Addendum – Full Transcription…Updated

So I had so much fun (no sarcasm) doing transcriptions for yesterday’s post that I went ahead and did a full orchestral version of “There’s No Place Like Home.”  The link below will take you to a .pdf of the score.  Just in case you’re wondering, it’s track 15 on the season 4 soundtrack album. Enjoy.

There’s No Place Like Home – Full Orch

Update!!!  I’ve finished a transcription of “Parting Words” (the raft launch scene). 

Parting Words – Full Orch

I might also tackle the music for the last scene of the series, but I have some other posts planned before I take on that project.

‘Lost’ and Michael Giacchino’s Cell Construction

So you won’t read this until Saturday at the earliest, but this is a pseudo Film Score Friday Top 5 in that it covers five of my favorite Lost moments.  While I might not have talked as much about Michael Giacchino’s magnificent work on the just ended series as, say, Bear McCreary and BSG, my love for it is no less.  Today, I am going to discuss a bit about how Giacchino constructed some of what I consider the show’s best musical moments.  And in a Temp Track first, I’m going to give you musical examples!  It’s going to be legen…wait for it…dary!  Let’s see how this goes.

WARNING —- WARNING —- WARNING!!!!  SPOILERS AHEAD!!!  So if you haven’t seen ANY of Lost, then you might not want to read any further.

Okay, still with me?  Great.  So I’ve mentioned in some earlier posts that Giacchino constructs many of his cues from small musical cells, starting with a very sparse texture (many times just piano and maybe a cello) and building up from there.  He’ll repeat the same material, adding countermelodies and other things, but the core harmonic and melodic cell remains.  The first one I want to talk about is one of the most heard themes in the entire show, simply titled “Life and Death.”  As many of you might know, even if you’re not fans of the show, Lost was by no means shy about killing main characters, or even secondary, hell even minor characters.  Let’s face it, people dropped like flies on that wacky island.

In the twentieth episode of the first season, we had the first major death, Boone.  But what was so great about it was that it was paired with the birth of Claire’s baby, Aaron.  Hence life AND death.  The cue proper that I’m discussing begins about forty seconds into this clip.

As you can hear, he starts with the bare harmonic outline then bringing in the actual melody and slowly building in some strings.  Though unlike most of the cues I’ll discuss later, it never truly builds into an overpowering force.  Hey, someone’s died here, we can’t get too optimistic, right?  Anyway, the basic theme is like so (Note: I don’t have the best ear for transcribing music, so please forgive any in my transcriptions):

The first chord of the last bar does change occasionally, so I’ve gone with what is heard in the first full statement.  As I said, this theme is reused many times whenever a major character dies.  One of the most heartbreaking of all deaths on the show was the end of season three when Charlie dies, and without fail, the theme is brought back out, but with a new (counter)melody.

 But let’s move to something a bit more uplifting.  Other than the death of Charlie, just shown, one of the most refered to moments of the show is the end of the episode “Walkabout” (season 1, episode 4), and I must admit that this was the scene that got me hooked.  I had never heard such music for a television show (I had yet to watch BSG), and I knew I had to go out and buy the season 1 DVDs.  It really is a simple two-part, four measure phrase with a slowly ascending melody and an eighth-note ostinato.  In this clip you’ll hear it slowly build up (the dialogue buries the beginning of the cue) as we see Locke slowly realize that he has feeling again in his legs and stands for the first time in years.  It was a powerful moment, especially because before this episode we had no idea that Locke had been in a wheelchair prior to the crash.

The basic part is as follows (this one was a hard one to crack, especially because I was having to work straight from the video as this cue specific was not on the soundtrack album):

Again, what standout in my mind is how Giacchino builds something so powerful out of such simplicity.  As I said, tiny cells of music built up, and, of course, the addition to the trombones just drives the whole cue home.

The penultimate episode of season 1 provides a great moment in the pantheon of Lost, the launching of a raft that the castaways hope can find help to get them home.  It is a another moment, like all the ones discussed today, in which the producers gave the sequence over to Giacchino’s music, trusting him to take the visual and send it into a mythic realm with his scoring.  And without fail, he succeeded.  This cue, “Parting Words,” is made up of three small cells that are mixed and matched:

They all have the same harmonic foundation of alternating Db major and G minor chords and are arranged as A-B-A-A-B-A-A-AC-AC-AB-AC-AB-AC-AB (where the letters are together, it indicates the cells being played at the same time).  In the scene below, also notice how in the first five iterations that there is a measure of pause inserted lengthening each cell to eight measures.

And like all these themes, they appear again and again.  When, in season 2, the people who were on the raft finally make it back to the beach, we hear this theme once again with a few new twists.

The last cue I want to consider is one of my favorite from the series, and also one of the last major themes to be introduced.  It is the first music we hear as the erstwhile Oceanic 6, who have escaped the island, land in Hawaii in the second to last episode of season four.  The cue is called “There is No Place Like Home,” and features a theme that became more important as the show progressed towards its final episode and was then heard many times in the finale.  In this transcription, I have also included the full theme with countermelody(Note: the first two chords are cut off in the below clip):

As you can hear, it is constructed just as the previous cues, starting with a simple piano version before adding strings and a countermelody to the proceedings, and then fading back away.  In many ways, this cue is related to the earlier “Life and Death,” especially in that instead of continually building, such as with Locke’s cue or “Parting Words,” it fades back out.  Also note how the first two chords for both “Home” and “Life and Death,” arguably the heart of the both cues, are related by a third – DM to F#m and BbM to Dm respectively.  Further, you may notice that the countermelody is a sequenced and altered version of the eighth-note ostinato heard in the above Locke theme.  In fact, many of these themes do bear a resemblance, if not explicitly musical, at least “spiritually.”  This is all brought home in the final scene of the series in which “There’s No Place Like Home,” “Life and Death,” and “Parting Words” all make an appearance.  I’ll forgo posting a clip of that just in case.  While the above clips are indeed spoilers, they would not really ruin ones enjoyment, the last scene of the series, on the other hand, would be a bit to much for a Lost virgin.

I hope that this modest post has provided a glimpse into how Michael Giacchino constructed some of the best musical cues of the series, and indeed, for any television show ever aired.

Update 6/13: I’ve gone back and fixed a few things in the voicings in the “Parting Words” transcription. 

The First Annual Tempi Awards!

And now, the 1st Annual Temp Track Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence (in Film Scores), coming to you live from Ball Room X (the storage closet) at the Ye Olde Off-Ramp Inn in Springfield, USA.

Welcome folks to The Temp Track’s first Year End Awards Spectacular!  I had a musical number all prepared, but Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris both backed out at the last minute.  So let’s just get down to business. 

Disclaimer:  I do not claim to have heard every score and release put out this year, so there are probably scores that I should consider but haven’t because of ignorance.  If there is something that I have overlooked, let me know so I can add it to my listening list.  Also, this is mainly going to be Film Scores, but occasionally I may sneak in a TV or Video Game score.  There will be three or four nominees in the categories and one winner except for Composer of the Year, which only the winner will be named. 

First we have Score Release of the Year.  This category is for a score release, either a new score or re-release of older score.  The basic criterion for this category is the importance of the release to the world of Film Music, be it the music itself or a re-release of an important score either in a new or expanded format. 

The Nominees Are:

Airplane! (Complete Score) – Elmer Bernstein (La La Land Records)

Back to the Future (Complete Score w/Alternate Takes) – Alan Silvestri (Intrada)

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 – Bear McCreary (La La Land Records)

Freud – Jerry Goldsmith (Varese) 

And the Tempi© Goes To:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Complete Score) – James Horner 

Our Next Category is for Score of the Year, and this one is pretty self-explanatory: best new film (TV episode or Video Game) score of the year. 

Nominations Go To:

Avatar – James Horner (Lightstorm Entertainment/20th Century Fox)

Battlestar Galactica, “Daybreak” – Bear McCreary (SyFy Channel/Universal Studios)

Star Trek – Michael Giacchino (Bad Robot/Paramount Pictures)

Sherlock Holmes – Hans Zimmer (Silver Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures) 

And the Winner Is:

Moon – Clint Mansell (Liberty Films/Sony Pictures Classics) 

And finally, the first ever Alfred Newman Tempi© Award for Composer of the Year goes to Michael Giacchino.  Mr. Giacchino wrote three great scores for Summer release films (Star Trek, Up, and Land of the Lost) along with his continuing work on TV’s Lost and Fringe, and it is for the continuing high quality of work that his achievements are recognized by The Temp Track.  Keep up the good work.   I will offer this challenge to Mr. Giacchino  should he ever perchase to visit this humble blog, though:  I love what you’ve done in the past, but now that you’re established in film and television, it’s time to stretch and explore new sonic worlds.

Okay, now before we go I’m going to go out on a limb, look like a fool, and make some bold predictions for who will get the Oscar nominations for Best Original Score.  Without further adieu, here we go: Avatar, Moon, Sherlock Holmes, Up, and Alexandre Desplat’s Coco Before Chanel (I haven’t actually heard the score or seen the film for this one except for excerpts on iTunes, but people seem to have liked it and I needed a fifth). 

Well that’s it from the scenic Ye Olde Off-Ramp Inn.  I hope you enjoyed the show, have a good time at the after parties and a safe journey home.

Note:  I still have yet to see Sherlock Holmes so I have yet to post my review.  Hopefully I’ll see it this weekend and have a review up early next week.

Film Scores-giving: Or what I’m thankful for this year (in Film Music)

So I am the kind of person who after going into school during break for the sole purpose of getting work done, comes home only to write more on his blog.  It all for you, loyal readers, because I realized that it’s been over three weeks since my last post of any kind.  So in the spirit of giving that is this season, I give this list of things I’m thankful for (film music related) to you.

iTunes: Yes, iTunes.  Though I lament the death of liner notes that will comes with the digital download revolution, the fact that so many scores are so easily available is just remarkable and makes doing research in film music so much easier than it was even 10 years ago.  And now, the score released of Battlestar Galactica by Bear McCreary are even available.

New Books: In the past year, there have seemingly been more new film score books released than one can keep up with.  From Cooke’s lengthy A History of Film Music to Wierzbicki’s more focused, but detailed, Film Music: A History, to Larsen’s simply titled Film Music, the new contributions to the field are staggering.  It gives this future PhD candidate hope for a job upon graduation.

Screen Archives Entertainment and Film Score Monthly:  Together they make available so much music that otherwise might not be released.  Combing back catalogues of various studios, remastering, and then releasing what could be lost gems of previous years, they have done so much to keep alive the film music of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

Music and the Moving Image IV: Being able to go to New York in May and attend this conference was a great experience.  Not only was it my first major conference experience, hearing the papers given and taking stock of research in the field (what is being researched and how it’s being done) helped affirm what I had already been doing, plus helped me to better hone my ideas and techniques.  I’ve just submitted an abstract for next year, and hope to go again regardless of being accepted or not.

The faculty and colleagues at school:  One always worries about being supported by their professors and academic peers, but I’ve had nothing but support and encouragement as I explore film music as the focus of my  study.  Granted, the field is, by now, well established in musicology, but it’s still new enough that I worried when I decided to take up the banner.

Herr Vogler: Fellow film music enthusiast and blogger, he’s helped me through numerous chats with his depth of knowledge about film music, not to mention loaning me scores.  Lately, he’s been of immense help with transcribing a score for the “Main Title” to Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes, my final project for Post-Tonal Analysis.  Look for a blog post on my findings in the coming month.

The return of the great sci-fi film (and score?): As any perpetual reader of this blog will know, my love for science-fiction knows almost no bounds, and part of that love is the fact that I think they consistently have some of the best, or at least most interesting, scores.  This summer had 3 great sci-fi films (1 merely okay) and 2 great (1 pretty good and 1 okay, but shows promise) sci-fi scores.  See my summer score wrap-up post for more.  I just hope this is the beginning of a trend.

Well that’s my list for now…hey, I want to at least pretend to be on Thanksgiving break.  I wish all you readers a happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are.

FSFT5: Desert Island Discs aka Is There A Film Music Canon?

So I’ve decided to wade into the shark infested waters that I have so far avoided.  When I first started the Film Score Friday Top 5, there was one list that I avoided like the Swine Flu: Top 5 Scores, what could also be termed a so-called “Desert Island” list (as in, if you were stuck on a Desert Island, which scores would want to have with you).  Both of these lists, or questions postulated to a person, point to a similar idea: the canon. 

The term canon in this context is not the large gun fired from a Pirate Ship or other sailing vessel, or even the imitative musical device used in works as far ranging as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to Pachelbel’s  infamous on in D heard everywhere, at least according to one comic.  No, in this sense, canon is meant as a collection of works or artists that we hold up as exemplars of whatever genre under consideration.  In criticism, historiography, and other such disciplines, this can become a rather thorny topic.  As a musicologist in training, one learns the “Western Art Music” canon (you know, those dead Germanic guys: Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Brahms, etc), but at the same time, scholars are now attacking that very idea not only because of its very limited scope, but also because of the very way in which it was created.  (If you wish to know more, I would direct you to the recent articles by University of Oklahoma musicologist Dr. Sanna Pederson.) 

So all this brings me to a crisis of sorts in my own study of film music.  Since deciding a few years ago to make film music my primary area of study, I have been doing my best to acquaint, and in some cases reacquaint, myself with those scores and composers that most people talk about: Korngold, Steiner, Herrmann, Rozsa, Goldsmith, along with the more contemporary practitioners (Williams, Elfman, Zimmer, etc).  But no matter how much I hear or read, I still feel like there is so much out there that I have yet to hear.  I know I have a dearth of Hermann in my ear largely because my school’s library doesn’t have much of his music (mainly one compilation disc of his work with Hitchcock and the North By Northwest score), but even beyond Herrmann, I still feel like there is so much that I don’t know. 

Which brings me to the question in the title of this post: Is there a Film Music ‘Canon?’  My instincts say yes and no.  On the one hand, we humans have the insatiable urge to catalog and categorize things; put them into neat little boxes.  Witness the overabundance of lists not only by the AFI but just about every major trade publication and magazines.  But by doing so, what do we gain?  We know not everyone is going to agree:  sure Mozart was a genius, but was he that great?  (Personally, I say yes, but that’s another blog entirely, we’re here to talk about film music.)  The obvious gain is that it does help one to have a place to begin when trying to get into a new genre of music, art, film, etc, but it also has the adverse cultural effect of giving message board trollers something to rant about and rail against – which is maybe my biggest fear: either leaving something out or going for the obvious choice. 

So, now that I’ve given you an entirely too long introduction, here is my response to the question of:  If you were on a desert island, and magically had power and a stereo system but could only have 5 film scores with you, what would they be?  Not a ‘best’ list, but rather a personal one.  Yes, I took the easy way out.

 1) The Empire Strikes Back – John Williams:  Obvious, yes, but I couldn’t survive long on a desert island without my “Imperial March.”

2) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – James Horner: My love for this has been stated elsewhere in this blog, ‘nuff said.

3) The Hunt for Red October – Basil Poledouris:  Not only was Poledouris born in my home town of Kansas City, Missouri (like famed director Robert Altman), this score is one of my long time favorites…if only for the opening title with its Russian chorus.  But the rest of it is also pretty good.  More a sentimental pick, I would still like to have it with more on this remote atoll.

4) North By Northwest – Bernard Herrmann:  One of the few Herrmann scores I know well, and a favorite.  The off kilter meter is great and fits the film so well.

5) The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Ennio Morricone:  Morricone’s scores for Leone are so iconic and well known that his scoring for the Old West has passed into cliché.  But that doesn’t make it any less amazing.  Besides, when I start having imaginary gunfights on my Desert Island (either out of boredom, insanity, or both), I could hardly imagine a better soundtrack.

 So what if magically I had five more CDs on the island?  Or maybe instead of taking my top 5 symphonies I grabbed five more scores and stuck them into my magical duffle bag that also survived the calamity that washed me ashore this remote Desert Isle, those would be:

 6) Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Jerry Goldsmith:  Goldsmith perfectly scored the first Trek film, and it still bugs me to no end that Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory dissed it.  Yes, I know that it’s “just a TV show,” but a show so steeped in nerd culture should know better.

7) Battlestar Galactica Season 1 – Bear McCreary:  The Season 4 album has more music and overall was his best season on the show, but so many of my favorite cues are on the Season 1 album that that’s the one I’d grab.

8 ) There Will Be Blood – Jonny Greenwood:  It might be a little early for me to put this on the list considering I just heard it for the first time a week ago…but what a week it has been.  I hope to write a post on this one sometime in the near future.  I know that there are those who hated this score, but I found it amazing upon my first listening, and even more so once I saw the film.

9) Dodes’kaden – Toru Takemitsu: Not Kurosawa’s best film, and probably not Takemitsu’s best score, but there is just something about the main theme that I love so much: a joy, a simplicity…but also a melancholy.  It also sounds like it could light right into the song “MacArthur Park” which could be a bad thing to some people.

10) Lost Season 1 – Michael Giacchino:  Hey, I’m stuck on a Desert Island, you didn’t actually expect me to leave this off, did you?

 Well that’s it for now.  Disagree?  Of course you will, instead it’s…inevitable.   So I want to hear from you.  What would you choose?  And what would you include in a so-called ‘canon?’

Film Score Friday NOT Top 5: Summer Score Round-Up Spectacular!

Okay, I know this more than just a day late coming, but better late than never, right?  So what follows is a list of most of the films I saw this summer (in theatres) and some thoughts on their scores.  Plus, I’m also including a few major soundtrack releases from the summer, and as an added bonus to you, loyal reader, an extra special discussion prompt!

 Note: These are roughly in the order in which I saw them.

 Star Trek – Michael Giacchino:  I’ve already written on this in an earlier post, so I won’t say much else here except that this was one of the best scores I heard this summer.  To me, only two other scores can really compete with this.

 Terminator Salvation – Danny Elfman:  A good score from Elfman, not great, though.  The opening cue is very good, and he does a good job integrating the original Terminator thematic ideas in it.  The guitar based cues humanize the music and make us identify with the resistance soldiers, but overall the score, like the film, is just lacking that something special.

 Up – Michael Giacchino: The second of three in the 2009 summer of Giacchino (the third, Land of the Lost I have yet to hear or see).  Giacchino does another great job of knowing just how to score a Pixar film: sentimental and bumping right up against cliché without going over.  Here, he uses a sound that is meant to evoke that of the ‘20s and ‘30s, almost like a silent film orchestra, for those scenes dealing with the old man’s past; evoking the nostalgia that leads to his quest.  It’s wistful and wonderful, and also heartbreaking when it needs to be.  All three of his Pixar scores (The Incredibles and Ratatouille prior to this) are among the best of recent years.  They have that playful quality that reminds us that movies can be fun without being rude, violent, or sexy, much like Pixar films themselves.

 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Steve Jablonsky:  I really don’t have much to say about this one.  The film was mixed in such a way that the music was hard to hear most of the time, and I never did pick up the CD release.  For more discussion, I direct you to the post on Herr Vogler’s blog.

 Moon – Clint Mansell: The score that surprised me the most this summer, and if I had to pick a ‘best’ score I heard this summer (of just what I heard, there are a lot I didn’t, so don’t get mad), it would most likely be this…or maybe Up.  It’s just a deceptively simple score and has two main ideas: a piano ostinato that you hear almost throughout in some form, and a lyric melody used in two cues on the CD release.  There are many cues that are more atonal and electronic in nature (reminding me of the middle section of “Echoes” by Pink Floyd), but the main idea is the piano ostinato, which drives home the solitude and repetitive nature of the main character’s life.

 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Nicholas Hooper:  I’ve already said a bit on this.  The score was definitely a step up for Hooper from Order of the Phoenix, but it’s also no Prisoner of Azkaban.  I’ll direct you to my comments elsewhere on this blog.

 District 9 – Clinton Shorter: I really want to like this score because there is a lot to like about it, but for me it really smacks of the Zimmer/Howard score for The Dark Knight…and there are just too many similarities to ignore.  There are times when a cue is structured a lot like a cue for the CD release of Knight, which means that most likely that Knight cue had been temped in so Shorter was sort of locked into how that cue was edited to picture.  This was Shorter’s first “major” motion picture (according to IMDB he had done a lot of TV work prior).  That said, I look forward to hearing what he does in the future.

 Inglourious Basterds – Ennio Morricone, et al.:  Supposedly  Tarentino wanted Morricone to score the film, but scheduling wouldn’t allow for it, so he did the next best thing: he used music Morricone (and a few others) had already written, and I must say that it worked.  Luckily Tarentino didn’t use the most iconic of Morricone’s cues (the ones from the Leone westerns), which would have proved too distracting.  But the ones he did choose worked very well and the end result was one of the best films of the summer. 

Other Releases: 

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 – Bear McCreary:  Yes, more Galactica music.  I know I sound like a broken record, but McCreary really outdid himself in season 4.  I mentioned a few cues in my Top 5 list a month or so back, but the entire album really deserves a listen by all.  I don’t know why McCreary hasn’t done a major studio film release, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be getting the call soon.  I’ve heard the sound he created for BSG cropping up in so many other scores recently that it’s getting somewhat annoying. 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Complete Score – James Horner:  The most exciting score to be (re)released this summer.  Long out of print on CD and then only in a shorten form, Horner’s first major work in Hollywood, and, in my opinion, one of his finest scores.  Maybe it’s all my nostalgic memories of watching the movie, but there is a quality about the music that fits so well with them film.  And as many people have commented around the Internets, how can you not help but scream “Khan!” during the “Buried Alive” cue. 

Discussion Question: 

It’s recently been announced or rumored (who knows which with the Web rumors) that Ridley Scott will be getting to work on an Alien prequel film soon.  Should this actually happen, who do you think should write the score?  Just as the franchise has a quite a pedigree of directors (Scott, James Cameron, and David Fincher…I’m ignoring Alien Resurrection on all counts), the composers who have worked on it have been equally talented (Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Elliot Goldenthal).  Given that Mr. Goldsmith has passed on, who should take his place to work with Scott?  Looking at recent collaborations, Marc Streitenfeld seems to be a likely candidate, or could he go back to working with Hans Zimmer?  Or maybe Harry Gregson-Williams, whom he worked with on Kingdom of Heaven?  But my question to you is, if you had your druthers (yes, I did just use that word), and barring the discovery of a lost Goldsmith score for a film not yet made, who would you pick to score the film?  I’m not sure who I’d choose, some of the recent sci-fi scores might point the way, maybe Bear McCreary?  Or maybe Clint Mansell, whom I mentioned earlier in this post, he is a fellow Brit after all, and a more electronic based score could really add a unique sound to the film.  

Well, that’s it for now.  I am trying to update as often as possible, but as I said before, this is a tough semester.  As always, I’ve extended an open invitation to you, the reader, to contact me with any entries you might want to write, including ones in the ever popular “Film Score Friday Top 5” series.  Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Film Score Friday Top 5: Cues from the “Battlestar Galactica” soundtrack albums

This list is long overdue.  Bear McCreary’s scores for Battlestar need no introduction, so I’ll give none.  With five soundtrack albums (including Richard Gibbs’ score for the miniseries) to choose from, it’s hard to choose only five, but here it goes.

#1) “Thousands Left Behind” – Richard Gibbs, “Miniseries”:  A chilling cue using mostly gamelan, but also drums and some electronic effects, it slowly builds as the now President Roslin gives the cue for the civilian fleet (still without “Galactica”) to jump away from the soon to come Cylons…leaving thousands of people stranded on ships without jump drives.  As it builds, the rhythms speeds up and volume increases.  I’m not a huge fan of the “Miniseries” score, but it does have some great cues and this is my favorite.

#2) “Something Dark is Coming” – Bear McCreary, “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part I”:  This is the cue that actually made me sit up and take notice of McCreary’s work on the show.  This cue plays under the opening teaser that, as you might guess from the title, sets the scene for the episode (I won’t reveal more for fear of spoilers).  It’s score for bass and electric guitars (with some wicked reverb), along with Galactica‘s standard compliment of duduk, taikos, etc., and even strings (which only rarely make appearances this early on in the series).

#3) “The Shape of Things to Come” – Bear McCreary, “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part II”: And speaking of strings, it was with the two part Season 1 finale that we finally heard strings in the series score.  I blogged more extensively on the sequence of cues that this is from (“Passacaglia” to “Shape of Things to Come” to “Allegro” and on), so I’ll let you read that post.

#4) “Farewell Apollo” – Bear McCreary, “Six of One”: This cue features another favorite McCreary theme, that for the Adama family (William, commander of “Galactica,” and his son Lee).  This version comes from Season 4 as Lee is leaving “Galactica” to assume a new post.  The Adama family theme is always heavily tinged with Irish pipes giving it a very old, military air (think of the song “The Minstral Boy”).  Outside of the actual song version, “Wander My Friends” from the Season 1 album, this one strikes me as the most dignified version.  It also includes fiddle which also reminds one of the theme for President Roslin and William Adama.

#5) “Kara Remembers” – Bear McCreary, “Someone to Watch Over Me”: This cue, also from the just released Season 4 album, actually mixes digetic and non-diegetic music as we hear what Kara and her Father are playing on the piano in the “Galactica” bar, but it eventually brings in non-diegetic instruments to accompany.  This is a favorite because it from one of the most pivotal scenes from all the series.

I could go on and on, and maybe I’ll pick some more choice cues next week or in the future, but that’s all for now folks.  TTFN.

Rant: An Open Letter to the Emmy Committee

Note:  I usually try, in this blog, to refrain from overtly opinionated statements.  I do say what I like or dislike, but I do usually try and back up said statements.  In this case, though, I cannot silently stand aside.  A few weeks ago, the Emmy nominations were announced and once again, Bear McCreary’s work on Battlestar Galactica was not among those recognized in the music category.  Now, I don’t really put much stock in award shows and the like, but I do usually pay attention, at least, to those things nominated.

Some have said that the lack of BSG nominations is because the committee is wary of Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows (much like the Oscars), but that doesn’t make sense, really.  A look at past nominations in music, especially, yield many examples of Sci-Fi/Fantasy: the Star Trek series (Next Generation, et al) have many nominations, so did Xena, and Lost has also been tapped multiple times (not to mention Quantum Leap, SeaQuest, X-Files, the Stargate franchise, and Shirley Walker’s Space: Above and Beyond score).  So obviously it’s not the genre or even the network (witness Stargate), so honestly, I might just have to chalk it up to ignorance or…well ignorance is the nicest way to put it.  Because, in all honestly, with the exception of maybe Lost, BSG is the best scored show on television (was rather since it just wrapped up).

I have already wrote extensively on BSG, and you know that I feel that it is a score that transcends the normal catagory of “background music,” and is just as intergral part of the show quality as any actor, writer, or director.  It is a score of a quality higher than most I hear on television or even some films.  I don’t have much experience with the other nominees, but I’ll venture a comment on what I do know.

Alf Clausen – The Simpsons: I’ve always loved the integration of music into The Simpsons, and I was kind of disappointed that Clausen didn’t score the film, but I understand the decision.  That being said, Clausen’s musical genius lies in his adaptation of existing material and making it fit into the world of the show.  A very different function than McCreary’s score, so there isn’t really much comparing.

Sean Callery – 24: I’ve seen most of this series, but not this past season except for the movie Redemption, which I thought had a decent, if ultimately empty, score.  It did its job well, but much like the series itself, it is fun and exciting and tense while watching, but leaves one feeling empty afterwards.

Robert Duncan (Castle), Gabriel Yared (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), and Mark Snow (Ghost Whisperer):  I’ve never seen these shows, and I’ve never even heard Robert Duncan’s music. I’m familar with Yared’s work, but not very well, and I know Snow’s work on X-Files, but I’ve never seen Ghost Whisperer.  This being as it is, I’d rather not comment on them.

Joseph LoDuca – Legend of the Seeker: This is the one that really sparked my ire initally.  I actually, at that point, had yet to see this series, but I just recetly become acquainted with LoDuca’s work on TNT’s Librarian movies (you know, those somewhat fun, but blately an Indiana Jones ripoff starring Noah Wyle?).  And while watching them I couldn’t help but every few minutes hearing the score going off into a cue from David Arnold’s Stargate score (not surprising since the films were also produced by Dean Devlin).  I then set out and listened to a few Seeker episodes on Hulu and was less than impressed.  At times it sounded like Battlestar, other times Stargate SG-1, but lacking the depth of McCreary’s work on BSG.

Granted, the first season score of BSG was still a work in progress, but the heights that the just released Season 4 score achived (especially the finale “Daybreak”) are leaps and bounds above anything I have heard out of most any television program.  It is simply a crime that the score wasn’t nominated, espcially considering past nominations.  Sci-Fi or otherwise, McCreary’s work on Battlestar Galactica deserves to get the official recognition, not just the adulation of critics and fans who seem to know what the Emmy committee is glaringly blind to.

Film Score THURSDAY Top 5: End Credit Suites/Songs

Last week’s Cowboy Bebop list weighed heavily towards songs during End Credits, which made me think about doing an entire list of End Credits songs and suites (obviously excluded will be those already covered in the previous Bebop list).  Basically, there are no rules for this list.  The only criterion is that it is music that makes you stay in your seat (or not change the channel) during the credits.  Many times the Credits music will have segued from the previous cue, when the track on the CD release is such, I will give the combined title (for example “The Throne Room/End Title” from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope).

The List:

– “Epilogue/End Title” from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by James Horner – I’m actually listening to the new “Expanded Edition” release as I write this, and let me assure you that it is a wonderful thing to be-heard (that really should be a word if it’s not).  I’ve professed my love for Horner’s score elsewhere, and rest assured that every time I watch Wrath of Khan that I do let the DVD play all the way through to the end.

– “The Rebel Fleet/End Title” from Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back by John Williams – When the original Star Wars films were re-released back into theatres in the ’90s, I made sure to stay in my seat during the credits for Empire.  One of the scores that made me fall in love with film music, and the credits sums it up perfectly.

– “Ending Theme” from Final Fantasy VI by Nobuo Uematsu – Back in early June I did a top 5 of themes and cues from Final Fantasy VI, but this mammoth cue ends the game takes it to a new level.  This cut is just over 21 minutes long and begins right after the player beats the final boss.  It cover the “Ending” of the game which goes through each playable character and their theme and closes out the story and then into the credits.  To this day I still go back to my save game (right before the final battle) just to watch and listen to this sequence.

– “End Titles” from Independence Day by David Arnold – Arnold today is most well known for his James Bond scores, but his early collaborations with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin resulted in two very good scores: Stargate and Independence Day.  While there is not truly special about the “End Titles,” it does do a great job of recapping the music that came before, the job of any good End Credits suite.

– “Extreme Ways” by Moby from The Bourne Identity, et al – One of the things I love about the Bourne films is how you know the credits are about to begin because you hear the first notes of Moby’s “Extreme Ways.”  I can’t really describe why it’s such a great song to kick off the end credits, but I just know that it is perfect.  As a treat, a link for the video (YouTube won’t let me embed the clip for some reason).

Want more?  Okay, here are some Honorable Mentions:

– “End Credit” from Batman: The Animated Series by Danny Elfman – Also known as “34-seconds of Sheer Awesomeness,” Elfman’s adaptation of his Batman film theme is short, sweet, and just about perfect.

– “Shiki no Uta” from Samurai Champloo by MINMI – this End Credit theme from Shinichiro Watanabe’s  other anime series isn’t as good as “The Real Folk Blues,” but it is still up there, and beats just about every American television show’s end credits (heck, these days our credits are just excuses for more ad space or plug the latest episode of Survivor or some other such nonsense).  This a video of the entire song, not just the Credits portion.

That’s it for now, tune in next week…

Film Score Friday Top 5: Songs from “Cowboy Bebop”

Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop has been mentioned many times in this blogic space, most recently in my post on it and Samurai Champloo.  For today’s edition of FSF Top 5, I would like to consider, though, not the instrumental backing tracks that make up the show’s score, but rather the many songs that are used in the show.  What is remarkable is that these are not stock pop songs, but rather original compositions written by composer Yoko Kanno and performed specifically for the show by a variety of talented performers, and used in many different ways in the series (from special end credit music to montage to something akin to the Opera Scene from Godfather, Part III).  If you want to know more about the music and show I recommend this site.

For our purposes, then, are the actual “songs,” meaning texted music with vocalist (sometime in English, sometime Japanese…what a weird wacky world!).  For your consideration (in no order):

“Blue” – from Episode 26, “The Real Folk Blues, Part II”:  This is the song that ends the entire series.  After our hero Spike’s climatic showdown with his nemesis Vicious, the camera has a long zoom out as the song beings, then pans up as this first verse begins and the credits roll.  What makes this ending so amazing is that the camera pan continues until it reaches space and the shot that had ended every episode of the series (the field of stars then the message…which is different for this episode and quotes a Beatles lyric).  Watch the whole sequence for yourself (and no, if you haven’t watched the series, this really won’t ruin anything):

“Gotta Knock a Little Harder” – from the Cowboy Bebop movie, “Knockin on Heaven’s Door”: Like “Blue,” this song is the end credits of the full-length animated film (not to be confused with the supposed forth-coming live-action English film that is rumored to be starring…ugh…Keanu Reeves…*shudder*).  The end credits show scenes of the people on Mars reacting to the rain falling on them.  I really hate using all these credits songs, becuase part of the power of the songs is how they tie up the what has come before, which many readers haven’t seen. The video here isn’t the actual ending sequence, just a video someone put together with clips from the movie:

“The Real Folk Blues” – the End Credits for Cowboy Bebop series (with a few exceptions): This song was the normal song for the credits of the series with the exception of Episodes 13 and 26 (the midway point and final episode…talk about structure), which were both the second part of two part episodes.  The song was also used, with different lyrics and different arrangement, towards the end of the final episode as our hero Spike goes to do final battle with his nemesis.

Ending Credits Version (sans credits):

Episode 26 version (from episode, with Spike remembering the woman he loved and then blowing up much in sight):

“Rain” – from Episode 5, “Ballad of Fallen Angels”:  Functioning in the same capacity as the second version of “The Real Folk Blues,” this song plays as Spike goes to confront Vicious for the first time.  Adding the element of the human voice prior to a major confrontation makes the entire scene, for the lack of a better word, epic.  It mythologizes the scene for the viewer…clever use of camera angels and framing don’t hurt either (sorry for the bad audio on this clip:

“Adieu” – from Episode 1, “Asteroid Blues,” and Episodes 25 & 26, “The Real Folk Blues, Parts I & II”:  I have specifically saved this one for last because, even though we don’t really hear this song that much, in many ways, it is what the show is all about.  Episode 1 of the series, unlike every other episode, actually opens not with the credits sequence, but a 45 second montage, in black and white (except for the color red), that has no dialogue.  The only sound is a bell at the beginning, and a music box like tune.  The images and music go unexplained in what follows.  The meanings of the images (and the song) will slowly be revealed through the 26 episodes of the series, with the music finally being played as a song in Episode 25.  As I said in my earlier post, the song “Adieu,” is a memory echo that reverberates throughout the series (the music box track is actually called “Memory” on the first soundtrack release).  “Memory” plays again, also, at the beginning of Episode 26.  (I might be missing a few times it was played, but it’s been awhile since I watched the entire series)  This song also sums up so much of the series as it is, in many ways, an amazing jazz ballad.

Episode 1 opening:

Episode 25 – Note: this clip is the first 7 minutes of the episode, including credits with opening theme “Tank!,” and is used right after the credits, but the section used is the very end of the full song.

Full Version of Song:

There are other songs I could have mentioned (“Ave Maria” from the opera scene in “Ballad of Fallen Angels” is a major one not on the list), and if I did just instrumental tracks (which I might do later), it would be hard to pick only five.  What I hope to have conveyed, if only in five choices, is the high quality of musical work that went into this series, and maybe entice some of you to add it to your Netflix queue.