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It is with the deepest regret that I report the death of Ennio Morricone at the age of 91. Morricone's was a unique voice in the world of film music. He was famous for the Dollars Films and other spaghetti westerns, but also scored "The Mission", "Cinema Paradiso", "The Professional", "Once Upon a Time in America", "The Untouchables" and "Maddalena" among many others, often introducing unusual sounds and a pop sensibility to classical orchestral music. 10 years ago I had the pleasure to attend one of his live concerts in London. To celebrate the Maestro's music, here are two sublime tracks in a concert setting: "Ecstacy of Gold" from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission".
The multi-award-winning Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir is to give a Composition Masterclass as part of the BAFTA series of events featuring composers from across various media including film, television and video games. Due to ongoing restrictions, this particular event will be held as a Webinar and will take place at 4pm on July 1st 2020. To register for the event go to the registration page at BAFTA Zoom on Youtube.
"Fresh Air... Breathe In" and "Fresh Air... Breathe out" are a new double album compilation released in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic by Air Edel through Besant Hall Records. All the proceeds from Sales, Downloads & Streams will go to the not-for-profit charity "Breathe Arts Health Research". There is a close fit with soundtrack albums, the music often relaxing and evocative, yet with plenty of variety in terms of genre and instrumentation. Several film composers are represented including: Patrick Doyle, Cliff Eidelman, Lisa Gerrard and Dario Marianelli, and the likes of "Western Whistle" by Steve Isles has a definite Morricone vibe. The albums are available via most download & streaming services, including:
We regret to report the death of Lennie Niehaus at the age of 90. Niehaus was a jazz saxophonist who played and arranged for bands and recording artists during the 1950s, before moving into film music during the 1960s. Initially he worked as orchestrator for Jerry Fielding, orchestrating many of his film scores of the period, before establishing a friendship with Clint Eastwood whose films he had worked on. When Eastwood moved increasingly into directing Niehaus began to score his films with the likes of "Pale Rider" and "Heartbreak Ridge". One of their most significant collaborations from a music perspective was the award-winning "Bird", a biopic of the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker (played by Forest Whitaker) allowing Niehaus to return to his roots. When Eastwood began scoring his own films, Niehaus returned to the role of orchestrator.
For those who like creating music on their computers, the latest version of "FL Studio" from Image-Line has a great new facility which allows you to create music videos to showcase your music tracks. There are a lot of pre-existing templates which you can use as they stand, or adapt them to suit your own purposes, or in some cases you can incorporate your own material. As you might expect it takes some time to render a video but the results are very good. I've used the facility on some of my own tracks and uploaded the results to youtube. The video alongside shows a balloon gently drifting across a landscape to a ragtime waltz by Scott Joplin. While if you want something scary, here's an Evil Eye reacting to Purcell's Funeral March for Queen Mary. More examples can be found on my Youtube Channel.
While in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are inspired by music. Debbie Wiseman is the Composer in Residence for Classic FM and has composed a piece of music under the title of "Together" with the aim to get people playing and sharing their interpretations. This page on the Classic FM website explains everything and invites you to download the sheet music. It is available in two versions for the piano, but you can play on any instrument or instruments, and everyone is invited to send in their own interpretation. Here is my version on Youtube. Other versions can be found on Youtube and the Classic FM twitter account.
"Memories from a Sea View" is a new album by Kostas Boukouvalas. While not strictly a film score, it is very much in the tradition of that genre and it's easy to imagine a dramatic narrative to the overall album. Piano dominates several tracks and earlier tracks suggest the minimalist music of Einaudi or Nyman with hints of Tiersen and Glass. However other instruments and stylistic differences hint at broader influences. The music is always evocative on a scale from dreamy to emotional, and these tracks could easily accompany film and television dramas. The album is released on the "Off" record label and you can listen to it or download it here on the Off website, and here is the composer's website.
For those who haven't heard the name before, Lev Yashin (1929–1990) was a famous Russian goalkeeper who revolutionised the goalkeeping aspect of the sport. He is often considered as the greatest ever goalkeeper, nicknamed "The Black Spider" because of his dark outfit. He came to international fame when the 1958 World Cup was broadcast internationally and he won many awards and accolades. "Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper" is a biographical film dramatising the footballer's life and career. It has a moving score by the composer George Kallis and you can hear a medley from the score here on youtube. Ths score is inspired by cinema music from the 1960s when Yashin was at the height of his fame, largely orchestral with some electronic and choral elements (inspired by Russian choirs). The album is available to download from these links on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
We regret to announce that the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki has died at the age of 86. He composed 8 symphonies, a number of concertos for various solo instruments, operas, vocal, religious and chamber works. Some of his best-known works commemmorated international tragedies including a "Dies Irae" for the victims of Auschwitz and his "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima". In film music circles, although he composed some scores directly for films, his music is better known for its use and adaptation in several popular films. A particular example is "The Shining" which used a number of his works, but his music was also used on the likes of "The Exorcist", "Children of Men", "Shutter Island" and "Ready Player One" as well as TV Series including "Twin Peaks" and "Black Mirror".
It seems like a long time ago that Benjamin Grosvenor became the youngest ever winner of the keyboard section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004 (at the age of 11). Since then the pianist has given recitals across the world (including a tour of China and a First Night of the Proms) with many major orchestras and conductors, and has also found time to record a string of albums. His latest album consists of the Piano Concertos by Frederic Chopin, No.1 in Em and No.2 in Fm, recorded with young conductor Elim Chan (who is only a few years older than the pianist) and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (for which she is the Principal Guest Conductor). In this recording Grosvenor's performance comes across as effortlessly smooth and delicate, but it sparkles where it needs to. The album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Beethoven's is not the only anniversary in 2020, since it also marks the 20th anniversary of the mfiles website. The image below shows 4 different styles of the top navigation menu as it has evolved over the years:
Of course the internet has also evolved considerably over the last 20 years, and the mfiles website has tried to keep pace. In addition to the ongoing growth of our content, major underlying changes have included the introduction of PDF sheet music to replace GIFs, many guest contributors, more images and illustrations, social media pages, videos on youtube, https security, and responsive design. On a personal note, during the past 20 years I've become a grandad and I've also retired from full-time employment - twice! So here's to the next 20 years!
2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Widely recognised as a cultural icon, Ludwig van Beethoven is considered to have single-handedly launched the music's Romantic Era, and established a set of standards and ideals which many subsequent composers have struggled to match. He is such a key figure in the development of classical music that his anniversary will be celebrated in many ways, with concerts, recordings and festivals devoted to his music. Curiously Beethoven originally thought he was born in 1772 and it wasn't until he was an established composer that he discovered he was actually born in 1770. Even then his exact birth date is not know for certain, and all we can say is that he was "probably" born on 16th Dec 1770. You can find a range of Beethoven sheet music and audio on mfiles, including complete movements from his 5th, 6th & 7th Symphonies, movements from piano and violin sonatas, and various other piano pieces and arrangements for different instruments. More...
The Golden Globes have already taken place, with the "Original Score" award going to Hildur Guðnadóttir for her score to "Joker". The composer has also recently scored the TV series "Chernobyl" and the film "Sicario: Day Of The Soldado", sequel to "Sicario" on which she performed the cello solos for her fellow Icelandic composer the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. The other Golden Globe Score nominees were Alexandre Desplat, Randy Newman, Thomas Newman and Daniel Pemberton. The Oscar score nominations look very similar with the exception that John Williams is nominated for the final "Star Wars" film rather than Daniel Pemberton. The BAFTA "original music" nominations are similar to the Oscar ones with the exception that Michael Giacchino is nominated for "Jojo Rabbit" rather than Randy Newman. See our Film Music Awards page for the full story including the Original Song awards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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!
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.
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.
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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