Kevin Kiner, Terence Blanchard, Ed Shearmur


Kevin Kiner

"Clone Wars"
Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 15

"As in the previous 'Star Wars' films we tried to add a sense of scope and wonder with the music. The Star Wars universe is vast and mysterious, and I tried to enhance that feeling with music that evokes emotion. In addition, I couldn't imagine watching episode 4 or 5 of the original features without John Williams' music -- just that concept speaks volumes as to what role the music of Star Wars plays in the film. So I had some big shoes to fill. There is also a tremendous amount of action in this film, so you will hear a lot of driving, fast paced, seat-of-your-pants kind of music, which has always been the kind of thing I really love to groove on. Nothing better than a rip roaring action cue.

(Director) Dave Filoni and George Lucas were pretty much in agreement about what the score should sound like. Everyone agreed that we should not be taken out of the Star Wars universe. John Williams helped George create that, and we were intent on doing justice to what he had started with the first six films. (Lucas) in particular is very keen on experimenting with different idioms. He would bring me a track that his kids were listening to as a reference to what was 'happening' now with young people, and ask if it was feasible to incorporate some element of that into the score. (Lucas) is also very into ethnic modalities and textures -- particularly percussion -- and I have used a lot of ethnic instruments and drums in the score. (That's) something that will differentiate this score from the live action scores.

Also, because of the ethnic element to the score, I used a lot of exotic percussion. Things like dumbek, djembe, taiko, sourdo, oud, duduk, charanga, udu bowls, and even an Egyptian female vocalist. I think that this is a different and fresh way of evoking an alien atmosphere, and I have to give George most of the credit for coming up with this concept. My job was to execute it in a way that these elements could smoothly live and merge with the orchestra, so that it wouldn't take us out of the Star Wars universe.

One of my favorite cues is 'General Loathsom/Ahsoka.' It starts out with a big battle victory fanfare, after that it goes into one of the main Clone Wars themes, and then transitions into Ahsoka's theme. In Ahsoka's theme we explore the tenderness and femininity that is inherent in her character. The next section is a bit of bonding between Ahsoka and Anakin as they ride a transport ship and then there's the sinister ending (in which) you will hear the orchestral forefront that I wanted all of the score to posses, as well as some ethnic and even techno elements. In addition to the full orchestra, I used Rob Papen's 'Blue' in this as well as a lot of Japanese Taiko drums, and for Ahsoka's theme an alto flute which has a very rich and provocative sound.

Truly, this is one of the most daunting projects that have come my way. I had to re-arrange one of the most memorable and well crafted themes in the history of cinema, and then -- the 'easy' part -- score 90 minutes of Star Wars action and adventure. To do this I listened and paid strict attention to how John had handled similar situations, and then put my own voice to the new scenes in a way that would sound like it was from 'Star Wars.' I have tried to take the spirit of John Williams' music and mold it to our new endeavor. This is a new direction for the Star Wars saga. It is an animated feature and TV series that will take our beloved heroes to places we've never thought of or seen. My job as a film composer is to follow the arc of the film. My music should be 'saying' or 'singing' what the characters are feeling and caring about."

Terence Blanchard

"Miracle at St. Anna"
Release Date: September 26

"This film is about a lost group of heroic American soldiers who fought brilliantly for a country that has yet to recognize their sacrifices. The music is the heart and soul of the film. It's the consciousness of the average person who realizes how devastating war can be. The main function of the score is to depict the diversity between heroism, evil and darkness and beauty and light.

(Director) Spike (Lee) and I knew we wanted certain instruments, such as accordion, mandolin, large brass and heavy percussion included in the score. All of those colors are utilized to draw distinctions between all of the cultural personalities involved in the conflict.

My process for (scoring) this film was to look at every scene and put each scene in the context of how it falls within the arc of the story. I then take each scene and the textures and colors of the visuals, maintaining the overall idea of where these scenes fall within the arc of the entire story. The biggest musical challenge was to represent all of the various cultures that exist in this film.

One of my favorite scenes, 'War is Hell,' is near the beginning of the movie. The thing that is intriguing for me in this scene is to think of how brave these soldiers have to be, marching in an open field, possibly to their death on such a beautiful day.

For the score we used a 97-piece orchestra. To draw distinction between German and American soldiers we used high-pitched tight snare drums along with a very harsh sounding instrument that is also played by the French horn section. For the Americans, we used a much richer sounding snare, along with the darker sounding French horn. We also incorporated the mandolin and accordion to give us flavors of Italian culture.

The purpose of the score in telling this story is to make it human, not to glorify the violence, but to shed light on the horrors of war. The strings are the emotional backdrop and the brass and percussion are utilized to emphasis the colors of that musical tradition used in the military."

Ed Shearmur
"Righteous Kill"
Release Date: September 9
Overture Films

"The heart of the film is the relationship between two cops (Al Pacino and Robert Dinero) -- partners for 30 years. Their friendship is destroyed in the search to uncover a serial killer. Our goal musically was to balance the more straightforward narrative aspects of the score with music that would speak to the bonds that join these two men and the psychology of the killer that erases those bonds.

The score blends traditional orchestral elements -- principally strings and solo trumpet -- with more radical electronic treatments and textures. I've been using a program called Reaktor for a number of years and it was particularly useful in this score in helping me develop an unusual (and hopefully disturbing) sonic palette.

The 'Righteous Kill' opening titles track is slightly anomolous when put in the context of the rest of the score. It's much more driving and guitar-heavy than the rest of the music. Necessarily so, since it was written for a fast-paced, tightly edited titles sequence. I worked with Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails on the programming. We incorporated some of the trumpet treatments that appear later in the score.

The end titles track is the calm after the storm. I originally wrote a much more extensive string arrangement, but in this mix the strings only appear towards the end, letting the electronics wind down first. I wanted to suggest an elegaic quality without the music being overly emotional.

The score had a fairly lengthy gestation. We explored a number of approaches before settling on a scheme that modulates from the purely textural, to music that is more thematically grounded. While we don't have a theme in the traditional sense, we worked hard to create motifs strong enough to support the film's emotional payoff."
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