Remembering Beth Krakower

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As posted to my Facebook and Instagram accounts 9/6/18:

What can I say about Beth Krakower that hasn’t already been shared by the massive outpouring of love and grief I’ve witnessed from our shared community?

Beth and I worked closely together for fifteen years. She was among the first people in the film music industry to believe in me, and to help me believe in myself. Together, we hatched ambitious schemes of creating soundtrack albums, labels, concerts, live events, websites, and more. She encouraged my wildest ideas, with equal parts enthusiasm and practical advice. She was a road manager, a publicist, a spirit guide, and a close friend.

I am heartbroken she is gone.

Today, I searched through thousands of photographs from events I did with Beth over the last dozen years, in search of the best one of her and I together. Beth was a very effective publicist, so effective, in fact, she consistently pushed me into the spotlight, while stepping back from it herself. She always made a point to grab a snapshot of me wherever we went. If I could only send a message back in time, I would tell myself to grab that camera out of her hand, and ask someone to take a picture of her and I instead. Alas, I seemingly have only one image of Beth and I standing side by side. Through the blurry low resolution, one can see how elated we both were in this moment. Beth’s true superpower was making her friends feel this way every time they were in her presence.

Rest now, my friend. Your fight is finally over. We are all grateful for the time we shared with you.

Updated 9/7/18:

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With so many shows and tours, I forgot all about Florence in 2013! I found one more, and its in focus. ❤️

God of War

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VERY LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: This blog will discuss only plot points made clear from early reviews and trailers.

CHAPTER 1 – INTO MIDGARD

One rainy November afternoon, over three years ago, I walked into Sony PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio to meet with acclaimed music producers Pete Scaturro and Keith Leary to discuss a new, secret project. Our conversation revolved around folk music, Northern European ethnic instruments, vocal writing, classical thematic development, bombastic percussion and, eventually, Greek and Norse mythology.  “Wait a minute.” I said. “Is this… a new God of War?” Their hesitant facial expressions told me everything I needed to know. I realized I was about to tumble headfirst into a daunting and challenging dream project.

For the uninitiated, God of War is massively popular video game series for Sony PlayStation, PSP and mobile platforms that ran for seven games from 2005 to 2013. The games were famous (and somewhat infamous) for their visceral depictions of sex and violence, epitomized by the central revenge-seeking character, Kratos. The franchise had been dormant for years, leaving fans to speculate if we would ever again see a continuation of the character.

In my first meeting at Santa Monica Studio, I realized I was witnessing Kratos’ saga unfold in a surprising new direction, moving away from Greek to Norse mythology. I was brought on board so early that the game had not yet been officially greenlit. There existed only an early build of a prototype level and concept paintings. Yet, these assets showed me that Kratos had matured, that the story would explore deeper themes, and that there was a new central character by his side – his son, Atreus. I was intrigued, and excited to dive in.

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The Cloverfield Paradox

The Cloverfield Paradox sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry when it debuted on Netflix mere hours after its first and only trailer during the Super Bowl. I was thrilled to return to the franchise as a member of the creative team for this ambitious entry in J.J. Abrams’ monster saga, and compose a ‘spiritual successor’ to my previous score in the series, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

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LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: I was fortunate to be brought on board The Cloverfield Paradox early. I had opportunities to visit the set on multiple occasions, and found inspiration wandering through the elaborate and serpentine hallways. I felt an immediate sense of claustrophobia, a memory I would draw upon later while composing the music. While the film was finishing production, I experimented with tones, colors and ambiences, building up a unique sound palette.

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Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a new science fiction anthology series, making its United States debut this weekend on Amazon. The series assembled versatile writers, producers and directors (including Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett), to reimagine original stories by one of the genre’s greatest authors. I was honored to join this brain trust, scoring three episodes: “Real Life,” “Impossible Planet” and “Kill All Others.”

While the series’ vision was held together by a close group of producers, each episode was treated like a stand-alone film, with unique writers, directors, and in most cases even composers. I had to reinvent my sonic and thematic palette from episode to episode, with no material carrying over from one to the next.

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In the second half of Outlander‘s epic third season, our characters undertake a harrowing journey, setting sail across the Atlantic to Jamaica, in search of Young Ian. Like the show’s move to the courts of Paris in Season Two, this massive shift in geography had to be acknowledged with an equally seismic shift in the score. I cannot imagine any project other than Outlander that would allow me to set a soaring bagpipe melody over blistering congas!

A new musical language is evident immediately in the main title of the ninth episode, “The Doldrums.” Here, “The Skye Boat Song” begins, as always, with Raya Yarbrough’s haunting solo vocal, but is unexpectedly accompanied by exotic percussion!

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Revolt

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How might one score a film primarily using floppy disc drives and an electric violin? This was the question at the core of my experience scoring Revolt, a new science fiction film starring Lee Pace.

In the film, Pace plays Bo, a soldier who awakens in an African jail cell, suffering from long-term memory loss, only to discover that humanity is in the final stages of a violent alien invasion. He teams up with a doctor named Nadia, and together they trek across the post-apocalyptic African wilderness, avoiding the robotic unmanned ‘drones,’ machines intent on killing or rounding up the last surviving members of the human species. (more…)

Happy Death Day

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What would happen if you were stalked and killed on your birthday, only to awaken back in the morning on that same day, seemingly doomed to live it all over again? This Groundhog-Day-meets-Scream concept is at the heart of the new light-hearted horror comedy from Universal and Blumhouse Productions: Happy Death Day. I was thrilled to collaborate with director Christopher Landon, and to score this film that has become a surprise October hit.

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After I read the enticing script, I met with Chris and editor Greg Plotkin at the Blumhouse offices last spring. I was immediately struck by their delightful and friendly personalities, and knew these were guys I wanted to spend some time with. They showed me the film, and we fell into an enthusiastic conversation about the near-infinite musical possibilities presented by a time-loop-horror-comedy set at a college. I was brought on board the film right away, and my mind raced. (more…)

The Walking Dead Score Album

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Tonight, the Season Eight premiere of The Walking Dead airs on AMC, marking my 100th score for the series’ 100th episode. This season promises “all out war,” as Rick and his armies battle to free themselves from the iron-fisted rule of Negan and his Saviors. These upcoming episodes will live up to this promise, and more, as they deliver all the intense action, drama and revelations that fans have come to expect from this juggernaut worldwide hit series.

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This weekend also marks an important personal milestone: the long-awaited release of my original score soundtrack album, thanks to a joint partnership from Lakeshore Records and Sparks & Shadows. The album is available digitally, on CD, and also on vinyl, with a limited run of signed CDs available from La-La Land Records (UPDATE: by the time I finished this blog entry, the signed copies sold out!). And for those of you in Los Angeles, I will be appearing at a signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank on Saturday, October 28th. If you’ve been waiting for this album to come out for a while, there are, at last, plenty of ways to get your hands on it! (more…)

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I don’t believe I’ve tackled a season of television as richly rewarding as Outlander’s Season Three. Separated by centuries in Season Two’s heart-wrenching finale, Jamie and Claire spend the first five episodes isolated in their own timelines, a narrative journey that spans two decades. This season allowed me to further develop familiar themes, and introduce new melodies, instrumentation, and nuance to the score.

A new season of Outlander would not be complete without a distinct variation of “The Skye Boat Song” for its main title. I introduced the tune in Season One, combining Scottish folk instrumentation, orchestra and the voice of Raya Yarbrough. At the start of Season Two, I rearranged it for baroque instrumentation, while Raya performed certain passages in French. That was followed up by a patriotic rendition, emphasizing Scottish snare drums and bagpipes, underscoring the build up to the Battle of Culloden. (more…)

Unrest

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Unrest marks my first score for a documentary feature. Scoring this film for Jennifer Brea was a completely new experience, and expanded my perspective on the vital relationship between composer and filmmaker.

A young Harvard PhD student with her whole life before her, Jennifer Brea, was suddenly struck with a fever that left her bedridden. Medical tests proved unsatisfying and inadequate. When doctors finally told her it was “all in her head,” Jennifer began documenting her experience with myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.). This affliction, misleadingly called “chronic fatigue syndrome,” affects millions of people around the world, disproportionally women, and yet research pertaining to it is tragically underfunded. Unrest expanded beyond Jennifer’s own experience to include stories like hers from around the globe. It heralds the growing movement to have this condition recognized and properly funded and studied. Unrest debuted at Sundance, where it won a Special Jury Prize for editing. (more…)

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