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There's an interesting story behind an early film score by composer Trevor Jones. George Lucas commissioned Roger Christian to make a short film to be released along with "The Empire Strikes Back". The result was "Black Angel" and seen by people in the UK and some other countries along with the 2nd Star Wars film back in 1980. The film was a medieval fantasy shot in various locations across Scotland and scored Trevor Jones, then an up-and-coming film composer. Since "Black Angel" had a similar setting, it influenced John Boorman when it came to "Excalibur" released the following year in 1981, and Trevor Jones was asked to score Excalibur too. The film negative of Black Angel was thought lost when Rank Film Laboratories closed, but it turned up again in 2011. The film was restored and shown to acclaim at film festivals, and you can now see the complete short film Black Angel on youtube, with an introduction by Roger Christian. The filmmaker is now in pre-production on a feature-length adaptation.
"The Shadow in my Eye" ("Skyggen i mit øje") has so far been released only in Denmark, but hopefully we can soon expect to see it released elsewhere. Based on tragic events in the final months of World War II, the story tells of a British RAF bomb attack on the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, when some bombers mistakenly target a local school with devastating consequences. The movie has had very favourable reviews, and the film trailer on youtube is itself extremely harrowing. However the emotionally charged film score by Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders and Ceiri Torjussen has already been released worldwide. You can find the score here on your preferred download/streaming service, and more about the music can be found on the record label page at Moviescore Media.
"The Bureau of Magical Things" is an Australian TV series though available elsewhere on Amazon. It is a comedy YA series involving magical things, as the title suggests, though in a modern setting. The score is by Australian composer Brett Aplin, and as you might expect a major reference point for listeners is the music of Harry Potter, though with a lighter more comedic touch. The orchestration is dominated with strings and woodwind supported by the likes of harp and celeste. It all makes for a fun score, but there are plenty of darker touches giving overall balance, with some suspense and action, but also more reflective and emotional moments. The full score will be released on 1st December, see these links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, but some individual teaser tracks are already available, including the End Titles on Spotify. Season 2 has now been released, so look out for that too!
Sadly we must report the death of songwriter Stephen Sondheim at the age of 91. Sondheim was almost predestined to get involved in musicals. As a boy he became close friends with James Hammerstein, the son of the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II who was half of the Rogers & Hammerstein partnership. Through the elder Hammerstein, the young Sondheim was introduced to the world of musicals and a number of their creators such as future collaborator Hal Prince. Most people probably became first aware of Sondheim as the lyricist for "West Side Story" possibly the best musical of all time, working with composer Leonard Bernstein. However he went on to be the sole creative force behind several musicals including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", "Company", "Follies", "A Little Night Music" and "Sunday in the Park with George". Cinema tends to be more widely accessible than theatre, and two of Sondheim's stage musicals have in recent years been adapted into film musicals: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "Into the Woods".
The winners of the World Soundtrack Awards were presented this past weekend in Ghent. The Film Composer of the Year Award went to Daniel Pemberton, for his work on "Rising Phoenix", Enola Holmes and "The Trial of the Chicago 7". The Television Composer of the Year was Carlos Rafael Rivera for his work on "The Queen's Gambit" and "Hacks" (Season 1). The Best Original Song was awarded to "Call me Cruella" (from Cruella) written by Nicholas Britell (who also scored the movie), Florence Welch, Steph Jones, Jordan Powers and Taura Stinson. The Discovery of the Year award went to Nainita Desai for her score to the documentary "The Reason I Jump", which we mentioned in this blog back in June. Other awards went to Benji Merrison (Public Choice Award), Dougal Kemp (Best Original Composition by a Young Composer) and Eleni Karaindrou (Lifetime Achievement Award). Check out more on the World Soundtrack Awards News page.
First a belated mention that the composer Mikis Theodorakis passed away last month at the age of 96. His music was wide-ranging including Symphonies, Plays, Ballets, Operas and Chamber Music mostly using elements of traditional Greek music. But he is best known for his film scores especially "Zorba the Greek" and "Serpico". The next mention is for the composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse who died yesterday. The London-based Bricusse co-wrote a number of film and stage musicals often with his writing partner the late Anthony Newley. The most famous of these included "Doctor Doolittle", "Peter Pan", "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and "Scrooge". He often co-wrote or contributed lyrics for songs such as "Feeling Good" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (with Newley), Bond Songs "Goldfinger" and "You Only Live Twice" (with John Barry) and with John Williams he wrote "Somewhere in My Memory" for "Home Alone", and "Can You Read My Mind?" the Love Theme from "Superman" as well as songs for "Hook".
Back in 2019 we posted a review of Jonathan Galland's score for the animated short called "The Ribbon". You can find that score review here. The film, written and directed by Polla-Ilariya Kozino, has performed very well on the festival circuit, winning numerous awards. The film itself has now been released in full (little more than 4 minutes in length) on youtube. Find the movie at this link: The Ribbon.
"Roadkill" the TV series shown in late 2020 was about a politician and his complex relationships. It starred Hugh Laurie and the late Helen McCrory in one of her last roles. The series was notable for its well-rounded multi-dimensional characters and for its music by Harry Escott, a worthy winner of the Best Original Music at the BAFTA TV Craft awards! The composer used a small Jazz Combo of Piano, Bass, Clarinet, Drumkit and Percussion. The music is quirky, jazzy, dark yet bordering on whimsical, often rhythmic, sometimes thoughtful and occasionally strident. There is a main theme but it is constantly evolving. This excellent score is now available to download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. There is also some piano sheet music available from this link at Faber.
I've previously mentioned "Q The Music Show" in this Blog. They are a very accomplished James Bond tribute Band who have entertained people for many years. Sadly on this occasion I report that the Band have announced their farewell tour, with their final concerts scheduled for 2022. I attended their first West End Concert at the Adelphi Theatre in London, and it looks as though the Theatre will again host the Band for their final concert in 2022. Other concert dates and locations for 2021 and 2022 are listed on the Band's website. This is your last chance to hear them live! In the meantime here is their rendition of "Nobody Does It Better":
"The Edge of the Sea" album consists of two works, both collaborations by Craig Armstrong and Calum Martin based around the tradition of Gaelic psalm singing in the Western Isles of Scotland. Gaelic psalm singing is normally performed acapella, but in these works the composers have added supporting instrumental accompaniment and some entirely instrumental movements from a small string ensemble. The first work on the album is called "Ballantyne", and was commissioned by An Lanntair, the Arts Centre in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The album's second work "Martyrdom" was composed first for an initial performance at Edinburgh Castle, and it uses a traditional hymn tune of the same name. The whole album is beautiful and deeply moving and can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
"The Reason I Jump" is a documentary film (based on a book by Naoki Higashida) which aims to give an insight into the world as experienced by non-verbal autistic young people. Although context is provided through the relatives of those on the autistic spectrum, the film aims to convey their own inner experiences through thought-provoking imagery. The music score by Nainita Desai adds an important dimension to that imagery to bring these unusual and sometimes overwhelming experiences to life. The score is an impressionistic mix of traditional instruments (particularly strings) with found sounds and a range of auditory effects. For example some tracks splice brief segments of speech in a way that might suggest a confusion of thought or a struggle to communicate, though sometimes these seemingly random snippets will coalesce briefly into a section of lucid song. The film has won awards on the festival circuit and is now on release in many countries. The OST album is equally powerful and available on vinyl plus to stream/download on the usual platforms, including Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Christophe Beck is probably best-known for the "Frozen" movies, where he provided the film scores to go along with the songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Among his other wide-ranging film score credits he has the two Ant-Man movies for Marvel. He recently brought those experiences together for the Marvel television series "WandVision" for which the Lopez song-writing duo also wrote various songs. The production references lots of TV series from various decades with a lot of early focus on shows like Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Initially it seems like Wanda and Vision are stuck in some kind of period TV sitcom, but then strange things start to happen. Christopher Beck captures this mystery expertly in the show's end credits, and in many ways this is the stand-out piece of music from the show. You can sample and download the track from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Many thanks to Marco Werba. I'm very pleased to have contributed the liner notes for the composer's limited edition promotional CD release of his score to "Giallo". Giallo was premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009 and released later that year. The film was directed by Dario Argento (best known for his horror movies) and starred Adrian Brody, Emmanuelle Seigner and Elsa Pataky. The original CD (released by Kronos Records) had 28 score tracks and 2 bonus tracks which were remixes of the Giallo theme - this was reviewed here on mfiles. The new release builds on this with a further 2 bonus tracks. One is a piano version played by Claire Delerue, the daughter of the composer Georges Delerue, and the other is a concert suite of music from the film.
If you've not yet come across the movie "Nomadland", it is the multiple Oscar-winning film based on the book by Jessica Bruder, adapted for the screen and directed by Chloé Zhao. It features another mesmerising performance by Frances McDormand, and the soundtrack puts together music from multiple sources. Several tracks are by Italian composer/pianist Ludovico Einaudi and he has the credit "Featuring the Music of Ludovico Einaudi" rather than "Composer" presumably because the music wasn't written to screen but taken from existing albums. You've almost certainly heard his music on movies, TV, adverts and trailers as it has frequently been used during the past decade or two. The soundtrack album has 4 of the composer's tracks and can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
You might or might not have heard of NFTs (or "non-fungible tokens"). They are digital assets which have certifiable ownership using blockchain technology. A number of visual artists have released works using the technology, and musicians are also now exploring the possibilities. Aphex Twin, Deadmau5, Kings of Leon and the rapper Lil Pump are all said to be releasing albums in this way. It is a way of creating a limited edition of a digital item which cannot be forged. Now the first film score has been released as an NFT. A couple of years ago we published a review of a film score album called Orphans & Kingdoms by the composer Giovanni Rotondo. The composer has now released this album in two forms, a limited edition of 100 with high quality music from the movie (including a 20-minute previously unreleased track), and multiple HD graphic and video files of the custom made artwork! There is also a unique version (limited edition of 1) which includes the same materials but also a "signed confession of theft". If this intrigues you, view and bid for these items (a world exclusive) at the links provided! See the composer's own blog post for more information about the technology and how he came to be the first soundtrack composer to use it.
BAFTA have now announced the final Game awards, with the Game Music Award going to John Paesano, Scott Hanau and Alex Hackford for Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales. But before the announcement a Zoom call of the nominees was conducted with Louise Bain interviewing Joe Thwaites, Ilan Eshkeri, Gustavo Santaolalla, Gareth Coker, Darren Korb & Joe Paesano as sole or lead composers for their respective nominated Game scores. That Zoom session is available on youtube, and it is interesting to see some common threads across these very unique games, with some noteable differences in the music approach. (Best viewed full screen!)
The Film industry (like many others) has been severely impacted by the pandemic during 2020 and into 2021, affecting many aspects of film production and theatrical releases. Most of the key Film Awards have also been affected, with delays in the selection process and online or restricted presentation ceremonies. Nevertheless the Golden Globes have been and gone, and the BAFTA and Oscar nominations have now been announced. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross beat themselves to win the Golden Globe for Best Score for "Soul" (with their score for "Mank" also nominated) alongside Jon Batiste who arranged and recorded the Jazz sessions for "Soul". Those same two films are also in the running in the Original Score category for both BAFTA and Oscar, so Reznor and Ross are well-placed for multiple awards this year. Winning the Golden Globe in the Original Song category is "Io sì (Seen)" sung by Laura Pausini on the soundtrack for "The Life Ahead", an Italian produced film released on Netflix and starring Sophia Loren. Here is the song's official music video. Check out Film Music Awards 2021 for the nominations so far, and this page will be updated as winners are announced.
Kenneth Branagh and regular collaborator composer Patrick Doyle are no strangers to the world of Shakespeare, having created many adaptations of his plays. But "All is True" is different, being a fictional tale (written by Ben Elton) about the playwright his family. The film stars Branagh as the playwright, Judi Dench as his wife, and Ian McKellen. The story is set towards the end of the bard's life, and deals with family relationships and the earlier death of his son. Given this strained domestic setting it is not surprising that some of the music is sombre in tone. However much of it is lyrical and pleasing in a folksy way. The focus seems to be on piano and strings with added Virginal to give a little period flavour. Doyle is good at capturing simplicity, and there is a recurring elegiac melody which later becomes the music for Shakespeare's "Fear No More" as sung by Doyle's daughter Abigail. This is followed by another beautiful melody for "I Know a Bank", with the lingering impression that this is about peace and reconciliation for a previously dysfunctional family. The album for "All is True" is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
"The Way of Light" is a new album by composer Nigel Hess. Though Hess is best known as a composer for film and television, this album brings together a range of stand-alone music albeit with some connections to the big screen. The album kicks off with "A Celebration Overture" very much akin to John Williams' non-film 'event music' such as for various Olympic Games. Hess's "Kyrie" is a marked contrast for a capella voices based on his theme for the movie "Ladies in Lavender" with a glorious part for Soprano. "March Barnes Wallis" is a fine military march commemmorating the inventor of the bouncing bomb, and the music has 'flying' written all over it. The "Jesu Joy variations" is the work made famous by Nigel's great-aunt the celebrated pianist Dame Myra Hess. Bach's original music is frequently unrecognisable under romantic pianistic flourishes and touches of jazz. "The Old Man of Lochnagar Suite" comes from Hess' music for a ballet based on the book by Prince Charles and first performed by the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain. The three movements kick off with some spirited dance music very much a cousin of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring". This is performed with a large theatre orchestra led by woodwinds and augmented by Scottish instruments in the form of bagpipes and fiddle. These initial tracks are just a sample of the album's contents and the album continues to surprise, move and entertain the listener until it closes with the title track "The Way of Light" which is like the grand finale of a lavish musical theatre production. The album is released on Friday 5th February at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
It seems difficult to influence big issues like climate change, but we can all make a difference. A Swedish schoolgirl is an exceptional example but with "Do You Hear Me?" saxophonist Alastair Penman is aiming to do his bit as an influencer, and 50% of the proceeds will be donated to Environmental charities. The EP consists of 4 tracks, most with something of a jazzy vibe thanks to the composer's saxophones: "Do you hear me?" is a funky experimental affair with shades of the Radiophonic Workshop. "Our house is on Fire" quotes Greta Thunberg and has something of an fun upbeat, pop rock feel. The video for "Ignorant Complicity" has some uncomfortable video images from today's meat producers, while its music feels close to some of the more amelodic score sections from Bernstein's West Side Story. The final track "Change is Coming" starts with a morse-code introduction which morphs into an ambient background like Philip Glass in pointillist mode with Penman's sax riffs over the top. The music has some important messages but can equally be enjoyed for its own sake. You can preview the videos on the composer's youtube playlist or you can make a small difference purchasing the CD or download versions at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
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For older posts, the archive pages are 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.