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By Randall D. Larson
May 24, 2007
BUG original soundtrack.
THIS WEEK’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Brian Tyler’s score for William Friedkin’s psychological horror film Bug, released Tuesday as an online download from iTunes and elsewhere, is a very disturbing and dissonant score, unlike anything Tyler has done before – certainly a far cry from more melodic and adventure-filled scores like Annapolis, Timeline, Constantine, and others. Friedkin’s latest thriller has to do with a paranoid, unhinged, war veteran (Michael Shannon) who sees insects everywhere holing up with a lonely waitress (Ashley Judd) in a spooky Oklahoma motel room. The former soldier says he's the victim of an experiment in which insects have been inserted into his body as transmitters, and now he's on the run from the government. Whether he’s delusional or victimized remains to be seen (I haven’t seen the film yet, so these impressions are drawn purely from listening to the album and researching online reviews of the film).
The music for Bug scuttles between isolated austerity, disquieting atonal textural riffing, darkly-hewn tonalities laced with furtive piano interaction, raucous bits of non-rhythmic electronica. It’s a difficult score to access initially, being so unmelodic and downright bizarre, but given the proper attention you will find that Tyler has crafted a brilliant tone poem for the disturbed/diseased mind. The discomforting music is as appropriate for the insectile product of Shannon’s imagination as it is for his own state of mind with its evident increasing madness. Tyler has composed a score that is surreal, bleak, and hopeless, and wherein even the promise of a kind of love with a lonely waitress becomes stale, isolated, vapid. Meeting Friedkin’s directorial style, which emphasizes sound in languid, sonic close-ups, the menacing environment of the motel room that is the film’s primary set, head-on, Tyler metamorphoses (buglike?) into a new stage with this score, shedding the pupa of what he’s done before to emerge discretely in new form to provide a stark, sterile, and distinctive composition for a vastly different style of film.
Whether reflecting the panicked horror of real bugs or underlining the hallucinations of a deluded veteran, Tyler’s music defines the nightmarish clarity through which Shannon’s character exists. The burbling synth tones reflect and ultimately embody the character’s numbing paranoia, the sound of his own sweat oozing out from crusted pores, the squeaking of bloodshot eyes darting right and left, right and left, the sprinkled pattern of brain synapses firing way out of synch and connecting with air. Judd’s character, with her own constant paranoia, shares a similar psychological distress, and the score is just as suitable for what she’s going through as it is for Shannon.
The trilogy of “Bug” tracks that open the soundtrack (“Bug, Pt. 1: Birth,” “Bug, Pt. 2: Life,” and “Bug, Pt. 3: Death”) form a progressive fusion of incongruous tonalities and textures, ear-aching squeals emerging from a brushing of synth pads and electric bass riffing, twanging warbles of electric guitar and punchy raps of toms echoing amidst the echoes of insanity. “Nocturne for Lloyd” proffers an ascetic sparseness of dark piano tonality; austere, dreary reflections of anguish and desperation. Similarly, “The Temptation of Dr. Sweet” carries a like ambiance, adding to the mix a harsh, descending cello figure the clearly suggests the protagonist’s downward drift.
“Drug,” appropriately, proffers a miasmic vibe for fast rock drumming over electric guitar and associated feedback, clinking piano, crafting a powerful mood of claustrophobia and mind-altered panic and paranoia. “Phonescape” carries on a similar atonal sensibility, with reflective reverb and layered arrangements of sound patterns and fills. Recurring throbs of processed synth over gurgling electronic riffs populate “Aphids” with ethereal patterns of tiny white spots that may or may not exist; the repetitious mechanical pulsations increase both panic and paranoia, as do the grinding little motor sounds and blinking white noise that form the texture of the cue’s second half. “Millions” sends forth a coarse cadence of fuzzy heavy metal electric guitar, aggressively performed over anxious batterings of snare and cymbal, all becoming increasingly chaotic and disturbed; a thrashing axe blade hysterically piercing normality; the mind’s throttles opened up to full bore and allowing panic reign to over all. The score concludes with “Peterception,” a reprisal of the piano measures of “Nocture for Lloyd” and “The Temptation of Dr. Sweet,” closing the score with an unresolved pattern of reflective quietude and apparently ongoing mental disturbia.
So, you get the idea that this isn’t a real happy score. It probably won’t generate the same kind of play as The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Big Empty, or the wonderfully provocative Bubba Ho-Tep. But it is definitely worth attention. In Bug, Tyler has captured the psychology of paranoia, emotional anguish, and an increasing separation from reality with a perceptive musical authenticity. By playing Freud’s Advocate to Friedkin’s cinematic Houdini, we are left to wonder if Bug’s disturbed veteran is really seeing things or if he is in fact living the result of some nanotechnological government implant.
FILM MUSIC NEWS
Composer Gabriel Yared takes his first step into true horror with his score for 1408, Dimension Films’ adaptation of the Stephen King short story. Mikael Håfström directed the film, which stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, about a haunted hotel room. Academy and Grammy Award-winning composer Gabriel Yared takes a rare foray into the horror genre and comes up with his own unique take on interpreting this Stephen King story. The film opens nationwide on June 22; Varese Sarabande will release the soundtrack CD on July 3rd. www.varesesarabande.com
La-La Land has released a new limited edition release pairing the original LP tracks from Dominic Frontiere's popular Western score Hang 'Em High with his orchestral score for the 1984 survival drama The Aviator, which starred Christopher Reeve and Roseanna Arquette. The Aviator was originally released on LP by Varese Sarabande, but this first CD release adds additional cues, and also features two Frontiere cues from the Western Barquero. www.lalalandrecords.com
On May 29th, Intrada will release a world premiere recording of the complete 1945 Academy Award-winning score by Miklos Rozsa for landmark Alfred Hitchcock thriller Spellbound. The composer’s legendary work for orchestra with Theremin has been newly performed & recorded in full 24 bit/96 kHz audio using the original manuscripts plus reconstructions made under the supervision of Rozsa authority Daniel Robbins. CD offers entire score, including the lengthy love sequence, the exciting original “Ski Run” music, the complex dream sequences, the alternate ending, and much more. The album also features music not heard in finished film. Celia Sheen plays Theremin; Allan Wilson conducts Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. www.intrada.com
Film Score Monthly has released an “archival edition” soundtrack to 1965’s “techno-thriller” The Satan Bug, one of the first science fiction scores in Jerry Goldsmith's career, and the predecessor of such landmarks as Planet of the Apes, The Illustrated Man, The Mephisto Waltz, Capricorn One and Alien. Goldsmith's score features snaking, snarling atonality and avant garde suspense as a kind of bridge from his television work (such as on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) to feature films. Goldsmith wrote for an orchestra devoid of high strings – only cellis and bass formed the string section for The Satan Bug – with a battery of brass, percussion, woodwinds and two early synthesizers, the Hammond Solovox and Novachord. Utilizing 12-tone serial techniques, Goldsmith concocted an eerie, malevolent sound world of astringent action and seething creepiness. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the master tapes to The Satan Bug are still mostly lost and long destroyed (along with most of United Artists' original soundtracks). Miraculously, two reels of recorded music turned up in the collection of Bob Burns, a beloved industry figure who has archived countless movie props and artifacts. The two units of the 1/2” three-track stereo masters – recorded on the Samuel Goldwyn scoring stage in terrific sound quality – represent around 40% of the score, though none of the large-scale action cues. The only other source for the Satan Bug recording is a monaural music-and-effects track which had been isolated on a 1996 laserdisc of the film. FSM has opted to release the score with the sound effects mixed in with the music where that was their only available choice, combining the music-only tapes with the music-and-effects source (newly retransferred) for a chronological presentation of the complete score. (Fortunately, the main and end titles are free of sound effects, as they appear that way in the film.) “By sound effects, please note, we mean sound effects: car noises, helicopters, gunshots, doors slamming, grunts and groans, air conditioners, monkey chirps, telephones...it is not pretty. But it is all that there is,” notes FSM. “The surviving music-only sections total 30:34, and our original intention was to release this material only. We then decided to add the music-and-effects cues as a bonus. It simply happened to work out that the music-and-effects cues “cleaned up” better than we had hoped (due in large part to the transparent way Goldsmith wrote the music), and that the cues were best presented chronologically. The CD liner notes provide programming instructions for making a music-only sequence. –www.filmscoremonthly.com
Chandos will release The Film Music of John Addison on June 29th, the latest in their ongoing series of newly recorded, composer-specific classic film score compilations. The Addison volume contains suites and themes from Strange Invaders, A Bridge Too Far, Charge Of The Light Brigade, Murder She Wrote, Sleuth, Swashbuckler, Torn Curtain, Tom Jones, Centennial, and others. Rumon Gamba conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra. www.chandos.net
Soundtrack.net presents their first-listen report on John Ottman’s score for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Two years after the original film, Ottman with another reflection of the heroes from the Baxter Building. The web site report includes sound clips for every track on the album, along with a detailed analysis, but beware, the track list has spoilers. www.soundtrack.net
GAMES MUSIC NEWS
Composer and music producer Tom Salta’s award-winning music soundtrack for Red Steel™ is now available at iTunes® music stores worldwide and will also be released to retail on CD by Persist Records / Sumthing Distribution on May 29. Renowned for his versatility and prolific writing styles, Salta’s highly acclaimed kaleidoscopic musical score immerses gamers in the unique gunplay and swordplay actions set in modern-day Japan. The Red Steel Original Soundtrack marks the first Ubisoft video game music score to be released as a digital download.
“We’re really happy to make this possible, especially with Tom’s spectacular work on Red Steel,” said Didier Lord, Executive Director of Ubisoft Music. “It’s an important move as it will be Ubisoft’s first soundtrack released on major digital distribution channels – the first of many to come!”
To ensure the authenticity of the game’s soundtrack, Salta arranged and recorded traditional live Japanese instrumentation such as Koto, Shamisen, Shakuhachi and Taiko performed by expert Japanese musicians including the specialist percussion group Taikoza. The score also features performances from conservatory-trained Japanese opera singers and renowned violinist Lili Haydn. In order to reflect the diverse and Western-influenced soundtrack of fashionable Tokyo, Salta further embellished the soundtrack with a wide spectrum of music styles – such as orchestral, electronic, rock, hip hop, dance, easy listening, jazz, lounge and Japanese pop – that truly embrace the game’s cinematic story and vibrant locations.
The Red Steel soundtrack received numerous accolades for its unique approach and vibrant musical palette, including 2006 Best Original Score from IGN, who commented, “The selection not only has a richness and definition often lacking in video games, but the compositions are catchy and memorable too.”
Tom Salta’s other video game credits include the original score for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter® 2, which features a dynamic, emotional music soundtrack recorded with the Hollywood Studio Symphony and Choir. He also penned the score for the first game, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter®, which was nominated for Best Video Game Score at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Recording under the artist name Atlas Plug (www.atlasplug.com), Salta is currently working on the follow-up to his highly acclaimed debut solo album, 2 Days or Die. For more information on Tom Salta, visit www.tomsalta.com
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