Book Review: Scored to Death

Scored to DeathScored to Death: Conversations with some of Horror’s Greatest Composers
Published by Silman-James Press, 2016. 356 pages.
By J. Blake Fichera

There is something to be said about film scores, something that I think most don’t know, don’t recognize, or even worse, don’t even think about. And that is the effect they have on the viewer. Sometimes a very powerful effect. The first time I can remember a film score having an effect on me was John Williams’ score for Jaws (1975), which I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. While it did bring up the tension and scare factor, I don’t think I made the full connection between the music and emotion it caused. That changed when Star Wars (1977) came out. Then it hit me how powerful of an impact a score can make. Star Wars was the first soundtrack I every purchased and I listened to it over and over. Each time, I could visualize the different parts of the film in my head and it would give me the same emotional reaction as if I was watching the film. It was at that point, I started to become more aware of a film score.

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Soundtrack Review: More Music from the Further

More Music from the FurtherMore Music from the Further
Released by Void Recordings, 2018.
27 Tracks with a Total Running Time of 50:41 min.
Music By Joseph Bishara

What we have here are unreleased and/or developmental pieces from the first three Insidious pictures, that are on “display” here for audiences to hear. It is interesting to hear parts of scores, as opposed to hearing it as a whole. But it still works.

I’ve always found that there are two different types of scores. Sometimes they are intermixed or sometimes they keep themselves separate. One of them is more of an orchestrated score, filled with melodies and themes, that grab hold with an emotional hook to the listener. Then there are those that are more…sounds. Some might call them noise but I think that takes away any decision on how it should sound or that it isn’t planned. It could be a low rumbling or buzzing sound. It could just the sound of a bow being slowly rubbed across the strings on a cello. No melody, not theme, just a sound to hook into an emotion as well, but using a different approach. Some might have a preference, but it doesn’t mean that either way is more effective than the other.

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Soundtrack Review: The Worthy

Worthy CD

The Worthy
Released by void recordings, 2018
16 Tracks with a Total Running Time of 43 min.
Music by Joseph Bishara

This one is a very different kind of score. It doesn’t have the usual instrument sounds that you can pick out right away. Not sure if it is some strings or maybe just a keyboard using some electronic devices. But no matter what Bishara is using, he is still able to create some nice atmosphere here. He brings a sense of dread, not overpowering, but more a little subdued.

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The Vatican Tapes Soundtrack Review

vaticantapescdThe Vatican Tapes
Released by Lakeshore Records, 2015
19 Tracks, with a total running time of 43 min.
Music Joseph Bishara

If there is one thing that composer Bishara does well, it is building atmosphere out of sounds. Not necessarily music, but sounds. And his score for The Vatican Tapes is a perfect example of this. Right from the start, we get a mixture of the lower keys of the piano but then mixed with a variety of sounds, some of which sounds like some demented chimes banging away. This mixed in with wailing strings, a thumping that almost sounds like a fast-paced beating heart, and you have just the first track.

The rest of the score plays out in a very similar format. There are no melodies or themes, but a continuing stream of sounds, some recognizable, while others seem familiar but you just can’t place. This isn’t one of those creepy ambience pieces, but more industrial without the loud mix of electronic noise, except more with like things found in your garage. And that’s a compliment. This is a very different than what I’m normally drawn to, but I rather quite enjoyed having this on in the background.