Tag Archives: Film Composer

Soundtrack Review: The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials (2019)

*apologies for taking so long to get this one out, I meant to publish this one weeks ago but November has been a very busy month for me, I hope you enjoy it!

In The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials, an introduction to the music from the television series, composer Lorne Balfe delves into the story and character themes from His Dark Materials, the new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Lorne Balfe (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Lego Batman Movie, Churchill) is a Grammy Award-winning, EMMY and BAFTA nominated composer. Whether on an impossible mission, the heartbreak of the Queen, the perils of the cape crusade or the soul of a genius, Lorne Balfe creates a musical voice that reflects the characters and the stories that embody them.

Available on digital as of November 2019, this collection features a number of key musical themes that appear throughout the HBO series. Presented on this soundtrack album are the opening title theme, together with key character themes for the young protagonists Lyra, Roger and Will and the adults Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel and Lee Scoresby. Other themes present the majestic locations of Oxford and Svalbard, the people that Lyra encounters on her epic journey, the Gyptians, the Witches of Lake Enara, the machinations of The Magisterium, and The Alethiometer, the device that helps set all the events in motion.

“Since the beginning, myself and the rest of the music team knew we wanted a mixture and a hybrid,” says Lorne. “What I wanted people to feel when listening to the music is they don’t necessarily know if it’s real or not or whether it’s in the present or in the past. There are no rules and musically, it’s constantly evolving. Another crucial element we strived to accomplish was to always have a clear journey of each character’s theme. I wrote their themes separately as a journey, so that we knew musically what would happen throughout the series.”

The timeless nature of the music is evident right away. You literally can’t tell what time period this is taking place in. Sometimes the music sounds contemporaneous, other times it seems to snap back to the Renaissance (or what sounds like the Renaissance). This does a great job of muddling the senses and creating a musical environment for the alternative world that His Dark Materials takes place in. If the show is half as good as this  soundtrack, then this is an amazing show indeed.

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

Tracklisting:
1. His Dark Materials
2. The Alethiometer
3. Lyra: The Child of Prophecy
4. The Settling of a Daemon
5. Scholastic Sanctuary
6. The General Oblation Board
7. The Life of Roger Parslow
8. The Machinations of Lord Boreal
9. A Gilded Cage
10. The Strength of Gyptians
11. A Plea to Fate
12. The Legacy of Svalbard
13. Mrs. M. Coulter
14. The Magisterium
15. The Path Foretold
16. Release the Spy-Fly
17. The Tales of Lee Scoresby
18. The Compass Points North
19. The Witches of Lake Enara

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 🙂

 

An Interview with Chad Cannon, Composer of American Factory

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Chad Cannon, who composed the score for the Netflix original film American Factory. Composer Chad Cannon has traveled the world drawing inspiration from cultures, history, and human stories to create moving scores for documentaries, animation and live performances. His debut soundtrack for the documentary Paper Lanterns received an IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Awards) nomination for Best Original Score for a Documentary, and was lauded as “haunting, mystical” by The Japan Times; while his soundtrack for Cairo Declaration, co- composed with Xiaogang Ye, received China’s highest film prize, the Golden Rooster Award for Best Music. Chad most recently scored Netflix’s documentary, American Factory, which won the Best Director Award for a Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and is the first film released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. His other recent works include a symphonic Americana score for PBS’ documentary CyberWork and the American Dream, as well as scoring Chris Meledandri and Illumination Studios’ animated short, The Dog Days of Winter.

Chad Cannon 2.jpg

 

How did you get started with composing for films and documentaries?

So I studied music at Harvard, I was studying music and Japanese there, and then I did my Masters at Julliard, also in composition. But all along I kind of knew…I’ve always like film, I thought it would be really cool to have a career that intersected film and music. So when I graduated from Julliard I moved to L.A. and I started working with this orchestrator named Conrad Pope, he worked for many years with John Williams, and the first project he hired me on was Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, so I got kind of dumped right in the middle of a huge film score project, and as an orchestrator it’s a little less pressure then a composer obviously, because the orchestrator’s job is really to help the composer prepare all the conducting scores in time for the recording sessions, so you’re the one putting the notes on the page eventually. So from there, I kind of transitioned into writing more for film, and I had an opportunity to score a couple of feature documentaries with my brother who directed feature films for CrossFit. …My brother just had me write some custom music for those films. And then I had this opportunity to write for a film called Paper Lanterns, which was a Hiroshima documentary about the 12 Americans who had died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. So that was my first feature doc(umentary) that was more serious and I had an opportunity to write a more rich, orchestral for that film, and it was also a crossover score where I included some traditional Japanese performers in addition to this American orchestral sound that I was creating. So that led to me being accepted into the Sundance Composer Labs which happen every summer at Skywalker Ranch, and that lab is how I got connected to the American Factory film.

How did you get involved with American Factory

The Sundance Labs people knew I’d done quite a bit of work in Asia and they thought “Oh, since this is a film that is very much connecting Asia with the U.S., maybe he would be a good match” and so they referred me to Julia [Reichert] and Steve [Bognar]  who were the directors of American Factory.

How did you approach scoring the documentary?

Well, anytime I get a new film, the first thing I like to do is experiment with new materials or new instruments, just to sort of develop a sound world that I can draw from as I start getting clips of the film. So I tried two things at first that didn’t actually end up working out very well for the film. One was, because of the glass factory I thought “What if we used glass instruments?” and had glass be the heart of the score. So I got all the glass I could find and recorded myself playing rhythms on them. I got wine glasses, and did a bunch of tones, and I tried a bunch of stuff. And Julia and Steve heard it, and were like “Oh, this is cool but it’s too ‘twinkly.’” And that’s because glass creates a lot of high overtones, which creates a “twinkly” sound. And because there’s quite a few ominous, or dark themes in the film, as well as a huge amount of factory noise, from a sound design perspective this film was very difficult because the sound designer Lawrence Stevenson had to navigate, when you’re recording the audio in the factory and it’s hard to hear, just from the amount of noise. So anyway, the glass approach didn’t really work.

And then the next thing I tried was to include traditional Chinese elements, especially from Fujian Province, which is where the Fuyao headquarters is within China, and I had happened to have been there before…Steve and Julia also considered that, but then they said “We’re Americans,  we’re from Ohio, we don’t want to make this feel like it’s exoticizing the Chinese component of this movie. Make it more universal in the approach.” So ultimately we ended up focusing on a low woodwind sound; so there’s a lot of bassoons, bass clarinets, some lower flutes like alto flutes…and the reason we went in that direction is because Julia had heard a Mozart piece called the “Gran Partita” and this piece is for woodwinds with two horns and a double bass, and it’s just a really unique instrumentation…and ultimately I think she was right in leaning in that direction, because the woodwinds’ timbre goes well against all the metallic glass timbre that you hear in the film. The factory noises are complimented by this woodwind sound, as opposed to competing with it. There’s something about that combination that ended up working nicely, and I ended up writing a lot of music for these slow woodwinds.

Were you inspired by the factory machines, because in several of the manufacturing scenes it feels like the music is mimicking the frenetic action of the glass factory

For sure, there are a lot of moments..there’s one specific moment if you remember near the end of the film, there’s a sequence where Wong is sitting next to this panel of blinking lights in the dark, he’s sitting there and there’s a voiceover where he says “I think the most important thing is mutual understanding” and he expresses this admiration for American workers who can manage having multiple jobs at once…and that sequence…the blinking lights were the trigger for the music in that scene, where if you listen there’s a lot of minimalist patterns. A lot of the American minimalists will come to a pattern and they’ll repeat it for a really long time to create this meditative state and, that’s a very common technique now in film music. That pattern that I have in that scene is very much trying to show…it’s drawing inspiration from the blinking lights on the panel. And it gets you into Wong’s mind about how things are kind of dark at that moment.

And the music when we enter the factory for the first time is also rooted, grounded in a repeating bass note. The cue is actually called “The Resurrection,” …and for me the pillars of the factory, and the weight of this machinery, all of that is finding its way into the score in these heavy bass figures that I’ve been writing.

It feels like there are different themes, or different musical sentiments for the American and Chinese sides of the story, is that so or am I imagining that?

There are no themes that are specifically Chinese or American…Thematically there’s like four or five melodic ideas that spin out, and sometimes it’s the same theme but in a dark variation, sometimes lighter. Pretty much all of the musical material is tied back to that first theme called “The Forge.” There’s a parallel fifth motif that becomes the bed of pretty much everything else that happens after that. There are also themes for the Chairman and Wong. Wong’s theme is what comes back at the very end when we see this sequence between American workers and Chinese workers leaving the factory, and it’s like this fanfare for workers. The point of this theme is that it’s where I’m trying to convey the dualism of two countries coming together. And at the very, very end, there’s a long sequence with the Chairman where all of the themes you’ve heard throughout start to come back very quietly, underneath the dialogue, revisiting the places we’ve been along the way. So there are musical themes that are attached to specific characters.

How did you decide which parts of the documentary need music, because I’ve noticed chunks that have no music at all, and it feels like a very abrupt transition between music and no music.

So the way the film is edited is by chapters, and they’ll create a scene, or a series of scenes which together comprise a chapter. And the filmmakers who are also the writers, you know documentaries are written in the editing room, they don’t have a script, they just go out and film stuff. They get all the footage and then they go back and figure out what story they captured. And they could’ve told many different stories with the footage they had. They had to go through 1200 hours of footage shot over 3 years, so it’s really an incredible feat, what they did to cut it down to the film you see now. So musically, the way this pans out in documentaries is that, first of all, as opposed to feature films, and I personally feel that feature fiction films tend to get over-scored, I’m a fan of leaving space for people to just appreciate the environment that they’re in…the whole world is full of sound and interesting environmental ambience, and there’s music everywhere if you just open up your ears.

And I feel like in film it’s really beautiful when people know not to put music, because then you can be more immersed in the reality of whatever environment you’re in, even more so in a documentary. The challenges of a documentary film composer is that you can’t be too dramatic, you can’t hit things too hard on the nose without it starting to become editorializing. They’re telling true stories and representing real people, and you have to respect that. So the choices about where not to do music were largely where Julia and Steve had told me beforehand, where they said “Oh we don’t need music for this scene, or for here.” If there was music the whole time it would just start to get in the way of what people are saying.

There was one scene where I pushed for there to be no music, which was this scene where there’s no video just the recording, where the Fuyao employee had recorded this audio of the anti-union guy persuading them to vote against the union. And originally that scene had some very ominous music in it and I ultimately told them this is already such a shock where you lose the video, that you don’t need any score there because it’s already such a change from what we’ve been doing. And it’s already so ominous that the picture’s gone.

……….

It was a great honor to be able to talk with Chad Cannon about his work on American Factory, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Let me know your thoughts about American Factory (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

American Factory is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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

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

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

John Lunn talks Downton Abbey, Soundtrack Will Release Next Week

Decca Records/Decca Gold has announced the upcoming release of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the highly-anticipated feature film, Downton Abbey, scored by composer John Lunn. Composed in a similar style to the two-time Emmy Award-winning music from the series, the score is richly orchestrated, with the familiar title theme making an appearance throughout. In a throwback to the ‘Roaring Twenties’, upbeat jazz arrangements appear alongside lavish waltzes, reflecting the popular styles of the day.

The original television series first aired on PBS Masterpiece in the US in 2011 and has enjoyed six critically-acclaimed seasons. Downton Abbey is scheduled for cinematic release on September 13th in the UK, and September 20th in the United States. The film picks up where the story left off in the autumn of 1927, joining Lord and Lady Grantham and the extended Crawley family as they prepare for a visit from the reigning King George V. With a script by Julian Fellowes, original cast members including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Dame Maggie Smith star alongside new cast members Imelda Staunton, David Haig and Geraldine James.

Scottish composer John Lunn writes music that possesses a unique voice and spans a wide spectrum of musical styles. He received two Primetime Emmy Awards for his music for Downton Abbey, and two BAFTA nominations in 2012 and 2016. Other recent television work includes The White Queen (Starz), Grantchester (ITV), Shetland (BBC One), The Last Kingdom (BBC Two) and Jamestown (Sky). Lunn received critical acclaim for his scores for three BBC Charles Dickens adaptations: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Little Dorrit, and Bleak House.

Lunn was the first choice to score the film and recalls when the project was first proposed:

“I was delighted to be approached to create the feature-length film score to a series which has had a huge impact on audiences and fans all over the world. At first it was like discovering a long-lost friend, but gradually I realized that we’d never really been apart; by the end it was just such a joy to revisit this material and have the opportunity to take it to a whole new level.”

Downton Abbey: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will be released by Decca Records/Decca Gold on September 13th, 2019.

Tracklist

1. A Royal Command
2. Pillar of the Establishment
3. Gleam and Sparkle
4. God Is a Monarchist
5. Two Households
6. Incident at A Parade
7. Sabotage
8. Maud
9. Honour Restored
10. Never Seen Anything Like It
11. Not Entirely a Bad Night
12. May I?
13. Taking Leave
14. Resolution
15. You Are the Best of Me
16. Sunset Waltz
17. One Hundred Years of Downton

Once it comes out, let me know what you think about the Downton Abbey movie and its soundtrack 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 🙂

David Buckley Talks Angel Has Fallen (2019)

The soundtrack for Angel Has Fallen is available as of August 23rd, and it was composed by David Buckley. He has previously worked on such projects as The Good Wife, Jason Bourne, and The Nice Guys. The soundtrack is available from Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks.

Angel Has Fallen is the follow up to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016). When there is an assassination attempt on U.S. President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), his trusted confidant, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), is wrongfully accused and taken into custody. After escaping from capture, he becomes a man on the run and must evade his own agency and outsmart the FBI in order to find the real threat to the President. Desperate to uncover the truth, Banning turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name, keep his family from harm and save the country from imminent danger.

angel-has-fallen-ahf_05528_r_rgb-h_2019.jpg

Of the soundtrack, David Buckley had this to say:

When Ric (Director) and I first discussed the direction for this score, he was keen for the music to remain in a dark space as our hero becomes a fugitive. There is some light and shade as the drama enfolds, but for a lot of the film my job was to portray a man not only on the run, but one who is fast approaching mental and physical breaking point. But there is a theme that represents light and hope, for Mike Banning’s wife, for his child, for the President and for his country.

ANGEL HAS FALLEN (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACK LISTING –

1.       The Kill Zone

2.       Drone Attack

3.       Swallowed by Trees

4.       Home Life

5.       Fishing Trip

6.       Death Threats

7.       Semi Chase

8.       Deep Regrets

9.       Resurrection

10.    Into the Abyss

11.    Hospital Breach

12.    Accepting Betrayal

13.    Atrium Firefight

14.    Final Chess Match

15.    Coup de Grace

16.    No More Secrets

17.    Angel Has Fallen

Angel Has Fallen is directed by Ric Roman Waugh from a screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & Ric Roman Waugh, story by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt, and based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt.

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

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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

 

Daniel Pemberton talks The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

If you weren’t already excited about the imminent release of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix next week, then this news about the soundtrack should do the trick. The soundtrack, which is being released on August 30th, was composed by Daniel Pemberton (with help from fellow composer Samuel Sim).

For those who may have forgotten, the 10-episode show is a prequel to the groundbreaking 1982 fan favorite The Dark Crystal, and takes place many years before the events of the film. Leading the voice cast in the series will be Kingsman star Taron Egerton, The Witch actress Anya Taylor-Joy and Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel, as ‘Gelfling’ heroes Rian, Brea and Deet. Star Wars’ Mark Hamill, Harry Potter’s Helena Bonham-Carter, Tomb Raider star Alicia Vikander and Outlander’s Caitriona Balfe provide additional voice performances in the new fantasy epic.

Dark-Crystal-Age-of-Resistance-Banner.jpg

For director Louis Leterrier, Pemberton was the natural choice:

I approached the music the same way I approached the filming and the puppetry. I wanted somebody to come on this journey that would be willing to take big risks. I wanted something that was almost tribal. I wanted to hear the strings being plucked and the skin wrapped over the drum. At the same time, I wanted somebody who could write beautiful melodies, understood music, and was a lover of beautiful music. I wanted someone who would approach it in a very organic way and who would tell the story through the score. My search led me to Daniel.

Daniel Pemberton is rapidly becoming one of my favorite composers, as he has previously scored The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Ocean’s 8, just to name a few. Hearing his thoughts on how he approached the score for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, makes me even more excited to experience the prequel series (and I don’t often say that about prequels).

dark-crystal-netflix-dc-unit-25687-r

Daniel had this to say about scoring The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:

I wanted the music to be as magical as Thra itself – organic, imperfect, strange, mystical, otherworldly and wonderful. I wanted to create new sounds that felt like they came from the world itself, as well as using thematic large scale orchestral elements to bring an emotion to the journey of the characters. I wanted music and sounds that would fill you with wonder, but also terrify you. It was very important to me that all the sounds felt like they could only be from Thra itself – no grand pianos or overtly electronic elements. Every sound had to feel organic and visceral, from the dark detuned glissando cello sounds made for the Skeksis, to the upbeat flutes from the Podling’s bar. We created noises out of wine glasses, metal chains, wooden drums, metal sculptures on a snow covered mountain and old creaky medieval instruments to try and make a sonic world as unique as the visual one.

The soundtrack will be released in two volumes; volume 1 will have tracks composed only by Pemberton, while volume 2 will have tracks composed by Pemberton and Sim. Both volumes will be available on August 30th, the same day the series becomes available on Netflix.

Let me know if you’re just as excited to see The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Daniel Pemberton talks The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Daniel Pemberton talks Steve Jobs (2015)

Daniel Pemberton talks Gold (2016)

Daniel Pemberton talks King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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

Marco Beltrami talks A Quiet Place (2018)

I have a mixture of thoughts about A Quiet Place, and its soundtrack. Regarding the movie itself, I’m slightly ashamed that I haven’t seen it yet (but most of you know my feelings on horror by now, and the entire premise of this film terrifies me). As for the soundtrack…believe it or not part of me finds it funny that the film has a soundtrack at all, as given the premise, it would almost be appropriate for the film to have no non-diegetic music at all. But have a soundtrack it does, and Marco Beltrami did the honors.

In this fantastic interview (full credit to Ashton Gleckman), Marco Beltrami discusses how he came to work on the score for this film, and talks about some of the things he did to give the film its unique sound.

(again, I give full credit to Ashton Gleckman, whose video this is, for this awesome interview with Marco Beltrami)

Having listened to the interview, I have to agree with Beltrami: having a film with almost no dialogue would be a golden opportunity for a film composer. Think about it, most of the time the film score is structured around dialogue, which means the music mostly stays in the background while characters are talking (this isn’t always true, but it usually is). However, in a film like A Quiet Place, with almost no talking, you basically have a blank slate to work with, and it sounds like Beltrami took full advantage.

Another detail I liked from this interview is when Beltrami talked about how he arranged parts of the music to reflect the terrifying world the family of A Quiet Place live in. It was something to the effect of “they’ve been living in silence so long that any sounds they do hear will sound wonky to them.” And that makes sense. If you get used to silence, sounds will start to sound abnormal. To that end, one thing Beltrami did was de-tune the black keys on a piano (to de-tune means to deliberately put something out of tune), which would automatically create a weird sound when you play the instrument.

I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of the interview, and I hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at how the score to A Quiet Place was created. Let me know what you think of  A Quiet Place (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Marco Beltrami talks Blade II (2002)

Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson talk Resident Evil (2002)

Marco Beltrami talks Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Marco Beltrami talks 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Marco Beltrami talks The Wolverine (2013)

Marco Beltrami talks World War Z (2013)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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

Brian Tyler scoring Constantine (2005)

I’m always on the lookout for good videos of film scoring sessions, and today I hit the jackpot (in a manner of speaking) with an excellent video showing Brian Tyler working on Constantine (2005) in the recording studio. Being a firm devotee of Matt Ryan’s portrayal of the iconic master of the dark arts, I’ve generally ignored this film’s existence. But now that I’ve heard some excerpts of the film’s score while watching this video, I’m wondering if I need to go back and re-evaluate my position on this film.

This particular video is especially good because it shows a great view of the entire studio, with the composer/conductor and the orchestra at one end, while the work-in-progress film is projected on the far wall. As I’ve mentioned before, seeing the film during the recording process is necessary (for most) because this helps the composer sync the music to the film in the best way possible. To help with this, I believe there is a timer (of sorts) projected onto the screen for the composer’s benefit (for example, at 1:30 see the “0278+8” in the bottom right of the screen, that looks like a timing tool I’ve heard of film composers using).

Another great thing about this video is that it shows several different recording sessions that focus on different scenes. My favorite example in the whole video is the sequence starting at 1:32 that zooms in close on the film being projected. Watching that and hearing the music shows how hard Tyler has to work to create music that matches up with the visuals. As the video also shows, the director can sit in on these sessions, that way if he/she sees something that doesn’t work for them, they can let the composer know so it can be fixed right away.

I really hope you enjoy this video of Brian Tyler working on scoring Constantine (this is also the earliest video of the composer at work that I’ve found to date). Let me know what you think about Constantine (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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