Scores for Scriveners: Fantasy Grab-bag

Just looking at the image on the left there brings me back to my early teens, reading Robert E. Howard (whose birthday is today), and getting into Dungeons & Dragons. Back during those days, I (along with pretty much every D&D kid) tried my hand at writing fantasy. There were swords and dragons and monsters and it was all super cool — until I brought a copy to school, and a friend I’d given it to let somebody else see it, and I was mortified.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never written any more fiction in the fantasy or swords-and-sorcery genres? Who knows — that’s probably for a therapist to decide.

I have written gaming material in the genre, however — thanks largely to the 2000 release of Third Edition D&D and the Open Gaming License, which allowed anyone to write and release compatible products. I ended up producing material for 3rd Edition, d20 Modern, 4th Edition and Pathfinder…and, at Adamant Entertainment, we’re getting ready to release material that will be compatible with 5th Edition D&D, via a line we’re calling Broadsword: Fifth Edition Fantasy. (I have to finish FAR WEST first, though.)

My writing accompaniment while working in the fantasy genre leans towards fantasy film scores — but generally, I try to avoid the big, recognizable, gamer-favorite scores — CONAN THE BARBARIAN, or GAME OF THRONES, for example. I go for less-familiar compositions. And I figured I’d give you a taste of them here.

“Quest for the Glaive”, by James Horner.

James Horner’s score for KRULL is a favorite. Horner is responsible for my favorite STAR TREK score, for THE WRATH OF KHAN, and his work on KRULL, which was released the following year, uses the same style of orchestration, at times sounding like a continuation of the themes, albeit with the addition of a choir.

The above track, “Quest for the Glaive”, features the main theme leitmotif woven throughout, and stands as a good example of the rest of the score.

Dragonslayer by Alex North

The DRAGONSLAYER score from Alex North is a darker score altogether, as befitting the fantasy take on the Dark Ages in the film. The main theme, with it’s heavy brass, reminds me a lot of the opening of the famous Godzilla march, appropriate when featured in a film with another giant monster.

The video above is a sampling of several tracks from the score — the Main Title, Ulrich’s Death, Mourning and The Amulet.

John Carter of Mars, by Michael Giacchino

The score to the unjustly maligned film JOHN CARTER is by Michael Giacchino, who is one of my favorite composers working today. His work on the Kelvan-universe STAR TREK is one of the high points of those films, and his score for ROGUE ONE stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the John Williams STAR WARS scores.

His JOHN CARTER score is more pulp-fantasy flavored, with tons of percussive action themes, alternating with choir-drenched “sense of wonder” pieces. Plus, his habit of titling his compositions with groan-worthy puns gives you such hits as “Thark Side of Barsoom.”

Captain Kronos Theme by Laurie Johnson.

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll wrap up here with a Gothic Horror-tinged fantasy, perfect for Ravenloft-style moods: The score to the late Hammer Horror film, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER — which was supposed to be the first of a series of films, but it never came to fruition.

The score, by UK television and film composer Laurie Johnson (most famous for THE AVENGERS — the Steed & Peel version, not the Marvel one), mixed the over-the-top shock-and-horror of traditional Hammer scores, replete with creepy strings and tubular bells, with a more straightforward chivalrous-hero action-adventure style of music, which works far better than it has any right to.

So that’s this week’s entry. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff — what fantasy music is on your playlist? Leave a comment below.

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