If you browsed the internet at any point during December of 2016 you might have noticed that not every person was a fan of Earth's most recent lap around the Sun. It's true, on the outside there were lots of tragedies that occurred last year (as they do every year), but it seemed more amplified this time. Both America and the UK experienced devastating political outcomes, turmoil continues to claim innocent lives in the Middle East, there were lots of tragedies around the world in the form of warfare and deliberate attacks, and a good number of notable celebrities that people looked up to passed away. That's when we turn to the arts, right? That's what movies, TV, books, games and music are here for. We have an escape, even for just a moment. We can escape into something exciting, scary, sad, funny, tense, beautiful or just pure dumb joy. And even though it's all fictionalized (minus docs), every story is a reflection of the human condition. That's the beauty of it all. So as we look back at another year of film music, another year of music that brought stories to life across all mediums, it was important to note that we saw some great films that celebrated humanity. Whether it was coincidence or not, it seemed that storytellers around the world were looking at ways to explore the upswing of things. Sure we had our usual dose of the dark and dreary, but lots of the stories of 2016 felt intimate and small. Studio tentpoles were pretty much all forgettable in 2016, with an exception here and there. It was really the smaller and more under the radar releases that seemed to strike a chord, be it independent or in-house studio produced. And that's a cool thing to see. Like previous years we are doing a top 15. So let the countdown begin!
As with every year with our "Best" list and all our reviews, scores are ultimately judged by their effectiveness within the film's narrative and not by their standalone album experience.
15. Money Monster by Dominic Lewis
Precision and subtlety are at work in Dominic Lewis’ score to this Jodie Foster directed thriller. Dominic found a way to make the score both invisible yet present. And while there’s a lack of anything too attention-getting, the score creates tension while still giving the characters a relatable humanity.
14. The Ivory Game by H. Scott Salinas
H. Scott Salinas’ impressive streak continues with this emotionally resonating documentary about the dark world of ivory trade. In the same vein as Cartel Land, Salinas approaches the documentary head-on and doesn’t treat the music as a background device. There is a deep emotional heart that echoes the pain and sadness of the situation. The whole tone is bittersweet and unfortunately at this point there isn't a fairytale ending for this ongoing problem, but hope is instilled within the music. Here music is seen shining a light on an issue and making it instantly relatable to the audience.
13. Captain Fantastic by Alex Somers
Captain Fantastic is a special score. It’s beautiful and very human. You will go on more of an emotional journey instead of a fixed narrative one, but that approach is perfect for this film. If you’re looking for something truly fresh and original in a film score, then this is something worth getting lost in. It’s a near-perfect examination of emotional growth that may have benefited with some more tangible recurring motifs, but overall it will awaken or reawaken something inside of you for sure.
12. ABZU by Austin Wintory
Austin Wintory’s ABZU is a purely engaging and emotional journey through a game that makes you resonate deeply with the images you are seeing as you play. The score pulls you in and paints a loose narrative for you to follow, but in reality, it leaves room for the player to impose their own emotions into the narrative. While ABZU might not attain the power of Journey, it’s still some of the finest game scoring you’ll encounter.
11. Game Of Thrones: Season 6 by Ramin Djawadi
Ramin Djawadi’s work on Game Of Thrones has consistently been getting more robust and intricate as the show powers along. Season 6 was a most impressive season musically with lots of thematic variation and moments where score was allowed to shine, but never shine to much. Game Of Thrones’ music has always found a great balance of being strong or subtle depending on the needs of the scene. The score has truly hit an amazing stride here in season 6.
10. Pete's Dragon by Daniel Hart
Daniel Hart keeps his collaboration with director David Lowery going for this beautiful score to the live-action reimagining of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. The score feels unfiltered and purely organic as it taps into folk roots and translates that into big wonderful orchestral melodies. The score examines heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure and finds a way to tell the story in a manner that never feels forced.
9. Hell Or High Water by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ emotional range as storytellers is unmatched. The duo continue to explore their signature sound with this acclaimed modern western. The score cracks open the characters almost on a spiritual level by painting richly textured musical backdrops. The score lacks melodic strength, but it works within the fabric of the film with expert precision.
8. Hacksaw Ridge by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Hacksaw Ridge’s musical duties were passed from James Horner to John Debney and finally landing with Rupert Gregson-Williams. Rupert didn’t have much time to score Mel Gibson’s return to the directing chair, but the final result is nothing short of poignant and emotionally engaging. The score never becomes too big, allowing the protagonist to actually feel organic and human. We as an audience identify with whats onscreen much easier, and it leaves room for big emotions with a subtle approach that still injects heroism into this war story.
7. 10 Cloverfield Lane by Bear McCreary
Bear McCreary’s plunge into darkness for 10 Cloverfield Lane was nothing short of pure thrilling entertainment. The nods to Goldsmith, Herrmann, Debussy and Revl projected through McCreary’s signature voice made this score a shining gem. Nothing about it felt old or reused, and the entire film’s effect on the audience relied on the musical narrative. This was Bear working his magic for a tense and focused score that made the film small and personal yet big and exciting at the same time. It's a score that reinforces why we love to go to the movies.
6. The Vessel by Hanan Townshend
Hanan Townshend has gotten some well-deserved attention for his work with Terrence Malick, and here Malick helped put Hanan in touch with first time director Julio Quintana for the amazingly arresting work of The Vessel. Hanan’s score permeates the emotions and characters of the film to truly bring this story together on a spiritual level. The music is about re-kindling hope after tragedy, and the score’s structure is near perfection. The deepness of the emotional arcs are so profound and it all culminates beautifully in such a striking way that leaves a lasting fingerprint long after you finish experiencing it.
5. The Neon Demon by Cliff Martinez
When Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez team up together, it’s worth taking notice. The auteur duo’s films will divide and even repel certain audiences. Refn’s style is unapologetic and it is not afraid of making you feel uncomfortable. Cliff’s score here somehow finds a strange and seductive way to truly bring the sexually consuming world of fashion to life. If music could sound “neon” then this would be it. The seductive yet dangerous imagery of the world Refn paints is accompanied perfectly by Cliff’s sonic palette. While this film as a whole may leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth (in a devious good way), it's Refn's imagery working with Martinez's sound that makes this an effective piece of auteur cinema.
4. Moana by Mark Mancina [Songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i & Mark Mancina]
The Disney formula comes to life with the rich and vivid musical world of Moana. Composer Mark Mancina goes the route of scoring the film and co-writing/producing the songs with Lin-Manuel Miranda & Opetaia Foa’i. That results in a lush quilt of song and score that gives each character a unique voice within the fabric of the film’s music. The score on its own may not connect due to shorter track times, but in the film it works wonders. You feel the wind in your hair and the deep emotional journey of Moana as she sets out to discover her true calling in life. The whole journey culminates in a very gorgeous and emotional climax that is fueled by the human spirit to break-free and pave your own path.
3. The Man In The High Castle: Season 2 by Dominic Lewis
Hello darkness my old friend. Dominic Lewis makes a well-earned second appearance on this list with his absolutely perfect approach for Season 2 of The Man In The High Castle. The show’s rich and detailed production value is reflected in the wonderfully structured approach Lewis took with the score. The melodic arcs and themes build towards a grand finale. Deep emotions echo melodies that feel born of the characters. While it’s not a cheery world to be lost in, there is beauty in it. The organic emotions shine through making this a late in the year shining example of some of the best TV scoring all year. The score is a wonderful example of character exploration and how to approach tension with forward momentum. The score is a progressive step upwards from last season and raises the bar extremely high for season 3.
2. Eddie The Eagle by Matthew Margeson
Early in the year we were surprised by one of the most full of life scores of recent memory. Matthew Margeson not only wrote a score that took us back to amazing underdog stories of the past, but was full of themes and melodies that sent chills and brought tears of hopeful joy. Eddie The Eagle’s synth approach may give some people a nostalgia trip, but it feels so right alongside with the picture. Margeson found something truly special about the human spirit to overcome here, and it speaks volumes by carrying the entire movie on its back. Sure the score and film are formulaic, but in the best way possible. If life is ever getting you down for whatever reason, a score and film like this can shine some much needed light to let you know that overcoming odds is part of life. If a piece of art can make you feel happy to be alive by the end of it, that's something really special. And that's the case here with Eddie The Eagle.
1. La La Land by Justin Hurwitz [Songs by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Hasek & Justin Paul]
La La Land is one of those special experiences that comes along and makes you feel happy to be alive. It’s an experience of song and score that are stitched together to form a musical quilt of melodies wonderfully structured to form the narrative. With Justin Hurwitz writing every melody in the film, including all the music for the songs and then having Benj Hasek and Justin Paul write lyrics to those melodies, the film comes to vivid life. You’re taken on an emotional journey in classic musical fashion that is an ode to the genre but also its own unique modern interpretation of the genre as well. If you are ever at a low point in your life or having a hard time, La La Land along with its music is a reaffirmation that life’s journey is worth living. And that includes every high point of joy and every low point of sorrow.
Film, TV and games are special. They are the most popular way of telling stories and we as the human race become so vehemently attached to them. To me it’s a fascinating exploration of the human condition, to see how passionate people can get when it comes to their favorite movies and TV shows. And here’s the thing, I totally get it. The world totally gets it. I grew up watching certain movies, watching certain TV shows and playing certain video games. Is it weird that I can recite every line of Tremors or Michael Bay’s The Rock? Maybe a little weird. Do I become glued to my screen and pay attention to every painstaking aesthetic detail when I watch Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West? I do. But guess what I don’t do? I don’t go apeshit and become an annoying ball of negativity on the internet if the entertainment industry decides to reboot, remake or make a sequel to something I loved growing up. And neither should you.
I decided to write this article because all the swirling hate around the new Ghostbusters has finally made me want to spill my thoughts out in writing. This article is mainly aimed at those people who immediately come out of the gate with hate in their heart, and not just over Ghostbusters. Negativity is swirling in our culture right now. There are so many things wrong in the world, and entertainment is our escape. It’s our way to laugh, our way to cry, to be scared, to be thrilled all in the quiet safety of a dark room. So when I see the comments “ruined my childhood”, “this will suck”, “what a disgrace to the original”, “how could they?” it kind of grinds my gears.
I ask the question, why do you hate? Why do you automatically pass negative judgement? Why are you negative? There’s enough hate in the world. We don’t need your hate towards a harmless movie or TV show. We don’t need your negativity to the casting decision of the latest reboot or how in the hell could they have picked that director. We can do without your predisposed automatic hate. Why is it that remaking something or doing a sequel automatically means that your childhood didn't exist? And that got me thinking, why do people get borderline offended when something is “different”?
I’ll try to use some examples beyond the new Ghostbusters, such as the new Star Trek film series. Star Trek Beyond comes out this year, and we all know how passionate Trekkies are. Here’s the deal, I never watched Star Trek. Not a single minute of Star Trek before I saw the JJ Abrams reboot. And guess what, I enjoyed it immensely. Then I read up on it and see how so many diehard Star Trek fans say that it’s “not Star Trek”. So from their point of view they think it has now ruined everything that has come before it, and I’m here to say no it hasn’t. This incarnation of Star Trek is a reflection of the time it was made in, just like the past entries in film and TV are a reflection of their time. Just because these new Star Trek films are being made, doesn't mean someone is going to go back and delete the originals from the archives so no one can ever see them again.
Then there is the point where the Star Trek fans feel betrayed, which I also get. Like, hey, we are the true fans and we deserve a film made for us. Not an attempt of making it more mainstream. At this point we are getting into some pretty petty fandom frustration. When you’re argument is “But that’s now how it should be! The original character was…”, it just means you can’t accept that maybe your favorite series has evolved. Maybe the world is taking a good idea and evolving it, or hell maybe it's evolving into something bad. Either way though, it's changing and for some reason that's not good?
There is one film series that has endured time and is a testament to why it’s great to tell the same story over and over except by different storytellers. That series is James Bond. The James Bond films have survived from 1962 all the way to now. The first question that always pops up? Well, it’s always “So whose your favorite Bond?”. And almost always, it’s usually which actor who played Bond you saw first. People who grew up with Connery usually say Connery, people who grew up with Moore usually say Moore. Yes there are even Dalton fans as well. Me, I grew up in the 90’s and the first Bond film I saw was GoldenEye. I also played GoldenEye 64 for years upon years. But guess what, it inspired me to watch the entire film series and explore how different actors and directors approached this character. While there is always some gripe when a new Bond comes out, it rarely is met with predisposed hate as most reboots/remakes are. People are usually excited to see it even though he’s bagged the babe and killed the bad guy 20 something times before. James Bond is the perfect example of what storytelling is.
If your parents, uncles, aunts or grandparents read you stories and books when you were little then you experienced the whole idea of what we know now as the “reboot” or “remake”. If your mom or dad opened up Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham and read that to you when you were little, guess what? They did it in their own way, used their own inflections, maybe even changed their voices. Anyway, the point is that your parent read it in a unique way that no other person got to hear. The story will remain the same, but it will have tiny changes depending on who tells it.
A friend of mine once told me she had never ever seen The Lion King with the original English voice cast. She had always watched the Spanish dubbed version since she was little. She said when she saw the original cast version for the first time that it felt strange and different. She prefers the voices she grew up with, and hey that is totally awesome and okay! That always stuck with me and made me realize that we have no right to judge people on what they like or what they are attached to. Sure we can form our own opinions and I can say, cool, I grew up with the original and I like that. It doesn’t devalue my friend or the Spanish voice cast of The Lion King.
Let me tie this back to me one more time. I LOVE John Carpenter’s The Thing, it’s my favorite horror film. But guess what? Do I trash the original novella it was based off of? Do I trash the original film adaptation from 1951 titled The Thing from Another World? No. When the 2011 prequel/remake came out, did I think it looked kind of bad? Yes I did. Did I run an internet campaign of hate towards it? No. I ignored it. And guess what! No one came to confiscate and crack my Blu-ray in half of John Carpenter’s The Thing. It still exists and it’s still my favorite.
Coming up they are releasing a new and modern adaptation of Ben-Hur. Both this super-slick CGI Ben-Hur and the iconic film starring Charlton Heston were based off the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. I anticipate a generous amount of hate directed towards the new Ben-Hur, but guess what? Some people are gonna like this new Ben-Hur even if you or film critics trash it. You can’t stop stories from being re-told in different styles or ways.
In the end, that’s all that it is. Our favorite stories will be re-told over and over to new generations, because we enjoy hearing them from different points of view. Sure there are business decisions behind every film made, and sure studios want to make as much profit as they can. A studio’s decision to reboot or make a sequel can be a lazy one driven by profit anticipation, but the filmmakers behind the movie are doing their very best to tell a beloved story in a new way. Just like your parents tried to read you your favorite bedtime stories in their own special way. At the end of the day, these are just movies and tv shows. This marriage of moving pictures and sound is our entertainment, it’s our escape. It’s an amazing art form and it’s a reflection of us as a species. Films will always be a reflection of us, our lives and the current state of our society. They will change, they evolve and they will adapt. But our favorite stories will continue to be re-told time and time again. And I hope you understand that’s not a bad thing. Just because there is a new Ghostbusters or a new Ben-Hur doesn't mean the originals cease to exist. Just because Disney is choosing to do live-action versions of all their classic animated titles doesn't mean the originals have been replaced. Were they likely business decisions by the studio to reboot properties with built-in recognition? Yes, probably. But all the best stories will always have built-in recognition. It just means that the story means so much to people that it was deemed worthy to re-tell.
There are so many things to be angry about in the world, and I wish movies and TV were not one of them. The amount of effort people put into driving their negativity online is quite sad. It’s great to be passionate about things, it supports our individuality and uniqueness. We define ourselves by our favorite things, and that’s awesome. We’re on a planet with 7.5 billion people on it, so feeling special and unique every now and then is important. I get that seeing a reboot of your favorite movie of all time might trigger you to defend it and protect it like you were defending yourself, because yes we are so attached to what we love. So the new Ghostbusters might make someone who grew up and love the original feel obsolete and devalued, I get that completely. But I hope people embrace change and evolution as our society continually grows.
Let’s finish with Bond. So whether you grew up with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby (all 3 of you), Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig playing Bond. The point is, you probably like 1 Bond actor over the rest. You might prefer the Sean Connery forced kissing and lady-spanking Bond, or the goofy Looney Tunes antics of Roger Moore’s Bond, George Lazenby's awkward Bond, Timothy Dalton's straight-faced Bond, the spiffy one-liners of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond or Daniel Craig’s emotionless revenge seeking Bond. In the end it’s the same thing just told differently. We’re all entitled to love and hate things, but don’t take it so personally where you push your hate onto others. If you feel devalued simply because a different version of what you like is out there in the world, just remember that you can still define yourself with what you grew up with, and that makes it even more special now that others might define themselves with a different incarnation of the story. This goes for movies, TV shows, games, foods, religion, ideologies, clothes, hell everything. Be kind, people. Don’t add to hate, just take pride in individuality.
More and more composers are doing live concerts of their music and while I have heard of several of these film music concerts before, I never really bothered to look into attending one. That changed when Brian Tyler announced he would be conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall in London. I instantly wanted to go and, after some planning, was able to secure tickets to both the concert and a flight to London on the very same day. While I was patiently awaiting May 7th, I started doubting my decision. Would a concert consisting mostly of music I already have on my phone be worth the flight tickets? Would they even perform music I like?
On the day of the concert, I was patiently waiting at the doors to the concert hall still not quite certain about what to expect. That, and if my considerable investment made into a cheap seat and a not so cheap flight had been well considered. It truly was a strange and unique experience. I had never left my home country on my own before, never attended such a huge concert and never heard the kind of music I really, REALLY like performed live. There's a reason I stopped playing any instruments, that reason being that I can only really enjoy orchestral music (well, film and videogame scores) and good luck playing an orchestra on your living room couch. The sheer size of the orchestra and choir still surprised me, so as the nice employees of the Royal Festival Hall reminded people not to take pictures (noone seemed to care) I still was not believing I had actually gone to see THE Brian Tyler live.
When the concert finally started, the opening piece was the main theme from Thor: The Dark World. Saying the music blew me away would be a massive understatement. From that first minute, two things were very clear to me. Firstly, I would never ever be able to listen to Tyler's music the same way as before. And the fact that I would almost definitely suffer from some form of hearing impairment before the night was done. It's one thing to have the music on your phone, plug it into some speakers and turn up the volume but nothing can prepare you to the sound of a full orchestra. Perhaps that's a side effect of choosing the cheap seats in row three, only a few meters away from the stage. For some pieces, Tyler took the time to give the audience a bit of background information or even an amusing story along the way, probably to give the musicians a few moments to catch their breaths. Most pieces performed were the main themes of some of Tyler's greatest scores, including Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Fast Five, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem and so many more. Except for a few slower pieces from scores like Partition and Far Cry 3, orchestra and audience alike were not allowed to calm down for more than a few seconds before pieces. Besides the many "main themes" performed, Tyler also featured a couple of compositions for specific scenes, such as Into Eternity from Thor: The Dark World and Rise Together from Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
Among all these incredible pieces of music, I even got to hear a few pieces I had not known before, including a piece from his music for Star Trek Enterprise that I have been desperately looking for ever since. If it ever was released to the public, I have yet to find it. Another new piece was from his upcoming score to Now You See Me 2, though I believe getting that will be a lot easier once the film is in cinemas. To mix things up a little, music from Hawaii Five-O as well as Tyler's recent Drift And Fall Again were performed. To my surprise, Tyler announced a piece from John Williams's Superman score that perfectly fit in with the rest of the music. After nearly two hours of music (and only a rather short break), while my ears were glad at the thought of the concert being over, I found it difficult to accept that it was over and there would not be anything like it for quite some time. The concert was this huge event, somewhere over the horizon and now that it is long over, I am quite sad at the thought I may never be able to experience music like that again.
While I had my doubts at first, going to see Brian Tyler live in concert was probaly my best decision in a while. It was the kind of experience I wish had never ended and it was on the plane back home that I thought to myself, if there was another concert just like this one next week, I'd go again. That's when I realized that even though it came at a considerable price, this was a weekend (and money) well spent. I am thankful to Brian Tyler and everyone involved for making this possible and am desperately hoping for a second concert in the near future.
Photos Courtesy Of Brian Tyler
Special thanks to our friends at Hans-Zimmer.com
April 16th 2016 was definitely an important date in my life. Why, you ask? I was able to attend a Hans Zimmer concert in the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany! I had been waiting for this moment for such a long time. Hans' music has been an integral part of my life since forever as his music got me hooked at a very early age. From his first Hollywood score Rain Man to Driving Miss Daisy, Thelma & Louise, A League Of Their Own, Black Rain, Backdraft, The Lion King, Beyond Rangoon, The Rock, Crimson Tide, The Dark Knight Trilogy and so many more. His musical style, his ability and his genius to craft either a very emotional and subtle or a bombastic piece of music has always fascinated me and he has rightfully taken his spot in film music history as one of the greatest composers.Photo Credit:
In 2009, I believe it was, Hans toyed with the idea of staging some concerts and I was excited already. Unfortunately, it was impossible at that time, since Hans had simply always been so busy. When in November 2015 it was announced that Hans would stage a European Tour and that he would also show up in Germany and kick things off in Mannheim, I was beyond excited and I could not order my ticket fast enough. It was a dream come true, and the whole tour is a true gift for every one of Hans' many fans. 38 dates in total all across Europe. This is huge indeed and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience one hell of a musical ride!
Now, let's take a look at the show in Mannheim. I was pumped and excited already weeks before the concert and my nervousness got bigger and bigger the closer the concert got. At 8pm the arena was packed and everybody was waiting for the spectacle to begin. Then it happened: The opening bars of Driving Miss Daisy were played and then the master walked on stage to a huge applause. Hans sat down at the piano playing the "Driving Miss Daisy Theme" and then Richard Harvey and the other band members joined in to perform one of Hans' catchiest themes ever. After a trip down memory lane with Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes and "Discombobulate" took over. The band including for instance Ann Marie Simpson, Richard Harvey, Nick Glennie-Smith, Tina Guo and Rusanda Panfili did a great job performing this particular piece, which was a part of the opening medley. Yet, we were not quite through with said medley and in addition to the band, the orchestra joined in for a great performance of "Rescue Me" from Madagascar 2. When the full string section came to life, it simply put a big smile on my face! We were ten minutes into the show and in my opinion it could not have started with better feel good moments. What an awesome start!
Rusanda Panfili, Tina Guo, Ann Marie Simpson & Hans ZimmerThen Hans took some time to welcome the audience and he not only was a musician that night but also a host, explaining some details about the movies and how certain things came together. He did so with Crimson Tide. He stated that incorporating a choir into the score was a decision the producers were not too thrilled about at first but Hans convinced them after all and the rest, as they say, is history. Crimson Tide is one of Hans' landmark scores and I love it to this very day. Now, let's go on with the concert, since the audience was in for a real treat: A medley of Crimson Tide and Angels & Demons. Crimson Tide was rearranged and they started with the choir part which could be heard in full glory on the album's piece “Roll Tide”. What a fantastic way to start this medley. After the choir, Guthrie Govan took over playing the electric guitar and then the "Crimson Tide Theme", which is beloved by so many fans, was performed wonderfully with great string playing and fantastic choral moments. This piece was one of the stand out moments of the entire night and the build-up of the theme, the arrangement and the performance were absolutely outstanding. After Crimson Tide, drummer Satnam Ramgotra performed a great drum solo which also served as the transition to "160 BPM" from Angels & Demons. This entire segment was phenomenal and it delivered a musical spectacle that left me speechless. The sheer energy and force of the orchestra and choir absolutely stunned the audience. What a night so far.
Then, as Hans put it, we were going from one Scott brother to another. Gladiator, one of Hans' best, most glorious and emotional scores was next on the list. This score has been in my Zimmer Top 5 for a long time now, and the entire album presentation as well as the impact inside the film itself are incredible. The score simply remains one of Hans' crowning achievements to this day. This medley was arranged very well, covering several score highlights. Before the medley started, Hans gave another introduction, talking about Ridley Scott and also Lisa Gerrard, who could not attend the tour. Yet, another great singer, Czarina Russell, performed instead. She really captured the beauty of “The Wheat” and as heard on the original Gladiator album, there was the seamless transition to “The Battle”, which is one of Hans' best pieces ever. Hans this time played the guitar and the entire band, plus orchestra gave us a bravura performance. The medley was concluded by the emotional “Honor Him” and Ms. Russell's beautiful vocal performance of “Now We Are Free”.
To me, one of the best scores of Hans' entire career has got to be The Da Vinci Code. A score of absolute beauty and emotion. For the concert, they picked one of the album's stand out pieces: "Chevaliers De Sangreal". The opening bars were played and Rusanda Panfili slowly walked to the center of the stage. Her violin playing was simply wonderful and intriguing, as was Tina Guo's cello performance.The entire build-up of the piece and the climactic moments were thrilling and gave me goosebumps once again.
The evening just kept getting better and better, since next on the list was The Lion King. It is a phenomenal score and I was especially excited for this part. The great Lebo M walked out on stage and gave us the fantastic and memorable chant which accompanied the opening credits of the movie. It was great to see Lebo up there and hear his magnificent voice which we could also marvel at in “Lea Halalela” a beautiful piece which was featured on the album Rhythm Of The Pride Lands. The fantastic medley came to an end with the stellar “King Of Pride Rock”. WOW, this part delivered moments of excellence, beauty and absolute nostalgia. It brought back so many childhood memories and it felt like a journey through time!
Lebo M, Zoe Mthiyane, Czarina Russell & Hans ZimmerThe concert was really on a roll and so far worth every penny of the admission and the audience clearly loved it! We were in for yet another treat and stunning moments: Pirates Of The Caribbean is one of those movies that basically everybody knows and back in 2003, the film quickly became a huge hit. The same goes for the music. Those tunes are so well known all over the world and I was really looking forward to this segment, which delivered further incredible moments of the night and the entire performance of “Jack Sparrow”, the "Marry Me Suite" and "He's a Pirate" were simply a knock out. So far there had been quite a few moments that left me absolutely speechless with my jaw on the floor, but this was something else. After this world class and fun performance, both the musicians and the audience took a break to relax and I guess many in the audience really needed the intermission to simply process what they had experienced so far!
Roughly thirty minutes after the break, Hans and band returned to the stage, performing a more lighthearted piece from True Romance and I must say "You're So Cool" heard live is indeed as cool as ever. It was great to hear something lighthearted, since it not only offered great variety but the audience could also relax a bit, since some of the biggest and strongest pieces were yet to come.
Hans' first score in Hollywood is still one of my favorites to this day. Rain Man is not only a fantastic film, but the score is a perfect fit for the film as well. Hans sat down at the piano again and played his lovely theme. The band pitched in and the result was a great version of one of Hans' most important themes ever.
Next on the list was a piece of music which had quickly become quite popular and it certainly is an interesting piece, yet at first, I did not think it was a necessary part of the concert program. However, as soon as the piece was performed this impression quickly changed and I simply liked the energetic presentation of “What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World”. By saying it might not have been a necessity as far as the musical selection is concerned, I simply meant to bring across that there are so many pieces I would have loved to hear that night. Pieces of other fantastic scores that had been left out. But at the end of the day, you have to make a decision about the musical presentation. Nevertheless, the Man Of Steel presentation was very good!
Now let's examine one of Hans' best known and most impressive pieces of music ever. A piece which has been used in quite a few trailers throughout the years and a piece that to this day always gives me goosebumps. The entire score stands as one of Hans Zimmer's finest achievements. Yes, I am talking about “Journey To The Line” from the Thin Red Line. This cue is simply magical as was the playing that night.
After this breathtaking last part, things got a little crazier, louder and more colorful: It was "Electro” time. This part was quite something to say the very least. It was a crazy and absolutely unbelievable on stage performance. The lighting was once again amazing, the sound was forceful, the choir was great and it was simply put, one hell of a concert experience. WOW, I was simply speechless and completely blown away, not to mention overwhelmed!
Speaking of overwhelming: The Dark Knight segment followed. This way beyond exciting and simply absolutely amazing. "The Joker Suite" was on first and the execution and presentation were indescribable and simply unlike anything I had ever seen on stage before. The first part was followed by a fabulous rock arrangement of “Like A Dog Chasing Cars”. Things got even more powerful with a combination of “Gothams's Reckoning” and “The Fire Rises”. This part really knocked my socks off! The world class playing and the power of this segment represented some of the most awe-inspiring moments of the entire concert. After musical “chaos and mayhem”, things turned emotional as Hans told the story of the origins of the beautiful “Aurora” which was given a great choir treatment and it was a fitting end to the entire Dark Knight segment.
The entire concert went by so fast and with the next part of the list we had nearly reached the end of a fantastic show. I am glad the music of Christopher Nolan's most recent masterpiece had also been selected. The film itself is awesome and the music is an integral part of this cinematic journey. This was one of my most frequently played albums of 2014 and it simply stands as one of Hans' very best scores for a Nolan picture. The gentle touch and hypnotic sound was brilliantly captured that night. The segment began with the beautiful "Day One" and was followed by “No Time For Caution” which quickly became a fan favorite and it was brought to new life that night. The medley was closed by an emotional version of "Stay". This time the original string motif was played on the electric guitar by Guthrie Govan and the climactic moments were beautifully captured by the entire orchestra.
The audience applauded like crazy and gave a well-deserved standing ovation. Hans asked whether his fans liked what they heard that night and they responded with a huge round of applause. Was this the end? Yes, at least according to the program. However, the fans would not yet leave the arena and certain sound fragments indicated what would be up next: A special Inception encore. Inception probably stands as one of Mr. Nolan's most complex and best films yet. The score inside the picture had captured my attention right from the beginning when it was released. Fans experienced one more special medley with the opening bars of “Half Remembered Dream”, the wonderful "Dream Is Collapsing", the highly energetic and entertaining "Mombasa" and of course "Time" ,which closed the show brilliantly and delivered yet another emotional moment.
What can I say about this night and concert? It was a special occasion filled with powerful, emotional and also very nostalgic and magical moments. A concert of this magnitude had been desired by many fans for years and finally their wish had been granted. The musicianship, the energy, the excitement, the fun, the execution, it was simply beyond awesome and one of the greatest moments in my life. I was definitely highly satisfied with the musical selection, even though, as a long time Hans Zimmer fan, I can certainly think of so many pieces that would have made that night even more special and magical. Yet, the final presentation made me a very happy man, and it was a one-of-a-kind experience and a gift to every Hans Zimmer fan out there. Furthermore, I would like to thank Hans Zimmer for his brilliant music. I would like to thank everybody involved in the making of this huge tour and I would like to thank our friends at Hans-Zimmer.com for supplying every fan with all the necessary information about Hans in general and this tour in particular. I will never ever forget this night. I was able to see one of my all time favorite composers live on stage. It was a fantastic musical journey. Those are the moments in life which I will never ever take for granted, moments that every fan should treasure and moments that will last forever.
With the sheer number of films and soundtrack releases that come out on a weekly basis, it's not possible that we can cover every single one. Film.Music.Media tries to be your #1 source for coverage on the newest and most recent releases, but it's inevitable that some may slip through the cracks. This isn't to say the ones that were missed are worthy of ignoring. So in an effort to shine a light on some of the scores we missed during their initial releases, here's a little spotlight on those that deserve it.
Missed the others?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(by Jeremy Soule)
The very first videogame I played that was not on my old Nintendo DS. Few other games managed to grab my attention like Skyrim did. It is an absolutely wonderful game and Jeremy Soule's incredible music makes the player's journey even more memorable. From the incredible "Dragonborn" theme to the calm atmospheric "Wind Guide You", this score is full of outstanding music that made playing the game a one of a kind experience. I honestly can't imagine Bethesda or Jeremy Soule ever accomplishing anything even remotely as great with a future sequel. If you somehow lived in a hermit's cave for the last decade and have never heard the music, then what are you waiting for?
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
(by Power Glove)
Far Cry 3's standalone expansion Blood Dragon defined itself through creating a future as imagined by someone from the 1980s. So atop uncountable 80's references, the fully electronic music stands out as the heart of the experience. Where modern shooters rely on pulsating action to get players engaged, Blood Dragon is simply fun. It's not a very serious score, instead it feels very exciting, even bold and heroic.
Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine
(by Austin Wintory)
Austin Wintory only recently got to my attention with his incredibly outstandingly amazing score to Assassin's Creed Syndicate. So one afternoon I decided to see what other projects he had worked on and was surprised to find out he had composed the music for Monaco, a game I thoroughly enjoyed. The music is mostly played by a piano, here and there a few other sounds emerge but luckily not too often. When playing the game, you'll notice the music changung from slower sections into all out frantic chaos as you run away from enemy guards, creating a fun experience, both for the game and the album. A truly unique and memorable experience.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Extended Soundtrack)
(by Ludvig Forssell, Akihiro Honda, Rina Yugi, Moe Jono & Steve Henifin)
I really enjoyed the music in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and it's little brother Ground Zeroes for the sudden bursts of excitement. The first score album featured most of the game's more exciting music but 'most' is not everything. The recently released Extended Soundtrack changed that. The word 'extended' may be a little misleading as the new album features no music already included in the first release and only adds new tracks to the collection. While a lot of the music is electronic ambient music, there are a lot of great exciting moments hidded among the 114 tracks. While for the average consumer, 5 hours and 44 minutes of music (combined with the first album thats over 8 hours!) might be a little too much, I have been wanting a score album like that for a loooong time. I really wish more scores would just be released in their entirety instead of a 40-60 minute album. While this extended release definitely has foregettable moments, I am really happy to have gotten it.
by Gilbert Colon
Like so much of Terrence Malick’s past work, his upcoming motion picture Knight of Cups, scheduled for stateside release in March, is pervaded and punctuated by a steady stream of classical music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Johann Pachelbel, Arcangelo Corelli, and others. His last film To the Wonder, released 2013, providentially marked the German Romantic composer Richard Wagner’s 200th anniversary by employing two arrangements of Parsifal’s Prelude to Act One, the first performed by the Mariinsky Orchestra and conducted by Valery Gergiev.
The second is a rescoring by To the Wonder’s New Zealand-born Hanan Townshend, a composer whose credits include Malick’s Oscar-nominated The Tree of Life and Knight of Cups. (Townshend told Paul Maher Jr., author of One Big Soul: An Oral History of Terrence Malick, that except for his Parsifal Prelude rendition – titled “Ascension” – and a re-recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Alleluia from Christmas Cantata No. 142, other arrangements of his did not make it into the final film.) Speaking to Anobium (“Diving Down The Rabbit Hole,” 6/11/13), Townshend explained that the reason for his own Parsifal rendition was because “Terry...wanted to do something a little different with these pieces [which] were very difficult to use.” The new orchestration allowed them to “create some interesting transitions between the music and the picture.” The result is
“...a very fragmented kind of film score [that] if you really listen...you’ll notice that a lot of the pieces have been cut up and pasted... [Terry’s] jumping from Bach to Wagner to Górecki; all these composers who have completely different sounds and completely different orchestrations.”
Nevertheless, rearranging existing compositions turned out to be the ideal solution for Townshend because when
“[Terry’s] attached to a particular piece by Wagner there is nothing I can do to try and get away from him. So, I was kind of giving him a lot of strettos on here, which is simplified, just the themes and tried to simplify them, so that’s what I did for Tree and then with To the Wonder it was sort of the same territory apart from this time I was going to write the score so he wanted stuff that really was underscore, stuff that could really just sit down underneath the picture almost and come into your subconscious mind as opposed to the bigger stuff that was classical repertoire.”
Despite this, the Parsifal Prelude remains manifestly recognizable in the three places it occurs.
Malick is esteemed as a cinematic visualist whose striking imagery takes precedence over narrative and even dialogue, but classical music has long been a strategic component of his aural storytelling vocabulary ever since utilizing Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer in his first film, Badlands. To the Wonder includes some of the same individual pieces Malick used in The Tree of Life – Hector Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, and Henryk Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Song. Further supplementing To the Wonder is the music of Franz Joseph Haydn, Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninov and, most pertinently here, Richard Wagner and his Parsifal, the Bühnenweihfestspiel opera recounting the acts and deeds of the knights who guard and serve the cup of the Last Supper, the Holy Grail.
In The Hollywood Reporter (9/4/12), reviewer Todd McCarthy gave us his firsthand impressions of To the Wonder from the Venice Film Festival premiere:
“... from [Olga] Kurylenko’s Marina, we hear about Mont Saint-Michel as a place classically referred to as ‘the wonder’ as she and her man (Ben Affleck) walk through the wet sand around the monument off the shore of Normandy to the profound strains of the prelude to the first act of Wagner’s Parsifal. ‘Love makes us one,’ Marina intones, and she and her guy ... do seem very much in love.”
Mont Saint-Michel stands as a potent symbol of love and the divine, the Parsifal Prelude its musical motif, and – as such – functions as the central visual leitmotif for the characters’ inner lives. As the film’s production notes poetically elaborate:
“The small town feel in Oklahoma is intensified by the contrasting Old World (and otherworldly) setting on Mont St. Michel, an island off the coast of Normandy, France. As the story opens, Neil and Marina are at the height of their romance, basking in the sun on a beautiful, rocky beach on Mont St. Michel, ... known in France as the Merveille, or ‘Wonder.’ Merveille, a top destination of pilgrims and tourists, is best known for its abbey and cloisters. Monks have lived on the island in search of solitude since the sixth century. The dramatic cloisters that rise up to the sky suggest a place somewhere between heaven and earth, reality and fantasy – an apt place to begin Marina and Neil’s story.”
The first melodic notes of the Parsifal Prelude sound when Neil and Marina’s hands clasp in close-up against a blinding bright white backdrop, “the warmth of the … spiritual light” spoken of by a sexton later in the film. Together they explore the cloister garden’s outer ring, Neil reverently touching its centuries-old columns and the two covering each other afterwards with kisses and caresses. Finally Wagner’s theme ebbs while the abbatial tidal waters flow inland and serenely engulf the islet shores of the sunken cathedral. So important is the Prelude music that it can even be heard in the film’s American trailer. The production notes share more details about the love the couple shares, some of it not explicit in the final film:
“As To the Wonder opens, Neil and Marina are together on the French island of Mont St. Michel – known in France as The Wonder of the Western World (Merveille de l’Occident) – and invigorated by feelings of being newly in love. Neil, an aspiring writer, has left the United States in search of a better life, leaving behind a string of unhappy affairs. Looking into Marina’s eyes as the Abbey looms in the distance, Neil is certain he has finally found the one woman he can love with commitment. He makes a vow to be true to this woman alone.”
It is Mont Saint-Michel as Monsalvat, the medieval Benedictine monastery standing in for the Grail Temple. Within its walls are the wondrous promises of sacramental love and quest’s end, the Eucharistic Liebesmahl of the Grail Knights’ agape in Parsifal, and connubial bliss in Malick’s. However Derrick Everett, writing for Monsalvat: The Parsifal Home Page, says about the Prelude’s Third Movement:
“New ideas, later to be related to the pain and Agony [motif] of Amfortas, are subtly introduced into the fabric, suggesting that beneath the confident, sunlit surface, all is not well in the domain of the Grail.”
These same dark forebodings apply to the trajectory of Marina and Neil’s love. What begins as storybook romance turns into marital disintegration as Neil falls for an old sweetheart (Rachel McAdams) back in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It is at this stage that To the Wonder threatens to become Malick’s Scenes from a Marriage, albeit leavened by a signature transcendence absent in Ingmar Bergman. Townshend, quoted from a press release published by Film Score Monthly, pinpoints this descent directly to the opening frames of the film and its Act One tones of Parsifal’s Prelude:
“The scene at the top of Mont Saint-Michel, where Neil and Marina are at the height of their love, is where I see the true heart of the film being. It is the moment where their love is at its purest and truest form, but is also the pivotal moment where we see this love, and as a result their relationship, slowly begin to fade.”
The second time the Parsifal Prelude swells is when Marina, after making a long pent-up confession in church and finally receiving Holy Communion, gives into unfaithfulness during a cheap motel rendezvous with another man. Marina and Neil’s sacred love leitmotif is purposefully misappropriated and violated so as to contrast it to the idyllic springtime of their original passion. Wagnerites will be reminded of King Amfortas and the mortal sin of the flesh that keeps him from embracing the Grail’s grace, with the despoiled Oklahoma landscape around To the Wonder’s couple a wounded Waste Land whose polluted soil bubbles up with toxins.
It is significant that Malick chooses not Claude Debussy’s piano Prelude to the Merveille, La cathédrale engloutie, as one might expect, but Wagner. This is not the first time Malick has preferred Wagner. In his poetic retelling of the Pocahontas legend, The New World, the director selects another Wagner Prelude, this one from the First Act of Das Rheingold (performed by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Edo de Waart), when he could have opted for Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony. The longer version of that film, The New World: The Extended Cut, goes further and scores the love between John Smith and Pocahontas to Das Rheingold’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. It is unsurprising that David Sterritt of Film Quarterly (“Days of Heaven and Waco,” Fall 2011) asserts:
“One of my strongest impressions regarding The Tree of Life is that no filmmaker has ever come closer to creating an authentic Gesamtkunstwerk [total artwork] ... and Malick approaches the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal via his truly Wagnerian orchestration of framing and composition in conjunction with poetic language and dialogue, verbal and gestural performance, source music and underscoring, costume, architecture, and décor.”
The third and last time Wagner enters To the Wonder’s soundtrack, as he does in the final scenes of The New World, is for an enigmatic ending that assures us, with its closing shot of Mont Saint-Michel and the resumption of the Parsifal Prelude, that come what may, Marina – framed in a cinematographic composition that conjures another work of German Romanticism, the Caspar David Friedrich painting “Woman Before the Rising Sun” – will never lose sight of “the Wonder.” Before that, Marina waltzes across a picturesque land – in a theme familiar to those acquainted with the Wagner opera’s Fisher King elements – restored from desolation to natural beauty, its lush greenery teeming with wildlife and budding trees in full blossom. The Parsifal Prelude too, previously cheapened and deliberately debased in the infidelity interlude, is by the end restored to its former glory and meaning. Though Marina is not the “Rose-bloom of Hell” that Parsifal’s Kundry is, like Wagner’s cursed witch she does come to repent of her past. Once she has done so, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) ministers to her the sacramental “well-spring of blood divine” from a chalice easily interpreted as a subtle visualization of the musical Gralmotiv from Parsifal.
This Fr. Quintana, a priest enduring the dark night of the soul, counsels, “You fear your love has died; it perhaps is waiting to be transformed into something higher.” This “perhaps” poses the open-ended question as to whether To the Wonder truly and definitively concludes in “Holy, highest wonder!” as did Parsifal (i.e., spiritual healing and regeneration), or a form of Liebestod as was the literal case for Princess Pocahontas whose final scene in The New World mirrors that of Marina’s. Both sequences are set to Wagner, incidentally, and in many ways, these two strangers in a strange land are free and kindred spirits.
With only a montage and Parsifal’s complementary chords for clues, it is a deliberately opaque epilogue that frees pilgrims to ponder whether Marina and Neil were put asunder or ascended “the Wonder” and its sacred steps once again.
to Jean Bradley, cellist extraordinaire and mother
GILBERT COLON is a guest writer on Film.Music.Media and can be read at Cinema Retro, Filmfax, Crime Factory, Crimespree Magazine, bare•bones, the St. Martin’s Press newsletter Tor.com, and RELEVANT Magazine, among other places.
Write him at email@example.com.
Film stills courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and The Film Stage.
Another year has passed and another wonderful year of stories have entered into existence. This year brought on a wonderful amount of scores that were a pure joy to experience. What is interesting is that every year certain trends seem to surface. One year this list was mostly dominated by indie films, and another year it was full of big budget studio films. Looking at 2015, the surprise here were the amount of incredible action scores that took us on amazing thrill rides. Action is usually a genre that is considered "escapist" or purely just for entertainment. However, there is a true art to a perfect action film and one of the major ingredients is music. You'll find a few key action films made the list this year, and like previous years we are doing a top 15. So let the countdown begin!
As every year with our "Best" list and all our reviews, scores are ultimately judged by their effectiveness within the film's narrative and not by their standalone album experience.
15. Desert Dancer by Benjamin Wallfisch
Benjamin Wallfisch is a brilliant writer and storyteller, and I hope more people discover his music. Desert Dancer is a perfect example of the aching beauty and emotional nuances he is capable of as a composer. The emotions here build from a deep starting point so that when the arcs finally reach a peak, we get to experience a rush of this warmth and beauty. Desert Dancer is a terrific effort and one of the year’s best.
14. Jupiter Ascending by Michael Giacchino
The Wachowski’s latest box office flop sees them reuniting with Michael Giacchino for the stylistic science fiction epic that is Jupiter Ascending. The film has its issues, but is not as bad as the reviews say, and one of the reasons it holds so well is Giacchino’s magnificent score. Working in reverse order, Giacchino composed a full score for the the directors to use prior to shooting. He then wen’t in and made adjustments to make it fit. The result is a score that is grand, operatic, thematic and simply stunning at times. It’s one of the best space adventure scores you’ll hear that doesn’t have “Star” or “Wars” in the title.
13. Cartel Land by H. Scott Salinas & Jackson Greenberg
Cartel Land is a fine example of a documentary score delivering more than what is expected it from it. Instead of going the generic route, the composing duo crafted an intense and intriguing thriller. Dramatic builds will send chills and establish dread all the while echoing the emotions of the situation.
12. Loin Des Hommes by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ film music work is nothing short of phenomenal. Even though the duo are more well known for their work with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, it’s in their film scores where a truly original and powerful voice has emerged. While Loin Des Hommes may not hold the emotional gravitas as The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, The Road or The Proposition, it still manages to craft deeply powerful story. Loin Des Hommes echoes pain and beauty in equal measure, making for a memorable score that resonates deep.
11. Above And Beyond by Lorne Balfe
If you’re looking at sheer output of work from a composer, then sitting up at the top is composer Lorne Balfe who has worked on 9 projects in 2015 alone (10 including Above And Beyond which was made in 2014 and released in 2015). Thankfully this is not an example of quantity over quality. Lorne has demonstrated a masterful handling on his voice and style, as well as ability to tell a story through music. Looking back, I found his score to the WW2 documentary Above And Beyond to speak ever so loudly long after I initially heard it. It’s simply a beautiful and powerful score with so much emotional resonance. It really stands out above other doc scores mainly because it doesn’t feel like the “expected” doc score.
10. Rams by Atli Örvarsson
Rams is a small minimalist score from Atli Örvarsson. It’s a brilliant character study that manages to pinpoint everything it needs to. The sound, style and instrumentation echo the cold open landscapes and isolation depicted in this Icelandic film. Atli has wowed us with his impressive studio scores and his work with Hans Zimmer, but here he is able to truly write from his voice as a composer. The score is cold and stark while it carries a tone of foreboding tragedy. It’s one of his finest accomplishments as a storyteller and fits the film perfectly.
9. The Man From U.N.C.L.E by Daniel Pemberton
The film was ignored and bombed hard, but left in the rubble of monetary loss for Warner Brothers was an absolutely excellent film adaptation from Guy Ritchie and a super fantastic score by Daniel Pemberton. The score is a towering tribute in many ways to the style of 60’s scoring, but it’s also very modern in its approach. Pemberton infuses his style to make the music explode off the screen. The music is highly melodic and thematic, making perfect building blocks for Guy Ritchie to shape sequences over.
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens by John Williams
John Williams’ return to the Star Wars universe has finally come and gone. After reflecting on it, it truly was a magical and wondrous experience seeing how well the master was able to craft something new from a franchise he’s written 6 scores to. Rey’s theme is pure Williams goodness, and his style fit perfectly to J.J. Abrams’ modern vision for the iconic saga. The score never relied on old themes too much therefore making it one of the most exciting and emotional action/adventure scores of the year.
7. Cinderella by Patrick Doyle
Patrick Doyle’s absolutely gorgeous score to Kenneth Branagh’s live-action take on Cinderella is some of the most magical writing you’ll find all year. The score is lush and alive, it flourishes with life yet still crafts a thrilling character journey for Cinderella. It’s organic, moving and lifting all the while embracing the lavishness of the fairytale genre.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road by Tom Holkenborg
Mad Max: Fury Road is a premiere example of how to score action. Holkenborg embraces certain action stylings of the past and infuses his own voice into it by crafting a score that can be both tremendously bombastic yet sweepingly majestic as well. The score has multiple diegetic elements such as the tribal percussions of the drummers and the roaring guitar solos of the flame-throwing guitar-playing Doof Warrior. The score is action perfection and has a main theme that perfectly represents a spiraling decent into madness.
5. The Hateful Eight by Ennio Morricone
If you ignore all the media attention this score has gotten because it’s “Tarantino’s first original score!” and “Morricone’s first western in 40 years!” then you’ll be pleased find that there truly is a score that perfectly captures the mood and momentum of this snowy stylized Western about tension and paranoia. Morricone captures this progression moving towards the film’s eruption of violence towards the end. It’s dark and brooding yet basked in Morricone’s signature stylings. The subtle glance of a character, the wide shots of a horse-drawn wagon moving across the white landscape like a shark’s fin cutting through water, and the sharp dialogue punching through every scene is all enhanced by this amazing score.
4. Carol by Carter Burwell
Carol is an amazing representation of Burwell embracing his voice as an auteur, while beautifully crafting a score that pinpoints the emotional swirls of the forbidden love story at the heart of Carol. Everything about this score is very “Burwell”, but it manages to find the heart of the film so effortlessly that the score becomes one of the shining beacons of the film as a whole. The main theme is the heart of the music, and it fleshes out the characters beautifully to echo a deep human story that resonates long after you've experienced it.
3. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation by Joe Kraemer
Joe Kraemer showed us how perfect an action score can be with Rogue Nation. This fully orchestral score stood above the rest not just in the action genre, but in the Mission Impossible series as well. Instead of shying away from the original themes, he broke them down and used them in ways we never experienced before. It may have outrageously gotten him disqualified from Oscar contention, but if you ignore the Academy’s stupid rules then this becomes one of the year’s top efforts. Kraemer's talents and capabilities are on full display here, and the 5th film in the franchise shows no signs of fatigue because of them.
2. Inside Out by Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino is no stranger to animation, and is one of Pixar’s top collaborators. Inside Out is a challenging concept, but it’s made so accessible thanks to Giacchino’s beautiful score. Wonderful themes and melodies hit the story beats with perfection and flesh out the characters and emotions superbly. It may not be one of his most showy scores, but it’s one of his best. The music here is a perfect example of how we need sadness to know what joy is.
1. Sicario by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Sicario is a deep and dark score that is crafted with tremendous precision. The pounding percussion and bone-chilling descending strings work hand in hand with the edit and the shot composition to build an unsurmountable amount of dread. This is a master example of suspense scoring done with perfection in a way we really haven’t experienced before. Jóhannsson leaves us shaken to the core and shows us how to make image and sound work in harmony. The music is such an integral part of what makes the movie work and your heart will be racing long after it ends. Sicario is an example what music is meant to do, and Jóhannsson does it oh so well.
Another year has ended, so it's that time of year again, where everyone is making lots of lists listing off the things worth making lists for. To give you a general idea of these lists, here is my list of favourite food consumed last year: Pizza. You may think "But I don't like pizza that much...". Well, I do. These lists contain a lot of personal opinions, but that's just the side effect of having it written by a person.
Also these lists are made according to how effective the score is at giving the player the right mood while playing, not keeping in mind how great the music is on its own.
Again, lets start off by mentioning a few things that did not make the top 10.
Honorable Mention: Bloodborne
(by Ryan Amon, Tsukasa Saitoh, Cris Velasco, Yuka Kitamura and Michael Wandmacher)
A stunning atmospheric score with incredible burtst of intense action.
Honorable Mention: Rainbow Six Siege
(by Paul Haslinger and Ben Frost)
Sometimes having no music at all is the right decision for a game. Such is the case in the intense multiplayer tactics of Rainbow Six Siege. The music compososed for the game only plays in the menu and cinematics, the gameplay is silent.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars Battlefront
(by Gordy Haab and John Williams)
While the game lacks in terms of content, it sure feels like Star Wars. Besides stunning graphics, the inclusion of some of John Williams's themes from the Star Wars movies as well as new music composed by Gordy Haab really make playing the game worthwhile. The music is a varied mix of old and new, with the listener unable to tell which is which.
Honorable Mention: Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
(by Jack Wall)
I really loved Wall's work on Black Ops 2, but was disappointed a great deal since his music for the sequel just did not feel right for me. There are some nice moments but the electronic action just feels repetetive and after a while I got bored and moved on. "Leviathan" is great though!
Most Honorable Of All Mentions: Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
(by Austin Wintory)
I could not write about the best videogame scores of the year and not mention Austin Wintory's musical masterpiece. The music is absolutely fantastic, but it hardly affects gameplay for me. Instead of dominating intense fights, it just accompanies the gameplay in the background.
10. Batman: Arkham Knight
(by Nick Arundel and David Buckley)
As much as I hate the release of two seperate volumes of scores, I have to admit the music does a great job of creating a suspenseful atmosphere for the dark and rainy setting of Gotham. The fighting music lacks intensity in some places but generally feels well made.
9. Dying Light
(by Pawel Blaszczak)
A nice blend of electronic and orchestral suspense and action with a large amount of emotional moments dominate Dying Light's city of Harran. Venturing out in the dark is only made worse by Blaszczak's tense music as you try to avoid detection by the terrors of the night.
8. Fallout 4
(by Inon Zur)
Fallout 4 is the game I spent the most time with in 2015. The game's music fits perfectly into the rusty wasteland with percussion heavy action and beautiful themes to accompany the player while exploring the desolate game world.
7. Destiny: The Taken King
(by Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson and Skye Levin)
The music for Destiny was already featured in last year's article, still the team of composers managed to exceed my expectations once again. The music in the first mission of the new Taken King expansion is among my most memorable gaming experiences, as the mission starts out as a routine exploration and quickly turns into a tense fight for survival and your escape from an unstoppable force. The expansion of the main game's universe comes with some of the greatest boss fight tracks I have had the pleasure of hearing.
6. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
(by Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett and Harry Gregson-Williams)
As much as I wanted to hear a full Gregson-Williams score for this game, I really enjoyed what Ludvig Forssell and Justin Burnett accomplished. While it is true the music ignored the franchise's roots and went into a completely new direction, the suspenseful moments (of which there are many) and intense action moments really made playing the game a lot of fun. I have yet to finish the main story though...
5. Rise Of The Tomb Raider
(by Bobby Tahouri)
I absolutely loved Jason Graves's music for the Tomb Raider reboot two years ago, so to hear a new composer expand on existing themes instead of ignoring them is good news for me. The action writing is superb, suspenseful moments feel tense enough to keep me going and the ambient music never feels out of place.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(by MaMarcin Przybylowicz, Mikolai Stroinski and Percival Schuttenbach)
The Witcher 3 is one of those games that overwhelmed me with content anytime I attempt to get back into playing it. "Why not do this side quest? Or discover some new locations? Here's a notice board full of side quests!" The music holds a perfect balance between beautiful exploration and intense brutal combat, enhancing the gameplay quite a lot.
3. Mad Max
(by Mats Lundgren)
Mad Max is one of these games that refine the word "fun" and make it the core of the entire game. While the music is not in any way similar to Tom Holkenborg's outstanding score for Mad Max Fury Road, it feels just right for violent car chases and brutal hand ti hand combat in the dry desert. Just a shame the music was never released for the public...
2. Halo 5: Guardians
(by Kazuma Jinnouchi)
As stated in my review of this score, I believe it to be as close as perfect as it could be. The combination of orchestra and electronics is balanced just right, the action is really intense and exciting and the ambient tracks are simply fun to listen to. The music really defines the tone of the game and feels just right for sci fi shootouts in stunning settings.
1. Just Cause 3
(by Henry Jackman and Zach Abramson)
Another sandbox game by Avalanche studios, and again it basically just refined "fun" and makes it the entire game. Arguably my favourite game of the year (if not of all time).
The music for a game this amazing can be quite hard to get right... Just Cause 2 did not do too well, but the music for the third installment in the series is just outstanding. The ambient music is quite nice, though you won't be hearing too much of that wingsuiting around the islands of Medici blowing everything you see into tiny bits, then strapping rockets to the tiny bity and watching them explode again. If you need any more reasons to love this music, turn down the volume of everything but the music to abour 80% and fly above a combat zone... The music dynamically changes depending on what you do and every now and then a subtle heroic theme emerges from the fast paced action as you grapple away from a huge chain of explosions. Please, please someone release this music on an album!
This year's Hollywood In Vienna was my very first live Vienna concert experience and I was extremely excited. The feeling of excitement was well-founded since I knew I was going to experience something memorable. This was no ordinary concert for me, it was a night that celebrated the music of one of the biggest and best composers the industry has ever seen.photo credit: Ludwig Schedl
In early 2015 the announcement was made that none other than James Newton Howard was going to receive the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award and many fans could not wait to finally attend the concert. On October 16th 2015 it finally happened and the Hollywood In Vienna Gala Evening took place.
This year's event was named Tales Of Mystery and in the first part of the concert, the audience attending in a sold out Wiener Konzerthaus, got to experience a large selection of well-known and great pieces of music. Conductor Keith Lockhart, the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir plus all guest performers were really on fire that night. It was a fantastic concert from start to finish. I am not only talking about the quality of the music and the spot on performances. It was furthermore the entire set design, the lighting and every other factor that made it a very special evening.
Conductor Keith Lockhart kicked things off with "The Hollywood In Vienna Fanfare". The first piece of the night, a suite as a matter of fact, was Franz Waxmans' classic score for Alfred Hitchcock's film Rebecca, followed by another suite of John Debney's wonderful Phantom Manor, which was a world premiere performance and a really well executed one. There was simply a superb selection of music for the Tales Of Mystery part. From Alan Silvestri's Death Becomes Her "End Credits" to the brilliant "Carol Ann's Theme" from Jerry Goldsmith's Poltergeist. Another very effective score had a world premiere in Vienna: IT by Richard Bellis who was also in attendance that night. His great "Main Title" and the theme for Pennywise were performed really well.
Alice In Wonderland by the great Danny Elfman was another wonderful addition. "Alice's Theme" was performed beautifully by orchestra and choir. Yet, the best pieces of the first part of the night were yet to come. Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer saw a fantastic vocal performance by the amazing Daniela Fally. The first part of the concert brought such a big variety and many great pieces by fantastic composers were presented to the audience. There were quite a few standout pieces and Hans Zimmer's brilliant "Chevaliers De Sangreal" from The Da Vinci Code certainly was one of those.
One of the most effective, frightening and simply outstanding scores in film history has to be Jerry Goldsmith's The Omen. A score that is absolutely unique and sensational. "The Omen Suite" was brilliantly conducted and orchestra and choir were simply phenomenal. The combination of Goldsmith's "Main Title" and other moments of choral brilliance from the movie resulted in one of the evening's most memorable performances. After the incredibly intense suite, the audience got to revistit Marc Shaiman's Adam's Family with another nice suite which ended the first part of the night.
Before I go into detail about the second part of the concert, I would like to mention that the producers of Hollywood In Vienna decided to incorporate a great tribute to the late James Horner, who received the Max Steiner Award in 2013. James was not only one of the most brilliant composers ever but most certainly one of the most influential and inspiring ones. The tribute was very touching to say the least. "Rose's Theme" from James' Titanic score was performed on the piano and on screen the audience got to see a part of James' moving award acceptance speech of 2013. A heartbreaking moment for sure!
The time had come to celebrate the music and career of one of the most respected and gifted composers ever: James Newton Howard. Conductor Keith Lockhart, the orchestra and choir did an incredible job to perform one of James' very best pieces from The Last Airbender. The cue "The Wave" started the James Newton Howard Tribute and it was a magnificent experience!
A Tribute To James Newton Howard
A medley of James' scores followed and it was comprised of no less than seven of his scores and it clearly showed the versatility and genius of this composer. From Wyatt Earp to King Kong, Peter Pan, Lady In The Water, Dinosaur, Hidalgo and Atlantis. Those seven scores represent some of James' best work ever. Signs certainly was another great highlight and the suite, which contained James' "Main Title" and parts of “The Hand Of Fate” was outstanding. This was thrilling to say the least.
Of all the scores James has written so far, I consider The Village to be my personal favorite and I was extremely happy to see it performed that night. “The Gravel Road” was a great choice for the concert and it was played just beautifully. The Village and Defiance were presented in a suite as well and the transition to "Nothing Is Impossible" from Defiance was seamless.
The night pretty much covered it all, from moments of great excitement and beauty to very soft ones. Pretty Woman contained moments of absolute beauty followed by James' extremely moving theme for The Prince Of Tides. Louise Dearman did a superb job singing "Places That Belong To You" from this very movie. Those were really lovely moments.
The night just kept getting better and better and some of the best moments were yet to come! From Maleficent, one of James' very finest achievements of recent years, to the awesome performance of Blood Diamond and the splendid "Suite" of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Both Maleficent and Blood Diamond were world premieres and the orchestra and choir delivered big time! All of those pieces delivered some of the evening's most amazing musical moments. What a highlight! The audience loved it and rightfully so!
Slowly but surely, the wonderful concert was coming to an end, but of course it could not end without "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games. This was a massive performance that must have given goosebumps to pretty much everybody in the audience. Simply amazing.
Basically, the concert provided one great moment after another and after "The Chariot Ceremony" also from The Hunger Games, James accepted the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award and gave a touching acceptance speech. After all those great moments, the night ended with Brian McKnight singing "For The First Time", a lovely song James wrote for the movie One Fine Day.
James Newton Howard receiving a huge standing ovation
I have said it many times before, but I simply cannot point out enough what a fantastic concert and great night this was. It was very special and it meant a lot to me to be able to experience it live. The musical selection was great, the set design and lighting were amazing and it complimented everything nicely. On top of that, Steven Gätjen did a great job as the evening's host! Conductor Keith Lockhart, the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Neue Wiener Stimmen choir and every guest performer simply did an excellent job and gave us many moments to remember. Everything was put together and executed so well. Congratulations to everybody of Hollywood In Vienna and let me thank you for making this event possible and of course for honoring the fantastic and brilliant James Newton Howard!
With the sheer number of films and soundtrack releases that come out on a weekly basis, it's not possible that we can cover every single one. Film.Music.Media tries to be your #1 source for coverage on the newest and most recent releases, but it's inevitable that some may slip through the cracks. This isn't to say the ones that were missed are worthy of ignoring. So in an effort to shine a light on some of the scores we missed during their initial releases, here's a little spotlight on those that deserve it.
Missed Part 1? Click Here
Need For Speed
(by Nathan Furst)
The Fast And Furious franchise may be in the lead of racing movies, but in video games, Need For Speed has always been the first name to come to my mind (having never played one of the games...), so to see a Need For Speed movie felt a bit weird. While the movie might not be the best of its kind, Nathan Furst's excellent action score deserves the attention. Outstanding action writing with some elements reminding me of Furst‘s score to Act Of Valor, a heroic main theme that feels unusual for a movie about racing, all held together by solid emotional tracks.
Batman: Arkham Origins
(by Christopher Drake)
Hans Zimmer has done an incredible job for Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy, but for me, Batman has always been associated with the sounds of Danny Elfman. But then came Arkham Origins. All I was looking for was a fun game to play, but right from the opening scene, all I cared for was Christopher Drake‘s music. Drake managed to fuse that old Batman feeling with intense action and Zimmer‘s rough percussion from The Dark Knight Rises. If there ever was a perfect Batman score, it‘s this one.
Torchwood: Children Of Earth
(by Ben Foster)
Having conducted Murray Gold‘s incredible Doctor Who and Torchwood scores, Ben Foster also composed the score for the third season of Torchwood titled Children Of Earth. Torchwood has always been the Doctor Who spin-off targeted at older audiences, so the music is a lot more serious than a Doctor Who score. In many ways, this is a modern espionage thriller, as the show focuses less on alien threats and more on secret organizations evading the government. The continuity in the music, possible due to the five part story leads to development as the team starts out working, becomes the hunted and fights back during the end. Meanwhile the alien threat does become more serious, so the score becomes more dramatic and intense.
Johnny English Reborn
(by Ilan Eshkeri)
A lot of parodies tend to either overuse their score or don‘t seem to care about them at all. Not so Johnny English Reborn. Like any good Bond movie/score, it opens with a bold main theme that serves as the score‘s foundation, filled in with action and the occasional suspenseful spy stereotype. The result is a score that is fun from start to finish. If you need an emotional score that gets you thinking about the morality of life, this is not your cup of tea. If, on the other hand you enjoy a fun time, this experience is definitely worth your time.