Welcome back, film score lovers! We’re here with another great edition of CS Score — so let’s get right to it. First off, we take a look at the Battlefield V: War in the Pacific soundtrack before jumping over to review Intrada’s reissue of David Newman’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure soundtrack; and then top it all off with an interview with Don’t Look Deeper composer Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.
Let’s do this thing!
BATTLEFIELD V: WAR IN THE PACIFIC Johan Söderqvist & Patrik Andrén
Just a quick heads up: if you haven’t listened to the soundtrack for Battlefield V: War in the Pacific by Johan Söderqvist & Patrik Andrén, you’re missing out. The action-packed score released for Apple Music and Spotify on July 31 and absolutely deserves your attention. And just in case you need further proof, check out this clip from the soundtrack, titled “Glorious Victory.” Good stuff!
Track List: 01. Battle of Dan-no-Ura 02. Wake Island 03. Glorious Victory 04. Ghost Warriors 05. Battle Of Iwo Jima 06. Death Of Antoku 07. Tropical Storm 08. Despair Of The Earth 09. Beginning Of The End 10. Empire Of The Sun 11. The Jungle / Waves Of Darkness 12. Awaiting The Enemy 13. Processions 14. Imperial Victory
BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE REVIEW David Newman
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure remains one of those oddball 80s flicks that shouldn’t work but by some miracle manages to succeed if only as a goofy time capsule of the era. The film’s success rests solely on the shoulders of its two leads, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, who inhabit the roles of Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan with earnest naivete. These guys may be dumb, but they don’t care. And it’s within that spectral frame that composer David Newman crafts his score.
David Newman hails from the great Newman family consisting of his father, Alfred E. Newman, who scored films such as Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Mark of Zorro, The Diary of Anne Frank, and even the 20th Century Fox fanfare, among others; Thomas Newman, whose work on films such as Finding Nemo, Skyfall, The Horse Whisperer, The Shawshank Redemption and the recent 1917 rank him amongst the most talented composers of the modern age; Lionel Newman, who won the Academy Award for Hello Dolly! in 1969; Emil Newman, whose grand scores for films such as Hondo dominated the 40s and 50s; and Randy Newman, composer of such classics as The Natural, Toy Story, Pleasantville, Maverick and Seabiscuit. And while each member has a fair share of strengths and weaknesses, David has made a career out of scoring broad comedies like Coneheads, Tommy Boy, Jingle All the Way, The Flintstones, D2: The Mighty Ducks, and the live-action 101 Dalmatians. Though, he occasionally found room for more dramatic fare like his splendid work on Danny DeVito’s films Hoffa and Matilda.
Newman came aboard Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure after working with Herek on 1986’s Critters, a devilishly dark horror comedy that allowed the composer to flex his comedy-adventure muscles. For Bill & Ted, he wanted to craft a score that focused more on the dim-witted duo’s sincere friendship and in so doing designed a sound that downplays the goofier aspects of this most excellent journey and simultaneously lends the film something akin to a beating heart.
The only problem is that Newman’s score is barely audible in the finished film and mostly drowned out by dialogue, sound FX, and rock music. Much of his work was cut apart or served only to transition between scenes. Although a good portion of the pic’s middle section does feature a good amount of Newman’s traditional adventure music.
Thankfully, Intrada has seen fit to release the score in all its original glory “in stereo from once-missing actual ½ inch three-channel orchestral session elements plus DAT of all additional keyboard cues, guitars, additional fanfares, more,” per its website. Surprisingly, the soundtrack packs a punch. No, it never reaches the heights of Newman’s best work, namely The Phantom or any of his more ambitious scores, but there are fun ideas sprinkled throughout the soundtrack, even if the shortened cues minimize their overall impact.
Tellingly, the best track on the album is “Execute Them,” which demonstrates Newman’s panache for high adventure. The music builds upon the adventure theme teased early in the score in the track “Much More Than That” and lets it play out more prominently. Although, again, the music as presented in the film is lost amidst the wild shenanigans.
“Execute Them” is presented twice on the album with only a slight variation — one features “Hoo Haa” sound FX at various points, while the other is just the music without those distractions. Other notable tracks are “Brawl and Ancient Greece,” which features a rowdy Western theme that plays over Bill & Ted’s escape from the Old West with Billy the Kid, “Medieval England,” a fanciful bit of underscore with blaring trumpets; and “Meet the Princesses,” which serves up a simple romantic theme for the moment when Bill & Ted encounter the “babes.”
“Wild Speech Montage” brings all the elements of the score together. Opening with a blast of electronic keyboard and guitar, the score jumps from the various musical styles heard throughout the film as Bill and Ted’s time-traveling guests convene at San Dimas High.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure remains a rollicking score that serves as a fun companion to the film even if it never takes full flight. There are fun ideas at play here held together by an exciting main theme, but the cues never fully develop mainly due to the requirements of the film itself. Nonetheless, this new album serves as a strong reminder of Newman’s genius in the art of the comedy-adventure score and even offers various ideas that Newman would later adopt for his thrilling scores to The Phantom, Serenity, his Oscar-nominated Anastasia, and even D2: The Mighty Ducks.
INTERVIEW WITH DON’T LOOK DEEPER COMPOSER NORA KROLL-ROSENBAUM
Don’t Look Deeper is the new Quibi series starring Helena Howard, Don Cheadle, and Emily Mortimer that debuted on the short-form streaming platform July 27. To mark the occasion, ComingSoon.net reached out to composer Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum to discuss the film’s hypnotic score and the composer graciously took the time to discuss her thoughts on the series, her scoring process and some of the upcoming projects she’s currently working on.
Here’s the synopsis for Don’t Look Deeper via Slashfilm:
Catherine Hardwicke’s new sci-fi thriller Don’t Look Deeper suggests that they dream of their weird, nightmarish origins. This Quibi series follows a high school teenager who begins to suspect that she is not like the other girls. In fact, she might not even be human.
Kroll-Rosenbaum has worked in a number of projects, including Bird Karma, Lenny, Champaign ILL, and Stockholm Pennsylvania.
ComingSoon.net: How did you get involved with Don’t Look Deeper and what was your approach to the scoring process?
Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum: Well, I’ll tell you Don’t Look Deeper has been a totally fun project to score. I’m a huge fan of Catherine Hardwicke and I think that she’s a really interesting filmmaker. And I got to hang out with her at the Sundance Institute. We were both advisors in the film music program. And I read the script and thought it was totally amazing. It’s a really interesting identity piece. And yeah, and so, the opportunity came to collaborate with her, and it’s been a thrilling process. It’s an amazing, really cool, very different series.
CS: When you read a script, do you automatically understand how you want to score a film?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: You know, the thing is, yeah, I mean, I definitely hear things and I hear music when I’m reading a script. But I also, it’s a script that felt very musical to me. Some stories do, some scripts do. And when they jump off the page and the characters feel very real and you can really connect to them, that’s a big deal for me. I do a lot of kind of conceptualizing about stories when I read them and scripts. So when I read Don’t Look Deeper and I read its first version, I really connected with this idea that there could be music that was really about the body and about what’s organic and what’s not organic, inorganic, organic kind of analog and what does it mean to be human, basically? So that was my starting point. My starting point is usually to kind of not only kind of experience the story just as like, a gripping story, and not only as a piece of media that’s going to be made, but also as like, from a kind of conceptual idea, like what’s the DNA of the story that’s really being told and what does that mean about the music that could be made? How could the music be totally unique for just this story and how could it kind of have its building blocks be the same as what the stories are. Does that make sense?
CS: Oh absolutely.
CS: So, I listened to the soundtrack and its very alien in nature, but there’s also an undercurrent of emotion in there. How do you discover sounds? Is it just going into a room and tinkering for hours at a time?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: I love tinkering, so that’s a really good word. I definitely love tinkering. I did a lot of play in what I do. There’s definitely a lot of experimenting and playing and seeing what strikes me. But again, I was looking to find a world where you weren’t, as a listener going, oh, that’s a flute or oh, that’s a moog, or oh, that’s – like it wasn’t about ever boxing any instrument in, right? And because that’s what the story is about too, I think. It’s all about kind of this character-driven world of scoring, which is to say that like, you can be supported by an orchestra, but that orchestra may be real instruments, or it may be synthetic instruments and it doesn’t matter what they are.
So, I was always trying to walk this line of both comfortable, like you’re comfortable in the world. Like it embraces you in a way emotionally, so that you can kind of fall into it. But at the same time, you necessarily can’t pin it down and say, I know what that is, I know what that is. So, there’s a lot of weirdness. There’s a lot of layering and also lots of human sounds. There’s a lot of breathing in the score. There’s a lot of like, kind of biological elements to the score. And I snuck a lot of sounds in there that you’re not supposed to know about, but hopefully, psychologically there’s some element of that to the music.
CS: There were a lot of times where I’d wonder if that was a real voice?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: Right, right, yeah. You know, all the voices are real, but a lot of them are processed and there’s cool retro vocoders on it and stuff like that, too, because of course, there’s a sci-fi element, too. So, you know, it was just so fun to just have this palate that was wide open. And Catherine, too, she’s just so open to the weirder the better, the wider, the better, the wilder, the better. So, like, that gave me permission to play. And that gave me permission to just, you know, send a whole crazy array of things. And I had some amazing collaborators, too. I collaborated with a woman named Taura Stinson, who’s an amazing singer and songwriter. And she has a lot of vocals in the score. And she has a lot of layered vocals in the score, too, and that was an amazing process to go through. There are some tracks that we did together, where we just made a list of body parts, and she would sing names of body parts. And then, we would mess with them. So, it was like, completely fun.
CS: Speaking to that, with all the technology out there today that you can use to make these sounds, do you find it hard to almost stop tinkering with the music?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: Yeah. I mean, you know, the kind of composer I am is that I like to do a lot and share it and I like collaborating. I like the back and forth thing. I like sending stuff out and then seeing how does the film accept it? How do the people working on the film feel about it? Does it resonate? So, is music ever finished? I don’t know. You know? I don’t know. But I think there’s a beginning, middle, and end of every day. And I think that especially with COVID now, too, now we really have a sense of that, or maybe not. Maybe not, really don’t, but I think that there are a certain number of hours in every day, and I like making something every day and you know, and certainly, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe that’s the answer to the question. I don’t know.
CS: Did COVID impact your process at all?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: No, not really because this was actually done before COVID. This timed out to end before COVID took our lives over. But I’ll tell you that musicians and as a composer now, you know, this has been a very intense time for musicians and composers, as I’m sure you know, and everybody – filmmakers, everybody. So, for sure, we actually – my wife is a great composer, Laura Karpman, and we started an online orchestra during COVID called the Unison Orchestra. We started it with Lisa Liu, who’s a violinist, and Brad Haehnel, who’s a great mixer. And we started this amazing online orchestra of musicians from all over the world, recording remotely in their living rooms. And they’re all from the top orchestras internationally because nobody’s working. And it’s amazing.
CS: Yeah, that’s cool. I love that kind of stuff.
Kroll-Rosenbaum: No, it’s like, amazing. It’s amazing. And you know, of course, there are so many limitations right now, but strangely, that’s not a limitation, you know what I mean?
CS: Yeah, it’s true. You’ve commented on how you identified with Don’t Look Deeper on a personal level. In what way?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, listen, I think this piece is a really unique identity piece. I think that it’s feminist science fiction and its mystery and it’s drama and it’s all those things. But I also think it’s really a question about, you know, what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be an artist? What does it mean to feel like an outsider? And I think look, we all identify as a whole lot of things, right? I’m a composer. I’ve been identifying as a composer since I was a little kid. That’s always been a little bit weird and outsidery. I’m a woman. I’m a woman composer, so a female composer. I’m queer, also. I’m Jewish. There are all these things. There are all these boxes we put ourselves in and ways that we celebrate and identify ourselves. But it’s to say that like, I don’t want to give out spoilers about Don’t Look Deeper, but we very quickly realize that here, the protagonist of our story is this girl. She’s an artist. She’s a high school student. She feels like an outsider. And then she finds out she’s not human, right?
So, like, that is a universal story, I think. I think that idea, we can all relate to thinking about ourselves in high school and thinking, oh my god, I felt like an outsider. I think every high school student feels like an outsider. But I certainly know what that feels like, and feel like that feeling of being kind of on the outside of society or culture, looking in. And you know, I think that’s really interesting. And I also think one of the things that’s beautiful about the storytelling in Don’t Look Deeper is that all of the characters are rich. All of the characters have a backstory. No one is villainized, even characters that don’t have such good agendas, they’re still struggling with issues of connection and family histories and all kinds of stuff.
So I think for me personally, one of the things that drew me to this story was also this sense of like, oh, this is really deep down a piece about what it means to be a person, what it means to connect and what it means to feel like you belong. And I think that there are so many stories that need to be told. There are so many stories that haven’t been told yet. And you know, the more we can tell stories about, even though, yes, I’m talking about a story about a person who discovers that she’s a machine. But at the same time, there’s this idea of a story also that features a really prominent female scientist, Emily Mortimer plays this amazing badass woman scientist. There are so many stories that we don’t see often. And you know, for them to be told and then to be able to support those stories with music, that’s a really amazing opportunity.
CS: Absolutely. Moving into your professional history a little bit more, were there other composers or artists that you patterned your style after? Or did you just kind of create your own unique path?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: I think that it would be amazing that any person could ever answer that question with the latter. I think that we composers and we musicians and all of us, we are parts of our culture. And everything we do is about, you know, listening to, responding to, echoing back things we hear, absolutely everything. I was reading some crazy article in a science magazine yesterday, actually, about when you listen to something, you can’t help but contextualize it in hearing other things you’ve already heard, otherwise, you would just be hearing it, you know? So, whenever we experience anything, I think we are putting that in the context of meeting and paradigms of, oh, this emotionally means this. This character means this. And I think that as a composer, I think we do the same.
So, I have just tons of influences. I listen to all kinds of music. There are tons of composers that I wildly respected and admire. And there’s music that I don’t like also, which also plays a part of it that I do make. And all of those things, I think that there’s a weird way that as in film music and as film composers, we’re kind of like cultural sieves. Stuff comes through us and then we filter something back through, and it can’t be so alien that it doesn’t make sense. But at the same time, if we can make a unique voice for each film, for each story so that it is its own thing and it’s not about my agenda, but it’s about kind of that collaboration, I think that’s really cool. But yeah, so I guess I would say you know, some professor a million years ago said to me like, you can’t pretend that you’ve never heard “Sergeant Pepper”. You know, you can’t pretend that. And it’s true. It’s like, you can’t pretend you’ve never heard Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra”. You can’t do that. You can’t turn it off. It’s happened and it’s in your brain somewhere. And so, all of your influences I think always show their hand in one way or another.
CS: Cool. That’s a great answer right there. Looking ahead, are there any upcoming projects or anything that you’re working on that you’re excited about that you can share with us?
Kroll-Rosenbaum: Yeah. Right now I’m co-scoring the re-score of Hunchback of Notre Dame. I’m co-scoring it with Laura Karpman, my wife, for Universal. That’s super cool. That’s crazy and kind of perfect to be working on a massive silent film during the COVID pandemic, where there are no issues with shooting because, of course, the film has already been shot. So that’s super cool. And a bunch of other projects I can’t talk about. But yeah, that’s definitely up there in terms of talk about an outsider. Quasimodo, you know? Quasimodo and Esmerelda, those are some pretty iconic characters. So that’s totally fun. Yeah, and you know, a bunch of other stuff, but yeah, that’s what’s on the plate right now.
I love doing everything. I love all of it and I love people who are willing to take risks. And I think that people who are willing to collaborate and just try stuff, be willing, be open, I think that’s great. And I also think people who are bold storytellers and brave storytellers, no matter what the medium is, that’s totally exciting. So, you know, and I also, I like limitation. I’m weird in that way. It’s funny we talked about tinkering before, about kind of the infinity of tinkering, but I’m a person who loves limitation. So, if you say to me, you have a stick and this box and you have to make the whole score out of that, that’s exciting to me. I like stuff like that. So for me, it’s like, I think there’s opportunity in everything, be it the smallest, tiniest low budget indie whatever thing or the most epic 1919 silent film or anything. I think there’s opportunity. And if everyone is on the same page in terms of trying things and building something unique. So yeah, listen, I feel super privileged to make music every single day, and I know what that privilege is, and I try to celebrate it as much as possible. And yeah, that’s what I got.
CS: That’s fantastic. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with us. I’m excited for people to listen to your score because I thought it was great, weird, and unique.
Kroll-Rosenbaum: Thank you. I like weird and unique. Those are some of my goals in life.