of more than twenty books. At the age of twenty-seven he composed REQUIEM FOR STRING ORCHESTRA which was probably the work that gained him international recognition and was regarded as one of the leading Japanese composers of the 20th century. He would often go on set for a movie that he was considering working on, so that he could absorb the atmosphere and have a better understanding of the film’s storyline and the mechanics of film making. As he became more prominent, Takemitsu would also become more selective in what movies he worked on, often the composer would read the entire script for a move before deciding whether he would be involved on the project. Takemitsu more than many other composers of film music also had a greater understanding of the use of silence on a soundtrack, at times a section of film without music being more impacting and powerful and this is seen in many of his cinematic assignments. He passed away on February 20th, 1996.

Moving up to more recent works for the cinema I have included a look at composer Taro Iwashiro, he has written the music for numerous movies in recent years and was responsible for score both of the RED CLIFF movies and wrote a rousing and thoughtful soundtrack for the Japanese war movie ISOROKU, which told the life story of Japanese naval commander Isoroku Yamamoto. The composer was born in Tokyo Japan on May 1st 1965, he has worked in both film and television and has also written music for various video games.


One of the most respected and sought-after composers for film and concert hall compositions was Akira Ifukube, he is probably best known for his musical scores for numerous GODZILLA movies, but he has written as much if not more music for concert hall performance. Ifukube was born on 31 May 1914 in Kushiro, Japan. He first noticed music whilst at school and after hearing Stravinskys, RITE OF SPRING when he was fourteen, he decided that he wanted to become a composer. Like so many composers in Japan Ifukube was self-taught, he studied forestry and only composed in his spare time. But due to illness he had to stop forestry and began to compose full time. In 1947 he composed his first film score which was for THE END OF THE SILVER MOUNTAINS, this was the beginning of a fifty plus year career in the film music business, also during this time he continued to write for the concert hall and taught music. He passed away on February 8th, 2006. Of course there are numerous other Japanese composers who write for film, JOE HISAISHI, KENJI KAWAI, RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, HIKARU HAYASHI and many many more. I just wanted to dip my toe into the film music waters of Japan and will return to the subject again in the near future.

 

 

LONERS.

 

 

lonersIt never ceases to amaze me when a new composer or a composer I was not previously aware of produces a score that is just so good, this can be said of a score I was sent to listen to for an Amazon film entitled LONERS. The composer Marco Valerio Antonini has created a score that is filled with so many themes and entertaining musical passages, it has drama, comedy and a certain amount of quirkiness that makes it attractive and enormously interesting. Its been a long time since I have said that every cue on a score is good, but LONERS is, there is certainly something for everyone’s taste within the score, and although the composer is young in years his composing styles and talents are certainly not. The work has a polished and mature sound to it and for me personally evokes many of the scores as produced by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein. Right from the start we are treated to solid and robust themeatic material, ENTERING MIKE is a martial sounding piece which is probably very tongue in cheek considering the subject matter of the film, timpani and percussion, fuse with brass, woods and strings to fashion an addictive sound that is dramatic but at the same time has to it a comic air, very similar to what Bernstein achieved in movies such as SPIES LIKE US. The serious sounding strings and percussion being lightened using perky and mischievous sounding woods; however, the foundation of the cue remains martial sounding and purveys a mood and atmosphere that is urgent.

 

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Track number two, MR TEESMAN is slightly more downbeat, and contains a moreover melodic air initially. The composer employing strings that are underlined and punctuated by subtle harp support to convey a mysterious yet melodious persona, which concludes rapidly via the introduction of a crescendo of brass. Track three SPIES is an entertaining piece, short lived but effective the composer utilises a dark and ominous sounding piano, which is laced with vibes and edgy pizzicato, this attention-grabbing combination introduces the cue before it erupts into brief action mode which is performed by brass and percussion. The remainder of the score is as entertaining if not more so, with clever use of strings and woodwind throughout, it is a score that I know I will return to and I also think that on each re-visiting I will find new and fresh sounds and styles. It is an inventive and vibrant work that I recommend you sample as soon as possible, the movie which I have not yet seen also sounds very interesting, so, check out this score and try and catch the movie on Amazon. The score will be available on I tunes, Spotify etc very soon. My thanks to the composer for allowing me to hear his work.

US.

US

A score that did attract my attention recently is from the new chiller US, which has an interesting and innovative soundtrack supplied by composer Michael Abels, (GET OUT). The score for me has got to be the most un-nerving and at the same time most alluring in recent years and one I seemed to be compelled to revisit at any opportunity. It has the effect like when you know something is going to scare you or horrify you and you know only too well that you should not look but guess what you do. Well US, the score is cut from the same cloth, because I know it’s going to unsettle me but hey, I will just take a little sneak listen, then a minute or two later off come the headphones and Ok, lets listen to something else shall we(he says reaching for the CD of MARY POPPINS). So, US, is at the top of my dare you to listen to this on headphones and alone and if you are brave after dark. It’s a malevolent sound that the composer has created, spidery, dark, sinister and at times grating slightly chaotic and strangely attractive. I love the composer’s deployment of choir, which at times is Morricone/Elfman-esque and his utilisation of solo violin and delicate sounding piano in a handful of the cues, which although calming conjures up an underlying musical presence that is less than welcoming and re-assuring. When the violin is combined with choral work it has to it a style and sound that can be likened to that of composer Elliot Goldenthal, a style that is apparent in his magnificent score for INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, if I am to attempt a comparison this is probably the only example I can think of. In fact, the choir that is utilised throughout, kind of has a retro sound, as if it has been lifted from a vintage horror, like ROSEMARYS BABY or DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES both by the legendary Christophe Komeda. The subdued voices which are times childlike therefore even more disturbing are effective within the context of the movie, but  also are wonderful entertainment value away from the images, the choral work being an affecting component of the score and also being memorable and unsettling when listening to the music removed from the movie. I do think it is probably the voices within the score that create the unworldly sound and purvey an aura or atmosphere that is filled with dread and fear, these vocals are supported, underlined and punctuated by cleverly placed sounds and musical sounds creating the perfect persona for the mood of the movie and giving every scenario within it a deeper sense of tension and dismay.

usa

 

The music is highly innovative and has to it a hypnotic and mesmeric style and sound. Listen to BATTLE PLAN and like me I know you will be suitably impressed, driving strings act as a background to choir in this short but superbly effective piece. Plus, the track PAS DE DUEX is a delight to hear with wonderfully rhythmic strident strings that are interspersed with pizzicato effects and underpinned with synthetic stabs. The composer also makes inventive use of the hook from the song I GOT FIVE ON IT by the Luniz which features as the end cue on the recording and incorporates the three note motif into the cue, The version on certain sites is different from the CD release, with the download versions omitting three vocals which are used on the soundtrack.   This is one soundtrack you cannot miss, a must have work, have you ordered it?