THE MOVIE MUSIC INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AWARDS 2020.
*Please note there are some titles within this listing that were released in the closing weeks of 2019. But they were not more widely distributed until the early months of 2020. Therefore, we decided to include these because of the quality of the work.
As always these are recognition awards no ceremonies or certificates at the moment, just a nod of appreciation to the composer, presenters and authors responsible. There are also five new categories, label of the year for vinyl releases, best UK based radio station film music show, best individual track from a film score, best printed publication for film and including film music, and best book on film music or a specific composer.
BREAK-OUT COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
THIS YEAR WE HAVE TWO COMPOSERS WHO WE THINK ARE WORTHY OF RECOGNITION.
THOMAS CLAY. Fanny Lye Deliver’d.
SID DE LA CRUZ. Hell on the Border.*
BEST TV SCORE.
UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC. TOM HOWE. Disney.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE.
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D. THOMAS CLAY.
BEST HORROR SCORE.
BAD HAIR. KRIS BOWERS.
BEST SCORE FOR A COMEDY.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD.
BEST SCI-FI SCORE.
PROXIMITY JERMAINE STEGALL.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SCORE.
APERFECT PLANET. ILAN ESHKERI.
BEST SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE.
FEARLESS. ANNE- KATHRIN DERN
BEST SCORE FOR AN ACTION/THRILLER/DRAMA.
*HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (CD AND DOWNLOADS).
DRAGONS DOMAIN. U.S.A.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (VINYL).
FOUR FLIES RECORDS. ITALY.
BEST RE-ISSUE OF A FILM SCORE.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. ENNIO MORRICONE. LA LA LAND records U.S.A.
BEST RE-RECORDING OF A FILM SCORE.
ENDLESS NIGHT. BERNARD HERRMANN. Quartet Records.
RECOGNITION AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE ART OF FILM AND TV MUSIC.
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
BEST INDIVIDUAL TRACK FROM A FILM SCORE.
*HORSE CHASE. FROM HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
BEST ONLINE SOUNDTRACK SPECIALIST RADIO STATION.
CINEMATIC SOUND RADIO NETWORK. Erik Woods and co.
BEST U.K. BASED RADIO STATION FILM MUSIC SHOW.
MARK KERMODE. SCALA RADIO. (SKY O216).
BEST BOOK ON FILM MUSIC OR A SPECIFIC COMPOSER.
ENNIO MORRICONE-MASTER OF THE SOUNDTRACK. Maurizio Baroni. (Gingko press).
BEST PRINTED PUBLICATION FOR FILMS THAT HAS ARTICLES THAT INCLUDE FILM MUSIC.
WE BELONG DEAD. Eric McNaughton. U.K.
The year has been a tough one, but through it all composers, producers and directors still managed to create memorable movies, tantalising TV shows, incredible books and eye catching and interesting magazines and so many powerful musical soundtracks. Heres to 2021 and better times. Thank you for your support throughout the years.
Welcome to soundtrack supplement thirty-three. Once again, we have a mixed and full bag of titles to tell you about, hopefully we will be able to guide you some new additions or at least make you aware of them, as always, it’s a varied batch of titles which take in old, new, well known and obscure. I am going to begin with the soundtrack from a TV series. A Discovery of Witches has caused more than a ripple of interest, the series now in its third season becoming essential viewing for many but saying this it has also failed to inspire just as many viewers. I think one should give it a chance and also explore as many new things on TV as possible, I for one am enjoying the series and am savouring the musical score or scores for each episode.
Rob Lane is the composer, and has provided the series with a supportive, dark, and atmospheric sound that is filled with intrigue and mystery and oozes an uneasy and edgy persona. You may remember the composer from the series Merlin, for which he provided some magnificent music. Lane although working for small screen productions has never been a small-scale composer, as in he produces epic sounding music that is more like a full-blown sore for a feature film rather than for an episodic series. In fact, his approach is remarkably similar to that of the young James Horner, who always composed large scale scores for films that did not have the budget for them. By doing this it often attracts attention thus also making audiences, filmmakers etc aware of the composer or at least being interested in finding out who they are. I suppose A Discovery of Witches cannot be called an epic work, but nevertheless it does have to it a haunting and attractive sound and style, the composer fashioning several themes and variations of those themes for central characters and scenarios that unfold within the series. As I keep saying TV music has come a long way in the past two decades, and its not all about a catchy theme anymore, there are far more important things such as the actual score working or becoming something that can be listened to away from the images, in fact TV scoring is now probably more high profile than feature film music, because of the current situation with this pandemic, many are turning more and more to the small screen or 265 inch screen in the corner with full cinema sound and Dolby surround for their filmic or cinematic fix. And why not, needs must as they say. Lane’s scores for this particular series are at times melodic but more often than not contain a tense and visceral persona, purveying at times a nervous atmosphere and darker moods.
But we do get glimpses of melodious and thematic passages that seem to rise from nowhere as in Separation brings the Witch-Rain, in which the composer deploys strings and organ giving the piece not just a richness but also adding to it a kind of celestial sound complete with voices and brass that bring it to its conclusion. This is a style that also manifests itself within the track Joined Together. Often there is a folk style retained throughout the series musically, with the composer employing solo violin etc to create a brooding but at the same time tuneful soundtrack. I recommend that you take a listen and maybe if you can re-visit the soundtracks from season one and two of the programme.
From Witches and various mystical goings on to, the new Netflix production Bridgerton, which has music by a composer who I know we will hear more from in the coming years, Kris Bowers. His work on projects such as Mrs America, Bad Hair, Dear White Peopleand When they see us, have already placed him firmly in the eye of collectors of TV and movie music around the world and he like fellow composers, Michael Abels, Jermaine Stegall and Jongnic Bontemps are paving the way to an exciting and new approach to scoring movies. Bridgerton, is a charming score filled with an abundance of themes and haunting musical pieces. There is obviously a style and sound that is automatically associated with the period in which this drama is set, but there is also an underlying style that is of a slightly more contemporary persuasion. The composer utilises strings, solo piano, and wistful woods to convey the atmosphere of the score, underlining and supporting every moment of the drama as it unfolds. This for me is a listening fest filled with gorgeous thematic material and inventive and haunting compositions, overflowing with romantically laced passages that enthral and mesmerise. I recommend you take a dip into the musical delights of Bridgerton. Staying with Netflix and another score from another series which they are airing, it seems that we will all soon be forsaking the cinema and the actual TV as in BBC and ITV to make Netflix our staple channel and others like it where we get our entertainment. Lupin is a French series, which is a more contemporary incarnation of Arsene Lupin, I have to admit to not catching up with it as yet, but the music by composer Mathieu Lamboley certainly makes me want to sit down and watch the series right here and now, the score is dark and mysterious but also has within it a romantic feel in places, this is an accomplished score as in sitting listening to it without images.
It’s a soundtrack that one finds intriguing and also when it ends one wants more of its darkness its brooding and fraught atmosphere etc, I have to admit to loving material such as this, ok I also love romantic and grandiose scores, but this is I suppose grand and affecting in a different way, the tension that the music purveys is phenomenal. However, its not all dark and tense as the score also includes a handful of lilting and wonderfully eloquent themes, driving strings that are laced with piano and what sounds like a cymbalom but I don’t think it is really catch ones attention especially in the cue Gentlemen, which for me evokes the style of both John Barry and Ennio Morricone, it has the smoky or steamy atmosphere as created by Barry when in spy mode and also the strings and female voice that could be Morricone, it’s a score that you will I know like and also one that you will, trust me return to on many occasions. Recommended.
Back to 2020 for the next releases and the soundtrack to the French Tv movie Avis De Tempete or Storm Warning, this crime thriller was aired back in the September of 2020 and contains music by actor and composer Fabien Cahen, the plot revolves around a terrible storm that hits land just as a ten-year-old boy goes missing, as one can imagine this is a rather tense affair, and the score reflects the films storyline supporting and underlining all aspects of it. It is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with the synthetic having the upper hand or greater share of the work. Do not however let this put you off at least having a listen to the score as there are some great moments in which the composer expands and develops his thematic ideas, that include comedic sounding passages and a hint of romantically laced nuances etc, in many ways for me it evoked a style that maybe Phillipe Sarde employed in certain scores, as in it is varied and innovative. It has to it an almost jagged sound in places, but it’s not in any way harsh or grating, available on digital platforms, so it is certainly worth a listen through.
Cobra Kai is a Netflix series of thirty-two episodes that basically carries on where Karate Kid finished, with a middle-aged Daniel Russo coming u against his old rival from 1984 Johnny Lawrence. The score is great stuff, its upbeat filled with action led cues and has to it a Bill Conti vibe with symphonic and synthetic elements fusing together and creating a powerhouse of a score that is entertaining and addictive, plus there, are some beautiful rich Oriental influenced cues as in Return to Okinawa, that is emotive and affecting. Hats off to Netflix for the series and for the score by Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson. Again, on Spotify etc, go check it out. Highly recommended.
La Stanza is an interesting score, and the movie too is thought provoking for a horror /mystery. The central character Stella decides that she is going to commit suicide, but on the morning, she decides this must be done a stranger calls on her telling her he has booked the guest room. She is not sure who he is but allows him into her home, as initially feels he knows her well and is comfortable with his company, But, when her ex, Sandro joins them at the house the situation which is already strange to say the least becomes more chaotic and perplexing. The music is very atmospheric and supportive of the story line, composer Giorgi Giampa relies upon sinewy strings, inventive percussion and half heard sounds to create a mood that is thick with nervous and tense atmospherics. Again, this is something I do like in a score, the composer inventing new sounds via instruments that we already know but take on another role and sound different when utilised in a different fashion. The orchestrations are accomplished, and the music is an integral part of the storyline, it is a commanding yet stressful listen because it builds and builds layers of raw taut energy at times reaching the point of what we think is no return, but then suddenly pulls back leaving the listener wanting more and breathless. Recommended whilst taking a listen why not check out more from the composer his score for Mi ChiamoMaya from 2015 is certainly worth checking out.
To Gerard is in a word charming, and that’s the animated short and the music composed for this Dream works film by Layla Minoui, the music is sweet, melancholy and totally absorbing. I would say that it evokes the style of Debney, Broughton and Giacchino, it has to it the qualities of Up, the melancholy of The Boy Who Could Fly and the thematic richness of anyone of Debney’s more family orientated movie scores. Ok its not a grandiose or powerful as in action themed score but it is an uplifting and rewarding listen. Why not give it a go, go on, do it To Gerard.
Alexander Bornstein is a composer I first discovered via his stunning music for First to the Moon, well he is back with a pulsating and no hold barred soundtrack to Anime series Transformers,War of Cybertron:Earthrise. This a non-stop fest of hard-edged action cues but saying that there are still good themes and inventive writing here. You can be certain of one thing when listening to this release you won’t get bored, it just gets better and better as it progresses, symphonic and electronics combine and fuse seamlessly to fashion driving and exciting compositions. Available on digital platforms.
Don’t forget also that the music for the latest Dr Who special Revolution of the Daleks which was screened on the BBC on New Year’s Day is now available, on digital sites and soon on compact disc via Silva Screen. Once again composer Segun Akinola has gifted us a resounding and totally absorbing musical score. This is a work that has to it an epic feel and style, many were sceptical about the choice of composer for the show, but I think I for one am convinced it was the right selection, and although I am a massive fan of Murray Gold, but Akinola has again acquitted himself admirably.
Other new releases in recent weeks include Fireball Xl5 from Silva screen and a handful of scores such as Rooster Cogburn by Laurence Rosenthal who is such an underatted composer. Also, Spanish label Quartet records have issued a handful of great releases,
A Bridge Too Far for example and an excellent re-recording of the score Endless Night by Bernard Herrmann. The vinyl market too expands it seems daily with labels such as Four Flies, Sonor, and others keeping up the high-quality releases, of soundtracks and other genres of music from Italy. The only problem these days is the vinyl releases are selling out fast and I mean in the blink of an eye, so it’s a good thing that some are also issued onto Compact Disc.
Sonor issued a trio of Alessandroni albums, one being the score for the erotic thriller La Professoressa di ScienzeNaturali (1976) which contains some haunting lounge sounding cues and also a handful of jazz flavoured compositions, it’s a score I recommend as it is typical of the sound and style of Italian and French film music from that period.
Ennio Morricone’s I Due Evasi Di Sing Sing, also gets a release and is most welcome and surprisingly is on Spotify too.
On the subject of Morricone and digital platforms a number of his scores have appeared on these sites, which have not been available before now for streaming, Correva di anno di Grazie 1870 from 1972, L’Automobile and 1943 Una, both from 1971 for example.
And there is also an expanded (20 tracks) Incontro there to enjoy, I think this is one of the composers most attractive and haunting soundtracks and have loved it since buying the CAM records 9 track LP and subsequent CD release many years ago. I also notice that at last The Sicilian Clan has been added to Spotify, (its about time) sadly no extras on this one, as I think that this is really the entire score that runs over eleven cues, as each incarnation of the soundtrack whether it be LP or CD and now streaming/digital is the same content.
I have to say that I do enjoy the more obscure releases that Italian labels put out and am liking several releases of the music of composer Giuliano Sorgini, one such recording is the composers atmospheric score for the 1975 occult horror, Un Urlo Dalle Tenebre, which is filled with unsettling sounds and gruesome effects including some affecting vocals from Edda dell Orso. This is only on vinyl at the moment and is in many ways like the score The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, but in my opinion is a more enjoyable work. Having more actual thematic music as opposed to effects and chilling screams and whispers.
Certainly, one to add to the collection if you can get a copy that is. Also check out Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score for the 1975 movie La Amica di mia Madre which is brilliant, this is an LP release but is also available on digital platforms such as Spotify. It is overflowing with lilting and effecting compositions that have to them a jazz and easy listening style and are also influenced by Brazilian and other South American musical flavours such as sambas, that are laced with strikingly delicious disco strings and tropical sounding passages. It’s a score that one listens to and then straight away returns to, a must have.
There were a series of animated shorts on over Christmas on the BBC, Zog, went on various adventures and these included a handful of characters that he met along the way as it were. The music for every one of these animated adventures was courtesy of composer Rene Aubry, who wrote some charming music to accompany the friendly dragon in these films. The composer also scored The Highway Rat which was also aired over the Christmas fortnight. Most of the films in the series were about 30 mins in duration but the music was almost continuous and it certainly worth a listen.
So, from new releases to something a little more seasoned. Cast your minds back to the 1960.s that was such a great decade for movies and film music, but it was also a great time for music in general. The score I am going to talk about has as far as I am aware not been given an official compact disc release, the music was issued on a Stateside LP record in the UK and the ABC label in the United States.
It is a score and a movie that I have always felt has been undervalued. There was a bootleg compact disc which was released in Germany during the late 1990’s but it was among a few titles that were welcomed but also not given the coverage because of their dubious legitimacy. Custer of the West (1967) was issued on compact disc on the Gema recording label and paired with another western score El Dorado by Nelson Riddle. Brazilian born composer Bernardo Segall wrote a quite complex score in places and the battle scene in-particular is a shining example of movie music from this decade. The composer also integrated songs and more traditional sounding western film music into his score, including a rousing march.
It’s a score that I have always admired and the art-work for the LP cover is stunning. It is also an LP I have still to this day and will never part with. The film too I thought was good, however saying that I have not seen it for a while, Robert Shaw portrayed Custer and I know at times his performance was a little OTT, but other than that I enjoyed the movie and the battle at the end of the film was done well. The music does contain a lot of action material, but the composer also scores the end scene of the movie with sensitivity employing a melancholy sounding solo piano as the camera pans across the field of battle to show the audience the 7th cavalry massacred a lone horse standing amongst them. Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Segall, this is a brassy and string led affair with support from percussion and timpani that emphasize the martial leaning of the work.
I think an official release onto compact disc of this soundtrack is way overdue, and yes, I do realise that it is a short score, but I am sure that the tapes still exist and there could be extra’s available, who knows? The battle music has a duration of just over three minutes and is I have to say well suited to the scenes on screen. Driving strings are embellished by horns and other brass which together create a powerful piece. Segall worked only on a handful of films and TV projects, these included The Fisherman and his Soul, The Jesus Trip, Moon of the Wolf, aswell scoring episodes of Columbo ie: Identity Crisis in 1975which starred Patrick McGoohan and Airwolf for American TV. He was not only a talented composer but a highly respected and gifted concert pianist.
Back to more recent releases now, well about 20 years ago plus in fact and to a film which was fairly-popular but did not break the box office in any way. It is my opinion that one of the best versions of the Cinderella story or at least elements of it, was the movie Ever After (1998). Directed by Andy Tennant, it was certainly different from most other incarnations of the tale and had a slightly more believable atmosphere to it. I think it is an enchanting and a down to earth slant on the story, and I for one love the way it is photographed and scripted, it also had some amazing costume design and a wonderfully subtle and alluring score by British composer George Fenton. The composer’s music gave the movie so much depth and emotion, it added comedic and romantic moods and had to it a regal and luxurious quality. The central theme or love theme itself is a touching and delicate piece, the simple but affecting composition purveys fragility and a real sense of melancholy, yet it remains hopeful that true love will finally shine through.
Fenton also wove into his score music that was suitably captivating and fragile with a deep emotional and delicate persona, the ever so light and beautiful central theme acting as a foundation for the score, the composer presenting it in various guises and giving it a freshness and vitality via his re-working of orchestration throughout and in turn building the remainder of his work upon it. It was written at a time when Fenton was a much in demand talent within the world of film music, and it seemed that one would see a new score by the composer almost every week. A traditional symphonic work, that boasted romantic strings and adventurous sounding brass, with proud and vibrant thematic qualities, that add colour and texture to the storyline in a similar way that an artist adds colour to a blank canvas. It is a heartrending and heart-warming tale with Fenton’s music mirroring and enhancing the emotions that are displayed within the movie’s storyline.
The film is literally awash with a musical excellence and overflows with a rich and rapturous score that ingratiates and supports every frame and scene. In short this is one of Fenton’s most accomplished scores for film. Amidst its romanticism, drama, and grand musical persona there is a poignant and emotive work present. The composer’s sensitivity for the subject matter created so much romantic atmosphere especially within the scenes between Danielle/Nicole/Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) which were made even more tender and convincing by the composers delightfully subtle and impassioned soundtrack. This is a must have for your collection.
So now we head back to the current releases, and again TV features large, The Serpent is something that is essential viewing, and the musical score by composer Dominik Scherrer is as outstanding as the production itself. A mostly synthetic work as in electronic, but it does contain a scattering of conventional instrumentation, although it is largely action paced and a brooding sounding score in places it remains thematic rather than just an underlying soundscape, the composers score works superbly with the tense plot that is unfolding on screen, the score is an important and also an integral part of the production as without the score I am of the opinion that the tension would have been lessened, the music heightens and elevates each scene and also underlines, gives depth and adds an ethnic setting as well as supporting the proceedings. Take a listen to track number ten, Searching Apartment 504, its tension personified, with organ and supporting strings that ooze nervous and affecting layers, and also track number eleven, Homicidal Umbermensch, with its heart-beat tempo that increases as the remainder of the instrumentation is added.
This is. a clever score and certainly innovative and inventive but there again so was the composers work on Ripper Street a few years back.Even though one is aware that there is music there whilst watching the production it is not to the point that the music either distracts or overwhelms the action and storyline. I enjoyed listening to the score away from the film and I am certain you will also. Catch the series too, it is riveting.
I end with two compilations, the first is The Music of Gerald Fried Volume 1, which comprises of two scores by the composer and released by the ever-industrious Dragons Domain records, both scores are from the 1970’s. Cruise into Terror is from the 1978 TV production and Survive is taken from the Mexican feature film released two years earlier. Which was revisited a few years later and filmed again being released as Alive.
Both scores are somewhat typical of the style that the composer employs, both are interesting and worthy additions to any soundtrack collection. In fact, I would go as far as to say that maybe your collection would be rather lacking without these two little gems.
The second compilation is again a Dragons Domain release, The Golden Age of Science Fiction Volume 1, for me is probably more interesting than the Fried compilation, because it includes music by Leith Stevens in the form of his score for the 1956 movie World Without End and from 1958 The Queen of Outer Space with a score by Marlin Skiles. I must admit to only hearing one other score by the latter composer which is from The Shepherd of the Hills (1964). So, it’s good to have another score from this composer in my collection. As we all know Dragons Domain releases are always well done and these two latest additions to their growing catalogue are no exception,
I would also like to recommend The Sorceress, another release from Dragons Domain, this time digital only. The movie is a low budget horror from 1995, directed by Jim Wynorski and starring amongst others Linda Blair. The atmospheric soundtrack which at times throws a nod of acknowledgement to the style of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann is the work of the incredibly talented composer and filmmaker Chuck Cirino who enlists the ominous sound of a meandering piano solo and female wordless vocals throughout his haunting soundtrack and all I will say is please check the score out. Again recommended. See you next time.
The Western film can and does come in many forms and can be produced in the most unlikely countries and locations. For example, Turkish filmmakers made several so-called westerns as did the Greek film industry and there were the red westerns, even the British invaded the genre and at times produced memorable examples that aspired to the heights of and rivalled Hollywood productions.
Spain too was industrious in this genre with movies such as A Town Called Bastard or Hell depending where you saw it at the cinema, Paella westerns as they were nicknamed were probably the closest to the Italian or spaghetti, pasta, macaroni westerns that were to become so popular and ended up being revered rather than ridiculed, it is a genre that is still today well known throughout the generations.
Then there were the offbeat productions such as El Topo (1971), and the so called first electric western Zachariah from the same year, which has to be seen to be believed and had a score that was said to blow your mind by the likes of Jimmie Haskell, John Rubinstein, Michael Kamen and Mark Snow.
In the early 1970’s there were a number of movies that focused upon the native American Indian, most if not all being supposedly based upon true events, some were, others were questionable, however Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse and its sequels The Return of a Man Called Horse, The Triumph of a Man Called Horse, and the much publicised and hyped Ralph Nelson movie Soldier Blue, are what could be called or labelled prime examples of Native American Indians movies, the latter probably being the most notorious because of the final half an hour of the movie.
Back in the early days films such as They Died with Their Boots On, and other such glory movies depicted the red skins as savages and the white man as the hero of the day, the native American Indian was made to look a brutal and unforgiving race and depicted as a dumb character that would sell his soul for some of that firewater and a repeating action rifle to murder just women and children and runaway when the heroic cavalry came over the hill in their smart blue uniforms blowing the bugle and waving the flag. Totally untrue, it was the white man who invaded the lands of various tribes as in Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Apache. The natural thing to do is protect the homeland we as a global population and as humans instinctively do this, so why was it wrong for the Native American Indian to go down the same path? Well because the white man said it was and because the white man wanted those lands to plunder, something that we are still doing in recent years. Films pre-1970.s were primitive in this respect, with Natives of the prairies and plains being shown in a poor light.
Yes, there were probably some tribes or individuals amongst the Native American nations that had in mind to kill the white man, but it was to protect their people and their way of life and also in most cases in retaliation for what the white man had already done to them. It was probably not until 1964, in film and with the release of John Fords Cheyenne Autumn that things and attitudes began to alter slightly.
Anyway, I digress slightly, so back to the 1970’s when things began to look a little better in the way in which Indians were purveyed. I Will Fight No More Forever, is a thought-provoking example which was made for TV. Billy Jack and The Trial of Billy Jack set in modern day scenarios too could be included within this more aware collection of movies, and going beyond the 1970’s there are numerous other movies that explored and based their stories on various Native American tribes and tales both fictitious and true.
Probably the most well-known motion picture in recent years to highlight the way of the Native American Indian is the epic directed by Kevin Costner Dances with Wolves (1991) which had it seems a profound effect upon audiences and upon the genre of the western, some say reviving it once again to audiences after its popularity had again slumped somewhat.
The musical score is one that is held in high esteem by collectors and critics, and it was not necessarily a western sounding work. John Barry’s eloquent and theme laden soundtrack played a major part in setting the mood and creating atmospheres for the movie and won the composer an Oscar for best original score.
Four years after Dances with Wolves came the lesser known but interesting The Last of the Dogmen, I suppose some would be tempted to argue that this is not a western in the true sense because of its contemporary setting and also the lack of gunslingers, shootouts in the street and saloon bars filled with cowboys, it did however retain something of an old west feel because of the native American community that was discovered hidden away in the forests and countryside, that knew very little of the modern-day life outside of their own environment.
The lost civilisation theme and the reluctance of the central character a twentieth century bounty hunter portrayed by Tom Berenger to comply to the ways of modern-day society made it an even more compelling story. We had seen this type of non-conformation to changing society in films such as The Wild Bunch with many of the central figures in that picture not wanting to leave the old ways behind and not being comfortable with more modern elements that were creeping into everyday life.
The Last of the Dogmen although being totally fictitious and bordering on fantasy for want of a better description, contained some interesting points and it was a movie that was affecting and one that became a firm favourite with many, when the movie started one thought this is ridiculous, but as it progressed and the story unfolded, those thoughts evaporated as one became more in tune with the ways of the American Natives that were involved, could this happen? Well, who knows? But the movie and its characters planted a seed in watching audience’s brains, and maybe they secretly hoped that it was something that could come to fruition, if only for the romanticism and the escapism aspects attached to it. Its again one of those movies where the audience are really on the side of the Native Americans, and the whites, in the form of on this occasion the law are despised for what they are doing.
The musical score is by David Arnold, who also scored Stargate in the same year, produced a very John Barry-esque opening theme for the movie. The score too in places it has to it those John Barry trademark sounds and evokes the composers work on Dances with Wolves, it also however contains a sound that can be identified with composer Trevor Jones, which manifests itself in some of the action cues and is somewhat reminiscent of Jones’s score for the Sly Stallone action thriller, Cliffhanger (1993). This maybe is due to the way in which the score was orchestrated. Arnolds lush and romantic theme becomes the core of the work, the composer returning to it in varying forms throughout. It oozes a richness and has a highly romantic and adventurous persona. This central theme is the foundation for the remainder of the work, it is haunting, emotive and at times harkens back to the days of the golden age of film music, filled with melancholy that is fully explored by the string section underlined and supported by the use of faraway sounding horns, the strings adding heroic and romantic notions to the proceedings and the faraway horns adding depth and creating an atmosphere that depicts and enhances the beauty and the harshness of the location.
Before returning to the 1970’s maybe a look at a Walt Disney movie which also had at its centre the Sioux Indians or at least one of them a young brave called White Bull played by Sal Mineo, who was probably an odd choice to play a native American Indian, because of his Italian/American roots, however he turned in a credible if not slightly sugary performance in the movie Tonka or A Horse called Comanche. Which I think led to him being cast in Cheyenne Autumn six years later. The movie was released in 1958, and although had a low budget was an entertaining piece of cinema which was typically Disney in that was something that all the family could sit and enjoy.
It involved a young brave (Mineo) who to prove his worth captures and tames a wild horse, only to have his older cousin take the horse away from him, the cousin beats the horse but White Bull releases it back to the prairies only to be captured again and sold to the 7thCavalry and given to non-other than General Custer. The story takes place at the time of the Sioux Indian wars and comes to its conclusion at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where Comanche or Tonka is the only survivor of the massacre. It is a rather far-fetched storyline but one that does command attention throughout. The musical score by Disney favourite Oliver Wallace, is serviceable and in my opinion works well within the movie. Although the composer is mainly associated with a studio that is considered American through and through as in Disney, Wallace was born in London, England on August 6th, 1887 and at the age of seventeen had already completed his musical training and it was in 1904 he decided to go to America, where he worked and lived for a decade before becoming an American citizen.
Wallace began his musical career in the theatre, and worked mainly in Seattle, as a conductor and then as an organist accompanying silent movies. Whilst doing this and gaining experience Wallace began to write songs and soon became known for his lyrics and accompanying music. In the 1930.s with the introduction of Talkies, Wallace began to work in Hollywood, and in the early part of 1936 he started to work for Disney studios. At first, he was given small assignments for shorts which were animated pictures, but it was not long before Disney noticed and appreciated his versatility both as a composer of scores for films and as a lyricist. His output in scoring short-animated films was at times unbelievable and he was said to have written the music for at least one hundred and thirty of these for the studio, his most famous being for the 1942 Donald Duck short, Der Fuehers Face which was a propaganda cartoon. Wallace was also assigned to full length features such as Dumbo and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his music becoming as iconic and timeless as the movies themselves.
It was Wallace who also provided the April Showers cue for Bambi which too has gone down in film music history as a classic. In the same year as he scored Tonka, Wallace received four Oscar Nominations one of which was for the music to a documentary White Wilderness, which was unheard of at that time. But each time he lost out. Over a period of twenty-seven years, Wallace worked on over one hundred and fifty productions for Disney and created the soundtrack of many children’s lives via his infectious lyrics and delightful melodies. He passed away on September 15th, 1963.
As promised, we now return to the 1970’s and firstly to the incredibly entertaining Little Big Man, which had a cast that was notable to say the least, with Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam and the excellent Chief Dan George. Directed by Arthur Penn, (Bonnie and Clyde) the film was released on the 23rd of December 1970 in the United States. It opens with the one hundred- and twenty-one-year-old character Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) telling his story to a reporter, and the film is essentially his life story opening with the ten-year-old and his sister surviving an attack on their wagon train by Pawnee’s. They manage to hide away and escape the carnage in which they see their parents murdered, and are then found by the Cheyenne, who take them both in and raise them. The film takes the audience through the many adventures of Crabb being raised by Indians, and then returning to the world of the white man, after a fight with cavalry soldiers in which the Cheyenne are sent packing Crabb is captured and then taken in by the soldiers because they realise he is a white man, after this he is given into the care of the reverend Pendrake played by Thayer David and his wayward wife (Dunaway) who becomes Crabb’s Stepmother, tutor and temptress. After this Crabb meets Mr Merriweather, played by Martin Balsam.
Throughout the movie Crabb goes through various phases and stages one being that of a gunfighter, which is hilarious in places Hoffman turning in a magnificent performance as the soda pop kid, he meets and befriends Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Corey) and is bounced back and forth between the world of the Native American Indian and the whites and ends up becoming a scout (Mule skinner) for General Custer, advising the deranged General played convincingly by Richard Mulligan (Bert in the tv comedy Soap) to go into the valley to face the Cheyenne and other tribes that are gathered there with the sole intention of killing him and his soldiers. Hoffman’s character says to the General “You go down there General”, Which Custer thinks is Crabb trying to convince him not to go into the valley as a kind of reverse psychology.
Crabb being raised as a Cheyenne married a girl from the tribe and is besotted with her, but she is killed by Custer when he orders an attack on the Cheyenne village. A village that is inhabited by women and children as the braves are off hunting or scouting.
The massacre is done in a similar way to that of the one depicted in the movie Soldier Blue alsofrom 1970, but even though it was shocking it was not as graphic as the Ralph Nelson directed movie. We do however see a blood lusting General Custer urging his soldiers to basically kill every living thing in the village. Which is something that would haunt Crabb who does try to take his revenge but is thwarted until later in the movie.
Jack and his adopted grandfather escape the carnage of the crazed and frenzied village massacre, because Crabb convinces his Grandfather that they are invisible to the soldiers because of a dream that the blind grandfather had. Crabb later becomes a scout for the 7th Cavalry and in the closing stages of the movie eventually leads the bluecoats and their power-crazy leader into the deadly massacre at Little Big Horn or Battle of the Greasy Grass as it was known by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes.
Crabb himself is wounded by Cheyenne arrows and then almost killed by Custer who is his crazed state during the massacre decides that Crabb is the president and is drunk, just as Custer is about to pull the trigger, he himself is killed by two arrows from a Cheyenne brave, who then proceeds to knock Crabb unconscious and cover him in a blanket and carry him away from the battle. The movie contains both amusing and the dark elements of old west folklore, sometimes the historical correctness being a little sketchy, but it does have a powerful message regarding the cruel and relentless genocide carried out by the glorious U.S. army during this period. The battle scene at The Little Big Horn is obviously violent, but at the same time there is humour, with Custer becoming more and more psychotic as he realises that they are being wiped out and telling his troops that they are, whilst blaming everyone else for his mistake.
It remains to this day an entertaining piece of cinema and I think deserves the iconic or classic status/label that some do already refer to it as having when discussing the movie. It is a compelling and tragic story that many think of as the first neo-revisionist western. Hoffman may have seemed a little out of place and akward at times in the role of Jack Crabb, but maybe that is why the film and his performance were popular amongst audiences, with Chief Dan George also giving a magnificently memorable performance as Jack’s adopted Grandfather Old Lodge Skins. .
The film had a screenplay that was based on the novel by Thomas Berger and at times is a satire on the old American west having many comedic moments that are pure gold. In my humble opinion Little Big Man is a far superior movie to Soldier Blue, but there again these are two quite different movies that encompass similar themes. Little Big Man being the more polished of the two, because it succeeds in making a strong statement about the treatment of Native American Indians, but because the movie is so enjoyable this is something that audiences possibly will not realise until they have left the theatre or stopped watching the movie on DVD etc. It is then and only then that the images, events, and the words begin to come back to haunt them and the message and the true-life events hit home.
The musical score was written by John Hammond, or John P Hammond as he was sometimes known, he was the son of the well-known record producer John H. Hammond who was responsible for discovering the talents of Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin. John P Hammond is probably better known for his guitar playing and performing with artists such as John Lee Hooker, Tom Watts and Charlie Musselwhite. Hammond was born on November 13th1942, in Grand Rapids Michigan, he is sometimes referred to as John Hammond Jnr. Although acclaimed by critics Hammond has not seen great commercial success but remains in the forefront of music to this day. The soundtrack from Little Big Man was released in 1971 on the Columbia record label in the U.S.A.
One could probably not look at 1970’s Native American movies without referring to A Man Called Horse (1970) and its two sequels, although it is probably true to state that the original move was the best in the trilogy, all three movies starred Richard Harris, but the first two like Little Big Man explored the ways of the Native American Indian to great depths. Harris’s character John Morgan is a British aristocrat who is captured and held prisoner by Sioux tribesman, who kill everyone else in his party. He is treated as a slave and called Horse because he is expected to work all day every day.
But eventually Morgan begins to understand the ways of the Sioux and they also start to accept him into the tribe as one of their own. He endures the agonising pain of the Sun Vow which is an initiation ritual where he is suspended on hooks that are placed in his chest to show his resilience, his bravery and dedication to the Chief. The exhaustive research that went into the dances and the songs of the Sioux nation for the movie is noticeable, with composer Leonard Rosenman’s score also being ethnically correct and never overwhelming or smothering the dialogue or action. The composer fusing Sioux voices at times with symphonic passages, which when combined add drama and support when required.The soundtrack was issued on the Columbia label on LP in the U.S.A. in 1970, and later there were a handful of compact disc re-issues.
It was not until 1976 that the sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse was released. Which saw John Morgan returning to his adopted tribe of Sioux to help them in their fight against extinction. This too was a brilliant movie with Harris again shining in the titular tole. Once again, enduring the trials and tests that the Sioux put him through including a variation of the Sun Vow before the Sioux fully accept him back into the tribe. The music was provided by Laurence Rosenthal, who penned a colourful and exciting soundtrack, which director Irvin Kershner said was the best score to any of his films. Describing it as a small-scale opera, it was this movie that brought George Lucas and Kershner together and ended up with Kershner helming Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back for Lucas because Lucas felt that Kershner’s approach on this sequel was far superior to the original A Man Called Horse movie. I am not sure if I would agree with that, but nonetheless The Return of a Man Called Horse is most definitely a worthy addition to this sub-genre of films.
Triumphs of A Man Called Horse followed in 1983 but failed to have the impact of the first two movies, the score was by French Maestro, Georges Gavarentz, and I think I am correct when I say has never been issued on a recording.
In 1972, Ulzana’s Raid was released, directed by Robert Aldrich, the film tells the story of the Apache renegade Ulzana who leaves the reservation with a band of Apache braves with the sole intent of causing havoc and mayhem. The film starred veteran actor Burt Lancaster who had the year previous starred in Valdez is Coming and Bruce (Willard, The Strawberry Statement) Davidson as a rookie cavalry officer, who is determined to track down the Apaches his way, but eventually must turn to the more experienced Mcintosh (Lancaster) for help and advice. This is a classy western and a gripping tale that is handled well by filmmaker Aldrich, and with Lancaster giving a fine performance.
Music was by Frank De Vol who also scored The Dirty Dozen for Aldrich. The score has recently been released onto compact disc on the Intrada record label.
To 1980 for the next movie Windwalker, which starred Trevor Howard, in the title role. Originally Chief Dan George had been offered the role, but sadly became ill and the Director had very few actors to choose from, Howard may have been a little bit of a curious choice, but the veteran British actor gave a good performance. This is not a high adventure, movie, but is a true and illuminating account of the Native American Indian told via the story of a family. The film which was received well by Native Americans was subtitled because of it being spoken in Cheyenne and Crow apart from the narration.
The film is told in a series of flashbacks, with Howards character Windwalker who is deceased being awoken by the Spirits to take a spiritual journey to the afterlife. The film received limited distribution, but despite this became a popular movie, mostly because of recommendations from people who had managed to see it. It is a well-made motion picture, that was applauded for its stunning cinematography and for the sensitive way in which it depicted Native Americans.
I read that the movie was to be nominated for an Oscar, but because of technicalities regarding it having subtitles the nomination was not allowed. The music for the movie was the work of American composer and arranger Merrill Jenson, born Merrill Boyd Jenson on January 20th 1947, the composer worked on many films and projects for filmmaker Keith Merill who was the director of Windwalker. Jenson provided the film with an effective soundtrack which was supporting without being intrusive. The composer has written the scores for approx.; thirty movies and also has written for the concert hall and composed music for numerous commercials.
One of the common links between the movies I have highlighted is General Custer and the Battle at the Little Big Horn, and another such example was a TV mini-series that was produced in 1991 Son of The Morning Star, was I thought an interesting work, the story is told from two different outlooks on one side Libby Custer (Rossana Arquette) the wife of General Custer (Gary Cole), and on the other Kate Bighead (Buffy Saint Marie). It tells the story of the events that lead up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and gives a faithful account of what happened on the day of the battle.
The film succeeded where others failed because of its approach to the subject because it looked at both sides in the scenario. It looks at events that took place between 1866 and 1876, culminating in the now famous battle and the massacre of the 7th cavalry. The film runs for three hours but this is even far to brief to fully explain what happened in that ten-year period, nevertheless it is probably the best account of the life and times of General Custer and his relationship if that is the correct description with Crazy Horse. The film was directed by Mike Robe, with stunning cinematography and an impress script.
The inspired and driving musical score was by Craig Safan, who was known for a plethora of scores for TV projects and motion pictures, The Last Starfighter being one of his most popular for the big screen and his theme for the TV show Cheers enduring for so many years, still today being instantly recognisable. The soundtrack was issued on Intrada on a 2-disc set. In my humble opinion this is one of the composers best scores, during the battle scenes at the end of the movie the music is continuous and greatly supporting. The movie too is a worthy addition to anyone’s collection. I just hope that a better-quality DVD will be released at some point to highlight the stunning cinematography.
Hopefully. I have covered some of the films that are focused upon the Native American Indian and if I have neglected any my apologies.Other movies that I thought of include Major Dundee, Geronimo, and even a more recent modern dy set movie Wolfen, but then I suppose we could even turn to the Twilight movies which also featured Native American Indians. The list as they say is endless.
Going back a few years for two Italian movies and two scores, both of which I have always thought have been rather neglected even though they are totally beguiling and filled with a plethora of rich romantic and vibrant themes. Both scores are by Allesso Vlad and Claudio Capponi. The first being JANE EYRE from 1996, directed by esteemed filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, which contains a highly emotive and at the same time tragic sounding soundtrack, fully symphonic and totally absorbing this is a work that will entice, mesmerize and envelope any listener. The fragile and delicate themes are touching and beautiful, with strings that swell and brass that underlines, woodwind that adds poignancy and a style and sound present that could be described as a Morricone/Preisner fusion. The melodies are haunting and all consuming, invading not just the listeners head but also making a lasting impression upon their heart and soul. This is a score that evokes the romance of the golden age and purveys an eloquent and affecting style, with an impressive and sound that is an enriching and rewarding listen. There is a gentleness and a subtly to the work that is alluring, it possesses an aura that makes it impossible for any listener not to be transfixed by the lilting nuances and exquisite melodious content. The same can be said of the music for TEA WITH MUSSOLINI which again was directed by Zeffirelli and released in 1999, again the score is by Vlad and Capponi with a further credit to Stephano Arnaldi. This is another score that is delicately beguiling and purveys so many emotions, with the composers colouring and adding texture to the attractive cinematography and engrossing storyline of the movie. The solo piano work on the score is outstanding and affectual. The themes are at times understated but remain effective and haunting. Again there are nods of acknowledgement to the style of Morricone and hints of the romanticism of bygone days as in the movies of the golden age as produced in Hollywood, lush and theme laden this is a work of quality, a score that oozes eloquence and majesty, in short recommended.
From Italian movies to a film that was produced in the States but told of the life of an Argentinian revolutionary. CHE which is the biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who allied himself with Fidel Castro in his struggle against the corrupt Batista regime, eventually resulting in the overthrow of that government and Castro’s taking over of Cuba. The film covers Guevara’s life from when he first landed in Cuba in 1956 to his death in an ambush by government troops in the mountains of Bolivia in 1967. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the movie had a score by Lalo Shcifrin, who provided the movie with a score that was a combination of Latin flavoured compositions and full on symphonic dramatic pieces.
The soundtrack was first issued on a Polydor LP record back in 1969, and has since been issued on a compact disc with a number of extra cues, many of which were not in the movie but have been inspired by the film and Schifrin’s score. There are a nice mix of styles presented on the more recent CD release, but I have to say I still prefer the original LP content. Nevertheless, the CD release is well worth a listen and if you have not heard it you are in for something of a treat, with Schifrin’s extremely dramatic cues standing out throughout. The expanded version with score and songs is available on digital platforms, highlight cues include, CHEORCHESTRAL VERSION, LA RUTA, LA COLUMNA, EMBOSCADO, FIESTA NUMERO DOS, RECURDOS, CHARONGAS and a striking and emotion filled guitar solo of the films main title theme.
I remember buying the LP along with Z by Theodorakis and THE WILD BUNCH by Fielding those were the days. Talking of Jerry Fielding, now here is a composer who I still say is underatted, his Award winning score for THE WILD BUNCH was a milestone in his career, a score which I suppose you could say made him an overnight success, but in reality he had been around a few years before he worked on this ultra-violent western.
The soundtrack for THE WILD BUNCH was precise and affecting, which was displayed perfectly in the memorable opening credits sequence and also in the Assault on the train sequence. The soundtrack was on the Warner Bros seven arts label, when originally issued on LP and then later was released as an expanded edition by Screen Archives, there were also later releases to CD which had the same line up and content of the LP release. Fielding later scored STRAW DOGS which was again for director Sam Peckinpah.
In 1976 Fielding scored THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES another violent western directed by Clint Eastwood and his score is one that can be given the label of being a classic. Originally issued on a Warner Brothers LP record, the score was later released in full onto compact disc. Its rousing central theme for me evoked much of what the composer had begun in THE WILD BUNCH soundtrack, with martial sounding drums and pipes taking the lead, the remainder of the score was very action led, and also had to it a more apprehensive style, with sinewy sounding strings purveying a tense and nervous atmosphere within many of the scenes, the movie itself running for over two hours, and like the score it is now an iconic example of western filmmaking.
Two scores which I have always liked are by composer Dusan Radic, GENGHIS KHAN and THE LONG SHIPS were both adventure epic slanted storylines, one supposedly a historical biog, which did I have to say fall a little flat in the sticking to the true events of the story. However, both were mildly successful at the box office, with the LONG SHIPS being shown regularly today on TV all over the world. The music for both films is epic driven, it is grand and imposing and filled with themes that are stirring and gloriously infectious. Both soundtracks were available on LP record when the movies were in cinemas, GENGHIS KHAN on Liberty and THE LONG SHIPS on Colpix, the latter becoming something of a rarity. Although THELONG SHIPS theme is probably more memorable some saying it rivalled Mario Nascimbene’s VIKINGS theme, but the actual score for the movie was a little lack lustre,
GENGHIS KHAN however was a powerhouse of a soundtrack, fully symphonic with lavish themes and lush and romantic interludes a truly epic sounding work. Both the scores were issued onto compact disc on the same day on bootlegs in Germany alongside THE LAST VALLEY by John Barry. All three had quite good sound quality, but THE LONG SHIPS did suffer in this department. Which was thankfully rectified slightly when it was re-issued legitimately by Film Score Monthly a few years ago. GENGHIS KHAN starred Omar Sharif and Stephen Boyd, and had an impressive cast list that included, James Mason, Woody Strode, Eli Wallach, Michael Hordern, Robert Morley and Francoise Dorleac. Directed by Henry Levin the score was conducted by Muir Mathieson.
Considering the success of Radic’s scores for these two movies, there is very little information about him readily available, we do know that he did work on other film scores but only in Eastern Europe working with director Andrzej Wajda on SIBIRSKA LEDI MAGBET in 1961 and scoring MACAK POD SLJEMOM for film maker Zorz Skrigin in 1962. One year later he composed the score for the German/Yugoslav co-production DIE FLUCHT which told the story of two brothers during WW ll, one being a prisoner in a concentration camp who escapes and goes on the run, the other brother is a Nazi who is given the task of chasing his sibling. The two production companies that worked on this movie also produced jointly GENGHIS KHAN. Dusan Radic was born in Sombor Serbia, on April 10th, 1929, he was a composer who mainly concentrated on what can be called serious music or music for concert hall performance, with numerous works to his credit. Radic, was a freelance composer for twenty-five years between 1954 and 1979, after which he took up a professional composition position at the Academy of Arts at the University in Novi Sad, where he remained until his retirement. Dusan Radic died in Belgrade on April 3rd, 2010.
Before the movie SCHINDLERS LIST, there was NBC television’s epic mini-series about the systematic slaughter of European Jews during World War II. The saga, HOLOCAUST focused on the Weiss family of Berlin, and won eight Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series; and lead-performance awards for Michael Moriarty and Meryl Streep. Director Marvin J. Chomsky and screenwriter Gerald Green also won Emmys. Morton Gould created a wonderfully emotive score for the series, with lilting themes that were filled with emotion and had to them a dramatic and powerful undercurrent. The score was issued on LP record on the RCA label and was presented in the form of a gatefold edition. It was finally issued onto compact disc in 2019 and contains the same music as the LP recording. This is a must have soundtrack, with so many affecting compositions. Released on note for note records NFN 1001, with new notes penned by Jon Burligame. An outstanding soundtrack.
Its time for another look at recent soundtrack releases alongside items that you may have missed or maybe some soundtracks that have been re-issued. And as we in the UK head into a new lockdown for a month, maybe reviews and recommendations are something that are even more valuable and interesting? Television scores again have come into their own in recent weeks, and the amount of good TV productions on the likes of Apple, Amazon, Netflix and the old favs such as the BBC, ITV and SKY has been noticeably more prevalent. But lets start with a new movie.
HOSTS is a film that will probably make you think twice about inviting anyone over for Christmas dinner, because this is its storyline a family invite their neighbours for Christmas lunch and lets say it does not end well. Ok this is not the greatest movie ever made, but there are a number of highly negative reviews around, I would say go see it and decide yourself, one person’s riveting horror is another’s lack lustre affair I guess. One thing I think that many will agree upon is just how good the musical score is. Benjamin Symons has worked steadily creating music for trailers aswell as scoring independent productions. The music for HOSTS is wonderfully atmospheric and richly dark and unnerving. Just listen to the macabre and off kilter rendition of the sugar plum fairy within the cue SKULL CRACKER SUITE and this I think will give you an idea of the darkness and virulence that is conveyed musically throughout the movie. This followed by further references to classical music from the NUT CRACKER in the track BED TIME with the composer adding layers and textures of foreboding giving the listener chills, this is a horror score of substance and also one that posses great quality. It is inventive and innovative, and although it is a horror score it is also a work that maintains a thematic level throughout, I love the composer’s approach and his vibrant and engrossing soundtrack. This is a fusion of the styles of Chris Young and Marco Beltrami, so with a score sounding like the work of these two horror score giants, I think we can say that Symons is here to stay.
But, there is a lot more to this soundtrack, as the composer also imprints his own musical identity upon the movie, to say this is a contender for the best horror score of 2020 is an understatement. One for your collection, available on digital platforms. Highly recommended.
One score that I was impressed with was the music for the HBO series UNDOING, which has a rather apprehensive and subtle soundtrack composed by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, this is a score that relies heavily upon the notion of a theme, with many of the composing duos ideas not really developing into full blown thematic properties, with the exception of the cue TO CLEAR MY NAME which although remaining tense and filled with a uncertain air, does build into a more substantial thematic property, but this given the dramatic content of the storyline is perfect for the show, it adds so much atmosphere and purveys a deliciously steamy, moody, dark and at the same time calming aura to the proceedings, it is I am certain a mix of both electronic or synthetic elements which are combined carefully with a balanced and affecting collection of conventional instruments, either way this is a work that is interesting and fully supportive of the series if nothing else, available on digital platforms, another work by these composers that is well worth a listen is RADIOACTIVE, also available from digital sites. They have also scored the TV series BARON NOIR which is now in its third season, again the score is highly atmospheric and dramatic and available to listen to on the likes of Spotify.
Composer Austin Wintory, I would say is somewhat ignored by collectors, he is a Maestro, that can easily adapt his musical styles to any genre and has worked on numerous TV shows, Feature films and documentaries. His latest work is for a video game, AGOS: A GAME OF SPACE, like many of the composers works this is a combination of styles and musical colours which are created and conveyed via a collection of synthetic instrumentation, but does include some charming and affecting piano work which the composer weaves into the background lacing the electronic and creating a more romantic sound, there are many mesmerising moments within the score which are created electronically and at times begin to evoke memories of many of the early works of Vangelis. It is a work that has many textures, with its calming moments being complimented by and an equal number of more dramatic, and up-tempo pieces. One to check out.
Back to a TV series for the next score and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? SEASON 1, which is produced by Nickelodeon, yes Nickelodeon, but I can tell you here and now this is in no way related to the likes of RUGRATS in content either visually or musically.
The inventive score is the work of Joseph Trapanese and Jason Lazarus, who have produced a highly atmospheric and entertaining soundtrack which is mischievous and wonderfully haunting, aswell as being mysterious and at times foreboding. I must be truthful and say I am not that familiar with the music of either composer, although in recent times Trapanese has been busy scoring movies and TV projects. I enjoyed the quirkiness of this score and its wide and varied musical palette. So, in the words of Tommy from another Nickelodeon series “I GOT AN IDEA”. Why not check it out A.S.A.P.
Back to the movies for the next score and one that I have to say I did not think I would like, how wrong was I. RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, contains a surprisingly well produced score and has to it so many musical elements and styles that the composers Wade Macneil and Andrew Gordon MacPherson bring to the party. It is in now way sweeping, grandiose or indeed symphonic, but it is still affecting and effective within the Canadian produced movie. In his second directorial work filmmaker Jay Baruchel also stars in this film about comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) who becomes popular due to his R-rated comics. The author takes his inspiration from a real-life serial killer who committed gruesome acts of violence twenty years ago. When he, his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster), and producer Ezra (Baruchel) travel back to the killer’s town, they discover new crimes being committed recently. But what is more unnerving is how the new crimes look exactly like the scenes Todd drew in his comics. The score although at times verging upon pop orientated material is wonderfully supportive of the storyline and because it has a contemporary style and sound that at times is sprinkled with an eerie soprano voice, I think makes the work even more unsettling, and for a film music fan inventive and entertaining, thus making it attractive and alluring in a strange kind of way. Worth a listen.
From one Canadian movie to another which is again a must see, BODY AND BONES. Released in 2019 and directed by Melanie Oates, in her feature film debut, Oates also wrote the story. The movie focuses upon Tess (Kelly Van De Burg) who has withdrawn from her life and become a recluse the one thing that comforts her is listening to the music of Danny Sharpe (Joel Thomas Hynes). When she wakes one day to find him in her kitchen, it ignites a spark of life in her that begins to grow and become out of control.
The very short score is written by Neil Haverty, but in the brief running time of just ten minutes the composer manages to create some poignant and emotive musical phrases and themes via piano and synthetic support, with further enhancement from viola or violin, this is certainly a score that you would listen to via a digital platform simply because it is not long enough to make it worthwhile for any recording label to release it onto compact disc, it is a pleasing work, and one which although simple is also haunting. Well worth a listen.
Another movie released in 2019 has its score released this week, EL CERRO DE LOS DIOSES is a reimagining or retelling of the myth of Faust, in which a documentary film director and her producer investigate a number of celebrities. The dark and ominous sounding score is by Maese Cesar, the music has to it a virulent and richly foreboding sound, with the composer employing organ and choral effects that are driven and enhanced by percussive elements bells and forceful strings, it may not be a grand or fully symphonic sounding work but it has it moments in fact it has many moments that I know will be popular amongst fans of dramatic film scores. I love the classically oriented work, with is fixating dark piano and strings that lace the proceedings and are bolstered by horns and booming percussion. It also contains a scattering of lighter sounding pieces which not only ingratiate but compliment the sound of darkness that prevails within this highly entertaining work. Just go and have a listen.
THE CRAFT-THE LEGACY, has music by Heather Christian and is a mix of lilting themes, vocal performances and a handful of up-beat more contemporary sounding pieces, I have to admit there are some nice moments within the score as in the cue A HARD DECISION, but this is a score I am not a fan of, ok its inventive and as it does have its moments but not that many or enough I am afraid.
It is available on digital platforms so you can try before you buy. This is also something I would suggest you do with the music from the movie OVERTIME as it’s a collection of songs with just two actual instrumental tracks by Rumbellow music that act as opener and closer cues for the release, there is however a nice (if that’s the correct description) cover of I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW which was a hit originally in the eighties for Tiffany, this particular cover of the song is performed by, So Long Until the Séance, and is shall we say not as sweet and innocent as the original. It was the artwork of the cover that attracted me to the soundtrack which had a kind of Italian horror look to it however, I wish I had not bothered as was realy disappointed and a little bit traumatised after listening to it.
BLACKJACK THE JACKIE RYAN STORY, contains an upbeat and uplifting soundtrack from Lionel Cohen, it’s a score that I have to admit being slightly apprehensive of, as with so many sports related movies the soundtrack is sometimes filled with songs. This however is similar to the style that Jerry Goldsmith employed on HOOSIERS or BESTSHOT to give it the UK title, this is a synthetic or electronic score with flourishes of conventional instrumentation which are represented by horns in the main, these give the soundtrack an imposing and proud sound throughout and set a mood which is unwavering and determined, which manifests from the off in the cue THE BIG GAME. It is a work that never seems to relent, its inventive compositions working for the movie and remaining entertaining away from the film. The piano solo version of the central theme is ingratiating and emotive, with the opening titles track setting the scene for much of what is to follow, with its near hip hop backing that is overplayed by horns and strings that convey a sense of the dramatic. Check it out, you will not be sorry that you did.
To another video game score next and a composer who I have come across before in the same series of game scores, Yu Peng-Cheng is the composer and the game is GENSHIN IMPACT-JADE MOON UPON A SEA OF CLOUDS, this like the other two game scores that MMI reviewed a little while back is excellent, filled with heady melodies and poignant musical passages and affecting and emotive nuances. I just adore the fragility and delicate auras that are achieved within the score, it is stunningly attractive and mesmerizingly beautiful. I think that is all I will say as this is a MUSTHAVE release.
Alex Heffes I know you will agree with me is a highly talented composer, his latest release is from the movie HOPE GAP, which is directed by William Nicholson, it is an intensely emotional movie, The intimate storyline concentrates upon the life of Grace, portrayed by Annette Bening, who is shocked to discover that her husband of nearly thirty years played by the excellent Bill Nighy is leaving her for another woman. The film also focuses upon the emotional devastation and dissolution it has on their grown son Josh O’Connor. The score by British born Heffes is highly emotional, it is filled with lilting melodies that are intensely affecting, the composer colouring and punctuating the drama with a series of eloquent tone poems that add much to the already emotional content of the movie. Recommended.
REBUILDING PARADISE is an American made documentary directed and also produced by Ron Howard, it tells the story of the rebuilding of the state of California after the devastating and consuming wildfires that took place there in 2018. The musical score is credited to both Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, so your guess is as good as mine finding out who actualy did what on this, Zimmer probably farming the lesser cues out to the lesser talents of Balfe. It’s a soundtrack that is emotional in places but one that really fails to make a lasting impression and I have to say is instantly forgettable as there are no real developed themes, just layered and subtle sounds and soundscapes rather than a score that has anything to say in the way of established themes and compositions. Balfe in my opinion being overrated vastly and at times being given assignments for movies that are far superior to anything he can cobble together that is vaguely interesting. Check it on digital platforms as it is not worth buying to be honest.
Other releases that are worthy of a listen include THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY SEASON 2, by composers Jeff Russo and Perrine Virgile, LET HIM GO by Michael Giacchino, GLI OROLOGI DEL DIAVOLO by Stefano Lentini, DAS SCHAURIGE HAUS by Karwan Marouf and THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF WOLFBOY by Nick Urata, which is a really good score.
DRAGON’S DOMAIN records have once again excelled themselves with three releases in recent days, MUNCHIE by Chuck Cirino, DEMON IN A BOTTLE by John Morgan and FROM BEYOND by Richard Band. The latter title I think being a favourite of mine, but there again I think that Richard Band is such a talented composer.
Chuck Cirino too as written a vibrant score for MUNCHIE and is too a composer who manages to produce great scores for low budget productions. John Morgan who we normally associate with the re-construction of Golden Age scores specifically on Marco Polo records in the early days, has also composed an entertaining soundtrack for DEMON IN A BOTTLE all three movies fit into the low budget category, but this did not stop each composer providing the individual films with soundtracks that are excellent, robust and entertaining.
The label have also released a two disc set of the music of Albert Glasser, which includes two scores, TOKYO FILE 212 and HUK, all four releases are worth checking out and each release contains colourful art work and informative liner notes courtesy of Randall D Larson which as always are a bonus to any release.
Composer Harry Escott has provided a tense and atmospheric score for the four-part TV mini-series ROADKILL, the soundtrack will be available on Silva Screen records soon, as will HIS DARK MATERIALS part two, which airs on BBC one on November 8th. Silva Screen will digitally release the second volume of the successful 2019 concept album as an introduction to His Dark Materials Series Two music. Composed by Lorne Balfe, the album presents the newly composed principal themes from Series two. Which for me sound exactly like the themes from series one, Balfe just regurgitating his rather lack lustre efforts for the second outing. Not a favourite.
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS.