Tag Archives: HBO

Soundtrack Review: Betty (2020)

The soundtrack for the HBO Original Series Betty is now available from Milan Records. Starring Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, and Rachelle Vinberg, Betty follows a diverse group of young women navigating their lives through the predominantly male-oriented world of skateboarding, set against the backdrop of New York City.  

The soundtrack for Betty was composed by Aska Matsumiya, who is a LA based Japanese composer and producer who has excelled across Film, Television, Advertising and music production. Aska provided the score for the Amazon feature film, “I’m Your Woman” for director Julia Hart. In addition, she partnered with A24 and acclaimed director Kogonada on his film “After Yang”, collaborating with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto starring Colin Farrell.  

Of the soundtrack, composer Aska Matsumiya says:

“Writing the music for Betty allowed me to be in touch with a side of myself that remains youthful and raw and spontaneous. It was really so much fun and I tried to let that momentum carry the music.”

Wow, Matsumiya wasn’t kidding when she talked about getting in touch with her youthful, raw, and spontaneous side. The soundtrack for Betty is ALL of these things wrapped up together and it is pure joy to listen to. The melody is bouncing, alive, and just seems to dart from place to place. I don’t know why this surprised me, considering Betty is set in the world of skateboarding, this type of music is the perfect way to express that world where gravity is defied on a regular basis. I think my favorite track is “Betty”, the title track is bright, bouncy, and beautiful, like most of the soundtrack in fact.

TRACKLISTING –

  1. Betty
  2. Vibez
  3. Space Ride
  4. Why Not Bambi
  5. Anxiety Attack
  6. Chinatown Quest
  7. Strawberry Field
  8. The Sound
  9. Feeling Blues Cloud
  10. No Jordan
  11. No Chill
  12. Hypnotism – Bebel Matsumiya
  13. AMNSA – Rosehardt
  14. Strangers – Ruby Haunt
  15. One of the Girls – Otha
  16. Apocalypse – Cigarettes After Sex
  17. Djougou Toro – Volta Jazz

In all seriousness, the music for Betty is delightful, and I highly recommend checking the soundtrack out if you get the chance.

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

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TV Soundtracks

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Soundtrack News: “Betty” HBO Original Series Soundtrack to be Released on May 15th

Milan Records, together with HBO, has announced that the original soundtrack for Betty, composed by Aska Matsumiya, will be released on May 15, 2020. Available for preorder now, the album features score music written by Matsumiya as well as additional tracks featured in HBO’s newest original series following a group of female skateboarders in New York City. Aska Matsumiya is a LA based Japanese composer and producer who has excelled across Film, Television, Advertising and music production. Aska provided the score for the Amazon feature film, “I’m Your Woman” for director Julia Hart. In addition, she partnered with A24 and acclaimed director Kogonada on his film “After Yang”, collaborating with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto starring Colin Farrell.

Making its debut today alongside album preorder is the lead offering from the soundtrack – listen to “Why Not Bambihere.  Based on Crystal Moselle’s original film Skate Kitchen and starring much of the film’s original cast, Betty premiered on HBO May 1 and airs every Friday at 11:00 PM ET/PT.

Of the soundtrack, composer ASKA MATSUMIYA says:

“Writing the music for Betty allowed me to be in touch with a side of myself that remains youthful and raw and spontaneous.  It was really so much fun and I tried to let that momentum carry the music.” 

Starring Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, and Rachelle Vinberg, Betty follows a diverse group of young women navigating their lives through the predominantly male-oriented world of skateboarding, set against the backdrop of New York City.

BETTY (HBO ORIGINAL SERIES SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –
1. Betty
2. Vibez
3. Space Ride
4. Why Not Bambi
5. Anxiety Attack
6. Chinatown Quest
7. Strawberry Field
8. The Sound
9. Feeling Blues Cloud
10. No Jordan
11. No Chill
12. Hypnotism – Bebel Matsumiya
13. AMNSA – Rosehardt
14. Strangers – Ruby Haunt
15. One of the Girls – Otha
16. Apocalypse – Cigarettes After Sex
17. Djougou Toro – Volta Jazz

The soundtrack for Betty will be available starting May 15, 2020 and can be pre-ordered now.

See also:

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

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Exploring the Music of ‘We’re Here’: An Interview with Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Recently I was given the opportunity to interview Herdís Stefánsdóttir, a film and television composer perhaps best known for working on The Sun is Also a Star and currently working on the upcoming HBO series We’re Here.

Herdís Stefánsdóttir graduated with an M.A. degree in film scoring from New York University in 2017. Since graduation she has scored two feature films, an HBO series and a few short films. Her scoring work includes Ry Russo -Young’s MGM/Warner Bros. feature film, The Sun Is Also A Star and the HBOseries We’re Here. Herdís was nominated for The Icelandic Music Awards for her score in The Sun Is Also A Star. Herdís interned for the Oscar nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson inBerlin while he was working on the film Arrival (2016) and she has scored numerous short films that have premiered at top-tier festivals around the world like Berlinale, TIFF, Sundance and Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The subject of the interview was Herdís Stefánsdóttir’s work on the upcoming HBO series We’re Here, a short series about people being transformed into drag queens and coached into stepping outside their comfort zones by famous drag queens including Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela. We’re Here is currently set to premiere on April 23, 2020.

What drew you to composing for film and television?

I started experimenting with it a few years ago when I was in school. I was collaborating with dance projects, theater, and all that kind of stuff. I really enjoyed working with people and working on stories. It’s a totally different way of approaching music that I hadn’t done before. That’s how it started.

How did you get connected with We’re Here? It’s an interesting premise for a show

We’re Here [came about] from my agent sending in a portfolio, essentially a reel of my music that the creators really liked and they thought it was a good fit. And it is a good show, I quite like it.

How did you approach scoring a show like We’re Here?

Actually I’m not quite finished [with scoring], I’m actually in the middle of the scoring process. I just finished episode 3 and I’m working on episode 4. It’s definitely something that I hadn’t figured out before I started because what’s interesting is that the episodes all have the same theme with going to small towns. They’re talking to people and getting their stories. Each of the stories are so different and the characters are so different. So it kind of developed through the process of scoring. And I feel like where I am now, basically I’ve been creating a sound world for each person. Each story and each character gets their own sound. That’s how it’s been developing. And that sound is changing from episode to episode.

How is the process for scoring television different from scoring for film?

It’s very different. I’ve never worked on a project like this, that has real people and a real story, and it makes the scoring process almost indescribable because it’s so different from working on fictional material. It has to be so right, like when a person is talking you don’t want to go overboard and make it cheesy. You want it to be the right emotion without taking too much space. It’s a lot of work to get everything right. In film, there are moments where you’re just writing music for something where no one is talking and you can just write a piece of music more inspired by the film. But this [the show] is more like weaving a thread of music within all the stories and conversations.

About how long was the recording process for each episode?

For the first episode, that was the one I had the longest time to work on. That was when I was starting to figure out what I wanted to do, how do I want this to sound. That was more a process of experimenting and trying to get the right emotion and the right heart of this show.

I’ve been mostly working my myself in the studio and I record instruments, synths, different sounds, the piano, and my voice. Then I get friends to record specific instruments that I might need. And the further we are in the process the faster it’s happening. There’s definitely been more pressure for each episode as it goes on. And [the process] has been interesting because in a [traditional] narrative or fictional series you start creating a sound world with themes that are reused throughout. However, because each episode has its own identity, I always feel like I’m starting from scratch when I start a new episode. I would say it’s about three or four weeks per episode [to finish scoring].

Is the music for each episode connected to that of other episodes, or are they in their own musical “bubbles”?

They are definitely connected because there are two sides to it. There are the characters but there’s also all the moments in the show. Some scenes need cues to bring out a certain emotion so there’s definitely a thread connecting them. It’s a special element that defines each story or character. There is an overall sound that connects everything, even when I might play around and change the instrumentation for the different characters.

Did anything in particular influence the sound of the music you were making? That is to say, were you going for a particular sound?

I wasn’t at all. I was just kind of open to see where it would take me. What kind of surprised me was the different people, with their different stories, and how they called out interesting things. It was like “this person needs this in their story.” All of it has been developing as we go. I didn’t decide anything before [we started]. I just knew I wanted to avoid a typical TV score, I just wanted to create a unique voice for everyone.

What do you want viewers to take away when they watch these episodes and hear your music?

I just hope it gets into people’s hearts. I hope they feel the story. I think that’s the purpose of the music. It’s a way of helping people tell the stories.

I want to give a big thank you to Herdís Stefánsdóttir for taking the time to talk with me about her work on the upcoming HBO series We’re Here. The show will premiere on HBO April 23, 2020.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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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:

TV Soundtracks

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Soundtrack Review: Euphoria (2019)

A soundtrack album featuring music from the first season of the HBO series Euphoria is now available from Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks. The album features music by multiplatinum-selling artist and producer Labrinth. Euphoria marks Labrinth’s first-ever project as lead composer. Written and recorded in close collaboration with the show’s writer Sam Levinson, his original compositions feature prominently throughout the series as a sonic companion to the show’s angst-driven narrative.  The resulting 26-track collection is a genre blending mix of gospel, soul and electronic influences, indicative both of Labrinth’s imitable style as well as the show’s deeply moving storyline.

Regarding the soundtrack album, Labrinth had this to say:

My experience with Euphoria has made me a better musician. It was a dream come true to give wings and add magic to the different storylines. It was a collaborative effort among Sam Levinson, the crew and the cast – I only added texture to an already phenomenal show. I hope that anyone who listens to the music embraces feeling something.

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Euphoria, if you didn’t know, follows a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma and social media. It is an American adaptation of an Israeli show of the same name, and all episodes are written by Sam Levinson.

I haven’t seen the show myself, but having taken a peek at the soundtrack, I can say that the music is definitely interesting. It’s not traditional in the slightest, but that’s a good thing since I firmly believe that not all music should sound the same (for example, not all shows need to sound like Game of Thrones). If you’re a fan of Labrinth’s work, or just a fan of the series in general, I think you will like this soundtrack album very much.

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

EUPHORIA – SCORE FROM ORIGINAL HBO SERIES
TRACKLISTING –
1. New Girl
2. Formula
3. Preparing For Call
4. Forever
5. Planning Date
6. Nate Growing Up
7. Home From Rehab
8. We All Knew
9. Say Goodnight
10. Shy Guy
11. Following Tyler
12. Still Don’t Know My Name
13. Kat’s Denial
14. Slideshow
15. Family Vacation
16. Grapefruit Diet
17. WTF Are We Talking For
18. Euphoria Funfair
19. The Lake
20. Maddy’s Story
21. Demanding Excellence
22. McKay & Cassie
23. Gangster
24. When I R.I.P.
25. Arriving at the Formal
26. Virgin Pina Coladas

See also:

TV Soundtracks

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

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My Thoughts on: Westworld Season 1 (2016)

As a lifelong fan of the science fiction genre (so much so that I made it my specialty in graduate school), I knew it would only be a matter of time before I watched this show. I was curious from the start to see what an adaptation of the 1973 Westworld film would look like and yet I hesitated a long time before finally starting the series. I think deep down I delayed because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the story, as it is very easy to do robot/A.I. run amuck badly. But it turns out I was worried over nothing: Westworld‘s first season is sheer brilliance.

31westworld-articleLarge.jpg

In ten episodes, we are introduced to the unbelievably lavish park that is Westworld, a place where the obscenely wealthy can come live out whatever fantasy they desire, from the innocent pleasures of living on a homestead to more depraved activities up to and including murder and rape. The human guests can act as they please since the robotic ‘hosts’ are incapable of harming them. In such an environment, many guests let loose with repressed fantasies of murder and sexual freedom (the series comments several times that most guests come to either “shoot or f*ck” whatever they want) in a way that can be very disturbing to watch (this show does not hold back on showing blood).

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The plot is divided between several arcs that follow different characters. The primary hosts we follow are Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), her programmed lover Teddy (James Marsden), Maeve, a saloon madam (Thandie Newton) and recurring visits from Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and his group of bandits. On the human side, in the park, we follow the mysterious Man in Black (Ed Harris) and a newcomer to the park named William (Jimmi Simpson), whose coming to the park with Logan (Ben Barnes), his future brother in law. Outside of the park, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is the director of the park and is assisted by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). The show clearly takes place sometime in the future as the technology is far beyond anything that currently exists, but it’s not known how far in the future we are, as so far as I know, no year is ever given.

westworld.jpg

It is clear from the first episode that there is something odd going on in the park, with the hosts in particular, but it takes almost the entire season before enough pieces come together to provide answers. That’s not a bad thing: half of the reason I love Westworld is because the fragmented plot arcs keep you guessing at the truth and eager to see the next piece of the puzzle (so to speak). And when the answers do begin to come, you start to question everything you’ve seen in the series. Not only that, there are some twists that lead you to wonder if anyone in this series is actually human. Like many films and tv series that explore the concept of A.I., the border between robots and humans becomes so thin that it is practically non-existent (unless one of the hosts has a glitch).

Maeve-saloon-Westworld-episode-7-Trompe-LOeil

Anthony Hopkins turns in a magnificent performance, a particularly favorite moment coming at the end of episode 7 “Trompe L’Oeil.” In that episode, Hopkins switches from affable to pure menace so effortlessly that I was glued to the screen for the entirety of the scene. The episode also features one of my favorite plot twists in the season, simply because there’s almost no hint that it’s coming.

If you like robots and science fiction, then I think you will enjoy Westworld season one. The plot is very well crafted and as I said before will keep you guessing almost until the end. I’m looking forward to watching season two.

Final thoughts:

-I ended up feeling sorry for the Man in Black by the end of the season. Even though he was warned multiple times that what he was searching for wasn’t meant for him, he persists anyway and is eventually disappointed.

-Teddy (James Marsden) has so many death scenes it’s almost ridiculous. To be fair though, he pulls it off beautifully each time.

-I can’t stand Logan (Ben Barnes) and I feel like he deserves everything he gets.

What do you think of the first season of Westworld? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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