Summer Tidings

Although it’s taken some time to schedule due to work demands, the audiobook of Theatre of Widdershins’ The Magic Porridge Pot & Other Tasty Tales is now finished! You can listen to a snippet and buy it here.

Earlier this year I composed for the music for a very funny short film called The Last Post starring Ryan Sampson and Mark Heap. The film has been submitted for festivals and has been getting a very positive response, including award nominations from Madrid International Film Festival and Austin Comedy Short Film Festival. Adam Preston, the writer and director, has been keeping a blog on the making of the film (amongst other things) which you can find here. You can listen to some of the music here.

In addition I recently finished assisting Dominik Scherrer on a BBC TV adapation of JB Priestley’s famous stage play An Inspector Calls starring David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson and Ken Stott. Also, congratulations to Dom on his Emmy nomination for his music for The Missing.

It’s been great to see Red Kingdom Rising mentioned by MJ Simpson in his annual round-up of 2014’s notable British horror films and by Jonathan Rigby in English Gothic, a new edition of his landmark book tracing the rise and fall (and rise again) of English horror cinema from its beginnings in the 1890s right through to the present day.

On a sadder note, James Horner died recently aged 61. His music was the soundtrack to a number of my favourite films when I was growing up and continued to be an influence in my own career. I first heard his score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the tender age of 10 and not long after noticed the very same name attached to films like Battle Beyond the Stars, Aliens & Cocoon. It would be hard to name all the scores of his that I enjoyed, especially given a career as prolific as his, but titles such as The Rocketeer, Glory, Sneakers, Apollo 13, Bicentennial Man, The New World & Apocalypto all come to mind. I was lucky enough to see him in conversation at the Royal Albert Hall in what was to be his last public engagement. He talked with great enthusiasm about working with Mel Gibson on his forthcoming project and it’s a great shame that we will never hear his finished score. RIP Maestro.

The Last Post

Phil Burrows is a walnut-brained slacker who spends his free time playing Logger Bill on his phone, ogling girls on the internet and hanging with his equally intellectually challenged housemate, Sam.

A pair of menacing brothers pay Phil a visit and it quickly emerges that there has been a misunderstanding. Using on-line wizardry someone has persuaded the brothers that Phil was the dearest friend of their deceased sister Kerry. But the truth is Phil did not know her at all – he was simply an enthusiastic fan of her on-line selfies.

Phil faces a horrible dilemma – either admit to being her ‘pervert stalker’ or pretend she was his soul mate. He is quickly claiming deep fondness for the unfortunate Kerry and is signed up to deliver her funeral eulogy.

But help is at hand in the form of his sidekick Sam. Unfazed by the challenge his friend faces, Sam advises him to base his eulogy on Kerry’s on-line history and announces ‘job done’.

Phil duly delivers a monstrously inappropriate eulogy – but Kerry’s family are not people to take such insults lying down…

This hilarious short comedy was written and directed by Adam Preston, whom I approached after he advertised the role on Shooting People. We met during pre-production after I did a short pitch for him and very quickly settled on the idea of satirising the musical trends in social media advertising, thereby playing it straight rather than emphasising the comedy. After watching the first rough cut of the film with editor Kant Pan I was thrilled by how well the script had translated to the screen, drawing excellent performances from the cast (including Ryan Sampson, Mark Heap, Selom Awadzi and Harry Rafferty) and beautifully shot by DoP Sam Care. Since the film was standing so well on it’s own I did my best to support it without overplaying my hand. Many thanks to Adam, Kant and (producer) Samantha Waite for their encouragement and a special thank you to Angus Moncrieff, who played cornet on the score.


Williamsangst (Williams + angst) is the terrible feeling that John Williams is suddenly standing behind you as you write, peering over your shoulder snickering and clicking his tongue in disapproval. This is a very real anxiety for many composers. Even John Williams is said to experience this phenomenon from time to time.

Charles Bernstein (Film Music And Everything Else!, 2000)

Train Station

CollabFeature is a group of independent filmmakers from all over the world who have come together to create multi-director feature films. Each filmmaker writes and directs a segment of the bigger story in his or her own country.

The second CollabFeature, Train Station (working title) is now in post production. It follows one main character who is played by different actors in different international cities. Each segment is filmed by a different director who continues the story, re-interpreting the situation in his/her own style. Train Station involves over 40 filmmakers in 26 countries.

I composed music for one of these segments, written and directed by Guillem Serrano. I can’t say much without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say that the story begins with a couple acknowledging that their relationship is in crisis and seeking to rekindle it.

A Train, A Tale & A Tease

A happy new year to you all! As we begin this exciting new year here’s a quick roundup of my current projects:

  • Train Station is a feature film by CollabFeature, a single story made up of continuous segments by 42 directors across 22 countries. Guillem Serrano, whom I met whilst working on Red Kingdom Rising, was directing and editing one of these segments and asked if I would be interested in scoring it; an offer to which I eagerly agreed. Guillem’s “director’s cut” was completed last November and working on the film was a hugely enjoyable experience; but we’re not quite finished yet! The feature film has yet to be assembled from the various segments so it’s entirely possible more changes may be required. A fuller description of this unique project, along with some of the music, will be posted once it’s finalised.
  • Rumpelstiltskin is being revived by Theatre of Widdershins and is due to start touring at the end of January. The music for this popular fairytale has been reworked from the previous production and a little bit of new music has been added for those of you with particularly attentive ears! Andy Lawrence and I will be recording narration soon with a view to an audiobook release before Easter.
  • The final project is one I can’t say too much about; it’s the new project from the director of Red Kingdom Rising, Navin Dev. I’m currently working on establishing some thematic ideas to help with the pitching of the project to talent and investors. This is the most exciting and intimidating moment during the creation of a score; you know that potentially the best work you’ve done is hiding in the blank piece of paper in front of you but you have no idea what it sounds like!

In addition to the above, I continue to assist Dominik Scherrer after a brief break between commissions. Following his work on Ripper Street (currently screening on BBC1 and imminently on BBC America) he is now hard at work on a new season of Marple, including the exotic-sounding A Caribbean Mystery!

“Composing for movies…”

Composing for movies is hard. That’s why so many movie scores are bad. They either duplicate the action or emotion already being played on screen or are so neutral that they simply fill silences like Muzak in an elevator. The key to a good score is finding a function for the score that is not being filled by any other element in the picture.

Sidney Lumet

Red Kingdom Rising

Mary Ann, a troubled young woman, has been tormented her whole life by dreams of a sinister figure called the Red King and his morbid fairytale kingdom. Following the death of her father, Mary Ann returns to her family home where she recalls the childhood stories of the Red King and Alice from Through the Looking-Glass that her father once read to her. Haunting events and suppressed memories propel Mary Ann through the dark corridors of her parental home into the realms of her nightmares where she must finally confront the Red King and gain closure to her scarred past.

The majority of the music for this feature-length fantasy/horror was, like my work on director Navin Dev’s previous short film The Tree Man, composed using the rules for twelve-tone composition. I also made substantial use of modernist orchestration techniques to emphasise the surreal nature of Mary Ann’s descent into her own personal horrific wonderland. The score itself was for the most part intended to be insidious and atmospheric, rather than grand and thematic, but the timbral “motif” of the Red King was anything but subtle! The instrumentation varies from upright piano and strings for Mary Ann through eerie woodwinds and whispers for Alice to pounding percussion and blaring brass for the Red King.

A special thank you has to go to David Caron who, in addition to playing the role of father in the film, also performed principal cello parts throughout the score. More information about the film can be found at the official website.

The film won the Best Fantasy Feature Film award at Feratum Film Festival 2014.

A nicely dense, imagistic feel and a grasp of the nightmarish (a Lynchian soundscape augments the Svankmajerish rough-hewn Alice imagery)…

Kim Newman

The perfect score helps to blend reality and fantasy seamlessly together.

Simon Hill (Eat Horror)

Martin Thornton’s soundtrack is powerful and impressively haunting.

Maynard Morrissey (Horror Movie Diary)

The music is also good, I think that was the film’s strongest point. It creates an eerie mood.

Tom Kleppe (Captain Christmas Filmblogg) [translated from Norwegian]

It’s a foreboding movie, very eerie and suspenseful in parts, with brass instrument music building the tension in an unnerving fashion.

Ramius Scythe (Horror Chronicles)

The soundtrack is fantastic and helps to add to the atmosphere.

Jorgen Lundin (Independent Flicks)


…is short for first feature film score! Red Kingdom Rising is a feature-length horror/fantasy film I composed for throughout summer 2011 with some rewrites in April this year.

Written and directed by Navin Dev (with whom I also worked on The Falling, Red Hood and The Tree Man), it tells the story of “a troubled young woman who must finally come to terms with her horrific past as she is propelled through dreams into the terrifying fairytale world of the Red Kingdom where she encounters figures reminiscent of her memories and fears”.

The film has been completed and is doing the rounds of festival submissions. I will post some cues for your listening pleasure very soon, but in the meantime here’s a rather disturbing poster to entice you…

More information about the film can be found at the official website.

Image copyright © 2012 Navin Dev. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

“…suddenly begins to exist.”

You can describe something which perhaps isn’t there on the actual screen but which, together with the music, starts to exist. It’s interesting – drawing out something which doesn’t exist in the picture alone or in the music alone. Combining the two, a certain meaning, a certain value, something which also determines a certain atmosphere, suddenly begins to exist.

Krzystof Kieslowski (Kieslowski On Kieslowski, 1993)