Films are, first and foremost, about characters, so that is the starting point for the music (after all, I don’t know too many people that go to the movies just to listen to the music). So getting a feel for the characters and understanding their motivations is important if we want to come up with meaningful music. There are various aspects to each character–for example, Romy, the oldest of the “grave bandits,” is essentially a good person, but he is also somewhat motivated by greed, and so this aspect finds its way into his musical themes. After the themes for each of the characters are developed, we suddenly have a good amount of material, and a better feel for what the entire score for the film will sound like, even if some of the material winds up being cut or is never used (that is the way things go sometimes).
On to the characters…
Romy and Peewee are the “Grave Bandits,” as they’ve come to be known by the media and the people from the towns they’ve “visited” (i.e grave robbed). When we first meet them, they’re in the middle of one of their operations; Romy is digging up a grave, while Peewee is acting as a lookout from a tree. This is the first time we the audience see the Grave Bandits, and we meet them right after a very intense opening scene, so the first musical cues we hear are lighthearted, playful, and mischievous to lighten the mood a bit (as heard in the track “Meet the Grave Bandits”).
There is also a very sad reality to these characters, and the track “Romy and Peewee” expresses some of that. But despite their situation, both characters still have dreams. The track opens with Romy’s theme on acoustic guitars, and then near the end we hear Peewee’s theme in the piano.
Maiya is one of the first characters we see in the film. When we first meet her, she is being held against her will by a band of pirates, hired by Seabrook, who are looking for the Gemstone. She is the character that reveals the secret of the Gemstone and the Zombies as the story moves along. A lot of the material I wrote early on for the film was Maiya-related, and this did a good job at setting the mood for the rest of the film. The track “Maiya’s Story” has her main themes, which are driven by the woodwinds (flutes) and strings (cellos). Her main theme is played by a Xiao, a Chinese bamboo flute with a beautiful, expressive sound (we hear this around the middle of the track).
Seabrook is a researcher that has become obsessed with finding the Gemstone. When the film opens, we find him with the band of pirates he hired to capture Maiya to force the location of the Gemstone from her. There is quite a bit of Seabrook material that, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the final cut of the film (yup, that’s the way things go). “Red Moon” is a compilation of some of this material. Most of it is in demo form, so please excuse the rougher, unfinished quality to the sound! The track opens with the “Red Moon” theme (btw, the term “Red Moon” comes from a conversation the director and I had about this character’s back story), which is played by the brass. Then we have a few variations of the “Indiana Jones gone bad” theme. One motif that did make it to the film was the up-and-down piano line, which came to symbolize Seabrook’s obsession (the “film version” of this piano line is also heard in “Maiya’s Story”).
In Part III, I’ll discuss some of the action themes–and the Zombie themes! Stay tuned…
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