Films to watch

For a while now, I've been meaning to compile a list of films to watch because they have a score that stands out for a particular reason. I'm keen that this isn't just a list of films with technically brilliant scores, and also doesn't just include films because the music is pleasant - I want to include films where the music works on as many levels as possible. The list is a mixture of my own choices as well as suggestions (some of which I haven't seen, indicated by an *asterisk) from others in the film and tv industry.

My plan is to keep it as a live page; where new scores are added over time. I'm keen to hear suggestions, too, so if there's a film score you think is brilliant that I've not included, let me know on social media through any of the links below.


*The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) Bernard Herrmann

*Vertigo (1958) Bernard Herrmann

*Farenheit 451 (1966) Bernard Herrmann

*Planet of the Apes (1968) Jerry Goldsmith

The Godfather (1972) Nino Rota

*Chinatown (1974) Jerry Goldsmith

*The Parallax View (1974) Michael Small

*Taxi Driver (1976) Bernard Herrmann

*Alien (1979) Jerry Goldsmith

*The Shining (1980) Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) John Williams

*The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) Michael Small

Blade Runner (1982) Vangelis

*Poltergeist (1982) Jerry Goldsmith

The Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-90) Alan Silvestri

*Out of Africa (1985) John Barry

*The Mission (1986) Ennio Morricone

*Platoon (1986) Georges Delerue

*Batman (1989) Danny Elfman

*Edward Scissorhands (1990) Danny Elfman

*Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) Brad Fiedel

*1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) Vangelis

*Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Wojciech Kilar

Forrest Gump (1994) Alan Silvestri

THe Shawshank Redemption (1994) Thomas Newman

*Crimson Tide (1995) Hans Zimmer

*Heat (1995) Elliot Goldenthal

*The English Patient (1996) Gabriel Yared

*Wag the Dog (1997) Mark Knopfler

*Gattaca (1997) Michael Nyman

The Matrix (1999) Don Davis

American Beauty (1999) Thomas Newman

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) Gabriel Yared

*The Straight Story (1999) Angelo Badalamenti

*Unbreakable (2000) James Newton Howard

Gladiator (2000) Hans Zimmer

*Almost Famous (2000) Nancy Wilson

*Traffic (2000) Cliff Martinez

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Dun Tan

A Beautiful mind (2001) James Horner

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03) Howard Shore

*Amelie (2001) Yann Tiersen

*Donnie Darko (2001) Michael Andrews

*Black Hawk Down (2001) Hans Zimmer

*Talk to Her (2002) Alberto Iglesias

*Insomnia (2002) David Julyan

The Bourne Trilogy (2002-07) John Powell

*Road to Perdition (2002) Thomas Newman

*Solaris (2002) Cliff Martinez

Minority Report (2002) John Williams

Finding Nemo (2003) Thomas Newman

Lost in Translation (2003) Kevin Shields

*Cold Mountain (2003) Gabriel Yared

*The Last Samurai (2003) Hans Zimmer

*The Passion of the Christ (2004) John Debney

The Incredibles (2004) Michael Giacchino

*Howl's moving Castle (2004) Joe Hisaishi

The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-12) Hans Zimmer

*Pride & Prejudice (2005) Dario Marianelli

*Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) John Williams

The Fountain (2006) Clint Mansell

The Holiday (2006) Hans Zimmer

*There Will be Blood (2007) Jonny Greenwood

Ratatouille (2007) Michael Giacchino

No Country for Old Men (2007) Carter Burwell

*The assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Atonement (2007) Dario Marianelli

Wall-E (2008) Thomas Newman

*Knowing (2009) Marco Beltrami

Avatar (2009) James Horner

*A Single Man (2009) Abel Korzeniowski

*How to Train your Dragon (2010-14) John Powell

Black Swan (2010) Clint Mansell

Inception (2010) Hans Zimmer

The Social Network (2010) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

*Jane Eyre (2011) Dario Marianelli

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) Alberto Iglesias

*We bought a zoo (2011) Jónsi

*DREDD (2012) Paul Leonard-Morgan

*The Road (2012) Nick Cave And Warren Ellis

*Oblivion (2013) Anthony Gonzalez with Joseph Trapanese

*Blue Ruin (2013) Brooke Blair and Will Blair

Gravity (2013) Stephen Price

*Under the Skin (2013) Mica Levi

*Girlhood (2014) Para One

*It Follows (2014) Disasterpeace

*The Two Faces of January (2014) Alberto Iglesias

*I Origins (2014) Will Bates and Phil Mossman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) Antonio Sanchez

The Imitation Game (2014) Alexandre Desplat

The Theory of Everything (2014) Jóhann Jóhannsson

*Whiplash (2014) Justin Hurwitz

*Crimson Peak (2015) Fernando Velázquez

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) John Williams

*Miles Ahead (2015) Robert Glasper

*10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Bear McCreary

Arrival (2016) Jóhann Jóhannsson

*Jackie (2016) Mica Levi

*Nocturnal Animals (2016) Abel Korzeniowski

La la Land (2016) Justin Hurwitz

Soundcloud picks #02: April 2016

I've been excited by a lot that I've heard on SoundCloud this month, so narrowing it down to a few to post here has been a challenge, but hopefully you'll agree that the number I've selected here are truly exceptional tracks. So, without any further ado...

Dos Brains // Extinction Preview

I'd been following Colin Fisher (a gifted musician in his own right) on SoundCloud for a while when I saw a couple of his other projects - Soundprank, an electronic progressive trance project, and Dos Brains - a Canadian production music house with a focus on trailer music and sounds that are more on the epic end of the scale.

All of Dos Brains' work is consistently excellent, and the preview track for their upcoming release, an album by Phil Rey, is no exception. Their work is inventive, distinctive, and meticulously well-produced, and it sounds like Extinction will have these qualities in spades.

Dos Brains are on Facebook and YouTube, and you can follow Phillippe Rey on Facebook.

James Everingham // The Rest Of Us

James got a mention in last month's edition too; and each are fully deserved. I'm hesitant to repeatedly feature the same names in this list in order to give as many people as possible the chance to get in the mix, but The Rest Of Us is a truly exceptional piece of work. James' writing often displays rich emotive strings and pulsating synth lines, but not since Leviathan (a track written very much in the same vein) have we heard such euphoric writing from this talented young man. Featuring the exceptionally talented Chris Coleman on 'cello and an inventive 7/8 outro, this track is not one to be missed.

James is on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and you can visit his official website here.

Mark Laukkanen // Dwell

Mark is a gifted young Finnish composer with an output that shows consistent steady growth and development. I've been following his work for a while now and it's fair to say that there's an audible evolution with each track, as he matures and gathers experience. Dwell is one of my favourites of his recent releases, with a striking melody that moves in unison with a strong harmonic progression. 

Mark is on Twitter and Facebook, and you can check out his official website here.

I hope, like me, you've enjoyed these audio highlights from April, and as always, I'll leave you with a little something from me; this month, it's velocity.


Soundcloud picks 01: March '16

I'm going to start a new series here giving shout outs to outstanding composers on my SoundCloud stream. This might be limited by the fact that I'll predominantly feature composers that I already follow but either way I'd like to give shout outs to the guys that I think are doing great stuff. The community is so important so I'm keen to support my peers.

Keeno (ft. James Everingham) // Dream Sequence

I've been following James' work for a few months now and there's no question that he's a gifted composer with a bright future, but I was intrigued when he reposted this track by emerging drum and bass producer Will Keen AKA Keeno to his SoundCloud stream. The result of this intoxicating collaboration is a heady mix of James' cinematic flair and Keeno's euphoric dnb. The official video is incredible, too:

The production is spot on, and musically the track is an absolute delight, showing depth and finesse. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on these two from now on.

You can check them out on SoundCloud here: Keeno // James Everingham | Follow them on twitter here: Keeno // James Everingham | Like them on fb here: Keeno // James Everingham

Tony Anderson // All is not lost

Tony Anderson is fairly established in the world of cinematic music, as one of themusicbed's most popular artists. His work often features reverberant synth soundscapes and dreamy felt piano, as well as vocals and instrumental flourishes from frequent collaborators.

All Is Not Lost is no exception, but demonstrates an evolution from Tony's previous work. Where his earlier tracks had clear structural and directional markers, this track has an organic essence that speaks of its bespoke nature, having been written for an original film by Cale Glendening. Listen from around the four and a half minute mark for some seriously glorious contemporary cinematic writing.

Tony is on SoundCloud and Twitter.

Alexandr Fullin // Away

Although I've not been following Alexandr for that long, it's clear that he's on an upward trajectory of developing his musical output and finessing his production. Away displays some of Alexandr's most refined sounds, and a structural bravery that marks this out as one of his most mature compositions. Also worth noting is that Alexandr had this track mastered by Chad Wahlbrink, the same engineer who's worked with Tony Anderson on some of his more recent tracks, and that's a decision that's been well worth it, with the fine sound quality he's achieved here.

Alexandr is on SoundCloud, Instagram, and Facebook.

That's all for this month; I'll try and do this again each month, and mix it up with different people. Final thing to leave you with is my favourite track of my own from March, temper. Hope you enjoy!

 - JJO

2015 retrospective

It's been a funny year, 2015. One with some incredible highlights, but also some of the saddest times I've experienced.  I'm just gonna talk about musical things here, but it's amazing how our personal journey can (and should) profoundly impact our work and output.

In June, I released my first soundtrack EP, And then, the mountains moved. This represented a big leap for me and an encouraging change of direction. Previously I'd been taking on a wide variety of music jobs without a huge amount of focus or agenda. At the start of 2015, I decided to intentionally focus on writing music for film, and knew that I needed to vastly improve my production technique and knowledge if I was to do so. ATTMM was the genesis of that process. I needed a project that would allow me to express the musical language I felt came most naturally to me, whilst also giving me a platform to develop my skills in music - specifically soundtrack - production. So from March to May I worked hard on investing any free time I had into writing and practising, until I had six tracks, but more importantly, the foundations of a new knowledge that I have continued to build.

Since June and the release of ATTMM, I've produced other singles which (I hope) demonstrate my continued growth as a composer and producer. I feel more efficient and more secure in my process, and every track I write feels more stable and more exciting in its context in my creative journey. Releasing roughly a new track every month, culminating the year with my Christmas release, Come and Behold (below).

As I look forward to 2016, I can hardly begin to imagine what's in store. At the start of this year, I would never have imagined half the things that ended up happening. Hopefully next year will be as exciting and rewarding as this, and I hope the same for any of you reading this too.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement, you have no idea how much it all means.



Inspirations 4: Hans Zimmer

Is there a commercial composer anywhere that isn't inspired by Hans Zimmer? Whether you like his music or not, the man's work ethic is inspirational in itself. I'm a firm believer that success comes to those who work hard, and I think there are very few exceptions to this rule, particularly in the film and music industries.

I don't really remember when I first became aware of Hans Zimmer's music - he gradually came into my consciousness somewhere during my teenage years with Batman Begins and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise - and from then on I was something of a fan. Zimmer's music is hard to miss if you watch films with any sort of regularity, thanks to his prolific output and passion for collaboration.

I think his high turnover sometimes means that he has become vulnerable to accusations that his work lacks originality; there are scores like Man of Steel where I'd agree that this may be the case, but more often than not he produces scores that are very special indeed.

My favourite Zimmer score - and indeed, probably my favourite film score ever - is the one for Inception, Christopher Nolan's fantastical, dreamland thriller. HZ manages to create a distinctive ethereality in the sound-world for the whole film, which for me is the key to this score's success. 

'Old Souls' (above as bonus track 'Dark Mal') encapsulates everything I love about Hans Zimmer. You hear the track and you're instantly transported into Cobb and Mal's limbo world, as Zimmer skilfully and tastefully combines synth elements with orchestral sounds, as is his hallmark. Whenever I've spoken to or read things by people who've worked with Zimmer, one thing that they often mention is that he is a highly skilled 'spotter' - in other words, knowing exactly where music should go in a film, and what sort of music it should be. 'Old Souls' is a perfect example of this - everything in this cue tells us that we're in a world different from our own. With the sparse, spacious pads, the delicate piano melody, or the slow pesante string chords in the background, this combination of sounds and textures is wonderfully judged.

As I mentioned at the start, Zimmer is a passionate collaborator, consistently seeking other composers and musicians to work with, in order to elevate his work to new levels (and possibly also to lessen the workload on himself). The man himself repeatedly mentions how highly he values collaboration in interviews and so on, and I couldn't agree more. It has frequently been my experience that working with one or more other people on a creative project lifts my work to a different plane - taking on characteristics that would never have developed if I were to work alone. As such, I'm always interested in opportunities to do so - if you have a cool idea and want to work on it with another creative mind, get in touch

In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), please share this with friends if you've enjoyed what you've read, and hopefully I'll see you next Friday. 


Inspirations 3: Coldplay

I remember staying up late one evening in the spring of 2005 to hear the live performance reveal of Coldplay's third studio album, X&Y, on BBC Radio 1. I'd been a fan of their music for a number of years after someone gave me A Rush of Blood to the Head for Christmas, and then Parachutes became my first ever album purchase shortly afterward. I can still recall the excitement I felt when hearing X&Y for the first time; they played Fix You as an encore and I was blown away.

The thing that I love so much about Coldplay's musical offering is the affecting, anthemic sound that has become their hallmark. Whether it's the rousing chorus of Yellow or the distinctive bassline in Paradise, Coldplay are able to make music that retains an anthemic quality whilst developing and evolving over their many years at the top of international popular music.

I don't ever set out to write an anthem per sé (and I'm sure Coldplay don't either) but I do try to develop a sense of size and scale that engulfs the listener. I love it when you're listening to music and it gradually transcends reality, taking you on a journey to a new emotional space.

I think this idea of a musical journey through a single track is one that Coldplay have really honed over recent years; it's a skill we hear clearly in Fix You, starting from that lovely mellow organ, and growing into the famous, epic guitar line; then again more recently in Atlas, following the soft piano opening arpeggios with the huge, reverberant sound of the chorus. They've mastered combining smaller sounds with larger ones to give each track a sense of space and scale.

Part of what makes Atlas so appealing to me - as well as the size of the sound - is the distinctive harmonic progression of the verse and chorus. Atlas has unusually long spaces between cadential resolutions which mean that certain progressions come as a pleasant surprise. While I don't hold harmonic invention as a focus in my work, I still value those small tweaks and reveals that can add freshness and interest to a track.

It's something Coldplay have been doing for years, though, and now have down to a fine art. Compare Atlas to Daylight from the band's second album, and it's easy to hear a sense of harmonic freedom that is less refined than what we're used to in their more recent work. As time goes by, I hope to find a secure stylistic voice that allows for space for invention and innovation. I've said that I don't currently hold it as a focus in what I do, but it's still important to evolve and grow with trends and tastes.

This steady and gradual morphing of my musical and artistic output is one that should continue for as long as I'm working; I don't ever want to become stagnant or stationary, and I want to continue to write music that sounds as anthemic and infectious as I can.

Next in this Inspirations series, I'll be looking at a film composer whose prolific career has seen him win over 100 awards and score more than 150 films since he first achieved fame with The Buggles in 1981.

In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), please share this with friends if you've enjoyed what you've read, and hopefully I'll see you in two weeks' time (no post next week as I'm on holiday). 



Inspirations 2: Arvo Pärt

'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication', said Leonardo Da Vinci. It's a sentiment that can perfectly be applied to the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, one of the great post-minimalist composers of our time. 

With some of the articles in this Inspirations series, I'll look at artists where there are multiple facets of their work that inspire me, and with others I shall feature them in this series because there is a specific feature our quality in their work that I admire. With Pärt, the main thing that inspires me so about his music is the straightforward, essential sound that he is able to produce, and the gravitas and, indeed, sophistication, that come with that. 

In general, there is something I find very impressive about creatives and makers who are able to produce work that has integrity and elegance whilst having only the most elemental musical components to make it work. Pärt's work falls into this category. He writes music that is refreshingly unfussy, with no superfluities to hide behind. Live performance differs slightly from production in this way; I'm learning that in production, the devil really is in the detail, and so I try to make interesting background textures and non-linear or -looping elements. Equally, it's so important to remember that it's easy to over-write. Much of the detail in my work often needs to remain below the surface, where interest is added subtly. Pärt is a master of writing only what is completely necessary, and that is a confirmation that I must apply to my own work. With every element, every layer, every texture, I have to make myself decide whether I need it. 

Spiegel im Spiegel is one of Pärt's most famous works, and for good reason. The astonishingly simple piano line forms a framework upon which the violin melody can float. Much of Pärt's music fits within a similar aesthetic and somehow managed to occupy the delectable middle ground of being respected by music scholars whilst holding widespread appeal. I love how, in this piece, he creates such atmosphere and emotion from a few crotches and dotted minims, a piano and a violin. No pretence, no fluff. Just sound, and nothing unnecessary.

Next in this Inspirations series, I'm excited to be talking about a British band whose second album was the first album I ever owned, and their third album shaped a huge part of the way I thought and felt about music for a long time.

In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), please share this with friends if you've enjoyed what you've read, and hopefully I'll see you next time.


Inspirations 1: Bethel Music

For me, the biggest drive to write music comes from the desire to make something that touches people's hearts, and is profoundly transformative to their lives and work. As a result, I write music that stirs something in me with the hope that it will do the same for others. What I'm going to begin here is a blog series discussing my inspirations, both musical and extramusical, partially to help me formalise my thoughts on this, but also because I think it might be interesting! 

I'd like to begin with Bethel Music. Lyrically, their music speaks to me on many levels, but it's more than their chosen subject matter that resonates with me; musically, their songs have drive, dramatic shape, and a strong emotional impetus, which combine together to produce a style that is deeply affecting.

I think part of what I love about Bethel is the amount of care that they pour into their output. It's clearly not just about creating fantastic music, but also about doing it well - with polish, in a way that people can immediately and easily enjoy and immerse themselves in. The scope and scale of their most recent videos display their desire to impress as well as output quality songs.

The production and engineering in their work is consistently excellent, too - this is an area where Christian music sadly often lags behind the mainstream - but Bethel are thankfully ahead of that curve.

I'm all too aware that my current musical output isn't particularly adventurous - my desire is no longer to be groundbreaking or avant garde - but this in itself presents a greater need for a focus on my own production in order that my music can achieve greatest impact and do itself justice. Bethel do this very well. They don't do anything particularly new musically but their finesse in production and focus on the detail allows their music to really hit home. It's a skill that I'm still learning and improving, but the more I write and practise my production, the more impact my music will have.

The way that they compress and mix their snare drums, frequently using two kits (often combining a snare hit with a tambourine hit) is one such example. The compression gives the snare a slightly punchier attack whilst having the effect of lengthening the duration of the snare hit itself. The addition of a tambourine in the mix also adds to this sensation of a reverberant snare. Although at times, they do add reverb to their snares to increase the epic sensation of a tune, their general tendency to inhabit such a sound-world gives any given album or collection a distinctive feel.

While attention to small detail is important, Bethel are also masters of larger compositional details like structure and pace. They aren't afraid to repeat a section in order to give the music more time to gradually build, and they know how to pace a specific track so that their songs peak at exactly the right time. These points are equally as important in a film music context as a worship music one; music must build gradually to hit the emotional peaks at exactly the right pace. Building sections mustn't rush or drag; finding the middle ground is crucial.

If you listen to my own track, And then, the mountains moved, you may notice a few of these points being applied. Most importantly for me in this track was getting the pacing right. It's rare that I'll start a track at such a dramatic level, but here it felt right to open with that epic string sound, with the deep, reverberating drums. I wanted to plunge the listener straight into a world where they could imagine a mountain shifting. Then, suddenly, this epic sound dissipates and we're left with a delicate piano. After the unrest and energy of the opening it comes as a pleasant tonic, and slowly begins to grow until, finally, everything slows down as the piece concludes.

Next in this Inspirations series, I'll be looking at an Estonian composer whose music has such elegant simplicity whilst retaining an emotional gravitas that demonstrates his skill and class.

In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), and hopefully I'll see you next time. 


And then, the mountains moved EP

It's been a thrilling few months preparing for the launch of my debut EP, And then, the mountains moved, which is out in June. I don't think I've ever felt so excited about a project, and it's been great to have been able to give myself complete creative freedom: a luxury that is often scarce when it comes to freelance contracts.

I've tried to make the EP coherent as a whole piece of work, while giving each track a distinct sound and flavour. My aim with the whole project was to make a set of tracks that would have dramatic potential, with the primary focus on people using them for their short films, dance performances, or in live theatre. With this in mind I'm releasing the whole EP for free, under Creative Commons, for non-commercial, non-derivative use. I'm really excited to let the internet go wild with this and see what happens.

I've taken inspiration from so many different sources, from other contemporary soundtrack composers like Tony Anderson and Dexter Britain, to music from other styles like Bethel Music and Coldplay. I'd like to think that the music that I write bridges different styles (I don't think there are many artists that like being put in a box) and defies categorisation, but in reality there seems to me to be a clear thread running through all this music that comes out of me: it all has a dramatic or emotional impetus. My music longs for something else; it needs film or theatre or dance to help it make sense of itself.

I love writing music for a particular purpose; when I've had the chance to write scores for films or plays it's been an invigorating experience. This time that rush will arrive when you use it in your piece.