Reviews of Synchrotones’ music.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Composer’s Challenge”

Abel Korzeniowski: “Rating: 9 Pros: An outstanding addition of the logo/intro section, Excellent sensitivity to visual cues and emotional changes. Music flows and drives the picture. Well pronounced original themes. Emotional. Bravo. Cons: The direction of a harmonic progression and leading melodic lines is not always clear. Occasionally, chromatic alterations are out of place. Messy voice leading and counterpoint, especially in sections with the solo violin. Tip: a theme is much more then a melodic improvisation on top of a harmonic progression.

Craig Richard Lysy: “Dark shifting low register chords with metallic percussive accents carry the opening scene with Lucius. In the ensuing battle staccato rhythms carry the fight and gain potency atop strings. A repeating horn powered theme animates the battle with great effect – nicely done! The transition from Lucius’ defeat to the Sirius’ death scene is excellent! For the death scene, plaintive strings render an anguished Hedwig’s Theme and transitions to a violin carried melodic line that is exquisite. This line continues with an accelerando to support Harry’s rage and pursuit. I think it works fine due to the passion and tempo. However, I do not feel conflict or struggle in the music as Harry decides Bellatrix’s fate. The melodic line continues in a lower register to inform us of Voldemort’s presence. We are thematically informed of Dumbledore’s arrival and segue into the battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore atop the staccato action line heard earlier. The horn led battle theme animates the battle and powerfully supports the fire dragon confrontation. The music crescendos and explodes as Voldemort shatters the glass. The support of the glass shard storm is also excellent. For the pivotal possession scene, chimes intone A Window To The Past Theme, which the composer adapts into an exquisite and anguished string line. As Harry sees his friends the melodic line slowly ascends; struggling for the light. We conclude magnificently on this string line as Voldemort departs and the paper articles roll. Wow, this is just an exceptional effort, with just one minor criticism. I really like your themes and the continuity of your effort. The staccato action writing and horn play were first rate. The writing to complete the last 3.5 minutes of the piece was just outstanding. Bravo!


“Spartacus – Composer’s Challenge”

Doug Adams: “Nice shaping at the top with a build up to a unison C at 0:18. “Slaves’ theme” has a nice sense of color—I like the emphasis on the quasi-exotic augmented seconds. Use of voice is very organic, but I’d have preferred to hear more of it. Very nice drop-out and re-entry at approx 3:45. Flute line at 4:11 might have worked well with some mallet percussion. Would help both with color and balance. Welcome shift in texture around 4:20. Also at 4:32. Bravo! Let the 4:32 line play longer. It’s a great line—ride it out! Vox over the fiddle leading into bassoon is a very nice texture. Might have been nice to hear this in a different key than the opening. Ending feels a bit abrupt. A simple rallentando might have helped to shape it. Overall: A nice strength to the writing. Good melodic sense. Trust yourself to use longer phrases. You have a good ear for melodic lines, but don’t be afraid to let them flower.”

Craig Richard Lysy: “A most complex narrative! All the themes blended well and were synergistic. The use of contrapuntal writing added a richness and depth to the narrative flow and is appreciated. Spartacus, the main theme underpins the overture and I found its resolution stirring. Traditionally the main theme begins and closes the overture. The composer instead chose to end with a diminuendo of the Slave theme, which I felt worked. The lush Love Theme was stirring and my favorite, while the Uprising Theme resonated with power and spoke of the historic struggle of the oppressed to gain freedom. […] The themes flowed from the perspective of the oppressed. I would have liked to have heard an aggressive marcia Romana to emote the military might and cruelty of the Roman state. […] Never the less, this is a fine piece of music. To which I offer my compliments.”

Mikko Ojala : “Resolute horns open this entry in a heraldic manner and are soon joined by the rest of the brass section presenting the listener first variation of Spartacus’ Theme, the central idea of the overture full of courageous spirit and defiance, a very apt curtain raising musical gesture. A sinuous violin solo tinged in Middle Eastern harmonics and coloured subtly by hand cymbals offers an interesting and immediate contrast to the previously heard brass sounds, the Slaves’ Theme in equal part speaking of perseverance and the varied backgrounds of these people but also of fragility.

Further thematic introductions, development and interaction follows as Spartacus’ Theme is explored briefly in deeper brass before the composer introduces the Love Theme in counterpoint to the Slave’s material, this time husky flutes and tambourine enhancing the exotic flavour of the theme. From this counterpoint grows suddenly a poignantly rising soprano voice singing the ascending phrases of the Love Theme, which offers another interesting change of dynamics, the effect quite palpably dramatic before the orchestra explores the idea further, reaching a climax that is both romantic and tragically yearning.

A short bridge melody of heroic character leads to a powerful set of variations on the afore- introduced themes for Spartacus and the Slaves, performed here by strings and woodwinds over strident percussion sounds, mingling in counterpoint, the composer applying the solo violin sounds of the Slaves and the soprano of the Love theme to these two ideas all the while he adds additional percussion into the mix. Another heraldic brass reading of the Spartacus idea sounds, almost like a call to arms, before dynamic rhythmic string figures and percussion under forceful but jubilant choral chants unleashes the Uprising Theme that then joins the Slaves’ Theme in variations which spin both ideas in counterpoint to one another, Slaves Theme holding prominence at first with the string sounds but quickly developing into a flute and strings counterpoint to the percussively choral Uprising Theme, a powerful moment of musical storytelling.

And here finally the main theme for Spartacus reaches a rousing conclusion where it is in deep brass setting joined by the martial rhythms of the Uprising Theme, brass fanfares and tubular bells extolling a triumph. But the last word is given to the more downbeat Slaves’ Theme, which returns first in the solo violin guise and then on oboe duetting with the solo soprano voice, fading away suddenly, leaving the listener with a musical question which begs for an answer, mirroring perhaps the grim end of the slave rebellion and Spartacus.

The merits of this composition are in its clear structure, strong thematic content and thoughtful development of this thematic material. The overture accomplishes in the 5 minutes an introduction of central ideas to the viewer/listener and moulding them into a suite that in small forms a musical narrative of the whole story of Spartacus. The orchestrations are inventive, breaking the mould of such overtures a bit, especially the use of solo instrument and voice bringing contrast and dramatic colour into the music and the composer’s skill at developing 4 central ideas without slowing the piece down is truly accomplished. If I were to find something wanting it was perhaps more extensive exploration of the Love Theme and the lack of clear musical depiction of the Romans, the villains of the piece, which would have given contrast to the heroic main ideas of the suite, the antagonist element less prominent here, but this might have, given the number of ideas already introduced in the piece, complicated it too much.

A very dramatically strong and skilfully written piece of music. Outstanding!”

Richard Rudkins: “A fine overture here that follows the traditional format for an overture where it begins and ends with its opening material. There is a complex narrative structure applied to the piece and a very interesting and well executed use of contrapuntal techniques. I particularly liked the lyrical love theme and felt it was a clear highlight of the score, particularly the variation at 1.54. I felt the ‘untitled’ theme was like an answering phrase to the love theme, like a B phrase. While the thematic development is really well executed, I do feel that it all does sound the same. However, given that the overture is supposed to establish the sound world for the film this is completely understandable and I can appreciate it. I felt that the choir introduction interrupted the flow of the piece a little bit but is commendable for being different. The resolution of the Spartacus theme was very satisfactory, although I felt that the repetition of the Slaves theme was a little unnecessary. Overall, a fine overture that nails every aspect of the story. Some note—worthy contrapuntal techniques and interesting thematic development. Well done!”


“Wall-E – Composer’s Challenge”

Edmund Meinerts: “I have to say that this piece contains one of the best themes I’ve heard in this contest – it’s simply gorgeous on flute and horn during the moment where the two robots are sailing around the exhaust pipes.”


 “Atonement – Composer’s Challenge”

Craig Richard Lysy : “Wow, this entry is quite powerful and dramatic in its expression.”


“Spartans (Adapted for Game of Thrones – Composer’s Challenge)”

Craig Richard Lysy: “A dramatic ascent from the low register propels us into the relentless bravado march that is this theme. Syncopated percussion and woodwinds as well as crisp fanfare makes this piece a tour de force. The piece ebbs at the 4th kingdom so as to allow the ending of the piece with a flourish. I really enjoyed this march, the orchestrations and bell accents. This is quality writing. My compliments.”

Edmund Meinerts : “Once this entry lays down its enormous, snare-ripping, almost march-like percussive rhythm, it never lets up. It’s all low brass rips, jabbing string chords and high-register flutes (sometimes playing the sort of ostinato you’d normally hear from middle-range strings in film music these days – an interesting orchestrational choice and one which, surprisingly, works). There is a simple theme for horns and/or trombones, but this is so drowned out in the bombast that it’s hard to pin down. […] But you’ll find few entries noisier than this, and for the most part it is impressive noise, too.”

Johannes Ruckstuhl : “Whoa! What we’ve got here is the most robust, rowdy, brutal, and shamelessly over-the-top action music of the bunch. Pounding percussion and low brass stabs define it, with great string and woodwind material layered on top. […] It’s in essence action music […] perfect for a battle scene. A brass statement is repeated as a rounded idea [..].”


“Angel Falls – Composer’s Challenge”

Alain Mayrand: “Cute song like opening. Different orchestration than most, and I like that. […] Yes, very song form, this is the chorus, right? I like it. Good sense of melody, would just a need bit more focus and clarity so that it is a bit more memorable. The mood for this one is good although a bit generic. What makes it work is the clearly discernible melody and how the music makes sense on its own.”

Craig Richard Lysy: “We open with plucked guitar that is joined by banjo. The piece picks up-tempo and is joined by low register horns as we pass the crest. A horn crescendo builds and sounds on trumpets 6 seconds after we pass the crest. The trumpet line yields to woodwinds, low register horns and rhythmic drums as we move out for a panoramic view. Horns, drums and a maraca like ostinato carries the music and we move in to view the cascades. We conclude our journey with synthesizer and drums. The use of guitar and banjo is creative and yet seems incongruous. The climax of the crescendo is late and the percussive animated line seems to play against the vaporous cascading nature of the falls. A good try.”

Johannes Ruckstuhl: “This entry is a piece of contrasts, many of them problematic unfortunately. The theme itself is functional (the trumpet solo in particular is good) though it is necessary to repeat that conceptually, the piece needs some more thought.”

Edmund Meinerts: “Interesting, almost folksy approach at first with the echoing acoustic guitar (or banjo) sounds being joined by a distant sampled female vocal. I also like that there’s a bit of percussion and rhythm in the cue; I always find it brings a ton of dynamism to any given piece, this one included. What I didn’t enjoy as much were the trumpet solos. I really enjoyed the closing moments of the cue when the echoing voice returns. I liked some of the ideas presented here but it’s definitely a piece of highs and lows.”


For more information about the Composer’s Challenge, please visit the official website.


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