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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.
We have been spoiled for choice with Doctor Who music releases in recent weeks. First up we have Don Harper's music for the story "The Invasion" featuring the Cybermen in London. Although this story was broadcast in the 60s it paved the way for 70s Who, with the album also featuring special sound from Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Next we have Peter Howell's music for 1983's commemorative story "The Five Doctors" celebrating the show's 20th anniversary. The music needed to be re-edited for different versions of the story and all versions are included, realised by the composer working again with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Bringing us up to date is the long-awaited release of Blair Mowat's music for spin-off show "Class". The booklet included with the album has extensive track notes by the composer himself, and there is the option of a limited edition bonus CD and also colourful vinyl versions (check Silva Screen's own store for these). Finally who would have thought that the loud boss-guy from the "IT Crowd" was so musical, but Matt Berry has played and recorded his own versions of some classic TV themes including our very own "Doctor Who" theme. Links for all of these are listed below, Segun Akinola's series 11 now announced but still no word on Murray Gold's final series.
On Sunday 18th Lalo Schifrin received an honorary Academy Award at the 10th Governors Awards. The Composer studied classical music and jazz in France before returning to his native Argentinia as a film composer. He then has enjoyed a very full career in Hollywood composing scores for films such as "The Cincincati Kid", "Cool Hand Luke", "Bullitt", the "Dirty Harry" series, "THX 1138", "Enter the Dragon", "The Eagle has Landed" and films from the "The Amityville Horror" and "Rush Hour" series among many others. His famous TV theme for "Mission: Impossible" was re-used on the subsequent films. At the award ceremony Schifrin was introduced by Kathy Bates and (Dirty Harry himself) Clint Eastwood. The Governors Awards is a separate event from the main annual Oscars Ceremony, and includes a range of Honorary Awards from the Academy Governors in recognition of the recipients' contributions to film. Only two previous composers have received honorary awards - Ennio Morricone in 2006 and Alex North in 1985.
Very much looking forward to this concert tomorrow. It celebrates 40 years of Varèse Sarabande, the biggest record label supporting Film Music who have released many 100s of film score albums over the past 40 years. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra also has a strong connection with film music, having recorded many albums for Varèse Sarabande and other labels, and having performed much film music in their live concerts. The concert on 16th Nov will take place in Edinburgh's Usher Hall and the concert will be repeated in Glasgow on 17th Nov. The concert will be presented by Varèse Sarabande producer Robert Townson, conducted by Spanish composer Diego Navarro and feature the flautist Sara Andon with the RSNO Chorus joining the orchestra. It is also expected that several film composers will be in attendence including Patrick Doyle, Rachel Portman and David Arnold. Some seats are still available via the RSNO website.
Two recent Film Scores have an unlikely connection which also makes them suitable Christmas presents. Firstly James Newton Howard's score for "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is a large orchestral score (conducted by Gustavo Dudamel) for the Disney film adaptation of the story. Howard references a number of familiar melodies from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet version. Secondly we have Benjamin Wallfisch's score for "King of Thieves" which features a jazzy Big Band sound for a story about a group of retired crooks who embark on a major heist in London inspired by the Hatton Garden crime. Although the music is stylistically closer to Mancini than Tchaikovsky, it does have a track called "Sugar Plum Raid" based on the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, while "King of Thieves" is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
With regret we report the death of composer Francis Lai at the age of 86. The French composer was originally known as a songwriter working with and composing songs for artists such as Edith Piaf. He then transitioned into film composing when he had the opportunity to create a score for the film "Un homme et une Femme" whose well-loved theme became very familiar as almost a motto for French romanticism and "joie de vivre". Following this he went on to score a number of successful soundtracks including "Vivre Pour Vivre", "Le Passager de la Pluie" and then "Love Story". It was "Love Story" and its main song "Where Do I Begin" which was to seal Lai's reputation and the score won him an oscar at the Academy Awards. In the UK the theme for the BBC documentary series "Panorama" was based on a track called "Aujourd'hui C'est Toi" from "Un Homme Et Une Femme".
As a quick reminder here courtesy of youtube is music from Un homme et une Femme (conducted by Joe Hisaishi), Love Story (instrumental version of theme) and the original track later adapted as the theme for Panorama.
Remembrance Day 2018 marks the centenary of the WWI armistice which was signed on 11th November 1918 to mark the end of the first World War. In 2018 Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday both fall on the same day since 11th November is a Sunday this year. A number of special events are lined up to mark the occasion, and the BBC has a series of programmes and smaller items across its TV and radio stations as part of their "Remembrance Week". If you are looking for music for a remembrance event mfiles has a number of resources and recommendations on its Remembrance Day Music page. Even now there are many ongoing conflicts, humanitarian tragedies and tensions across the world. Although the UK and the EU are not currently at war, there are still many threats to peace in the region and we must continue to be vigilant.
The next composer to join the series "BAFTA Conversations with Screen Composers" will be Harry Gregson-Williams on Tues 6th November. In his nearly 30 years as a composer, Gregson-Williams has a wealth of experience creating music for film, television and video games. In the world of film music Gregson-Williams started as a protege of Hans Zimmer, and then formed an artistic partnership with John Powell creating scores for animations including "Antz", "The Chicken Run" and "Shrek". As sole composer Gregson-Williams went on to score the first two "The Chronicles of Narnia" films, "The Martian" and "The Meg". No doubt the composer will be talking about these and many other projects. The event will be hosted by Tommy Pearson and will take place in the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 6th Nov. More information and booking instructions can be found at this page on the BAFTA website.
Recently released is the score to the movie "Bliss!" composed by Hélène Muddiman. This is an emotional story of a British girl who travels to Norway in search of her father. Muddiman's music for the film is a blend of ambient, orchestral and popular styles, resulting in a score which is atmospheric, and varying in mood from introspective to moving and uplifting. Technically the composer uses a richly varied orchestration with her music frequently steeped in melody and at times rhythmically dynamic. Muddiman previously scored the awarding winning "Skin" starring Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill, has many television credits and has worked with both John Powell and Danny Elfman. She has also written songs for the likes of Emma Bunting and arrangements for Il Divo. The "Bliss!" film score is available at this link on iTunes and Hélène Muddiman's website is at www.helenemuddiman.com.
"Nae Pasaran" is a documentary which examines a true story. Hawker Hunter jets used by the Chilean air force during the 1973 military coup (which resulted in the regime of dictator general Pinochet) were sent to the UK for repair. However workers at the Rolls Royce plant in East Kilbride in Scotland refused to work on the planes as an act of solidarity. The documentary looks back with some of the (now retired) workers and investigates the effect of their action. The film is scored by composer Patrick Neil Doyle (son of Patrick Doyle) who has built a solid reputation with the likes of films "The Legend of Longwood" and "Kepler's Dream", TV Drama "The Moonstone" and a variety of Theatre productions. Doyle's approach to the scoring of "Nae Pasaran" is clear from the opening track, with classical strings evolving through a series of transitions giving prominence to piano, then flute and guitar, with ethnic flute coming in later. The resulting score is a blend of classical sounds carrying most of the emotional journey, yet with a heartfelt folk idiom seemingly able to suggest both Scottish and Chilean influences. The soundtrack is highly recommended and now available online at Amazon.co.uk or iTunes. More about the film and filmmakers, with trailer and details of screenings can be found at the website NaePasaran.com.
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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