Tag Archives: documentary

Soundtrack Review: Spaceship Earth (2020)

The soundtrack for the recently released documentary Spaceship Earth is now available from Milan Records. Spaceship Earth is the true, stranger-than-fiction, adventure of eight visionaries who in 1991 spent two years quarantined inside of a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called BIOSPHERE 2. The experiment was a worldwide phenomenon, chronicling daily existence in the face of life threatening ecological disaster and a growing criticism that it was nothing more than a cult. The bizarre story is both a cautionary tale and a hopeful lesson of how a small group of dreamers can potentially reimagine a new world.

Album Artwork - Owen Pallett

The soundtrack for Spaceship Earth was composed by Owen Pallett, who is a composer, violinist, keyboardist, and vocalist. They have released a string of critically praised solo recordings, winning the Polaris Prize in 2006. They currently release albums with Secret City Records and Domino Recording Co., and have performed as a solo performer with orchestras worldwide. Their chamber music work has been commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Bang On A Can, The Barbican, among many others. They also served as curator of the TSO’s New Creations Festival in 2017.

Of the soundtrack, composer Owen Pallett says:

This is my second collaboration with Matt Wolf, after 2019’s Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project.  The film Spaceship Earth chronologically spans from 1960 to present day— it is serious, it is comedic, it is retro, it is futuristic, it is scientific and it is highly human.  It is also distinctly American.  As a result, I was inspired by 60s sci-fi film scores, Nino Rota, as well as American 20th century music— John Adams and Aaron Copland.

All of those influences are evident in Pallett’s score for Spaceship Earth, which is among the most beautiful I’ve heard this year. The music for this documentary runs a huge gamut from nearly symphonic to an American style that is, as the composer indicated, clearly inspired by the music of Aaron Copland (“Synergia Ranch” in particular). I may have listened to a few of the pieces out of order, but I was instantly struck by a four-part piece organized under the title “Biosphere 2.” Played back to back, these four pieces reminded me of a symphony, with themes weaving together and coming back at the end of the piece. It’s not often I hear a symphonic piece of music while listening to a soundtrack, but that is indeed what the four parts of “Biosphere 2” reminded me of.

And it only got better from there. Most of the soundtrack is delightfully musical, with a sense of “sci-fi” lurking around every corner. If you didn’t know what this documentary was about, you could be forgiven for thinking it was about literal space travel. It would be interesting to know, specifically, which sci-fi film scores influenced Pallett, as their influence can clearly be felt.

But there was also a touch of weirdness (in a good way) as well. As I mentioned earlier, “Synergia Ranch” was clearly inspired by the music of Aaron Copland (it put me in mind of “Hoedown” in case you were wondering) and it definitely stands out from the music around it.

In conclusion, the soundtrack for Spaceship Earth is beautifully done, and I applaud Owen Pallett for creating such beautiful music to accompany the documentary. Let me know what you think about Spaceship Earth (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)

Just recently I had the unexpected pleasure of looking over the soundtrack for the documentary A Brief History of Time Travel. As the title suggests, this documentary is all about a subject that has fascinated scientists (and regular people for years: time travel. The synopsis is as follows:

Time travel reaches far beyond the realm of science fiction. From early stories featuring heroes mysteriously falling into far-flung future worlds to countless appearances in literature, science fiction and video games, the idea of traveling through time has spanned cultures across the globe.

Through interviews with experts across a variety of fields – theoretical physicists, game designers, spiritual leaders to futurist authors, “A Brief History of Time Travel” explores how this idea has inspired some of the prominent intellectual minds of today, and how it has influenced their work.

The soundtrack for A Brief History of Time Travel was composed by Tracie Turnbull, an LA-based composer. Apart from her work on this documentary, Tracie also works as a scoring and tech assistant for Emmy award winning composer Jeff Russo. She has written additional music on projects including: CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery, Sci-fi’s Channel Zero, FX’s Snowfall, Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and the film, Mile 22.

The music for A Brief History of Time Travel was a lot of fun to listen to. Considering Tracie Turnbull is also a cellist, it’s not a surprise that the soundtrack features a healthy amount of that instrument. Indeed, a large portion of the soundtrack appears to be devoted primarily to the strings to create the warm, but quirky sounds that make up most of the score. Perhaps I was overly influenced by the title of the documentary, but it seemed to me that a lot of the music I heard reflected the passing of time. For example, I could’ve sworn I heard the ticking of clocks in several pieces. The idea occurred to me because Andrew Prahlow did something similar in his score for Outer Wilds. For that matter, speaking of the passage of time, the way most of these pieces “flowed” felt so appropriate given that they’re covering a documentary about time travel, in that time is often described as “flowing” from the past to the future.

As with most documentary scores that I’ve heard, the music for A Brief History of Time Travel is very easy to listen to; it’s gentle, it’s warm, and it draws no more attention to itself than necessary. By no means is that a bad thing, by their nature documentary scores aren’t generally supposed to stand out because that would make them a distraction to what the documentary is talking about. I think Tracie Turnbull’s score complements the topic of the documentary beautifully, allowing the imagination to run wild about the possibilities of time travel.

Track List:

1 Time Travel
2 Time Passing
3 Clock Slowed
4 Three Theories
5 Beyond Space
6 Back And Forward
7 Perspective Of A Computer
8 Space And Looking Back
9 Freeze People
10 Imagine Time Travel
11 Happens In The Future
12 Constraints Of Nature
13 If You Could Travel
14 History Of The Universe

The score for A Brief History of Time Travel can be purchased/downloaded from the following places:

Notefornote Website: https://bit.ly/36bS4DF

Let me know what you think about A Brief History of Time Travel (and the score) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts on: Stuffed (2019)

On the heels of listening to the beautiful soundtrack for the 2019 documentary Stuffed, I subsequently got to watch the film itself. Having almost no knowledge of taxidermy going into the experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect, though the unusually bright soundtrack had alerted me to expect the unexpected.

 

What I saw…was something beautiful.

I had no idea there was no much I didn’t know about taxidermy! Anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the process is featured in this documentary. While profiling various taxidermists around the world, Stuffed takes the time to explain all the steps that go into the taxidermy process. If you’re like me and you love learning how certain things work, you will love this part as they don’t spare any of the details (including one or two minor “ewwww” moments when a carcass is skinned). And along the way we’re treated to some gorgeous shots of stuffed animals posed in all kinds of ways, from natural poses in a museum to…what I can only describe as “practically-living art.” I had no idea taxidermy could look so beautiful.

The people you meet in Stuffed are quite interesting in their own right as well. As with many subcultures, these people come from all walks of life from all over the world. But the one thing that binds them is their love of taxidermy and it shows throughout. Everyone owns their love of taxidermy and they do not care if this makes them “odd” or “black sheep.” It’s inspiring to see people who are so content with who they are that they will happily pursue their interest no matter what.

StuffedBlog-640x360

You know what else was really awesome? Hearing Ben Lovett’s soundtrack in context with the documentary. Now I can see that a lot of that music was meant to highlight the various taxidermy displays that we’re treated to and make them more amazing then they already were. Lovett’s music really is perfect for this feature because it blends in so seamlessly with the various displays that you don’t really notice it (which is the idea, you’re not supposed to).

Another thing I learned after watching Stuffed is that the art of taxidermy is alive and well among the younger (relatively speaking) millennial generation. You have to understand that going in I assumed taxidermy was a slowly dying art, but this documentary proves the opposite. If anything, Stuffed appears to indicate that taxidermy is heading for something of a renaissance, which sounds very exciting, as I never want to see any skill go extinct. Furthermore, everyone interviewed makes it clear that taxidermy does have its practical uses, so its a skill that deserves to survive well into the future.

stuffed-1

The point I’m trying to make is that Stuffed opens a window into a fascinating world that up until this evening I had no idea even existed. The next time I visit a museum with a taxidermy display I will definitely spend a bit more time admiring the work that I now know went in to making them possible. Stuffed also proves that you should never judge a documentary by its subject material, because this is one of the most interesting things I’ve watched all year and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to check it out.

Stuffed is currently available on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and iTunes and I highly recommend checking it out at the earliest opportunity.

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

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Stuffed (2019)

Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Stuffed (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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

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

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

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My thoughts on: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

neighborposter

I was beginning to think I’d never get to see this amazing documentary about the late Fred Rogers. First, I didn’t think it was showing anywhere close to where I lived. And then, when I did find it, things kept coming up to prevent me from going. But finally I was able to go and I’m so glad I did. Won’t You Be My Neighbor loosely tells the story of Fred Rogers and how he created Mister Roger’s Neighborhood (1968-2001).

While billed as a documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? doesn’t feel like one in the traditional sense. There’s no overarching narrative where a voice intones “In 1968 this happened and in 1969 that happened…” Instead, the story is related via many clips of Fred Rogers and is supplemented by many people who worked with him and lived with him, including his widow and his two sons.

Many of these clips will be familiar if you’ve ever searched for Fred Rogers on YouTube. For instance, they show the clip of Mister Rogers speaking before Congress, a video that makes the rounds on social media about once a month. There’s also the special video he made after 9/11, that reappears on Facebook every once in a while. What’s really fascinating is in-between these clips are all the stories about the show: how it tackled pretty adult issues for a children’s show. For instance, in June of 1968 (shortly after RFK’s assassination) there was a show where Daniel Tiger asks Lady Aberlin (Betty Aberlin) “What does assassination mean?” This was interspersed with footage from the night of the assassination. Part of what made Mister Rogers so extraordinary was his understanding of what children really needed, as one person explains, he never forgot what it was like to be a child.

I told myself going in that I wouldn’t cry but…towards the end of the story, I couldn’t help myself. See, towards the end, the story shifts to the present day and there are hints about the current situation and what Fred might have said were he still here. And as they kept sharing his message of love and compassion and just helping others, the tears came and I could not stop them. In this messed up world, we need Mister Roger’s message, now more than ever.

If you need a break, however briefly, from the madness, go see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. It’s only around 90 minutes, but it’s a really fascinating look back at an extraordinary man.

What did you think of this documentary? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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