Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey

Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space OdysseyYou can probably be forgiven if the name of this movie – shown primarily in museums and other educational venues – doesn’t ring a bell. Animated in Taiwan to accompany an all-star voice cast that included the likes of William Shatner, Chris Pine, Mark Hamill, Samuel L. Jackson, Brent Spiner Robert Picardo, Hayden Christensen, Jason Alexander, James Earl Jones, future Star Trek: Discovery star Doug Jones, and rookie first-time actor Neil Armstrong, Quantum Quest incorporated real-time data from a number of NASA missions that were then ongoing: Cassini, the sun-watching SOHO, Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER, Mars Odyssey, and ESA’s Venus Express and Mars Express orbiters. I’m kind of sorry I missed this one, because the real-time, interactive nature of it precludes any kind of home video release (or at best would result in a home video release robbed of its most compelling features).

But there’s the soundtrack. Shawn K. Clement (composer on several early episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) pulls out all the stops, with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra delivering a score worthy of a sci-fi epic (complete with theremin performed by Clement himself). With a barrage of percussion and occasional ethnic flourishes, Quantum Quest‘s score shows a bit of Battlestar Galactica influence (but then, so does a lot of other post-2005 sci-fi scoring). But it’s a very different animal, leaning more heavily on traditional 19th century orchestral influences and using the other elements as flavoring rather than foregrounding them.

4 out of 4Given the subject matter and the talent involved, it’s a bummer to have missed Quantum Quest while it was still a current concern. (Even the spacecraft upon whose data the movie relied are not all there now: Cassini, Venus Express and MESSENGER have all ended their missions by crashing into their respective planets.) The soundtrack makes quite a souvenir of both the movie and that very busy era of interplanetary exploration.

Order this CD

  1. Cassini (0:47)
  2. Anti-Matter (1:34)
  3. Sun City The Game (3:11)
  4. Opportunity To Serve (0:45)
  5. Departure Station (1:45)
  6. The Core (1:11)
  7. The Battle (1:14)
  8. Ignorant Moronic Fools (1:05)
  9. The Void (1:39)
  10. Ghost Fight (0:44)
  11. Incoming (0:55)
  12. Fate Of Trillions (2:06)
  13. Dave In Space (1:05)
  14. Fear / The War Machine (3:25)
  15. Ring City (0:35)
  16. Are You Milton? (1:18)
  17. Destroy The Dave, Destroy The Light (1:54)
  18. Cassini Commander (0:44)
  19. Flipping Switches (1:25)
  20. Destroy Me (1:02)
  21. Operation Photon Extermination (3:17)
  22. The Message / Dave Delivers (4:18)
  23. Universe Of Possibilities (2:18)
  24. The Quest (remix) (5:23)
  25. The Message / Dave Delivers (demo) (4:11)
  26. The Message (remix) (6:32)

Released by: BSX Records
Release date: September 1, 2011
Total running time: 54:23

Another Earth – music by Fall On Your Sword

It’s an interesting notion, pairing a somewhat morose, navel-gazing (but still compelling) movie with a soundtrack that veers between percolating electronica and moody piano and cello, but the resulting soundtrack is an interesting new entry in the debate about electronica-as-film-score (a conversation that’s been unavoidable since Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won an Oscar with their music from The Social Network.

The main themes of the movie are laid out in two punchy pieces of electronic music, “The First Time I Saw Jupiter” and “Rhoda’s Theme”. The former isn’t a piece of music with any great variety – it stays mostly within a single chord – but it does have an insistent, almost Morse-Code-like rhythm. “Rhoda’s Theme” is more interesting musically, by far, with a repeating but long-lined tune that evolves additional layers and counterpoints, eventually including a wordless female vocal and cello. A new sound emerges in “The End Of The World”, but as it mostly consists of a wall of noise and industrial percussion, it’s difficult to classify it as a theme.

Tracks like “The House Theme” and “Naked On The Ice” are no less synthesized than the tracks mentioned above, but they achieve a more “organic” feel simply by leaving the drum machine off. “The Specialist: Am I Alone?” and “Making Contact” lean more heavily in the electronic direction, without becoming dance tracks like “Rhoda’s Theme.” “I Am Over There” and “Purdeep’s Theme” employ percussion without quite becoming rave-worthy.

Fall On Your Sword turns in a decent score, but somehow it never 3 out of 4quite fits the movie like a glove. The subtler cues are the most at home within the movie, and the more “active” music, while it’s a better stand-alone listening experience, never quite fits as well. It may be best to hear the soundtrack before the movie, and soak up the music independent of the imagery, rather than the other way around.

Order this CD

  1. The First Time I Saw Jupiter (2:54)
  2. Bob The Robot (1:12)
  3. The Specialist: Am I Alone (4:52)
  4. Naked On The Ice (1:46)
  5. Rhoda’s Theme (5:54)
  6. The House Theme (1:22)
  7. The End Of The World (1:54)
  8. Rhoda’s Application (1:37)
  9. Making Contact (1:15)
  10. I Am Over There (4:14)
  11. Purdeep’s Theme (4:22)
  12. The Cosmonaut (2:01)
  13. The Specialist: Look At Ourselves (3:59)
  14. Sonatina In D Minor by Phaedon Papadopoulos (1:18)
  15. Rhoda’s Theme / Running To John (3:50)
  16. Forgive (2:39)
  17. Love Theme (1:58)
  18. The Other You (1:43)
  19. The First Time I Saw Jupiter / End Titles (5:21)

Released by: Milan Records
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 54:11

Gremlins – music by Jerry Goldsmith

GremlinsHorror and comedy are two film genres that many have tried to mix, but few have managed to meld successfully. Part of the problem is that horror films tend to fall into one of two categories: so overbaked as to be almost unintentionally funny, or so repulsive as to strip even the slightest opportunity for humor out of the proceedings. If you try to add “widespread popular appeal” to the mix, you’re begging for trouble, because that all but violates the Prime Directive of making a horror flick. One of the very few movies to have landed right in the middle of that improbable Venn diagram was 1984’s Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Gremlins manages to be funny – and even endearingly sweet – and scary all at the same time. And as for popular appeal, the last time my son and I ventured through the toy aisle, we spotted freshly-minted, newly-produced Gremlins figures on the store shelves. Not bad for a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, even if I did have to explain that the movie that they’re from is too rich for his blood since he’s only 4 years old.

Helping to sweeten the movie’s cute moments and lend bite to the scarier scenes was an outstanding Jerry Goldsmith score. Always experimenting with unconventional instrumentation and electronics, Goldsmith was firmly into a phase of adding off-the-shelf synthesizers to the usual orchestral palette. Early samplers were also in play here, adding strange howling-cat noises and an almost-funny “Gremlin chorus” to numerous scenes where appropriate. Film Score Monthly’s 2-disc set corrects one of the longest-standing gaps in commercially-available film music by presenting the full score, alongside the remastered-for-CD “mini-album” released in 1984 which was previously the only way to hear any of the movie’s score. (As it turns out, even the barely-adequate mini-album has its charms, of which more in a moment.)

Goldsmith’s music for Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who was the movie’s most marketable image, reinforces the adorable part,

Of course, once Gizmo’s kids have their fateful post-midnight snack, Goldsmith gets into more, well, Goldsmithian material. The first strains of the “Gremlins Rag” – heard in full in the movie’s end Gremlinscredits – are heard in an off-kilter, almost toy-piano style as Billy’s mother gets her first look at the grotesquely mutated pods. Once these hatch, all hell breaks loose and Goldsmith upends his entire toybox on us, frequently using the unearthly cat-howl sample mentioned earlier. That occurs through several vignettes early in the Gremlins’ spree of mischief, but once that becomes an all-out reign of terror that threatens to raze the entire town to the ground, the music officially goes balls-to-the-wall. “Too Many Gremlins” would be an epic orchestral music cue for any horror movie, but it helps to sell the Gremlins as a serious threat here (don’t forget, the movie was made in 1984, and its effects were limited to the state of the art of puppetry and animatronics in 1984 – the music had a lot of work to do in making the Gremlins a credible hazard). (That being said, I’m glad that Gremlins has been neither remade nor – shudder – CGI “enhanced” in the years since it was made.)

The second disc will either be a jolt of harmless ’80s nostalgia, or a collection-completer. It’s hard to trawl through theLogBook.com’s music reviews without picking up on me being a Peter Gabriel fan, and the inclusion of “Out Out” may just be that song’s first official appearance on CD, and it’s a notoriously hard-to-find piece from Gabriel’s early career, not having appeared on any of his albums to date, right in the middle of the four-year gap between Security and So. For that alone, this is one “contractually obligated re-release of the original album” (a bugbear of these classic soundtrack remasters) I’ll let them skate by with.

4 out of 4It’s amazing that so much of one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most memorable scores had to wait this long for an official release, but the sound quality and the abundance of previously unreleased material make Gremlins worth the wait.

Order this CD

    Disc One: The Film Score

  1. Fanfare in C / The Shop / The Little One (4:30)
  2. Late for Work (1:46)
  3. Mrs. Deagle / That Dog (2:22)
  4. The Gift (1:45)
  5. First Aid (2:17)
  6. Spilt Water (3:02)
  7. A New One (1:10)
  8. The Lab / Old Times (2:35)
  9. The Injection (2:56)
  10. Snack Time / The Wrong Time (1:49)
  11. The Box (1:24)
  12. First Aid (1:39)
  13. Disconnected / Hurry Home (1:03)
  14. Kitchen Fight (4:06)
  15. Dirty Linen (0:43)
  16. The Pool (1:07)
  17. The Plow / Special Delivery (1:16)
  18. High Flyer (2:22)
  19. Too Many Gremlins (2:06)
  20. No Santa Claus (3:27)
  21. After Theatre (1:39)
  22. Theatre Escape / Stripe Is Loose / Toy Dept. / No Gizmo (4:36)
  23. The Fountain / Stripe’s Death (5:42)
  24. Goodbye, Billy (2:56)
  25. End Title / The Gremlin Rag (4:10)

    Bonus Tracks

  26. Blues (2:17)
  27. Mrs. Deagle film version (1:27)
  28. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (1:12)
  29. After Theatre (With “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  30. After Theatre (Without “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  31. Rabbit Rampage composed by Milt Franklyn (0:47)
  32. The Gremlin Rag full version (3:35)
  33. Gizmo’s New Song (0:35)
  34. Gizmo’s Trumpet (0:30)
    Disc Two: 1984 Soundtrack Album

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness performed by Michael Sembello (3:52)
  2. Make It Shine performed by Quarterflash (4:11)
  3. Out Out performed by Peter Gabriel (7:02)
  4. The Gift (4:58)
  5. Gizmo (4:14)
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:54)
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:13)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 76:01
Disc two total running time: 31:25