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"H is for Happiness" is a feel-good movie directed by John Sheedy and adapted from "My Life As An Alphabet" the award-winning young adult novel by Barry Jonsberg. The story is about a young girl called Candice played by Daisy Axon, and the movie also stars Miriam Margolyes. The score is by the Australian composer Nerida Tyson-Chew who has received awards for her music for both film and television. As befits the title the music at first seems largely pleasant and family-friendly, with a magical quirky quality reflecting the girl's unconventional approach to life. However the mood changes and it is clear that life is not perfect for this little girl. The score album is available to stream and download from iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Here are links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Film Fest Gent is an international film festival held in Belgium which specialises in film music. Associated with the Festival is the World Soundtrack Awards which is now in its 20th year, though this year sadly it has been an online event only. This year's headline winners were Hildur Guðnadóttir (Film Composer of the Year for "Joker") and Nicholas Britell (Television Composer of the Year for "Succession (season 2)") with other awards for Gabriel Yared (Lifetime Achievement), Hannes De Maeyer (Best Score for a Belgian Production), Ana Kasrashvili (Best Original Composition), Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo (Best Original Song), Bryce Dessner (Discovery of the Year), and Alfonso G. Aguilar (Public Choice Award). Many congratulations to all!
The Festival typically releases an album each year, usually featuring film music from one of the festival's guest composers that year. For the 20th anniversary a special album has been produced with music tracks being specially composed suites or arrangements or other previously unreleased music. The album was recorded by the Brussels Philharmonic and the Vlaams Radiokoor conducted by Dirk Brossé. After the "World Soundtrack Awards Fanfare" specially composed by Elmer Bernstein, we have a fine selection of tracks from James Newton Howard, Carter Burwell, Alberto Iglesias, Elliot Goldenthal, Gabriel Yared, Johann Johannsson, John Williams, Nicholas Britell, Mychael Danna, Alexandre Desplat, Patrick Doyle, Michael Giacchino, Angelo Badalamenti, and finishing with "Tribute to the Film Composer" which John Williams wrote for the Oscars in 2002 with a medley of 23 famous film scores. Album available at this link from Silva Screen Records.
I'm currently enjoying season 1 of "Ratched" on Netflix, based on the nurse from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". The Ratched music is of particular interest to soundtrack lovers. The early episodes have several tracks by the composer Bernard Herrmann from various psychological dramas. There have been tracks from "Psycho", "Vertigo" and "North by North-West" all directed by Alfred Hitchcock - see Hitchcock & Herrmann for more about the sometimes stormy relationship between Director and Composer. Another Herrmann soundtrack used in the series is "Cape Fear". The original 1962 movie starring Robert Mitchum was directed by J. Lee Thompson, and for the Martin Scorsese remake in 1991 with Robert de Niro, Elmer Bernstein's score famously re-used Herrmann's seminal four-note motif. The composer for the Netflix series is Mac Quayle who uses these Herrmann tracks to inform his own moody music. For your listening pleasure, here are some featured Herrmann tracks, and one by Philip Glass!
Violinist Nicola Benedetti has had an eventful year. After winning a Grammy back in January with the Wynton Marsalis Violin Concerto (and performing live at the award ceremony), her planned concert schedule like that of many other artists was obliterated by Covid-19. Undeterred she went online with her "Virtual Benedetti Sessions" with a programme of performances and tuition reaching half a million people. More virtual concerts followed at the Proms 2020 including an appearance at the Last Night of the Proms. Her latest album release is dedicated to the music of Edward Elgar with the Elgar Violin Concerto as its main work. Included are 3 additional Elgar works for violin and piano with Petr Liminov as the pianist. These are Sospiri Op.70, Salut d'Amour Op.12 which ties in neatly with our recent sheet music for that work, and Chanson de Nuit Op.15 No.1. Her Grammy performance and Virtual Sessions can be viewed online, the Proms performances can be seen through the BBC iPlayer, the Marsalis album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and the Elgar album is also at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Sergei Prokofiev composed 7 symphonies, and numbers 1 and 5 are brought together in this recording by the RSNO, the Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra. These two symphonies are probably the composer's best known to modern audiences. No.1 is his youthful calling card, named the "Classical" by the composer and very much in a Haydnesque style (though in a playful parody). No.5 in contrast is a monumental war-time work, composed after Prokofiev's return to the Soviet Union. While some recordings seem to aim for a default romantic sound, the RSNO's angular approach is much better suited to Prokofiev particularly in the 5th. All credit must go to the orchestra's musical director and principal conductor Thomas Søndergård. The album is highly recommended and available on CD or to download from various outlets including here on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
There have been a number of recent Doctor Who music releases. From the 1970s there is a welcome release of a Dudley Simpson score, namely "The Sunmakers" with a stunning album cover featuring then-current Doctor Tom Baker. The score is unusual in that it is largely acoustic rather than electronic, with some comedic elements in the music matching Tom's flippant style in this satirical story. Representing the 1980s Peter Davison era there is "The Visitation" by Paddy Kingsland and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. This is mostly dramatic synth and percussion, with a little touch of Renaissance-style music to emphasise the period setting. Bringing us right up to the 2020s and Jodie Whittaker's portrayal is the Series 12 release from Segun Akinola covering the 10 episodes broadcast starting on New Year's Day. Here the biggest story score-wise is the music from "Spyfall" with lots of references to classic Bond music and even hints of the Bond theme.
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.
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For older posts, the archive pages are 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.