In the second half of Season Two, Outlander took a major geographical and tonal leap, returning Jamie and Claire to Scotland at the dawn of the Jacobite rising. These episodes focused on their efforts to prevent inevitable deaths at Culloden. My score needed to shift back to the haunting Scottish sounds of season one, with an added emphasis on military percussion and pipes.
This change is evident immediately with the new Main Title Theme in Episode 208, “The Fox’s Lair.” The track begins with Raya Yarbrough’s haunting vocal once more, but I removed the viola da gamba and chamber orchestra that implied Paris. Instead, the bodhrán frame drum returns. At first, it feels like we are simply reusing the season one theme, but the track quickly evolves from there. Iconic Scottish snare drums sneak in behind her voice, providing a distinctly militaristic feeling. For the final chorus, I replaced the moving bassline with a steady drone in the low strings and bagpipes. This gives the final chorus a distinctly Scottish feeling, evoking the pedal-tone drones of military bagpipe bands. The instrumentation is predominantly the same, but the emotional impact of this harmonic change is intense. This main title sequence prepares us for war.
God of War will return for Playstation 4, and I am honored to score it.
In addition to composing all new themes and score for this beloved franchise, I was thrilled to take part in the game’s unveiling, by performing my original theme and gameplay music with a full orchestra at Playstation’s E3 2016 press conference at the Shrine auditorium in front of five thousand people.
Unlike most press conferences, the first sound heard was an orchestra tuning up. Then, I emerged from behind the red curtain and walked to the front of the group. I took a bow, turned to my musicians, and raised my hands. The crowd hushed. Clearly this show would not start with speeches or visuals, but would begin with music. With my arms raised in anticipation, I took a deep, long breath. I reminded myself to enjoy every second of what was about to unfold: scoring a live playing of a video game in real time with a full orchestra. (more…)
With Jamie and Claire spending half of Outlander’s second season in Paris, I knew I would have to make dramatic changes to the score. The Scottish instrumentation that defined season one was pushed into the background, to make room for an entirely new palette of instruments, themes and performance techniques derived from French baroque music. Adapting my writing style to this approach proved to be one of the most daunting creative challenges I’ve faced. (more…)
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…)