The world of video game music has blossomed in recent years, enough to support live concert tours and bestselling albums. But while most such work is licensed or contracted out to third-party composers, a rare breed make their living at a single company, imbuing entire franchises with their unique sound. And apart from Nintendo's venerable Koji Kondo, there is perhaps no dedicated gaming composer more renowned than Martin O'Donnell. From humble beginnings writing the jingle for Flintstones Vitamins, O'Donnell and longtime collaborator Michael Salvatori joined developer Bungie in 1997, penning music for Myth, Oni, and most notably the Halo trilogy -- an iconic blend of sweeping orchestral bombast, haunting choirs, and electronic ambience that became one of the most acclaimed and successful gaming soundtracks of all time. O'Donnell also helmed Bungie's audio department, managing voice actors, sound effects, and an innovative dynamic music engine, and was most recently working with Paul McCartney on the score for the upcoming Destiny. So it came as a surprise today when it was announced MartyTheElder was being terminated without cause (flabbergasted reaction: HBO/DBO - NeoGAF - Reddit). With O'Donnell following Joseph Staten, Frank O'Connor, Marcus Lehto, and other Bungie veterans out the door, what might this mean for the company and its decade-long plan for Destiny? [more inside]
Pitchfork is streaming the soundtrack to Wes Anderson's upcoming movie The Grand Budapest Hotel (previously). [more inside]
2001: A Space Odyssey - Discerning Themes through Score and Imagery: As Ligeti's music ends, the first image we see is a celestial alignment of the sun the earth and the moon as Richard Strauss' exhilarating Also Sprach Zarathustra begins. It's critical to note that Thus Spoke Zarathustra is also a novel by Friedrich Nietzsche. This musical choice thus signals that the film deals with the same central issues in this book. [via][more inside]
Curiosity piqued by the music behind Avatar: The Last Air Bender, Avatar: The Legend of Korra, or Kung Fu Panda: Legend of Awesomeness? If so, then you may already be fan of the work of Jeremy Zuckerman, one half of the music and sound design production company, Track Team. [more inside]
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
Does the success of Trent Reznor, Clint Mansell and others suggest an end to the dominance of the traditional orchestral soundtrack?
John Williams turned 80 today! The American composer is best known for the themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Indiana Jones, but starting with the score adaptation for Valley of the Dolls, he's racked up 47 Oscar nominations in a 44-year span, including 5 wins. [more inside]
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King is at the top of the box office. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg. Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting, pulse-pounding, joyful tracks alongside the original video (part 2, 3, 4), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action. In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary on scenes like this; his work was later expanded into a full album, the Broadway stage show, and projects closer to his heart. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle (download guide), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups. Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
The annotated scores for [*and Filmtracks.com's reviews of] Howard Shore's soundtracks to The Fellowship of the Ring*, The Two Towers*, and The Return of the King*
One Hello World is a collection of voicemail set to music. In a sort of This American Life meets Post Secret twist, these messages cover life, love, death, and just about anything else you can think of.
John Debney fought with Satan to score "The Passion of the Christ." Literally: "I had all these computers and synthesizers in my studio and the hard drives would go down and the digital picture that lives on the computer with the music would just freeze on his [Satan's] face... and I was verbalizing and saying to Satan, 'Manifest yourself right now...'"