Category Archives: Film Composer

Soundtrack Review: Stuffed (2019)

Lakeshore Records has made available Ben Lovett’s original motion picture soundtrack for Stuffed, a film directed by Erin Derham. Stuffed is a documentary feature film about the surprising and unique world of taxidermy.  Told through the eyes and hands of a passionate and diverse group of renowned artists from around the world, the film explores the lives and perspectives of an extraordinary subculture that exists at the intersection of art and science.  With a keen eye on conservation and the natural world, Stuffed also explores the important and unexpected relationship that exists between taxidermy and the human effort to preserve the beauty of nature.

Ben Lovett is an American songwriter and composer best known for crafting unconventional scores to a diverse range of films and documentaries including the Netflix cult favorite The Ritual, Amy Seimetz’s award-winning noir Sun Don’t ShineIndependent Spirit Award nominee The Signal, the Duplass Brothers’ survival thriller Black Rock, Emma Tammi’s avant-garde western The Wind, and the time travel sci-fi noir Synchronicity which earned Ben a nomination for “Discovery of the Year” at the prestigious World Soundtrack Awards. Lovett’s most recent work debuted at Sundance 2020, a reunion with director and longtime collaborator David Bruckner for the upcoming Searchlight thriller The Night House.

Speaking on their close collaboration throughout the making of the film, Derham explained:

“The process was very unique in that Ben started writing and recording the score while I was filming. I knew I wanted Stuffed to feel beautiful and romantic like a Jane Austen novel but giving it that distinct Lovett edge. I’m Ben’s biggest fan. All of his movie scores blow me away, but when I first heard the ‘Stuffed Waltz’ suite it felt like he’d written a song about my heart. It represented the humbling journey that took place as I filmed wildly different people around the world for nearly three years and had all my preconceived judgements about taxidermy challenged.”

Lovett described his score as a collection of “musical dioramas” that aim to capture a glimpse into the minds and hearts of a variety of uncommon personalities. Lovett explained:

“I was inspired by the characters in the film who all come from very different political, social, and economic backgrounds and often disagree on most things, but ultimately populate a distinct subculture that’s bound by a deep and genuine love for nature. I wanted to capture that unmistakable childlike wonder they all have when they talk about animals. For taxidermists the work they do is not at all about Death, it’s about Life.”

The soundtrack for Stuffed was nothing like what I expected, though honestly I’m not sure what I should expect for a documentary about taxidermy. The music is beautiful and delightfully quirky in many places, especially in the opening tracks like “Encyclopedia” and “Life.” If the music is meant to reflect the personalities of the people working on these creations and the creations themselves, then Lovett definitely succeeded.

The instruments come together to create something bright and vibrant, and now that I think about it that could be what surprised me. When *I* think about taxidermy the big thing I remember is that these animals are dead, but Stuffed appears to be taking the opposite approach (and Lovett says as much above): don’t think about them as dead, think about how they simulate Life! And that’s why the music is so vibrant and alive, because that’s the work these taxidermists are doing.

If you listen to nothing else on this soundtrack, you need to listen to “Stuffed Waltz No. 2” and “Stuffed Waltz No. 3.” These are two beautiful pieces that take a moment away from the hustle and bustle of the regular soundtrack and seem to be created to give you time to think about what you’ve seen thus far. And for the record, they are in fact true waltzes, I can hear the 3/4 time clear as a bell (I wasn’t sure at first if the “waltz” in the cue title was literal or figurative).

Listening to soundtracks like this is giving me a renewed appreciation for documentaries and everything that goes into making them. Sometimes, I hate to admit it, these works can get overlooked because they’re all factual and can be mistakenly perceived as “boring.” But works like Stuffed are actually working really hard to tell a good story and the music has to work just as hard as any action film score to help tell the audience what they need to know.

I really liked the soundtrack to Stuffed and you should definitely check it out if you get the chance. Let me know what you think about Stuffed in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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 🙂

Soundrack News: Atli Örvarsson to score ‘Defending Jacob’ for Apple TV+

Thankfully the coronavirus hasn’t stopped all television from being made. In fact, Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Rams) will compose the upcoming thriller “Defending Jacob,” which is set to premiere globally on Apple TV+ on April 24th, 2020.

 

“Defending Jacob” will premiere its first three episodes exclusively on Apple TV+ starting Friday, April 24th, and new episodes will premiere weekly thereafter Friday.

The new character-driven thriller starring Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell, Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber, Betty Gabriel and Sakina Jaffrey is based on the 2012 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name by William Landay. “Defending Jacob” unfolds around a shocking crime that rocks a small Massachusetts town, and follows an assistant district attorney who finds himself torn between his sworn duty to uphold justice and his unconditional love for his son.

Örvarsson recorded the score at The Village in Los Angeles with a 24-piece orchestra. Atli on the sound of “Defending Jacob”:

It was music from my upcoming album which sparked the interest of the filmmakers and as a result, composing the music for the series has felt almost like a continuation of that. The instrumentation and general feel is cut from the same cloth and there’s a definite Nordic Noir feel to the show, which has made the whole process feel even more natural. The vision of Morten Tyldum (director) and Mark Bomback (writer/producer) has been very compatible with my own, which has made the whole process a real joy!

Raised in the small town of Akureyri in the north of Iceland, Atli Örvarsson relocated to Los Angeles early on to pursue a career in composition. There, Atli worked extensively alongside prolific TV veteran Mike Post and Hollywood legend Hans Zimmer, which launched his career leading him to score over 40 films and countless TV shows.

Atli’s accolades include winning the HARPA Nordic Film Composer Award for his acclaimed score to Rams, several ASCAP & BMI Film & 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.

Defending Jacob premieres on Apple TV+ on April 24, 2020.

See also:

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 🙂

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

This is my honest opinion: if you try to tell me there are no great musical themes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then you haven’t been paying attention, because John Williams introduces a beautiful, original theme relatively early in the film. This is “Rey’s Theme” and it comes when, you guessed it, we first meet Rey living as a scavenger on Jakku.

 

The theme starts as Rey is leaving the ruins of the crashed Star Destroyer, having finished her work for the day. It starts off with a bit of whimsy, a soft chiming melody that soon grows into a flowing theme with the strings and woodwinds. This melody tells us several things: that Rey is young and idealistic (much as Luke Skywalker was many years ago), but also that she has her own inner strength even before she starts to use the Force. The former is heard in the opening part of the theme, and the inner strength is revealed when the strings come in, pushing the theme to new heights.

This original version of “Rey’s Theme” lays the foundation for several melodies to come in the sequel trilogy, particularly in The Rise of Skywalker. Williams will put this melody through several variations, altering it to meet Rey’s changing circumstances as the story progresses.

As a musical introduction to one of the most pivotal characters of the sequel trilogy, “Rey’s Theme” performs its purpose beautifully. This theme deserves to be remembered just as much as “The Force Theme”, “The Imperial March”, “Duel of the Fates” and any other classic Star Wars theme. For me, this theme is clear proof that John Williams is just as talented as ever when it comes to creating memorable film music themes.

I hope you enjoy listening to “Rey’s Theme” as originally heard in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “Kylo Ren’s Theme (Redeemed Version)” (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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 🙂

Star Wars: The Last Jedi “The Spark” (2017)

My general opinion of The Last Jedi has changed a great deal since I first saw the movie in 2017, but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love of the film’s soundtrack. It’s been my longstanding opinion that the Star Wars soundtrack as a whole is one of the greatest film music creations ever made and the music for The Last Jedi is up there with some of the best themes Williams ever created.

“The Spark” is one such theme and one I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. It occurs very late in the film, when Luke Skywalker appears out of nowhere in the remains of the Rebel base on Crait. Most of the cue, starting around 1:00 is actually from a Return of the Jedi theme known as “Luke and Leia” and plays when Luke finally reunites with his twin sister. You would know this as the music that plays in ROTJ when Luke reveals that Leia is his twin. It’s pretty much the same theme all over again and it really is perfect for this scene that happens to be the first and sadly, only, time we see Luke and Leia together in the sequel trilogy (everything after this was done with body doubles and CGI so it doesn’t really “count” for me if that makes sense).

After this memorable theme runs its course, then the fun really starts. Starting around 2:15 the music begins to morph into something different but it doesn’t latch onto the new theme until around 2:30. From that point on, the music enters a weird march-like motif that might sound odd at first, or vaguely familiar depending on your point of view. There’s a deep, booming motif that repeats over and over again as Luke strides out to confront the First Order and his wayward nephew Kylo Ren. As you listen to it, you might realize that this is actually from the bass line of The Imperial March, known the world over as “Darth Vader’s theme.”

luke-leia-tlj-tall

Think of the symbolism in this choice on the composer’s part. We have Luke Skywalker, Jedi, hero of the Rebellion, etc. and so on, marching out to face the evil First Order to more or less the tune of the Imperial March. I don’t know if it’s merely ironic or also meant to send a message, maybe something to the effect that it’s Luke who has the power and authority that Kylo has always sought but will never find because he’s too much of a hothead. It could be I’m thinking too much into it but it always sends chills down my spine to hear the remnants of that immortal theme when Luke walks out, all alone, to stare the enemy down.

Some people gave John Williams a lot of flack for not creating a new Imperial March or something equivalent for the sequel trilogy, but I really feel he didn’t need to, and “The Spark” is a prime reason why. It’s a combination of the old and new that lends sadness and power to this scene in a way that only Williams can make possible.

Enjoy listening to “The Spark” from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Let me know your thoughts about this moment in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Empire Strikes Back: “The Imperial March” by John Williams

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Kylo Ren’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Rey’s Theme” (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens “March of the Resistance” (2015)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Bad Batch Theme” (2020)

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”

Film Soundtracks A-W

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 🙂

An Interview with Paul Mills, Composer of Overcomer (2019)

Last month, I had the honor of interviewing film composer Paul Mills, a composer who has worked on a number of films, including War Room (2015), Still Breathing (1997), and Sweet Sweet Summertime (2017).  This interview had to do with one of Paul’s most recent works, his score for Overcomer (2019), a film directed by the Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the same minds behind War Room four years earlier.

The plot of Overcomer follows several characters, including John Harrison (Alex Kendrick), who is a basketball coach at a high school. Due to the closure of businesses in the city and the departure of several families, he agrees to be the running coach for Hannah Scott (Aryn Wright-Thompson) who is an asthmatic. Hannah’s sporting journey will be accompanied by a self-discovery that will answer a question that has been a concern for her for a long time.

I hope you enjoy this short interview with Paul Mills, composer of Overcomer.

How did you get started with composing for films?

It was a long journey, I always loved music growing up. My dad had some films that had music he loved, he had some Henry Mancini scores, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone; I became fascinated with what the music in a film could do. And then through school I was involved in music; I went to the University of Houston to get a degree in composition, and while I was there I started working at a recording studio. I started learning more about how to arrange strings for pop music, and how to work with artists and record companies. And there was a guy there who worked with documentaries and short films who ended up going to Los Angeles with a script he’d written, and ultimately arranged for me to score the project. That experience is what hooked me [into film composing], even though it was 12 years between that score and my next composing project.

How did you become connected with Overcomer, and what did you think of the film’s story?

After War Room, I’d been throwing hints around [about working with the Kendrick brothers again]. Finally, I was in a Publix grocery store, and I got a call and it was Stephen Kendrick on the phone. He said “We want you to do the movie, and here’s what it’s about.” And it was like a twenty minute space where he told me the whole story arc of the movie. By the time he described a critical scene at the end of the film to me, I was jumping up and down I was so excited to score it, it was such an awesome sounding scene. That’s how it happened, [the Kendrick brothers] were happy with War Room so they wanted me for Overcomer.

Was it easier working on Overcomer because you’d worked with the Kendrick brothers before for War Room?

It was. We already had a shorthand, and we had this program where I can upload scenes from the movie-in-progress with my music embedded into it. And with a set of earbuds [the Kendrick brothers] can watch the scene with music on their iPhones, and comment on it in real time. It was really easy then, because we didn’t have to try to figure each other out. For example, I know that the brothers love films with “hummable” themes, they want the audience to be humming those themes as they leave the theater, and as a composer I love that! My job was made easier because I already knew that.

On a related note, how is that story reflected in the film’s score? Is it?

Well, the way the music came about, you see there’s a long race scene at the end. And I sat down with the director’s to watch a rough cut of the movie (that’s called the spotting session). Long story short, once we got to the end of that, we thought “this scene is so critical, maybe we should start here.” I spent a couple of weeks trying to put things together and then I realized “I CAN’T do this scene yet, because I don’t know what the other thematic material is going to be.” I already knew in my head that I wanted to have an “Overcomer” theme, because the movie is basically about finding your identity in Christ, and overcoming the obstacles along the way. So…once I realized I needed thematic material, I went back to the beginning of the story and wrote the Overcomer theme. After that, I jumped to Hannah’s theme, and went on from there.

I haven’t seen many film score tracks that are 11 minutes long, what was it like putting such a lengthy track together?

It was actually way easier [to write] once I had my thematic material, because a lot of stuff happens during that scene. Having the thematic material definitely made it easier, because this is Hannah’s big race. And there are big areas in the track, and slow areas, and the slow areas happen when there’s a lot of dialogue. That is a scene where people are actually yelling at the screen in theaters. And there was just nowhere that the music could break because it was one long race. The music had to go all the way through it. I was really happy with the way it came out, with the ebbs and flows and the climax at the end. It really works with the scene, and it stays out of the way of the dialogue when it needs to.

What do you want audiences to take away with them when they hear this music?

When people see this movie I want them to realize that they can find their identity and their meaning in something more important than a number of things that we normally attach meaning to, whether it’s a career, or worrying about our finances, or having family problems. This movie talks about finding your identity in Christ, and I think the Kendrick brothers have done a really great job showing people that there are answers that you can find. So I want people to be uplifted by the music, so that they’re lighter walking out of the theater than when they came in.

I’d like to say thanks to Paul Mills for taking some time out of his day to speak with me about his work on Overcomer.

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 🙂

An Interview with Chad Cannon, Composer of American Factory

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Chad Cannon, who composed the score for the Netflix original film American Factory. Composer Chad Cannon has traveled the world drawing inspiration from cultures, history, and human stories to create moving scores for documentaries, animation and live performances. His debut soundtrack for the documentary Paper Lanterns received an IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Awards) nomination for Best Original Score for a Documentary, and was lauded as “haunting, mystical” by The Japan Times; while his soundtrack for Cairo Declaration, co- composed with Xiaogang Ye, received China’s highest film prize, the Golden Rooster Award for Best Music. Chad most recently scored Netflix’s documentary, American Factory, which won the Best Director Award for a Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is the first film released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. His other recent works include a symphonic Americana score for PBS’ documentary CyberWork and the American Dream, as well as scoring Chris Meledandri and Illumination Studios’ animated short, The Dog Days of Winter.

Chad Cannon 2.jpg

 

How did you get started with composing for films and documentaries?

So I studied music at Harvard, I was studying music and Japanese there, and then I did my Masters at Julliard, also in composition. But all along I kind of knew…I’ve always like film, I thought it would be really cool to have a career that intersected film and music. So when I graduated from Julliard I moved to L.A. and I started working with this orchestrator named Conrad Pope, he worked for many years with John Williams, and the first project he hired me on was Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, so I got kind of dumped right in the middle of a huge film score project, and as an orchestrator it’s a little less pressure then a composer obviously, because the orchestrator’s job is really to help the composer prepare all the conducting scores in time for the recording sessions, so you’re the one putting the notes on the page eventually. So from there, I kind of transitioned into writing more for film, and I had an opportunity to score a couple of feature documentaries with my brother who directed feature films for CrossFit. …My brother just had me write some custom music for those films. And then I had this opportunity to write for a film called Paper Lanterns, which was a Hiroshima documentary about the 12 Americans who had died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. So that was my first feature doc(umentary) that was more serious and I had an opportunity to write a more rich, orchestral for that film, and it was also a crossover score where I included some traditional Japanese performers in addition to this American orchestral sound that I was creating. So that led to me being accepted into the Sundance Composer Labs which happen every summer at Skywalker Ranch, and that lab is how I got connected to the American Factory film.

How did you get involved with American Factory

The Sundance Labs people knew I’d done quite a bit of work in Asia and they thought “Oh, since this is a film that is very much connecting Asia with the U.S., maybe he would be a good match” and so they referred me to Julia [Reichert] and Steve [Bognar]  who were the directors of American Factory.

How did you approach scoring the documentary?

Well, anytime I get a new film, the first thing I like to do is experiment with new materials or new instruments, just to sort of develop a sound world that I can draw from as I start getting clips of the film. So I tried two things at first that didn’t actually end up working out very well for the film. One was, because of the glass factory I thought “What if we used glass instruments?” and had glass be the heart of the score. So I got all the glass I could find and recorded myself playing rhythms on them. I got wine glasses, and did a bunch of tones, and I tried a bunch of stuff. And Julia and Steve heard it, and were like “Oh, this is cool but it’s too ‘twinkly.’” And that’s because glass creates a lot of high overtones, which creates a “twinkly” sound. And because there’s quite a few ominous, or dark themes in the film, as well as a huge amount of factory noise, from a sound design perspective this film was very difficult because the sound designer Lawrence Stevenson had to navigate, when you’re recording the audio in the factory and it’s hard to hear, just from the amount of noise. So anyway, the glass approach didn’t really work.

And then the next thing I tried was to include traditional Chinese elements, especially from Fujian Province, which is where the Fuyao headquarters is within China, and I had happened to have been there before…Steve and Julia also considered that, but then they said “We’re Americans,  we’re from Ohio, we don’t want to make this feel like it’s exoticizing the Chinese component of this movie. Make it more universal in the approach.” So ultimately we ended up focusing on a low woodwind sound; so there’s a lot of bassoons, bass clarinets, some lower flutes like alto flutes…and the reason we went in that direction is because Julia had heard a Mozart piece called the “Gran Partita” and this piece is for woodwinds with two horns and a double bass, and it’s just a really unique instrumentation…and ultimately I think she was right in leaning in that direction, because the woodwinds’ timbre goes well against all the metallic glass timbre that you hear in the film. The factory noises are complimented by this woodwind sound, as opposed to competing with it. There’s something about that combination that ended up working nicely, and I ended up writing a lot of music for these slow woodwinds.

Were you inspired by the factory machines, because in several of the manufacturing scenes it feels like the music is mimicking the frenetic action of the glass factory

For sure, there are a lot of moments..there’s one specific moment if you remember near the end of the film, there’s a sequence where Wong is sitting next to this panel of blinking lights in the dark, he’s sitting there and there’s a voiceover where he says “I think the most important thing is mutual understanding” and he expresses this admiration for American workers who can manage having multiple jobs at once…and that sequence…the blinking lights were the trigger for the music in that scene, where if you listen there’s a lot of minimalist patterns. A lot of the American minimalists will come to a pattern and they’ll repeat it for a really long time to create this meditative state and, that’s a very common technique now in film music. That pattern that I have in that scene is very much trying to show…it’s drawing inspiration from the blinking lights on the panel. And it gets you into Wong’s mind about how things are kind of dark at that moment.

And the music when we enter the factory for the first time is also rooted, grounded in a repeating bass note. The cue is actually called “The Resurrection,” …and for me the pillars of the factory, and the weight of this machinery, all of that is finding its way into the score in these heavy bass figures that I’ve been writing.

It feels like there are different themes, or different musical sentiments for the American and Chinese sides of the story, is that so or am I imagining that?

There are no themes that are specifically Chinese or American…Thematically there’s like four or five melodic ideas that spin out, and sometimes it’s the same theme but in a dark variation, sometimes lighter. Pretty much all of the musical material is tied back to that first theme called “The Forge.” There’s a parallel fifth motif that becomes the bed of pretty much everything else that happens after that. There are also themes for the Chairman and Wong. Wong’s theme is what comes back at the very end when we see this sequence between American workers and Chinese workers leaving the factory, and it’s like this fanfare for workers. The point of this theme is that it’s where I’m trying to convey the dualism of two countries coming together. And at the very, very end, there’s a long sequence with the Chairman where all of the themes you’ve heard throughout start to come back very quietly, underneath the dialogue, revisiting the places we’ve been along the way. So there are musical themes that are attached to specific characters.

How did you decide which parts of the documentary need music, because I’ve noticed chunks that have no music at all, and it feels like a very abrupt transition between music and no music.

So the way the film is edited is by chapters, and they’ll create a scene, or a series of scenes which together comprise a chapter. And the filmmakers who are also the writers, you know documentaries are written in the editing room, they don’t have a script, they just go out and film stuff. They get all the footage and then they go back and figure out what story they captured. And they could’ve told many different stories with the footage they had. They had to go through 1200 hours of footage shot over 3 years, so it’s really an incredible feat, what they did to cut it down to the film you see now. So musically, the way this pans out in documentaries is that, first of all, as opposed to feature films, and I personally feel that feature fiction films tend to get over-scored, I’m a fan of leaving space for people to just appreciate the environment that they’re in…the whole world is full of sound and interesting environmental ambience, and there’s music everywhere if you just open up your ears.

And I feel like in film it’s really beautiful when people know not to put music, because then you can be more immersed in the reality of whatever environment you’re in, even more so in a documentary. The challenges of a documentary film composer is that you can’t be too dramatic, you can’t hit things too hard on the nose without it starting to become editorializing. They’re telling true stories and representing real people, and you have to respect that. So the choices about where not to do music were largely where Julia and Steve had told me beforehand, where they said “Oh we don’t need music for this scene, or for here.” If there was music the whole time it would just start to get in the way of what people are saying.

There was one scene where I pushed for there to be no music, which was this scene where there’s no video just the recording, where the Fuyao employee had recorded this audio of the anti-union guy persuading them to vote against the union. And originally that scene had some very ominous music in it and I ultimately told them this is already such a shock where you lose the video, that you don’t need any score there because it’s already such a change from what we’ve been doing. And it’s already so ominous that the picture’s gone.

……….

It was a great honor to be able to talk with Chad Cannon about his work on American Factory, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Let me know your thoughts about American Factory (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

American Factory is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

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 🙂

Soundtrack Review: It: Chapter Two (2019)

*note: there may be potential spoilers in the few score cues I mention, so keep that in mind as you read this review

As the thrilling conclusion to It (2017) approaches in a matter of days, the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two has been made available for those who wish to hear it in advance of seeing the film. Benjamin Wallfisch, who also scored the first film, returns to complete the musical story he began telling two years ago. In It: Chapter Two, evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began. Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, people are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all…putting them directly in the path of the shape-shifting clown that has become deadlier than ever

Regarding the soundtrack, Wallfisch had quite a lot to say:

Andy [Muschietti] has created such an ambitious and extraordinary movie in IT Chapter Two, with an incredible scope on every level.  One of our earliest discussions for the new score was how we could take what we did for the first movie and give it more scale and ambition – to reflect the scope of the film. To start with, we used a much larger orchestra and choir and also created several new themes; when we occasionally reprise moments from the first score, we re-recorded them with more complex and ambitious arrangements, like the music itself had gone through 27 years of maturing. But the most exciting challenge was how to develop the original themes and create new ones that fit alongside them. There was a lot more music required, which really allowed room for the original themes to develop and evolve in a way driven by the emotional complexity of how The Losers Club grapple with inner demons from the past and painful memories and ultimately unite to confront their biggest fears. Pennywise is even more vengeful and flagrant this time, and the music had to also reflect that increased darkness, whilst never losing sight of the adventure and emotion that are at the core of the movie. It was such a joy to reunite with my good friend Andy Muschietti to help bring this story home – the movie is a true masterpiece from the filmmakers and I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to be involved.

WTM40317_IT_CH2_2LP_FYE_Vinyl_packshot_01.jpg

The soundtrack is, in a word, terrifying. Benjamin Wallfisch had a 100 piece orchestra and a 40 person choir to work with when putting this score together, and I assure you he used it all to great effect. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that as a general rule I avoid most horror films, and the music (if done properly) is a big reason why. Wallfisch has filled the score with “jump” moments, where out of nowhere the music will surge up and almost literally snap at you. You can’t even relax during the “brighter” moments because there’s an undercurrent of tension and fear with almost every piece (“Losers Reunited” being an exception to the rule).

Musical jump scares aside, the part that freaks me out the most about this soundtrack is what Wallfisch has done with the choir (at least, I assume it’s the choir). Throughout the soundtrack, and without warning, there are sections where you hear garbled voices, kind of like if you were listening through a static-filled radio, and the voices all sound like they’re screaming in terror. Sometimes these voices act as their own music, sometimes they come in with music, but it’s without a doubt one of the most terrifying things I’ve heard in a soundtrack this year (and probably in the last few years if I’m honest).

GtYs56zs.jpeg

And another thing that Wallfisch is doing in the soundtrack that really scares me is how he manipulates the violins throughout the score. This is something I’ve heard in a lot of scary movies; it’s a technique where a group of violins plays at their highest register and quickly increases in volume and pitch, ending with an almighty shriek that has you instinctively backing up against the wall, even though you know there’s nothing there (well, at least that’s what it does to me). I can only imaging the visual context for those moments, and given this is a movie with Pennywise in it, I’m afraid to find out the answer.

Benjamin Wallfisch clearly put a lot of work into this score, and if it’s this scary by itself, I shudder to think what it would be like to hear this music with the film it was written to accompany. If you liked the score for the first It, then you will love the music for It: Chapter Two.

Let me know what you think about the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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 🙂