Jim's Blog - 2019:

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December 19th - Frank Ilfman: Rory's Way (The Etruscan Smile)

Frank Ilfman: Rory's Way (The Etruscan Smile) - album cover We've previously mentioned film scores by composer Frank Ilfman. A recent soundtrack release by Ilfman is "Rory's Way" or "The Etruscan Smile" which has done well on the Festival Circuit. I've not seen the film, but Brian Cox plays Rory MacNeil who travels from his native Scotland to San Francisco for medical treatment. He moves in with his estranged son, and forms a bond with his baby grandson. The music balances Rory's Scottish roots with hints of folk music, and depicts Rory's emotional journey through coping with his medical condition and his family relationships, though there is some lighter humour too. The scoring is mainly orchestral with added piano and penny whistle, but frequently intimate in nature using just a few instruments. Although it can be found on Amazon.co.uk (on CD) and Amazon.com (for download) you may want to check out alternative options at Kronos Records & MovieScore Media.

December 10th - Burn by Ceiri Torjussen

Ceiri Torjussen: Burn - album cover There is much to enjoy in the soundtrack for the 2019 thriller "Burn" written and directed by Mike Gan. The music is written by Welsh-born composer Ceiri Torjussen who has a growing list of film and TV credits from both sides of the Atlantic. The "Burn" score is an eclectic mix of minimalist styles. While the opening gypsy violin returns later on, there are plenty of intervening electronic atmospheres and drones, with solo cello and a string section. However we also hear some percussive beats over a simple chord progression, with tonal layers ranging from classical to gritty to funky. The soundtrack album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com or on Apple Music (iTunes). The composer's official website is at ceiri.com.

November 20th - Stranger Things 3 by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein: Stranger Things 3 - album cover I'm currently enjoying the retro-80s inspired music from "Stranger Things" which of course is set in the 1980s. The songs are also from this decade but it is primarily the score tracks that I enjoy. These use 80s synths to get the authentic sound of the era, with some tracks sounding like they could be backing-tracks for the songs, with others approaching retro-EDM with sound-design elements, and euphoria-like pulsing tracks reminiscent of the music from some sci-fi classics of the era. We are now onto Season 3 of the Netflix series, with Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein (of the electronic band "Survive") providing the music throughout all 3 seasons. It was also good to hear the music hall favourite Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) making a plot point as the fairground-style music for the Indiana Flyer. The Season 3 album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

November 11th - Mutter and Williams: Across the Stars

Mutter and Williams: Across the Stars - album cover Continuing the Classical/Film Music crossover topic from last month, we must recommend "Across the Stars" a new album by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter playing music by John Williams. At Mutter's instigation, the two have collaborated on the album's tracks and Williams has re-scored his film music to showcase the violin and its interplay with the orchestra. There is much familiar music here, but some track choices are surprising and welcome. Interestingly the CD booklet mentions that 2 of the tracks were suggested by the late Andre Previn who was of course Williams' friend and Mutter's ex-husband. The album is not just another soundtrack collection but a completely new way to appreciate Williams' film music, and Mutter's playing is everything you would expect and more. The album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

October 24th - Danny and Jonny: Classical Composers

Danny Elfman: Eleven Eleven - album cover While many film composers receive a "classical" music education, a number of well-known screen composers started out as songwriters or musicians in the world of "pop music". Danny Elfman was the frontman for genre-hopping group Oingo Boingo, and Jonny Greenwood is still best-known as the lead singer of Radiohead (though curiously in both cases the bands were founded by their older brothers). Recently both composers have demonstrated their classical credentials: Greenwood was commissioned by the BBC to compose "Horror vacui" for solo violin and strings which received its world premiere at this year's Proms in September (BBC Music excerpt on youtube). For his part Elfman's Violin Concerto "Eleven Eleven" has been recorded and released by Sony Classical, and is available on an album with his Piano Quartet at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (Sony promo video on youtube).

October 16th - Nainita Desai: Untamed Romania

Nainita Desai: Untamed Romania - album cover The composer Nainita Desai has had a phenomenal few years in terms of recognition for her work. She has composed music for many TV shows and some movies over the years, before becoming a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2016. Since then she has scored a number of movies including "Darkness Visible", "Enemy Within" & "For Sama" and the video game "Telling Lies", all without seemingly dialling back on her television work. A number of her scores have already been released for download and now her award-winning score for the film "Untamed Romania" has also been released by Silva Screen. Although Desai is known for her range of music genres including several ethnic-influenced scores, "Untamed Romania" is largely scored for orchestra but with occasional extras. The album is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The composer's website is at www.nainitadesai.com.

October 14th - Jonathan Galland's score for The Ribbon

When we published our review of Jonathan Galland's score for The Ribbon we mentioned that the score might be published soon. Well, it is available now! You can download the full score (including bonus track) on most online music platforms, and here are example links on Amazon.co.uk, on Amazon.com, and on iTunes. Even better, you can preview the whole score on youtube, alongside or here at Jonathan Galland: The Ribbon.

September 25th - The Chattering Order of St. Beryl

Neatly tying in with last week's review of David Arnold's wonderful score for Good Omens, "The Chattering Order of St. Beryl" have released a fun album called "Unholy Night (Music Inspired by Good Omens)". These singing nuns of the antichrist will never reach the charts, but are excellent choristers letting their hair down. Book-ended by a prologue and epilogue the album contains 5 or 6 song tracks: "O Fortuna" (introduction only), Queen's "We Are the Champions", "Good Omens" (to the tune of "Angel's We Have Heard On High"), "That Brand New Baby Smell" (to "John Brown's Body"), "Ode to Antichristmas" (various carols), and Queen's "Somebody to Love". The album can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The video alongside features "That Brand New Baby Smell" with a cameo from Neil Gaiman, and youtube also has Somebody to Love.

August 12th - mfiles website improvements

mf (mfiles) logo We have today made some improvements to the mfiles website. The main change is that the website is "responsive" meaning that it will adjust to the size of the particular device you are using, so visitors using phones or tablets should now have a more friendly experience. We have also taken the opportunity to make other improvements at the same time to the general layout, with particular focus on readability. The site now uses different fonts with larger and better spaced text to make things easier to find and to read. The content should be largely the same, though you may find things in a different position particularly on smaller devices. Inevitably with a change of this nature, there may be some teething problems which we will find and fix as soon as possible. If you discover any problems please let us know via the email support@mfiles.co.uk.

August 5th - Barrington Pheloung (1954 - 2019)

Barrington Pheloung Sadly we report the death of the composer Barrington Pheloung at the age of 65. Pheloung has made musical contributions to multiple media including film, television, video games and the theatre. To many people his music will be strongly associated with the TV series "Inspector Morse" including its sequel series "Lewis" and its prequel series "Endeavour", and music for all three series (which between them have spanned more than 3 decades of TV broadcasting) has been released on albums. His consistent approach for these series was to include or adapt a number of classical works, and balance these with his own tracks which might sometimes quote or reference the classical material. Pheloung's musical wit not only included the morse code for "MORSE" in the theme music for the original series, but also included some morse code tips and clues within the incidental music.

July 18th - The Flood by Billy Jupp

Billy Jupp: The Flood - soundtrack album cover "The Flood" is a British made film drama about an immigration officer investigating the case of an asylum seeker. The drama stars both Lena Headey and Iain Glen from "Game of Thrones", plus Ivanno Jeremiah from "Humans" and Mandip Gill from "Doctor Who". The film score is by English composer Billy Jupp who has gone for a largely ambient approach, which can often let dramas tell their own story with a subtle but immersive sound world. He uses a hybrid acoustic and electronic pallet with rhythmic beats and string drones laying out atmospheres with melodic fragments. Occasional tracks enhance the audio experience with female vocals or piano/keys before returning to the core pallet. There is an underlying simplicity to the construction but regularly building to a dramatic intensity, all held together by a sonic consistency of instrumentation and recurring melodic threads. Definitely worth a listen, the soundtrack is available to stream and download from a variety of online sources including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

June 24th - Anna and the Apocalypse

Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly: Anna and the Apocalypse - album cover There is no doubt that film musicals are doing exceptionally well in recent years. Even if you exclude the Disney live action remakes we've had "La La Land", "The Greatest Showman" and "A Star is Born", biographical musicals with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Rocketman" plus sequels to musicals "Mama Mia" and "Mary Poppins". We'd like to give a mention to a recent musical which might have escaped your notice. "Anna and the Apocalypse" is perhaps not suitable for younger children but is described as "Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land" and brings a lot of fun and humour to the zombie genre. While lots of central characters become infected, it still manages to exude feel-good charm. Set in a school in Scotland, the songs are by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly and the movie was recognised by the Edinburgh International Film Festival and BAFTA Scottish Awards. The soundtrack is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and the DVD is now out at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

June 3rd - David Attenborough: My Field Recordings from Across the Planet

David Attenborough: My Field Recordings from Across the Planet - album cover This is an album of World Music with a difference! "Zoo Quest" was a TV Series presented by David Attenborough in the 1950s and into the early 60s. As part of this he travelled (with people from London Zoo) to various parts of the world in search of particular animals. He also has a strong interest in observing human cultures and with a tape recorder recorded many examples of local Music during his travels. This double album collection releases for the first time those World Music recordings, including examples from Sierra Leone, Guyana, Indonesia, Paraguy, Tonga, Polynesia & Melanesia, Madagascar and Australia's Northern Territory. As Attenborough points out certain parts of the world were yet to be influenced by Western music styles, so this collection is a rare opportunity to find largely pure indigenous music. The package has extensive notes about each of the locations and tracks, and is beautifully illustrated with photos taken on the trips. The album can be found at these links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

April 25th - How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World by John Powell

John Powell - How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World - film score album cover "How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World" is the final film in a superb movie trilogy, with great animation, well-rounded characters and believable folklore loosely based around a convergence of fantasy vikings and dragons. Returning to score the third film is composer John Powell who also scored the previous two, and his music has been central to the creation of the fantasy world with engaging tunes ranging from soaring dragon flight to intense emotional moments. The music has a touch of celtic folk traditions, underlined by the use of the "Red Hot Chilli Pipers", and no doubt the songs by Jónsi of Sigur Rós fame contribute subtly through the Icelandic-Norse relationship to the Viking connection. The standout melodies from the previous 2 films return to round off one of the most memorable film music trilogies. The score album is available at these links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

March 19th - Q The Music Show: James Bond Concert Spectacular

I've mentioned "Q The Music Show" before when I first discovered their videos online, but now I've seen this exceptional James Bond Tribute Band live in Concert this past weekend. It was in fact for their first ever West End Concert at the Adelphi Theatre in London, but they have many other dates planned throughout 2019. The show includes a full programme of music and songs from the first Bond movie "Dr. No" right up to the most recent films. As a sample here's a recent video of singer Kerry Schultz singing "Skyfall" with the Band. For other opportunities to see the show, the band website provides their 2019 Tour Dates mostly in the UK but including one at Piz Gloria in Switzerland which was the setting for the movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Our James Bond Music page will remind you just how many films & theme songs there are!

February 28th - André Previn (1929 - 2019)

Andre Previn - Alone: Ballads for Piano - album cover We regret to report the death of André Previn at the age of 89. Though born in Germany, his family emigrated to America before WWII broke out and he later became an American citizen. Previn was an extraordinary musician who seemed to have many careers in the music business. Firstly he was a talented pianist and performed widely as both a jazz and a classical pianist. Secondly he was highly respected as a conductor and interpreter of classical music. He became principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and held that post for a number of years with many performances and recordings under his belt. And thirdly he worked extensively in the stage and film business as composer, arranger, conductor and musical director overseeing many productions with a particular flair for musicals such as Gigi, Porgy and Bess, Kismet, My Fair Lady and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Many in the UK and elsewhere will remember his TV appearances on the Morecambe and Wise Show.

February 25th - Awards Roundup in Film Music

oscar statuette At the Oscars, the headline win for film music in the Original Score category was Ludwig Göransson for his music to Black Panther, one of 3 wins for the film making it the first Marvel film to be awarded an oscar. In the Original Song category the win went to Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt for their song "Shallow" from "A Star is Born" and the song was performed live by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper who virtually masterminded the movie as Actor, Singer, Songwriter, Writer, Director and Producer. Also showing his versatility was the composer John Ottman who won an oscar in his capacity as Film Editor for Bohemian Rhapsody. Another composer to get a mention was Kris Bowers who scored the movie "Green Book", who was thanked by Mahershala Ali in his Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech for teaching the actor how to play the piano and serving as stage double for some close-up shots of his hands for musically demanding scenes. Best wishes too to all the worthy runners-up, and here is our summary of this years Film Music Awards.

January 15th - Jazz in Film Scores

Composers such as Alex North and Elmer Bernstein used jazz in film scores back in the 1950s. However this broad genre from relaxed lounge music to rhythmic funk, edgy experimental jazz or exuberant big band swing became something of a specialist style in film music. While the themes of some franchises such as "James Bond" and "Mission Impossible" have a jazz origin, their films in general have moved on stylistically. It has been left to Michael Giacchino on "The Incredibles" (1 and 2), Daniel Pemberton on "Ocean's 8", and Benjamin Wallfisch on "King of Thieves" to keep the genre alive. Nevertheless it is surprising for jazz to make an appearance in a Romantic Comedy, but Brian Tyler includes some jazz in "Crazy Rich Asians" particularly the big band track "Text Ting Swing". Here is the composer conducting (and part performing) this track in concert.

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For older posts, the archive pages are Jim's Blog 2022, Jim's Blog 2021, Jim's Blog 2020, Jim's Blog 2019, Jim's Blog 2018, Jim's Blog 2017, Jim's Blog 2016, Jim's Blog 2015, Jim's Blog 2014, Jim's Blog 2013, Jim's Blog 2012, Jim's Blog 2011, Jim's Blog 2010, and Jim's Blog 2009.