Jodorowsky’s Dune – music by Kurt Stenzel

Jodorowsky's DuneA unique documentary about a movie that almost, but didn’t, get made, the musical treatment for Jodorowsky’s Dune is a novel one: score the documentary with the music that the unmade movie should’ve gotten. Chronicling, as it does, an abortive attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s genre-redefining novel to the big screen in the 1970s, Jodorowsky’s Dune is graced with a fittingly ’70s-style score awash with analog synths (or very good approximations of them).

Think of early Tangerine Dream (composer Kurt Stenzel’s auditory reference point), or the all-synth, almost-abstract score of Enter The Dragon, or the music of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who: that sound in your head is the sound of the Arrakis that was never meant to be. It’s the sound of a Dune that would’ve starred the likes of Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger, rather than Kyle MacLachlan and Sting. The music is authentically trippy – as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision for Herbert’s epic likely would’ve been – and anyone born in the ’70s or steeped in ’70s genre cinema will likely find the wobbly analog synth sounds are a comforting old friend.

On a few tracks, there is dialogue from the documentary itself, and depending on my mood I can come down on either the “no, just let me hear the music, please” or the “oh, that’s kinda neat and it helps set the tone” side of the fence. It’s only on a few tracks. Stenzel sequences the album as a four-sided double LP, staying true to the medium that would’ve been available to a soundtrack album from the unmade movie. Tracks blend together as ethereal suites and reach an end point whereupon, in some alternate universe where Jodorowsky beat David Lynch to the punch, someone presumably turns the record over.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mid-1970s attempt to change how sci-fi reached the big screen never happened, and Dune languished in Hollywood turnaround hell while a little movie about the last of the Jedi Knights became the film that changed the entire playbook in 1977. That movie, of course, redirected movie music back onto a 4 out of 4European-inspired orchestral course, almost exactly 180 degrees away from the music Stenzel imagines here (and 180 degrees away from Jodorowsky’s pie-in-the-sky dream of having post-Syd-Barrett-era Pink Floyd score his vision of Dune). But Kurt Stenzel’s realization of the course on which movie sci-fi soundtracks could have continued is an incredible, atmospheric listen.

Order this CD

  1. Coming of a God (5:27)
  2. Greatest Movie Never Made (1:01)
  3. Parallel World (1:41)
  4. Parallel World (outro) (1:03)
  5. Leap of Faith (0:43)
  6. Time and Space (2:04)
  7. Optical World (2:55)
  8. Nebula (1:25)
  9. Invitation (1:02)
  10. Point of View (2:36)
  11. Moebius (4:48)
  12. Arrakis (1:58)
  13. Millions of Stars (0:21)
  14. Into the Galaxy (1:26)
  15. O’Bannon Meets Jodo (1:18)
  16. Finding the Others (0:57)
  17. Spiritual Warriors (1:36)
  18. Conception of Paul (2:01)
  19. Ships With Souls (1:51)
  20. The Pirate Spaceship (5:23)
  21. Rescue From a Sandworm (2:36)
  22. Mad Emperor (0:23)
  23. Burning Giraffes (1:42)
  24. Baron Harkonnen (0:33)
  25. Giger’s Theme (1:06)
  26. Deepest Darkness of the Soul (1:15)
  27. Feyd Rautha (4:17)
  28. Total Extermination (2:16)
  29. I Am Dune (6:00)
  30. Hollywood (2:22)
  31. Fingerprints (4:16)
  32. Open the Mind (3:38)
  33. Try (2:30)

Released by: Cinewax
Release date: November 13, 2015
Total running time: 75:31

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage – Music from the 50th Anniversary Concert Tour

Star Trek: The Ultimate VoyageA 2-CD collection commemorating the touring concert experience paying homage to 50 years – give or take a few years off here and there – of Star Trek music, The Ultimate Voyage is basically a cover album for Trek fans. Every facet of the franchise is touched upon, with both the primary themes and individual episode scores from nearly every series and movie revisited. The only main themes not covered here are the ever-controversial choice of theme song for Enterprise, a series represented by only a single score cue from one of its final episodes, and the criminally underrated theme music from the animated series (a corner of Trek that is left completely by the wayside in this collection).

If there’s anything that holds this back from being a crowd-pleaser instead of merely a concert souvenir, it is, quite simply and sadly, the performances. For a professional studio recording, the number of fluffed notes is a little uncomfortably high. The fact that they made it into the finished product would seem to indicate that this was a rush job to get the discs pressed in time to be in the gift shop after every concert – one take and only one take.

Where the performances are on-the-money, they’re a wonderful representative cross-sample of Star Trek’s musical history, performed well and arranged nicely for live concerts. Some of the best bits are hidden in the pieces of individual episode scores: Jay Chattaway’s pennywhistle theme from The Inner Light, Ron Jones’ apocalyptic cliffhanger from The Best Of Both Worlds, the almost-patriotic-sounding swell 2 out of 4of hope under Kirk’s speech from The Omega Glory‘s “courage, the order of the day” scene, the aforementioned music from Archer’s address to the nascent Federation council from Enterprise…we’ve all heard the themes about thousand times by now. Hearing the episodic music in a concert setting is a nice change of pace.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1:30)
  2. Main Title from Star Trek: Generations (1:59)
  3. The Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (6:02)
  4. Klingon Battle from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (5:20)
  5. Ancient Combat / 2nd Kroykah from Star Trek (5:12)
  6. Ba’Ku Theme from Star Trek: Insurrection (2:53)
  7. Starship / Kirk’s Philosophy from Star Trek (1:28)
  8. Kirk Does It Again from Star Trek (3:48)
  9. Main Title from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2:06)
  10. Ilia’s Theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (3:06)
  11. Revealed / Reaching Out from Star Trek: TNG (4:50)
  12. Courage / Saved Again from Star Trek: TNG (1:54)
  13. Main Title from Star Trek: Voyager (1:50)
  14. Main Title from Star Trek IV (2:41)
  15. Red Alert from Star Trek: First Contact / Captain Borg from Star Trek: TNG (3:15)
    Disc Two

  1. Opening from Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (4:07)
  2. Epilogue / End Titles from Star Trek II (7:33)
  3. First Contact from Star Trek: First Contact (2:45)
  4. Defiant Ending from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (3:12)
  5. I Can Live With It from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2:09)
  6. The Inner Light from Star Trek: TNG (6:41)
  7. Set Course For Home from Star Trek: Voyager (2:03)
  8. Enterprising Young Men from Star Trek (2009) (2:41)
  9. The Captain from Star Trek: Voyager (2:43)
  10. End Credits Suite from Star Trek VI (4:18)
  11. Up Your Alley from Star Trek: Enterprise (3:33)
  12. Archer’s Speech from Star Trek: Enterprise (1:52)
  13. Overture from Star Trek: Generations (4:18)
  14. To Live Forever from Star Trek: Generations (2:47)
  15. Main Theme from Star Trek (3:44)

Released by: CineConcerts
Release date: 2016
Disc one total running time: 48:54
Disc two total running time: 54:26

The Woman Astronaut – music by Penka Kouvena

The Woman AstronautFrom the mind of big-league orchestrator/arranger Penka Kouvena, whose work can be heard in the Gears Of War game series and the soundtracks of such movies as Ender’s Game, Angels And Demons, and Elysium, The Woman Astronaut is a very modern soundtrack without a movie. With no visuals to adhere to and no game whose moods must be matched, it’s pure musical expression, and rather autobiographical at that (her liner notes state that this is really her story: there are fewer female composers actively working in Hollywood than there have been female astronauts in orbit).

By weaving her music around the framework of the ambitions, struggles and triumphs of a fictional female astronaut, there’s a “space” sound that makes this fitting accompaniment to that journey. And it’s awesome, widescreen stuff – there are some big-name soloists and a full orchestra, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign backed by fans, Twitter followers, and even fellow composers, among them Lolita Ritmanis (Batman: The 4 out of 4Animated Series). Any movie would do well to have such a soundtrack, and something tells me we’ll be seeing Kounevic credited as a composer, not just an orchestrator, in the future. So here’s an idea: let’s find a project worthy of Penka Kouvena’s talents and her message. Is that Honor Harrington movie adaptation still a go? Because here’s a completed soundtrack practically waiting for the movie to happen.

Order this CD

  1. Earth (4:51)
  2. Starry Way (3:$8)
  3. The Forest (2:45)
  4. Land Of Burning Fields (2:10)
  5. Looking Up (2:36)
  6. Training (3:53)
  7. Broken (1:57)
  8. Taking Flight (5:12)
  9. Alarm And Rescue (2:18)
  10. In Space (4:06)
  11. Insomnia (3:43)
  12. Siren (3:20)
  13. Goodbyes In Zero Gravity (3:12)
  14. Solar Flare (4:17)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: July 10, 2015
Total running time: 48:08

Judge Dredd (newly expanded edition) – music by Alan Silvestri

Judge DreddIn my mind, Judge Dredd was one of a glut of ’90s genre films that abandoned optimism for the future in favor of a future as a dystopia filled with antiheroes (though to be sure, both subgenres had always existed). As a not-entirely-faithful Hollywoodization of the star character of Alan Moore’s 2000 A.D. comics from the U.K., Judge Dredd wasn’t exactly a perfect adaptation of its source material, but it was enjoyable in its own right.

The original release of the soundtrack alongside the movie’s 1995 release date was mostly devoted to songs used in the movie, with a scant few selections from Alan Silvestri’s score. Intrada’s remastered 2-CD set presents the full score to the movie, including unused alternate cuts and, after a couple of decades of fans begging for it, Jerry Goldsmith’s trailer music, which may be better remembered than Alan Silvestri’s score. In short, this expansion of the original release should make everyone happy.

While the movie uneasily mixed the comics’ gloomy violence with the bright-and-flashy millieu of still-trying-to-ape-Star-Wars Hollywood sci-fi of the late ’80s, Alan Silvestri’s music 4 out of 4is bright, brassy, and not apologizing one bit for being in your face. It’s heroic music for a character who can, in his original source material, barely be considered a hero. Hewing slightly closer to the tone of the source material is Jerry Goldsmith’s custom-scored trailer music, the original recording of which has never seen the light of day until this release.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title Revised (4:59)
  2. Block War Revised (5:01)
  3. I’ve Heard It All Revised (2:24)
  4. Aspen Revised (3:28)
  5. It Ends (0:42)
  6. The Law (1:46)
  7. Pawn Shop (1:45)
  8. Parking Penalty (0:55)
  9. Dredd’s Arrest (1:33)
  10. Say It Ain’t So (2:24)
  11. Judgement Day (4:26)
  12. Hidden Photo (0:40)
  13. Shuttle Crash (1:38)
  14. Access Denied (1:06)
  15. Angel Family Values (6:02)
  16. We Created You (3:48)
  17. New Order Montage (1:14)
  18. Hershey’s Close Call (0:17)
  19. Janus! (0:57)
  20. Council Chaos Revised (7:31)
  21. Hershey’s Apartment (1:15)
  22. Twice You Owe Me (1:18)
  23. Griffin Gets It (1:00)
  24. Send In the Clones (1:18)
  25. New World Revised (7:50)
  26. Judge Dredd: Trailer – music by Jerry Goldsmith (0:51)
    Disc Two

  1. Main Title (4:56)
  2. Block War (3:06)
  3. I’ve Heard It All (0:37)
  4. Dredd and Fargo (0:35)
  5. You’re a Legend (0:25)
  6. Aspen (2:29)
  7. Aspen – Alternate (2:29)
  8. I Judged Him (0:58)
  9. Hershey Objects (0:24)
  10. Bon Appetite (1:45)
  11. Brief Reunion (1:33)
  12. Council Chaos (5:47)
  13. Choose (5:18)
  14. Choose Alternate (4:44)
  15. Choose Revised (5:17)
  16. New World (2:27)
  17. New World Alternate (2:29)
  18. Judgement Day – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (5:54)
  19. Block War – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (4:42)
  20. Angel Family – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (5:40)
  21. New World – Original 1995 Soundtrack Assembly (9:16)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: May 12, 2015
Disc one total running time: 68:09
Disc two total running time: 70:51

Journey To Space – music by Cody Westheimer

Journey To SpaceEven as NASA continues planning its much-advertised journey to Mars, the space agency faces a problem that it didn’t have to contend with in the 1960s: selling that vision to a public wondering why we should bother. The push to reach the moon can be credited, in no small part, to the call to action of a charismatic, fallen president. The scientific and technological benefits of Apollo were almost an afterthought; the real mission to the moon was one of projecting America’s technological power (and, by extension, putting the Soviet Union on notice that this technological might could be used against them if they lashed out).

These days, presidents mention that it’d be nice to go to Mars, but we also have so many other priorities, so the funding for the stuff that might get us to Mars in the next 20 years could be cut out from under NASA at any time. Ironically, NASA is now the space agency that has to make agitprop films to push its vision. Journey To Space is one of numerous space PR films in the past decade, using the audiovisual playbook of Hollywood sci-fi to pitch real space exploration to the American public. Cody Westheimer’s music from Journey certainly sounds like it belongs to a sci-fi epic; some tracks have that great nautical questing feel that typified some of James Horner’s best work. Westheimer’s collaborator, Max Braverman, turns in a 3 out of 4uniquely 80s-synthpop-styled cue, “Building A Spacesuit”, that’s a lot of fun.

It’s sad that the human adventure, once said by a purely fictional film’s marketing tagline, is just beginning, if only movies like Journey To Space can convince a skeptical and often uninformed public of the benefits. Just the soundtrack alone makes me feel like it’s time to suit up, strap in, and blast off.

Order this CD

  1. The Endless Horizon (1:43)
  2. To Mars and Beyond (0:47)
  3. Endeavor’s Final Journey (1:45)
  4. Inside the Shuttle (0:45)
  5. An Eye on the Cosmos (1:12)
  6. Docking with Mir (0:29)
  7. Space Science – music by Max Braverman (0:53)
  8. A Home Above – music by Max Braverman (0:44)
  9. ISS Construction (0:48)
  10. Grace of the Brave (1:41)
  11. Orion Training (1:05)
  12. Mars (1:08)
  13. Extended Weightlessness (2:23)
  14. A Spacegirl’s Dream (0:44)
  15. How to Build a Spacesuit – music by Max Braverman (1:36)
  16. Mars in My Backyard (1:39)
  17. Underwater Training (2:48)
  18. The Exploring Kind (4:00)
  19. Red Planet Arrival (2:24)
  20. Meet Me on Mars (1:18)
  21. The Unimagined (0:51)
  22. End Credits (1:41)
  23. Blue Danube (0:40)

Released by: Lakeshore Records
Release date: May 5, 2015
Total running time: 35:04

The Martian – music by Harry Gregson-Williams

The MartianFor the sake of clarification and brevity, it’s important to get one thing out of the way: The Martian is the best Mars movie anyone’s ever made, and its soundtrack is the best Mars music that’s even been made.

The movie’s score (and this is an important distinction, as there are both score and “songtrack” albums from The Martian out there) is a triumph of tone. Harry Gregson-Williams knows when to deploy his full orchestral resources and when to pare things back to a sparer sound fitting Mark Watney’s plight. But here’s where The Martian differs from, say, the overriding bleakness of the later TV miniseries Mars: Gregson-Williams brings percolating synths into play, practically providing a soundtrack for the synapses firing in Watney’s head as he vows to “science the shit out of this” and then proceeds to do precisely that. At times playful, at times dense and technical-sounding, these sequences are the sound of hope and resourcefulness in a movie that many are praising for – somewhat unusually for Hollywood – getting a great deal of the science right.

That’s the difference, both musically and thematically, between The Martian and Mars.

The dramatic stakes are upper orchestrally where appropriate, whether it’s the Ares IV’s initial desperate blastoff to the safety of Mars orbit, or the crew’s even more desperate attempts to recover their crewmate against staggering odds. Where the synth sequences are lighter and energetic, these scenes are heavy on percussion and rumbling bass lines, because Serious Stuff is happening.

It’s easy to forget that there was a great score for this movie when it seems like the studio was so eager to fashion a tie-in album of existing ’70s songs from the movie’s plot device of Commander Lewis’ behind-the-times playlist, but the music for the travelogue of Watney abandoning the safety of his habitat and 4 out of 4setting out on a perilous trek to an already-landed ascent vehicle alone is worth the price of admission here. In terms of both music and movie, it’s scenes like that which keep The Martian as my favorite movie of a year that brought back the Star Wars franchise amid considerable hype. Heat up some potatoes and give this a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Mars (2:25)
  2. Emergency Launch (3:09)
  3. Making Water (2:38)
  4. Spotting Movement (1:49)
  5. Science the S*** Out of This (2:16)
  6. Messages from Hermes (3:31)
  7. Sprouting Potatoes (1:39)
  8. Watney’s Alive! (2:46)
  9. Pathfinder (2:33)
  10. Hexadecimals (2:33)
  11. Crossing Mars (3:36)
  12. Reap & Sow (2:21)
  13. Crops Are Dead (3:26)
  14. Work the Problem (1:58)
  15. See You In a Few (5:11)
  16. Build a Bomb (5:06)
  17. I Got Him! (4:45)

Released by: Columbia Records
Release date: September 30, 2015
Total running time: 51:42

Mars – music by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

MarsThe spare, atmospheric sound of National Geographic’s short-run series Mars fits the show’s tone like a glove – the awe and wonder of exploring another world is jettisoned in favor of claustrophobia and worse.

Nick Cave (yes, he of the Bad Seeds) and Warren Ellis can at least claim a coup with the throbbing, foreboding theme song for the show. I’m of the opinion that it’s almost a waste to have Cave score something without singing a few words, and this certainly satisfies that requirement. It may actually be the best thing on the whole album.

The rest of the selections from the Mars score aren’t musically lacking; everything’s nicely produced. But with the show’s dense sound design, almost constant narration or dialogue or documentary sound, and its pace, this is the kind of whole-note synth-pad scoring that has started to seem less in vogue in the 21st century. It can be a bit of a somnolent listen.

And yet you can’t fault the composers for that – they’re responding perfectly to the show’s perhaps-too-bleak tone, which was really my only complaint with the show as a whole. It was all beautifully photographed, the set design and the spacesuits and other hardware were very convincing, and the actors delivered the goods, interspering the fictional story with relevant present-day documentary segments. If you want the music to 3 out of 4reflect something other than the oppressive bleakness portrayed on screen, maybe…put something a little more noble and hopeful and wondrous on screen?

A good listen, but perhaps not all in one sitting. The Mars score is probably just a little too tied into the visuals of the series to be purely a listening experience.

Order this CD

  1. Mars Theme (1:42)
  2. Mars (4:00)
  3. Daedalus (3:00)
  4. Earth (2:11)
  5. Science (2:15)
  6. Voyage (4:52)
  7. Space X (2:42)
  8. Space Station (4:16)
  9. Symphony of the Dead (9:38)
  10. Planetarium (2:43)
  11. Aftermath (4:42)
  12. Towards Daedalus (3:00)
  13. Life on Mars (3:52)

Released by: Milan Records
Release date: December 30, 2016
Total running time: 49:08