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Re: My Top 30 Scores For 2021
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• Posted by: Clint Morgan   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, January 16, 2022, at 1:57 p.m.
• IP Address: h69-128-156-128.almgnm.broadband.dynamic.tds.net
• In Response to: My Top 30 Scores For 2021 (Craig Richard Lysy)

What I love about this is it proves there is still so much music out there I have yet to discover! Thank you for sharing from your heart, Craig. Your summaries are a delight.

> Well, dear friends and kindred spirits, 2021 has been another year where
> the pall of COVID continues to weigh heavily upon my existence. Being
> retired, it has been easier for me to isolate, and my daily five-mile
> walks listening to my tunes provide some solace, yet I continue to feel
> what the Japanese call “mono no aware”; an awareness of the transience of
> life and sadness about this state of the world. It is clear that there is
> much less of life’s path ahead of me than behind. I find in the winter of
> my life that my musical tastes have indeed changed with me preferring
> intimacy, eloquence and romanticism, over technical brilliance, dynamism
> and innovation. This will be reflected in my choices.

> I believe 2021 was a wonderful, and bountiful year for scores, but also a
> year of continuing on a path, which takes me further and further from
> mainstream popular soundtrack culture. For the several years, I have
> become increasingly disenchanted with, and estranged from, the in vogue,
> post-modernist, Hollywood sound, which has fundamentally transformed the
> role, prominence, and eloquence of film music. For a guy who lives for
> forthright, unabashed romanticism in music, I feel like I am wandering is
> a desert, which desiccates my soul. To be fair, I admit that there remain
> some treasured oases to be found in this Hollywood desert, (six made my
> Top 30), but not enough to quench my thirst. So, what do you do when you
> do not like the path you are on? Well, stop whining, and take another
> path!

> For the last few years, I am routinely finding happiness in the far east
> with Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese films and TV series, as well
> as across the Atlantic with Independent European and Middle Eastern films
> and TV. In these regions the main stream directorial culture continues to
> embrace music with leitmotifs, melody, and romanticism. They in general
> recognize, and appreciate the enormous benefit of using prominent music to
> enhance their storytelling, and empower their films. I have always
> believed in what my hero, the renown Hollywood producer David O. Selznick
> (the father of Hollywood film scores) espoused, that the musical score is
> the single most important film element, and it is essential for a film’s
> ultimate success. Truth be told, I watch films not because of directors,
> actors, or even plot, I watch to hear the score. Everything else, while
> important, is secondary to me. I regret any offense to my Cinephile
> friends.

> My finalized Top 10 offers all foreign, non-Hollywood productions. My list
> is not a “Best” of 2021 list, but instead my “Favorites” of 2021 list. I
> believe best is pretentious term, and so I with all humility prefer the
> more personal “Favorite”. I only saw eight of my Top 30 at the theater or
> on TV, and so I cannot objectively make a qualitative judgement on how
> well most of my choices functioned in film context. My criteria therefore
> were very simple; foremost to me is romanticism, which for clarity I
> define musically as;

> Original and individualistic emotional expression, which is intensely
> personal, dramatic and characterized by lyrical, song-like melodicism, and
> chromatic harmonies. It places forthright emotional expression and
> narrative content above form so as to foster musical story-telling.

> For me music is like making love; you feel it, you do not think it, and
> the more intense and unbridled the passion, the better it is. This
> factored into why I chose the scores on my list and I offer no apologies
> for seeking, and embracing scores which offer romanticism, while eschewing
> those that do not. My list celebrates scores, which offered beautiful
> melodies, that catalyzed within me, a powerful, enduring and sometimes,
> profound emotional response. Now, to ensure I am not misconstrued, I
> advise that if you are into modernist sound design, droning, non-melodic,
> textural, or deafening wall of sound scores, that is fine. I am happy that
> you can find, and enjoy your type of music. My eschewing this type
> of music applies to only the music itself, and not to the person who
> happens to enjoy it. I drink vodka and do not dislike friends who drink
> Whiskey. We agree to disagree respectfully, with civility, and good will.
> 

> Lastly, only my Top 2 are rated 5* this year. Every one of my Top 30 offer
> 10 -14 minute 5* suites, which I created, and what could be better than
> that! So, without further ado, I humbly offer my favorite scores of 2021,
> my Composer of the year, my 20 favorite cues, and my Special Award. I am
> just one voice in our community choir, who happens to be on a road less
> traveled. All the best.

> Composer of the Year
> I select Ivan Palomares for an outstanding 2021 Opus, earning two of my
> Top Twenty spots;
> 07 La Cocinera de Castamar (The Cook of Castamar)
> 11 La Templaza (The Vineyard)

> Palomares music offers a stirring romanticism for which I thirst and
> desperately seek. His capacity to penetrate the very sinews of my heart
> often elicits a quiver and a tear. I love the man.

> Cues of the year
> 1. “Alapu Upala Requiem” from Gojira Shingyura Pointo (Godzilla Singular
> Point) by Chan Sawada.
> 2. “Grand Finale” from Coppelia by Maurizio Malagnini.
> 3. “Coppelia – Radio Suite” from Coppelia by Maurizio Malagnini.
> 4. “Expect” from Jué Xǐng Nián Dài (The Age of Awakening) by Roc
> Chen.
> 5. “Still” from Jué Xǐng Nián Dài (The Age of Awakening) by Roc Chen.
> 6. “The Final Battle” from Wǒ hé wǒ de fùqīn (My Fathers
> and Me” by Gordy Haab.
> 7. “Homeland” from Wǒ hé wǒ de fùqīn (My Fathers and Me” by
> Gordy Haab.
> 8. “Walking Out” from Mistrz (The Champion of Auschwitz) by Bartosz
> Chajdecki.
> 9. “Tema Principal” from Claret by Oscar Leanizbarrutia.
> 10. “Main Titles” from Al Ikhtiyar 2: Regal Al Zel (The Choice 2: Men of
> Shadow) by Khaled Al Kamar.
> 11. “From The Bridge” from Gái Già Lắm Chiêu 5 (The Camelia Sisters)
> by Garrett Crosby.
> 12. “Turandot Theme” from Tú lán duǒ de zǔzhòu (The Curse of
> Turandot) by Simon Franglen.
> 13. “Throne Room Battle” from Tú lán duǒ de zǔzhòu (The Curse of
> Turandot) by Simon Franglen.
> 14. “Clara y Diego” from La Cocinera de Castamar by Ivan Palomares
> 15. “The Kiss” from La Templaza by Ivan Palomares
> 16. “Penthouse” from Penteuhauseu: Salm-ui Jeonjaeng (The Penthouse: War
> in Life) by Jung Se Rin.
> 17. “To Olivia” from To Olivia by Debbie Wiseman.
> 18. “I Lift My Eyes” from Old World by Christopher Tin
> 19. “Artic Foxes” from A Perfect Planet by Ilan Eshkeri.
> 20. “Running On Raindrops” from Raya and the Dragon by James Newton
> Howard.
> 21. “Shiawase Na Jikanoffers” from Masukarēdo Naito by Naoki Sato.

> Special Award of the Year
> David Newman’s outstanding adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen
> Sondheim’s iconic 1961 score and songs from “West Side Story”. Its songs
> and score remain on my 1961 Top 10 list.

> My Top 10 Favorite Scores

> 1. Otsomae Bolkeun Kkeutong (The Red Sleeve Cuff) by Noh Hyung-woo
> [Korea]

> From my favorite Korean Sageuk (historical) TV series of 2021. It tells
> the tragic tale of love between King Yeongjo and court lady Seong Deok-im.
> He falls in love with her, but she refuses his advances preferring to keep
> her autonomy and freedom, which she would lose becoming one of his
> concubines. Eventually the power, passion, and persistence of his genuine
> love overcomes her and she allows him to bed her. He cherishes her, and
> she does come to eventually love him only to lose their crown prince to
> small pox and then die while pregnant with their second child. On her
> death bed she asks that he walk past her in the afterlife as she would
> like to live it on her own terms. While weeping he asks whether she ever
> really loved him, as she grasps his hands tenderly and says yes. The
> powerful romanticism of this tragic love affair often left me with tears,
> and Noh’s music in episode after episode achieved a sublime confluence,
> elevating and enhancing the powerful emotions unfolding on the screen.
> Regretfully, there is no commercial release of this score. My personal and
> IFMCA efforts to obtain a promo from the composer and production company
> failed, so you can only experience the score watching the TV series. When
> I can finally purchase the actual episodes, I will extract the music and
> make my suite.

> 2. Coppelia by Maurizio Malagnini [Germany]
> This late year arrival was wonderous! I believe my dear friend and editor
> Jon Broxton best describes my feelings; “Raptures. Absolute raptures.
> Maurizio Malagnini's new score for the partly-animated fantasy film
> COPPELIA is sensational. Fully orchestral, sweeping, thematic, emotional.
> Just beautiful”. The “Grand Finale” cue is my second favorite of the year.
> As a fantasy I see myself dancing the ballet in my mind and I adore this
> score.

> 3. Jué Xǐng Nián Dài (The Age of Awakening) by Roc Chen
> [China]

> Roc Chen is legend in the Chinese film and TV industry and is one of my
> favorite living composers. His scores for “Jue Dae Shuang Jiao” (2020),
> “He Li Hua Ting” (2019), “Hao Lan Zhuan” (2019) and “Hua Xu Yin” (2015)
> are exceptional and this latest 2021 effort sustains his brilliance. The
> 43-episode Chinese TV series explores the origin and founding of the
> Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Chen empowers its clearly nationalist and
> propagandist intent with music, which is eloquent, inspiring and
> surprisingly romantic. I fell in love with this score from the first note,
> and relisten often, with the “Still” and “Expect” cues on of my favorites
> of the year.

> 4. Tú lán duǒ de zǔzhòu (The Curse of Turandot) by Simon
> Franglen [China]

> Franglen’s effort is a bolt from the blue, impressive in every way. I hear
> echoes of Horner’s sensibilities in the notes, yet in the final analysis
> this score is authentic and Franglen’s voice. He blends Oriental and
> Occidental sensibilities, and fully captures the exquisite tragedy of
> unrequited love, eliciting tears with his music, which overwhelms my soul.
> The Turandot Theme is a masterpiece cue full of tear-evoking pathos.

> 5. Wǒ hé wǒ de fùqīn (Me and My Fathers) by Gordy
> Haab [China]

> Haab caught my attention with his dynamic video game writing for Star
> Wars. With this effort he demonstrates his compositional skills, with
> music that achieves a breath-taking confluence of occidental and oriental
> sensibilities. He fully captures this segment of the TV series’ which
> explores the lives of four Chinese families in different regions of the
> country. The score offers a Main Theme for the ages, a flute pastorale
> which is sublime. Hi music offers grandeur, inspired national pride, as
> well as the tranquil serenity of nature. The writing for Chinese flute and
> interplay of violin and cello brought a quiver and a tear. The “Final
> Battle” cue is awesome, and elicits quivers and tears with every listen!
> This guy needs a big film to score.

> 6. Gojira Shingyura Pointo (Godzilla Singular Point) by Chan Sawada
> [Japan]

> Well, another bolt from the blue as I was unfamiliar with this composer.
> This score just blew me right out of my chair with some of the most
> awesome music of the year. He infuses his soundscape with primal power,
> drama, great choral work, melodic eloquence and some outstanding action
> writing. Although he pays homage to the legendary Akira Ifukube, his score
> is authentic and original. The tear evoking “Alapu Upala Requiem” offers a
> masterpiece composition and my favorite cue of the decade.

> 7. Mistrz (The Champion of Auschwitz) by Bartosz Chajdecki
> [Poland]

> I first became acquainted with Chajdecki in 2008 for his outstanding score
> for the Czas Honoru TV series, and later, the film Baczynski, my #2 score
> for 2013. The man’s musical eloquence and skill for dramatic and
> impassioned writing affirms him as Poland’s premier composer, and for me,
> one of the finest European composers of his generation. This latest work
> supports a man forced to box as he copes with the impending doom that
> awaits all Nazi prisoners at Auschwitz. The pathos of strings and haunting
> wordless vocals bring a quiver and a tear as you are overwhelmed by heart
> wrenching crescendos of despair. The “Walking Out” cue is a profoundly
> moving and one of my favorite cues of the year.

> 8. Al Ikhtiyar 2: Regal Al Zel (The Choice 2: Men of Shadow) by
> Khaled Al Kamar [Egypt]

> The solitary trumpet declaration that opens the Main Title and ushers in a
> gorgeous cello soliloquy brought tears for one of the finest main titles
> of 2021. What captures my heart is Al Kamar’s exquisite writing for cello,
> which he drapes with subtle ethnic Arabic auras to create a stirring
> pathos of unsurpassed beauty. I adore any human whose music can reach the
> sinews of my heart with such profound beauty as to elicit tears.

> 9. La Cocinera de Castamar (The Cook of Castamar) by Ivan Palomares
> [Spain]

> Palomares graces us with exquisite European classicism and old-world
> charm. A pervasive sadness permeates the score and speaks of loss, regret
> and heartache as Diego and Clara, both wounded souls, try through the
> power of love to heal each other. Gorgeous, beautiful string borne themes
> and piano offer a romanticism, which captured my heart with every note
> offering a precious gift.

> 10. Claret by Oscar Leanizbarrutia [Spain]
> This was another bolt from the blue from a composer for which I had never
> heard. Due to its narrative, Leanizbarrutia bathes us in religioso auras
> with a score that is intimate, introspective, and contemplative. The piano
> work, and writing for strings when joined with chorus is sublime, once
> again offering a profoundly moving listening experience. The “Tema
> Principal” cue was profoundly moving.

> Honorable Mentions Scores

> 11. La Templanza (The Vineyard) by Ivan Palomares [Spain]
> Palomares caught my ear in 2018 with his wonderful score En Las Estrellas,
> and now he pens two of the finest romantic scores of 2021. He offers heart
> aching beauty and pathos for this Spanish TV romantic drama. The writing
> for strings, guitar, and piano elicited tears and offers the romantic
> eloquence I desperately long for, and seek in music. I adore this score.

> 12. Dalyi Ddeuneun Gang (River Where The Moon Rises) by Lee Yeon Ju, Jeon
> Jong-hyuk, Kim Su Hyun [Korea]
> From my second favorite Korean Sageuk (historical) TV series of 2021,
> which explores the romance of the warrior Princess Pyeonggang and her
> lover, the gentle Ondal who hates violence. Yet she transforms him for
> defense of her kingdom into a ferocious, unstoppable and undefeatable
> warrior. He eventually for love gives up his life to save her, only to be
> brought back to life by a Shaman. For his return she abandons the palace
> to live humbly with him in the countryside happily ever after. The Korean
> composer team offers inspired scoring, which propels the many battles,
> court intrigue, romance of our lovers, as well as the serenity of the
> verdant Korean countryside. I just love this score!

> 13. Qinghai: Wǒmen de Guójiā Gōngyuán (Quinhai: Our
> National Park) by Chad Cannon [China]
> I took notice of Cannon in 2016 for “Paper Lanterns” and then “CyberWork
> and the American Dream in 2019. His music supports a nature documentary of
> China’s first magnificent national park where the headwaters of the three
> mighty Yellow, Yangtze and Lancang rivers descend and bring life to China.
> He supports with a lyrical, and a sophisticated musical eloquence, which
> is just beautiful. The suite I create will inspire me on future nature
> hikes. I adore this score.

> 14. La Fine Fleur (The Fine Flower) by Mathieu Lamboley [France]
> I like everything this new kid on the block writes! This score has an
> incredible lightness of being, a fragile, delicate, and gossamer quality,
> which likes a soft spring breeze carries my soul away. It offers elegance,
> wonderment and a refuge from a cruel world spiraling towards war. I adore
> every note and love Lamboley for this score.

> 15. To Olivia by Debbie Wiseman [United Kingdom]
> An early year gem, where Wiseman graces us with a main theme for the ages,
> which immediately captured my heart. This is a tale of loss, yet also
> renewal and Wiseman demonstrates mastery of her craft in how she speaks to
> the transformation and intersection of these emotions. The “To Olivia” cue
> is wondrous. I love Wiseman for this score.

> 16. Gái Già Lắm Chiêu 5 (The Camellia Sisters) by Christopher Wong,
> Garrett Crosby, Ian Rees [Vietnam]
> Christopher Wong has carved out a productive, and for me rewarding niche
> in the Vietnamese film industry. This latest effort may be for me his
> best. The opening cue “From “The Bridge”, which introduces the powerfully
> evocative Main Theme just sat me back in my chair, offering a testament to
> the capacity and power of music to inspire. This theme for me is my third
> favorite composition of the year. For the rest of the score, Wong and his
> team weave gorgeous piano playing and passionate romanticism, which
> elevates the musical narrative to the sublime.

> 17. Penteuhauseu: Salm-ui Jeonjaeng (The Penthouse: War in Life) by Kim
> Jun Suk, Jung Se Rin, Joo In Ro [Korea]
> The one exception on my list where I succumbed to bombast. OMG! This is
> melodramatic, over the top scoring, but for this TV series of betrayal,
> greed, adultery, intrigue and murder, it works. The score blends a classic
> dramatic orchestral palette that features exquisite writing for strings
> with bombast, especially the main choral theme introduced in “Penthouse”
> (in my top cues of 2021), which puts Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” to
> shame. This is a series about a bunch a very bad people doing terrible
> things to each other, and the score masterfully propels the sordid
> narrative, and just delivers the goods big time!

> 18. A Perfect Planet by Ilan Eshkeri [United Kingdom]
> This Earth science series by the BBC offers from my perspective a
> contender for best documentary score of the year. Cue after cue is
> exceptionally beautiful and evocative. I have always liked Eshkeri and
> have been longing for a composition of this quality for years. It just
> does not get any better than this.

> 19. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings by Joel West [United States]
> Well, I was unfamiliar with West, but no more as this score made me a
> believer. We have a Chinese superhero with a tale, which abounds with
> Chinese folk lore, mysticism and fantasy. How West infused and blended
> Oriental and Occidental sensibilities was praise-worthy. Nothing reels me
> in better than when we have a musical confluence of east and west. His
> score also gave us a memorable anthem (essential for any superhero film),
> kinetic action writing, and wonderful secondary themes.

> 20. Raya and the Last Dragon by James Newton Howard [United States]
> Well, what can be better than Howard in fantasy mode. This was a very
> enjoyable score and once again he hits all the right notes and imbues the
> film with the right sensibilities, which fills you full of wonder. I very
> much enjoy this latest effort.

> 21. Lost In Space by Christopher Lennertz [United States]
> The third and final season, which showcases Lennertz skill as a composer
> with music that is dynamic, thrilling, yet never loses its heart. Episode
> after episode the score elevates this franchise’s narrative. One of the
> finest TV franchise scores of the 21st century.

> 22. Jungle Cruise by James Newton Howard [United States]
> Well, this offers some of the most complex and impressive writing in
> Howard’s career. It is fun and exciting from the first note and never lets
> you down or disappoints. The music is wonderful.

> 23. Old World by Christopher Tin [United States]
> This is the road less traveled! I was transported back in time by an
> amazing and captivating musical odyssey! I am completely unfamiliar with
> this composer, but when I listened to the opening cue “I Lift My Eyes”
> with the haunting vocals by Abeer Neheme, I was overcome. In cue after cue
> Tin takes you back in time and bathes you in the ethnic auras and rhythms
> of ancient Rome, Carthage, Greece, Babylon, Assyria, Persia and Egypt. I
> love the vocals, and the writing for woodwinds and percussion is wondrous!

> 24. Wish Dragon by Philip Klein [United States]
> What a follow-up to 2020’s “The Last Full Measure!” Shore and Howard have
> dominated the Fantasy genre for the century but with this effort Klein is
> ready to take up the mantle for a new generation. I found the melodic
> writing and use of oriental sensibilities within the score’s tapestry
> outstanding. This score for me was magical.

> 25. The Courier by Abel Korzeniowski [United Kingdom]
> Well, the use of an eloquent valzer gentile for the main theme took me
> completely by surprise and I just loved it. Korzeniowski elegant European
> style of writing has made me a fan for many years and this wonderful,
> multi-thematic effort, full of suspense affirms that he is underemployed.

> 26. The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness by Alex Heffes [United States]
> The third of four documentaries on my list. This superb score is for me
> Heffes’ best career effort. It is supremely melodic with wondrous choral
> support, with each cue a treasure.

> 27. Masukarēdo Naito (Masquerade Night) by Naoki Sato [Japan]
> Sato continues to amaze with this excellent follow-up score to his
> masterwork, Masukarēdo Hoteru (2019). The album’s opening and
> concluding valzer dramatico is just delightful, with dark suspense cues
> and intense action joining for a compelling narrative. The film ending
> “Shiawase Na Jikanoffers” one of the best cues of the year.

> 28. Tunturin Tarina (Tale of the Sleeping Giants) by Panu Aaltio [Finland]
> Aaltio completes the trilogy of nature documentaries and once again graces
> us by music and vocals, which is not only beautiful and stirring, but also
> sublime. I can hardly wait to put my earbuds in and play this on my next
> forest hike.

> 29. Black Widow by Lorne Balfe [United States]
> Balfe continues on a magnificent career trajectory with a very thoughtful
> and well-conceived and executed score for a complex, tormented and
> conflicted superhero.

> 30. Yeonmo (The King’s Affection) by Park Min-Ji [Korea]
> Another Korean Sageuk (historical) TV series. Twins are born to the King
> with the girl ordered by him killed for daring to share the queen’s womb
> with the Crown Prince. She is sent away safely by the queen and years
> later when her brother is murdered outside the palace, she assumes his
> identity at her mother’s behest. Hiding her gender becomes increasingly
> difficult when her young teacher Jung Ji-woon and cousin Prince Jaeun both
> fall in love with her. The Taegeun Group composed the series music,
> although my 5* suite is comprised of cues by composer Park Min-Ji. It
> offers wonderful themes and a free-flowing and wonderful romanticism.

> Thank you all. I look forward to a bountiful year, where hopefully the
> world embraces kindness and a C Lydian modal expression. Onward!




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