Today is National Film Score Day!

As oddball days of observance go, this one isn’t too shabby at all. Besides, these days anything that can serve to brighten someone’s day is to be applauded, so let’s have at it, shall we?

What are we talking about? According to the National Day Calendar website, National Film Score Day “recognizes the musical masterpieces called “Film Scores” and, more specifically, the very talented composers who create them.”

Out. Standing.

I’ve been known to write about this subject from time to time, and those of you who spend any time here likely know that I’m a huge fan of film and TV music and love listening to it apart from the production for which it was created. It’s also my habit to listen to such music when I’m writing, as it always helps to set the “right mood” for the project-in-progress.

StarWars-OriginalLPA well-crafted film score is a thing of beauty. The first album I ever bought with my own money was the vinyl 2-record LP score for the original Star Wars in 1977. In the decades following that admittedly weird experience in a Montgomery Ward store while on a shopping spree with my grandmother, my music library has grown in fits and starts until the last decade or so, when it kicked into high gear with no regard for the safety of others or the universe as a whole. I don’t care what other people think…play that funky movie music, white boy!

Though it started with music from newer film television and productions as they were released, It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really dug in, finding “expanded” or “complete” editions of scores from days gone by which were only made available in truncated form due to the limitations of the medium (LP records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and even CDs once they took over). Thanks to companies like La-La Land Records and Intrada I’ve been able to enjoy updated, expanded, and remastered versions of scores of older films, and in some cases it’s like hearing the music for the first time EVEN THOUGH I know every note by heart.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverWhat are some of my favorites? Well, some obvious suspects are the various Star Trek films, in particular Jerry Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and First Contact, James Horner’s The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and Michael Giacchino’s music for all three of the reboot films. Everything John Williams has ever done for the Star Wars saga goes on the list, too, but I also must give props to Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and John Powell for Solo. 

Superman-Score

Jerry Goldsmith is well represented in my library, including personal favorites Planet of the Apes (1968), Rambo: First Blood, Part II (yes, really), Alien, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Outland, and 1999’s The Mummy. James Horner also had a lot going on beyond his Star Trek work, and I especially dig Aliens, Apollo 13, Sneakers, Glory, The RocketeerCommando, and Titanic (that’s right; I said it). And you can’t have a film score collection without stuff by John Williams, including stuff by John Williams that’s not Star Wars, which is good because I absolutely love the music he created for Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and…of course…Superman.

MissionImpossible-RogueNation-ScoreMy taste in film music runs the gamut from Pirates of the Caribbean to The American President, Die Hard, or The Incredibles, or from The Shawshank Redemption to Gladiator, The Martian, or Black Hawk Down. More recent scores include those from several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, particularly those for the Captain America and Avengers films. The music from the Mission: Impossible movies are also a lot of fun, and I’ve especially enjoyed the scores from the two most recent installments, Rogue Nation and Fallout. Bill Conti’s The Right Stuff is wondrous. Old-school offerings like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven or The Day the Earth Stood Still are in there, too. The truth is that I’m all over the map with this kind of thing. I hear it while watching the film and know I just have to have it without everybody yakking over it or everything blowing up around it.

TV’s the same way. Yes, Star Trek gets a lot of play around here (occupational hazard, you know), but what about Lost In Space or Mission: Impossible or Alien Nation? Battlestar Galactica? Hell, even seaQuest is in there. I’ve also enjoyed the music for Star Trek: Discovery and just this morning purchased the score for the first season of Star Trek: Picard.

I could do this all day, people.

So, Happy “National Film Score Day.” I think it’s time to stick a little of that action in my ears while I continue to write.

Neil Peart, 1952-2020.

It’s rare for me to want to write at length about the passing of a celebrity. I’ve really only done it a few times: in 2012 with the passing of Neil Armstrong, in 2015 when Leonard Nimoy left us, and it was just over a month ago that we said goodbye to the great Dorothy Fontana.

However, it came as a true gut punch earlier this afternoon when I learned Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Rush for more than four decades, passed away earlier this week after battling brain cancer for the past three years. Given his reputation as a very private person who tended to eschew the trappings of fame, I can honestly say I wasn’t surprised to learn he’d seen fit not to share this struggle with anyone outside his very small circle of family and close friends.

Neil Peart, Rush Drummer Who Set a New Standard for Rock Virtuosity,
Dead at 67

– RollingStone.com

Continue reading “Neil Peart, 1952-2020.”

The Write Music.

starwars_lpI’m fairly certain that anybody who’s followed my antics for any length of time knows that I have a thing for film and television music. The very first album I remember buying with my own money was in 1977, and it was the original 2-record edition of John Williams’ score for Star Wars.

A few more would follow in that album’s footsteps: Superman: The Movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and so on. As I grew older and had more money to spend, my selection of titles expanded, and to this day such music accounts for a sizable percentage of my rather eclectic collection.

Later, when I started writing, and particularly with my writing an awful lot of Star Trek fiction (you may have heard me mention that, once or twice), I discovered that I really liked having film and TV music playing in the background as I worked. Then I started playing particular scores (or portions thereof) to help get me in the groove for writing certain stories or scenes. For writing Star Trek? Music from one of the television series or films is always in the rotation, but I also try to mix it up.

Lots of action? Star Wars, Star Trek, Black Hawk Down, Superman, Rambo: First Blood, Part II, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so on just to name a few.

Quieter, moodier, and/or more contemplative scenes? The American President, The Shawshank Redemption, Jurassic Park, Alien, Outland, and so on.

(Oh, and don’t forget that individual pieces from any of these and so many others can work for end of the spectrum I’m describing, and everything in between.)

When I started buying these things, the formats of the era – LP vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and even :: gasp :: 8-track tapes – limited the amount of music which could be included on these commercial albums and still make them profitable for their publishers. Even when CDs began showing up, the average running time of these albums didn’t seem to increase to any real degree. It was a common thing to buy the album for a newly released movie, and discover that it doesn’t include one or two of what you realize are your favorite cues from the film itself.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverThen, somebody somewhere got the amazing idea that selling expanded or complete scores for films which may only have received a truncated music release was something worth doing. Whoever that person is, they are a national treasure. They should be canonized, and their face carved into Mount Rushmore. Because of this admittedly niche market, I’ve been able to acquire complete scores for each of the Star Wars films, the entire original Star Trek series, Alien and Aliens, Outland, Rambo, Predator, and…of course…each of the Star Trek films, including an effort over 30 years in the making: Jerry Goldsmith’s wondrous complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Scores from the past few years that I’ve enjoyed adding to my stack include Interstellar, The Martian, John Wick, Captain America: The First Avenger, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Shape of Water, and the three most recent Star Trek films just to name several examples off the top of my head.

(Yes, I’m sure I didn’t list one that you think I should have included. Just pretend it’s there. I’ve got too many of these things to make a comprehensive list. 😀 )

Film and TV music helps me set the mood for writing, but I also just enjoy listening to this type of music just because. Hearing the composer’s work without it being drowned out or pushed aside by dialogue, sound effects, and other noise is an experience all its own. There are times you realize you’re truly hearing some of this music for the first time, and you realize that – as often as not – a mediocre film might possess a truly first-rate, all but unappreciated score.

Anybody got some favorites they want to share?

My second favorite “Rush in Kansas City!” story.

This past Thursday evening, the family and I ventured to the Sprint Center here in Kansas City to take in yet another concert featuring my favorite band.

rushWhat made this outing special was that it was the first ever *real* rock concert for the girls. I had long hoped that I would get to take them to see the band play live, and in doing so set the bar high and early so far as future concerts were concerned. It was something I’d been plotting pretty much from the moment Michi showed me that first pregnancy test.

So, you know…MISSSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Addy&Erin_R40With that addressed, what was my second favorite part of this story? It was the one I didn’t even know about until a friend on Facebook sent me a link to website article:

Westboro Baptist Picketers Epically Trolled At Kansas City Rush Concert

That’s right! One of Kansas’ most renowned exports decided to check out the haps in downtown KC, and as you might expect, they were their usual warm, welcoming, loving selves, in keeping with the teachings of the Lord and stuff.

Oh, wait….

rush-wbc01
For the most part, their antics were ignored. As I said, I didn’t even know they were there, as we’d entered the Center from its opposite side one block over. However, that didn’t stop a few fans from doing their part to welcome the WBC contingent:

rush-wbc02(Photo Credit: F.T. Boley)

Hawt.

(And the expression from the WBCer on the left is priceless.)

I have to say, though, that I admire the WBC’s pluck in turning out for the concert. Their numbers were easily double what I’ve seen when I’ve encountered them at other events, such as anytime Kevin Smith comes to town. I doubt they converted anybody, but it’s nice to know that you can always count on them to provide a pre-show laugh or two.

Heh.

We be Rushin’…..

Thanks to today’s mail delivery, it’s official: On July 9th, Michi and I will be taking the girls to their first real rock concert:

rush-r40-tix

Michi and I have been going to Rush concerts since 1990’s Presto tour. We haven’t missed a tour since then, and we’ve even managed a twofer on occasion with a given tour.

Once the kids came along and they started hearing Rush music in the car or at home and taking a liking to it (Addy used to sing “Red Barchetta” at bedtime), we knew that their first “real” concert had to be with Geddy, Alex, and Neil or else would would forever consider ourselves failures as proper parents.

Yes, there’s already been the odd Disney-related thing here and there, but once I heard rumblings about them wanting to go to a One Direction concert this summer, I started getting nervous. At that point, Rush had not announced plans for a tour to celebrate their 40th anniversary; something similar to what they’d done ten years ago when the Big 3-0 rolled around.

(Yes, Michi and I were there. See above.)

Thankfully, the boys must’ve heard about my plight, for they came through and announced not only a 40th anniversary tour, but with a date here in KC that gets them in here ahead of the 1D guys.

(:: insert sigh of relief here ::)

They also announced that this perhaps also will be the last large-scale tour they’ll do. Yes, time is beginning to catch up with the Trinity, and they’re starting to think that maybe they want to dial it back a bit. If that’s true, then I’m doubly happy the kids will get to see them live because let’s face it….this band puts on a hell of a show.

Okay, boys. Bring it on.

rush

More TNG music on the way!

Those of you who read this space with any regularity (both of you) know that I loves me my music. Among the many types of music I enjoy there’s film and television series soundtracks. I particularly like these when I’m writing, and it probably goes without saying that I tend to listen to Star Trek music when I’m writing Star Trek stuff. For example, when I write anything original series related, I lean pretty heavily on this mighty collection of music.

Thanks to a fairly recent trend, I’ve been acquiring extended or “complete” versions of film and television scores–editions released long after an original, truncated offering first was made available, such as when an older film was released. Just in the past few years we’ve been able to get our grubby paws on complete scores for the first ten Star Trek feature films, along with all sorts of other movies and television shows. I’ve babbled about some of those, before, too.

During the past couple of years, new editions of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation have been showing up. Last year, I acquired the complete score for the two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds,” and there was a 3-disc set of music from various episodes. Then there’s that “Ron Jones Project” set, which would require me to donate a kidney in order to purchase.

Next up? An expanded edition of the series’ pilot episode, “Encounter At Farpoint,” as composed by Dennis McCarthy and partnered with never-before released music he created for another first season episode, “The Arsenal of Freedom.” Suh-weet!

tng-farpoint-arsenal-cd

Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Encounter at Farpoint”/”The Arsenal of Freedom”
Expanded Collector’s Edition

Get a load of Beverly’s ‘do, whydontcha. Ah, the 80s.

This disc will be released later this month by GNP Crescendo, who has been putting out Star Trek music dating back to 1982 and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Yeah, I bought it back then.

I suspect this will be a vast improvement in audio quality over the original “Farpoint” CD I bought back in 1987. Judging by the track listing, I don’t know that the “Farpoint” section will be expanded too greatly, but the disc is still worth the pickup for fans of Trek music if only for the “Arsenal” material. One question the page’s info doesn’t offer is whether the “unused main title theme” from the series will be included as a bonus track, the way it was done for the original release.

So, who’s buyin’?

So, “Predator: The Musical” was a real thing.

Why the HELL didn’t anybody tell me about this last year?

I stumbled across the above image yesterday. More accurately, it was a picture of an actual flyer bearing this artwork and taped to the inside of a window at an undisclosed location. As a huge, unabashed fan of the original Predator film, I’m man enough to admit that I chuckled far longer than normal people likely consider healthy at the thought of seeing what choreography and other stage magic might accompany such numbers as:

“Strap This On Your Sore Ass”

“Ain’t Got Time to Bleed”

“Want Some Candy?”

“Get To Da Choppah”

“One Ugly Mother….”

And so on.

(NOTE: I have no idea if any of these are actual numbers from the show. I was just showing you my Movie Quote Mojo there, for a moment. Moving on….)

Partly amused, partly horrified, and partly curious, I took to the intrawebz in search of info. There, I discovered that Predator: The Musical was a project conceived and executed by a group calling themselves Roundhouse Productions, and as their website cites, “dedicated to bringing the cinematic experience to the stage.”

Okay. I’m down with that.

In addition to their take on Predator, they’ve also developed parody stage plays/musicals riffing on Point Break, Reservoir Dogs and Macbeth. The Dogs one in particular intrigued me because I’m such a fan of that film, but even that couldn’t top the notion of Dutch and his boys being hunted by an extraterrestrial badass, with all of the above set to music, could it?

So, I ask again…why the hell didn’t I at least hear of something so potentially crazy-awesome as this? My Chicago-based peeps definitely left me out of the loop on this one. The couple of reviews I found seemed rather “eh” on the whole thing, so maybe it’s one of those “better in theory than execution” deals. I’d certainly want to see it for myself before rendering any kind of judgment.

(I know what you’re thinking: “What…are you new to the internet or something? SUMMARY SCORN NOW!”)

:: Ahem ::

Regardless, you have to admit that poster would look awesome on the wall.

“If it sings…we can kill it.”

Best. Tagline. Ever.

So, come on…somebody out there has to know something about this. Spill it.

Rush in Kansas City!

Yep. The Holy Trio came to Cowtown, as they almost always do at some point during their various concert tours. Of course we went.

rush

Michi and I have been going to Rush concerts together since before we were married, and those of you who know us know we’ve been married a damned long time. Tonight my bud Kevin joined us as we hit the Sprint Center for this show, which of course was not to be missed. I’ll admit I gave momentary consideration to selling my tickets to a scalper for a tidy sum, but I immediately punched myself in the junk for even daring to entertain such an errant thought.

(Okay, I didn’t really punch myself in the junk, but I did have one of the voices in my head — Morgan Freeman’s, for those keeping score at home — rebuke me for my insolence.)

Anyway….

Almost forty years doing this together, and Rush still puts on a hell of a show. It was the last stop on their Clockwork Angels tour, and while there were some early indications that the guys might be ready to go home for a while (Geddy Lee’s voice sounded a little rough on the opening number, “Subdivisions”), everything got dialed in pretty quick and we were off and running.

Nearly three hours of music, including most of the tracks from their newest album, the aforementioned Clockwork Angels, along with plenty of perennial favorites and even a few that don’t normally get included in their concert set lists (“Grand Designs” and “The Analog Kid,” for example). Naturally, the place went bananas whenever something like “YYZ” or “The Spirit of Radio” cranked up, and their encore was “Tom Sawyer” and from 2112 “Overture, “Temples of Syrinx” and “Grand Finale” to close out the evening. No matter how many times I hear them, those last handful of songs are always fun to hear live and with a great audience.

Next year marks Rush’s 40th anniversary, and I’m hoping for a new tour much like they did in 2004 for their 30th. The kids are getting to the point where I think they’re ready for their first rock concert, and it has to be Rush before some boy band or else I will punch myself in the junk. For realz.

Okay, probably not…but Morgan Freeman’s voice almost certainly will admonish me harshly.