Category Archives: Soundtracks

Behind the Score of ‘I Am Greta’: Talking with Rebekka Karijord About the Documentary’s Music

I recently got the opportunity to speak with composer Rebecca Karijord about her work with composer Jon Ekstrand on the recently released documentary I am Greta. Rebekka Karijord is a composer, musician, and playwright originally from Sandnessjøen in northern Norway. Over the course of her early career, she developed her unique voice by experimenting as a musician, actor, playwright and composer, working alongside directors including Joachim Trier, Margreth Olin and Nina Wester. She also began recording and releasing solo records. Her first album, Neophyte, arrived in 2003, a collaboration between Rebekka, Mattias Petterson and Malin Bång, and was followed up in 2005 by Good or Goodbye.

It was really exciting to get to talk with Rebekka about her work on I am Greta, and I hope you enjoy this interview.

How Did You Get Started With Composing for Film?

I’ve been writing for film, theatre and modern ballet for more than 15 years now. I worked as an actor from when I was 12 years old, but the music took over more and more in my life and work. When I decided to stop acting in films, the directors I had worked with started asking to use my music in their projects. So, it was a very organic, safe transition. And a career shift I have never regretted.

 How did you get connected with I am Greta?

Jon invited me in to the job with him, after the producer reached out to him. We had done one project together from before that, an HBO series. 

How did you and Jon approach scoring this documentary? Is it very different from scoring a film or are they more similar?

The most significant difference between scoring a documentary and a fiction film is usually regarding when in the process the editor and director wants the music. A lot of documentary film makers want to edit the whole film to a final score, or close to complete sketches. With a fiction film, I usually write the music after picture lock. With Greta, we actually decided to start writing once the editing was locked, since we wanted the score to have a homogenous, “big film” feel to it. 


Were you and Jon given a lot of time to work on I am Greta?


No, due to covid everything was pushed and the post production time was very slim. So, I think we had six weeks to write the whole score. There is a lot of music, so that was quite challenging. 


How did you decide on which instruments to use to symbolize the Earth, Greta herself, and other important elements? Was there some experimenting with different sounds before you and Jon settled on the final result?

Yes, for sure we tried out different things. But when Linnea Olsson (our solo cellist) came in the studio, everything fell in place. Her tone really matches the energy of the natural world in the film. As for Greta herself, I think it might be the piano. I feel the synthesizers and the voices stand for the movement. 


I’m curious, why does it say in the PR that the music “couldn’t take too much sentimentality.”?

Well, Greta is not a very sentimental person. She is super focused and clear when it comes to the climate questions. Emotional, yes, but never sentimental or self-conscious. She is also a very present person in people’s brains right now, and there are many strong opinions about her, and that made this film a bit tricky to score. Music is a really strong tool, and can be very leading. We wanted the music to be more observing and underlining, than leading. Therefore, we tried to work more with energy, tempo and repetition, than melody. There are melodic elements, but they are more in the background. 


Which part of the score do you hope audiences notice the most?

 I’m not sure, but I hope the music makes the audience feel more, think more, reflect more. I hope it can help to inspire change, I hope it lifts Greta’s message. 


Speaking of, do you or Jon have a favorite part of the score?

We have two favorite spots; One is at the cue called “Fridays for Future,” which was long called “Viral.” There is a collage of the children all over the world joining in, and especially one girl really touches me. She sits in her bedroom with a raised fist and says, “Today we stand behind you, and on Friday we will stand next to you!” It really melds well with the music right there, and actually still touches me every time. 

The other place is a music cue called “Trolls,” a part where we see a lot of the internet trolls’ comments and threats that Greta is receiving. It’s absurd with these older, white, male world leaders bullying her. Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, and then at the end of the scene she starts dancing, carefree, liberated, as if to her very own internal melody. We had a long, drony sequence written to that scene and felt something was missing, and I sat down and improvised by the piano without seeing the images. When I stopped, Jon, who had been in the control room, came out with tears in his eyes. The piano totally married her movements. It was art by accident for sure, and is still our favorite musical spot in the film. 

I’d like to say thank you to Rebekka Karijord for taking the time to speak with me about her work on I am Greta.

Let me know what you think about I am Greta (and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: ‘The Crown’ Season 4 Original Soundtrack Available November 20

Sony Music has announced that the original soundtrack for The Crown Season 4 will be available on November 20, 2020. The music for this soundtrack was composed by Martin Phipps (Black Mirror). Phipps reprises his role as the show’s composer following a successful third season in 2019, for which he notably garnered his sixth career Emmy® Award nomination in the category of Music Composition for a Series.”

Of the soundtrack, composer MARTIN PHIPPS has the following to say:

“In Season 4, the world of our middle aged characters is blown apart by the arrival of Princess Diana. I wanted to represent this bombshell in the music, culminating in Episode 5 when Australia goes nuts for Diana and the score switches to a brash, technicolor electronic palette. We are also in the ‘80s throughout the season, so the score is sprinkled with retro synth elements. Peter Morgan (showrunner/general maestro) was clear that he also wanted a strong sense of musical continuity with Season 3, so I updated many of our familiar, more orchestral themes from previous episodes. One of my favorite scenes is the reuse of the Simple Harp theme, as Diana returns triumphant from shooting a stag during her ‘Balmoral tests.’  I hope you enjoy the new series, and its score, as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Available everywhere now, Martin Phipps’ Season 3 Soundtrack received widespread critical acclaim, with The Los Angeles Times noting, “He accompanied Queen Elizabeth’s middle-age years, and the national tragedies and personal tribulations she encountered, with pulsing electronics, men’s choir and opulent orchestration that was simultaneously grave and groovy.” Phipps has continued to expand his influence and sound with each subsequent score.

ABOUT THE CROWN – SEASON 4

As the 1970s are drawing to a close, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30. As the nation begins to feel the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), tensions arise between her and the Queen which only grow worse as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War, generating conflict within the Commonwealth. While Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much-needed fairytale to unite the British people, behind closed doors, the Royal family is becoming increasingly divided.

Be sure to check out the season 4 soundtrack of The Crown when it releases on November 20!

See also:

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Soundtrack Review: Godfall (2020)

As crazy as 2020 has been (and it has been wild in more ways than I care to remember), one thing that has been pretty awesome is all the great soundtracks I’ve gotten to listen to. This year I’ve gotten to check out more video game soundtracks than ever before, and this is something I hope to continue into 2021 and beyond. To my delight, with the year winding down I was given the opportunity to check out the soundtrack for PS5 launch title Godfall, with the music composed by Ben MacDougall.

Ben MacDougall is a prolific composer for film, TV and video games, who most recently wrote the original fantasy score for Sony PlayStation 5 launch title, Godfall. His rich and diverse portfolio enjoys airtime on prime-time networks and has been featured on high-profile global TV events such as the Olympics and Academy Awards as well as countless franchises, campaigns and AAA studio projects.

MacDougall’s score for Godfall is described as follows:

Ben MacDougall’s modern fantasy score for GODFALL blends orchestra, synths processed with organic sound sources, and featured soloists, as well his own string instrument which produces a unique pulsing sound thread throughout the score. The soundtrack comprises of sweeping cinematic moments, heart-pounding combat sequences and world-exploring ambient music to accompany and immerse players in the luminous, mysterious world of Aperion.

Now I’ve gotten to listen to some absolutely gorgeous soundtracks this year (Ghost of Tsushima and The Wolf of Snow Hollow come to mind), and the music for Godfall is right up there with the best of them. Ben MacDougall really has gone all out here, and does everything that I love in a video game soundtrack. For one, from beginning to end, the music feels epic and cinematic in scope (enforcing my growing belief that the line separating video games from cinema is slowly but surely fading away).

Another element I really like in the music for Godfall is how MacDougall varies up the music between the different areas of Aperion (the game world). “Land of the Valorians” is different from “Alluvial Plains”, which in turn is different from “Waters of Aperion.” But what really makes it brilliant is that, while each region is differentiated by its own sound, you can tell that they’re all still connected by an overarching theme that places them all in the same “world” together. That is not easy to do without being obvious about it, and it’s lovely to hear how the music slowly shifts as a new area of the world is being explored.

It’s also really fun to look at the track list (the very LENGTHY track list) and try to work out the plot of the game. As with many film score track lists, I suspect there are some minor spoilers to be found if you think about some of these track titles. Also, the length of the track list has to be a sign of how long this game is (which makes sense since this doesn’t strike me as a quick game to get through). And one last positive to mention: the music is indeed beautiful, but it’s not too over the top, meaning it won’t (or at least it shouldn’t) distract you from the gameplay.

Track List

  1. Aperion’s Champion 1:51
  2. The Fall 2:49
  3. Land of the Valorians 1:51
  4. Temple of the Ancients 2:04
  5. The Warden 2:05
  6. Guardian 2:08
  7. Sanctuary 2:24
  8. A New World 2:45
  9. Crimson Glades 2:26
  10. The Vargul Tribes 1:34
  11. Prismatic Falls 1:35
  12. Alluvial Plains 1:51
  13. Bygone Ruins 1:31
  14. Ravenous Hunter 1:38
  15. Quiescent Dreams 2:28
  16. Sorcerer’s End 2:27
  17. Ascending the Tower 1:45
  18. Master of the Tower 1:44
  19. Waters of Aperion 2:32
  20. Cobalt Caldera 3:07
  21. Call to Action 2:00
  22. Leviathan’s Rest 2:25
  23. Abyssian Gaze 1:51
  24. Wisdom of the Deep Ones 2:01
  25. Warriors of Darkness 2:05
  26. The Ancient Depths 1:18
  27. The Silver Moon 2:32
  28. Song of Aperion 2:27
  29. Realm of the Nyak 2:00
  30. King of the Hunt 1:38
  31. Song of the Kindred 3:40
  32. The Storm 1:45
  33. The High Places 1:39
  34. Lords of Dawn and Dusk 1:40
  35. Aetheric Hymn 2:21
  36. Sunsteel 3:26
  37. Triumph of Air 1:37
  38. The False Archon 2:14
  39. Apotheosis 1:26
  40. Change

While it will (unfortunately) be a long, LONG time before I get my hands on a PS5 (or a copy of Godfall), listening to this gorgeous soundtrack has me convinced that the game is worth trying out. Yet again I’ve found another contender for Best Video Game Soundtrack of 2020.

Let me know what you think of Godfall (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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The Music of Snow Hollow: Talking with Composer Ben Lovett about ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ (2020)

After getting to check out the soundtrack for The Wolf of Snow Hollow, I knew I had to speak with composer Ben Lovett about his work on this soundtrack. Fortunately for me, the moment came and I took it! It was so exciting to get to ask Ben Lovett about his work on this score and I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to answer my questions about the music for The Wolf of Snow Hollow.

Ben Lovett is an American recording artist, songwriter and composer known for crafting unconventional scores to a diverse range of films including the Netflix original The Ritual, Independent Spirit Award nominee The Signal, the Duplass Brothers’ survival thriller Black Rock, Amy Seimetz’s award-winning noir Sun Don’t Shine, 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 latest work includes scores for the Hulu series Into the Dark, the colorful taxidermy documentary Stuffed, Orion Pictures tragicomedy The Wolf of Snow Hollow from director Jim Cummings, and a new collaboration with Ritual director David Bruckner on the Searchlight Pictures thriller, The Night House.

How did you get started with being a film composer?

I was tricked.  Someone convinced me I could do it even though I tried to argue otherwise.  Or more specifically, they convinced me I had no good reason not to try, and of course they were right.  That was in college at the University of Georgia in the late 90’s and I’ve been doing it ever since.

How did you get connected with The Wolf of Snow Hollow?

The producers at Vanishing Angle reached out early in post production. I scored “American Folk” for them a few years back and had a good rapport there. Jim is part of a great community of filmmakers that all share an orbit with Vanishing Angle and he was familiar with some of the scores I’d done. I watched “Thunder Road” and absolutely loved it. I knew after about the first 10 minutes that I had to be part of whatever he was doing next.

I saw in the PR announcing the release of the soundtrack, that you said that you and the director talked together and some big names came up, like Herrmann and Prokofiev, in regards to the music. How big an influence did they play in the film’s score? What other names came up in the discussion that ended up having an influence on the score?

When I came onboard Jim sent me a YouTube clip of a 75 piece orchestra performing Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet” and said “The score needs to be like this!” The budget was very modest and there wasn’t a lot of time so as reference points go that one was exciting and hilarious and terrifying all at once. Jim was super enthusiastic about the score though and I could tell he wasn’t afraid to swing big. He referenced Jon Brion’s score to “Magnolia”, and the Jerry Goldsmith score for “The Burbs” as spiritual reference points as well. So I dove in with this sort of Mt Rushmore of influences in the background and tried to just channel the spirit of all that into some kind of hybrid, low budget, horror comedy appropriate, musical jambalaya.

More specifically, how big an influence did Bernard Herrmann’s music have? I swear I can hear parts resembling Psycho (1960), especially in “Third Crime Scene.” Are there direct musical homages in there? If so, was that a thing decided on from the beginning or did it just evolve as the scoring process continued?

That evolved along the way. It was more a sense of feeling like that was a common language where all those other references crossed paths. There weren’t direct homages or specific Herrmann scores I was referencing, it was more channelling the spirit of his style as a general point of inspiration. There’s something very signature in the way his scores operate melodically, and some intangible quality about the nature of their relationship to the picture and how his music informs the overall aesthetic of those films.

“Third Crime Scene” is kind of a thought experiment of me going, “What if Bernard Herrmann had scored “Peter & the Wolf’? I was never afraid of landing anywhere in the vicinity of his talent so it felt like a safe exercise to swing for something with a similar mentality, or whatever I’d interpreted that to mean. I didn’t get too academic about it, it just seemed like a fun sandbox to play in and one that seemed appropriate for this film.

How did you approach scoring The Wolf of Snow Hollow? Did you have a lot of time to work on the music?

Definitely not. I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a lot of time, does that exist? It was a small window from start to finish, very much your classic race the clock, down to the write, 11th hour, head first slide into home plate kind of finish. But that’s also the job, honestly, so I’m no stranger to that.

In terms of the approach, I knew I would have a limited number of crayons to draw with so I made a decision to just pick just the boldest flavor of each color that I needed. I guess that’s where the Herrmann thing comes in – I wasn’t going to have a lot of instruments so I needed to make sure the parts could carry a lot of water for us. It was figuring out how to pack big ideas into small packages, in that sense. How to deliver on the ambition of the director within the logistical limitations of the schedule and budget. I felt like the film had the capacity to hold something pretty audacious, it’s just something in how Jim directs movies. The score needed a distinct musical personality that could address the horrible reality of the things going on in this town, but specifically in how they’re related to this manic central character trying to put a stop to them – to find both the comedy and humanity in his struggle, because that’s really where the movie takes place thematically.

On a related note, are there leitmotifs in the score or did you approach it another way?

There are certainly some thematic, recurring melodies and variations in there that map out the arc of the main character, but we weren’t too dogmatic about those always accompanying specific situations or thematic moments. You routinely have characters in the film that are introduced then promptly killed off, so it became more about the recurrence of certain instruments and sounds than melodies, and what those sounds might represent to the viewer. Because I was working to locked picture with a new director and very much doing both at full sprint, sometimes the process influences decisions as much as any sort of creative intention. You’re trying to do your best to help make the movie as good as you can, while you can, with what you have.

Do you have a favorite track in the score?

Nah. Once they’re done you love em all, because you no longer have to feed them and change their diaper and they’re not keeping you up all night. I don’t have kids so I don’t know if that analogy works but, it’s sorta like that I imagine. Once they’re grown and leave home you forgive them for all they put you through. Maybe that’s where the analogy breaks down, I don’t know. More to your point, I think I’m more likely to listen back to ones that either took an unexpected turn along the way or endured some interesting metamorphosis by way of film scoring being a naturally collaborative process. Generally the ones that are the hardest to nail are usually my favorites in the end. I think the progression of the three crime scenes is a pretty fun journey. If you play those in a row you really get a sense of the variety of ground we needed to cover. “Detectives” and “Returning Evidence” maybe best capture the overall spirit and intention of the score, and are both thematic pieces that contain recurring elements.

What do you hope listeners notice when they listen to this music?

Well I always hope the album provides the means to re-experience the story in a way that reveals another level to what you might have enjoyed or experienced in the film. I feel like there are elements of any story that only music can describe, or that it best describes, in some strange innate way that we experience things as humans. Once you have a reference point for the characters and the story, my hope is that people can throw on the album and revisit Snow Hollow and uncover some new clues about what was going on there the whole time.

Again, I’d like to thank Ben Lovett for taking the time to speak with me about his work on The Wolf of Snow Hollow. Please check this film and soundtrack out if you haven’t already.

See also:

Soundtrack Review: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

Composer Interviews

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

Soundtrack News: ‘Ammonite’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available November 13

Milan Records today announces the November 13 release of Ammonite (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) with music by Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelmann. Available for preorder now, the album features music written by the duo for director Francis Lee’s critically-acclaimed film starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. The nine-track album features music co-composed by O’Halloran and Bertelmann, who previously teamed on the Academy® Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe® Award-nominated score for 2016’s LionA Christmas Carol and more.

Of the soundtrack, composers O’Halloran and Bertelmann had the following to say:

 “Writing music for Ammonite was a smooth and natural process. We already knew from director Francis Lee’s previous work this would be a score full of emotion and restraint. Because the film is a period piece, it also meant finding a tone and instrumentation that would work in this world. The overall length of music recorded is somewhat shorter than our other scores; therefore, we used many natural sounds, so when the pieces arrive, it feels meaningful. We decided for a small chamber group of strings and piano as our palette and worked from there. Francis’s original idea was to find a single piece of music playing in parts and come to a full suite at the end. In some ways, this was how we approached it, save for a few moments of score specific to the scene. We found the strong acting that both Kate and Saoirse brought meant we needed to offer space, and try not to overstep. The last piece of music in the film, during the museum scene, represented a full understanding of the emotions that played out between the two characters.”

Ammonite tells the story of acclaimed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning, who works alone on the wild and brutal Southern English coastline of Lyme Regis in the 1840s. The days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now hunts for common fossils to sell to rich tourists to support herself and her ailing widowed mother. When one such tourist, Roderick Murchison, arrives in Lyme on the first leg of a European tour, he entrusts Mary with the care of his young wife Charlotte, who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. Mary, whose life is a daily struggle on the poverty line, cannot afford to turn him down but, proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, she clashes with her unwanted guest. They are two women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, Mary and Charlotte discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realization that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.

AMMONITE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)TRACKLISTING – 

  1. Fossils
  2. Strong Enough
  3. Dig
  4. Leave
  5. Boat
  6. Post
  7. Beach
  8. End
  9. Aria – Peter Gregson

The soundtrack for Ammonite is available for preorder now and will be released on November 13, 2020.

See also:

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Soundtrack Review: Archive (2020)

Milan Records released the original motion picture soundtrack for Archive back on July 10th, but I only recently got the chance to check it out. The music was composed by Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price (Gravity, Baby Driver, Suicide Squad). In Archive, set in 2038, George Almore is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs: being reunited with his dead wife.

Of the soundtrack, composer STEVEN PRICE had the following to say:

“My favourite projects are the ones where the story leads me into new musical areas, and exploring the world of Archive, a movie where technology and humanity meet in a near future Kyoto, proved to be a brilliant challenge. I’d been looking for the opportunity to create a largely electronic score for the first time in a long while and the story of George Almore, his secretive AI project and the mysterious Archive let me do just that… The music follows the developments in George’s work as it progresses, and as he gets closer to achieving his hopes and dreams it was a lot of fun to blur the lines between the electronic and organic, trying to find the sound of his creations. From the moment I read writer / director Gavin Rothery’s ambitious script I wanted to be involved, and throughout the process he proved to be a great collaborator and true supporter of music. I’m looking forward to people experiencing the movie Gavin has created, and it was a real pleasure to be a part of it.”

“Archive was always going to need a killer score, but when I was writing the script, I had no idea how that was all going to happen,” says the film’s director and writer GAVIN ROTHERY, adding, “I wanted the film to be big and cinematic. But I also needed it to feel tight and personal. I wanted some parts to be epic and bold, but others intimate and close. Some parts needed energy and power but others needed space and quiet. Technology needed to fuse with humanity. And it all needed to feel unified and whole. Basically, as is probably true with most directors, I wanted everything.  Steven gave me everything. He delivered the perfect score to Archive. I’m not quite sure how he does what he does. Maybe he’s a secret telepath. Maybe he’s from the future. Maybe he’s a robot. There is one thing that I am absolutely certain of is that he most definitely is. The best.”

The soundtrack for Archive intrigues me. It’s what I like to call a “quiet” soundtrack. It’s not big and “loud” like, oh, for example, the music for Blade Runner 2049 comes to mind. I find “quiet” soundtracks to be very refreshing, because it allows me to actually relax while I’m listening to them.

As Steven Price mentions in the extended quote above, there is a distinct blurring of lines between the electronic and organic music. That is to say, a piece might start with the synthesizer but suddenly switch over to the cello. What I find fascinating is how the tone of a piece will completely shift when either side, electronic or organic, takes over. It’s a subtle change, mind you, but it is there. What I mean is, when the cello takes over from the synthesizer, some subconscious tension releases, because it’s almost more relaxing to hear the organic music.

If I had to pick one piece as my favorite, it would have to be “First Steps.” I really like in particular how this piece ends. It’s clearly building toward a climactic moment (based on the title I would have to guess that the robotic AI is taking its literal first steps) when the music suddenly cuts off. The sudden end to the music catches you off guard, and makes you wonder what happened in the story to make things end so abruptly, especially as things were getting interesting with the music.

Some people might deride the music of Archive, calling it it “too slow.” But I maintain that soundtracks like this can be some of the best music you’ll ever hear. I think too often the science fiction genre is conflated with action films, but this music serves as a reminder that they are not (always) the same thing.

TRACKLISTING –
1. So Sorry for Your Loss
2. The Archive
3. You Need to Trust Me
4. This Involves Her
5. Target Out of Reach
6. What Do You Need to Know?
7. First Steps
8. J2
9. Priority One
10. Answering the Call
11. I Didn’t Build You Well Enough
12. I Had That Dream Again Last Night

Let me know what you think about Archive (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a good day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Metamorphosis (2020)

Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to check out the soundtrack to a new game called Metamorphosis, with the soundtrack composed by Mikolai Stroinski (The Witcher 3) and Garry Schyman (BioShock). In this game, the player finds themselves transformed into a tiny bug and must navigate a suddenly unfamiliar world in that form in order to find out what has happened and how they can regain their former shape again.

Regarding their work on the game’s soundtrack, Mikolai Stroinski and Garry Schyman had the following to say:

“This very unique game, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous novel, takes place in a bizarre and nightmarish world inhabited by insects and a corrupt bureaucracy. The game gave us an astonishing opportunity to write music inspired by the expressionist era of art and music in the early 20th century. Composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, as well later composers such as Bernard Herrmann were inspirations. We incorporated techniques of the era such as Sprechgesang (half spoken half sung), 12 tone, aleatoric, tonal and atonal harmonies to invoke a past age that worked perfectly for the world of Metamorphosis.”

I knew going in that this soundtrack was inspired by the works of Schoenberg and Berg, that alone told me this was going to be an unusual soundscape. But I still wasn’t prepared for just how expressionist and atonal this music was. If you haven’t experienced expressionist and atonal music before, then the music for Metamorphosis is going to hit you like a bolt out of the blue. This isn’t like the rich, orchestral music that accompanies games like God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn. This is music that is eccentric, off-kilter, and will keep you constantly on edge from beginning to end. For any of my readers who may have studied music theory as I have, imagine a video game with the soundtrack of Wozzeck and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Metamorphosis sounds like.

It’s actually a really bold choice to go in this direction with a video game soundtrack. If you’re meant to go into this game feeling lost and unsure as to what’s going on (which is bound to happen if you suddenly wake up in the game as a bug), then the music is only going to help make that happen. I also really like that the soundtrack has Sprechgesang (speak-singing that sounds really demented when combined with atonal music). It’s a constant reminder that you are not in a normal environment. I would have to imagine that this music combined with seeing everything from a bug’s perspective would be quite the mind-bending experience.

I was also struck by how short some of these tracks are. In fact, some of them are barely 30 seconds long. There isn’t a set length for tracks in a score, for video games or otherwise by any means, but I’m more used to tracks being several minutes long at minimum. Having these tracks be so short is also startling, as they can end without warning and I can only imagine how that plays out during gameplay.

The soundtrack for Metamorphosis definitely ranks as the most unusual soundtrack (for film, television or video games) that I’ve listened to this year. And quite frankly I think that’s a good thing. It’s nice to listen to something completely different every now and then.

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

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack Review: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

So just the other day I shared the news that the original soundtrack for The Wolf of Snow Hollow (by Ben Lovett) is now available. Today, I actually got the chance to sit down and listen to that soundtrack and present my thoughts on it below.

My god…..this soundtrack is beautiful. Even in this severely truncated year of films, I’ve been able to listen to my fair share of soundtracks this year, and I can sincerely say that The Wolf of Snow Hollow is one of the best, if not THE best soundtrack I’ve heard in 2020. The music was composed by Ben Lovett, who has also scored the likes of Synchronicity (2015), The Ritual (2017), and The Night House (2020), just to name a few examples.

From beginning to end, this soundtrack is amazing. It feels very much like a throwback to the kind of soundtrack you’d hear during the Golden Age of Cinema (approximately 1933-1960, the exact years vary depending on who you ask). And this is a very good thing! Film scores like this are filled with rich musical layers, the strings in particular range from menacing to thoughtful (but still full of tension). I also like how Lovett doesn’t give too much away with the music. Some scores, this year’s The Invisible Man comes to mind, openly project where and when certain moments (like jump scares) happen. The Wolf of Snow Hollow doesn’t do that. You feel a certain rise and fall fo tension to be sure, but if any one specific moment happens, the music doesn’t give it away.

And that music….Lovett openly admits that he wanted the music of The Wolf of Snow Hollow to be referential and is it ever! The influence of Bernard Herrmann is all over this score, in particular I heard multiple references to his iconic score for Psycho (1960). Not, I should clarify, anything that references the iconic “shower scene” moment that the film is most famous for. Instead, I swear I heard hints of Hermmann’s score from the opening of the film, particularly in the track “Third Crime Scene.” I love that this score pays such direct homage to one of Herrmann’s best film scores, and it makes me very excited to eventually watch this film and hear the music in context with the story. If I get the chance to speak with the composer, I plan on asking about this score’s connection with Herrmann and Psycho because that is a story I need to hear.

It would be impossible to overstate how happy listening to this soundtrack made me. From the opening track, the music sucked me in, and it never lets up. This is one of the best use of strings that I’ve heard in years, I know I’ve said that before but it’s done so well I have to mention it again.

I could go on and on, but honestly it all boils down to this: you need to listen to the original soundtrack for The Wolf of Snow Hollow at your earliest opportunity. This music is so beautiful, with a great homage to Bernard Herrmann, and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a score that surpasses this one in what little remains of 2020. Ben Lovett has knocked it out of the park with this one.

Let me know what you think about the music for The Wolf of Snow Hollow in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack News: ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ Soundtrack Available Now

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack News: ‘Tower of God’ (Original Series Soundtrack) Available Now!

Milan Records has released the Tower of God (Original Soundtrack) with music by Kevin PenkinAvailable everywhere now, the album features music from the critically acclaimed Japanese anime series Tower of God based on the South Korean action fantasy web manhwa of the same name created by S.I.U.  The soundtrack consists of 44 original tracks by Penkin. He crafts an expansive, ethereal, and engaging sonic journey to mirror the adventures of the series protagonists Rachel and Bam. 

Kevin Penkin, based in Melbourne, is a BAFTA-nominated composer for Japanese animation and video games. He is best known for composing the award-winning score to ‘Made in Abyss’, and the music to the BAFTA award-winning game ‘Florence’. Kevin moved to London in 2013 to complete a Masters degree in Composition for Screen at the Royal College of Music. During this time, Kevin collaborated with legendary video game composer Nobuo Uematsu on a number of Japanese video game titles, which eventually led him to break into the Anime industry. After releasing his breakthrough score for Made in Abyss, Penkin continued to compose music for Japanese animation, with scores for both The Rising of the Shield Hero and Tower of God.

Of the soundtrack, composer Kevin Penkin says:

“Tower of God has been an extraordinary challenge, with an even more extraordinary reward. I’d like to thank and acknowledge the co-composers, musicians and staff—all of whom I call friends—that helped make this soundtrack what it is. This has been a once-in-a-decade project, and it’s an honor to compose for this series.”

Reach the top, and everything will be yours. At the top of the tower exists everything in this world, and all of it can be yours. You can become a god. Tower of God tells the story of the beginning and the end of Rachel, the girl who climbed the tower so she could see the stars, and Bam, the boy who needed nothing but her.

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Soundtrack News: ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ Soundtrack Available Now

Lakeshore Records released The Wolf of Snow Hollow—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on October 9th. Composed by Ben Lovett (The Ritual, The Wind), the album is a strikingly orchestrated, multi-faceted work inspired by old school Bernard Herrmann-era suspense thrillers reflecting all the dimensions of the offbeat horror film—from darkly comedic to tension-fueled terror to oddball mystery caper.

In The Wolf of Snow Hollow, a small-town sheriff, struggling with a failed marriage, a rebellious daughter, and a lackluster department, is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring on the full moon. As he’s consumed by the hunt for the killer, he struggles to remind himself that there’s no such thing as werewolves…

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is written and directed by Jim Cummings (Thunder Road) who stars alongside Riki Lindhome (Knives Out, “Garfunkel and Oates”), Jimmy Tatro (“American Vandal,” Bad Education), Chloe East (“Kevin (Probably) Saves the World”) and the late Academy Award nominee Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Descendants) in his final feature role.

Speaking about working with the director Cummings, Lovett noted: “After seeing Thunder Road I leapt at the opportunity to collaborate with Jim and tried to match his energy every step of the way.  Jim is a big music fan and had tremendous enthusiasm for the process. We talked about everything from Prokofiev to Bernard Herrmann and I could tell he wanted to go big.  We had a tiny budget but a lot of ambition, and I wanted to see if we could pack big ideas into small packages.”

Expanding on the score, Lovett adds: “On a score like this the aim is to be referential without being derivative, to celebrate the influences instead of trying to hide them.  I like folding a love letter into what I’m doing but try to keep from getting too caught up in that, ultimately I’m just chasing an instinct about a sound and feel that hopefully expands on the personality and character of the film.”

Track List

  1. The Werewolf
  2. Welcome to Snow Hollow
  3. Little Red Riding Hood
  4. First Full Moon
  5. First Crime Scene
  6. Snow Hollow Mystery
  7. Second Full Moon
  8. Second Crime Scene
  9. Slopes
  10. Relapse
  11. Werewolf Stories
  12. Third Crime Scene
  13. Utah
  14. Detectives
  15. Second Relapse
  16. Full Moon Fever
  17. Snow Hollow Killer
  18. Returning Evidence
  19. For Protection
  20. New Sheriff

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