Jim's Blog - 2014:

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December 18th - The North by The Borealis Saxophone Quartet

Borealis Saxophone Quartet - The North There's something raw and earthy about the sound of a saxophone. This hybrid of brass and woodwind isn't your typical orchestral instrument, and it is frequently associated with a wide range of other genres. But put a number of saxophones together (four, for example) and you have an expressive and powerful band capable of many things. What the Borealis Saxophone Quartet have chosen to do with their debut album "The North" is showcase the saxophone's raw energy to bring us new music, in many cases specially commissioned for the group and recorded here for the first time. The phrase "new music" may put off many people because they don't quite know what to expect, but listen to the free samples on the Quartet's website or on Soundcloud and you will begin to appreciate what a treat this album is. The album itself can be found at this link on Amazon.co.uk

November 26th - Airwolf Extended Themes

Airwolf Extended Themes A few years ago we reviewed an unusual soundtrack album called Airwolf Themes. This album featured a faithful recreation of music from the 1980s TV series "Airwolf". The driving force behind this first album, Mark J. Cairns, has gone on to produce more Airwolf material and has now been joined by Jan Michal Szulew to create a new limited edition double album called "Airwolf Extended Themes". This latest release displays an incredible amount of research into the original series and its unique synthesiser music. CD1 created by Szulew demonstrates the evolution of the theme over the show's 3 seasons including a number of extended tracks, while CD2 created by Cairns brings us incidental music from several of the show's episodes. For more information about the new album and its creation with photos, sample tracks and links to further information, visit airwolfthemes.com.

October 19th - The Great Animal Orchestra (and Symphony)

Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra Richard Blackford and Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra, Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes In the book "The Great Animal Orchestra" by Bernie Krause (see Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), the author investigates and catalogues the sounds of the natural world. He also analyses how the aural landscape has shaped evolution, influencing how animals guard territory, find mates, escape predators and find prey. Could these primal rhythms have shaped the development of music amoung humans (see Does Music Pre-Date Modern Man?, BBC). Now the sounds of nature as captured by Krause have been incorporated into a Symphony by Richard Blackford, available on CD - see Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. To find out more about the book (with many examples of natural sounds), visit www.The GreatAnimalOrchestra.com, and for more about the symphony visit www.The GreatAnimalOrchestraSymphony.com.

October 2nd - Festival Brikcius 2014

Cellist František Brikcius Festival Brikcius 2014 gets underway on October 16th with the first concert of its Autumn Season of Chamber Music Concerts at the Stone Bell House in Prague. From October through December there are six concerts in total featuring a range of accomplished instrumentalists, including cellist František Brikcius, French pianist Justine Verdier, Czech organist and composer Irena Kosíková, Czech cellist Anna Brikciusová and siblings cello chamber ensemble Duo Brikcius. The concert programmes have a strong focus on Czech music, with contemporary compositions and Czech music of the 19th and 20th centuries including music by Antonin Dvorak, Josef Suk, Bohuslav Martinu and Leos Janacek. Full concert details and further information about the artists can be found at the Festival Brikcius website.

September 29th - Patrick Doyle, Screen Composer in Conversation

Patrick Doyle In their ongoing series of "Conversations with Screen Composers", BAFTA welcomes Patrick Doyle to the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 13th October. These events aim to provide an in-depth look into the creative process of composition, and generally include a live musical element. Patrick Doyle is best known for his frequent and ongoing collaborations with acclaimed actor and director, Sir Kenneth Branagh in films ranging from Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy to "Dead Again", "Frankenstein" and "Thor". However, he has also scored films as diverse as "Bridget Jones's Diary", "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and the animation "Brave". Tickets and more information about the event can be found on the Royal Albert Hall website.

September 22nd - Beethoven and his 9th Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven - portrait A new online guide posted on the BBC website looks at the iconic composer Ludwig van Beethoven and his 9th Symphony in particular - see the BBC Guide to Beethoven's 9th complete with commentary and full online performance. While many classical composers have set out to ask or to answer the meaning of life in their greatest works, Beethoven set forth his uniquely humanitarian vision when he set Schiller's "Ode to Joy" to music, using voices for the first time in his 9th (Choral) Symphony. The work has inspired composers, conductors and even non-musicians ever since. Although the work was a favourite of Adolf Hitler, it was also performed to celebrate the end of the Berlin Wall and became the Anthem of the European Union.

August 18th - The Kronos Quartet in Edinburgh

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Kronos Quartet perform tomorrow evening as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The quartet have a long association with the composer Philip Glass and part of the programme consists of Glass' String Quartet No.6 which they premiered in 2013 at their 40th anniversary concert. The programme continues with some film music by the composer Clint Mansell with whom they also have a long association, playing on the soundtracks for several of his scores including "The Fountain" and "Requiem for a Dream".

July 28th - New Releases of Sheet Music for Film and TV

George Fenton - Frozen Planet, The Blue Planet, Planet Earth: The Piano Album - sheet music book cover Among the new releases of Sheet Music from Films and TV it is particularly satisfying to see such a wide range for piano. Among the classic arrangements is the collection "Music From The Hitchcock Films", a great selection of music by Eric Coates for his 100th anniversary, and the book "Great Movie Concerti" which has simplified arrangements of the "Warsaw Concerto", Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 (from "Brief Encounter"), and Mozart's 21st Piano Concerto (from "Elvira Madigan"). In the more recent category we have music from "Frozen", "The Book Thief", "Sherlock" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness", plus George Fenton's wonderful "Planet Series" (Frozen Planet, The Blue Planet, Planet Earth), and music from Randy Newman's Monsters Inc and Monsters University. More...

July 25th - Gustavo Santaolalla: Camino

Gustavo Santaolalla: Camino - album CD cover It has been 15 years since Gustavo Santaolalla released his first solo album "Ronroco". Now he has released its successor "Camino" an intimate solo album which also features the Ronroco, an instrument from the guitar family originating in the Argentinian Andes, plus a rich selection of additional folk instruments both familiar and unusual. One track from the album is from his acclaimed soundtrack to the video game "The Last of Us" which was released on Sony Playstation. As a film composer Santaolalla found fame for his soundtracks to "Brokeback Mountain" and "Babel". Camino is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

July 22nd - Debbie Wiseman talks about composing for Film and TV

Debbie Wiseman in her studio In a recent edition of The Knowledge Online the composer Debbie Wiseman talks about the art of composing music for film and TV. Following a musical training at the Trinity College of Music and the Guildhall (where she studied under Buxton Orr), Wiseman has been composing for film and TV since the early 1980s. She is pictured in her studio where she composes and for some projects she may create demos there, but in general the recording process takes place in a recording studio. Currently working on a new series of Father Brown, the composer was awarded an MBE in 2004 for services to film music.

June 23rd - The Next Dream by Yoed Nir

The Next Dream by Yoed Nir - album CD cover Yoed Nir has worked with many renowned artists such as Kishi Bashi, Regina Spektor, and Yael Naim, and has featured on over 600 collaborative albums. "The Next Dream" is Nir's second solo album. Although Nir is a cellist, the album's tracks feature an eclectic mix of instrumentation including vocals, electronics and percussion. While staying within the "dream" concept, stylistically the music draws on an equally broad range of genres from amient, jazz, rock and soundtrack. The Next Dream is available to download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Yoed Nir's first album "Suspended Hours" is also still available.

June 10th - New Classic Doctor Who releases

Eric Siday: The Ultra Sonic Perception - album cover Don Harper: Cold Worlds - album cover Two new albums with classic Doctor Who music are due to be released new week. "Cold Worlds" by Don Harper contains tracks composed by Harper for the classic Who story "The Invasion" featuring the Cyberman invading Earth at several London landmarks. "The Ultra Sonic Perception" by Eric Siday contains a number of electronic tracks used in several different stories from the 1960s. Siday was a regular composer of electronic library music, and the majority of stories from the 1960s used library music, often very effectively. More information about these releases and ordering details can be found on the Dual Planet website, though please note that prices are quoted in Australian Dollars.

May 27th - Lou Pecci plays Spaghetti Western Themes

Spaghetti Western Themes on Nylon String Guitar by Lou Pecci Last October, as now listed on Jim's Blog 2013, I mentioned the album "James Bond on Electric Guitar" recorded by Lou Pecci, but at the time I wasn't aware of his earlier albums played on acoustic guitar. There are 2 volumes of Spaghetti Western Themes on Nylon String Guitar, with most of these themes of course being from the film scores of Ennio Morricone and other well-known Spaghetti Western composers. Volume 1 is at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, while volume 2 is at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Alternatively check out the guitarist Lou Pecci's artist page on CD Baby for all his current albums.

May 19th - Michael Giacchino at the Royal Albert Hall

Michael Giacchino We previously announced that "Star Trek" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" will feature "Live in Concert" at the end of May, with the music of Michael Giacchino being performed live to the films. The composer will also join BAFTA's series of "Conversations with Screen Composers" at the Elgar Room on Friday 30th May. Giacchino has created music for a range of different media with many acclaimed scores for Television, Film and Video Games. His Game scores include "Medal of Honor" and "Call of Duty", while his music for TV series "Lost" and "Alias" saw the start of a long-lasting creative relationship with J. J. Abrams which later resulted in contributions to the "Star Trek" and "Mission Impossible" series. In addition the composer has made notable contributions to Disney-Pixar animated features with "Ratatouille" and "The Incredibles". For more information on the BAFTA and Star Trek events see the Royal Albert Hall website.

May 8th - New Song by Mendelssohn uncovered

Manuscript of Felix Mendelssohn's Song After being missing for 140 years, a song by Felix Mendelssohn has resurfaced, and is due to be sold at auction. The song is called "The Heart of Man is Like a Mine" and was written in 1842 as a private commission. It was apparently held most recently as part of a private collection in the US, and its estimated worth is £15k-£25k. The song is surprisingly short consisting of only 29 bars, and written out for Alto voice and Piano in A-flat major. You can hear it performed for on this BBC News page.

May 1st - Musical about Lionel Bart

The Genius of Lionel Bart - CD cover It has been reported that a new musical will be produced about Lionel Bart (1930–1999), starring Geoffrey Rush as the older Lionel Bart. The musical will be called "Consider Yourself" and will tell the story of the composer's life using his own songs. The song "Consider Yourself" is of course from the musical "Oliver!" which is Bart's best known creation, but Bart had a long and varied career as a song-writer. Among other well-known works are songs for "Tommy the Toreador" starring Tommy Steele singing numbers like "Little White Bull", several songs for Cliff Richard including "Living Doll", the song "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'be" from the stage musical, and of course the title song from the Bond movie "From Russia with Love".

April 10th - Valentina Lisitsa: Chasing Pianos (Michael Nyman)

Chasing Pianos: The Music of Michael Nyman played by Valentina Lisitsa Two great artists come together in the recently released album called "Chasing Pianos". This features the music of film composer Michael Nyman from films such as "The Piano", "Drowning by Numbers", "The Diary Of Anne Frank", "The Draughtman's Contract" and "Gattaca", played by the pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who is more often associated with the strictly classical music of Liszt, Rachmaninov, Chopin and Beethoven. The album's title subtly suggests two of Nyman's most famous creations and the cover also pays homage to the soundtrack of Nyman's "The Piano" Chasing Pianos is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

April 1st - The Rite of Spring by The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring The story of the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is well-known, when a riot broke out among the Parisian audience. The Bad Plus (a jazz trio from the US) are unlikely to cause riots, but their daring treatment of Stravinsky's masterpiece shows that the work is still able to inspire and to shock. Their interpretation is very close to the original score, but at the same time it feels new and decidedly avant-garde. Their version seems to mix jazz with pop and ambient, but Stravinsky's mark is still very strong. If you like experimental cross-over interpretations of classical music, you will love this! The album is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and is highly recommended. You can find out more about the Bad Plus at their website.

March 21st - Patrick Doyle's music for Kenneth Branagh's films

Patrick Doyle and Kenneth Branagh make one of today's great film partnerships, with the composer's music featuring on many of the director's films. We have this week launched our own celebration of this partnership with a review of Much Ado About Nothing, but the Belfast Film Festival mark their 25 years of film-making in style. The Ulster Orchestra and Belfast Philharmonic Choir will be conducted by James Shearman at the Belfast Waterfront Hall on March 31st. Kenneth Branagh introduces the event in the video and tickets are available on the Ulster Orchestra website.

March 12th - BAFTA Conversation with Michael Price

Michael Price The BAFTA "Conversations with Screen Composers" series continues on 31st March with Michael Price. Michael Price is best known at the moment for his work (with co-composer David Arnold) on the TV series "Sherlock", for which he has won several awards and nominations. Prior to this recognition as a composer, Price had carved out an award-winning career as a music editor, working on big movies such as "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, and a number of UK-made films including "Love Actually", "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" and "Children of Men". The event will be held in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, more details available at The Royal Albert Hall site and the composer's own website is www.michaelpricemusic.com.

March 3rd - It's Gravity all the way!

Steven Price: Gravity - soundtrack album CD cover Though Alex Ebert got the Golden Globe for his score to "All is Lost", Steven Price's score for Gravity has won the key 'Academy' Awards on both sides of the Atlantic with his earlier BAFTA and now the Oscar. Sci-Fi film scores have frequently focussed on sound effects, with Dimitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann both using Theremins in their scores for the original "The Thing" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" respectively, followed by husband and wife team Louis and Bebe Barron's groundbreaking fully electronic score to Forbidden Planet in 1956. Steven Price now brings this concept up to date with a score which sits somewhere between sound design, electronic dance music and traditional film score. See all this year's Film Music Awards, all the historic music oscar winners & nominees and our article on Electronic Music.

January 20th - Awards Fever

John Williams: The Book Thief - soundtrack album CD cover Awards Season gets underway every January with a string of announcements from the main film awards, starting with the Golden Globes, then the UK BAFTAs and finally the Oscars. If we focus on the "Original Score" or equivalent category, Alex Ebert already has an award in the bag picking up a Golden Globe for his score to "All is Lost". Gravity by Steven Price and "The Book Thief" by John Williams look like strong contenders with 3 nominations each, followed closely by Hans Zimmer with "12 Years a Slave" and Thomas Newman with "Saving Mr. Banks" with 2 nominations apiece. Follow all the score and song categories at our Film Music Awards 2013 page.

January 2nd - Grand Piano

Welcome to the first post of 2014!

Looking at recent music-themed movies, we came across "Grand Piano" which stars Elijah Wood as a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright. But mysterious threats from a hitman mean that he is forced to play a concert without any errors or his wife will suffer the consequences. The movie is described as a taut thriller and here is the trailer. The film has so far been shown at various film festivals and may see a limited theatrical release.

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