Tag Archives: Alexander Bornstein

Soundtrack Review: Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege (2020)

Hasbro has digitally released Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege Original Anime Series Soundtrack by Alexander Bornstein. The soundtrack features 17 electro-charged tracks from the hit Netflix Original Series, in partnership with Rooster Teeth. I had the opportunity to interview Alexander Bornstein about his work on this series earlier this summer and I’m thrilled that everyone will have the chance to listen to this great soundtrack apart from the series.

Bornstein had this to say about the incredible task of creating new music for the beloved franchise:

“Being brought on to compose an entirely new musical world for the ‘Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy’ on Netflix has been both a dream job and huge creative responsibility. The world of the Autobots and Decepticons has been part of my pop culture psyche for a long time, going all the way back to watching G1 reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel in the early 90s.  I’m very excited fans will now have a chance to delve deeper into the music of the trilogy’s first chapter ‘Siege’, and hear the show’s themes for characters like Elita-1, extensive use of analog synthesizers, and amazing solo players.”

If you haven’t gotten the chance to experience Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege, check out the synopsis below to get an idea of what the story is about:

TRANSFORMERS: WAR FOR CYBERTRON TRILOGY – SIEGE begins in the final hours of the devastating civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons. The war that has torn apart their home planet of Cybertron is at a tipping point. Two leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, both want to save their world and unify their people, but only on their own terms. In an attempt to end the conflict, Megatron is forced to consider using the Allspark, the source of all life and power on Cybertron, to “reformat” the Autobots, thus “unifying” Cybertron. Outnumbered, outgunned, and under SIEGE, the battle-weary Autobots orchestrate a desperate series of counterstrikes on a mission that, if everything somehow goes right, will end with an unthinkable choice: kill their planet in order to save it.

Getting to hear the soundtrack by itself was an absolute delight. The tracks I was most interested in hearing were the first three on the list: “Autobots”, “Decepticons”, and “Cybertron.” I remembered from my conversation with Alexander Bornstein that these tracks were the starting point of the score and I was very curious to see how they played out and related to each other. Sure enough, there is a definite relation between “Autobots” and “Decepticons.” Even though they’re themes for opposite sides of the conflict, you can definitely tell they’re two halves of the same coin, which is a brilliant decision since it recasts the conflict on Cybertron in an entirely new light.

The other theme I was particularly interested in listening to was “Elita’s Theme,” since the composer related to me that it was one he really liked it. It is, indeed, a beautiful theme to listen to, and not surprisingly there’s a strong connection to the “Autobots” theme. It’s always interesting to hear how themes are connected to one another, using the same melodies but twisting them slightly to fit different characters. These similarities actually expand into most of the soundtrack, since, as the composer explained, the first three themes on the list serve as the base for pretty much every other melody in the soundtrack. It’s one thing to hear about this but it’s another to see it in action without the rest of the TV episode to distract me.

TRACK LISTING

  1. “Autobots” (3:22)
  2. “Decepticons” (3:34)
  3. “Cybertron” (2:04)
  4. “Optimus Steps In” (4:21)
  5. “The Ark” (3:15)
  6. “Optimus And Elita-1 (Elita’s Theme)” (2:14)
  7. “We Are Not Decepticons” (2:09)
  8. “Traitor” (2:37)
  9. “Metal Vortex” (2:45)
  10. “Megatron’s Speech” (3:44)
  11. “Alpha Trion Protocols” (4:11)
  12. “Sea Of Rust/Virus Attack” (4:13)
  13. “The Ark Takes Flight” (4:04)
  14. “Battle Of The Space Bridge” (3:08)
  15. “For Cybertron” (4:00)
  16. “A New Leader” (1:24)
  17. “Siege End (Autobots Theme Reprise)” (1:20)

In a year that’s been turned upside down, the soundtrack for Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege has been a sorely needed bright spot. Fans of Transformers both old and new will love this music. I can’t reiterate enough how happy I am that the soundtrack is now available, since now everyone can take the time to listen to some gorgeous music.

Let me know what you think about the music for Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege (2020)

For Cybertron! Talking with Alexander Bornstein about ‘Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege’

TV Soundtracks

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For Cybertron! Talking with Alexander Bornstein about ‘Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege’

Earlier this summer I was granted the opportunity to speak to Alexander Bornstein about his work on the Netflix series Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege. A reimagining of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, Siege takes you deeper into Cybertron than ever before, and turns everything you thought you knew about Optimus Prime and Megatron (and their conflict) upside down.

Alexander Bornstein is an award-winning composer currently based in Los Angeles. His music has been heard on television, independent films, feature films, web series, documentaries in the festival circuit, and concert halls around the U.S.  Alexander has also been at the forefront of new multimedia platforms, composing music for one of the first VR television series. His projects include (but are not limited to): The Twilight Zone, Lost in Space (the Netflix series), The Boys, Agent Carter, and of course, Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege.

How did you get started with composing for film and television?

It’s actually a roundabout story. I’d been listening to film scores since first or second grade, it was really a genre of music I gravitated to. I grew up listening to Basil Poledouris, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Hans Zimmer, a lot of composers that everyone’s familiar with. I then started as a filmmaker when I went to college. I wanted to be a writer/director, so I was writing feature scripts, I was directing short films, but I was always doing music on my own time. I didn’t really start to study music extensively until I was about 20 years old in my second year of college. I’d always had this passion for film music, but I didn’t really know how to write music even though I really wanted to do that. And so in college I started experimenting on my own. Then I met the right collective of professors who told me “Well if you really want to do this, this is what you need to do.” It was kind of, before I knew what was happening, I was declaring a music major and writing music, then studying with a composer. When I graduated from undergrad I decided I wanted to go to grad school and one of the programs I got into was for film scoring. I took that as a sign from the universe that I should give this a shot professionally.

How familiar were you with the Transformers series before you started working on War for Cybertron?

I was fairly familiar [with Transformers]. I was a big fan of the original cartoon when I was a kid, because the SyFy channel would air the G1 cartoons on its morning animation block. That’s how I became familiar with Optimus Prime, Megatron, Autobots, and all that. That gave me a fleeting familiarity with Transformers growing up because of my love for G1. I watched a little bit of Beast Wars, I kept up with the series over the years and got re-introduced when the first movie came out. It was really cool to see Peter Cullen come back as Optimus Prime. So there’s always been this familiarity with the franchise as I grew up.

On a related note, did the music from past Transformers series influence your work on this score at all? Any musical Easter Eggs that longtime fans might notice?

That was a discussion I had pretty extensively with F.J. DeSanto, the showrunner, when we started. The risky thing about this series is that it is a step in a new direction for what many have seen in a Transformers show before. There’s obviously a lot of callbacks, since the show was written by fans, it is definitely a faithful update. But, to your question, we never really wanted to go too far into referencing stuff from the Robert Walsh and Johnny Douglas scores or the Vince DiCola score from The Transformers: The Movie. I can’t speak for what might happen in the future, but I think for this first chapter of the trilogy we tried to focus on creating a new sound and not necessarily incorporate stuff from previous iterations of the franchise. We talked about it when I started and decided to step away from trying that out, but you never know what could happen in future chapters.

How did you approach scoring War for Cybertron? What was your starting point with putting the music together?

The first thing I wanted to do was create three main themes for the series. Those three main themes would basically be the building blocks of all the music for the show. Once I was officially onboard, I started working on a theme for the Autobots, the Decepticons, and then for Cybertron itself. From those themes, I had discussions with F.J. [DeSanto] about what kind of instrumentation was wanted, what kind of sounds should be tried. Once I did that I went off on my own for a few months. They were just getting started on the animation when I started, so there wasn’t really anything for me to work on, so I had all this time to bat ideas around. Once I had those three themes, I presented them, we signed off on them, and then from those themes I felt pretty comfortable diving into the actual series and working on the score.

The approach I tried to take is, rather than getting too motivic, because of the amount of characters on the show, I tried to keep the music more economic and lean, for example by developing the Autobots theme based on various characters and situations. So, there’s a heroic variation of the Autobot’s theme for Optimus Prime, and likewise similar variations for the Decepticon’s theme. The theme is arranged or developed in different ways specific for a character. One thing I’ve learned during projects is that it’s difficult to get themes established, especially now with content and stories moving so rapidly with so much to go through. I wanted to rely on less [music] so I could keep repeating it to get it established more efficiently. From those three themes there are some sub-motifs here and there. For example, the All-Spark has a sub-motif that gets developed in different ways. Elita-1 has a theme of her own that starts with the same chords as the Autobot theme but then goes in a different direction. The Decepticon theme its actually part of the Autobot theme, just with different chords. Basically, there’s a “B” section to the Autobot’s theme that is uplifting and hopeful and that is the basis of what became the Decepticon theme with a more minor key in the harmony. Ultimately, this [similarity] is because at one time they were all Cybertronians.

What kind of instruments did you use for the score? Considering that it’s Transformers, I’d imagine there was a lot of electronic music? Or maybe not?

There’s definitely a heavy electronic component, that was something we decided upon early on. There is a big orchestral component as well, for the emotional as well as the action-heavy moments. Inspiration was taken from synth waves and that genre of writing, but I also looked at Vangelis and Jóhann Jóhannsson for some of the other, more static textures. It was an interesting challenge to take something like Transformers, which up until now has been fairly ‘heavy’ and taking it in a slightly different direction with more static and organic textures. There’s still some very reliable old-school synth arpeggios, the analog sounds, but you’re also getting some of these organic, processed textures as well, so it’s not a complete retread of what people have heard already.

Have you finished the scoring process for Siege? How long did scoring take? 

I began in August of 2019 and then I finished writing it in January of 2020. I was given a lot of time, which is somewhat atypical for a television production, and definitely on animation. It was a really good opportunity to make sure we were always putting our best foot forward. This has also been the case for “Earthrise” (Part 2 of the War for Cybertron series). I can take a step back and be like “Is this really the best version of this cue, do i need to fix anything?” as opposed to just grinding it out as quickly as possible.

Do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack? Any favorite themes?

I was really happy with how the theme for Elita-1 turned out. She’s kind of a breakout character on the show for me and I wanted to make sure that she had a theme that could

really stand on its own. It gets some really good opportunities in the series to develop. It shows up for the first time in episode 2, and then it gets a lot of chances to develop. I was really happy with how it turned out. It was one of those instances where you write and hope that you don’t get any notes on it because you don’t want to change anything about it. Thankfully, it came through and they didn’t have any notes on it. So I was really pleased to come up with this theme for a character that I really liked and seeing it stick in the series has been really great.

I want to say thank you to Alexander Bornstein for taking the time to talk with me about his work on Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege. You can currently view the series on Netflix. There is currently no release date for Transformers: War for Cybertorn: Earthrise, though I was given to understand that the scoring for Earthrise is ongoing at the time the interview took place.

See also:

My Thoughts on: Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege (2020)

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 (2018)

For the past year, there have been several films and documentaries released, and several upcoming, that are looking back at the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969 and the events that led up to it. To that end, First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8, looks at the important journey of Apollo 8, which orbited the moon and captured the famous “Earthrise” photo.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review the soundtrack for this documentary which was composed by Alexander Bornstein. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped the soundtrack in to listen to it. Documentary soundtracks, in my experience, can be very hit or miss, and sometimes documentaries don’t have much in the way of music at all. To be honest, I love this soundtrack. This may come out wrong, but it was lot more “cinematic” than I thought it would be. There was a sense of drama, a sense of excitement, and even tension that I just wasn’t expecting, but that made me really love the soundtrack even more than I thought I would at first.

 

I haven’t seen the documentary that goes with this soundtrack, but I can tell the music is meant to highlight the risks that were involved in launching Apollo 8 and how high-stakes everything was since this was one of the last Apollo missions before the all-important Apollo 11. I was actually reminded a bit of Hans Zimmer’s music, with some of the timpani drum riffs (and I mean that in a good way).

Alexander Bornstein did a great job with this soundtrack. My favorite track on the entire disc is “The Good Earth.” It was catchy, it just drove along and I loved listening to it. As I said earlier, I wasn’t expecting the music to be so orchestral and beautiful, and I’m so happy to be so pleasantly surprised by what I listened to. The soundtrack is available now and I definitely recommend checking it out. I look forward to hearing more from Alexander Bornstein, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to listen to this soundtrack.

If you’ve seen First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 or listened to the soundtrack, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

You Can Buy the soundtrack HERE: https://bit.ly/2EjfCd6

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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