Monday, March 30, 2009

Maurice Jarre (1924-2009)

(from the BBC website)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has paid tribute to Oscar-winning film composer Maurice Jarre, who has died in Los Angeles at the age of 84.

Mr Sarkozy called French-born Jarre, whose credits include Lawrence of Arabia, "a great composer" who produced "majestic and full-bodied works".

Jarre also won Academy Awards for Dr Zhivago and A Passage To India.

His last public appearance was in February at the Berlin Film Festival, where he won a lifetime award.


Mr Sarkozy added: "By working with some of the greatest filmmakers in the world, he showed that music can be just as important as pictures to make a beautiful and successful film."

French culture minister Christine Albanel called the composer a "creative, modern musician who showed a perfect mastery of sound".

"His music provided a counterpoint to the pictures and formed one with the film," she added.

Jarre rose to prominence relatively late in life, writing his first score for a French short film in 1952.

His breakthrough came in 1962 when provided the soundtrack for the epic Lawrence of Arabia, for which he was awarded an Oscar.

He went on to compose music for more than 150 films.

A further six Academy Award nominations came Jarre's way for his scores on other high profile films, including hits like Ghost, Gorillas In The Mist and Witness.

The musician also earned two Bafta Awards, four Golden Globes and a Grammy in a career rich with accolades.

His scores enhanced the work of some of the film industry's greatest directors - among his collaborators were David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston and Luchino Visconti.

He also wrote symphonic music for theatre, ballet and television, including the 1970s mini-series Jesus of Nazareth.

Jarre, who moved to the US in the 1960s, was married four times and is the father of Jean-Michel Jarre, a pioneer of electronic music.

His other son, Kevin, is a screenwriter based in the US.

At the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, event director Dieter Kosslick paid tribute to Jarre saying: "Film composers often are in the shadows of great directors and acting stars.

"It's different with Maurice Jarre - the music of Doctor Zhivago, like much of his work, is world-famous and remains unforgettable in cinema history."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scores In 2009: A Look Ahead

So, 2009 is well underway. We’re just about done with the studio dumpster section of the year where all the studios dump their “too much to drink, what was I thinking?” projects. With the summer, fall and winter ahead we have plenty of high profile movies to look forward to. With high profile movies come high profile scores and there are plenty of composers to watch out for the rest of the year as their sounds bring to life the movies we are all looking forward to.

I’ll start off with Michael Giacchino who is gonna have a pretty good year. You can currently hear him every Wednesday night on LOST as season 5 wraps up another amazing season for him on the show. Varese will release his Season 4 score in May so we have lots of LOST to sink our teeth into. Giacchino’s last film score was Speed Racer last year and while the score was fantastic the movie fell under the radar. This summer brings up 3 Giacchino scores that I cannot wait to hear: Star Trek, Land Of The Lost and Up. Star Trek reunites him with J.J. Abrams and is bound to be stellar. Giacchino said himself that he plans on overlooking Goldmsith’s work on the series and focus on Alexander Courage’s original thematic material.

Another big event will be Michael Mann’s Public Enemies which will feature a score from Elliot Goldenthal who has been rather absent from the world of film. His last score was 2007’s Across The Universe but let’s face it; the score wasn’t the focus there. This will be his second feature with Mann the other one being Heat in 1995.

We also have a Terrence Malick film to look forward to and Malick films usually mean musically driven images. Malick has never worked with the same composer more than once and I’m guessing it’s because he isn’t that easy to please. I’ve heard about stories of friction and arguing between him and his composers mainly from Hans Zimmer and James Horner. However, every Malick film has given us some of the greatest music in film so at least greatness comes from the creative fighting. Alexandre Desplat is doing the score for The Tree Of Life and it’s worthy to note on your radar.

Carter Burwell has another Coen Brothers film which is always something to take note of. He’ll also be co-composing Where The Wild Things Are which has Burwell written all over it.

Eyes are on Danny Elfman as he takes over The Terminator franchise. All I’m hoping for is not another mess of a score like The Kingdom if he decides to go in that direction. He’ll also be composing for the remake of The Wolf Man, which is just a tad ironic. It’s ironic because he stole the original Wolf Man theme and made it the Batman theme for his score to Burton’s 1989 film. So, will he keep that theme for the remake? If he does then The Wolf Man will be going around to Batman’s former theme and that would be kind of funny.

Okay, Hans and company. 2009 is Hans’ “take it easy” year. His only score is Angels & Demons. He did the music for The Burning Plain but that was last year and the film is only now getting distribution. Still waiting on his tour announcements so that should be exciting when it happens. Harry Gregson-Williams is doing Wolverine and apparently is going symphonic for it? Should be amazing. There’s also The Taking Of Pelham 123, and anytime Harry and Tony Scott get together it’s cause for rejoicing. Expect a synth heavy intensity that only Harry can deliver in this age of modern scoring. King of animation, John Powell will be doing Ice Age 3 and that should be tons of fun to hear. He’s also doing the Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon flick, Green Zone. I expect a Bourne type score which isn’t bad since I loved Powell’s Bourne scores. Steve Jablonsky is doing Transformers 2 so theaters will be able to give their sound systems a good workout with that score. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood will give Marc Streitenfeld a test of his abilities, which I’m not worried about. Marc has been part of Zimmer’s team for a long time and is fully capable of keeping his personal style and adapting to the setting. It’s not like he’s going in with no experience.

Later this year we have a Scorsese film and it’s still unannounced if Howard Shore is going to score it, Avatar brings us our first James Horner score in quite some time, and actor Jason Schwartzman will enter the composing realm with his score for Funny People. 2009 looks to be a promising year of score driven films and hopefully will provide for a better selection at the Oscars next year. While I am sad there will be only 2 Hans scores this year I can’t wait for him to go on tour. So, here’s to some great music to come in the following months.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monsters Vs Aliens by Henry Jackman (Review)

Dreamworks Animation films usually have 1 thing in common, and that is a Hans Zimmer or Zimmer associated score. With 2009 being the year of only 1 Hans Zimmer score he has given fellow composer Henry Jackman his first solo effort. Jackman has been working under Zimmer since 2006 as an additional composer doing lots of work on the last two Pirates films and The Holiday notably. Monsters Vs Aliens is Jackman's first solo effort and boy it's a breath of fresh air. Not to say I don't love the whimsy sounds of Rupert Gregson-Williams, but something about this score just feels fresh. While he utilizes electronics the majority and heart of the score is orchestral.

Early on in the score Jackman sets up with the two major themes. They are subtly played throughout the score. The monsters theme can first be heard in "Meet The Monsters" and it has this great folky jazz vibe. The full-out version of the theme is the track titled "Monster Mojo". The other theme which can be heard slightly in the first track kind of becomes the main theme even though Jackman never really beats us over the head with it. It can be heard in full glory in "The Ginormica Suite" and while I hate saying it the sound is very Zimmeresque. There is that simplicity and light heartedness that reminds me of Zimmer's lighter scores and it does indeed bring a smile to my face. While Hans did serve as Executive Score Producer this is clearly a Henry Jackman score.

The entire score is a really fun listen. It has a certain bounce to it that is hard to describe, but it'll keep you listening. Jackman has certainly impressed me with what has to be one of the greatest freshman efforts to come from an RCP composer in a long time. Bravo. So, get the score and give it a listen. It's really great to play in the car and it's a nice light way to break out of the winter months of heavy serious scoring into the summer months ahead.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Outlander by Geoff Zanelli (Review)

Now, before you laugh let me get this off the bat. While Outlander may be one of the most laughably bad plots I've ever heard of I can say that Geoff Zanelli's score stands above the clouds and becomes an incredibly amazing standalone experience. So much so that I am actually a little bit curious as to how it works in the film.

The CD is released in a limited pressing of 1500 units by La La Land Records and is a worthy purchase indeed. I think what I like most about Outlander is the varying thematic material presented. Zanelli provides us with that full orchestral/synth sound for the Vikings that is heard in the very first track. I always hate to pinpoint what Zimmer score an RCP composer's score sounds like, but it's a great reference point.

King Arthur immediately jumped into my head because of the full sound and harsh percussion. The futuristic sounds have some synth elements and structure that actually reminded me of Black Hawk Down especially the second half of "Gunnar's Raid". Now, the fact that I'm referencing all these Zimmer scores doesn't mean that Outlander is just a Zimmer rip. It really is a fun and thematic score with that Zanelli feel. The great part is when these two sounds clash and form a synthesis of the two worlds. We lose that Old World feel and we lose that Sci-fi feel and gain something new, which is always refreshing. The greatest part for me is hearing familiar arrangements and structures that I've heard in previous Zanelli scores, and that tells me he is a composer with a unique voice which is very rare today.

Zanelli's music has really grown lately and even though he may be scoring these laughable films like Outlander and Hitman I feel like he's getting a better feel for what he can accomplish in different genres. The fact that he's doing films like Ghost Town and then jumping into something like Outlander is great to see. He is stretching himself and not limiting himself to a certain area. Outlander is a fun score and is worth the purchase even if you have zero interest in the movie and its silly plot.

Race To Witch Mountain by Trevor Rabin (Review)

Trevor Rabin's latest effort is another digital release only and can be found on Amazon MP3 and iTunes Plus. As a person who grew up listening to Rabin I can tell you witch of his scores are fantastic, which of them are great, which of them are okay and which of them are not so memorable. Rabin has only been composing since 1996, but has quickly established himself as one of the great electronic composers working today. Now, we are all adults here and can admit that Rabin doesn't compose for Academy Award winning films, but that doesn't mean his scores are bad. Race To Witch Mountain is however not so great.

Unfortunately with this score we are not getting anything remotely new or fresh. I couldn't even put my finger on a theme here. As a T-Rab fan I have to say I enjoyed hearing those familiar arrangements that evoked memories of scores past. "Tracking The E.B.E's" is by far the best track and it has Rabin written all over it. The pulsating strings laid on top of an electronic beat definitely gives that National Treasure feel, but it strives in its simplicity. All we have here is a great action beat which ends in a very Rabinesque manner.

So, Race To Witch Mountain won't be looked back on as anything memorable and even for Trevor it was disappointing and I don't say that often. It's not a terrible score, but for the standards I've come to expect from one of my favorite composers I can't hide the fact that I was disappointed.