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Zimmer, team, alums rundown Pt 5 - RC intro + 2005-07: (B)atmosphere Man Begins (5d)
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• Posted by: JBlough   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Thursday, May 5, 2022, at 5:11 a.m.
• IP Address: 155.201.42.99

This is part of a series. Part 5c is here: https://www.filmtracks.com/scoreboard/forum.cgi?read=109150

———————-

The Wedding Date (2005) - ***
Blake Neely

RC discovery #7.

This forgotten romcom was Blake Neely's first solo feature film assignment as a composer. It’s about what you’d expect for the genre - conservatively deployed orchestra that’s sometimes charming, sometimes playful, and sometimes quite pretty - and tuneful enough to not be anonymous but also not be overly memorable. The most surprising element is Neely himself - the guy who would end up overseeing the music for a decade’s worth of superhero TV shows on The CW got his initial lead credit on something like this.


The Island (2005) - **
Steve Jablonsky; add’l music by Blake Neely, Trevor Morris, Clay Duncan & Ramin Djawadi;
orchestrated by B Fowler/Moriarty/McIntosh, Liz Finch & Rick Giovinazzo;
conducted by Blake Neely; Heitor Pereira on guitar; thank you to Hans Zimmer

“You just try to survive on these big Michael Bay pictures, and if he asks you back, you know you’ve made it.”

RC discovery #8.

Two people in the near future learn they’re clones used for organ harvesting and surrogacy, so they decide to escape and reveal the program - but did anyone really care about the plot? You go to a Michael Bay movie for attractive people, car chases, and explosions. Or at least you theoretically do - this is the rare Bay film that was both critically savaged and a commercial disappointment. Steve Jablonsky had done additional material on Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys II that Bay liked, and with this film he became the director’s go-to composer for most of the next dozen years.

“I was petrified because that was the first big project of mine. But he did such a cool thing with that movie. That opening piece, The Island Awaits You, kind of wrote itself because he showed me that dream sequence and I immediately heard these ideas and I went and wrote it fairly quickly. He really liked what I came up with. Had he filmed it differently the score might have been something completely different.”

Electronics and guitar chugging in the background. Something rock/rap-adjacent. Sampled choir. A few of the synth pulses from Bad Boys II. At the time, Bay seemed content to have the music function somewhat anonymously in the background and maintain an element of coolness rather than trying to hit synchronization points (and how could you, given the way the man shot and edited his films), so the score plays largely as expected save for the easily-shifting notes and chords that make up the main theme (very Trevor Rabin). Is it the greatest thing since sliced bread? No, but emotional through-lines and recurring devices (and also a few moments of sensitive piano) were a massive step up from the indistinguishable noise of Bad Boys II. Now the score somewhat plays like a transitional work that got Bay to accept something like the later Transformers music in his movies.

Ranking high on the unintentional comedy scale: the final track clearly owing a debt of gratitude to the Now We Are Free finale from Gladiator.


The Great Raid (2005) - **** (Riley will be pleased I finally doled out that rating to a Rabin score)
Trevor Rabin; orchestrated by Gordon Goodwin & Rabin; conducted by Don Harper

RC discovery #9.

The first-ever dramatization of the famed U.S. prisoners of war rescue called the Raid at Cabanatuan sat on the shelf for two years after being filmed before being dumped in theaters near the end of the 2005 summer movie season. It made less than 15% of its budget back in theaters and sent its director, John Dahl of Rounders fame, on the path to movie director jail (maybe he shares a cell there with former Zimmer collaborator John Badham who was sentenced there a decade earlier). Trevor Rabin was a surprise choice for the film’s music, but he claimed he wanted to do something different after being typecast as a big action movie composer, plus he had “always loved classic war movies.”

Dahl would ask Rabin to write a fully orchestral score, which Rabin was fully on board with. ”These days, you do what we call the Remote Control virus - with Jerry [Bruckheimer], it would always be ‘Make sure the brass is separate in case I want to get rid of them or turn them down.’ When you do the thing all at once, that's not an option – it's all one piece of music. But this project was about writing for an orchestra and letting the musicians perform. Jon really wanted that sound, but I did tell him, ‘Just make sure, because if we do it, that’s it. It is what it is.’ No editing.” Only a few non-orchestral elements made the mix, including a Chinese guitar that Rabin played on one track.

And, like, OMG - Rabin went and (for the most part) wrote a traditional World War II score, very much in the grand style of John Williams’ Saving Private Ryan, Michael Kamen’s Band of Brothers and Michael Giacchino’s Medal of Honor series. Trumpets flare, strings swell, snares tap in the background, woodwinds carry plaintive melodies, lots of french horn solos -- all that classic pseudo-Copland Americana war film stuff, but occasionally laced with those satisfying melodic and harmonic shifts that were a Rabin specialty at the time. There’s not a whiff of the composer’s usual modern action tendencies (if anything, those moments here lean closer to the mannerisms of James Newton Howard), and no single moment makes you question whether the strings you’re hearing are real or fake. Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the musical genre. Sometimes you just have to lean into genre conventions and do a really good job.

“I come from a classical family. My father was concertmaster for the Johannesburg symphony and my mother was a great piano player and teacher. I have many proud moments [in] film [including] The Great Raid. Film is one of the few areas where one can have a platform to write serious classical music.”

One could argue that, with Mark Mancina receding a bit from the limelight after his 2003 films flopped, Rabin somewhat filled the void of “former prog rocker turned surprisingly good orchestral film composer” during these years.

The score also makes for a nice companion piece to Christopher Lennertz’s similar music for the video game Medal of Honor: European Assault from the same year.


SOCOM 3 U.S. Navy SEALs (2005) - ****
Jim Dooley; orchestrated & conducted by Tim Davies;
Matthew Margeon as Dooley’s assistant;
thank you’s to Todd Haberman, Mel Wesson & Hans Zimmer

RC discovery #10.

“In a TV show, they want you to blow something up in five minutes. In a movie, the level of commitment [from the audience] is different. You’re not going anywhere for a couple hours. In a video game, that level is even greater. We have no idea how long it’ll take individual players to do something. You try to have as much variation as possible.”

Around this time, questions like “are games becoming more cinematic?” started to emerge. The graphical capabilities of Microsoft’s Xbox (and its successor the Xbox 360) and Sony’s PlayStation 2 consoles had elevated gamer expectations for how good a game’s visuals should look. Multiple studios would start talking up how immersive and realistic some of their releases were. Studios hired Hollywood talent like Red Dawn director John Milius, Die Hard director John McTiernan, and 28 Days Later screenwriter Alex Garland. The push for more impressive visuals and stories begat the push for more cinematic music. The Metal Gear Solid franchise had already seen success with music provided by film composer Harry Gregson-Williams, and in the years to come more and more producers started asking for that legacy Media Ventures / Bruckheimer sound to be in their games as wel - in first-person shooters, third-person shooters, racing games, real-time strategy games, and even the SimCity franchise.

'I think the video game industry understands now that they are really leading [parts of] the entertainment industry, and I also think they're trying to get those big themes and big talent, now that they have bigger money, and also create a bit of an emotional attachment to their games, just as films do. You work on a TV show, but don't think of it that way: make it feel like a film. Or, if people are on a video game, don't write it like a video game: write it like a film. And on a film, ‘don't treat this like a film: treat it like a play.' It's kind of weird; rarely do you get something like, ‘This is a film, so score it like one.’”

For the latest entry in the SOCOM game franchise, the studio essentially had a bunch of junior Remote Control composers do a bake-off (shades of John Powell’s comments about the old Media Ventures environment of “kids all trying to get attention from Daddy”), and Jim Dooley’s demo won him the job. The producers wanted the music to consciously evoke the legacy Media Ventures sound, so Dooley’s score has plenty of material that exists in the same universe as Crimson Tide, The Peacemaker, and King Arthur (the latter which Dooley wrote additional music for). “I’d had cues in some of Hans’ movies, but this was the first one on my own. They wanted this specific Hollywood sound that I’d been studying how to do for five years. I had seen how the big guys do it, and I thought, ‘Hey, I can do it like that too.’” Dooley’s main theme would be right at home with those more recognizable works.

But there’s also an opening fanfare that feels more like it came from a 1990s Jerry Goldsmith score, and some action tracks recall that composer’s penchant for writing in atypical meters (7/8, for example). The mix isn’t overly weighted towards its bass section, the brass writing avoids the “unison brass” feel of the era it was supposed to emulate, and at times the work has the expansive acoustic ambience of Mark Mancina’s better action scores from the 1990s (one recurring motif could’ve even come from Speed). Dooley would try to balance the action bombast with some more personal material because “this is not going to work if you beat someone to death with heroicism; it's too much, if you look at movies like Clear and Present Danger, or Glory, there's always a passive side to the military, because that humanizes the whole thing.”

Unlike many other Media Ventures-inspired video game scores done around this time, this one would actually have the budget for a real orchestra, and even if the sound is a little small at times the performers tackle the music with vigor. “I said, ‘if you want this specific sound we have to do it in London or Los Angeles.’ We did the first recording day [at Air Lyndhurst Studios in London] right off the plane. [It] was a triple [session] and the second day it was a single or double. I was a wreck. The first lunch break I was doing interviews and falling asleep at the console. There was one riff that did not sit well on the cello. I remember one of the players just hating me the entire time.”

Dooley would end up writing about three hours of music. “When I first got the cue sheet, I said, ‘Oh, wow.' We called it Cue-henge. I actually had to go home, and have a private panic attack, because I didn't want to freak out in my studio. It was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cues. When you look at this Cue-henge thing, there would be a ton of five-second cues - music in case something happens, little moods, little tension bits - and I wrote around 50 of them. [But] the in-game cinematics are among my favorite pieces.' None of it was released at the time of the film, though in 2014 La-La Land Records would issue a 2CD release containing over 50 minutes of highlights from this as well as Dooley’s original demo and another hour from Dooley’s work for the subsequent SOCOM game. One piece is called Mahmood Indigo, which is such a deeply silly pun I almost wondered if Michael Giacchino or Marco Beltrami wrote it given how gleefully absurd their album track names sometimes are.

Through a mix of what the game developers were looking for, budget, compositional inspiration and ability, and orchestral performance, Dooley delivered possibly the best Zimmitation game score of this era. It’s derivative, but it’s undeniably catchy, executed with flair, and far more sophisticated than it needed to be.

Also - hey, look, it’s future Kingsman co-composer Matthew Margeson! He actually first appeared as Klaus Badelt’s assistant on Catwoman. “I don’t think there was a eureka moment as far as film composing goes but I was probably about seven or eight years old and and my parents took me to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, and the show was great but I was definitely more interested in the man waving his baton around, directing all the musicians. After the show I actually went down and talked to the conductor, and I’d been taking piano lessons for a while, but that was definitely a moment where I thought, this was something I’ve got to get involved in and wouldn’t it be cool to be that guy?

The hierarchy that exists at Remote Control is a really positive learning ground and there’s so much to learn that isn’t even music related, there’s the act of selling your music, or talking to your director, or the file organization and the process of trying out different music and different themes. I was in the position of working as akin to a ‘ghost writer’ or additional arranger or additional composer, and it’s a fine and sort of volatile balance of respecting that this is someone else’s score, their name is going on it and it’s ultimately their material, and you’re there to help explore it. If you want to get in the industry you have to know when to suggest ideas and when to, importantly, keep your mouth shut!”


Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (2005) - **
Rupert Gregson-Williams; co-composed by Tobias Marberger; add’l music by Lorne Balfe & Tony Clarke

RC discovery #11.

“Hans would very sweetly introduce me as ‘Rupert, the talented one’ to make me not feel ridiculously inadequate.”

For this side-story/expansion release of Battlefield 2, the game’s developers would turn to Rupert Gregson-Williams, giving him his first lead gig since he’d come to Hollywood. The music here plays like someone took the famous 90s action scores by Hans Zimmer, Mark Mancina, and Trevor Rabin, Black Hawk Down, and some of Harry’s collaborations with Tony Scott, put them in a blender, and then added some specialty instrument sounds and a very active drum set. Some listeners may cry foul over how familiar it is, but then it being a simulacrum was the point, right? It wasn’t supposed to be some grand original creation. It was supposed to take what you heard in the movies and put it in your games. There are a lot of loops and familiar chord progressions, but it sounds like Rupert had fun in some parts, especially the China sequences. The main problem with its album is that 71 minutes of music that’s this sampled and derivative is probably too much.


Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005) - *½
Paul Linford

RC discovery #12.

“The score is hybrid orchestral/rocktronica. It's kind of like dueling chainsaws, and emotes a falling-down-the-stairs type of sonic experience.”

For this, the ninth release in the Need for Speed game franchise, the developers turned to Paul Linford, who had been Trevor Rabin’s assistant for the last decade. As with Jim Dooley and Rupert Gregson-Williams before him, Linford would have his first lead credit on a video game. The developers were clearly looking for a Rabin-like score on a budget, so you get an almost entirely-sampled imitation of what Rabin had been delivering for summer blockbusters. Its album is shorter than the aforementioned one for Battlefield 2, which helps, but it also sounds a lot cheaper, so as a standalone listen it may wear you down after only 40 minutes. Still, I have to remember that this was for a racing game that didn’t need anything terribly distinctive from its original score, especially since a bunch of the game’s music was rock, rap, and hip hop songs. And for a minor work it leaves a significant legacy - it showed that another corner of the gaming industry wanted to emulate the Bruckheimer music template.

“Scoring the [cutscenes was] pretty fun. I mean, all the characters...they were talking to me, right? That was different from film, since they usually aren't speaking to the camera. I wrote themes for the main characters, and worked them into the various situations they got themselves into.”


The Da Vinci Code (2006) - ****
Hans Zimmer; score arranged by Lorne Balfe, Nick Glennie-Smith & Henry Jackman; ambient music designer Mel Wesson;
Latin lyrics & choir arrangements by Graham Preskett; soprano Hila Plitmann; cello Martin Tillman; violin Hugh Marsh;
ukulele by Richard Harvey; orchestrated by B & W Fowler & Rick Giovinazzo; conducted by Richard Harvey;
choir conducted by Nick Glennie-Smith; ‘Salvete Virgines’ lyrics by Abhay Manusmare; ‘Kyrie for the Magdalene’ by Richard Harvey;
thank you’s to Jim Dooley, Bruce Fowler, Clay Duncan, HGW, RGW, JNH, Steve Jablonsky,
James S. Levine, Michael Levine, Henning Lohner, Trevor Morris, Heitor Pereria & Geoff Zanelli

Zimmer didn’t have a pleasant time scoring Ron Howard’s Backdraft 15 years earlier; he and the director had trouble getting on the same page, partially because Howard liked the parts of Black Rain he’d put in the temp. But the two talked before the anniversary DVD release of that film and Howard mentioned he was working on an adaptation of Dan Brown’s smash hit religious investigative novel. As with Pirates, Zimmer was initially quite skeptical, in this case thinking a story (one he had already read) with so many monologues couldn’t be cinematic, but he was eventually intrigued by the historical significance of the Mary Magdalene story, and Howard (whose long-standing partnership with composer James Horner had dissolved after disagreements during 2003’s The Missing) gave Zimmer the gig.

“There’s a car chase. I had no idea what to write, but (it’s a dull thing to admit) I’m good at writing car chases. [After hearing my first attempt] Ron said ‘hey, there’s this thing in your suite.’ It was romantic, the exact opposite, there was no rhythm - and it was absolutely magical. It’s great having somebody who makes you look like a genius.”

In a lot of ways the music drags the refined elegance of Hannibal and the haunting mystery of The Ring into the Remote Control era. Zimmer would claim he spent a year researching paintings and books and even the Fibonacci sequence (not too far from his comments about reading “more books about the history of Somalia than any musician should” for Black Hawk Down), but the result stays very much within his comfort zone. Portentous dramatic reveals feature large ensemble hits on the same note repeatedly. A series of oscillating two-note sets and a chopping string pattern for the protagonist Robert Langdon are clear descendants of Batman Begins. A large choir is present. Like parts of Hannibal and The Last Samurai, the strings are weighted towards the basses and celli.

“I never quite counted - I think Ron counted 99 people in the room. I know I should have added one more. You don’t make a loud noise because you have 99 people in the room, [but] if you get 99 people to play focused [then] you get this remarkable tension. If you put more brass in, it sounds like an action score, and I just didn’t want to do that, be mired in Hollywood tradition [and] sound like a Biblical epic.”

But familiarity doesn’t breed contempt here. The vocals are exquisite - sure, there’s some legacy Media Ventures male choral bellowing, but there are also some truly striking operatic female vocals by Hila Plitmann which help the album transcend some of its familiar dramatic tendencies. “Sometimes I would get distracted by the film [on] the monitor, and then realize, ‘oh, I should be singing right there.’ Hans asked me to make kind of a false sense of Latin at times. For instance, I would say, ‘crrrrr’, the combination of consonants that was too harsh, like, crucifixes, and he needed it to be delicate. And they would say it's too happy - that's a very complicated little word because music is so abstract - but [then] they would say ‘we need it a little more melancholy.’”

That succinct theme I mentioned earlier also features into a truly spectacular track at the end of the film that’s one of the highlights of Zimmer’s Remote Control output - maximal minimalism at its finest. “Ron was very worried about the scene because all you get is an actor walking through Paris. He said I have to give the audience an epiphany, and I'm going, ‘Yeah, great, thanks a lot!’ So I wrote while he was actually shooting that scene, but I would never play it for him. ‘Oh yeah, I'm still thinking about it!’ One day I could see that he was really worried, so I said, ‘Okay, let's put it up against the picture.’ And it hit every cut, and it did everything, and we never adjusted the piece [or] the picture.” The rest of the themes aren’t earworms, but they effectively create a mysterious, often alluring atmosphere across the nearly 70-minute album.

“One of the things I wanted to get across was [that] watching a man think can be as interesting as a car chase.”

Listeners should be advised that large portions of that album don’t even show up in the film though - most of Poisoned Chalice, around half of The Citrine Cross, and all of Rose of Arimathea and Beneath Alrischa (around 20 minutes in total). Zimmer wrote most of the later parts of the film as a “27 minute mini-symphony” but a lot of it would get tossed out after Ron Howard felt a different tone was needed. Zimmer would claim one late sequence was replaced by seven minutes of orchestral improvisation. Howard and Zimmer both liked the original material as standalone music, so it still ended up on the CD.

English composer Richard Harvey (who did the famed woodwind solos on The Lion King) would perform a ukelele on the score and also write a gorgeous piece of source music. “He and Nick used to be partners in a London studio, and they would give me free studio time when I was a starving musician. Richard had worked with Stanley Myers, and Harry and Rupert Gregson-Williams were both Richard's assistants. I said, 'It's Westminster Abbey, it's your turf! Go and write something!’ The first piece he wrote sounded like I'd written it, and I'm going, 'No! I can do that! Write a Richard piece!' It's only in the movie for 20 seconds, but at least it's on the CD.”

Amazingly, Zimmer was still complaining about online purchase reviews five years after Pearl Harbor. “If you go on Amazon.com and start reading what people write, on the whole they really like it. But then you get the one guy who sort of seems to know it all, and of course knows nothing.”

Also, Henry Jackman appears! Jackman studied classical music but had since worked in pop music, such as programming on Mike Oldfield’s Voyager and Elton John’s Written in the Stars, co-writing Born on a Sunday for Art of Noise, producing the unreleased Seal album Togetherland, and even releasing a few of his own albums like the choral Utopia. But before then he was getting choir lessons from the same guy who taught Harry Gregson-Williams.

“I had frightfully posh musical schooling. When I was eight I went to boarding school but instead of Harry Potter it was cathedral choir music. My father was a composer. My uncle was heavily involved in choral stuff. Somewhere around 17 a friend showed up with an 8-bit computer and I completely derailed from classical, going under the tunnel doing all-night raves. ‘This isn’t Scriabin or all these Bach chorales!’ Mother was disappointed. Dad once had a #3 hit in Spain in the band that later became Yes, yet he [also] would have me come upstairs and follow the score to Bartók’s The Magnificent Mandarin as he listened to it. He was very eclectic.

I [hung] out with Trevor Horn for a little while - I think I was hiding from classical music. [Yet] it was so annoying in the record industry - [each song is] only 3 minutes 45 seconds, it goes verse-chorus-verse-chorus. I’d done this album called Transfiguration which was my pitiful attempt at doing what Bjork was doing on Vespertine - sort of posh, vocal, choir, very upmarket. Hans heard it and said ‘come and have a chat.’ For some reason I thought film music was only done by old people. [I was] prattling on about the musical education I’ve had, and he said two super-provocative things. One: ‘what you’re doing in the record industry is a complete waste of time.’ Turns out he was correct. Two: ‘the thing about film music is it’s not really about music at all.’ Obviously don’t take it literally, but the point he was trying to get across was [that] the most important thing was helping the story. It was like all these lightbulbs going off - cuz I remembered my dad [saying] ‘you’re going to get bored in the record industry’. Film music you can do minimal electronics, Debussy, Wagner - anything might be useful and what is needed.”

—------------------------------------

Next time: Nothing brings a good score album to a close quite like a remix by a Dutch DJ, right?




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