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Composing music is a highly developed art-form requiring proficiency in a wide range of technical skills. To be a composer you also need years of dedicated study, lots of musical talent, and some inspiration also helps. Or does it? The latest AI composers challenge that notion. Although music composition has long been attempted in computer software, recent AI compositions are hard to distinguish from the work of human composers. AIVA (one such AI composer based in Luxembourg) has a strong list of compositions for different media, has a first album available to download, and is available for commissions - if you can afford it! Here is Aiva's Youtube channel and Soundcloud channel, and a selected sample of creations is available on Aiva's website.
In 2016 we reviewed a score for the New Zealand set film Orphans & Kingdoms. Its composer Giovanni Rotondo has recently scored a TV Movie called "Il Confine" which was given a primetime screening in Italy in May and a theatrical cut was also shown in London at a screening hosted by the composer himself. The Movie marks Giovanni Rotondo's 2nd collaboration with director Carlo Carlei, since he also scored his a previous TV Movie "Il giudice meschino" in 2014. The latest TV movie "Il Confine" is set in WWI with the story covering the joy and pain of relationships strained under the circumstances of war. While the soundtrack has some elements of electronic music the overriding impression is of a thematic, symphonic orchestral score enhanced by a range of solo voices, violin, cello and piano. The score is now available to stream or download from the usual sites (iTunes, Spotify, etc.) including Amazon.co.uk.
Prolific French composer Philippe Sarde is to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 18th World Soundtrack Awards this October. The event will take place at the World Soundtrack Awards Gala at Film Fest Gent. In his long career the composer is known for the quality and variety of his music, ranging from rich symphonic work to pure jazz. Sarde has worked with many world-famous directors including Claude Sautet, Bertrand Tavernier, Yves Boisset, André Téchiné, Roman Polanski, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Marco Ferreri, Jacques Doillon and Robert Bresson. The Gala Concert will also include music by Carter Burwell and Nicholas Britell, and be given by the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by Dirk Brossé in the presence of Philippe Sarde, Carter Burwell & Nicholas Britell. More details and tickets can be found at www.WorldSoundtrackAwards.com.
Austin Wintory is the latest composer to appear in the series of talks called "BAFTA Conversations with Screen Composers". Wintory is probably best known for his music to video games, starting with the likes of "Flow" and "Journey" and continuing with several titles in "The Banner Saga" series, "Assassin's Creed: Syndicate", "Abzu" and "Tooth and Tail". However he also has a long list of film credits (including "Bullet Head", "The Last Movie Star" and "The Assassin's Code"), and several for television (including "Giants"). Wintory's discussion will be taking a detailed look at the creative process of music composition, and the session will also include a live art and music item where the composer will work with Angela Bermudez, the acclaimed Costa Rican artist. The event will take place in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 29th May. More details at this page on the BAFTA website.
"Ghost Stories" is an anthology style film now on general release, starring Andy Nyman (co-writer and co-director), Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther. The music is composed by Frank Ilfman whose score for Abulele we previously reviewed on mfiles. Horror scores can sometimes major on strange unsettling sounds and loud bangs, but Ilfman's approach is much more melodic. It provides the film with a moody, mysterious atmosphere, which makes it much more enjoyable as a pure listening experience. We understand parts of the score were played to the actors on set, and it's easy to imagine this contributing to the film's tone. The score album can be found at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com where you can also preview the music tracks. By coincidence one of Ilfman's previous horror scores features on another new album. "The Kronos Files" has music from 5 film scores played by a String Quintet and solo voice, with music from Ilfman's "Big Bad Wolves" as the album's first track "Dark Fairytale". This album will be released later this month and details can be found on the Kronos Records website.
We regret to report that the composer Arthur B. Rubinstein has died. He worked solidly throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s in the world of Television: on several TV Series (e.g. "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" starring Bruce Bruce Boxleitner, "Bring 'Em Back Alive" and "The Wizard"), scoring a huge number of TV Movies ("The Heist" with Pierce Brosnan, "Once Upon a Texas Train" with Willie Nelson, and "The Princess Stallion") and Documentaries ("Eastwood on Eastwood" and "The Men Who Made the Movies" series). He is best known for a string of successful movies during the 1980s including "War Games", "Blue Thunder", "Whose Life Is It Anyway?", "Lost in America", "Nick of Time", "Stakeout", "Another Stakeout", and "The Hard Way" with many of these being with the director John Badham. Rubinstein also composed for many Theatre Productions and acted as Musical Director for several stage musical productions. More recently he composed a number of concert pieces and he founded the "Symphony In The Glen" held in Los Angeles, whose outdoor free concerts aimed to introduce classical music to children and families. The composer's official website is at www.arthurbrubinstein.com.
We recently reviewed the score for Red Sparrow, a film set in Russia, observing the possible musical influences. Another Russian film I've recently found is "The Death of Stalin" scored by British composer Christopher Willis. This is a satirical film imagining events surrounding the Russian dictator's death. While the score's main theme and other moments are generically Russian sounding, it is clear that Willis sought inspiration for much of the score in the music of Shostakovich. And what a perfect match! Shostakovich worked under the artistic constraints of the Stalin regime, and was known for his satirical inclinations. Willis has perfectly captured Shostakovich's extremes of emotion, extremes of orchestration, jarring melodic intervals, his black humour and ubiquitous counterpoint! Though we've not yet seen the film, it sounds like a perfect match for the subject matter. "The Death of Stalin" by Christopher Willis is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. The composer's official website is at www.ChristopherWillisComposer.com.
The composer Dominik Scherrer has built a reputation through a wide range of high-profile television dramas. Among many others he has scored "Primeval", "Monroe", "Agatha Christie's Marple", "The Collection", "The Missing", "Ripper Street", and the spooky mystery "Requiem" (with Natasha Khan). His latest TV score is for "The City And The City", a new series just started on BBC 2 based on the Hugo Award winning novel of the same name by China Miéville. The novel is an unusual police drama set in a pair of twin overlapping cities, essentially separated by law and the perception of their residents. Key to the realisation of this double cityscape is the score by composer Dominik Scherrer, who uses a hybrid synth-acoustic approach. The atmospheric music uses a diverse range of sounds but they meld together to create a grungey blade-runner soundscape with elements of rhythmic thriller and mystical chorus. The album for "The City and the City" is now available to download from Amazon.co.uk. The composer's official website is at www.DominikScherrer.com.
Gareth Coker is a British composer who has scored for films and commercials, but is probably best known for his Games Music including games such as "Ori and the Blind Forest", "Primal Carnage", "ARK Survival Evolved" and the "Minecraft Mythology" series. His approach is very much grounded in melody with varied and unusual sound palettes while giving his music a heavy mystical element like many Japanese Anime scores. The composer will be talking about Games Music in a session called "Games Masterclass: The Art of Storytelling through Music". The event will take place on 16th April at BAFTA's Princess Anne Theatre. More information and ticket details can be found on the BAFTA website at Games Masterclass.
Out today is a new album combining poetry and music. TV Gardener and Classic FM presenter Alan Titchmarsh has combined both his passions. He has written a set of poems about his favourite flowers, capturing their personality with a gardener's expert knowledge, observation and humour. Each poem has then been used by composer Debbie Wiseman to create a musical tribute to the flower, translating the poem into musical language, a mini "tone poem" if you like. The tracks alternate between poem and music with the tracklist including items like Water Lily, Witch Hazel, Snowdrop, Sweetpea, etc. The album has already hit the charts based on pre-sales alone and it is labelled as a "#1 Best Seller" on Amazon.co.uk and it is expected to be available also on Amazon.com. Here is the Promotional Video on Youtube with Alan Titchmarsh and Debbie Wiseman introducing the album and its origins.
The world of film music is reeling this weekend from the announcement that composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has died at the age of 48. He is best known for his score to the movie The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. This score won a Golden Globe in 2015, and also received nominations for both Oscar and BAFTA awards. The following year he was again both Oscar and BAFTA nominated for the action drama "Sicario", and most recently he received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for the sci-fi movie "Arrival". The Icelandic composer's music was always innovative, "The Theory of Everything" was touchingly minimalist yet melodic, while both Sicario and Arrival built some amazingly effective soundscapes.
It is with regret we report that the composer John Morris died last week at the age of 91. Although he has an extensive list of credits for television and film scores and also musical theatre, he is best known for his many collaborations with Mel Brooks. The association with Brooks started with the original version of "The Producers" back in 1967 with Morris creating the underscore and arranging the song "Springtime for Hitler". The pair went on to create "Blazing Saddles" and then "Young Frankenstein" whose main theme for violin is known as "Transylvanian Lullaby". Both these films starred Gene Wilder and Morris went on to score several Gene Wilder films too such as "Woman in Red". Morris was oscar-nominated for the song "Blazing Saddles" and for his score for "The Elephant Man" starring John Hurt, directed by David Lynch and executive produced by Mel Brooks.
John Williams the legendary composer has now beaten his own record (for more Oscar nominations than any other living person) with his 51st nomination being announced today for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi". For the Golden Globe score award he was nominated instead for Steven Spielberg's "The Post" but lost out to Alexandre Desplat who won the category for The Shape of Water. Desplat's score is also nominated for the Oscar award, and other nominees for Best Music this year include Carter Burwell for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", Jonny Greenwood for "Phantom Thread", and Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk.
The latest adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel "Howards End" has had its first season shown on BBC television, starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen and boasting a music score by Nico Muhly. Although Muhly is no stranger to film and television, nor indeed to popular music having worked with the Björk, he is best known as a "serious composer" of concert music. His music for Howards End is largely driven by piano and strings. It recognises the period yet with a modern sensibility, giving a soundscape which seems timeless and evocative. An album of Muhly's score for Howards End has been released today and is available on CD and for download. It can be found at this link on Amazon.co.uk. As an example of Muhly's concert music here is the Premiere of "Gait" played by the National Youth Orchestra during the BBC Proms 2012.
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