Tag Archives: Lorne Balfe



HIS DARK MATERIALS must be one of the most hyped TV series for a long while, it seems that every five minutes there is an ad for it or an image flashed across the screen. So, it’s a series I think everyone might tune in on. It’s the music for me that I focus upon in cases of hyped up and grand looking series especially on the BBC. I was a little taken aback when I saw that it was Lorne Balfe who would be providing the musical support for this series. I along with several other collectors (yes you know who you are stop backing off and hiding) have always thought that he is a second-rate composer, and also not a particularly interesting or original one either. I think I have only ever given one of his scores a positive review, and afterwards kind of regretted it, because when I listened again a few weeks later could pick out the uninspired and quite honestly dull elements that it contained and also maybe the lack of inspiration or care that went into fabricating it. Balfe for me is not one of the most original composers around, and when one hears people say he is a Zimmer clone then you know what I have to agree. HIS DARK MATERIALS I think confirms this, on listening to the score I have to firstly remark that it is probably one of his better efforts, but it is not exactly wonderful, yes it does have a grand sound and also hints at elements and content that maybe in the hands of another would become affecting and imposing in its sound and stature, but it for me is a lack lustre affair that sounds electronic and sampled, although it is credited as being performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and this initial release which is being advertised as a concept album rather than the actual score or soundtrack, contains contributions from K T. Tunstall, Chad Atkins, Tina Guo, composer-cellist Peter Gregson, steam punk influenced violinist and dancer Lindsey Stirling, classical horn player Sarah Willis, award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and Vanya Moneva’s Ethnic Bulgarian Choir. So, an array of talents here (and so many collaborators) but it sounds in the words of D.T. FAKE. You know when you hear a cheap drum synth on a track, or a not very good synthetic strings sample or synthetic voices etc and you know that they are bad because you know straight away that they are not real, it’s that kind of sound that s being purveyed, that type of writing and that sadly is the bones of it. Some of the themes are good and do have a lasting effect upon the listener, but largely the music here is easily or even instantly forgotten once you have heard it, there are hardly any lingering echoes or haunting little tunes that one can latch onto.

But, let’s stop and ponder. Is film music about little tunes that one can whistle, well it used to be an age ago, but not anymore, it’s about underling and supporting the scenarios on screen, does Balfe manage this, in a very short word, NO. He seems to provide a musical wallpaper, but nothing that that is vaguely strong enough or supporting enough. I am sorry (well not really) that this is a not a more positive review of the music, but it is an honest one from my point of view and anyway it is just a personal opinion we all know that, a review is a personal thing, so there is nothing to stop you taking a listen to this and maybe disagreeing with my view, we are all different. Saying what I have it will now probably go on to be applauded and given an avalanche of awards. There will be a second album again released by Silva Screen, which I guess is the actual score, who knows?


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Salinger is a two hour documentary that attempts to tell the life story of acclaimed author J.D Salinger who although very talented and obviously tremendously fascinating, became a recluse and shunned the limelight. His most popular writing being, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, which he penned in 1951.The music for the film is the work of Lorne Balfe, the Maestro has provided the movie with a subdued and also a very fragile and delicate sounding score in places. Balfe utilizes a small but effective string section for the soundtrack and also enlists piano and delicate sounding woods which combine with the strings or act as either a support or lead to them in many of the cues.  The composer also makes effective use of brass and percussion throughout and adds these to the equation at strategic moments. This is in my opinion is not a complex work but is one however that needs your undivided attention and the listener needs to stay focussed and concentrate on the music or they will miss some of its shining and wonderful excellence. It is for the most part a low key work but it also contains some darker tense and mysterious sounding passages that compliment its more beautiful and inspiring peaks. The orchestration is attention-grabbing and also contains an originality and sound that is not only effective but beguiling, interesting and attractive. Track number thirteen, WRITING CATCHER, for example, begins with a pleasant and haunting piano solo, which meanders along repeating a five note motif underlined by faint strings, these strings then increase in volume and become slightly more threatening in their style, subdued percussion and also a more up beat piano and guitar is brought into the mix and this leads to a more strident and certainly more dramatic passage performed by strings and percussion that take the cue to its conclusion. One of the most interesting cues for variation within the score I think is track number Fourteen, GASOLINE RAINBOWS, which  begins as a mystical and fairly subdued piece, but the composer via orchestration and also a gradual build up of the theme creates a vibrant and affecting piece written for brass, percussion and also strings,  it has humble and tantalizing beginnings, which introduce the cue and I must admit lull the listener into  thinking that it is a slow and gradually building composition that will remain so from beginning to end, that is until the composer raises the tempo slightly and brings into play a scattering of synthetic percussive support which gives the cue  more upbeat textures and adds a slightly colourful beat to the proceedings, then with a rumble of percussion Balfe  ushers in a highly expressive and lush sounding string section that relays a modern take on Americana, that is lavish and also emotive, this brings the cue to a shimmering and passionate filled conclusion that just oozes opulence.

The score I think touches upon many emotions, as I have said it is mysterious but at the same time it can be emotive and delicate, it certainly conjures up a sense of solitude in places and also I felt that there was a certain apprehension to it, almost a sorrowful and poignant stand offish ness that is underlined and purveyed by use of solo piano and touches of solo violin and wisps of woodwind, which hint at melancholy and loneliness. I loved the score, but have not yet had a chance to see the documentary, but I am confident that the music serves the movie well. Balfe’s music is a fusion of the modern and infectious granduer that is created at times by Hans Zimmer and also the intimate, romantic and fragile qualities  that were produced by composer Georges Delerue, Recommended.



I have collected soundtracks from movies for many years now, I suppose I am what is called old school. When I started to collect film music I did not have any idea that I would be listening to and enjoying music from games for the computer or ps3 or x box, but the music for many of these games is highly original and certainly delightfully entertaining. Lorne Balfe came to my notice firstly when Varese Sarabande released IRONCLAD, and then because of this score I researched him and found out that he has been very active in providing additional music for some of cinemas blockbusters and also has produced as many, working alongside and collaborating with numerous composers.  His music for ASSASSINS CREED lll, THE TYRANNY OF KING WASHINGTON, is in my opinion a great soundtrack, and yes I know it is not essentially a film score, but it’s for images that are moving and are on screen so in my book this is film music. The score is performed by a 75 piece orchestra and has as support a scattering of electronic and synth percussive elements which take a hand in driving the music along at a swift and urgent pace. This is a well structured and musically engrossing soundtrack, that literally is a powerhouse of themes and sounds that are not only infectious but are also filled with originality and a rhythmic freshness that maintains a high level of drama and a rich atmosphere that oozes darkness and adventure throughout the entire score. The urgency and robust vibrant energy of the music is also complimented by a lighter more emotive side to the work, this can be heard via sorrowful cello solos and also heartrending violin in places that seems to weave its way into the score and rises out of nowhere to radiate a mood and ambience that is calming but also faintly apprehensive. What struck me the most about this score was the amount of music that is included on the compact disc, nearly 100 minutes, but here we have quality as well as quantity as it is consistently good throughout. Balfe’s momentous and imposing themes are filled with fearsome and forceful sounding thematic material that is unrelenting and striking; the orchestration too is inventive and at times ingenious, the composer creating wonderfully atmospheric and haunting sounds that have an almost unearthly and malevolent consistency to them. Of course the score is full of action music and at times this is literally full throttle, but it still maintains a thematic identity, the composer has the ability to create vast and fervent music which is filled with emotion and has heart and soul. The score opens with, ASSASSINS CREED lll MAIN TITLE, the composer introduces the cue with a layering of synthetic sounds that act a background to low key but rich sounding strings that have a warmth to them, these strings swell and become more forceful and lush with horns and percussion being introduced to act as an effective and suitably epic sounding support, the theme is taken on more fully by the string section and increases in not only momentum but also in emotion and romanticism.


This piece sets the scene marvellously for the remainder of the score and the central theme returns on a number of occasions becoming a haunting and contagious listening experience. Track number two, RATONHNNHKE TON, commences with ethnic voice, which is underlined by mystical pan pipe effects the composer then introduces a Celtic sounding wind instrument that picks out the central theme briefly, strings then emerge and take on the theme the composer also introducing percussion and a striking vocal to the proceedings, this adds a great sense and feeling of emotion to the piece, with percussion becoming more up tempo throughout and brass making a contribution and as the cue progresses and develops it becomes one of those goose-bump moments in music. Track number 3, THE TYRANT, is a slightly more sinister sounding piece, it begins with low and ominous sounding strings which are underlined by subdued percussion, strings become more prominent as the cue begins to develop and the composer brings horns into the equation giving it a more epic and also a far more grand sound. The composition then moves into a more aggressive sound, with strident and driving strings taking the lead and percussion, woods and also brass being added as it gains momentum. This is a thrilling but at the same fearsome sounding cue, that is filled with a nervous and exciting urgency. To analyse every cue of this score I think would be almost impossible, let it suffice to say that ASSASSINS CREED-THE TYRANNY OF KING WASHINGTON is a score that you should own, it is entertaining,powerful,dramatic and above all its just great music. Even if you are not into game soundtracks, please give this one a listen, you may find many things here that you like and also this could be a perfect introduction to music for games. Highly recommended.


Beyond_Two_Souls_final_coverNot a film score in the way we as collectors and film music enthusiasts normally see it, but none the less this in my opinion this is still movie music or at least music for moving images, and pretty good it is too. BEYOND TWO SOULS is a play station (ps3) game for which composer Lorne Balfe has written a stunning musical soundtrack, as collectors I am sure we have all become aware that our favourite composers who we readily associate with writing for film are more frequently now dipping their musical toes as it were into the ever expanding waters that include theme park rides and games for computers etc. The scores that I have listened to over the past few years that are for games always surprise me, I suppose one has it transfixed into ones memory banks that music for computer games consists of that Tetris theme which was and still is so annoying, or quirky tedious little tunes that are played on repeat throughout games, but in recent times scores for games have become far more than this in fact composers have produced some wonderful soundtracks which are just as grand and haunting as scores for epic blockbusters for the big screen, and at times maybe can even be more adventurous, exciting and indeed beautiful because of the images and scenarios that they enhance themselves posses these qualities. Like all technology, games for PC,s, play stations, mobile phones etc etc are constantly developing and becoming more and more realistic in their appearance. BEYOND TWO SOULS is certainly no exception it stars Willem Defoe and Ellen Page, and is at this moment in time creating more that a ripple of excitement among game players.

A young girl Jodie Holmes (Caroline Wolfson) lives with her foster parents on a military base. Since her birth the young girl has experienced a strange psychic connection with a mystifying entity called Aiden, via this entity Jodie is able to carry out numerous bizarre and alarming extra-sensory acts, these include taking over individuals minds, strangling people to death, and also being able to manipulate objects. After a disagreement with some other children in her neighbourhood, the entity Aiden almost kills one of them, it is at this stage that Jodie’s foster parents seek out psychiatric help for her, their search takes them to the department of paranormal activity and two doctors Nathan Dawkins,(Willem Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardkin) whom they leave their daughter with indefinitely. I wont spoil the game for you but lets say its an interesting plot and has numerous twists, turns and exhilarating action and leaves the outcome of certain scenarios in the hands of the person who is playing the game.

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Balfe’s affecting and haunting music shadows this action and also enhances and underlines the mystery and adds depth and emotion to the proceedings, giving the game not only powerful and at times epic sounding support but also infusing a sense of heart and tenderness to it. Largely symphonic the score relies upon driving and urgent strings, which at times become the foundation or support to thundering percussion and fierce sounding brass flourishes, there is also effective and enthralling use of female voice which has a kind of Gaelic resonance to it, the composer utilizes a sorrowful cello in a number of cues which is both heartrending and breathtaking , he further develops the more emotive side of his compositions with solo piano that is mirrored by gentle and delicate harp and a plaintive childlike sounding music box effect. This chiming or lullaby type theme is more prominent within track number six, MY IMAGINARY FRIEND, it takes the lead in the first instant, and is underlined by faint use of glockenspiel which is just touched upon, strings are introduced into the equation giving the theme a more romantic sound, with the music box sound still being performed as the strings swell and become lush and even more prominent, there is also however an atmosphere of apprehension within the cue again created by the use of the string section which seem to play slightly against the central romantic theme that is developing. Track number seven, CHILDHOOD MEMORIES is a sensitive and highly emotive piece, performed on piano, that is accompanied by viola and also underlying strings which although are heard are not in anyway overwhelming, the composer allowing the solo piano and viola pairing to shine through, making this a touching and relaxing listening experience. The score disc opens with JODIES SUITE, this runs for nearly five minutes and is a glorious introduction to the music that is to follow on the release, a wordless female vocal opens the cue, which has a definite Gaelic sound to it, strings begin to build behind the vocal, at first just a hint of them but they then start to rise as does the vocal, together they create a haunting theme that is romantic and also melancholy in its sound and style. The voice melts away and gives way to the string section which take on the theme and give it a full working accompanied by percussion rumbles and harp, the vocal returns towards the end of the cue and strings, horns, embellish and support it until it is almost soaring creating one of those goose bump moments in music.

484221_247632425349720_424989368_nTrack number two, DAWKINS SUITE, is another lengthy cue, it opens slowly with a kind of brooding feel to the proceedings, again I sensed a hint of Gaelic origins within the cue, after a slow and downbeat start the composition begins to gain pace and the composer brings into the mix percussive elements that are supported by driving strings and further enhanced by electronics, the tempo is increased with strings inventing a tense and nervous atmosphere whilst the percussion creates an upbeat but at the same time dark sounding backing track. Cue number four I feel is worth a special mention, AIDENS THEME is probably the most beautiful track on the compact disc, and I will say it is one of those moments within film music that occurs very rarely these days, as it has the ability to make this reviewer shudder with emotion as shimmering strings combine with ethereal sounding voices to fashion a stunning and inspiring crescendo, this however is just one part of the composition, the track begins with a melancholy and heartrendingly emotive cello performance that is underlined by piano and harp, this evokes an atmosphere of not only sadness but loneliness and is highly affecting and mesmerizing. The score contains a number of electronic elements, but do not let this put you off, these work well with the main orchestral components at times supporting and embellishing them as well as being utilized independently to generate tense and fearsome interludes. This is a score that I would recommend without reservation, composed by Lorne Balfe with the production side of things being supervised by the ever present Hans Zimmer. Go and buy it…….

play fest moves to Malaga,in 2013.




Vista de Málaga
Vista de Málaga (Photo credit: Figuelo)

Unique Video Game and Animation Music Festival Announces Line-up 

Featuring Music From Star Trek Video Games, and Composers Kevin Kiner, Jason Graves, Oscar Araujo, Cris Velasco, and Lorne Balfe

(July 25, 2013—Úbeda, Spain) –  The second annual PlayFest — Music, Animation and Videogames Festival, moves to Fuengirola in Málaga, Spain from September 5-8, 2013.  Playfest is a unique event dedicated to one of the fastest growing industries today that will bring together leading artists, composers and companies to participate in master classes, conferences, screenings and concerts.

This year’s concert will spotlight music from Star Trek Video Games (presented by BuySoundtrax Records) and conducted by Kevin Kiner (Star Trek: Borg), the works of composers Jason Graves (Dead Space, Tomb Raider) Oscar Araujo(Castlevania)and Cris Velasco (God of War, Mass Effect 3).  The headliner of the concert will be a special presentation of the music Lorne Balfe (Assassin’s Creed 3, Beyond: Two Souls), which he will conduct — portions of which will be selected by you – the fans!  The concert will be presented at the Fuengirola castle – a magical place for art and music to merge.


English: View of Fuengirola harbour. Fuengirol...
 View of Fuengirola harbour. Fuengirola is a large town and municipality in Andalusia, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scottish composer Lorne Balfe invites fans to help shape his program.  Lorne Balfe is a Grammy award winning and BAFTA nominated film composer from Inverness, Scotland.  His video game credits include titles in the Assassin’s Creed franchise (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Assassin’s Creed: The Tyranny of King Washington), the Skylanders franchise (Skylanders: Giants, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure), Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2, Crysis 2 and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls.

Balfe invites fans to offer suggestions on what themes to include in his performance by tweeting their suggestions to @LorneBalfe with the #PlayfestLB.

PlayFest is organized by Leitmotiv Music, with the cooperation of the City of Fuengirola and the Málaga Provincial Council, BuySoundtrax Records and BSOSpirit. Playfest will take place in Málaga, Spain from September 5-8, 2013.

Leitmotiv wishes to acknowledge the support of the Mayor of Fuengirola and the City Councilor of Culture, Esperanza Oña and Rodrigo Romero, respectively, as well as the vice president of the Provincial Council of Málaga, Ana Mata, BuySoundtrax Records, and all the public and private organizations that support PlayFest.


For more information contact: Juanjo Ballesteros jjballesterosgarcia@gmail.com