Last week I had the tremendous honor of being both the Outstanding Alumnus and Commencement Speaker for the USC Thornton School of Music. It was a joyous and surreal experience to return to my alma mater in this completely new context. Seeing so many familiar faces from my past, and witnessing graduates from such a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, put my post-college life and career into perspective.
At the Honors Convocation on Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised by a student performance of my original piece “A Hypocrite and Slanderer.” This piece for string quartet was commissioned by the Calder Quartet and the Getty Center and originally debuted at the Getty Museum in 2012. The student performers (Chiai Tajima and Margeaux Maloney, violin, Benjamin Chilton, viola, and Jonathan Dormand, cello) did a remarkable job, especially considering that the material is pretty difficult, written specifically for some of the best players I’ve ever encountered. (more…)
The first season of Outlander gave me the chance to fulfill a life-long dream of incorporating Scottish folk music and instrumentation into an original score. The second season, debuting this weekend on Starz, presented an immensely challenging shift in tone. Our protagonists move from the rolling hills of the Scottish highlands, to the gilded halls of Parisian courts during the opulent reign of King Louis XV. I enthusiastically embraced this dramatic journey by reinventing the sound of my score. (more…)
On June 2nd, 2014, I sat alone wearing scrubs and a hospital mask, in a corridor outside a labor and delivery room. The hall was eerily quiet, despite the crescendo of flurrying activity on the other side of the heavy doors. Fighting off claustrophobia induced by my breath against the mask and anxiety ringing in my ears, I struggled to type an email on my phone to two producers at Bad Robot with whom I was scheduled to meet that very afternoon, about the possibility of scoring an exciting new thriller for them. When the meeting was set, I knew there was only one event that could prevent me from attending, and that event was about to happen. An hour later, I became a father. The meeting at Bad Robot would have to wait. Fortunately, everything worked out for the best.
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This weekend marks the theatrical release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the critically-acclaimed new thriller from producer J.J. Abrams, and director Dan Trachtenberg. The film tells the story of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who wakes up after a terrible accident to find she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman), who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Produced by Bad Robot and Paramount, this film burst on to the scene last month with a new trailer and Super Bowl commercial, and has since electrified fan speculation.
Tonight marks the debut of Damien, A&E’s new horror / thriller series that serves as a continuation of Richard Donner’s 1976 classic film, The Omen. That film had a profound impact on me growing up, in particular because of its Academy-Award-winning Jerry Goldsmith score. I was thrilled, and a little intimidated, to dive into this unique cinematic world and compose original score for Damien.
I first heard about this show over a year ago, when I got a call from my friend Glen Mazzara, the showrunner with whom I had collaborated on two seasons of The Walking Dead.
“Bear’s score brought so much to The Walking Dead. I knew music would be an even bigger component of Damien, that it would have to become a character in itself, representing Satan’s presence,” Glen recalled recently. “I called Bear as I was driving home from my first meeting. He’s so busy, I needed to get him excited so that if the show were ever to become a reality, he’d already be on board. I could not imagine making this show without him.” (more…)
In “The Boy,” a new psychological thriller film from Lakeshore and STX Entertainment, Lauren Cohan plays Greta, an American nanny who comes to a work for an English family, only to discover that their son Brahms is a life-sized porcelain doll. The film is smart, intimate and well-paced. I was thrilled to be brought on board to compose the score.
“The Boy” has a disturbing premise, and is genuinely terrifying. (I cringed back into my seat at my first viewing!) And yet, I did not feel compelled to focus on the terror with my music. The film’s success comes from the audience following Greta on her journey. She begins skeptical that Brahms is alive, as any sensible person would be. As the film progresses, she gradually comes to question her senses, her convictions, even her sanity. This was the character arc I wanted to highlight with the score: Greta’s growing relationship with Brahms, and her transformation from skeptic to believer. (more…)
When I first heard of Japan’s infamous Aokigahara Forest, nicknamed “The Suicide Forest,” I was immediately fascinated by this terrifying place that is inexplicably the site of numerous suicides each year. David S. Goyer told me he was producing a new theatrical film set in this haunting location, and I was thrilled he asked me to compose its original score. The film opens nationwide tomorrow.
More of a psychological thriller than a horror film, The Forest tells the story of a young American woman named Sara (Natalie Dormer, in a powerful performance) who ventures in Aokigahara Forest in search of her missing twin sister, Jess. (more…)
Last night, the epic mid-season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. broadcast, featuring shocking narrative twists. The episode concluded with a beautiful extended sequence that clearly required a special piece of music, one I called “Crossing into Darkness.” Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at me conducting the mammoth 90-piece orchestra during this episode’s climactic moments:
(SPOILER FREE) – “Maveth” was an extraordinary episode, representing a crossroads between old and new storylines. At least a half dozen important musical themes were incorporated throughout the episode, including two new themes I introduced to represent new characters. I spend a lot of time on my blog writing about my creative process, and I’ll dive into the details of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 themes at another occasion. Instead, I want to shine a spotlight on the tremendous amount of work that goes on behind-the-scenes to make a score like this possible. (more…)
I have been a fan of Ubisoft’s acclaimed Assassin’s Creed series since its inception. I was always drawn to the franchise’s unique combination of historical fantasy, science fiction, groundbreaking graphics, detailed world-building, and immaculate soundscapes. Of course, I was thrilled at the opportunity to compose the original score for the Jack the Ripper downloadable content for the new Assassin’s Creed game. Collaborating with the team at Ubisoft was every bit as rewarding and exciting as I had imagined, and the end result yielded one of the most intense, mysterious, and vicious scores I’ve ever composed. I was so excited about it, I partnered with Ubisoft to release the soundtrack album, coming to your favorite digital retailers on December 15th, and already available for pre-order from iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify. (more…)
Tonight, the third and final season of Da Vinci’s Demons begins on STARZ, and all episodes will be available to Starz subscribers to stream from Starz Play and Starz On Demand. I’m excited to announce that my score for the third season is coming soon, to both physical and digital retailers. I am thrilled that fans will finally have the chance to experience this score I have poured so much energy into over the last year.
The premiere of a new season is a cause for celebration, and yet for me, this also marks a moment of reflection. The reality that this series must conclude is finally sinking in. Da Vinci’s Demons is one of the most personally transformative projects I have ever worked on, one that is near and dear to my heart. Very few jobs have ever had the kind of lasting positive impact on my personal life and creative energy as this one. I am saddened by its conclusion, but immensely proud of my work on this new season leading up to the epic finale. (more…)
The Walking Dead returns to AMC tonight, for the premiere of its sixth season! I am incredibly excited for fans to see and hear what’s coming, because I think this is probably our strongest season yet.
The creative model for this series has been to reinvent itself every eight episodes, with each run taking on a unique tone, and following our characters on a specific arc. Of course there are larger macro narrative arcs that span the entire series as well. This richly layered drama creates a unique challenge for me as a composer. With each season I strive to integrate elements from my previous seasons’ work into new themes, sounds and styles. My task is always to tell the immediate story at hand, but to also help thread the entire series together, to remind viewers they are taking part in a story that goes all the way back to the first episode.