Tag Archives: Film Composer

Music to Describe Fear and Music for Superheroes: Talking with Composer Jeremy Turner about ‘Immigration Nation’ and ‘Marvel’s 616’

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak with composer Jeremy Turner about his work on the Netflix series Immigration Nation and his work on the main theme for Marvel’s 616 on Disney+. For both of these scores, Turner is in contention for an Emmy, one for Documentary Score and one for Main Title Theme.

The docuseries Immigration Nation follows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on raids, at detention centers, and attempting to integrate with local law enforcement. The cruelty viewers see firsthand is gut-wrenching and the score depicts the tension and fear seen on screen. Turner scored the project almost like a horror film to match the devastating and unfortunate reality that many have been oblivious to. The revelations in the doc are uncomfortable and the audience feels the heaviness of the high stakes circumstances so many in this country have been subjected to.

Marvel’s 616, in complete contrast, is an anthology documentary television series that illustrates different pockets of the Marvel Universe. Some episodes revolve around Marvel cosplay, Marvel action figures, and even a Marvel Comics-themed musical.

Jeremy Turner began his musical studies on the piano at the age of 5 and started playing the cello when he was 8 years old. After growing up in Michigan, he attended The Juilliard School as a pupil of Harvey Shapiro and studied chamber music with Felix Galimir. As a composer, his music has been heard around the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. Noted works include The Inland Seas, composed for violinist James Ehnes and mandolinist Chris Thile and commissioned by the Seattle Chamber Music Society; Suite of Unreason, a commission from the Music Academy of the West for their 70th Anniversary season; and a choral work for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Wave Hill in New York.

Please enjoy my conversation with Jeremy Turner about his work on Immigration Nation and Marvel’s 616.

How did you get started as a composer?

I started writing music when I was a toddler, making up songs on an old upright piano in the basement of our family home. But then got sidetracked for about 20+ years, as I became a cellist in an orchestra in New York and had a performance career that kept my calendar pretty full. Eventually, I got back to doing what I was probably meant to do in the first place, and I’ve been composing ever since.

How did you get involved with Immigration Nation?

Through Shaul Schwarz, who directed the first film I ever scored—Narco Cultura back in 2013.

Given how important the story being told in this docuseries is, how did you decide where to start in putting the music together?

I knew it was going to be a fairly daunting task and would have a lot of emotional ups and downs. So, I just started at the beginning by writing a couple of sketches for the main titles, and that led to some established themes from which we could work with.

I find it very interesting that you chose to score the series similar to a horror film, was that your concept for the musical style for Immigration Nation from the beginning or did you come to that conclusion after trying several different styles?

It’s not all horror of course, but we discussed early in the process what fear might sound like. And much as I tried to leave the cello behind (since it is the instrument that I’m most comfortable with), directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau really wanted the full range of what the cello could bring. At its best it can be heart wrenching, melancholy, and probably is the closest musical instrument to the human voice. But when you start pushing beyond the limits of conventional approaches and experiment with extended techniques, you can draw out some incredibly unsettling tones.

How much time did you have to score Immigration Nation?

I’d say about 3-4 months. It was during the early days of the pandemic, so there were a lot of adjustments made on the fly, in terms of how we would work together and how we would finish.

Are there any musical moments in Immigration Nation that you hope viewers notice?

It’s a strange project to have any sense of pride about because it’s all so real and all so tragic. Honestly, I just hope people muster up the courage to watch it because I think it is something every American needs to see, regardless of what one thinks they might already know.

 Was there any part of Immigration Nation that you had difficulty scoring? Or any part where you decided music just wouldn’t work?

To be truthful, I had difficulty scoring the entire series. Not technically, but just emotionally. The final minutes of episode 5, I don’t think I’ve ever made it through without shedding a tear. But yes, there was a delicate balance to not score a scene that didn’t need to be scored. There is a lot of raw emotion on screen, so we made a conscious effort to not have the music force anything that wasn’t already clearly being felt.

On a different note, how did you go about scoring the title music for Marvel’s 616?

Marvel? Big heroic theme? Less than a minute of music? This is a dream scenario for any composer! 


Were you inspired at all by the Avenger’s theme that recurs throughout the MCU? I may be wrong but I swear I hear a musical resemblance between the two.

I flipped through some Marvel music from scores past to see where I’d be coming from for sure. Always helpful when taking over a shift in the kitchen to know what the previous menu was. But no, the themes aren’t related other than the fact that they are played by a big orchestra.

How much time did it take to compose the title music for Marvel’s 616?

Not terribly long, only in that the actual titles hadn’t been created yet. So, I just wrote a single sketch based on our initial conversations and that ended up being the final music. Yes, I realize that will probably never happen again! 

I want to say thank you to Jeremy Turner for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Immigration Nation and Marvel’s 616.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and have a great day!

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Composer Interviews

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Music, Magic, and Dragons: Talking With Composer Philip Klein About Wish Dragon (2021)

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to speak with composer Philip Klein about his work on the upcoming Netflix film Wish Dragon (which comes out on June 11th). Klein’s music has been heard in film and television projects for Sony, Disney, Pixar, Lionsgate, ABC and CBS. As a writer, Philip has collaborated with some of the finest composers working in film and TV, including Harry Gregson-Williams, Carter Burwell, Alex Heffes and Fil Eisler. He’s has had the honor of orchestrating for James Newton Howard, Alexandre Desplat, Ludwig Göransson, Richard Harvey, Steve Jablonsky, David Buckley, Stewart Copeland, Peter Golub, John Frizzell and several other amazing artists.

After a steady diet of drum corps and classical music throughout his childhood, Philip’s formal music education took him to Chicago where he studied trumpet and composition at Northwestern University. This classical foundation combined with a deep understanding of modern scoring techniques allow him to seamlessly compliment every project he works on. Selected as one of six fellows for the 2011 Sundance Institute’s Film Composing Lab in Utah, Philip has always had a deep love for the interaction of music and film. He owes much of his success to his mentors in Hollywood, Harry Gregson-Williams, Alan Silvestri, Penka Kouneva and Peter Golub. 

“Wish Dragon” is the story of Din, a 19-yr old college student living in a working-class neighborhood of modern-day Shanghai, who has big dreams but small means. Din’s life changes overnight when he finds an old teapot containing a Wish Dragon named Long – a magical dragon able to grant wishes – and he is given the chance to reconnect with his childhood best friend, Li-Na.

Please enjoy my conversation with Philip Klein about Wish Dragon!

How Did You Get Started as a Composer?

I was a trumpet player for most of my young musical life but I eventually found myself being drawn more to orchestration and composition.  I had a soft spot for film scores at a very young age and would spend hours picking out notes to my favorite themes, so it felt natural to fall into that world when I went to college and beyond.  Once I had scored a few student films I was hooked and moving to Los Angeles was the logical next step.  I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of the most skilled artists in film and music.

How did You Get Involved with Wish Dragon? Was there anything in particular that drew you to the story?

Producer Aron Warner is a dear friend and we’ve both always wanted to work on a project together. One of Aron’s superpowers is curating a team of creatives that all compliment each other.  He felt that director Chris Appelhans and I would mesh well so he reached out and I saw a very early cut of mostly stick figure drawing and early animatics.  Even in its most basic form the story was beautifully conceived and it was clear from conversations with Chris and Aron that the film was going to be special. I did all that I could to convince them that I was the right composer for the film and luckily they agreed.  Chris’ passion for storytelling, the characters and the culture is what drew me in early on; it wasn’t long before I was happily escaping into this world on a daily basis.  

I saw that you also worked on Raya and the Last Dragon as an orchestrator. Given that both of these films are about dragons, would you say there are musical similarities between the two or did you go out of your way to avoid any overt musical comparisons to Raya?

James Newton Howard wrote a beautiful score for Raya. I lucked out a bit in that I actually finished recording the score for Wish Dragon several months before we began orchestration work on Raya, so my window for being influenced (and intimidated) by James’ writing had passed. James’ score took advantage of musical colors from different areas of Mongolia and Southeast Asia, whereas Chris and I wanted to stick very close to Chinese culture for the color of the score.  Raya has a bit more fantasy whereas Wish Dragon is a bit more comedic. So in that sense, the scores were always going to sound different.

What was your starting point in putting the music for Wish Dragon together? Was there a lot of collaboration with the director during this process?

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a project where the director was as much a collaborator as Chris was on this film.  The first 3-4 months of the process was just sharing music, videos and thoughts back and forth.  We sent each other any kind of Chinese instrument, folk song, vocal, opera percussion; basically any sound we could find.  Eventually, we started to hone in on the overall palette and approach we thought may work and then I started to experiment with those boundaries in place.  Chris was intimately involved with the music from conception through recording and mixing.  Chris had such a strong vision of what he wanted and needed out of the score, I loved every minute of working through this film with him. 

Were you inspired by any earlier films when putting the music together since this is a reworking of the “genie in a bottle” type of story? Or did you try to put an original twist on it as far as the music went?

While on its surface this film may seem like a “genie in the bottle” kind of story, the film is much more about friendship and redemption than anything.  The spectacle and theatricality of Long’s character sits somewhat behind the genuine connections we follow throughout the film.  While it is important to give a voice to Long’s over-the-top character, we never went too far in making him seem like more of a being than he is.  I think previous iterations of that kind of story maybe put more emphasis on the genie type character and their performance.  So musically, you have to match that kind of energy.  In Wish Dragon, we always wanted more weight to go towards the relationships and arcs of the characters so it naturally kept me away from drawing too much inspiration on other films or scores.  I’ll always be proud of how Chris and I blended these beautiful instruments of Chinese culture with a more Western orchestral palette.  We didn’t want either to ever overshadow the other.

Did you assign themes to the major characters? Or if not all of the characters, did you give a musical theme to Long the dragon?

I’m a huge believer that thematic writing is one of the most effective ways to create memorable emotional moments in a film.  Long has a theme we hear in the first cue of the film.  It’s broad and sweeping, almost always played with the orchestra to give his character scale and drama.  Din’s theme probably recurs most often but is played much more simply and with less fanfare than Long’s.  Much of Din’s scenes take full advantage of the energy from the Chinese instruments we used.  For most of the film Din is full of optimism so his theme is orchestrated with lovely and light, plucked textures.  There are two secondary themes; the first for our baddies and the other for Din and Li Na’s relationship.  For the goons in the film, I used a lot of darker bowed sounds from the Chinese instruments and mixed them into more modern, synth heavy orchestration.  For Din and Li Na, it’s a very simple fluttering synth with a three note motive that echoes their “day by day” mantra.

How did you decide on which traditional Chinese instruments to include in the score? And was it hard blending those instruments with a traditional Western orchestra?

It can be overwhelming at the start of a score like this because my brain and ears want to explore every new color out there.  Unfortunately, I’d still be working on the score today if I didn’t put a bit of a cap on what instruments we should focus on.  Honestly, we spent months early on just listening and me having video calls with players all over the world.  I’d ask them to show me the basics of their instruments, what it can do, and what it shouldn’t do.  Eventually I boiled down my core palette to around 8-10 Chinese instruments that would represent that side of the score.  The orchestra was always in place as it’s difficult to replace the sheer power of that vehicle, but the Chinese instruments became our color and our energy throughout the film.  We never wanted the score to sound like an orchestra blasting away with some Chinese soloists playing on top of them.  Rather, we wanted the two to become more homogenized so that the Chinese world melted into the orchestral.  Blending them together was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had because it opened my ears to brand new textures and colors.  It allowed me to explore a new musical world I had never heard before.  That’s always the most exciting part of working on a film. 

How much time did you have to score Wish Dragon?

I had the great fortune of working on this score for nearly a year.  This gave us plenty of time to truly flesh out all of our wildest ideas, themes and orchestrations.

Do you have a favorite track or moment in the score?

I will always love the scene and cue titled “Everything That Matters.”  It’s such a beautiful, honest moment between Din and his mother and their relationship’s arc in the film.  It was also one of those moments where Din’s theme just seemed to line up perfectly without me having to do much.  That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a pleasant surprise when the notes just seem to fit the film without much ado.  

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Philip Klein about his work on Wish Dragon. You’ll be able to check out the film when it releases on Netflix on June 11th, 2021.

Have a great day!

See also:

Composer Interviews

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

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Soundtrack News: Decca Records Releasing Original Soundtrack for ‘Dream Horse’ by Benjamin Woodgates

Decca Records is excited to announce the release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the Bleecker Street and Topic Studios comedy-drama ‘Dream Horse,’ composed by Benjamin Woodgates. The digital soundtrack is available on all major streaming platforms, coinciding with the U.S. theatrical release on May 21, 2021, two weeks before the U.K. release on June 4, 2021.

Benjamin Woodgates is one of the UK’s most sought-after young composers. An alumnus of Oxford University and the Royal College of Music, his strong sense of musicality, broad stylistic reach and sensitivity towards picture is evident in his scores for film, installation, video games and high-profile advertising campaigns. He has also worked extensively as an orchestrator and musical director for film and television, recent credits including Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Victoria and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Orchestrator); Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s Violation (Conductor); and Terence Davies’ Benediction (Musical Director & Arranger).

Directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who), the film tells the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely race horse bred by small town Welsh bartender, Jan Vokes (Academy Award® nominee Toni Collette). With very little money and no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to help raise Dream in the hope he can compete with the racing elites. The group’s investment pays off as Dream rises through the ranks with grit and determination and goes on to race in the Welsh Grand National, showing the heart of a true champion.

There are two sound worlds in Benjamin’s Dream Horse score. One is that of Cefn Fforest, the village in Wales that is home to the film’s ensemble of characters. At the start of the film, these characters are trapped in a cycle of monotony and struggle to relate to one another. To represent them musically, Benjamin pieced together a rag-tag ensemble of instruments, including an old upright piano, a harmonium, a fiddle, and an accordion. The musical result is wheezy, clunky and jagged edged to begin with; however, as the characters bond together to form a syndicate, so does the sound of the ensemble, bringing out the warmth and character that underlies each of these instruments.

The second sound world is built around the horseraces in the film. In stark contrast to the homespun feel of the village ensemble, Benjamin employed a string orchestra to reflect the prestige of the racecourse and to emphasize the sense of alienation and exclusion felt by the characters as they find themselves up against the racing elites. In the run-up to each race, the orchestra plays with sophisticated reserve; however, as the action zooms in to the race itself, the shackles are off, and listeners will hear a different side of the ensemble altogether – one that aims to capture the mud-spattered, unforgiving nature of the turf.

Regarding the music for Dream Horse, Benjamin Woodgates had the following to say:

“Euros Lyn [director] and I worked closely together to create the musical blueprint for this score, meeting regularly in the cutting room in Cardiff and picking up the phone to bounce ideas back and forth. Euros is an accomplished musician himself but made a point of communicating through dramatic and emotional ideas rather than using musical terminology, so that we could build a musical language from the ground up. He had prepared a broad palette of musical references for the tone of the film as a whole – everything from Nick Cave to The Velvet Underground – but was careful to keep these as broad as possible in the hope that we could forge our own sound for Dream Horse.

Euros was keen to give each race scene its own distinct identity, so each race cue has its own musical flavour and structure, governed by what’s at stake. Dream Alliance himself is voiced as a solo violin – capricious, un-tamed, brilliant – which vies against the mass of the string orchestra, refusing to yield to its pull. This counterpoint between solo violin and ensemble underpins all the race sequences, through highs and lows, a battling duet, an unrelenting passacaglia, and a barnstorming rondo-finale.

One of the film’s key themes is that of giving voice to the unheard; both literally, in the case of Dream Alliance, and more symbolically for Jan and her community. In the early scenes the score lies near-dormant, its step-wise motion punctured only by Jan’s sheer force of will and a faint rumbling of hope. However, as Jan sets out to realize her dream and rekindle a sense of belief in her community, the rumblings intensify and the music’s melodic contours begin to soar.”

TRACK LISTING

  1. The Syndicate
  2. Just Starting On It Now
  3. Cefn Fforest
  4. The Hwyl
  5. Be Brave And Brilliant
  6. It’s Not Much, But It’s Home
  7. In For A Penny
  8. Chepstow
  9. Life Cycle
  10. I’m Jan
  11. Sixteen To One
  12. This Won’t Get Out Of Hand
  13. Procession
  14. Aintree – Prelude
  15. Aintree – Ground
  16. By A Thread
  17. Hanging In The Balance
  18. Dad
  19. The Gallops
  20. Tacking Up
  21. Let Him Run
  22. Proper Valley Boy
  23. Delilah

You can check out the soundtrack for Dream Horse on digital now!

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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)

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Making Unique Music for Superheroes: Talking with Composer Stephanie Economou about ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ (2021)

Just recently I had the opportunity to speak with composer Stephanie Economou about her work on the upcoming Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy. Stephanie is the composer of the upcoming Netflix TV series Jupiter’s Legacy, based on the comic series by Mark Millar. She has written the music for the Lionsgate/Starz series Step Up: High Water, as well as the second season of Manhunt: Deadly Games. Stephanie also scored two episodes of the Disney+ documentary series Marvels 616, directed by Gillian Jacobs and Alison Brie. Most recently, she has completed the score for the Assassin’s Creed DLC “Siege of Paris.”

Originally from Long Island, New York, Stephanie received her Bachelor’s degree in Composition from the New England Conservatory of Music and Master’s in Composition for Visual Media from University of California Los Angeles.

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Jupiter’s Legacy, which premieres on Netflix on May 7, 2021.

How did you get started as a film and television composer? 

While I was studying composition at New England Conservatory, I ended up scoring a couple of short films directed by some friends I had from high school. After writing mostly concert music up until that point, it felt refreshing to be part of a creative collaboration that challenged me to explore different artistic avenues. I moved to Los Angeles after graduating and pursued my Master’s degree in Composition for Visual Media at UCLA. It was during my time as a student there that I met Harry Gregson-Williams, who subsequently hired me as his assistant. I spent six years working with Harry, composing additional music for films like “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” “The Martian,” “The Meg,” and “Mulan,” to name a few. I like to say that I “grew up” at Harry’s. I was so green when he hired me and he took me under his wing, quite immediately filling that role of the trusted mentor. I learned so many of the skills and tools I possess today from my time with him. He ignited my drive and pushed me beyond the mental boundaries I had set for myself. I think it’s so essential for anyone working in an artistic field to have that kind of guided mentorship.

How did you get involved with the Netflix adaptation of Jupiters Legacy?

I was called in for a meeting by one of the executive producers on the show, Hameed Shaukat. He had heard my music and thought my musical sensibilities might be a good fit for the narrative. They sent over a couple of scripts and a rough cut of the first episode, and after our meeting, I went home and wrote a demo suite inspired by some of the ideas we had discussed. As these things so often go, I was in that “sit and wait” period for a few months while they wrapped up filming, but I was thrilled to have gotten the call that they were ready for music and they wanted to work with me!

Were you familiar at all with the Jupiters Legacy and Jupiters Circle comics before working on this series? If not, did you check them out before working on the score?

I actually wasn’t familiar with the comics prior to starting and I didn’t check them out until the tail end of scoring the season. There was a rather big musical moment in episode seven, where I chose to compose a chorale using the main theme of the show. In an effort to make the moment feel purposeful, I dove into Mark Millar’s original comic series. After locating the scenes in the comics that matched up to the on-screen moment, I took his text as source material, translated it into Latin, and those words became the choir lyrics. It felt like a special way to have the show adaptation and the original comic series come full circle for an impactful musical moment.

How much collaboration was there with the showrunners/directors/producers of Jupiters Legacy when it came to putting the score together?

A ton! I had a somewhat rare experience on this show because by the time they brought me on board, they had really solid cuts of all eight episodes, so we were able to sit down and spot all of them before I even wrote a note of music. This ended up being a critical part of the process because it was important to our showrunner, Sang Kyu Kim, that the whole season feel less episodic and more like a long, feature film. Knowing the pace of the story and understanding the character arcs for the whole season really informed the trajectory and shape of the score. I was able to plan conceptually for certain musical moments later in the season and plant seeds along the way to prepare for those moments. For example, the idea for the choir piece in episode seven was something I had decided on creatively during the spotting session and the producers were really excited by it. Because I knew that’s where I was headed musically, I made vocals part of the tapestry of the score by recording fragments of experimental vocals with the very talented singer, Ari Mason. The vocals range stylistically from Latin chanting, to throat singing, to microtonal patterns, to interlocking rhythmic grunts. They appear rather subtly at first as we watch Sheldon (played by Josh Duhamel) experience increasingly bizarre visions and they grow more prevalent as the season unfolds. I felt by teasing these vocal fragments, it prepared the audience (however subliminally) for the moment we hear the chorale in episode seven. All along the way, the producers (Hameed Shaukat and James Middleton) and showrunner (Sang Kyu Kim) were really involved in the evolution score. They had a lot of trust in my vision for the season and even challenged me to explore the strange and unexpected. It’s incredibly rewarding to have collaborators who instill a sense of confidence in your ideas and respect your creative contribution. I feel incredibly lucky to have had that experience on this show.

Were you inspired by any other superhero film scores (DC or Marvel) when putting the music for Jupiter’s Legacy together?

Admittedly, I kind of wrote the music for “Jupiter’s Legacy” in a vacuum. I intentionally didn’t watch any superhero films/shows or listen to any superhero scores while working on this season. I solely wanted to be inspired by “Jupiter’s Legacy” and the stories its characters were telling. I strongly feel that this show puts a unique spin on the superhero narrative. At its core, it’s a family drama which explores the complexities of our relationships with our parents, children, siblings, and those closest to us. They just happen to also have superpowers! 

While I didn’t attempt to get into a “superhero” mindset per se, I did intentionally lean into the “superhero film music” trope when I sat down to write a theme for Sheldon/The Utopian (which also became the overarching show theme). I wanted his theme to be rather wide in scope, so you’ll often hear The Utopian’s theme on a solo french horn or a big brass section or a full symphonic orchestra. I deliberately crafted his theme this way because I feel that is what we typically associate with the characteristic “superhero sound.” I thought if I painted The Utopian in this stereotypical, mythic superhero light, it would help subvert expectations. While he obstinately tries to uphold the morals of the Union’s Code and maintain a commanding heroic facade, in reality, we most often see The Utopian as a broken down, shell of his former self. He struggles to keep healthy relationships with his children, his wife, his brother, and is rapidly falling out of favor with the public, whom he has fought to protect for nearly 100 years. By leaning into what the audience perceives as a cliched “superhero theme” for his heroic moments, I was able to destabilize that image in his more intimate, fragile moments by exploring that theme on synths, vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano. Being able to write a theme that could expand and contract with his story arc felt like a really important way to shape his character.

Did you create specific themes for each of the heroes?

There are so many compelling characters in this series, so it was essential for me to try and develop themes for many of them. I previously discussed Sheldon/The Utopian’s theme but many others also have musical signatures: for example, Walter has a cello theme, Fitz a clarinet theme, George a plucked dulcimer theme, and Hutch a distorted bass growl sting. Two of my very favorite characters in the series are Chloe and Raikou. They’re both outliers and rebels and I felt their themes demanded a different musical profile. Chloe has an awesome action sequence in episode three and I was really inspired by the sheer magnitude of her powers and Elena Kampouris’ portrayal of her character. I didn’t have a specific idea for what her sound world would be, but when I sat down to write the cue, this industrial rock piece came out, with blaring guitars, synthesizers, and heavy distorted percussion. It just felt like it fit her sensibilities as a rugged, and somewhat lawless character. Chloe, much like her father Sheldon, also has many moments of solitude and darkness, so that same theme heard on guitars and synths is re-interpreted on electric keys and bass to reflect the intimacy of her personal struggles. For Raikou, I was struck with a similar feeling of wanting her sound to stand apart. I called up a trumpet-player friend of mine, Jake Baldwin, and asked “Could you take the mouthpiece off of your trumpet and record some stuttered, bendy motifs?” He met that request with a resounding, “Hell yes!” and came up with some really unique signatures. I took those, heavily effected them, and that’s what became part of Raikou’s sound. 

Additionally, I wanted to compose a leitmotif that could be used cyclically as a thematic microcosm (which I dubbed “the quest germ”), to excite the audience as the pace of our adventure picked up. This motivic cell, often appearing in a five or four-note repeating sequence, becomes a ubiquitous musical signature throughout the score. While we witness firsthand the unfolding of our characters’ epic voyage in the 1930s, their journey continues to evolve in the present day, and thus our “quest germ” becomes an essential part of the DNA of the story.

One of the most unusual motifs that I wrote for the series was the sound for “The Island,” which our characters discover and explore in episodes six and seven. I wanted to give a musical profile to the Island itself to highlight its strange and otherworldly nature. The eerie, bendy signature was created using a shepherd’s horn, rather bizarre vocals (or what I like to call “mouth sounds”), and a trumpet with several of the slides removed (again, Jake Baldwin at his best)! This was often accompanied by high, fast, tapping percussion which was meant to exemplify the supernatural force of the Island mentally invading our characters and pitting them against one another.

What were your instruments of choice when scoring Jupiter’s Legacy? I read that you used a number of regional instruments? Could you tell me more about that?

Yes, there were some really fun sound worlds I was able to explore. In episode six, our characters travel to Morocco, so I utilized some regional instruments like oud, bendir, darbuka, hand cymbals, ney, zurna, fipple flute, saz, and duduk (though that’s actually Turkish/Armenian)! Even though we’re in this new physical space, our main theme is still heard on these lead instruments, so there is a sense of musical cohesion. Apart from the Moroccan instruments, the overall score is a hybrid balance of orchestral instruments and synths. There were some incredible soloists who are featured throughout the score: Ari Mason (vocals), Jon Monroe (guitar), Jake Baldwin (trumpet and brass), Ro Rowan (cello), Bryan Winslow (varied plucked instruments). There’s also some violin and viola which I recorded and of course the fantastic vocalists who made up the choir. I think the score lives in an in-between space where the electronic and acoustic elements coexist rather seamlessly, or at least that’s always the hope! 

How much time did you have to score the series? Did the pandemic affect this at all?

I had about seven months to score the whole season, which is certainly a lot more time than most composers get for a season of TV! I think having those few months to focus on thematic development and hone in on a sound palette was really critical for me. Because of the pandemic, scoring sessions were rather touch-and-go for a while, so I ended up being able to work with all of the soloists through remote recording. Some of them were here in LA and others, like the trumpet player Jake Baldwin, were in Minneapolis, so it was really wonderful to have this roster of artists who were so eager to jump in and breathe life into the music from their home studios. 

The biggest challenge that I faced was when it came time to record the choir. As you can imagine, it was quite stressful realizing I had sold the producers on the idea of the chorale way back in the spotting session (before I had started writing), and then come August/September of 2020, there were no choirs being recorded in person because it was far too risky. In a bit of a panicked stupor, I reached out to choir contractor Jasper Randall, who assured me he would secure nine vocalists each with excellent recording skills. All of the singers multi-tracked their individual parts six times, with a slightly different interpretation and timbre for each take, all from their separate home recording spaces. Once I got their materials back, I shot them over to my mixer, Scott Smith, and a half hour later, he sent me back the most lush, majestic, powerful sounding choir track. I was completely floored by what these brilliant singers were able to accomplish in remote recording sessions. As with any ensemble, being in the same space as your fellow performers is so critical for matching phrasing, dynamics, and just overall emotional interpretation. And these singers were also faced with the challenge of singing in Latin! I was totally blown away by their musicality and the focused effort that they put into this performance. If anything positive came out of last year’s quarantine, it was realizing that, however isolated we came to feel in our separate physical spaces, we were still able to make music and create something special while being apart.

Without spoiling anything (if possible), do you have a favorite musical moment in this series?

Apart from the chorale piece in the final scene of episode seven, I was faced with a really unique creative challenge earlier in that episode. Most of episode seven focuses on the origin story of our original six characters, as we follow them at the peak of their journey in the 1930s to a remote island off the coast of Morocco. It becomes abundantly clear as they traverse through many obstacles on the Island that they are intentionally being challenged and pitted against one another. There’s a strange force that is preventing them from following the clues and getting to the crux of what this Island represents. 

Along the way, they find themselves suddenly trapped in a rock wall formation and it seems as though there’s no escape. As each of the characters place their hands on the wall, a colored light travels up the rock formation and they realize they must all get their lights to turn on in order to break out. The producers wanted there to be a distinctive sound associated with each character’s light and they wanted it to be a musical tone, not something left to sound design. By this point in the season, almost all of our characters had themes I was establishing, so I had the idea to use a small, fragmented motif of each of their individual themes to create their unique wall tone. For example, when Sheldon touches the wall, the first two notes of his theme on french horn are heard, and then a bell-like, synthetic tone evolves out of that motif. When Grace touches the wall, we hear her violin harmonic motif, and her unique tone comes out of that. For George, we hear his plucked dulcimer sound and his tone emerges out of that. The pitch of each tone was carefully chosen so that none of them quite work together harmoniously until the final light from Walter goes on and it completes the harmony to form a fully voiced major chord. Once all of the lights go on, the wall finally opens and they’re able to pass through. I should also mention that, while there were these tonal elements happening diegetically, there was also underscore happening concurrently, so I had to ensure that all of these sonic puzzle pieces were fitting together and creating a convincing landscape for the scene to exist within. Once the walls open up, I didn’t just want these tones to fall by the wayside and disappear, so I took each individual bell-tone and created a randomized arpeggiated sequence that grows as part of the score cue. It was a really fun challenge to design the on-screen sounds and then have it cross the boundary and become part of the fabric of the score, blurring the lines of what we perceive to be sound and music.

In general, is there any musical detail you hope viewers notice when the show premieres next month?

See the previous question!

Thank you again to Stephanie Economou for taking the time to speak with me about her work on Jupiter’s Legacy!

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Composer Interviews

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Heartfelt Music for a Heartfelt Story: Talking with Composer Peter Baert About ‘The Water Man’ (2021)

Just recently I had the opportunity to talk with composer Peter Baert about his work on the upcoming film The Water Man, which is directed by David Oyelowo. In the film, a young boy named Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) sets out on a quest to save his ill mother (Rosario Dawson) by searching for a mythic figure who possesses the secret to immortality, the Water Man. This score marks Peter Baert’s major Hollywood feature debut and will release in theaters on May 7, 2021.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Peter Baert about The Water Man.

How did you get started as a film composer?
I grew up in a musical family , a kind of Belgian sea-side Von Trapp setting. My Dad was a principal at a music school, and also an organist. He definitely nudged us towards classical music careers. However, I diverted slightly from that path and went into sound design and avant-garde electronic music. When my mother died of pancreatic cancer I reconnected with my classical upbringing and started to study classical music and film scoring. That was in 2008.


How did you get involved with The Water Man?
My wife and I own and run a commercial sound studio together in Brussels. One day we were booked for a Penguin audiobooks recording with David Oyelowo. That day, one of our engineers called in sick so I had to jump in to engineer. During the breaks, David and I talked about his work, and about my ambition to compose film music. We stayed in touch afterwards and at some point I asked him if I could pitch on this project that he was producing. He sent me the script and I made 8 cues based on a number of scenes.Long afterwards, David called me to say that they kept coming back to my demo, so I flew out to LA to sit with David and editor Blu Murray in the edit room and eventually I got hired.


Where did you start with putting the score together?
This heartfelt story of The Water Man took me back to two periods in my life. The first reminded me of being in my early teens, always playing in the neighborhood with my friends and going on adventures in a nearby forest. The second transported me back to a day in 2008 when my mom and I found out the diagnosis of her pancreatic cancer. She would be gone in 6 months. At some moment during the composing process the music found me and it glued to the screen. So, it started there, with that feeling and with the script that I’d received to base my demo on. The themes that I wrote for the demo pretty much evolved into the final score.

How much collaboration was there, if any, with director David Oyelowo?
I have a feeling that David kindly guided me through this process. He is an amazing man, very kind and generous. He even invited me into his home when I first came to LA. The Brussels – LA time difference worked well for us, I miss waking up with David’s notes on a cue. Later, when he was shooting in London for the Netflix film The Midnight Sky, he sent me notes from his trailer on set.


What type of music would you classify this score as? Is it adventure film music, YA drama music, or (and I ask this after watching the trailer) a bit of horror music? Or a combination of all of the above?

It’s a bit all of the above, without being a multi-headed animal. I consciously worked with a definite set of sounds throughout the movie. That’s why I used a lot of wooden percussion, some African Marimba in addition to a Concert Marimba, prepared piano..There is an emotional part of the score that blends well with the more adventurous parts.


Are there musical themes for specific characters? I have to imagine there’s some kind of motif for The Water Man himself.

When I read the Water Man Rhyme in the script, I instantly wrote a melody fitting the lines. I recorded that in my demo and later, in the movie that piece was interpreted by Amiah Miller who plays Jo. That rhyme became the Water Man theme and is used throughout the film in different forms.When Gunner is in a happy place we’ll hear Gunner’s Theme, a simple piano melody line based on a simple scale. There is a theme for Mary, that I blended with Gunner’s theme in the final score cue “Prayer.” The relationship between Gunner and Jo has a more playful theme. Amos, the father in the movie played by David, has a more texture approach, like Col Legno cello and electric distorted cello lines.

Were there any types of specific instruments that you focused on in the overall mix? Or specific instruments/sounds for specific characters or ideas?
One of the first things I did when I first saw the film, was ask the assistant editor Kevin Murray for all the non-dialogue takes of the actor who played the Water Man. So, back in Belgium, we’ve manipulated all these cries, and whispers, sighs,… through tape delays, modular synths and so on, to create a Water Man Synth. Later on in the proces, when David proposed to have some Motherly presence in the Forest scene, we also created a Mother Synth.I recorded long notes, and a number of little vocalizations with vocalist Judith Okon… and processed this as well.So in the film I could always use either some Water Man energy or Mother energy.


How much time did you have to score the film?
About 4 months. David called me near the end of October 2019 and we were planning to record in Budapest in March of 2020. However the global pandemic complicated everything and we ended up recording at Galaxy Studios in Belgium in a Covid safe setup with 9 players around mid May 2020. Cues got revised until the very end, as the edit was adapted during lockdown.


Are there any musical details you hope stand out to the audience?
There’s a Swirly Tube somewhere in the score and I played the recorder in the more funny parts between Jo and Gunner. ;-)I hope people will enjoy my style, which is a unique blend of classical and electronics.


Do you have a favorite part of the score?
I like the opening cue “Gunner’s Theme” because it has been with me since the demo. My daughters aged 5 & 7 sang it at home while I was working on it. And when Gunner finds the Water Man’s Hut and draws his Samurai sword, that’s also one of my favourite cues.

I’d like to say thank you to Peter Baert for taking the time to speak with me about his work on The Water Man.

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Composer Interviews

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Writing Music for Planet Earth: Talking with Composer Ilan Eshkeri About ‘A Perfect Planet’ (2021)

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak with composer Ilan Eshkeri about his work on the documentary series A Perfect Planet. This is my second interview with this composer, as we’d previously talked about his work on the hit video game Ghost of Tsushima. Eshkeri attended Leeds University, where he studied music and English literature. During this time he also worked with fellow film composers Edward Shearmur, Michael Kamen and music producer Steve McLaughlin. His extensive catalogue of film and TV scores include Still Alice, Stardust, The Young Victoria, Doctor Thorne, Shaun The Sheep and David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ilan Eshkeri about the music of this spectacular documentary.

Have you worked on documentaries like ‘A Perfect Planet’ before now?
Yes, this is my fourth collaboration with David Attenborough. What made me to work with him again was the focus of this series on climate which is an issue that is also close to my heart. Silverback, the production team making the programme were also very supportive of my creative approach so the which made the project creatively very satisfying as well as feeling like I was getting an important message out to the world. 

Is scoring a documentary like this very different from working on a film? Or is it mostly the same?
It’s quite different because you are writing 40 short films. You have a sequence about ants that’s a heist or a sequence about whales that’s a love story or a sequence about monkeys that’s about guarding territory and protecting family and so you have to think of each story on its own terms, they have their own completely new themes and instrumentation/sound-world, so it is much more work than writing a film score where you would have a handful of themes or motifs that you re-use. 


Where did you start with the scoring process for ‘A Perfect Planet’? I hear what sounds like a recurrent theme that reappears from time to time, but I wasn’t sure if it was a central or main theme or something else.
My writing process was varied because there were so many stories, I decided to take a hit and run approach… look at a scene and pick up a guitar and put an idea down and immediately move on to another scene pick up another instrument and so on… if I couldn’t come up with an idea immediately I’d leave it out, then I would go back around the whole episode again. 
You are right that there is a recurring theme. I’ve noticed that these kinds of shows tend to go from one piece of music to another without a musical anchor and I wanted to keep taking the audience back to a theme that represented the planet / Mother Nature. The theme comes at the beginning the end and in-between all the set animal sequences. Typically it has voices and piano, voices because it’s connected to nature and humanity and piano because it’s an instrument of the home and I wanted to reinforce the idea of the whole of our planet being collectively our home. 


So, this may be the same question over again but, how did the overall process for scoring this work? Were you given any guidelines for what each segment should sound like or was it pretty much a free rein? 
The film and TV making process always and has always used guide music, it helps the director producer and editor work out what kind of music they need, which can often inform how they’re going to cut the scene. For composers the guide music can be helpful too, music is very hard to describe in words so examples are useful. For a perfect planet I had a very set approach on how I wanted to approach the music and so after th first watch though I worked without reference to the guide in the first instance, and then there were a couple of times where we needed to refer back but not often. I am grateful to the team for supporting my process and believing in it. 


Did you have footage of the animals to watch while you worked or was it described in storyboards? 
I was brought on at an early stage before there was much to see so I could think about it early on but I did a lot of my recording to early clips so this way the music and the editing could evolve together 


How did you decide on which instruments to use for the different animals featured in ‘A Perfect Planet’?
We all have a sense of what is appropriate, there is an unspoken semiotic language that both film makers and audience are aware of, for example, a harp might seem an inappropriate choice for an elephant and a trombone might jar for a butterfly.  As a film maker and a composer you need to take these things into consideration, but rules are there to be broken!


How long did you have to work on the music? Was the process impacted by the pandemic at all?
I recorded the first 2 episodes before the pandemic but recording became very difficult. Orchestras couldn’t come together obviously, especially not wind and brass because of all the blowing. This meant that the post production process had to expand. I was able to put a small amount of strings together in Iceland and then brass and woodwinds individually in the player’s living rooms. It was extremely time consuming to prep, but fortunately the technology exists where we can place those recordings inside of digital acoustic spaces which meant we could make the recording sound very real. I also had to take these limitations into consideration in the writing. It was fortunate that I had taken a more contemporary approach, not straight symphonic, and I like to think that that creativity comes out of limitations, so I enjoyed the challenge. In the end my producer / engineer Steve McLaughlin made it all sound incredible and I think anyone would be hard pushed to tell the difference, It was just incredibly labour intensive.


Was it hard to write for any particular animal?
Yes, one scene in particular at the end of the sunlight episode where there was a huge feeding frenzy in the Ocean with birds, whales and fish, the music I had written was good but something about it was not quite right and the day before recording the director and I decided that to do something completely new it was incredibly difficult to write a 7 minute sequence to end an episode. It is such a short time whilst also prepping for the recording but somehow I managed to make it happen. 

I want to say thank you to Ilan Eshkeri for taking the time to speak with me about his work on A Perfect Planet.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and have a great day!

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Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: The Vigil (2021)

Back in February of 2021, Lakeshore Records digitally released The Vigil Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – with music by Michael Yezerski (The Tax Collector, Blindspotting). Earlier career highlights for Michael Yezerski include HBO’s Only the Dead See the End of War, his first feature film The Black Balloon (winner of 8 AFI/AACTA Awards including Best Picture), PJ Hogan’s Mental, Wolf Creek Series 2, Catching Milat, Peter Allen, the Academy Award winning animated short, The Lost Thing and his collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Red Tree.

Steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology, The Vigil is a supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante to take on the responsibility of an overnight “shomer,” fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed’s dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong.

Speaking about the philosophy behind the score, Yezerski said:

“As [director] Keith Thomas and I discussed, music is memory. We associate music with the best and the worst times in our lives. For The Vigil we needed to create a score that explored the malevolence of memory (both personal and cultural).” Yezerski went on further to note, “We needed massive textures that could read as both beautiful and brutal. The music attacks but also meditates on long and difficult lives. After all, what is the greater horror at play here – the supernatural or our lived reality?”

Going in, I thought I knew how The Vigil would sound, but to my surprise I was quite wrong. It’s true that like many horror film scores I’ve listened to in recent years, there’s an ongoing feeling of malevolence that pervades the entire score. But it’s how this feeling is delivered that sets The Vigil apart in my mind from recent scores in similar genres.

For example, the score’s use of the human voice (especially chanting) really emphasizes to me the story’s religious background (as it is based in Jewish folklore). That’s not something you hear in a lot of horror film scores so already the story is set apart in my mind. I also really like it because it evokes the feeling that you are around something ancient, as chanting is one of the earliest song forms in existence.

I also really like how the composer creates aural “textures” that literally make your skin crawl when you listen to them. “Lair” is an excellent example of that technique, but it really pervades most of the score if I’m honest. This is fitting as horror films, to the best of my understanding, are designed to make the viewer uncomfortable. It’s only natural that this should extend to the film’s score as well.

One final note, I also like how the music for The Vigil is full of various creaks and groans created by the instruments. It creates a similar sense of age that the chanting does, but it also gives you a sense that you’re in a space that is falling apart or in disrepair (as I understand it the film is set in a dilapidated house). This is most definitely a unique score, one that’s small but contains some powerful musical thoughts. This is yet another example of why you should never dismiss a soundtrack out of hand because it belongs to a horror film.

The Vigil Soundtrack Track List

  1. Tefillin (4:23)
  2. The Ghost, Pt. 1 (1:58)
  3. The Ghost, Pt. 2 (2:52)
  4. Past (3:15)
  5. Lair (4:25)
  6. Broken by Memories (5:08)
  7. Video Games (4:12)
  8. Behind You (3:32)
  9. Face to Face (4:12)
  10. Begin the Vigil (3:31)
  11. Ner (3:41)
  12. Echo (4:26)
  13. Sunlight (2:24)

Let me know what you think of The Vigil and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Cherry (2021)

Late last month, Lakeshore Records digitally released the original motion picture soundtrack for Cherry by Henry Jackman. The soundtrack will be available exclusively on Apple Music for 60 days before becoming available to all other DSPs on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Henry Jackman has established himself as one of today’s top composers by fusing his classical training with his experience as a successful record producer and creator of electronic music. Jackman’s upcoming feature is the anticipated drama from The Russo Brothers, Cherry. He recently completed Jumanji 2, a continuation of the magical board game adventure story, and Detective Pikachu, following the story of the beloved Pikachu Pokémon character starring Ryan Reynolds. His other recent work includes Ralph Breaks the Internet, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature. His other diverse credits include Captain America: Civil War, Kong: Skull Island, Captain Phillips, Big Hero 6, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  

Cherry follows the wild journey of a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances. Inspired by the best-selling novel of the same name, “Cherry” features Tom Holland in the title role as an unhinged character who drifts from dropping out of college to serving in Iraq as an Army medic and is only anchored by his one true love, Emily (Ciara Bravo). When Cherry returns home a war hero, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, surrounding himself with a menagerie of depraved misfits. Draining his finances, Cherry turns to bank robbing to fund his addiction, shattering his relationship with Emily along the way.

Speaking about his score for Cherry, Henry Jackman had the following to say:

Cherry’s soundscape never deviates from the core idea of emulating the internal. It’s music that ebbs and flows depending on the emotions and mental state of the main character grounding the film in Cherry’s subjective experience.

 Directors Joe and Anthony Russo said of Jackman and his score, “This is Henry’s most sublime work. Beautiful, poignant, riotous, devious. Breathtaking in its ability to manifest such complex tones, while unifying them at the same time. He’s truly a master of the craft.” 

The soundtrack for Cherry is definitely one that has subverted all of my expectations. Based on what I know of the film’s plot, I was expecting something that was extremely gritty, rough around the edges, or very action oriented. But Henry Jackman has created something that is none of these things. The music for Cherry is strikingly beautiful, with an orchestral mix that I wouldn’t have expected in a million years. But it’s also got a number of twisted elements at work, several of which I’d like to highlight.

First I want to bring to your attention ‘Carnival of Losers Pt. 1’ and ‘Carnival of Losers Pt 2’. The first iteration of Carnival of Losers will sound like a misnomer, because the piece sounds, for all the world, like a charming waltz with a street carnival vibe (hence the name I’m sure). It’s not until you hear Pt. 2 of Carnival of Losers that you realize the two pieces are mirror images of each other: Pt. 1 takes place before the trauma and Pt. 2 takes place afterward. I say that because Pt. 2 is a muted and twisted version of Pt. 1. It’s set to an almost identical beat as Pt. 1, but it’s clear something terrible has happened between Pt. 1 and Pt. 2.

The most twisted part of all though? That would have to be ‘Star-Mangled Banner’. This piece screamed volumes to me, and likely will to many other people who have had their faith in the government shaken as of late. It takes a while to become recognizable, but there IS in fact a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in this piece, but one that’s so warped, discordant and twisted that it is barely recognizable. If I observe this piece as a commentary on the state of the nation, it’s a damning piece of musical commentary, and one that deeply moved me.

Those are the big moments that I wanted to highlight from the Cherry soundtrack, but the rest of it is equally fun to listen to. To reiterate, this soundtrack will completely subvert whatever expectations you had going in, but in the best way possible. This is a reminder that one should never let a film’s premise dictate your thoughts on what the music may sound like, you might find you’re proven wrong.

Cherry Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Track List

  1. When Life Was Beginning, I Saw You (2:51)
  2. Madison (2:01)
  3. Carnival of Losers, Pt. I (2:10)
  4. The Elusive Sensation of Bliss (2:09)
  5. It Was Perfect (0:43)
  6. A Thing for Weak Guys (2:19)
  7. Honeymoon (3:25)
  8. Star-Mangled Banner (2:26)
  9. Iraq (5:10)
  10. Triangle of Death (1:01)
  11. Cheerleaders (1:05)
  12. Huffers of 1st Platoon (1:54)
  13. Another Day, Another Mission (3:15)
  14. Night Tremors (2:52)
  15. Unholy Retribution (1:24)
  16. OxyContin (0:43)
  17. Date Night (2:51)
  18. Carnival of Losers, Pt. 2 (2:03)
  19. Acquiescence (2:24)
  20. I’m Your Worst Nightmare (3:34)
  21. Crossing the Line (1:34)
  22. Rob Another Bank (1:57)
  23. Overdose (2:28)
  24. Your Fate is Darkly Determined (6:21)
  25. One Last Job (3:00)
  26. The Comedown (9:23)
  27. What I’m Trying to Say Is… (Bonus Track) (5:06)

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

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Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack News: ‘Saint Maud’ Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records released the soundtrack for Saint Maud today, with music composed by Adam Janota Bzowski. The album will also be released in vinyl format this spring. From A24, Saint Maud arrives in select theaters and drive-ins January 29 and will be available to stream exclusively on EPIX beginning February 12.

Adam Janota Bzowski is a London based composer, sound designer and visual artist. As a child he was known for his fondness of intermittent static between radio stations, an interest that led him to study Sound Art at the University of Brighton. Whilst living in a disused biscuit factory on the English coast, Adam became heavily influenced by ambient music – performing under the moniker Adam Halogen, he utilized an old 4-track tape recorder and various guitar pedals to create compositions for theatre, short films and animations. Saint Maud marks his first feature-length score, which has already won him Best Original Music at the 2020 Gérardmer Fantasticarts Film Festival.

The debut film from writer-director Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a chilling and boldly original vision of faith, madness, and salvation in a fallen world. Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul — but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling.

Of the soundtrack for Saint Maud, composer Adam Janota Bzowski had the following to say:

“Before coming on board, I initially received only a treatment for Saint Maud containing a short synopsis alongside various macabre pictures of twisted figures and haunting spectres. From this alone I created around 30 minutes of demos inspired by the images and plot outline, much of which ended up in the final film. Rose wanted the audience to feel inside the head of the main character, Maud. As a result we gave the score a very claustrophobic almost creature-like quality to it, often leaning closer to sound design than traditional music. After sending her cues, Rose would frequently feedback ‘go weirder, go stranger’ – words which I had waited my entire career to hear from a collaborator.”

SAINT MAUD (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Opening Title
  2. Maud’s Theme
  3. Khöl / Nosebleed
  4. Pallative Care
  5. God On the Couch
  6. I Think It Went Well
  7. Succubus
  8. Revelation
  9. My Saviour (By the Coast)
  10. Holy Water
  11. Bedside Manor
  12. Scissors
  13. Saint Maud

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