Jim's Blog - 2015:

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December 1st - Electric Dawn by Alastair Penman

Alastair Penman: Electric Dawn This time last year I mentioned an album called "The North" by "The Borealis Saxophone Quartet" - see their website www.borealissaxophonequartet.com. One member of the sax quartet is Alastair Penman who last month released his debut album "Electric Dawn" - website www.electricdawn.co.uk. Electric Dawn features Penman's own compositions and arrangements including new commissions from other artists. As the title suggests the album is a mixture of sax and electronics, and it really is a wonderfully eclectic mix of genres, moods, instrumentation and effects, all centred around the unmistakeable sound of the saxophone. Alistair Penman's Electric Dawn has been produced by legendary saxophonist and producer John Harle and released on Sospiro Records. It can be found at the following links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

November 12th - The Piano Guys: Live!

The Piano Guys: Live! Though a long been follower of their videos on Youtube, it was only this summer that I first went to see The Piano Guys live in Edinburgh - and what a great show they put on! If you can't see them live then the next best thing is their latest album "The Piano Guys: Live!" recorded at some of their live shows, in particular two sold out events at Carnegie Hall and at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The album contains some fan favourite tracks, some new material and a few surprises. All are in The Piano Guys own inimitable style mixing classical music, film soundtracks and popular songs. This is a combined CD/DVD release so really fantastic value, and it is available from tomorrow. It can be found at the following online links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The Piano Guys tour continues next spring visiting locations in the US and Canada.

October 15th - Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage "Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage" is a concert tour featuring the Music of Star Trek celebrating 50 years since the original TV series started and including music from the various TV Series and Star Trek Movies. Unfortunately for those based in the UK, the tour in 2016 will be restricted to venues across the US and Canada. However the concert series gets a special launch in the form of a one-off concert being held in London's Royal Albert Hall on 1st November. This will feature the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Justin Freer, guest conductors being Trek composers Jay Chattaway and Ron Jones. See the Royal Albert Hall website for tickets to the UK event and the Star Trek website for more info on the US tour.

September 16th - James Dean & The Music

James Dean & The Music - Leonard Rosenman and Dimitri Tiomkin This week sees the release of an album called "James Dean & The Music". James Dean was an actor whose short career saw him typically in roles as a troubled youth. He was already a cultural icon, but his tragic death in a car accident made him a legend. The album features music from Dean's 3 main starring film roles. The first two of those films were scored by the composer Leonard Rosenman who was in fact a friend of Dean and Dean had recommended him for the role. Rosenman's sometimes dischordant avant garde sound mixed with jazz elements expertly depicts a misfit at odds with the world. In "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without a Cause" Rosenman and Dean were indeed a perfect match musically, though Dimitri Tiomkin took a different approach in his music for "Giant". This album opens a window on a fascinating period of American film history, and you can find it at the following link at Amazon.co.uk.

August 20th - Ryuichi Sakamoto: Furyo (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence)

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Furyo (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) When it was first released, the soundtrack to "Furyo" or "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" made a big impact on the music scene. It takes influences from ambient music genres, Japanese folk music, synthpop and electronic albums by the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis. The composer Ryuichi Sakamoto had left the pioneering electronic group Yellow Magic Orchestra, and was carving his own distinctive career. Sakamoto appeared in the movie as a Japanese soldier, and he picked up a BAFTA award in 1983 for the soundtrack. Of course many people remember the film as starring David Bowie who also sang the vocals in the track "Forbidden Colours" which was released as a single and reached the top 20 in the UK charts. The album has now been re-released to tie in with the exhibition "David Bowie Is". It can be found at the following online links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

August 17th - The Music of Doctor Who

The Music of Doctor Who - Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition "The Music of Doctor Who" is the latest Special Edition of the Doctor Who Magazine subtitled "Six decades of sound design and musical innovation". This is a detailed and comprehensive behind the scenes look at all aspects of Doctor Who music and sound, with some rare photos of the people involved in its creation. There is decade by decade coverage of the composers involved in the show, David Arnold and Neil Brand look at the enduring appeal of Ron Grainer's theme, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, an interview with Tristram Cary, Brian Hodgson and Dick Mills discuss the show's special effects, the use of library music and pop music, the prolific Dudley Simpson, music for the 1996 Movie by John Debney, Orbital's Paul Hartnoll discusses the group's arrangement of the theme, various tributes and original music by fans, and a Day with Delia Derbyshire. The cover features Peter Capaldi's doctor with headphones while the Series 9 trailers show him playing guitar. Look out for the magazine appearing in shops from this week or check out the magazine's facebook page. In many ways the magazine special rivals the coverage in our very own article Doctor Who Music ;)

Talking about Doctor Who composers, there isn't a Doctor Who prom this year but Murray Gold's music for the recent David Attenborough series "Life Story" will feature in a special prom on 30th August, with extracts of the series introduced by Sir David himself accompanied by the series soundtrack played live by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

June 23rd - James Horner (1953-2015)

James Horner It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of film composer James Horner. For me he will forever be associated with many sci-fi and fantasy scores of the 1980s and early 1990s: "Battle Beyond the Stars", "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", "Krull", "Cocoon", "Cocoon: The Return", "Aliens", "*batteries not included", "Willow" and "The Rocketeer". However Horner was genuinely prolific and moved easily between genres from family movies like "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" to war dramas like "Glory" and emotional sporting dramas such as "Field of Dreams", and he had a string of huge box-office hits in the 1990s with "Legends of the Fall", "Braveheart", "Apollo 13", "Ransom", "Deep Impact", "The Mask of Zorro" and "Titanic" for which he won 2 oscars, one shared with Will Jennings for the song "My Heart Will Go On". The composer did not slow down in the 21st century with "A Beautiful Mind", "Iris", "The Missing", "Troy", "Apocalypto", "Avatar", "The Karate Kid" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" being just a sample of the highlights. A sad day for film music.

June 22nd - Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack by Andrew Schartmann

Andrew Schartmann: Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack - book cover Do you remember the Super Mario Theme? Of course you do but here's a reminder from youtube of the original game theme and here is a piano version played by Cory Hall. The theme morphed through many different sequels and appeared on lots of other media, but the core theme by Japanese composer Koji Kondo remained the same, and of course there were many different themes for different parts of the gameplay. Now there is a book by musicologist Andrew Schartmann which tells the story of the Super Mario soundtrack! Through this lens Schartmann studies an important period of transition in game music history, as game technology and ambitions grew in scale, so too game soundtracks developed from apparently simple 8-bit beginnings leading inexorably towards major orchestral works. The book can be found at the following links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

June 18th - Doctor Who: Series 8 by Murray Gold

Murray Gold: Doctor Who Series 8 - soundtrack album cover Murray Gold has now been the composer for Doctor Who since the new series started 10 years ago in 2005, and his music is an integral part of the show. This latest album accompanies Peter Capaldi's introductory Series 8. The new incarnation of the Doctor was a little mysterious to begin with - was he good or bad? was he aloof, insensitive or simply alien? - and Gold's theme for the Capaldi doctor is initially more subtle than Matt Smith's but the heroic horns leave no doubt that this is the same Time Lord. CD3 is dedicated to the festive "Last Christmas" and the other 2 CDs cover the remaining episodes. Each episode of Series 8 has its own unique sound, Mystery in "Into the Dalek", comedy in "Robot of Sherwood" or "The Caretaker", suspense in "Time Heist" and moments of Horror and all-out Action in several stories: the sound world can go from electronica to orchestral in an instant. This is a welcome addition to the growing list of Doctor Who music releases and the album can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

April 27th - Bach to Moog by Craig Leon

Craig Leon: Bach to Moog - album cover "Bach to Moog" follows Moog Music's announcement earlier this year to resume manufacture of their large format modular synthesizers, and also marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Moog Music's founder Bob Moog in 2005. Craig Leon is no stranger to genre bending, having transitioned from popular music (he worked with The Ramones and Blondie) to produce classical music in recent years. No project of this nature could be undertaken without reference to "Switched On Bach" by Wendy Carlos which first melded Moog sounds with Bach back in 1968. Leon has wisely chosen a different path by utilising both acoustic (from violinist Jennifer Pike and the Sinfonietta Cracovia) as well as electronic sounds. Interestingly Leon choses to conclude the album with Bach's "14 Canons on the first 8 Notes of the Goldberg Ground" which wasn't discovered until several years after Switched on Bach. "Bach to Moog" will be released on May 4th and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

April 23rd - Avengers: Age of Ultron by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman

Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman - Avengers: Age of Ultron - album cover The decision to have two composers on one film score is always a curious one, and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" has composer credits for both Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman. Danny Elfman is no stranger to superhero movies with Batman, Spiderman and Hulk titles in his CV, and Brian Tyler is the closest we have to a regular Marvel composer having scored "Thor: The Dark World" and "Iron Man 3" both released in 2013. Both men of course have a wealth of experience in scoring genre movies in general from sci-fi and fantasy titles to lots of action thrillers. However the key questions are: Will two composers on this one film work? And will there be any thematic continuity with previous Marvel films? e.g. Alan Silvestri's Avengers Assemble? We will have to wait until May 19th to find out, as this is when the soundtrack album will be available from both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

March 20th - James Horner in conversation

James Horner On Wednesday 29th April James Horner will be the next film composer to appear in the BAFTA series "Conversations with Screen Composers". A prolific composer, Horner has scored more than 130 productions on both the big screen and the small screen. Initially he seemed to follow in the footsteps of Jerry Goldsmith with his scores for Star Trek II (The Wrath of Khan) and III (The Search for Spock), before making a name for himself in movies such as "Cocoon", "* Batteries Not Included", "Aliens" and "Legends of the Fall". He then went on to play a key role in "Apollo 13", "Braveheart", "Titanic", "Avatar", "Glory", "Field of Dreans" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" to name just a few. As with previous events in the series, the interview will take place in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, and tickets and further details can be found at the Royal Albert Hall website.

March 13th - Video Game Music Awards

Video Games Live: Level 4 - album cover The BAFTA Game Awards ceremony was held last night to great fanfare among the gaming community. There are two closely related (and sometimes overlapping) categories for Audio and Music, and frequently the recipient is listed as the "Development Team" rather than named composers. "Alien: Isolation" won for Audio Achievement for its development team, though honourable mention should go to Jerry Goldsmith whose music for the original film was adapted for the game. The Games "Music" category was won for "Far Cry 4" by named composers Cliff Martinez, Tony Gronick and Jerome Angelot. The full list of nominations can be found in our Awards Page for the year. Speaking of Games Music, the Video Games Live show continues to tour in various locations across the globe and their 4th album "Video Games Live - Level 4" can be found at these links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you're quick you can preview 4 of these tracks at Zelda Universe.

March 12th - Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical

"Bend It Like Beckham" the film was a feel-good, comedy drama which explored real social issues in a fun way by challenging assumptions about race, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation. The film's soundtrack was a mix of contemporary pop and Bollywood, but the feel-good factor and ensemble cast made it a natural target for conversion into a musical. The film's director Gurinder Chadha has now realised that ambition and rehearsals are underway for the stage musical to launch in May this year. The music for the show has been written by composer and TV presenter Howard Goodall. The first promotional video release is alongside and the show also has an official website. Here is another video where Gurinder Chadha & Howard Goodall talk about the musical.

February 27th - Valentina Lisitsa Plays Philip Glass

Valentina Lisitsa Plays Philip Glass - album cover Two of my favourite artists come together on the new double album "Valentina Lisitsa Plays Philip Glass". The pianist started as an internet sensation with many millions of views on YouTube. Quickly signed as a recording and touring artist, she has played some of the most demanding works by the likes of Liszt, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Chopin, Prokofiev, and Scriabin. Her soon-to-be-released new album consists of the piano music of Philip Glass and includes Metamorphosis, Mad Rush, Wichita Sutra Vortex, and several tracks from the composer's film scores including "The Truman Show" and "The Hours". For two weeks before the albums release you can listen to it free on Composed but CDs and Downloads will be available fro 9th/10th March at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Perhaps this indicates a new direction for the pianist, since some of her latest youtube videos are works by Michael Nyman!

February 23rd - The Oscar goes to Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alexandre Desplat: The Grand Budapest Hotel Amid strong competition, including his very own The Imitation Game, the oscar for best original score goes to Alexandre Desplat for both The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is a quirky film with lots of style and lots of stars, with a wonderful score by Desplat which seems to capture the zany, surreal qualities of the movie. Congratulations to the composer on his first Oscar win though he has been nominated many times before. Congratulations also to the other nominees including Hans Zimmer for his powerful and emotional score to "Interstellar" (the first of Zimmer's many nominations was for "Rain Man" back in 1988 and he won the award in 1994 for "The Lion King"), and to first time nominees Johann Johannsson for The Theory of Everything and Gary Yershon for "Mr. Turner".

February 20th - Interstellar Live at London's Royal Albert Hall

Hans Zimmer: Interstellar Live Interstellar and its music will be celebrated at a special live screening at the Royal Albert Hall on 30th March 2015. Composer Hans Zimmer will lead a 60-piece orchestra and the hall's massive grand organ through the film score, while the movie is simultaneously shown on the big screen. The event will be introduced by director Christopher Nolan and by Sir Michael Caine, who played Professor John Brand in the film. There will also be a pre-performance talk on the science behind Interstellar from executive producer and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Tickets and further information can be found at the website of the Royal Albert Hall.

February 16th - Explore London's Music Scene, Past and Present

A Musical Map of London While our usual focus at mfiles is on Classical Music or Film Music, we like to occasionally branch out and cover other musical genres. Our latest article is called Exlore London's Music Scene - Past and Present and does exactly what it says on the tin, with a focus on popular music of the past 60 years. London has always attracted great acts and artists. Many of the capital city's venues have hosted some celebrated singers, musicians and groups. The article explores some of those venues to have hosted historic music events by The Who, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. The article also highlights a number of famous locations and landmarks (from Abbey Road to Battersea Power Station) to have featured on album covers. More...

January 16th - Film Awards: Music Categories

Johann Johannsson: The Theory of Everything Hans Zimmer: Interstellar Alexandre Desplat: The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat: The Imitation Game It's awards season again, and winner of the Golden Globe for best original score is Johann Johannsson for The Theory of Everything. Among the nominations for the music BAFTA and Oscar awards are Hans Zimmer for "Interstellar", and Alexandre Desplat for both "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game". See the full set of music nominations.

January 14th - David Arnold in Conversation

David Arnold We've previously reported several events in the BAFTA series "Conversations with Screen Composers" (supported by Avid, owners of Sibelius Software). This series of interviews with film composers takes place in one of the reception rooms of the Royal Albert Hall. The featured composer in the December event was David Arnold, composer of Independence Day, Stargate, Sherlock (the TV series), Amazing Grace, 5 James Bond films and the Musical Director for the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The interview on Soundcloud can be played back below:

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