Tag Archives: composer

Soundtrack News: Black Adam Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is Available Now

WaterTower Music is excited to announce the release of the soundtrack to the New Line Cinema action adventure Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson. The first-ever feature film to explore the story of the uncompromising DC antihero comes to the big screen under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra (“Jungle Cruise”). Earlier this month, prior to this full soundtrack release, WaterTower Music released two of Balfe’s themes from this film, the Black Adam Theme and The Justice Society Theme

“It was exciting to get into the Black Adam theme, and I really wanted to capture his essence as the DC comic book world’s anti-hero,” explained the composer. He went on to note that “this movie is a reintroduction to to the legacy of the Justice Society and I am excited for the public to reacquaint themselves!”

Balfe further elaborated as to his overall musical and philisophical approach to Black Adam:

“My goal was to get the emotion and darkness of the main characters back story across to the audience, whilst simultaneously intertwining the old themes and familiarities of the DC comic book world and introducing a new class of superheroes.” He further noted “One way to bring in the feeling of an ancient world together was to collaborate with traditional instruments from Latin America, India, Africa and the Middle East. A particular highlight for me was a percussion session I did where we enlisted several musicians playing various  traditional instruments together to achieve this specific sound. Further, we had a large brass section across the score to give the weight and power of the main character’s past, which I balanced out with high tempo, more melodic sounds to give the audience that more familiar heroic feel. We also experimented a lot with choir on this project which was able to contribute a unique and classical sound that ties in nicely with Black Adam’s story.”

TRACK LIST

  1. Teth-Adam 
  2. Kahndaq
  3. The Awakening
  4. The Revolution Starts
  5. Introducing the JSA
  6. Shaza-Superman
  7. Our Only Hope
  8. Change Your Name
  9. What Kind of Magic?
  10. Is It the Champion?
  11. Your Enemies
  12. Black Adam Spotted
  13. Not Interested
  14. Just Say Shazam
  15. Ancient Palace
  16. Little Man
  17. Time to Go
  18. Release Him
  19. Father & Son
  20. Black Adam Theme
  21. Fly Bikes
  22. Nanobots
  23. Through the Wall
  24. 23lbs of Eternium 
  25. Is This the End?
  26. It Was Him
  27. Lake Baikal 
  28. Capes and Corpses
  29. Hawkman’s Fate
  30. The JSA Fights Back
  31. A Bad Plan Is a Good Plan
  32. Dr. Fate
  33. Prison Break
  34. Wet Rocks
  35. Not a Hero
  36. The Doctor’s Destiny
  37. Slave Champion
  38. Legions of Hell
  39. The Man in Black
  40. Adam’s Journey
  41. The Justice Society Theme
  42. Black Adam Theme (iZNiiK Remix)
  43. The Justice Society Theme (iZNiiK Remix)

Will you be checking out the soundrack for Black Adam?

See also:

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Soundtrack Review: Moss: Book II (2022)

I was recently given the opportunity to listen to the soundtrack for the VR game Moss: Book II that was released earlier this summer. Unfortunately, I was stricken with COVID shortly afterward so that’s why the review is only coming out now.

Moss: Book II was released for Meta Quest II on July 21, 2022. The game is a sequel to the first Moss game, released in 2018. In this game, as in the original, the player controls the Reader and a mouse named Quill who must go on an adventure to save the land.

The soundtrack of this game was composed by Jason Graves and consists of 17 tracks.

“The original Moss holds a very special place in my heart and Moss: Book II is an extremely personal score,” said Jason Graves. “Adding new instruments to the ensemble, I put together a small ‘pub band’ of soloists to underscore Quill’s heroism and heartbreak, and even acquired a beautiful baby grand piano that acts as the heart and soul of the score, performing most cues live on the piano, then adding other instruments to flesh out the themes. I hope this soundtrack takes players back to the magical world of Moss with every listening.”

I haven’t been familiar with either Moss game until now, but I found the soundtrack positively enchanting to listen to. Despite knowing nothing about the game and its story, the music immediately lets me know that this is a magical story I’m experiencing. Jason Graves makes full use of the instruments he’s working with to create an immersive musical experience that wouldn’t be out of place in an open world game. The fact that all of this is for a VR game just shows how far that genre has come.

One detail I absolutely love about the soundtrack for Moss: Book II is how it is centered around the piano. That’s not a sound you frequently hear in the middle of a video game score, compared to how often you hear a symphonic orchestra or electronic music. Being centered around the piano as the music is, it gives the soundtrack a much more intimate sound, fitting since the main character is a mouse.

There’s also an impressively wide range of emotions evoked by this music. While a lot of the music evokes a sense of fantasy and magic, Graves can also swing the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum and create a sense of evil and darkness, all with the same instruments. A brief example of this can be heard in “Torched Wings.”

Moss: Book II has some absolutely lovely music in its soundtrack and I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance. Even if you can’t play the game itself, the soundtrack is a beautiful musical experience that everyone should hear at least once.

Track List

  1. We Remember You
  2. Unafraid
  3. By My Side
  4. When One Door Shuts
  5. The King’s Glass
  6. To Raise an Army
  7. Glass House
  8. The Starthing’s Way
  9. From the Ashes
  10. Not Welcome Here
  11. The Winter Glass
  12. Serpent Slayer
  13. Unfinished Business
  14. Delivering Justice
  15. Tylan’s Domain
  16. Torched Wings
  17. Letting Go

I hope you get the chance to check out the music for Moss: Book II.

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Talking with Jeff Cardoni about Heels

I recently had the opportunity to speak with composer Jeff Cardoni about his work on the first season of Heels. Cardoni’s previous work includes (but is not limited to): CSI: Miami, Silicon Valley (TV series), The Defenders, The League, and Wilfred.

Please note this interview took place before Heels was officially renewed for a second season. I hope you enjoy our discussion about the show!

How did you get started as a composer in general?

Basically, same as everyone else. My parents forced me to play piano at a very young age. I didn’t know that I wanted to do it at that point. I played piano from six till I think 14. And then I switched instruments. But that’s how it all started.

So with Heels, how did you get connected to that show? And what did you think of its premise being about wrestling?

I heard from a mutual acquaintance and they said, “Are you trying to do Heels? Are you in the mix on that?” I’ve been saying forever that I wanted to do a sports drama. That’s my dream. That’s a project I’ve been looking for forever. So we had a mutual friend, the music supervisor. I texted the music supervisor and asked them about it, which got me a script and a chance to do a demo for it. So I indirectly searched it out.

So they liked the demo?

Yeah, I got lucky. I just read the script and wrote a piece of what I thought it would sound like in my head without seeing any video. But the piece I wrote got me the gig. And then it’s in the show. It’s the end of the last episode. So it made it through the whole process, which never ever happens. It’s never happened to me.

Did you know anything about professional wrestling before working on Heels?

Not enough to be an expert on it. You know, I knew a little bit. My brother used to be really into it when I was a kid and you know, with WrestleMania and all that stuff, but I didn’t watch it all the time or anything. No. So I kind of learned a lot in doing [the show].

For the show. Were you given any directions for how the show would sound? Did they have a specific sound in mind for Heels?

No, zero, it was the exact opposite. I wrote the demo, which ironically was called “Crystal Belongs in the Ring”, and I didn’t know that Crystal actually gets in the ring at the end of the last episode. So it turned out to be very fitting. That’s kind of what I in my head thought drama about wrestling would sound like because it’s in the south. And I just felt like guitar and piano and acoustic sounds are kind of Americana and, you know, relatable to everyone. So I thought it should be pretty grounded. I also did a solo album that came out right around this time. That was string quintet and electric guitar. I just wrote stuff that I wanted to do. It turns out that kind of became the sound of the show, guitar strings, piano, nothing, nothing very synthetic or electronic. I just thought it should be kind of, you know, as divided as the world is now with political things. And I think that sports is one of the things that can unite people, no matter what they believe. So I thought that this sound should be kind of relatable to everyone.

It definitely took me by surprise. Knowing it was about wrestling. I was I always think of more hard rock sounds for wrestling. So I heard this and I was like, oh, and then I click through a few more tracks. I’m like, Oh, this is different. And why also keep forgetting this is about a smaller promotion. And not necessarily the big, glitzy glammy the ones you see on TV

Right. I always felt like the music would be more about the family drama. That’s kind of what the score plays with. Moreover, we don’t really score any the wrestling until I think the fifth episode. I always felt that all the hard rock and all that big stuff will be covered in a song anyway, so I didn’t think the score needed to [do that]. And plus, I feel like it would just make it very one dimensional because, some people think of wrestling and you think of aggression, and I just felt like that’s already there. You don’t need to do that with music. So it’s trying to add another sound with a little more depth to it.

I’ll admit, that didn’t occur to me until partway through listening. I thought, “Oh, I’m thinking of the wrestling not the music in the wrestling show.”

Right. And there are some episodes we didn’t even see the ring. That’s what honestly was attractive to me more than the wrestling itself. It didn’t really matter what the sport was, you know, it could have been about hockey, it could have been about football. It doesn’t matter if you like football because you care about the characters. And I felt like that’s what this show had. A lot of really good characters.

And that’s what I mean, I guess that would be an easy trap to fall into is if you made it too much about the wrestling.

Right? I mean, honestly, I just got lucky because we had time. And I just kind of wrote what I thought in my head, watching the show about wrestling, and it just happened to work out. I mean, it could have gone horribly wrong. They could have gone the other way. And it could have been all about the aggression, in which case, I’d be looking for a job. But no, it worked. It felt very organic. It felt like a lot of times when you come on a project, late, there’s already this preconceived idea of what they want. They’ve been temping the music and trying things. So we had the benefit on this where I got to just write things. To my surprise, when I finally started seeing cuts to the picture, my music was in it and it was working. So that was just lucky. It’s one of those happy occurrences that doesn’t happen all the time.

So you were mentioning about “Crystal Belongs in the Ring.” I was reading in the the email they sent me for this interview, they said that that became like the base of the score itself.

Yeah, there’s just a couple of little motifs in that piece that pretty much became almost the whole score of the whole show. And every time there’d be some scenes with Crystal, I would just take the little piano theme and use that as kind of her theme. It really just set up this big match at the end, where she has to jump in the ring and actually wrestle. And it was just a really happy coincidence. You know, even when I named the cue “Crystal Belongs in the Ring.” I just based that from reading the first script when she had nothing to do with it. She was just a valet, and I didn’t know her arc was going to be so big and, and nobody told me that Crystal’s going in there. You know, it just kind of happened.

So just a really good happy accident.

Absolutely. You got it, you got to enjoy them when they happen.

Besides Crystal, are there any other character or idea-specific themes in the soundtrack that focus on specific people?

Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s a theme for the family that’s in a lot of the cues. There’s not one specifically for Ace or Jack because they also have their own theme for the wrestling as well. So I kind of just tried to play a lot of the family drama with a more generic kind of theme for the family itself. Then there was a little tune for when they’re talking about their dad. A couple of those moments were for Ace, he saw his dad pass away in front of his eyes. So it’s haunted him for life.

Yeah. Um, I have an idea of what the answer will be but I need to ask anyway, did any music from real life professional wrestling companies influenced the sound at all?

No, not on my end.

I was just curious because I know that wrestlers have many themes and I didn’t know if they influenced that at all.

Well, I did not write the themes for when they walked in the ring. I know Ace’s song was written by the show-runner Michael Malleus. And I think Jack’s song was co written by the Director Pete Siegel’s son, Sean Siegel. So they probably emulated something or they’re influenced by something, but I’m sure the hard rock songs informed what they did there.

Okay. For some reason I thought all that would have been done by you too.

It depends. Sometimes the songs don’t fall on my plate. I did the theme song for the main title, but there were also a lot of musicians in the production. There were a lot of opportunities where they got to showcase some of their stuff. And Alexander came out with a new album as well. So I think he had some music in there, too. And then I did, I did do a lot of Stacie songs. A lot of the acoustic guitar songs that are on the soundtrack, I produced them for her.

About how long did it take to score each episode? Like how long was that process?

Well, this was all just long, not because it took long, but because the production got shut down, because Stephen [Amell] got injured. Last Christmas, I think they shut down for a month, he hurt his back because they were doing all the stunts for real. Between that and COVID, I think I started working on it in September, and I don’t think I got the first show until January or right before Christmas. So we had the luxury of time. It wasn’t a normal TV show where you look at the episode and you have a week and then you have to turn it around. It was more organic, which was nice. It’s kind of nice to have some time to really think about stuff. So as far as how long it took, I mean, it took an abnormally long amount of time, but not because w were holding it up just because that’s how it played out.

Since you had the time was it like was it scored all at once? Or was it still episode by episode?

It was episode by episode, but they were never finished at once. So I’d send some music for one, and then I started working on two. But really none of them were finished until the very end. By then it felt like we were making an eight hour movie. And something that I did in a later episode might have made it into an earlier episode, or we just had the time to experiment, and to try things. I dealt with the editors, and we’d be talking about episode and they’d say, we got a scene, we’re doing this, let me send you that. And I would do something and sometimes it will work. Sometimes it wouldn’t.

But we had a chance to try a lot of things before the show-runners and director and everyone got their hands on it. I can’t remember a show with fewer notes or changes than this. I mean, there were episodes, we’d get like one or two notes, and they were little small things. But there were very few “that’s not working for me. Let’s try something else there.” And I think that’s only because of having the time to do things, because I think when you have the time, then I’m looking at this scene and I’m trying to do something that that goes along with this scene, very little of the music had anything to do with picture cuts or anything like that or on on screen action. It was mostly more about what they’re feeling inside that time.

It sounds like it was like a relatively easy process because I’ve talked to several composers without having a ton of notes or otherwise constraints. And I haven’t heard of a show like this before where there wasn’t really any expectation laid down.

It was a dream, honestly. I mean, it really takes filmmakers that want you to bring something to the table. They’re not so precious, they’re open to being surprised, they’re open to see what you bring. Because there’s nothing worse than if you’re a composer for a show or a movie, and it’s got a bunch of other great scores temped in there and they say, “This is what we like”, then you’re already boxed in, you can’t really do anything. So I much prefer the other way where you can do anything. And sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you don’t. But at least when you finally get it, you got there from taking the journey together with the people, from being creative together instead of trying to do your version of what they liked before.

Do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack that you liked the best.

I have a good one. There is a cue at the end of the third episode, it was called “Buckle In”, I think, and it’s just this long montage. It’s three and a half minutes long. It’s just a single guitar piece, but it really worked. Because they put it at the right spot. And it just felt like it kind of helped the emotion without being boring. I’m so sensitive, especially with music that’s emotional to not be too melodramatic. It’s definitely playing to the emotions, but I never felt like it was sappy or over the top or cheesy. So I felt like that was a pretty good indication of simplicity works the best. There’s mistakes all over the place. But I think the mistakes kind of added to the charm of it. And so that was a happy accident. And then the theme song just meant a lot to me, because that was a really fun adventure, because it wasn’t supposed to be us in the beginning. I wasn’t supposed to do it. And it’s cool how it came around.

So how did it happen that you did end up doing it?

Well, I think as they were getting into the show, the network wanted to have a big artist do the theme song, like a known song or something. So they were having a lot of artists submit things for it. But as it was going on, every time I see a cut, there would just be a big black thing. That’s a theme to come in the mixer. So I was like, “damn, I want it, I think it should be part of the score, because I think it would really help tie the show together.” So I wrote something, and I just started putting it in there. And they kept getting it back with my thing in there. And eventually, I don’t think they were necessarily finding what they wanted from a song. So then eventually, someone said, “What’s this that’s in there?” And it was mine. But they wanted a singer. They wanted vocals on it. So then music supervisor John Leahy reached out and he said, “Would you consider collaborating?” Absolutely. I was like, “Hell yeah, Sign me up.”

And so he hooked me up with Ben, and we kind of did it in a few days. Yeah, I mean, when I first heard his final vocal, I was just like, goosebumps everywhere, because he brought something I wasn’t expecting. And he was awesome. You know, he just really went deep and brought his own personality to it. That’s the great thing about collaborating is when you you think you know what it should be until someone else brings their point of view and just takes it somewhere way better. That’s why you have to keep an open mind and not be closed off from those accidents, and Ben surprised the hell out of me. Not, that it wasn’t gonna be great, but he just took like, the verse, what I thought was the verse turned out to be the chorus and the bridge, and he just, it was just awesome.

One last question. Were there any moments that were harder to score than others?

Man, I hate to say this, but no. Honestly, I can’t think of any. I mean, there were a couple scenes where I’m not a singer, but I put my vocals on some of the cues. There’s a cue called “Fireflies” where there’s vocals on it. And I was just doing that when I was messing around when I was doing my original batch of music for the picture and even that made it in the show and I was like, I can’t believe they’re gonna put my voice out there. You know, there’s tons of effects and it’s pretty ethereal. So even that work, you feel like, “let’s get a better singer” but it kind of it just felt like that. I brought me to the table on this, you know if you might hate it, but I felt like it was the best. The best version of what I would do naturally to anything I’ve gotten to work on. Yeah, you know, so for that it feels super. I’m super proud of it. And it feels pure. You know, if you don’t like it, you don’t like it, but it wasn’t me trying to be someone else.

It really does sound like the perfect storm of stuff that came together.

Yeah, it really was. And I didn’t meet these people in person. You know, it was all zooms until the very end until the premiere. I hadn’t met Michael Waldron. We talked on the phone and stuff, but I never met him in person. So this is surreal.

Is the show coming back for season two?

We don’t know yet. But it doesn’t get Netflix level viewers, you know, and this show, honestly, this show got the best Rotten Tomatoes of anything I’ve ever worked on. It’s like 99%. And I feel like if somehow you can get it in front of a bigger audience, it’s going to blow up. So I hope it gets a chance to do another season. But I don’t know. They haven’t canceled it. But I don’t know.

I mean, I mean, I can only assume if it does come back. I mean, I assume you’ll be back for anything that comes up with it.

If it’s up to me, absolutely. I hope so as well. I just hope we find out you know, because it’s like, I feel like we did it, we put it we left it all in the ring, you know, and everyone did like this didn’t feel like another show. This felt like an art project that everyone was doing. It just loved it so much, you know, and we had the time and it just felt like everything was a creative everything you could you can hope for. And I feel like it’d be a real shame if it didn’t get exposed to more people and get another shot. So I mean, I know there’s economics involved. And that’s, that’s above my paygrade. But we’ll see what happens.

Thank you so much to Jeff Cardoni for taking the time to speak with me about Heels. Have a great day everyone!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Exploring a New World in VR: Talking with Composer Jakob Eisenbach about Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon

Earlier this fall I had the chance to speak to composer Jakob Eisenbach about his work on the VR arcade experience Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon. In this exploration game, you and your team are teleported to an ancient Mayan temple where you must work to stop the awakening of evil during a ‘blood moon.’

I’ve been fascinated by VR for a long time, so it was really cool to get to talk with Jakob Eisenbach about his work on Tikal and I hope you enjoy our conversation about the game (and working in VR).

How did you get started as a composer?

It’s quite a funny story: I wished for a guitar on my 15th birthday because of falling in love with the sound of electric guitars, thanks to the game Guitar Hero 3.
Since I was somehow pretty quick at learning technique, practiced up to 12hours a day and advanced unusually fast, I got interested in more and more complex and high energy music. Then I joined a metal band, played lots of Dream Theater, Jason Becker and other very technical music, but became bored with only “complex and fast” eventually.

Since this really was the first time me being good at something, I decided to take my luck into my own hands and start a career in music. But to not be too crazy and only relying on guitar, I wanted to learn everything there is to learn about music.

And as crazy as it sounds, after starting to take piano and theory lessons for 4 years, I already managed to get accepted as one of four students at the Zurich University of Arts. Something which turned out to be my most lucky punch ever –
the year I joined the program “Composition for Film, Theater and Media”, was also the first year where all of the Universities Departments moved into a newly constructed building.

And there I was….studying my dream occupation while being surrounded by so many talented people, state of the art recording studios, concert halls, classical/jazz music students, while having yet the craziest advantage to come: Collaborative in-house programs with students from game design, film, theater, dance, conducting, recording, you name it.
Somehow our field of studies turned out to be at the intersection between a lot of those disciplines, so any project we did could be recorded live with real instruments since the very beginning – simply because the musicians were next door and we simply had free access to the infrastructure.
We literally recorded full-size orchestras for fun little school projects, because the most difficult thing was to only find enough musicians. The rest was already there and free.

Fast forward a few busy years, students graduate, some find jobs at different production companies or game studios and then you eventually get a call: “Hey Jakob, since you worked on my MA graduation game, my company and I have this new project….”
And suddenly I find myself inside this incredible VR startup “True VR Systems”.

How is composing for VR different from composing for, say, a regular video game or a film?

Basically, as with any kind of storytelling, you’re aiming to re-create human experiences. And there’s only limited ways of doing that. Film for example, is something that you’d call a “linear” story: You as the consumer can only go forward in time. The most interactive a movie gets, is you pausing it or adjusting the volume.

Then there’s games: some of them also have a linear tendency, like Journey.

Most games however tend to have more “non-linear” gameplay: open world games like Red Dead Redemption or World Of Warcraft, where you can spent as much time as you want, where you want, and even do things repeatedly.

Depending on how the story is told, the music has to connect to either the environment/mood or a linear sequence, like in cutscenes or timelines.

Actually, since the definition of music is anchored at the “perception of organized sound” it’s the job of me as the composer to create those organized chunks that a consumer may eventually perceive as music. They can consist of many different possible sections with lots of outcomes, transitions and different versions of the same story and mood.
Or you can create one singular timeline, that you have to experience in one in one sitting.

In the projects of TrueVR it’s the same: the only extension is that you could place the music in virtual spaces and environments. But no matter how much technical extension you add to a story, it still has to make sense in the consumer’s head.
Those VR projects are mostly non-linear but have a few linear timelines where the music has some straight moments (for example on the Lava River).

Fun thing to think about: The reality we experience every day can also be observed as some kind of linear story with moments and chunks of non-linear, repeatable timelines.


What inspired the sound of Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon?

The main inspiration lies in the idea that you are experiencing a “strange” world, but you are some kind of main character/hero that’s solving the ancient riddles and mysteries of this temple.

As the game itself aimed for the “wow effect” experience of huge dimensions, especially in the vertical, we decided this is achieved best with a real symphony orchestra.
The 24-piece choir really added the feeling of an ancient magic being at work.

To achieve the “strangeness” I was strongly inspired by Balinese Gamelan culture, since this has a strange character to most western ears, and I was familiar with their theory. Extended with Arabic and Asian instruments it became less specifically on one culture though, while retaining the character of something “different” and “tribal” next to the orchestra. Nobody really knows how Mayan music sounded after all. We only know of some self-made instruments like bamboo flutes and drums.


Why was it so important for the music for Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon to be recorded live? 

Two reasons. The first: This game should evoke the feeling of being impressed and stunned by perceiving the virtual world, but not the kind of “gimmicky impressive” you have in most trailer music.
The second reason: Since we established a kind of “real instrumentalists only” trend, coming from the amazing experience in my studies, I simply had the experience how to pull this off. Since we did small school projects with real orchestras and ensembles all the time already, I very strongly felt that this project, which became internationally available and feels like something exceptional in its way, especially deserved to have a real soul.

How did working on Tikal compare to the other VR projects you’d composed for? It sounds like this one was bigger than the ones that came before.

Tikal was planned by the studio as their flag ship project in their “explorer genre” from the very beginning. They wanted to have one very high-quality game, and Tikal was going to be that one. The other projects that have music of mine (like Patient Zero) are more focused on the interactivity and shooting zombies had a different approach from the studio. And they felt that for PvP and PvE shooters there’s other necessities than having a huge score. 

How much time did you have to score Tikal?

Not much time, then suddenly a lot of time, and then suddenly not much time again.

So, while designing the core gameplay with the visual artists and creative team, we really went hand in hand. I scored a 10-minute suite within a few days, then we split this into different sections that could work to what we transcribed in the storyboard.
During the level design, we tested a lot in the actual VR environment, like how you perceive the time for different locations etc.
But because the new licensed partners in Canada wanted to open their franchise with a new game, we had to go into beta very early. So from first draft until beta, I had around
3-4 weeks.

Then this got stuck, because the dev team and me (hired as sound designer) had to go to different projects, so the composer side of me was left in the dark for quite a while.

But then, more than a good year later we got back to this refurbished the game for the new 4K hardware and the arenas in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Which was when we felt this was the time to finally record the music – but then there was COVID.

So, lots of stop and go, then during the “European summer break of covid” we sneaked into a little timeslot where travelling and recording full orchestras in one room was allowed and finally managed to pull this off in Budapest.

Let’s just say the composing part of this project was the least difficult part by far, ha ha.


Do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack?

Yes! My favorite part is “An Ancient Awakening”.

And you really need to play the game in the arena to understand why.

I’ll try to transcribe it though: When this cue starts, you’re already in the game for a little while and managed to advance to an ancient grave chamber.

You solved the riddle in this level and then the wind machines of the VR arena start, the scent dispensers are activated and in the game, you see a lot of beautiful particles flying around in the environment that slowly materialize into an ancient Mayan ghost in front of you. This ghost is the first NPC character you meet in the experience and since you’re inside the VR environment, he really is about as tall as you and your teammates.

I also carefully sound designed his voice and sound effects. He carries I think 5-7 individual binaural SFX sources in his prefab, which blend in with the music.

When I tested the game, I always liked to stand pretty close to his animation.

Little fun fact: The ghosts’ animation is a motion capture of the lead developer Mischa Geiser himself. They recorded this full sequence while repeatedly playing my music mockup on speakers in the VR arena and performing the movements to the music.

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jakob Eisenbach about Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get started as a composer?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: Brin d’amour (2019)

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

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

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

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

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

Composer Interviews

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

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

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


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

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

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

See also:

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

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The Music of the Deep: Talking with Raphaelle Thibaut about ‘Secrets of the Whales’ (2021)

Just recently I had the privilege of speaking with composer Raphaelle Thibaut about her work on the Disney+ original series Secrets of the Whales. After she was born, Raphaelle suffered from a series of severe ear issues that led to single- sided deafness. At age 4, following doctor’s recommendation, she started an intense piano practice. She then continued studying music for 15 years at the conservatory of Lille, France, where she graduated in 2002. In 2015, she decided to leave her marketing job at Google to pursue her lifelong passion for music and film scoring. She quickly started writing for independent films and music houses. She then began to work for trailer houses and got featured in major Hollywood productions like Incredibles 2 and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Secrets of the Whales, from National Geographic, plunges viewers deep within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales. Filmed over three years in 24 locations, throughout this epic journey, we learn that whales are far more complex and more like us than ever imagined.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Raphaelle Thibaut!

How did you get started as a composer?
I had a classical music education, starting age 4. I spent long years at the conservatory in France playing the piano and learning everything about reading and performing music. I was obsessed with movies and film music already as a kid which really wasn’t a thing at home so I’m not sure where it came from. I remember using an old recorder to capture sound bites in theaters and playing around with them in my bedroom. I don’t think I was even aware of the concept of film score until I bought my first CDs. I dropped out of music school when I was 18 because I didn’t enjoy the performance part of my training. I think this was an early sign that composing was more my thing. Another early sign was that as a kid, I was very attracted to the composers from the late Romantic era (especially the Russian composers). A lot of the cinematic music genre took inspiration from the dramatism, large orchestra, use of leitmotif, and emotiveness of the romantic era. After music school, I ended up working in Tech but continued to play and compose in my bedroom. In 2015, I finally decided to quit my job to become a full-time composer.

How did you get involved with Secrets of the Whales?
I was approached by two agents very early on in my career as a composer. They believed in me from the very beginning and still are my agents today. A while ago they met Brian Armstrong at Red Rock productions in the UK, who apparently remembered my work the following year when they were looking for a composer for Secrets of the Whales. Initially they were looking to hire multiple composers but I ended up scoring to the 4 episodes so I was thrilled about that.

Was there much collaboration between the director/producers while working on the music?
I was involved right after they were done filming and I started writing in March last year. I continued throughout the pandemic and felt incredibly lucky to do so. I worked closely with the production team at Red Rock Films and indeed more specifically with directors Brian Armstrong and Andy Mitchell. My experience working with them was fantastic. Very empowering. I was able to come up with my own ideas and this allowed me to let go and get my creative juices flowing.

How was your music for this series inspired by Le Grand Bleu?
As a composer and a French person, it was hard not to think of this movie and Eric Serra’s amazing score. As a kid, I was fascinated by those synthetic whale sounds that he recreated for the film. I wanted to have some signature sounds in the score that would evoke the whales, but not imitate them. Both the production team and I wanted to avoid overstepping the existing sounds of animals and nature so I had to be careful about that. I thought of them like additional instruments more than in terms of sound design. Like subtle familiar voices in tune with the music.

What was your inspiration to put the underwater sound world of Secrets of the Whales together? That is to say, how were you inspired by the underwater world of whales when making this music?
I had many issues with my ears when I was a kid; multiple infections that even led to one-sided deafness for a while in my childhood. One thing that remains from this time is that I can’t go underwater, so this just increased the already existing fascination that I have for those animals and places. They are very mysterious, almost mystical to me and I think that at some points in the score my music illustrates that. As a consequence, it almost feels like the deeper we go into the water the more I would use non-traditional elements like synths and processed sounds.

How did you go about making music that sounds like whale songs? They’re so beautiful, was it difficult making music that emulated them?
They are! I was worried that my music would never be able to top this beauty. I think that my strategy was to try to evoke their sounds, not to imitate them. They are already making music when they communicate, so I really didn’t want to overstep that.

What instruments did you focus on when putting the music together? Any non-traditional choices?
The score is hybrid. It sounds mostly orchestral but I actually used a lot of electronic elements to enrich it and ‘make up’ for the fact that there would be no live player at all. Everything has been done on Logic Pro X, using my piano Komplete Kontrol S88, tons of orchestral and electronic plugins, and my voice. It was great to be able to play around with electronic sounds along with orchestral arrangements. This led us to a “versatile” hybrid score and I think we were all happy with the result!

How much time did you have to work on Secrets of the Whales? Did the pandemic affect the process at all
I was involved right after they were done filming and I started writing in March last year. I continued throughout the pandemic and felt incredibly lucky to do so. This was definitely my “Covid project”. The pandemic did affect the process in a way because I didn’t get to meet the team in person yet. But it didn’t affect the creative process because there wasn’t a plan to work with live players apart from me. I actually continued working on the score after the release actually, because we are working on a live concert experience coming in 2022! Secrets of the Whales will feature highlights from the Disney+ original series on a giant screen paired with the triumphant performance of a full symphony orchestra. So I had to write additional music for this.

Do you have a favorite track?
I love The Mourning Mother in the official soundtracks. It was always a special cue for me because it was written for this moment where an orca mother carries her dead calf for days. The fact that she mourns like human beings would and can’t let go broke my heart and marked me greatly.

What’s one thing that you hope viewers notice in the music when they watch this series?
That’s a good question. Probably how the music, despite that it’s very rich and epic, never really overwhelms and leaves lots of room for the narration and natural sounds.

I want to give a huge thank you to Raphaelle Thibaut for taking the time to speak with me about her work on Secrets of the Whales!

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: Mortal Kombat (2021)

WaterTower Music has released the soundtrack to New Line Cinema’s explosive new movie Mortal Kombat, which brings to life the intense action of the blockbuster video game franchise in all its brutal glory, pitting the all-time, fan-favorite champions against one another in the ultimate, no-holds-barred, gory battle that pushes them to their very limits. The Mortal Kombat (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) contains all new score by Golden Globe-, Emmy-, and Grammy-nominated composer Benjamin Wallfisch (IT and IT Chapter 2, Shazam, Blade Runner: 2049 [w/ Hans Zimmer]). It features 24 tracks by Wallfisch, who interpreted the film’s themes and emphasized the story’s hard-driving, visceral action through his music.

Director Simon McQuoid discussed working with Wallfisch on the score:

“Ben and I both knew that we needed to use the classic Immortals track ‘Techno Syndrome’ as source material for the entire score of Mortal Kombat. But along with that we knew that an updated elevated version of the song also needed to be created. And Ben certainly delivered! I am so excited by this new 2021 version of the track, when I first heard it, it blew my mind. Actually, Ben kind of blew my mind on a daily basis through the making of this film, so we can all thank Benjamin Wallfisch for his genius and passion in creating ‘Techno Syndrome 2021’.

Wallfisch further elaborated:

“When I was invited to come on board ‘Mortal Kombat,’ I was very aware of the responsibility that comes with scoring a franchise so deeply embedded in pop culture and with such a passionate fanbase. My first question was what can we do with ‘Techno Syndrome,’ a piece of music so much part of the DNA of the game and the original movies? What motifs could be reinvented and blown up to a full-scale symphonic sound world in the score, and might there be room for a full reinvention of the whole song as an EDM single in 2021? A huge thank you to The Immortals for giving us their blessing to reimagine their classic track in this way, as a celebration of the world of Mortal Kombat and its fans, and of the uplifting power of Electronic Dance Music, which the original did so much to light the fuse of 30 years ago.”

I have rarely experienced such a turnaround as what I’ve felt regarding Mortal Kombat. Having minimal contact with the video game series (and the one time I made an effort to play not going particularly well), I was initially on the fence and unable to emotionally invest in the idea of the film at all. But then THAT trailer came out, and I was intrigued. Then came the chance to listen to the soundtrack ahead of its release on April 23…

And I think my brain exploded.

I may have the bad habit of using superlatives too often in my reviews, but please believe me when I say Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for Mortal Kombat is one of the best I’ve ever heard. This isn’t just a soundtrack for an action film, this is an entire world realized through sound and melody and I am here for every last minute of it. During the music for the fight scenes (it’s not hard to tell which ones those are) you can feel every punch and every attack with brutal clarity. For the music alone, I am now itching to see these fight scenes in their proper context, because I need to know how this music connects to the action. And it’s such beautiful music, it has what I like to call “height” which is to say it expands and creates the illusion of space as it goes along. You can literally hear the music grow and soar in certain places, which helps to create the idea of a world existing within the music.

However as I said there’s far more to this soundtrack then just action. Wallfisch also demonstrates a keen ability to take the music in the opposite direction, to slow it down and allow the audience to take a collective breath. That’s an important thing for any film: if the soundtrack is just GO GO GO constantly, it can eventually begin to grate on the ear and become quite tiresome. But the music for Mortal Kombat isn’t like that at all (much to my surprise). There’s plenty of action to go around, but also more than enough moments of calm and relative quiet, though it is more often than not the “calm before the storm” type of quiet. There’s an impressive amount of balancing going on between the two extremes of loud and quiet, and I love it all.

Another detail I like about this soundtrack? The track list doesn’t give too much away regarding plot details. In fact, if I’m reading the track list correctly, most of these tracks appear to be themes for specific characters, which is great because I love thematic-based soundtracks (when done properly). Even so, very little is given away in terms of plot, and that’s great. I’ve seen too many soundtracks where you can suss out the plot of a film from the track list names alone, but you can’t do that here.

I could go on and on about the music for Mortal Kombat, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that listening to this soundtrack has rocketed this film to the top of my must see list for 2021 (and six months ago I couldn’t imagine saying that). If you get the chance, you need to check out this soundtrack independently of the film itself, it is that good.

TRACK LIST

  1. Techno Syndrome 2021 (Mortal Kombat)
  2. Hanzo Hasashi
  3. Lord Raiden
  4. Bi-Han
  5. Shang Tsung
  6. Cole Young
  7. Birthmark
  8. Sonya Blade
  9. Kano v Reptile
  10. Liu Kang
  11. The Great Protector
  12. Sub-Zero
  13. Kung Lao
  14. Origins
  15. Kabal
  16. Goro
  17. Arcana
  18. Jax Briggs
  19. The Void
  20. The Tournament
  21. Sub-Zero v Cole Young
  22. I Am Scorpion
  23. We Fight as One
  24. Get Over Here

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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