Varèse Sarabande Announces Titles for Record Store Day Black Friday 2021

Varèse Sarabande has announced the following titles will be released on Record Store Day Black Friday 2021: Blue Velvet: Deluxe Edition by Angelo Badalamenti, How to Train Your Dragon by John Powell, Ghosts of Mars by John Carpenter, and The Iron Giant by Michael Kamen.

These special limited-run LP releases will be available on Black Friday, November 26, at participating Record Store Day retailers.

BLUE VELVET (Deluxe Edition 2-LP) – Angelo Badalamenti David Lynch’s dark 1986 masterpiece has a deep and passionate relationship to music, starting with the Bobby Vinton title song that plays a central role in the story (which has been integrated into the original soundtrack for the first time). Angelo Badalamenti was hired by producer Fred Caruso to develop Isabella Rossellini’s version of the song for the film and deliver the tape to David—meeting for the first time. Picture the very moment that Alfred Hitchcock met Bernard Herrmann, or Steven Spielberg met John Williams. The story has now evolved into that kind of legend, often repeated, with the uniquely coiffed director listening to the tape through a pair of headphones and delivering one of his uniquely retro phrases: “That’s peachy keen!”  As part of the Blue Velvet scoring process, Badalamenti recorded lengthy orchestral tracks the pair called “firewood,” which Lynch could use in his distinct sound design. Numerous cues were also created—alternate versions, improvisations, and experimentations that may or may not have been written with a scene in mind, which Lynch could then apply to his film (or not) however he chose. The second LP is full of these cues, mastered from tape and heard for the first time under the title of “Lumberton Firewood.” Generally considered one of the Top 50 soundtracks of all time, the Blue Velvet deluxe edition is pressed on marbleized blue vinyl featuring Enzo Sciotti’s 1986 Italian poster art on the cover and new notes and interviews with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti.   

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2-LP) – John Powell How to Train Your Dragon was composer John Powell’s first solo score for a DreamWorks animated feature and earned him his first Academy Award® nomination. Powell took the Viking milieu literally and started researching Scandinavian folk tunes and musical traditions, which he says are “wonderfully cold and warm at the same time.” Icelandic singer/songwriter Jónsi, of the celebrated band Sigur Rós, is featured on “Sticks and Stones.”  A truncated 11-track LP was part of Record Store Day in 2016, but this is the first-ever pressing of the complete original soundtrack release.  The 25-track album is expanded to two multicolored green splatter LPs and housed in a gatefold jacket. 

GHOSTS OF MARS – John Carpenter In celebration of Ghosts of Mars’ 20th anniversary, the epic soundtrack will be released on “Red Planet” vinyl.  John Carpenter recruited an unbelievable cast of musicians to record the soundtrack to this sci-fi horror film, starring Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge. Among the featured players are GRAMMY®-winning musician Steve Vai, most of the heavy metal band Anthrax (including Scott Ian), Elliot Easton of The Cars, Buckethead, and Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails and Guns N’ Roses. This soundtrack is apocalyptic and an important mark in John Carpenter’s unparalleled career as a director and composer.  

THE IRON GIANT (Picture Disc) – Michael Kamen This first-ever picture disc of this heartwarming 1999 animated film celebrates The Robot, his best friend, Hogarth, and a cast of characters. The music is by Academy Award®-nominated composer Michael Kamen (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard), who was well known for his work with Eric Clapton, Metallica and Pink Floyd, in addition to his brilliant theatrical scores.  

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Back to Eternia: Talking with Composer Michael Kramer about Netflix’s ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ (2021)

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with composer Michael Kramer about his work on the recently released Netflix series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. (note: this is not to be confused with Masters of the Universe: Revelation that came out this past summer).

Michael Kramer is a two-time Emmy nominated composer who works on film, television, and video games. He studied film scoring at USC and his past credits include LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu, producing music for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, just to name a few.

In this reimagining of the story of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, He-Man and his powerful friends Teela, Duncan, and Cringer learn what it means to be a hero while battling the evil forces of Skeletor and his minions.

Please enjoy my discussion with Michael Kramer about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!

(*warning* plot spoilers for the show can be found below)

How did you get started as a composer?

I’ve always been attracted to music, I would go into the piano room and plunk out the pieces my sisters were playing for their piano lessons. I’ve also always had this love for stories, my mom would read to me so much, and reading was woven into all of our days together. I felt like I had this imagination for storytelling at a very young age. Those two things [music and storytelling] twisted through my life and eventually co-mingled into this thing called film composing. It’s a pretty magical thing, being able to manipulate people’s emotions with music and make them feel one thing or another. I always say it’s the closest thing to feeling like a wizard.

I went to school for music and eventually made my way to USC for their film scoring program. I had amazing teachers and an amazing network to get me started.


How did you get connected with this new Masters of the Universe series?

It was actually a pretty straightforward process this time. I received a brief to do a demo for the show from my agents and thought “Is this what I think it is?” I really swung big and took some chances with the demo. I wasn’t sure if [the showrunners] would be into what I would want to hear in a score for a He-Man remake. However they seemed to be on the same page with me and they picked me to score the show.

When you talk about a “demo”, is that a big thing, little thing, what is that?

That’s a great question. Oftentimes, and I feel this is more common in animation, you [the composer] are given a few test scenes [to score]. Usually they’re pretty rough because it’s early [in production] and you’re working with rough animatics or storyboards. Sometimes this can make it difficult to work out what’s happening on the screen and you have to use your imagination to say “Is this character doing this? Are they jumping up and fighting this character? Sure, I’ll go with that.” You just have to fill in the blanks a little bit.

I had three different scenes to score: one was an action scene, one was more under-dialogue, and one was a comedic scene. [The directors] were testing the different cross-sections of emotions to make sure I could hit all the different tones of the show. And that was [the demo] I submitted.


How familiar were you with Masters of the Universe before working on this series? And what did you think of the reimagined concept for the story?

Growing up, I was born in ’83, the same year the show premiered, so I was a little young to actually watch the show. However, the action figures were a huge part of my play time as a kid. And the show itself wasn’t a big part of my imagination. I watched some of the episodes later, but growing up it was mostly about the action figures. The unique thing about that scenario is, I felt like I had already built up my own conceptions of what these characters were. I had my own unique take on these characters, and this universe and the mythology. That made it easier for me to go on this journey of reimagining the series. Kudos to Mattel for taking a risk and daring to do something different.

When you’re doing a remake of something, the closest analogy I can think of is doing a cover song. I try to think of what makes a really good cover song. It has to be something that stays true to the melody and the lyrics of the original so that it feels like the soul of the original song is intact. It also has to be different with everything else around it or else what’s the point? The most exciting cover songs have this quality and I feel like the most exciting remakes also have this same quality. For us, approaching the series, we wanted to stay true to the lyrics and the melody, the “soul” of MOTU (Masters of the Universe). Everything else…we wanted to dare to do something different. I think it’s a pretty fun and fresh take that a new generation of kids will enjoy.


Since this is a reimagining of He-Man’s story, was any of the music based on the original series, or any iteration of the story, or was it decided to go completely original with the musical score?

It was all original. I went back and listened to a bunch of the original music, to get it in my ears. It’s so specific and of that time, and a lot has changed stylistically. When you think of the amount of film music history, what has come out between 1983 and now…so much has changed.

I did try to take some interesting nuggets, some things that maybe no one would notice but me. One specific example is Adam’s transformation music in the original score. It’s in a specific scale/mode. I wasn’t going to use the same melody, obviously, but I stuck close to that same scale. When you hear the two themes then, they’re different melodies but using the same scale. There’s a similar kind of emotion you feel when you hear that scale of music. Little things like that I tried to use to create some connections. At the end of the day I wanted to do something that felt honest and true to me but also true to the characters and the mythology of the show.


On a related note, was there a specific type of sound the directors wanted you to go for, or was that largely left up to you?

This project was amazing in that the showrunners gave me so much freedom. It’s kind of crazy how much they trusted me to just go out and try crazy stuff. I felt like I could try or do anything and they were always so encouraging. They were great about feedback and would tell me if I was heading in a wrong direction or going down a rabbit hole that they didn’t want to explore. For the most part I felt like I was off in my own sandbox, it was so much fun.

Are there any examples of things you tried that didn’t work out? Without giving anyway?

That’s a great question. The great thing about my job is that a lot of experiments that initially end up on the cutting room floor find their way into the score eventually. I found that if I was respectful of the things we jettisoned and didn’t forget about them, they would often come back in unique and interesting ways. That’s one thing I love about working in the medium of television; it’s such a broad canvas. When you’re working on a film, you have a fairly short story arc. But with television, it’s epic, it’s hours and hours that you’re scoring. The canvas is so large that there are plenty of places to play.


Did you create any specific themes for characters or places for this series?

When I first sat down to map out the thematic universe, it was pretty daunting because there’s so many different characters. There are dozens of themes in the show. One strategy that we decided to go with thematically was that the score would not only represent characters but it would simultaneously represent different ideas and places. A perfect example is in Star Wars with the iconic “Force theme.” Some argue that’s Luke’s theme, other’s that it’s the Force theme, to which I would say “yes.” It operates in a really great way as a character theme and a theme for this concept [of the Force].

For Adam, it’s a similar thing. His theme is also the theme for Castle Greyskull. And the first few notes of that theme is in itself the theme for the “power” of Greyskull. His character and his power all come from the same place, Castle Greyskull, so it’s all wrapped up together. When you start making connections like this to character and concept, the score can then start making interesting connections and opening wormholes to other moments that the viewer might not necessarily think of. That’s my job, as a composer, to try and make all these connections and help point out things that rhyme in the story.

I really wanted to ask about Keldor, who becomes Skeletor, does Keldor’s theme becomes Skeletor’s theme or does one feed into the other?

Skeletor’s theme was one of the first things that I really sank my teeth into. His melody, for Skeletor and Keldor, those melodies are the same. It’s the same person, the same character, the same story arc. However, what’s different is the instrumentation. He has this creepy, slinking, shifting sounds for his Keldor variation. And then, as soon as he transforms into Skeletor, it’s like running the orchestra through an amplifier. There’s tons of distortion, me screaming into a microphone for different shouting sounds. If it didn’t give me the heebie-jeebies then it wasn’t good enough. I really pushed this theme to live up to the “Lord of Darkness” as it were.


How much time did you have to score Masters of the Universe?

Generally it was a couple of weeks per episode. It’s an immense amount of music and really intricate. What makes this music so time consuming is that it’s not just big orchestral, thematic music, which takes forever to write. On top of that, pretty much every character has their own set of colors. Before I started scoring I did a ton of experiments so that each character has a sound that, basically when you hear that sound, it’s that character. Every character has their own iconic sound within the musical landscape. It’s a really colorful score and painting in all those colors is so time consuming. But I hope it supports the storytelling and helps the viewers fall in love with the characters.


Do you have a favorite piece of music for this series?

I think I really love how “We Have the Power” turned out. It’s the track where our MOTU characters power up for the first time. It’s also the first time you get to hear the full MOTU theme. It’s rare to have a really big canvas to write a big melody like that, the visuals in that sequence are just so stunning. I really love how that one came out.

I want to give a huge thank you to Michael Kramer for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Netflix’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! I hope you enjoyed this interview and have a great day!

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Composer Interviews

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My Thoughts on: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

After picking up Frankenstein Created Woman and realizing just how much I enjoy watching Peter Cushing play Frankenstein, I made it a goal to get all of Cushing’s performances as the character (on blu-ray) in my collection. So, when the opportunity came to pick up The Evil of Frankenstein, I immediately took it.

This film was completely new to me, unlike Frankenstein Created Woman, however the plot generally follows what I’ve come to expect from these stories: a creation of Frankenstein’s runs amok, chaos ensues, and it all ends in a big dramatic climax. Only in this case the story takes a few unexpected twists between the beginning and the end. As with several of these films, the story starts with Frankenstein already in the midst of a new set of experiments, only to be chased out of town (yet again), forcing him to return to his hometown in search of money. Things take a twist when he discovers his original Monster, only to find it comatose and unresponsive. Frankenstein coerces a traveling hypnotist into reviving his creation, but that quickly creates more problems than it solves as Frankenstein soon finds out.

Here’s the thing about The Evil of Frankenstein: I know that Hammer made this film (and the other Frankenstein films in their series) as separate entities from the old Universal films, but I swear THIS film is a near perfect blend of Son of Frankenstein (1939) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). How so? Well, first of all, a major plot point in The Evil of Frankenstein is that Baron Frankenstein discovers his original creation, but it is now unresponsive. That is eerily similar to Son of Frankenstein, where Wolf von Frankenstein (the titular “son of Frankenstein”) discovers his father’s monster in a comatose state. But the similarity continues: once Frankenstein’s monster is revived, it only responds to the commands of the hypnotist who revived it, EXACTLY like in Son of Frankenstein where the Monster only responds to Ygor’s commands. Those are way too many similarities to be mere coincidence and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the writers for The Evil of Frankenstein took inspiration from Son of Frankenstein, even if they weren’t supposed to.

The similarities to this film and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man are less striking, but still interesting. The big similarity between these two films is the Monster being rediscovered frozen alive in ice, which is also how he’s found in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. I’m also struck by the similarities of the two film’s climaxes, or at least they seem similar to me. In both films, Frankenstein’s monster is swept away and presumed killed when the laboratory is destroyed (blown up in one film and swept away by floodwaters in the other). Again, it’s one similarity too many to be pure coincidence (though having read that this film was distributed by Universal, maybe Hammer really did just copy past film elements after all).

Those interesting details aside, I have a serious bone to pick with whoever put together the creature make-up in The Evil of Frankenstein. Part of the reason I love the original Frankenstein makeup from the 1930s so much is you really can’t tell that it’s a make-up. In THIS film however, it is painfully obvious that this is an actor in makeup, and not even really good makeup. This is my least favorite part of the film and it made it really hard to take certain scenes seriously.

Peter Cushing is a delight to watch, as always. For years I only knew him for his appearance in Star Wars, and I’m glad I’m finally taking the time to check out more of his filmography. I noticed in this film the same detail I saw in Frankenstein Created Woman: Baron Frankenstein is too clinical for his own good. That is to say, he’s so interested in his monster as an experiment, that the greater ramifications don’t occur to him until it’s too late. The same as in this film: he’s content to make use of the hypnotist, but it doesn’t occur to him that the hypnotist would USE the monster for his own personal ends until the damage has been done.

Flaws aside, I did ultimately enjoy The Evil of Frankenstein. It’s an enjoyable film, Peter Cushing is completely believable as an obsessed Baron Frankenstein and while the outcome of the story is predictable, it’s no less fun to watch.

Let me know what you think about The Evil of Frankenstein in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

My Thoughts on: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Brin d’amour (2019)

Earlier this summer I was invited to check out the documentary Brin d’amour, about the life and work of Alain Vigneau, with music composed by Andre Barros. The documentary is fascinating in and of itself, as it follows not only Vigneau’s life, but also how he uses being a clown as a form of therapy. But what really pulled me in was Barros’ music for the documentary, which reminded me more than once why I fell in love with film music in the first place.

More than once, as I sat listening to the music of Brin d’amour, I thought I was merely out of practice because I kept losing the thread of the music because I was paying attention to the documentary at the same time. But it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t getting distracted, it was simply that the music is interwoven so well with the story that you don’t realize it’s there, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the best film music is the kind you don’t notice. It should blend in with the visuals and that’s exactly what happens here.

The score for this documentary is based on a small ensemble: piano, a string trio, and several electronic instruments and synthesizers. A small group of instruments, to be sure, but they are used to great effect. I really love how Barros’ music draws you into the story, and not just the funny moments when you see Alain doing clownish things, but also the more deeply serious moments when some truly dark topics are touched upon. My favorite part is the music during the time when Alain and other members of his family talk about his late mother. You really get the feeling that this was a wonderful woman who was lost. Equally compelling is Barros’ ability to know when not to use any music, like during a therapy session when Alain is having one woman work out her feelings over the death of her grandmother. Moments like that, the music would distract from the experience, so using silence is those moments makes them resonate even more.

I’m happy I finally had the time to sit down and listen to Andre Barros’ music for Brin d’amour. It’s really good and I had a lot of fun listening to it.

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Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

I think I was in high school the first time I encountered Hammer’s Frankenstein films that starred Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. I forget how many of them I saw, but I know I saw Frankenstein Created Woman and the memory of that film had dwelled in the back of my brain ever since. So, some months back, when I got the chance to own the film on blu-ray (courtesy of Scream! Factory) I took it, and just the other day I finally had the chance to watch this film again.

Before I get to my thoughts on Frankenstein Created Woman, a quick overview as to what this film is. Hammer released seven Frankenstein films between 1957 and 1974, and this was the fourth film in that series. In Frankenstein Created Woman, the story focuses more on the metaphysical, as Baron Frankenstein is now obsessed with capturing and transferring a human soul from one body to another. He gets his chance when Hans (Robert Morris) is executed for a crime he didn’t commit and his lover Christina (Susan Denberg) commits suicide by drowning shortly thereafter. At first Frankenstein’s work appears to be a total success, but even a brilliant man like Frankenstein can’t realize the dangers involved in placing Hans’ soul in Christina’s body until it’s far too late.

It’s funny to me now, but while I was watching Frankenstein Created Woman, it occurred to me that my memory must not be as good as I thought (I usually have a good head for remembering movies) because except for the ending most of this film felt completely new to me. That’s not a bad thing, but it makes me wonder if perhaps I saw a different cut all those years ago, I’ve heard of things like that being done with Hammer films before, so maybe that’s why some of the scenes felt completely new to me.

A lack of memory aside, I really enjoyed Frankenstein Created Woman as much as I thought I would. Its message is a little heavy-handed (i.e. don’t put a vengeful soul inside a new body because there will be dire consequences) but overall it is a lot of fun to watch. Cushing’s Frankenstein is almost hilariously oblivious to the fact that he’s helped create this beautiful woman. To him Christina is only an experiment, but to everyone else she is pure woman, and it’s only at the very end of the film that the full extent of her monstrousness is revealed.

I really do like how the film goes about revealing what the human soul might look like outside of its body. I don’t quite agree with the explanation the film goes for as to how a soul could be trapped and contained but the visual of this glowing ball of light representing the soul is quite beautiful and is one of my favorite shots in the film.

There’s also an interesting lesson to be gleaned from this film, that being that it is dangerous to tamper with something as powerful as the human soul. Of course it is, as I said before, presented in a rather forceful manner, but it’s still a good point to be made. One can’t mess with the human soul in a purely scientific manner as Frankenstein attempts to do, that won’t work any more than building and animating a body from scratch will, as Frankenstein learns by the end. Additionally, there’s an equally poignant lesson about the injustice of condemning someone simply because their father was a criminal.

I would still probably recommend starting with The Curse of Frankenstein if you’re going to watch the Hammer Frankenstein films, but be sure to watch Frankenstein Created Woman not long after, because it’s really good.

Let me know what you think about Frankenstein Created Woman in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: Hildur Guðnadóttir & Sam Slater Announced as Composers for EA’s Battlefield 2042

Electronic Arts and DICE has announced that two-time Grammy Award, Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy, and BAFTA Award-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (JokerChernobyl) alongside composer Sam Slater (score producer JokerChernobyl) will score the latest entry in the Battlefield™ franchise, Battlefield 2042. Worldwide digital release of the album will be via Lakeshore Records. Lakeshore Records and Invada Records will co-release the vinyl edition.

Hildur Gudnadóttir is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, Emmy-, two-time Grammy-, and BAFTA-winning Icelandic artist, who has been manifesting herself at the forefront of experimental pop and contemporary music. In her solo works, she draws out a broad spectrum of sounds from her instrumentation, ranging from intimate simplicity to huge soundscapes.

Two-time Grammy Award-winning composer, sound designer and music producer Sam Slater is known for his roles as both score producer and musical sound designer for Joker and Chernobyl. In addition to his two Grammy Award wins for Joker and Chernobyl, he has also won an Icelandic Music Award as “Producer of the Year” and a MASA Award for “Best Sound Design in Television Program”.

President of Music for Electronic Arts, Steve Schnur, is no stranger to securing A-list Hollywood composers to create epic original scores for landmark EA games, having previously worked with the likes of Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight), Mark Mothersbaugh (Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist), Paul Oakenfold (The Bourne Identity), Bill Conti (Rocky), Chris Lennertz (Hop), Sean Callery (24), Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3), Tyler Bates (300, Watchmen), Steve Jablonsky (Transformers), John Debney (Iron Man 2) and Oscar winner Mike Giacchino (Star Trek, Up, Lost).

“From the very beginning, Hildur and Sam set out to craft a score like no other, in which music and sound design meld to create an extraordinary soundscape experience,” says Schnur. “I can say unequivocally that the original score for Battlefield 2042 is the most significant cinematic achievement in the franchise and an absolute game changer for the medium.”

Battlefield 2042 is a groundbreaking first-person shooter set to revolutionize the modern multiplayer sandbox. Powered by cutting-edge technology that pushes the capabilities of next generation hardware, the game drops players into a near-future, all-out-war experience. Featuring matches filled with up to 128 players on the latest consoles* and PCs, this unprecedented scale adds a new dimension to multiplayer battles. Battlefield 2042 also ups the action with the inclusion of real-time events that reshape the battlefield and tactical combat. All-new weapons, vehicles, and gadgets give players the freedom to be strategic and create jaw-dropping, only-in-Battlefield moments.

The biggest, most ambitious title in the franchise, Battlefield 2042 offers a depth of multiplayer across three distinct experiences:

  • All-Out Warfare – The next generation of fan-favorite modes Conquest and Breakthrough. Experience the intensity of All-Out Warfare in large-scale battles like never before on maps filled with dynamic weather, dangerous environmental hazards, and spectacular world events that see tornadoes rip across the map and sandstorms block out the sun.
  • Battlefield Portal – An all-new community-driven experience that gives players the power to discover, create and share unexpected battles from Battlefield 2042, and reimagined classics from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3
  • Battlefield Hazard Zone – An all-new, high-stakes, squad-based game-type for the Battlefield franchise that is a modern take on the multiplayer experience that is distinctly DICE but very different from All-Out Warfare’s Conquest or Breakthrough modes.

Battlefield 2042 is set to release on October 22, 2021.

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Soundtrack News: Vinyl Edition of ‘The Green Knight’ Score by Daniel Hart Available for Pre-Order from A24

 Following last month’s digital release of THE GREEN KNIGHT (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by composer and performer Daniel Hart, the album’s vinyl edition is now available for preorder exclusively on the A24 shop. Available digitally to stream and download, the album features score music written by Hart for director David Lowery’s latest fantasy adventure film based on the classic Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. Newly pressed on emerald-green marbled vinyl, the soundtrack arrives as a 2-LP gatefold set featuring liner notes from Hart and Lowery – preorder exclusively via the A24 shop hereThe Green Knight is currently available to watch in theaters and will be available to watch on PVOD anywhere your rent movies starting Thursday, August 19.

Available everywhere now, Daniel Hart’s soundtrack to The Green Knight is both as epic and unique as the film itself, a sweepingly dramatic and expansive body of music that straddles the divide between medieval and modern. Hart’s work has already garnered acclaim from critics, with the Los Angeles Times writing, “These fateful encounters draw lyricism and gravity from the singsong interludes and delicately plucked strings of Daniel Hart’s enveloping, ever-present score,” and eventually determining the film to be a “ravishing triumph.” The soundtrack is the latest in a longstanding creative partnership between Lowery and Hart, the duo having worked together previously on Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsPete’s DragonA Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun.

Of the soundtrack, composer Daniel Hart says:

“Making this music was somehow both like running from a pack of hyenas and wading through a river of chocolate mud. It has never taken David [Lowery] and I this long to find what we were looking for musically on any of his films, so to listen back now and actually love what we made is all the more satisfying, especially when I think about how many late nights and hair pullings went into it. Much like Gawain himself, I was stumbling through the wilderness most of the time and found little moments of good fortune here and there, often through stubborn dumb luck. I hope that when you listen to the soundtrack, you’ll think about things other than me sitting in my studio, endlessly fretting. But if you do, then your imagination is very accurate.”

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. From visionary filmmaker David Lowery comes a fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.

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Loneliness, Hope, and Old Gods: Talking with Sergio Ronchetti About the Music of Eldest Souls (2021)

Last month I got the opportunity to speak with composer Sergio Ronchetti about his work on the recently released video game Eldest Souls. London-based, Spanish & Italian composer and sound designer Sergio Ronchetti boldly crafts scores dwelling within realms of dusky depth, mercurial mood, and aggressive execution, drawing upon his background in heavy metal and combining his lyrical tastes with more traditional, orchestral compositional techniques for a truly singular signature style.

Sergio’s debut score for the 2021 pixel-art, boss-rush, “Souls-like” video game Eldest Souls captures the lonely and desolate melancholy of the game world while also providing vigorous, combative battle music matching the intensity of the challenging gameplay and capturing the personality and essence of each iconic boss fight. He cites artists like Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira as direct references to his Eldest Souls score – even if his instrumentations are far removed from theirs.

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Ronchetti’s work on Eldest Souls!

How did you get started as a composer?
I left high-school with the sole intention of joining a metal band and becoming a touring musician: which is what i did! I had been playing in bands ever since i was 15, using every spare minute at school to jam with friends in the music rooms. I guess during this time i picked up a lot of DAW production skills without knowing, which gave me a little head start when i decided to pursue media composing after about 4 years of touring. University was then the best place for me to learn exactly what kind of composer/musician i wanted to be, but I learned how to compose behind a computer around my degree. I took short course, extra classes and spoke to as many of my lecturers as possible to understand how to get my career started during my studies, not after. Combine this with saying yes to every opportunity that came my way and everything slowly built up from there.

How did you get involved with Eldest Souls?
I met Jon and Francesco at a free workshop in London hosted by Intel. They were showcasing a super early version of the game whilst taking a gap year during their studies to work on it. Initially they just wanted music for a trailer they were putting out. I sent them a track i thought could work and to my amazement they loved it! Pretty clear from then on that I was a good fit for their project, which is important when collaborating. I don’t think I was anything special, especially back then, but both parties were in the perfect position in terms of experience and skills to work together.

Were you given any specific directions by the game’s creators when working on the score?
The stylistic decisions were made very early on. This meant that I had a direction right from the get go, in terms of style, placement in the game and the scope of the game. The best part as that Jon and Francesco created a very stress-free and flexible workflow, which gave us all the chance to fail and learn moving forward. Sometimes they had reference tracks that they really wanted to hear in the game, other times i just asked for 3-4 words describing the mood, setting and emotions they wanted out of each boss fight.

A related question: was there a lot of collaboration with the game’s director/creators on the score?
As an indie studio, there’s often a lot of crossover within our individual roles. With the music and more so the sound design, we worked very closely and generated as much feedback and testing as possible to get the ideal work out of me. Similarly, I’d always offer to help out at conventions and managing other areas like the socials and marketing, so it really was a collaborative effort from all of us. And I loved every minute of it! We’ve all grown an attachment to this project and we’re all the more happy to see it finally out there for people to enjoy.

I’ve heard Eldest Souls described as “Souls-like” which I assume means it’s similar to the Dark Souls series of games. Is the music for Eldest Souls similar in any way to Dark Souls or did you take a different approach with the music?
In terms of gameplay you could say so. We limited the music to the combat sequences in the game, which left ambience and sound design to govern the travelling in-between. Really this was to reinforce the narrative of the game which is my sole purpose as a game audio professional. I am constantly asking myself “what story am I telling here?” before designing any sounds or music. So when the music hits, you know it’s go time, and everything springs into action. When it’s over, you’re left with the residual consequences of your action adding to the already desolate environment. But in terms of musical sound I wouldn’t say my music is anywhere close to DS or Bloodborne. We felt that overtly gothic and dark style was perhaps a little overkill for the art-style and pace of Eldest Souls. But I love those soundtracks and getting familiar with them during development was super inspiring.

In general, how did you approach scoring Eldest Souls? Were you able to play through early builds of the game or at least observe early gameplay footage for inspiration?
It was very hands on. Again, all praise to the boys from Rome for allowing me to be as involved as I was. I could quite literally jump into the game, test and mix my audio live using Fmod. Then once i was fairly happy, i’d send it over to them for review. It saved a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Being able to experience the gameplay first-hand is invaluable. It’s like scoring a film and getting to play the main character as you do.

Given how important the game’s boss fights are, how did you specifically go about creating music for those moments? Since each “Old God” encounter is different, I can only assume that would affect the music for each fight. Was there any extra pressure to get the music “just right”?
Really, since this was the first project for all of us, there was no pressure at all! Haha. We just wanted to do the best we could, and learn from the process. That being said, some boss fights came together very quickly, others needed more revisions. It was all about focusing on anticipating player emotions and the mini-narratives within each fight: was it fast-paced? How intimidating was it? What are the boss’ unique characteristics? Questions like that. I also often asked Jon and Franco for just 3-4 words describing the scene, and went from there. Each boss had its own personality that needed matching and enhancing with my music.

Did you make specific musical themes for the main character and the Old Gods? Or other aspects of the game?
Eldest Souls had 2 messages which needed conveying: the brutal combat and the idea of loneliness and hope. The former was expressed by each fight being narrated by a unique boss theme to match the style and personality of each God and beast you encounter. The latter is portrayed via the Main Theme. This title track was my way of tying the whole soundtrack together. Since each boss fight was so different, re-working one theme throughout didn’t end up making much sense from a gameplay experience perspective. It also gave me a chance to write in a totally different genre with my post-minimalist interests coming through with the repeating live vocals and haunting solo cello recordings. It was a lot of fun writing that track and for that reason it holds a special interest to me.

What was your process for deciding which instruments to use in the game’s score?
Keeping with the Souls-like vibe, i took a touch of inspiration from the From Software games. I remember a few years back going to a video games exhibit at the V&A museum here in London. There was a fabulous insight into the Bloodborne music and even previews of the score they used during recordings! The likes of Cris Velasco and Yuka Kitamura decided to cut out any typically high frequency or bright instruments, like trumpets or high violin lines. All with the intention of keeping it as dark sounding as possible. Aside from that, I still take great inspiration from my days of writing and playing heavy metal music which is hugely reliant on rhythmic ideas. For that reason the percussion in my tracks is always front and foremost. Metal drummers like Mario Duplantier and Joey Jordison are huge inspirations to me, even when i’m writing for melodic instruments.

How much time did you have to score Eldest Souls?
The project was initially meant to be a 13 month stint. But through the process we picked up a lot of momentum from wishlists and conventions that we ended up scaling the scope of the game up as we went to about 3 years of development. For that reason I had the opportunity to go back and re-write some of the initial tracks that weren’t quite up to scratch by the end of it. You can improve a lot as a composer in the space of just a year, so after 3 I was at a totally different level. However, I’m not a fan of going back and constantly re-writing and improving work. I’d rather just finish a project and move on to the next. Being prolific is the only way to progress as an artist.

Are there any musical details in the game you hope players notice?
If there are, they are VERY well hidden haha. But for example, towards the end of the project I started to lean into my metal roots even more. I even exercised taking my favourite metal songs and re-arranging the rhythms and melodies. It might be most obvious in The Imperator, if there are any fans of Machine Head out there. Also the intro to that track was super fun to write too. I often like taking classical and romantic pieces of music and re-orchestrating and arranging them. It’s a great way to use existing material and create something totally new by the end of it. The final boss intro had to be epic, so I used epic material. In my opinion it doesn’t get much bigger and grander than Carl Orff’s, O Fortuna.

Do you have a favorite musical theme in the game?
I’m quite partial to ‘Ov Fire and Water’ which I think came out great. Equally ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Lunar Descending’ are still some of my favourites.

I want to say a big thank you to Sergio Ronchetti for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Eldest Souls.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Behind the Music of Action and Comedy: Talking with Atli Örvarsson about ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’

Recently I had the chance to speak with Atli Örvarsson about his work on The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Atli’s credits include composing and orchestrating music for some of Hollywood’s biggest projects, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Angels & Demons, The Holiday, The Eagle, Vantage Point, Babylon A.D., Thick as Thieves, The Fourth Kind, and Season of the Witch.

Atli’s accolades include winning the HARPA Nordic Film Composer Award for his acclaimed score to Rams, several ASCAP and BMI Film and TV Music Awards, a “Breakthrough of the Year” nomination with the IFMCA Awards in 2009, plus he was nominated for the prestigious World Soundtrack Academy’s “Discovery of the Year Award” for his score for Babylon A.D in 2009 and his score for Ploey: You Never Fly Alone was nominated for a “Public Choice Award” in 2018.

I hope you enjoy the discussion we had about this film!

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! My first question is, how did you get started as a composer?
I have been writing music since childhood but got “serious” about composition when I was attending Berklee College of Music and found out they had a film music program. I had always been interested in film music, as far back as the first Star Wars film when I was just a little kid, so this field of study really appealed to me and has been my path ever since.

I know you previously composed the music for The Hitman’s Bodyguard in 2017, was it always assumed that you would return to score the music for the sequel?
Yes. Patrick Hughes, the director of these films, started discussing a possible sequel with me right after the first film came out.

Speaking of, what did you think of getting to return to the world of The Hitman’s Bodyguard to create more music for it? Was it easier scoring this film because you’d also written the music for the first film?
I don´t know if easier is the right word but perhaps it was a bit of a luxury to have a lot of themes from the original film to work with and it just made sense to reuse these.

On a similar note, what was the discussion with the director like when it came to putting the score together? Were you building on the first film’s musical themes in the sequel or did you create something wholly new?
A bit of both. There is a new bad guy in this film who needed a new theme, obviously along with some other new characters and storylines. Salma Hayek’s character also plays a bigger role here so that called for some new music. At the same time the two main characters are the same so there is a lot of reusing and reinventing themes from the original film.

Speaking of themes, are there musical themes for specific characters?
Yes.


I know this film is considered an action-comedy. How did you balance the music in the score between action and comedy?
It’s usually pretty clear cut whether a scene is primarily an action scene or a comedy scene but there are certainly scenes in this movie that combine both. In these cases, I usually choose to score the scenes very much like serious action scenes as the comedy sort of speaks for itself but to be honest, there’s no hard and fast rule. It just depends on the scene and what feels right.

How much time did you have to score The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?
I had quite a bit of time as the Covid pandemic kept interrupting the schedule, but once we got started “for real” it went quite fast. I’d say about 2 months from the start of scoring to recording with the orchestra.

How much did the previous score for The Hitman’s Bodyguard influence the music for the sequel?
Quite a bit! As I mentioned earlier, I did reuse themes from the first movie but perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that there’s more score and less songs in the sequel.

Do you have a favorite musical moment in the score?
It’s hard to say… I really enjoyed writing some of the comedy cues around Bryce’s personal backstory where the music plays very serious over the comedy, e.g. when we first meet his step father and for the flashback about his mom.

Finally, is there any musical detail you hope viewers notice when they go to see this movie in theaters?
There are many places where I geeked out and tried to sneak in my themes in disguises. Hopefully someone picks up on that!

I hope you enjoyed this interview about the music of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: Composer Inon Zur to score ‘Starfield’ video game

EMMY award-winner and 3-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur (‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’) is scoring ‘STARFIELD’, the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout 4’. Set hundreds of years in our future, STARFIELD is an epic about hope, our shared humanity, and answering our greatest mystery. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom.

Inon Zur is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic original music scores for blockbuster video game franchises including ‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’, and ‘The Elder Scrolls’, as well as the EMMY-winning documentary ‘Saber Rock’ and animated television shows including ‘Power Rangers’, ‘Digimon’ and ‘Escaflowne’.


Zur’s iconic themes and avant garde scores for the ‘Fallout’ video game series have been described as “Sophisticated and atmospheric” (Classic FM) and received two BAFTA nominations. His best-selling soundtrack for ‘Fallout 4’ is celebrated as one of the best original video game scores by BAFTA, The Game Awards, and Classic FM. Recently his original score for ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ received top honors at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards.

Zur previously scored the ‘Fallout’ series and ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ for the studio. The official teaser trailer for STARFIELD was released at a joint Microsoft Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase held during E3 2021, followed by a video introduction entitled ‘Into the Starfield: The Journey Begins’ – both featuring original music compositions by Zur. ‘STARFIELD’ will release November 11, 2022.

Are you excited to see what Inon Zur creates for Starfield?

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