Musings About Music In Film

The Wax Cylinder #1

By Charlie Brigden capsule1

A Million Ways To Die In The West

You can say a lot of things about Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, but you can't say he doesn't help the cause of film music. Not long after drawing a Hollywood A-lister - Alan Silvestri - to his stellar documentary series Cosmos, he's brought us comedy western A Million Ways To Die In The West, with music from composer Joel McNeely.

McNeely has long been a favourite of mine due to his unerring ability to create gorgeous melodies and exciting action music, and he doesn't spare us here. The score has a huge nostalgic feel homaging the likes of Bernstein and Tiomkin and their western music, but while it's a pastiche at heart, it's never anything less than a wonderful listen. The title song by Alan Jackson is pretty funny, but it's McNeely's hearty score that will stick in your mind long after the cows come home.

A Million Ways To Die In The West is out now from Backlot Music


The Music of John Barry: The Definitive Collection

How much Barry can one person handle? Six discs according to this mammoth set from Silva Screen, that takes the best re-recordings of the late maestro's work and spreads them across hours and hours of music. From his crime thrillers to the kitchen sink to 007 himself, this box gives you the evolution of John Barry's work and displays with extreme prejudice why he was such a beloved composer.

While the sample album we were given is but a taste of the full set, the music included still shows the fine range of Barry's talents. Early favourite Beat Girl is a welcome inclusion, as is music from The Lion In Winter, Mary Queen Of Scots, Raise The Titanic, and Walkabout. A selection from Bruce Willis thriller Mercury Rising is an odd one but not terrible, and of course The James Bond Theme makes an appearance (I wonder if Monty Norman is credited?) along with one of the best pieces from a 007 picture, 'Flight Into Space' from Moonraker. The performances are fine and the music here is excellent, so I imagine the full box will be a sight to behold.

The Music of John Barry: The Definitive Collection is out now from Silva Screen


Da Vinci's Demons: Season 2

Not content with a flood of releases in the market for shows like Black Sails, Defiance, and his award-winning Battlestar Galactica reboot, wunderkind TV composer Bear McCreary is back with another volume of music from the Starz show Da Vinci's Demons.

McCreary's abilities have always been strong in combining instruments and electronics to present a certain kind of ethnic music (even back to Galactica), and it's here in force, particularly his usually strong use of strings along with the anachronistic synth elements. The percussion is thunderous throughout, but what stands out is how beautiful much of it is, amongst the action and the intensity. The delicate plucked strings for Lucrezia are a particular highlight, but McCreary shows once again he's as adept with melody as with drumming. My only criticism is that the album is a little long, but it's a small gripe.

Da Vinci's Demons: Season 2 is out now from Sparks & Shadows


The Signal

Nima Fakhrara's score to science fiction thriller The Signal is, like the film, a bit strange. A crossbreed between the more ethereal and ambient music to films like Solaris (some of it sounds like temp love from Cliff Martinez' score to that flick) and more experimental sound design, it's not the most accessible music, but that certainly doesn't mean it should be dismissed.

Fakhrara creates some wonderful tones in the score, with what feels like an animated soundscape behind it. There are some lovely uses of marimba, and it moves swiftly from delicate slow notes to intense electronics. It actually gets surprisingly emotional at times, and while I'm not sure whether much of it is homage or temp bleed (Vangelis and Tangerine Dream echo throughout) it has an edge of fascination that demands attention. Its influences are certainly apparent, but it's pulled off with such aplomb that you're not especially bothered. A curiously interesting score.

The Signal is out now from Varese Sarabande