Contemporary

  • INTERNATIONAL FILM MUSIC CRITICS ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF 2019 IFMCA AWARDS; JOHN WILLIAMS REIGNS SUPREME WITH MULTIPLE AWARDS HONORING HIS FINAL STAR WARS SCORE, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

     

     

    FEBRUARY 20, 2020 — The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) announces its list of winners for excellence in musical scoring in 2019, in the 2019 IFMCA Awards.

     

    The award for Score of the Year goes to legendary veteran John Williams for his score for the ninth and final Star Wars film, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which concluded the sequel trilogy of adventures about the scavenger Rey, heroic former Stormtrooper Finn, and Kylo Ren, the leader of the Imperial First Order. The film is directed by J.J Abrams, and stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. In describing the score, IFMCA member James Southall described “The Rise of Skywalker” as ‘one last brilliant piece of musical adventure to call time on his signature work … a triumphant conclusion to an extraordinary musical saga,’ and also said that ‘it’s simply impossible to overstate Williams’s contribution to the series’ success’. The score is also named Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film, while the main theme “The Rise of Skywalker” is named Film Music Composition of the Year.

     

    The IFMCA has also chosen to bestow a Special Award on Williams, primarily in recognition of his near-unparalleled achievement in scoring the 9-movie saga that began with the original Star Wars film in 1977. IFMCA member Jon Broxton opined that ‘no-one has achieved the holy triumvirate of musical excellence, peer respect, and pop culture recognition the way that John Williams has,’ and described the entire Star Wars saga as ‘works of staggering genius and beauty … his Ring Cycle, the work that will define his life and his legacy, a nine-movement 25-hour masterpiece of enduring musical brilliance that has taken a full 42 years to come to fruition’. Williams is, of course, the composer of other such landmark works as "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "Schindler's List," among many other classics.

     

    The IFMCA Roberto Aschieri Special Award, which is named in memory of the IFMCA member from Argentina who died in 2017, is not awarded every year, and is only given to projects or individuals that the membership deems worthy of significant recognition outside of the ‘regular’ IFMCA categories. These are the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th IFMCA Award wins of Williams’s career; he previously won Score of the Year awards for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, “War Horse” in 2011, and “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005.

     

    Bear McCreary is named Composer of the Year, having written music for an astonishing six films and four television series in 2019. The most lauded of these were “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “The Professor and the Madman”, both of which were nominated in their respective genre categories. Regarding Godzilla, IFMCA member Florent Groult noted that McCreary ‘takes up [existing themes] with great passion and turns them into a score that is massive and fantastic,’ while IFMCA member Randall Larson called it the score a ‘supremely impressive musical conception rich in agitato gestures and textured in dark, flaring colors; a magnificent work that will stay in memory for a long time’. McCreary’s other work in 2020 included the horror sequel “Happy Death Day 2U,” the children’s adventure “Rim of the World,” the reboot of “Child’s Play,” and the horror film “Eli,” as well as the TV shows “The Walking Dead,” “See,” and “Proven Innocent”. This is McCreary’s first Composer of the Year win, having previously won IFMCA awards in the TV category for “Battlestar Galactica” and “Human Target,” and in the Video Game category for “God of War”.

     

    British composer Nainita Desai is named Breakthrough Composer of the Year, having enjoyed the most high-profile year of her career to date by far in 2019. Desai especially impressed members with her spectacular, colorful score for the nature film “Untamed Romania,” which was nominated in the Documentary category. IFMCA member Charlie Brigden called Untamed Romania ‘an impressive score that instantly grabs you in its talons and takes you on a swift journey,’ while IFMCA member Steven Kennedy called Desai herself ‘a rising voice in the film music scene’. Her other scores in 2019 included the Oscar-nominated Syrian civil war documentary “For Sama,” the Anglo-Indian thriller “Darkness Visible”, the WWII-set action drama “Enemy Within”, and the video game “Telling Lies”.

     

    The various other genre awards are won by: Alexandre Desplat for his sumptuous score for the period literary drama “Little Women”; Michael Giacchino for his music for director Taika Waititi’s satirical Nazi-era comedy “Jojo Rabbit”; Thomas Newman for his spectacular musical contribution to the World War I action drama “1917”; John Powell for his music for the third and final entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series, “The Hidden World”; and Steven Price for his expansive orchestral score for the nature documentary “Our Planet”.

     

    In the non-film categories, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won for her innovative score for the critically acclaimed TV series “Chernobyl,” while composer Neal Acree wins the award for Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media for his dynamic, imposing score for the action adventure survival game “Rend”.

     

    Burbank, California-based La-La Land Records is named Film Music Record Label of the Year, recognition their ongoing excellence in restoring and releasing the most beloved film scores of the past. Producers Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake of Intrada Records receive the Archival Award for their new recording of Dimitri Tiomkin’s classic score for the 1954 noir thriller “Dial M for Murder,” conducted by William Stromberg with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In the Compilation category, the award goes to producer Bernhard Güttler of the Deutsche Grammophon label for “Across the Stars,” a new compilation of classic John Williams film music pieces re-arranged for virtuoso violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by Williams himself with the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles.

     

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    The winners are:

     

    FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR

    • STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR

    • BEAR McCREARY

     

    BREAKTHROUGH COMPOSER OF THE YEAR

    • NAINITA DESAI

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DRAMA FILM

    • LITTLE WOMEN, music by Alexandre Desplat

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A COMEDY FILM

    • JOJO RABBIT, music by Michael Giacchino

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER FILM

    • 1917, music by Thomas Newman

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR FILM

    • STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED FEATURE

    • HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, music by John Powell

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DOCUMENTARY

    • OUR PLANET, music by Steven Price

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR TELEVISION

    • CHERNOBYL, music by Hildur Guðnadóttir

     

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A VIDEO GAME OR INTERACTIVE MEDIA

    • REND, music by Neal Acree

     

    BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE - RE-RELEASE OR RE-RECORDING

    • DIAL M FOR MURDER, music by Dimitri Tiomkin; The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg; album produced by Douglass Fake; liner notes by Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake; art direction by Kay Marshall (Intrada)

     

    BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – COMPILATION

    • ACROSS THE STARS, music by John Williams; The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles and Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by John Williams; album produced by Bernhard Güttler; liner notes by Jon Burlingame; art direction by Büro Dirk Rudolph (Deutsche Grammophon)

     

    FILM MUSIC RECORD LABEL OF THE YEAR

    • LA LA LAND RECORDS, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys

     

    FILM MUSIC COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR

    • “The Rise of Skywalker” from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams

     

    THE ROBERTO ASCHERI SPECIAL AWARD

    • JOHN WILLIAMS, for career achievement

     

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    The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) is an association of online, print and radio journalists who specialize in writing and broadcasting about original film, television and game music.

     

    Since its inception the IFMCA has grown to comprise over 65 members from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

     

    Previous IFMCA Score of the Year Awards have been awarded to John Powell’s “Solo” in 2018, Jonny Greenwood’s “Phantom Thread” in 2017, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “Arrival” in 2016, John Williams’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, Hans Zimmer’s “Interstellar” in 2014, Abel Korzeniowski’s “Romeo & Juliet” in 2013, Mychael Danna’s “Life of Pi” in 2012, John Williams’s “War Horse” in 2011, John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon” in 2010, Michael Giacchino’s “Up” in 2009, Alexandre Desplat’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008, Dario Marianelli’s “Atonement” in 2007, James Newton Howard’s “Lady in the Water” in 2006, John Williams’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005, and Michael Giacchino’s “The Incredibles” in 2004.

     

    For more information about the International Film Music Critics Association go to www.filmmusiccritics.org, visit our Facebook page, find us on YouTube, follow us on Twitter @ifmca, or contact us at press@filmmusiccritics.org.

  • A Quintet of Trios

     

    Extant Blues
    Trio Accento: Limor Toren-Immerman, violin. Garik Terzian, cello.
    Nora Chiang Wrobel, piano.
    Michael Chang, viola.
    Troy 1792
    Total Time:  72:27
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    Extant Blues is a collection of new music for piano trio by five California-based composers.  The Trio Accento has chosen these works for their exploration of a common parallel to popular music styles filtered through the unique lenses of each of the composer’s represented here.

    There are three single-movement works that provide bookends for the two larger multi-movement works on the album.  The opening piece, Polarized, has a repeated, asymmetrical ostinato pattern that helps unify the work as different contrasting sections provide intriguing rhythmic interest.  The pattern itself has a samba-like pattern that helps give the work its energy.  Rather fascinating is the way the work’s arc begins with the instruments in unison and then diverging outward into quite distinct, and often contrary explorations of the material.  Kenneth Froelich’s work builds towards this extreme conflict and then pulls back to a unison conclusion providing a musical allegory for our current society, hence the title.  In Gernot Wolfgang’s Jazz and Cocktails, he explores a musical party of sorts where different styles are referenced to depict intimate conversations with some of the great composers and performers of the 20th Century.  Wolfgang’s use of extended harmonies makes for a striking backdrop to the way jazz and classical styles merge and move through different moods.  It is at times like a third-stream jazz number of Shostakovich mixed with a little Grusin.  There are also some sections that have an improvisatory feel.  Many of the composer’s signature uses of jazz syncopations and styles also pop in this work as well.

    The first larger work is Juhi Bansal’s Wings.  The concept of the work is one of flight and imagery that links this to other natural depictions.  Interestingly, the opening movement has a construction that seems almost raga-like with its restricted pattern helping to create a sense of flight that twists and turns with moments of lyrical beauty for the primary strings.  The piano adds harsher harmonic arrival points and enhances the drama of the music.  A more rhythmic exploration is the focus of the interior movement.  Here the three-note motive flits about somber lines adding to an intense dramatic conversation.  The finale is more of a perpetual motion explosion of energy with voices that come together and then fly apart until they move to an almost impressionistic exhaustion of pentatonic flourishes and ambivalence.  What is rather fascinating is that this tightly-constructed work maintains connections both motivic and thematic that are transformed across the movements and provide a host of things to listen to on repeated explorations of this work.  Russell Steinberg’s Paleface found its inspiration in the pop art of Jerry Kearns who explores hero myths in the work chosen here (nicely reprinted in the booklet notes!).  Each movement tackles one aspect of these American heroes beginning with the “Wild West” with its advanced contemporary techniques for piano to add special effects and folkish, Americana references (and a host of quotations in an Ives-ian approach).  It is interesting to hear the piano shift from a classical to more saloon hall style too.  The “Action Hero” is an exciting scherzo taking its inspiration from Hollywood and secret agent and superhero music.  It even has a little surprise for listeners when kazoos appear.  It is a more cerebral and intense section.  The final movement, “Into the Night” is a contemplation of what a “hero” is in the shadow of historical events such as 9-11.  The music references hymn-like music in a reflective opening that moves into touches of pop gospel before dying away, in a way, echoing the earlier 19th-century hymnody of the opening movement.  With these various musical ideas, what really stands out is that one can approach this music with this sometimes humorous quality, but it as it plays out, there is an often darker, sardonic quality that makes the listener further reflect on these images and expectations of what these symbols really mean and how they impact the culture.

    The last piece on this striking program is a piano quartet by Jeff Beal.  Almost Morning was commissioned for choreographer Claudia Schreier who premiered it in 2015 at the Alvin Ailey dance theater.  It opens with a flurry of arpeggios that move across the ensemble with striking lyrical phrases that float above this forward motion.  A nice syncopated section helps invite into a modern jazz style with Beal’s gorgeous melodic lines often soaring above these harmonic punctuations.  In some ways, there are approaches here that parallel what one has heard in the Bansal and Wolfgang pieces which further makes this a fitting conclusion.

    The recording sounds great with a perfect imaging of the two solo instruments against the piano.  The latter’s sound has good ambient capture which adds to the sense of presence.  The clarity of the sound picture is also quite admirable.  These are committed performances that really feel very natural in pieces that are essentially new.  This lends to music a “comfortability” that eases the listener into these musical arguments well.  Sequencing of the album creates a program that moves toward more intense musical expressions.