J.M. BARRIE’S PETER PAN – Benjamin Wallfisch

Original Review by Alan Rogers

In the summer of 2009 Peter Pan was back in London’s Kensington Gardens, the place where J.M. Barrie first met the Llewelyn Davies family and and where he told the stories about the boy who never grew up. Housed in a big marquee and with the stage surrounded by the audience, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (to distinguish it from Disney’s Peter Pan?) boasts state-of-the-art, wrap-around, 360° cinematic CGI projections that are beamed onto the walls and ceiling of what is essentially a big tent. With the central stage designed as a bedroom and which is converted (in turn) to Neverland and Captain Hook’s ship, the projections allow cast (via acrobatic wire-work) and audience (via their imagination) to fly above London – swerving to avoid the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral – or dive the watery depths around Skull Island. Reviewers of the production were split between praising the melding of high-tech wizardry with charmingly simple stage production values and criticising the production and adaptation for removing a lot of the emotional heart of the play (Ben Harrison’s production is much nearer in feel to the original play than the subsequent film adaptations such as Disney’s 1953 animated version).

Composer, conductor and orchestrator Benjamin Wallfisch (The Escapist) composes a predominantly orchestral score for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, using a relatively large orchestra (80+ members) to create both the magic that is Peter Pan as well as the darker side of the original story. A magical air is immediately established as celeste and harp opens the album (“Peter Breaks Through”) and the presence of what sounds like wordless choir and flighty woodwinds maintains an otherworldly and fantastical feel. However, both in this track and the following one (“Peter and Wendy”) there’s a restraint, a hesitancy and perhaps an air of melancholy that tempers the magic. It is not long however before the score opens out to reveal the magic at the heart of the tale. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – Best of 2011? Special #1 – 29th November 2011

Decided to make a start on listening through some favourite individual tracks to try and pick out some favourites. It’s a bit of a tall order as there are hundreds that I have gathered over the year so far as “favourites”.

01 – “The Final Battle” – IroncladLorne Balfe

The track starts off very well with a good choral part that is supported by not too over-the-top percussion. The various elements of this long track are interesting to listen to, but it is a bit too disjointed sounding to hold together as a flowing track. There are 6-7 good solid tracks on this score.

02 – “Redemption, Pt. 2” – L.A. NoireAndrew Hale

I like the stop-start strings that start off this track. The addition of the (what sounds like) saxophone – and perhaps brass doubling up with this – is an effective sound. The way that it gets louder and angrier towards the end gives the whole piece a John Barry/James Bond sort of feel to it.

03 – “Golden Gate Bridge” – Rise of The Planet of The ApesPatrick Doyle

Quite standard action scoring, full of staccato strings, pounding percussion and powerful brass. Entirely serviceable as an action track and quite an exciting listen. Doyle clearly is able to deliver action scoring when required, but it’s not a particularly “stand-out” track for the year. [Read more…]

SOUTH PACIFIC – David Mitcham

Original Review by Alan Rogers

South Pacific (Wild Pacific in the US) is a six-part British nature documentary series from the BBC Natural History Unit that aired in 2009. The series (a BBC/Discovery Channel co-production) concentrates on the islands, wildlife and people of the vast expanse of the South Pacific. No-one does natural history programming like the BBC: The Blue Planet and Planet Earth are two examples of well-produced nature documentaries that have set the benchmark for others to follow. Audiences are routinely dazzled by the spectacle of the natural world, sometimes seeing many aspects of the world around us for the very first time. Alongside the spectacular visuals, composers such as George Fenton (who composed lavish scores for both The Blue Planet and Planet Earth) are being inspired to compose breathtaking music. British-born composer David Mitcham has been composing for film and television since the late 1990s and his scores for wildlife films in particular have been consistently been recognised for their quality: Danger In Tiger Paradise (2002), The Elephant, The Emperor and The Butterfly (2003) and, most recently, Echo: An Unforgettable Elephant (2010) have all won accolades worldwide. As composer for South Pacific, Mitcham has been inspired by the indigenous music of the region, using vocals, ukelele and percussion to fashion a score that reinforces the geographical setting and adds a subtle level of drama to the various aspects of life in the South Pacific.

The album begins with the excellent “Opening Title Music”, a short cue that uses all the aforementioned elements to immediately transport the listener to idyllic islands and turquoise seas. Of all the tracks featured on the album it is the songs – many of them composed as musical “set pieces” and featuring texts from a variety of languages including Maori, Hawaiian and Rapanui – that linger in the memory once the album has finished. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – A TV Themes Special #2 – 25th November 2011

I’m indulging in another trip down TV memory lane!

01 – “Main Titles Theme” – The AvengersLaurie Johnson

A retro start with Johnson’s theme from this 1960s series. I was never a fan of the original version – I think that I was just a shade too young for this. But I did watch the latter incarnation, The New Avengers. But Johnson’s theme here is an iconic and very enjoyable one.

02 – “Theme” – Midnight CallerBrad Fiedel

I loved this show and the great jazzy title theme was a highlight to the evening’s viewing (I think it aired on a Saturday night when it was especially popular). It’s the trendy and funky jazz feel to it that I enjoy most. And there’s just enough ’80s synth pop for it not to be too dated now.

03 – “Title Theme (Long Version)” – The A-TeamMike Post & Pete Carpenter

Another iconic TV theme that fits the tone of the show it fronts like a glove. What I particularly liked with themes such as this was the combination of things like electric guitars and a prominent drum kit rhythm with an orchestra. Daniel Caine’s re-recording nails the original sound (as far as I can remember!) [Read more…]

FOOTNOTE – Amit Poznansky

Original Review by Alan Rogers

Footnote follows the fierce rivalry between a father (Eliezer) and son (Uriel Shkolnik), both of whom are professors in the Talmud department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The son is obsessed with the acclaim generated by his work, always giving lectures and being inducted into prestigious science and humanities academies, whereas the father is a purist, set in his ways and a man who shuns what the academic establishment has become. Under this outward face though, the father has a secret yearning for recognition but he has to watch as his son receives all the plaudits he so desperately wanted during his career. But when a clerical error results in a moral dilemma for the son, the son has to decide what is more important – family or professional success. The film is, at its heart, a domestic drama that is handled by director Joseph Cedar in quite a comedic and unconventional way. The comedic style of the film is enhanced by first-time feature film composer Amit Poznansky who has provided the film with an orchestral score that is embellished with a variety of musical techniques that enhances both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film and steers clear of any sentimentality.

The score itself is based around two or three themes that are associated with the father and son – though apparently the composer did not originally intend for these themes to be associated with any characters in particular. The opening track, “Footnote (Opening Titles)”, is a collage of fragments of the various themes and ideas heard later in the film. And it is in this first track that the score’s comedic mood (that will permeate throughout the film) is first heard. The following “Night Walk”, with its short woodwind fragments, pizzicato strings and various staccato figures, highlights the composer’s comedic but sarcastic melody that is the basis for most of the score (and is heard in numerous tracks on the album). [Read more…]


Original Review by Alan Rogers

Michael Meredith’s 2002 film Three Days of Rain takes six stories loosely inspired by the writings of Anton Chekov and transfers them to modern-day Cleveland. The film is very much centred around the telling of human stories with the various vignettes featuring a variety of depressed individuals all who have their own problems to deal with. These gloomy stories are all intertwined with one another through the course of the film and are played out over a three-day rainstorm. One thing linking all the characters is that they are all listening into radio station WLOH during their story. Urban setting, rain-soaked streets, depressing human stories. Ideal setting for a quality jazz score you would think. So, in the film, the WLOH’s DJ (Lyle Lovett) plays jazz as part of a Jazz festival and it is this music that become the soundtrack of the film. American saxophonist, arranger and composer Bob Belden composes an excellent noir-ish jazz score that reflects the characters and their situations and is full of beauty.

This is a score that’s more Taxi Driver (Bernard Herrmann), with it’s downbeat loneliness mood (minus any twisted overtones), rather than the brash and energetic jazz scores of films such as Anatomy of A Murder (Duke Ellington) and Sweet Smell of Success (Elmer Bernstein). Several references have been made to Miles Davis’ film score for Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud as an example of a valid comparison for Three Days of Rain. Whatever the score may sound like, Belden’s score itself, on album, plays as if it were an out-and-out jazz album, free of the constraints of having to score to picture. Not having seen the film it is difficult to really understand how the music fits with the images. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – 21st November 2011

01 – “The Source” – Doctor Who: Series 4Murray Gold

It’s easy to forget sometimes that Gold’s music slows down a bit and becomes such an emotional cornerstone for the time traveller’s escapades. The first half illustrates this well with some trademark strings/brass combinations typical of the composer’s music for Doctor Who. I like how, just as you think that the music is about to go all action-y, Gold pulls the orchestra back from the brink and continues on with the delicate scoring.

02 – “Washington’s Men / Indy’s Home” – Raiders of The Lost ArkJohn Williams

This short track gives a wonderful choral prelude to the Ark Theme that will feature in the climax to the film. Little hints of the Raiders theme itself then finishes off the track. A bit of an inconsequential addition to the collector’s edition of the score but nice to hear some variations of familiar themes.

03 – “Theme” – 3 Days of The CondorDave Grusin

This version here is one that Geoff Love recorded for his “Big Terror Movie Themes” album – one of the earliest film music albums I ever owned. This is a great rendition of Grusin’s excellent theme and Love manages to nail the whole feel of the original. [Read more…]