Author Archives: Film Music Central

About Film Music Central

I'm a 30 year old musicologist and blogger and I've had a lifelong obsession with film music, cartoon music, just about any kind of music!

Soundtrack News: ‘Occupation Rainfall’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Now Available on iTunes

Kaleido Sound is excited to announce the release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Lionsgate action sci-fi film, Occupation Rainfall, composed by Frederik Wiedmann (The Dragon Prince, Acts of Vengeance).

Wiedmann has been inspired by film composition since he first heard John Barry’s score to Dances With Wolves at the age of 12. Wiedmann is the composer behind the hit Disney Junior show Miles from Tomorrowland, as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix animated fantasy series The Dragon Prince, which is from the writers of the popular series: Avatar: The Last Airbender. Wiedmann has been a main stay in the DC cinematic universe, starting with his work on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, for which he earned two consecutive Annie Awards nominations. His success on the series led to further popular Warner Bros’ DC projects such as, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Son of BatmanDeath of SupermanJustice League: Gods and MonstersBatman: Gotham by Gaslight among others.

Directed by Luke Sparke, Occupation Rainfall takes place two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth. Survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

Regarding the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, composer Frederik Wiedmann had the following to say:

“This project was a huge musical canvas with a lot of room for creativity left for the composer, which made my heart race with excitement. From the first moment I saw a few snippets of it, I knew that this was going to be one epic ride. 

Luke Sparke, the director, and I spotted about 117 minutes for this 2-hour Sci-fi film, for which we both agreed that we’d need a big orchestra. It wasn’t an easy task to organize an orchestra of this scale due to COVID-19, but we managed to record in London at AIR studios, as well as in Macedonia at the FAMES scoring stage to create the sound we both wanted. 

The movie is certainly action-packed, with stunning visual effects and performances by the actors. But underneath the blood-pumping, adrenalin-spewing blockbuster facade of the film, lies a bigger, more philosophical question of “how far would you go for the greater good?”. I did my musical best to accompany the depth of this theme, using an array of thematic material, to underline the difficult choices that our characters inevitably face, as well as their emotional journey throughout the film.”

TRACK LISTING

  1. The Worst Is Yet To Come (2:10)
  2. Taking Fire (2:13)
  3. You’re Our Last Chance (2:42)
  4. Freed (2:09)
  5. Sydney (3:19)
  6. Gearing Up (2:46)
  7. Hail Of Fire (4:07)
  8. Ambushed (3:04)
  9. Sydney Destroyed (1:21)
  10. In The Outback (2:31)
  11. Hit Them With The Crossfire (2:16)
  12. Alien Pursuit (3:25)
  13. Red Sky (3:01)
  14. Apex Predator (4:18)
  15. The Village (1:53)
  16. Restricted Area (4:32)
  17. The Mob (3:15)
  18. The Command Ships (2:37)
  19. They Are Here (3:02)
  20. An Evolutionary Accident (4:19)
  21. Project Rainfall (2:09)
  22. Overrun (2:47)
  23. Avoiding Disaster (2:50)
  24. Guns And Blades (2:05)
  25. Kal’i Attack (1:35)
  26. The Standoff (1:38)
  27. Wing Commander Heyes (2:56)
  28. Behind Closed Doors (2:11)
  29. The Ascend (2:24)
  30. For Humanity (2:27)
  31. Reunited (3:10)

Check out the soundtrack for Occupation Rainfall, available on iTunes, and have a great day!

See also:

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Soundtrack Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021)

Milan Records has released Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Original Soundtrack) with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and Wataru Hokoyama.  Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama for the latest installment in the PlayStation® video game franchise that released on June 11, 2021.

Of the soundtrack, composer Mark Mothersbaugh says:

“It takes an army to create a soundtrack for a video game these days, and there are a number of writers, arrangers, orchestrators, players, synth programmers that were involved.  For games in general, you have to be aware that a particular level and the music embedded in it will sometimes be around for a long time, so you want to make sure your themes and melodies are iconic.  The video game genre is very satisfying because of the craftsmanship involved and the attention to detail. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is probably the best game score I ever got to work on.”

Of the soundtrack, composer Wataru Hokoyama says:

“It was just so much fun working on such an epic game like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.  The depth of the worlds that the game took place in allowed us to write in so many varieties of style.  Working with the teams at Insomniac Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment was so amazing.  They’re full of great people who love and enjoy what they do, and they welcomed us as members of their big family throughout the project.  The feeling of ‘Let’s have so much fun co-creating the world of Ratchet & Clanksound together’ felt so special, and it became one of the most memorable video game projects for me.  It’s important for me to mention that it was Mark Mothersbaugh who brought me on board with this game project.  Mark has been like a fatherly figure to me in my music career.  We’ve done multiple blockbuster films together, and it’s such an honor to have my name credited next to the DEVO legend.  I look forward to our future collaborations.”

Built from the ground up for the PS5™ console by acclaimed studio Insomniac Games, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a brand new, interdimensional adventure.  Go dimension-hopping with Ratchet and Clank and help them stop a robotic emperor intent on conquering cross-dimensional worlds, with their own universe next in the firing line. Jump between action-packed worlds and beyond at mind-blowing speeds – complete with dazzling visuals and an insane arsenal as the intergalactic adventurers blast onto the PS5™ console.  Join a cast of familiar faces and some new allies – including Rivet, a mysterious new playable female Lombax resistance fighter who is just as determined to take out the robotic scourge.

After listening to this soundtrack, I think I owe the Ratchet & Clank video game series a big apology. Now, to be fair, I don’t know what the earlier games sound like, but I do know I wasn’t expecting anything as epic and glorious as what I hear in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama have created some genuinely special music that instantly grabs your attention and pulls you into the story. And it must be quite the story, because this music really does feel epic, perhaps not to the same degree as, say, God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn, but it’s definitely attempting to push the boundaries of where the story can go.

One thing I really like in the music for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the musical continuity. There’s a distinctive main theme that recurs throughout the soundtrack, and it’s used to pull everything together. In that way, the music for this game is almost like a symphony in some places, as this main theme opens the soundtrack, appears throughout, and comes back in at the end in climactic fashion. For those reasons, I have to call out “Rift Apart” and “Culmination at Corson V” as two of my favorite tracks on the entire soundtrack. Both feature what is unquestionably the score’s main theme and they’re a lot of fun to sit and listen to (I can only imagine what hearing this music in the game will be like, as the game is a PS5 exclusive and I only have a PS4).

But it’s not all grand and epic sounds in this score either, which is another detail I like. For instance, in “Cascading Enropic Fissure” there’s a musical moment in there that sounds very retro, in fact it almost sounds like the composers are quoting music from an older Ratchet & Clank game (which may very well be the case). I like how this particular track seems to highlight the past. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the soundtrack.

And then, I absolutely have to highlight “Join Me At the Top”, the final track on this soundtrack. I’m not sure who all is participating in this piece but it sounds like a musical number that is being sung by the game’s villain and it is absolutely DELIGHTFUL. This is seriously like something out of a Broadway musical. I don’t know why this song is part of the soundtrack or how it fits into the game but after listening to it, I could honestly listen to a whole album of songs just like this one. What a fantastic way to bring the soundtrack album to a close.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s beautiful and one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve heard so far this year.

RATCHET & CLANK: RIFT APART (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Rift Apart
  2. Festival of Heroes
  3. A Most Nefarious City
  4. Sweet Home Sargasso
  5. Ride Through the Omniverse
  6. Ode to Nefarious
  7. Meet me at Zurkie’s
  8. Urfdah Mesa Major
  9. Blizar Prime’d and Ready
  10. Molonoth Means Paradise
  11. Cascading Entropic Fissure
  12. A Tale of Two Cordelions
  13. Glitch in the System
  14. A Late Arrival
  15. The Battle for Sargasso
  16. Urfdah Mesa Minor
  17. Y’Ardolis
  18. Zordoom and Gloom
  19. Culmination at Corson V
  20. Join Me at the Top

Let me know what you think of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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My Thoughts on: Wish Dragon (2021)

After finally sitting down and watching Wish Dragon on Netflix, I have to confess I have (once again) learned a powerful lesson: one should never judge a movie by its first 20 minutes alone. Because while Wish Dragon does get off to a rather slow start, it does eventually come into its own with a beautiful story to tell.

The story of Wish Dragon is set in modern Shanghai and follows a capable (but poor) young man named Din, who unexpectedly finds himself in possession of a magic teapot containing a “wish dragon” named Long who can grant him three wishes. If that sounds suspiciously familiar to the plot of Aladdin, well, it is, and on that basis alone I almost gave up on the film because, let’s be honest, Disney did that story years ago and did it very well.

But there’s a key difference between these two films and that is the titular wish dragon Long. This pink dragon is no Genie, and the film is well-written to make sure we don’t think of him that way. Long is an unexpectedly complex character; he started off irritating but slowly grew to become one of my favorite characters in the film. Long isn’t just a magical dragon, he has his own motivations that color the story and that creates a completely different relationship between Din and Long than what exists between Aladdin and the Genie. It’s a brilliant twist on this kind of story actually, and I’m glad I stuck with the film to see how this story arc played out.

Another thing I love about Wish Dragon is how this story puts a platonic twist on the “boy wants girl” story trope. When I first heard of this film and realized there was a young man and young woman involved, I rolled my eyes and thought “here we go, another YA animated romance film. Next!” And then I saw the part in the trailer where Din admits that he does NOT want Lina to fall in love with him, he just wants her back as his best friend. And that made my jaw DROP. That….you don’t see that in stories, or at least you didn’t until now. It was so refreshing to see a story where romance is NOT the ultimate goal of these magic wishes (another key difference from Aladdin).

And then there’s the film’s themes about telling the truth and friendship. Of course the most important theme in this film is friendship and how it is one of the most important things you can have, even more than money or fame. But…at the same time there’s an almost equal emphasis on telling the truth, be it about what you really want in life or being honest about who you really are. You need to be honest with yourself and the world about what you really want, at least that’s what I gathered after watching this film.

As a quick side note, I might also say that Wish Dragon also has a smaller lesson embedded in it, that being “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” It’s a lesson you don’t see implemented consistently with magical wish-granting stories, but Wish Dragon does make good use of it in this film, and Long even snarks about how one should “be careful what you DON’T wish for” in reference to this idea.

Now, as much as I ended up loving Wish Dragon, it does take a little while to get going. I beg you to be patient with the film’s first act because once things are properly set into motion, the story is a lot of fun. Other than that, I have no real complaints about this film. The animation is smartly done and the music, as I learned from talking to the film’s composer, is indeed a perfect blending of East and West.

Despite some minor flaws and a slow start, Wish Dragon proved itself to be everything I was promised and more. It proves a story like this doesn’t need romance to work and it also rams the lesson home that money is NOT everything nor is being rich everything it’s cracked up to be. As the credits rolled, I found myself more than happy with what I’d seen and I happily recommend checking this film out on Netflix.

Let me know what you think of Wish Dragon on Netflix in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

Animated Film Reviews

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 

Music to Describe Fear and Music for Superheroes: Talking with Composer Jeremy Turner about ‘Immigration Nation’ and ‘Marvel’s 616’

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak with composer Jeremy Turner about his work on the Netflix series Immigration Nation and his work on the main theme for Marvel’s 616 on Disney+. For both of these scores, Turner is in contention for an Emmy, one for Documentary Score and one for Main Title Theme.

The docuseries Immigration Nation follows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on raids, at detention centers, and attempting to integrate with local law enforcement. The cruelty viewers see firsthand is gut-wrenching and the score depicts the tension and fear seen on screen. Turner scored the project almost like a horror film to match the devastating and unfortunate reality that many have been oblivious to. The revelations in the doc are uncomfortable and the audience feels the heaviness of the high stakes circumstances so many in this country have been subjected to.

Marvel’s 616, in complete contrast, is an anthology documentary television series that illustrates different pockets of the Marvel Universe. Some episodes revolve around Marvel cosplay, Marvel action figures, and even a Marvel Comics-themed musical.

Jeremy Turner began his musical studies on the piano at the age of 5 and started playing the cello when he was 8 years old. After growing up in Michigan, he attended The Juilliard School as a pupil of Harvey Shapiro and studied chamber music with Felix Galimir. As a composer, his music has been heard around the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. Noted works include The Inland Seas, composed for violinist James Ehnes and mandolinist Chris Thile and commissioned by the Seattle Chamber Music Society; Suite of Unreason, a commission from the Music Academy of the West for their 70th Anniversary season; and a choral work for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Wave Hill in New York.

Please enjoy my conversation with Jeremy Turner about his work on Immigration Nation and Marvel’s 616.

How did you get started as a composer?

I started writing music when I was a toddler, making up songs on an old upright piano in the basement of our family home. But then got sidetracked for about 20+ years, as I became a cellist in an orchestra in New York and had a performance career that kept my calendar pretty full. Eventually, I got back to doing what I was probably meant to do in the first place, and I’ve been composing ever since.

How did you get involved with Immigration Nation?

Through Shaul Schwarz, who directed the first film I ever scored—Narco Cultura back in 2013.

Given how important the story being told in this docuseries is, how did you decide where to start in putting the music together?

I knew it was going to be a fairly daunting task and would have a lot of emotional ups and downs. So, I just started at the beginning by writing a couple of sketches for the main titles, and that led to some established themes from which we could work with.

I find it very interesting that you chose to score the series similar to a horror film, was that your concept for the musical style for Immigration Nation from the beginning or did you come to that conclusion after trying several different styles?

It’s not all horror of course, but we discussed early in the process what fear might sound like. And much as I tried to leave the cello behind (since it is the instrument that I’m most comfortable with), directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau really wanted the full range of what the cello could bring. At its best it can be heart wrenching, melancholy, and probably is the closest musical instrument to the human voice. But when you start pushing beyond the limits of conventional approaches and experiment with extended techniques, you can draw out some incredibly unsettling tones.

How much time did you have to score Immigration Nation?

I’d say about 3-4 months. It was during the early days of the pandemic, so there were a lot of adjustments made on the fly, in terms of how we would work together and how we would finish.

Are there any musical moments in Immigration Nation that you hope viewers notice?

It’s a strange project to have any sense of pride about because it’s all so real and all so tragic. Honestly, I just hope people muster up the courage to watch it because I think it is something every American needs to see, regardless of what one thinks they might already know.

 Was there any part of Immigration Nation that you had difficulty scoring? Or any part where you decided music just wouldn’t work?

To be truthful, I had difficulty scoring the entire series. Not technically, but just emotionally. The final minutes of episode 5, I don’t think I’ve ever made it through without shedding a tear. But yes, there was a delicate balance to not score a scene that didn’t need to be scored. There is a lot of raw emotion on screen, so we made a conscious effort to not have the music force anything that wasn’t already clearly being felt.

On a different note, how did you go about scoring the title music for Marvel’s 616?

Marvel? Big heroic theme? Less than a minute of music? This is a dream scenario for any composer! 


Were you inspired at all by the Avenger’s theme that recurs throughout the MCU? I may be wrong but I swear I hear a musical resemblance between the two.

I flipped through some Marvel music from scores past to see where I’d be coming from for sure. Always helpful when taking over a shift in the kitchen to know what the previous menu was. But no, the themes aren’t related other than the fact that they are played by a big orchestra.

How much time did it take to compose the title music for Marvel’s 616?

Not terribly long, only in that the actual titles hadn’t been created yet. So, I just wrote a single sketch based on our initial conversations and that ended up being the final music. Yes, I realize that will probably never happen again! 

I want to say thank you to Jeremy Turner for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Immigration Nation and Marvel’s 616.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

My Thoughts on: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

So as I was booking movie tickets last week, I was delighted to see that my local Regal Cinema was showing the 40th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hard as it is to believe that this film is 40 years old, I couldn’t say no to the chance to see this film in theaters, as the only other opportunity I had to see this film on the big screen was five years ago when I got to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in concert (a fun experience, but not quite the same as seeing it in a theater).

I‘ll start off by saying that Raiders of the Lost Ark is just as good as I remembered. I grew up watching this film, seen it more times than I can count, and oh my goodness was it fun to see it play out in a movie theater. If you’re not familiar with this film, this is the first movie to feature Harrison Ford as archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones. A lot of the movie collections will actually retitle this film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” but Raiders of the Lost Ark is in fact the proper title. And as the title implies, Indiana Jones is in search of the fabled Ark of the Covenant….but so are the Nazis (because this film is set in 1936 so of COURSE the Nazis are the bad guys).

Half of what makes Raiders of the Lost Ark so amazing is John Williams’ phenomenal score. Williams has never done a bad film score, but I feel like this point in time was particularly good for him, as Raiders of the Lost Ark came out the year after Empire Strikes Back (and we all know how good THAT score is). My favorite musical moment in this film remains ‘The Map Room’ when Jones has to deduce where the Well of the Souls REALLY is (after learning that his rival doesn’t know after all). This is a perfectly shot scene and what makes it memorable is that the music does 90% of the work. From the moment the cue starts until the end, Harrison Ford doesn’t say a word because the music is telling the story for you.

And then there’s, of course, the story of the film itself. It’s classic good guy vs bad guy storytelling and even though I can quote most of the film from memory, it never ever gets old, that’s how good this film is. Something I’ve grown to appreciate over the rewatches is how this film subverts the adventure tropes that it claims to emulate. Examples include (but are not limited to): Indiana Jones is initially presented as a tough explorer, but he’s TERRIFIED of snakes; Jones steals a uniform from a Nazi guard but it doesn’t fit him when he tries to put it on (subverting the idea that the enemy uniform you steal will ALWAYS fit); Jones is also not as smart as he thinks he is, for proof I cite the opening scene when he tries to trick the booby trap into letting him remove the golden idol without setting it off.

I’m also a big fan of Paul Freeman’s Belloq, the French archaeologist who is Jones’ primary rival throughout the film. On the initial viewing, you might be inclined to just hate Belloq because he works with the Nazis, but the more you watch this film, the more you realize it’s not quite that simple. Sure, Belloq is on the wrong side of history (and he pays for it dearly), but his interest in the Ark is 100% genuine. Also, I think his feelings for Marion are real too, as he seems genuinely upset when Marion is thrown into the snake-filled Well of the Souls. Really, I just like that Belloq is a nuanced villain, in contrast to the Nazis who are just out and out evil.

One thing that’s always bothered me though is the ending. I can still remember watching this film as a kid and being absolutely bewildered that the last thing we see is the Ark getting shut up into a box and taken deep into a packed warehouse. It frustrated the heck out of me as a kid, and even though I sort of understand why the film ends this way, it still frustrates me now if I’m honest. I can’t help but agree with Jones’ final assessment “Fools…..bureaucratic fools. They don’t know what they’ve got there.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark may be 40 years old, but it’s only improved with age. If you get the chance to see this anniversary screening, please go watch, it’s an experience everyone should have at least once.

Let me know what you think about Raiders of the Lost Ark in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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Going ‘On My Way’: A Brief Talk with Alex Lahey About ‘On My Way’ and The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

To my surprise and delight, I was given the opportunity to speak with Alex Lahey about their work on the song ‘On My Way’ and its inclusion in the hit Netflix movie The Mitchells vs The Machines.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Alex started playing both guitar and saxophone when she was 13 years old, and studied art and jazz when she first enrolled in university. She broke through in 2016 with her song “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, with her first full-length album ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ following in 2017.

How did you get started as a musician?

I’ve been playing music my whole life, but I really got serious about it when I was in high school and fell in love with playing the saxophone in the school big band. As I was getting into learning the sax, I was teaching myself guitar on the side just as a way to play the punk, rock and pop music I was actually listening to in my spare time. After leaving school and playing in a few bands with mates, I came to realise that I’m a better songwriter than saxophone player and I’ve never looked back.

How did you get connected with The Mitchells vs The Machines?

I was really lucky that my song ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ got included in The Mitchells quite early on in the production process. So early on that they didn’t have a song for the end credits of the movie! So I got sent a brief of what the director and music supervisor were looking to fill that space with and that’s how ‘On My Way’ came to be.

What did you think of the film’s story?

I loved the story of the film and especially loved the character of Katie. Growing up as a queer kid, it would’ve meant the world to me to have seen a character like Katie on screen and I’m so glad she exists now for all the young people who need someone like her. The themes of family, growing up and being yourself that are so central to the story really resonate with me too.

Tell me about how ‘On My Way’ was developed for the film, what was the process for that song coming together?

As I mentioned before, the song was prompted by a brief the creative team provided me with. Between lockdowns in Melbourne, I took the brief to two artists I’m very close with, Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper) and Sophie Payten (Gordi), just as something to do while hanging out for the first time in ages and ‘On My Way’ was born. I guess we had a lot of good creative vibes waiting to be unleashed after so much time without face to face collaboration. Gab and I ended up finishing the recording virtually as Melbourne went back into lockdown. A big shout out must go out to Scott Horscroft who tracked all the drums and mixed the tune for us at The Grove while we were beamed in via Zoom during Stage 4 lockdown!

Aside from ‘On My Way’ were you involved in any other aspects of the music for The Mitchells vs The Machines?

To have both ‘On My Way’ and ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ included in the film was really awesome. It was so great to be a part of this project in a really meaningful way. I’d never written a song intentionally for screen before and it was so wonderful to be part of the process of bringing this film together, even just in a small way. I hope it’s not the last time I get to be involved in a project like this. 

I want to give a big thank you to Alex Lahey for taking the time to talk with me!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021)

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to speak with composer Philip Klein about his work on the upcoming Netflix film Wish Dragon (which comes out on June 11th). Klein’s music has been heard in film and television projects for Sony, Disney, Pixar, Lionsgate, ABC and CBS. As a writer, Philip has collaborated with some of the finest composers working in film and TV, including Harry Gregson-Williams, Carter Burwell, Alex Heffes and Fil Eisler. He’s has had the honor of orchestrating for James Newton Howard, Alexandre Desplat, Ludwig Göransson, Richard Harvey, Steve Jablonsky, David Buckley, Stewart Copeland, Peter Golub, John Frizzell and several other amazing artists.

After a steady diet of drum corps and classical music throughout his childhood, Philip’s formal music education took him to Chicago where he studied trumpet and composition at Northwestern University. This classical foundation combined with a deep understanding of modern scoring techniques allow him to seamlessly compliment every project he works on. Selected as one of six fellows for the 2011 Sundance Institute’s Film Composing Lab in Utah, Philip has always had a deep love for the interaction of music and film. He owes much of his success to his mentors in Hollywood, Harry Gregson-Williams, Alan Silvestri, Penka Kouneva and Peter Golub. 

“Wish Dragon” is the story of Din, a 19-yr old college student living in a working-class neighborhood of modern-day Shanghai, who has big dreams but small means. Din’s life changes overnight when he finds an old teapot containing a Wish Dragon named Long – a magical dragon able to grant wishes – and he is given the chance to reconnect with his childhood best friend, Li-Na.

Please enjoy my conversation with Philip Klein about Wish Dragon!

How Did You Get Started as a Composer?

I was a trumpet player for most of my young musical life but I eventually found myself being drawn more to orchestration and composition.  I had a soft spot for film scores at a very young age and would spend hours picking out notes to my favorite themes, so it felt natural to fall into that world when I went to college and beyond.  Once I had scored a few student films I was hooked and moving to Los Angeles was the logical next step.  I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of the most skilled artists in film and music.

How did You Get Involved with Wish Dragon? Was there anything in particular that drew you to the story?

Producer Aron Warner is a dear friend and we’ve both always wanted to work on a project together. One of Aron’s superpowers is curating a team of creatives that all compliment each other.  He felt that director Chris Appelhans and I would mesh well so he reached out and I saw a very early cut of mostly stick figure drawing and early animatics.  Even in its most basic form the story was beautifully conceived and it was clear from conversations with Chris and Aron that the film was going to be special. I did all that I could to convince them that I was the right composer for the film and luckily they agreed.  Chris’ passion for storytelling, the characters and the culture is what drew me in early on; it wasn’t long before I was happily escaping into this world on a daily basis.  

I saw that you also worked on Raya and the Last Dragon as an orchestrator. Given that both of these films are about dragons, would you say there are musical similarities between the two or did you go out of your way to avoid any overt musical comparisons to Raya?

James Newton Howard wrote a beautiful score for Raya. I lucked out a bit in that I actually finished recording the score for Wish Dragon several months before we began orchestration work on Raya, so my window for being influenced (and intimidated) by James’ writing had passed. James’ score took advantage of musical colors from different areas of Mongolia and Southeast Asia, whereas Chris and I wanted to stick very close to Chinese culture for the color of the score.  Raya has a bit more fantasy whereas Wish Dragon is a bit more comedic. So in that sense, the scores were always going to sound different.

What was your starting point in putting the music for Wish Dragon together? Was there a lot of collaboration with the director during this process?

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a project where the director was as much a collaborator as Chris was on this film.  The first 3-4 months of the process was just sharing music, videos and thoughts back and forth.  We sent each other any kind of Chinese instrument, folk song, vocal, opera percussion; basically any sound we could find.  Eventually, we started to hone in on the overall palette and approach we thought may work and then I started to experiment with those boundaries in place.  Chris was intimately involved with the music from conception through recording and mixing.  Chris had such a strong vision of what he wanted and needed out of the score, I loved every minute of working through this film with him. 

Were you inspired by any earlier films when putting the music together since this is a reworking of the “genie in a bottle” type of story? Or did you try to put an original twist on it as far as the music went?

While on its surface this film may seem like a “genie in the bottle” kind of story, the film is much more about friendship and redemption than anything.  The spectacle and theatricality of Long’s character sits somewhat behind the genuine connections we follow throughout the film.  While it is important to give a voice to Long’s over-the-top character, we never went too far in making him seem like more of a being than he is.  I think previous iterations of that kind of story maybe put more emphasis on the genie type character and their performance.  So musically, you have to match that kind of energy.  In Wish Dragon, we always wanted more weight to go towards the relationships and arcs of the characters so it naturally kept me away from drawing too much inspiration on other films or scores.  I’ll always be proud of how Chris and I blended these beautiful instruments of Chinese culture with a more Western orchestral palette.  We didn’t want either to ever overshadow the other.

Did you assign themes to the major characters? Or if not all of the characters, did you give a musical theme to Long the dragon?

I’m a huge believer that thematic writing is one of the most effective ways to create memorable emotional moments in a film.  Long has a theme we hear in the first cue of the film.  It’s broad and sweeping, almost always played with the orchestra to give his character scale and drama.  Din’s theme probably recurs most often but is played much more simply and with less fanfare than Long’s.  Much of Din’s scenes take full advantage of the energy from the Chinese instruments we used.  For most of the film Din is full of optimism so his theme is orchestrated with lovely and light, plucked textures.  There are two secondary themes; the first for our baddies and the other for Din and Li Na’s relationship.  For the goons in the film, I used a lot of darker bowed sounds from the Chinese instruments and mixed them into more modern, synth heavy orchestration.  For Din and Li Na, it’s a very simple fluttering synth with a three note motive that echoes their “day by day” mantra.

How did you decide on which traditional Chinese instruments to include in the score? And was it hard blending those instruments with a traditional Western orchestra?

It can be overwhelming at the start of a score like this because my brain and ears want to explore every new color out there.  Unfortunately, I’d still be working on the score today if I didn’t put a bit of a cap on what instruments we should focus on.  Honestly, we spent months early on just listening and me having video calls with players all over the world.  I’d ask them to show me the basics of their instruments, what it can do, and what it shouldn’t do.  Eventually I boiled down my core palette to around 8-10 Chinese instruments that would represent that side of the score.  The orchestra was always in place as it’s difficult to replace the sheer power of that vehicle, but the Chinese instruments became our color and our energy throughout the film.  We never wanted the score to sound like an orchestra blasting away with some Chinese soloists playing on top of them.  Rather, we wanted the two to become more homogenized so that the Chinese world melted into the orchestral.  Blending them together was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had because it opened my ears to brand new textures and colors.  It allowed me to explore a new musical world I had never heard before.  That’s always the most exciting part of working on a film. 

How much time did you have to score Wish Dragon?

I had the great fortune of working on this score for nearly a year.  This gave us plenty of time to truly flesh out all of our wildest ideas, themes and orchestrations.

Do you have a favorite track or moment in the score?

I will always love the scene and cue titled “Everything That Matters.”  It’s such a beautiful, honest moment between Din and his mother and their relationship’s arc in the film.  It was also one of those moments where Din’s theme just seemed to line up perfectly without me having to do much.  That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a pleasant surprise when the notes just seem to fit the film without much ado.  

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Philip Klein about his work on Wish Dragon. You’ll be able to check out the film when it releases on Netflix on June 11th, 2021.

Have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundrack News: ‘The Water Man’ Original Soundtrack Available Now

Last month, Lakeshore Records released the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the RLJE Films family adventure film The Water Man—acclaimed actor David Oyelowo’s directorial debut. The album is comprised of an ethereal original score from Belgian composer Peter Baert, also making a debut with his first composition for a major Hollywood feature. The soundtrack also features two original songs written and performed by Jessica Oyelowo, including the end credits song “My Son.” The Water Man soundtrack is available digitally alongside the film’s U.S. theatrical release.

 The music of The Water Man is a mix of classical orchestra, piano, percussion, and electronics. Peter felt the score should follow the journey of the main character Gunner, going on quest into the woods to save his ill mother. He processed the Water Man’s screams and sighs through long delays, modular tools, and tape echoes to create “The Water Man Synth.” When David proposed a motherly energy to be present in the music, Peter worked with a vocalist, who has a similar timbre of the mother (Rosario Dawson), and created “The Mother Synth.” 

David Oyelowo says, “Music and sound in film has always been important to me, which is why I consider myself lucky to have met composer Peter Baert when I did. We first crossed paths when he was the sound engineer on another project I was working on in Belgium, and he had previously shared a music demo of his compositions that I just couldn’t shake. While in post-production on The Water Man, I was working with another composer and had initially cut Peter’s music in as an experiment, and it all just worked perfectly. Within a week, he flew over, sat next to me in the edit, and that’s how he became my composer. He’d never done an English-speaking film before, and he totally nailed the tone. We recorded and mixed at Galaxy, and did all the sound design and mixing at Sony and re-recording at Deluxe Hollywood.” 

Peter Baert on his collaboration experience: “David Oyelowo is such a wonderful human being and a gifted storyteller. He took a giant leap in choosing me as a composer and I felt his trust and guidance throughout the time we worked together. Being present for a short time in the editing room with David and editor Blu Murray was such a wonderful experience—I felt part of something bigger.” 

Of his musical inspirations, Baert says: “The heartfelt story of The Water Man took me back to two periods in my life. The first reminded me of being in my early teens, always playing in the neighborhood with my friends and going on adventures in a nearby forest. The second transported me back to a day in 2008 when my mom and I found out the diagnosis of her pancreatic cancer. She would be gone in 6 months. At some moment during the composing process the music found me, and it glued to the screen. This beautiful story reflects what I experienced in real life—that it is sometimes better to let go and cherish the time we have, than to hold on at all costs.”

TRACK LIST

  1. Gunner’s Theme
  2. Mary’s Lullaby
  3. Mother’s Medicine
  4. Finding Jo
  5. Question
  6. The Water Man Story
  7. Runaway
  8. Come into My Office
  9. Enter the Forest
  10. First Night
  11. Night Watch
  12. Candy
  13. The Howling Wild Horses
  14. Snow in July
  15. Second Night
  16. A Lot of Beetles
  17. Morning
  18. Amos’s Search
  19. Crossing the River
  20. A Bunch of Crap
  21. Coming Closer – “The Water Man Rhyme” (feat. Amiah Miller)
  22. The Hut
  23. Hope is a Powerful Force
  24. Getting Out
  25. Prayer
  26. My Son – Jessica Oyelowo
  27. What Love Does – Jessica Oyelowo

See also:

Heartfelt Music for a Heartfelt Story: Talking with Composer Peter Baert About ‘The Water Man’ (2021)

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Soundtrack News: Hikaru Utada Releases New Single “Pink Blood”, Featured as Theme Song for ‘To Your Eternity’

Milan Records has released Hikaru Utada’s new single “Pink Blood” and its accompanying music video – listen to the track HERE

Featured as the theme song for the anime television series To Your Eternity, “Pink Blood” marks Hikaru Utada’s first time providing the main theme song to an anime television series.  The music video for “Pink Blood” was directed by 谷川英司/Eiji Tanigawa of Creative Lab.TOKYO, and features a more imaginative, conceptual look

“Pink Blood” follows the hugely successful release of “One Last Kiss,” which served as the main theme song to the film Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 THRICE UPON A TIME – listen HERE. Released on March 10, “One Last Kiss” made Hikaru Utada the first-ever solo artist to keep the top spot for three consecutive weeks simultaneously in two of the Oricon chart digital categories. The track also hit the very top in the multi-genre JAPAN HOT 100 chart of Billboard JAPAN, the first time in 10 years for the artist, and it also beat her own record by charting in 33 countries and regions worldwide! The limited edition 12-inch vinyl sold nearly 50,000 units in Japan, making it the top selling vinyl in Japan this year. 

The vinyl is available for preorder now in the United States via Milan Records. 

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Soundtrack Review: Horizon Forbidden West- The Isle of Spires EP (2021)

Sony Music Masterworks has released Horizon Forbidden West (The Isle Of Spires EP), an EP of music featured in the forthcoming PlayStation® game. 

 Available everywhere now, the EP includes music from the highly-anticipated sequel to 2017’s PS4™ release Horizon Zero Dawn.  With songs by Joris De Man, The Flight, Oleksa Lozowchuk and Niels van der Leest, the four-track EP reunites the original team of composers and musicians who developed the tribal soundscape of the game’s post-apocalyptic setting,

All of the music on this EP is, quite frankly, gorgeous. It feels like I’m back in the world of Horizon, only it’s bigger and more exotic than ever. If you’re going to make a sequel to one of the best video games ever made (in this case Horizon Zero Dawn) then it only makes sense to include the same team of composers and musicians who worked on that first game, which is exactly what Horizon Forbidden West has done and I’m glad for it.

Just from listening to this EP, it sounds like we’re getting a decent sample of music from different points in the upcoming game. There’s not a whole not here, it’s only four tracks after all, but it’s just enough to whet our appetites for what’s to come. I especially like the music in ‘Riddles in Ruins’ and ‘Eyes Open’, the latter in particular uses strings in a way that leaves me wanting to see and hear more. If you loved the music of Horizon Zero Dawn, then this EP is a must-listen.

ABOUT HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST

Join Aloy as she braves the Forbidden West – a majestic but dangerous frontier that conceals mysterious new threats.  Explore distant lands, fight bigger and more awe-inspiring machines, and encounter astonishing new tribes as you return to the far-future, post-apocalyptic world of Horizon. 

The land is dying. Vicious storms and an unstoppable blight ravage the scattered remnants of humanity, while fearsome new machines prowl their borders. Life on Earth is hurtling towards another extinction, and no one knows why.  It’s up to Aloy to uncover the secrets behind these threats and restore order and balance to the world. Along the way, she must reunite with old friends, forge alliances with warring new factions and unravel the legacy of the ancient past – all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a seemingly undefeatable new enemy.

Track List

1. A Steady Breath – Joris de Man feat. Julie Elven
2. Riddles in Ruins – The Flight
3. Eyes Open – Oleksa Lozowchuk
4. To Find What Was Lost – Niels van der Leest

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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