The waiting is over! Reel Music announces the results of its first set of award winners. Gathered together from over 350 soundtracks, the winners from the various categories represent examples of music from film, TV and other media that I have found to be particularly noteworthy in 2013. They are not necessarily “the best” – however that may be defined – but something in each of the winning scores has marked them out from the rest. Choices were made from a mix of emotional impact, use of innovative music and overall listening enjoyment.
SCORE OF THE YEAR
- Grand Piano (Victor Reyes)
- Evil Dead (Roque Baños)
- Isabel (Season 2) (Federico Jusid)
- Remember Me (Olivier Derivière)
- Stalingrad (Angelo Badalamenti)
The 2013 score that stands out most for me is Victor Reyes’ Grand Piano. One of the film’s main protagonists is a concert pianist and how the Reyes melds a newly-composed “classical” piece for the pianist to play during a concert with the score that accompanies the on-screen action is astonishing. The join is seamless. The score works equally well as concert piece and soundtrack.
Film music “veteran” Angelo Badalamenti’s Stalingrad is a grand orchestral score with a wonderfully moving theme at its centre. Olivier Derivière’s score for the video game Remember Me highlights how imagination-with-a-purpose can yield a new sound. Taking what is in itself a grand orchestral score, Derivière manipulates the natural sounds and adds electronic effects to startling effect. Federico Jusid returns to 15th Century Spain for the second series of the Spanish TV series, Isabel. And the quality of Jusid’s music is not diminished. Built around a dominant central theme, the score features strong as well as delicate choral moments, beautiful solo voice passages and grand orchestral pieces. For Evil Dead, Spanish composer Roque Baños favours an orchestral tour-de-force rather than the low-key, atmospheric soundscapes favoured by many composers writing for horror films today.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Broadchurch (Ólafur Arnalds), Escape From Tomorrow (Abel Korzeniowski), Romeo and Juliet (Abel Korzeniowski), Skull Legends (Mateo Pascual), & El Tiempo Entre Costuras (César Benito).
BEST SCORE – DRAMA
- Romeo and Juliet (Abel Korzeniowski)
- Colette (Atli Örvarsson)
- Gagarin: First In Space (George Kallis)
- Jimmy P. (Howard Shore)
- O Tempo e o Vento (Alexandre Guerra)
Abel Korzeniowski’s category-topping Romeo and Juliet is a beautifully romantic accompaniment to William Shakespeare’s fateful love story with orchestral colours in the form of solo instruments “fine-tuning” the score’s emotional heart to great effect: solo violin adds a tragic element. Brazilian composer Alexandre Guerra’s O Tempo e o Vento (Time and the Wind) writes a lush orchestral score for the film about wartime love, while Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson’s Colette is a powerful reflection of love under the extreme conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Orchestral in nature but much more restrained than Guerra’s score. Breakout composer George Kallis writes a score for Russian biopic Gagarin: First In Space blending orchestra, choir and subtle electronics for a parade of themes. Finally, Jimmy P., by Howard Shore features an restrained and introspective score for string quartet and chamber orchestra to mirror the film’s themes of psychological problems affecting those involved in World War II.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Adriano Olivetti: La Forza di Un Sogno (Paolo Vivaldi), Baczynski (Bartosz Chajdecki), Barabbas (Paolo Vivaldi) & Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (Alex Heffes) & Summer In February (Benjamin Wallfisch).
BEST SCORE – ACTION / ADVENTURE / THRILLER
- Grand Piano (Victor Reyes)
- A Good Day To Die Hard (Marco Beltrami)
- Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)
- Stalingrad (Angelo Badalamenti)
- Tierra de Sangre (Patrick Kirst)
Victor Reyes’ Grand Piano emerged as the “Score of the Year” for 2013 with its impressive melding of diegetic (the pianist’s piano playing) and non-diegetic (Reyes’ film underscore) music and Angelo Badalamenti’s grand score Stalingrad also featured strongly in the this umbrella category. Two film music “veterans”, Marco Beltrami and Brian Tyler, wrote exciting orchestral scores for major Hollywood action movies, A Good Day To Die Hard and Iron Man 3, respectively. Marco Beltrami writes an adrenaline-fuelled orchestral and thematic score that acknowledges Michael Kamen’s original Die Hard scores by using some of the original composer’s devices. At the heart of Brian Tyler’s score is a wonderful “power anthem” title theme. Epic orchestral writing from Tyler adds orchestral grandeur to the strong movie franchise. Finally, German composer Patrick Kirst’s score for Chilean Tierra de Sangre is multi-thematic and flits between romance and horror with a classically-influenced orchestral flavour.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Crestfallen (Henrik Skram), Kick-Ass 2 (Henry Jackman & Matthew Margeson), Prisoners (Jóhann Jóhannsson), Rubinrot (Philipp F. Kölmel) & The Last Stand (Mowg).
BEST SCORE – FANTASY / SCI-FI / HORROR
- Evil Dead (Roque Baños)
- Crimson Winter (William Piotrowski)
- Escape From Tomorrow (Abel Korzeniowski)
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Atli Örvarsson)
- Pacific Rim (Ramin Djawadi)
Roque Baños’ Evil Dead is included in the score of the year list and tops this category. Exhausting to listen to, the composer adds demonic choral elements over whirling orchestra for maximal horrific effect. Always interesting, Evil Dead eases out Abel Korzeniowski’s Escape From Tomorrow and its strong, lush, thematic score written for orchestra which features some unusual and innovative use of voices and electronics. Atli Örvarsson’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ramin Djawadi’s Pacific Rim offer up equally strong orchestral scores, the former featuring “Clary’s Theme” as a musical highlight and the latter delivering a bombastic score that is grounded in solid action scoring. Nox Arcana co-founder William Piotrowski’s score for the vampire fantasy-drama Crimson Winter is scored for a small group of instruments (including low strings, guitar and piano) and creating a sad and regretful piece.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Gravity (Steven Price), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Howard Shore), Lost Place (Adrian Sieber), Oblivion (M83, Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese) & Thor: The Dark World (Brian Tyler).
BEST SCORE – COMEDY
- De Tøffeste Gutta (The Tough Guys) (Eirik Myhr)
- Ambassada (Bartosz Chajdecki)
- Austenland (Ilan Eshkeri)
- This Is The End (Henry Jackman)
- Venus In Fur (Alexandre Desplat)
Norwegian film De Tøffeste Gutta (The Tough Guys) is about a bullied schoolboy who thinks he’s a superhero and his world is turned upside down by the appearance of girl who moves in next door whom he must save. Relative newcomer Eirik Myhr writes a strong, quirky orchestral score coloured with drums, banjo and bass guitar that is in the superhero mode with a strong main theme. Ilan Eshkeri’s Austenland is a classically-influenced score that’s beautifully written, with grand themes as well as good use of the orchestra. The music is re-arranged into a 4-movement symphony which emphasises the classical feel to the score. As with Eshkeri’s score, Alexandre Desplat’s score Venus In Fur is also re-arranged for album, this time as a 35-minute suite. Not ideal but, as the score is predominantly mono-thematic, it offers the best presentation of the music. Small-scale and predominantly featuring piano, it’s a delicate and meticulously orchestrated. Henry Jackman’s dramatic score for This Is The End follows a group of guys having to face the apocalypse with grand, doom-laden choral passages and strong orchestral writing. Bartosz Chajdecki’s Ambassada bounces between strong action scoring and contemporary jazz.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Expecting (Mark Kilian), Instructions Not Included (No Se Aceptan Devoluciones) (Carlo Siliotto), Mike Case In: The Big Kiss Off (Edward ‘Tex’ Miller), Quai d’Orsay (Philippe Sarde) & The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Theodore Shapiro).
BEST SCORE – ANIMATION
- Ma Maman est En Amérique, Elle A Rencontré Buffalo Bill (Fabrice Aboulker)
- The Congress (Max Richter)
- Epic (Danny Elfman)
- Frozen (Christophe Beck)
- Justin and The Knights of Valour (Ilan Eshkeri)
Sometimes a score just grabs the attention. French composer Fabrice Aboulker’s beautiful score to Ma Maman est En Amérique, Elle A Rencontré Buffalo Bill is full of the innocence of childhood. Sprite orchestrations offer eternal optimism despite the darker background to the story. Brief influences of the Wild-West only add to the sense of innocence felt by the child protagonist. Danny Elfman’s Epic, Christophe Beck’s Frozen and Ilan Eshkeri’s Justin and The Knights of Valour are all accomplished orchestral scores, each offering strong themes, rousing action scoring and more delicate and emotional passages. The Congress is a mix of animation and live-action film about an ageing, out-of-work actress and her alternate reality version of herself, which features a sad and ominous score from Max Richter.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: The Croods (Alan Silvestri), Despicable Me 2 (Heitor Pereira), Escape From Planet Earth (Aaron Zigman), The House of Magic (Ramin Djawadi) & Metegol (Emilio Kauderer).
BEST SCORE – DOCUMENTARY
- Die Nordsee: Unser Meer (Oliver Heuss)
- Africa (Sarah Class)
- Castillo de Olite: El Ultimo Acto de Una Tragedia (Pedro Contreras)
- Hebrides: Islands On The Edge (Donald Shaw & Simon Ashdown)
- Not Forgotten: The Untold Story of Autism In Ukraine (Jürgen Beck)
There is a tradition now for documentaries, particularly nature documentaries, to inspire composers to write some excellent music. Oliver Heuss’ dynamic score for the German documentary Die Nordsee: Unser Meer (The North Sea: Our Sea) uses full orchestra and small ensembles to support life in and around the eponymous European sea. The Ewan McGregor-narrated BBC series Hebrides: Islands On The Edge fuses Celtic-influenced music (Donald Shaw, a founding member of folk group Capercaillie) and orchestral action scoring (Simon Ashdown) creating a captivating score for a series of documentary films capturing the life and wildlife of these group of islands on the west coast of Scotland. Sarah Class’ orchestral score for Africa follows in the tradition of previous BBC Natural History Unit documentary scores from the likes of George Fenton, capturing the varying aspects of this continent and its abundant and diverse wildlife. Pedro Contreras’ score for the Castillo de Olite: El Ultimo Acto de Una Tragedia, documenting the greatest naval tragedy in the history of Spain, is a thematically strong orchestral score full of courage and tragedy. Tragedy, on a more intimate scale, is told in Jürgen Beck’s Not Forgotten: The Untold Story of Autism In Ukraine. Solemn strings feature strongly in a film that tells how children with disabilities are undervalued by society.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Anne & Alet (Mark Rayen Candasamy), Ash (Úlfur Eldjárn), No Place On Earth (John Piscitello), Salinger (Lorne Balfe) & Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope (Blake Neely).
BEST SCORE – TELEVISION
- Isabel (Season 2) (Federico Jusid)
- Broadchurch (Ólafur Arnalds)
- Da Vinci’s Demons (Bear McCreary)
- Fringe (Season 5) (Chris Tilton)
- El Tiempo Entre Costuras (César Benito)
Federico Jusid’s music for the Spanish-Catalan series Isabel was a highlight of 2012. Equally inspired by the series’ second season, Isabel (Season 2) showcases Jusid’s talent. Grand orchestral scoring sits well with full choral passages and solo voice chants to produce a quality score that has seldom been matched in television. Another Spanish production, El Tiempo Entre Costuras (César Benito), showcases drama of a more personal kind where piano drives the emotions of forbidden love during the Spanish Civil War. Icelandic musician and composer Ólafur Arnalds’ Broadchurch, written for piano, strings and additional electronic elements, captures the smothering atmosphere of suspicions arising from a murder within a close-knit community. The despair of Arnalds music echoes the minimal scoring popular with Scandinavian dramas that are popular currently. Chris Tilton’s Fringe (Season 5) and Bear McCreary’s Da Vinci’s Demons are accomplished and superior TV scores with Tilton building on his previous Fringe outings to provide a tense, rhythmic score peppered with strong action scoring, whereas McCreary approaches a new challenge with originality but also familiarity, marrying his strong rhythms with restrained and delicate orchestrations.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Baciamo Le Mani (Paolo Vivaldi & Emanuele Bossi), Czas Honoru (Season 6) (Bartosz Chajdecki), Hemlock Grove (Nathan Barr), Odysseus (Bernard Grimaldi) & Sleepy Hollow (Brian Tyler & Robert Lydecker).
BEST SCORE – GAME & OTHER INTERACTIVE MEDIA
- Remember Me (Olivier Derivière)
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Brian Tyler)
- BEYOND: Two Souls (Lorne Balfe)
- Skull Legends (Mateo Pascual)
- Spacebase DF-9 (Chris Remo)
This category was difficult to decide on, with so many great scores being produced in 2013. As well as the traditional gaming platforms, the rise of smartphone-based apps and games has seen an associated improvement in music created for this platform also. An opportunity for innovation, Olivier Derivière’s Remember Me blends orchestra and electronics combining them together to a point where it is difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. BEYOND: Two Souls, with music by Lorne Balfe, offers a strong thematic score, full of beauty and emotion. Brian Tyler uses solo violin to give Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s modern action score a pirate twist. Mateo Pascual gives the iPhone game Skull Legends a rousing orchestral score that would not seem out of place in a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie, while Chris Remo’s ambient electronic score for the space station simulator game, Spacebase DF-9, adds a dreamy feel to the gameplay.
The five other scores that make up my Top 10 are: Aliens: Colonial Marines (Kevin Riepl), Dead Space 3 (James Hannigan & Jason Graves), Miseria: World’s Apart (Joseph Sowrey), SimCity (Chris Tilton) & Star Trek: The Game (Chad Seiter).
BEST INDIVUDUAL CUE
- “Going Forward” from Czas Honoru (Bartosz Chajdecki)
- “Abominations Rising” from Evil Dead (Roque Baños)
- “Grand Piano Concerto – 2nd Movement” from Grand Piano (Victor Reyes)
- “Nilin, The Memory Hunter” from Remember Me (Olivier Derivière)
- “O Tempo e o Vento – Parte Final” from O Tempo e o Vento (Alexandre Guerra)
Although Bartosz Chajdecki’s Czas Honoru missed out in the television category, the second track on the album “Going Forward” takes the honours in this individual track category. Seemingly simple in its construction the strings-dominated cue’s musical development, self-contained structure and catchy melody means that it’s had numerous plays (and repeats). “Abominations Rising” from Evil Dead (Roque Baños) summarises all the soundtrack’s strengths into 7 breathless minutes, showcasing one of the stand-out aspects of the music, an air-raid siren! Olivier Derivière’s “Nilin, The Memory Hunter” is an unforgettable start to Remember Me, the musical manipulations assaulting the senses and laying out the score’s blurring between what is and what isn’t real. Victor Reyes’ “Grand Piano Concerto – 2nd Movement” from Grand Piano effortlessly makes the transition from piano concerto to dramatic orchestral underscore.
The five other cues that make up my Top 10 are: “Iron Man 3” from Iron Man 3 – Brian Tyler, “Lex Talionis” from Isabel (Season 2) (Federico Jusid), “The Lion Rises” from Crimson Winter (William Piotrowski), “Lucifer’s Song” from The Last Life of Lucifer (Pascal Gaigne) & “Protect” from Velocity Ultra (James Marsden & Joris de Man).