100 episodes

Film and TV critic Clint Worthington (The Spool) talks to a new composer every week about the origins, challenges, and joys of their latest musical scores.

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    • TV & Film
    • 4.7 • 7 Ratings

Film and TV critic Clint Worthington (The Spool) talks to a new composer every week about the origins, challenges, and joys of their latest musical scores.

    Ariel Marx (A Small Light, Sanctuary)

    Ariel Marx (A Small Light, Sanctuary)

    When last we spoke to composer and multi-instrumentalist Ariel Marx, we broke down her haunting, curious score to Hulu's miniseries Candy. But she's been as busy as ever since, bringing her signature sense of experimental sparseness to projects on both the big and small screens.

    Most recently, she's lent her unique musical voice to two intriguing projects about women asserting their strength and power in unconventional circumstances. The first is the National Geographic miniseries A Small Light, following Dutch secretary Miep Gies (Bel Powley) in her efforts to keep Anne Frank and her family safe during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Breaking away from typical symphonic approaches you'd expect from period dramas, Marx's score is intimate and sparse, juggling the 1930s jazz vibe of Amsterdam in its prime with the looming spectre of the Third Reich, and the many sacrifices its characters will endure.

    On the other side of the coin, Marx lent her talents to NEON's sizzling, kinky dark comedy Sanctuary, starring Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott as two people playing out their own dangerous game of domination and submission. Marx's score is glossy when it needs to play up the perverse romance of their situation, brittle when the delicate balance of the pair's play begins to fray.

    Ariel Marx comes onto the podcast to discuss both of these scores, her love of sparse ensembles, and other methods to her musical madness.

    You can find Ariel Marx at her official website.

    A Small Light is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+, and Sanctuary is currently playing in select theaters. You can also listen to the score for A Small Light on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Hollywood Records.

    • 37 min
    Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann (Star Trek: Picard)

    Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann (Star Trek: Picard)

    The third season of Star Trek: Picard had a lot on its shoulders: It was the final season of its show, as well as a bombastic, blockbuster-level bow for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. For its first two seasons, Patrick Stewart and the showrunners shied away from Starfleet uniforms and shiny utopias, and Jeff Russo's score reflected that (as we've discussed with him on this very show). But showrunner Terry Matalas had a different vision in mind for Season 3: Celebrate the crew whose adventures captured generations of fans, with a big, brassy sendoff meant to give them the finale they finally deserved.
    And that they did, thanks to the tireless work of composers Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann. Together, they handled hours of big orchestral sounds, crafting new themes for ships and characters like the Titan and Jack Crusher. At the same time, there was decades' worth of callbacks to Star Trek's musical legacy that needed acknowledgment, from Jerry Goldsmith's TNG theme to the movie-esque sweep of James Horner and Dennis McCarthy. Through plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, they pulled it off, crafting an immense body of work that fit snugly within the legacy of Star Trek while incorporating musical Easter eggs big and small into its superstructure.
    This week on the podcast, Barton and Wiedmann join me for a nice long chat about the hectic production process, the many Trekkian cues they had to blend together, and the value of having creative collaborators (like Matalas) who know exactly what they want.
    You can find Stephen Barton and Frederik Wiedmann at their official websites.
    The entirety of Picard Season 3 is available for streaming on Paramount+. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Lakeshore Records.

    • 51 min
    Pat Irwin (Rocko's Modern Life)

    Pat Irwin (Rocko's Modern Life)

    In the 1990s, Nickelodeon was a bastion of surprisingly sophisticated children's animation, and few shows demonstrated that freewheeling sense of absurdity than Rocko's Modern Life. The tale of a beleaguered wallaby surviving the wildest adventures with little more than a smile on his face and his close-knit group of friends, it was a generation-defining show thanks to its surprisingly adult jokes and unhinged tone.
    But a huge component of the show's success comes courtesy of its frenetic, genre-hopping score, courtesy of New Wave legend Pat Irwin. When he first came to the show in the '90s, he was primarily known as a member of the B-52s, and had played with bands like 8-Eyed Spy and the Raybeats. But here, he gave Rocko's antics vivid life with an unstoppable earworm of a score, flitting between lounge jazz, surf rock, and a host of other influences and touchpoints depending on what shenanigans the wallaby found himself in next.
    Now, Nickelodeon Records has finally released an album comprising highlights from the first two seasons of the show. Irwin joins us on the podcast to talk about his early days in the "no wave" New York music scene, assembling a master team of musicians to record the score, and his current projects (including his ambient country project, SUSS).
    You can find Pat Irwin at his official website.
    Rocko's Modern Life is currently streaming on Paramount+. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Nickelodeon Records.

    • 27 min
    Ron Wasserman (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always)

    Ron Wasserman (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always)

    It's morphin' time! Thirty years after Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers hit the airwaves and thrilled '90s latchkey kids the world over, the franchise has stayed strong through 29 seasons, dozens of incarnations, and more Zords than you can shake a Power Sword at.
    But one of the elements that made it such a mainstay was its shredding, hard-rock theme song, with its heavy power chords, driving rhythms, and catchy battle cry of "Go, go, Power Rangers!" It, and the Power Rangers sound as a whole, was the soundtrack to a generation, fueled primarily by the show's composer, Ron Wasserman (who also supplied other catchy licks to other millennial catnip like the '90s X-Men cartoon and Dragon Ball Z).
    Now, Wasserman is back for the first time in decades to score new Power Rangers -- this time, for Netflix's 30th-anniversary reunion special, Once & Always. Bringing back four of the old-school '90s Rangers, including original Rangers Zack (Walter Emanuel Jones) and Billy (David Yost), the special lets these middle-aged superheroes get one last crack at classic villain Rita Repulsa, with all the spandex-clad karate that entails. Not only that, the special's a hotbed of Easter eggs for new and old fans alike, and the nostalgia trip wouldn't be complete without Wasserman's involvement. 
    We're thrilled to have Wasserman on the show to talk about Power Rangers' grip on a certain segment of pop culture, how the sound of the show evolved, and how he's updated it for this latest trip back to the Morphin' Grid.

    You can find Ron Wasserman at his official website.

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is currently streaming on Netflix.

    • 24 min
    Trevor Gureckis (Dead Space Remake)

    Trevor Gureckis (Dead Space Remake)

    When last we left composer Trevor Gureckis, he was just beginning his eerie, unsettling work on M. Night Shyamalan's acclaimed Apple TV+ series Servant. But in the intervening years, he's lent his uniquely experimental grasp of both classical and electronic instruments to films like The Goldfinch, Bloodline, and Old. But his most recent project sees him dipping not just into the world of video games, but the existing soundscape of a previous composer: EA's high-def remake of the space horror classic Dead Space.
    Building from Jason Graves' dissonant, screeching-metal score to the original game, Gureckis' role is to flesh out the expanded adventures of Isaac Clarke, the unlucky engineer who finds himself amid a monstrous infestation of alien creatures aboard the USG Ishimura. That includes giving voice to new areas of the game, as well as new narrative sections that lend Isaac greater narrative weight than in the original game.
    Now, Trevor joins us on the show once again to catch up with his work since Servant began, his first foray into video game scoring, and the challenge of composing new material that matches the existing voice of another composer's work.
    You can find Trevor Gureckis at his official website here.
    Dead Space is currently available for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. You can also listen to his score for the remastered Dead Space on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of EA Music.

    • 31 min
    Austin Wintory (Aliens: Fireteam Elite)

    Austin Wintory (Aliens: Fireteam Elite)

    The 2023 Grammys have come and gone, and the first Grammy for Best Video Game Score has already been awarded (congratulations, Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Stephanie Economou!). But one of her fellow nominees in that category is video game music royalty in his own right -- Austin Wintory, whose score for the acclaimed indie game Journey netted him a Grammy nomination for a video game score years before it became its own category. This time, he was nominated for his score for Aliens: Fireteam Elite, a third-person shooter based on the iconic Alien franchise. 
    Following a team of Colonial Marines shooting their way through alien-infested space stations and planets, Fireteam Elite calls for a much greater action focus than Journey or other games Wintory has scored. But in so doing, he manages to craft a bombastic, atmospheric score that both pays homage to the soundscapes of previous Alien composers like Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner, but also injects lots of low brass and flute solos courtesy of Sara Andon, creating a noir-like sound to fit the story's mysterious tone.

    Together, Austin and I talk about the score itself, how to weave those influences into the demands of gameplay, and grander chats about the broader composer community and his role in highlighting those voices (thanks to Wintory's robust YouTube channel, which features score recommendations, BTS stuff, and interviews with other composers and voice actors). And if you want even more insight into his process for the Fireteam Elite score, you can find a track-by-track video breakdown of the score, complete with text commentary, here.

    You can find Austin Wintory at his official website here.

    Aliens: Fireteam Elite is currently available to play on PS5, PC, XONE, PS4, and XS. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

    • 49 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
7 Ratings

7 Ratings

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Entertaining and illuminating interview podcast. The Spool is fast becoming one of my favorite destinations.

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