Category: Blog

AVA

Ava, a sleek new, spy thriller stars Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Colin Farrell, Common, Joan Chen, and Geena Davis. The film, a Voltage picture, directed by Tate Taylor, hit VOD this fall. Jessica Chastain plays the title character, a remorseless assassin, who must wrestle with her own demons, and struggle with relationships she has wrecked or abandoned. The film is an ambitious combination of character study and assassin intrigue.

As a kid I immersed myself in orchestral film scores growing up, background that served me well for the last Voltage Picture I scored, The Professor and the Madman. That score’s Romantic chamber orchestra flourishes represent the total polar opposite of the musical needs of this film. Fortunately as a kid growing up in the 1990’s I also adored electronic music maturing in that era. Depeche Mode, Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson had a huge impact on my young brain and popular culture, as did the scores of composers such as Brad Fiedel (Terminator, Terminator 2, True Lies), Éric Serra (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element), the Dust Brothers (Fight Club), and Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil (Run Lola Run). I had always wanted to try my hand at a score written in the style pioneered by these artists. So, I was grateful to join Ava’s incredible creative team and be given the chance to compose a searing, predominantly electronic score for a spy thriller.

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Star Wars Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge

When I was a kid, Star Wars was one of my essential gateways into fiction, into visual storytelling, into film, and into music. I grew up so immersed in the Star Wars universe that I might have spent more time there in my imagination than I did living in the real world!

At age seven, I designed and built LEGO versions of dozens of vehicles, spanning my entire basement floor. I also constructed a Millennium Falcon out of paper plates and VHS cassette boxes (resulting in a model that has survived over thirty years in the closet at my mom’s house). At eight, I stitched together brown strips of fabric and scrap metal to create a Tusken Raider halloween costume. I also hand-wrote my own novelizations of each film, meticulously describing every edit and line of dialog, filling three spiral notebooks, hundreds of pages pressed with of thousands of scribbled lines. At nine, I made a word-search of alien words and names from the books and films that covered twenty pages of graph paper taped together. At ten, I transcribed for piano nearly every cue John Williams wrote for the entire saga, memorizing hours-long piano performances of the scores. I carried this passion with me into my young adulthood, where I waited in line for hours outside Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, with my newfound college friends, to have our minds collectively blown by The Phantom Menace on the big screen.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Saying Goodbye

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Saying goodbye is always bittersweet. With this week’s broadcast of the series finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., my seven-year journey on the show comes to a close. To commemorate this milestone, I produced a video blog that paints what I hope is an emotional picture of what it felt like to be in the room during the weekly orchestra sessions for this beloved show.

Back in 2013, I started out with ambitions of blogging and vlogging my entire experience. Over the course of a few years, I was gradually reduced to producing at most one or two videos a year. Regardless, during my time as composer for this epic show, my life changed several times over. With this blog, I will look back at just a few of the highlights that stand out in my memory. 

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Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers, a new Netflix original movie, debuted last week, and features my first score for an animated film! My personal and creative journey with this movie is a dramatic story unto itself.

As I forged my career as a film composer, I experimented with every genre, scoring horror, comedy, science fiction, thrillers, dramas and so on. And yet, aside from two holiday episodes of Eureka, the medium of animation that I adored so much somehow always eluded me. That was until the directors of Animal Crackers gave me a shot.

MAKING NEW FRIENDS

In 2009 and 2010, I scored Human Target, a series based on the DC Comics character. Scrolling through my Twitter mentions one day in 2013, I came across a comment that read “Hey, did I ever tell you how much I LOVED your first season Human Target theme? As the character’s creator, ya done me proud.” Wow! I realized that tweet came from the legendary Len Wein, creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing and yes, Christopher Chance aka the Human Target. Before long, I was at a party at his house where I met him and his lovely wife Christine Valada.

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Outlander: Season 5

From the bagpipes of Scotland, the baroque harpsichords of Paris, to the blistering Afro-Cuban percussion of Jamaica, my score for Outlander has continuously evolved to keep up with Claire and Jamie as they traverse both time and space. For the series’ fourth season, our heroes explored America, laying down the foundation for a new home, so I introduced to the score the twangy banjos and dulcimers of the Appalachian Mountains. Where that season explored new frontiers, Season Five plants roots, digging into themes of building community, forming civilization, expanding families, and forming allegiances. For the first time in the history of Outlander, my score for Season Five had no need to introduce bold new instruments or styles. 

Inspired by the drama, I knew it was time to plant my own musical roots, and develop the colors and themes I already had. Like the drama itself, the music for Outlander Season Five stopped expanding outward into new territories, and instead planted roots. Though the score does not introduce any new sound this season, I feel its developmental and emotional strengths make it as strong as anything I’ve written leading up to it.

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