New Composer Series From Dragon's Domain
When I first began reviewing film music, the odds of getting a television score release was pretty low. There were the Irwin Allen 1960s Science-Fiction series releases that appeared of course, and sometimes something from Star Trek, but for a long time music for television was not really explored. Of course, with the advent of multitudinous streaming and cable platforms, it seems as if more than half of the music received for review comes from "television series" now. For those unenthused about new television series scoring, there may be another option that can allow exploration of earlier styles in this genre.
For a while now Dragon's Domain Records, from www.Buysoundtrax.com has released a variety of esoteric and somewhat forgotten scores both for film and television. These tend to be a mixed bag only because of one's personal taste rather than any fault of the music or composers represented. One of the ways they have achieved recognition for this music is by focusing on releases dedicated to specific composer's and their work. We've seen a variety of volumes for Lee Holdridge, and Peter Bernstein, to name a few. These are a mix of made-for-TV scores that are in keeping with the sometimes smaller budgets but with cinematic writing and with solid orchestration. The appreciation depends mostly on the attractiveness of the theme, or the composer's personal style.
Over the last couple of months, the label has also added some new voices to the mix. First of these is music by Morton Stevens, a former student of Jerry Goldsmith, with some three decades of work to his credit. Fans of series like Gunsmoke, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Wild Wild West and a variety of 1970s television will be familiar with his work. A first volume focuses on two 1970 TV movie scores. The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974) is a sort of faux documentary science-fiction drama that receives plenty of tense writing. 1977's The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver focuses on establishing the mystery of the film. Both feature smaller chamber ensembles but show Stevens' deft hand at finding a proper sound that does not overwhelm the small screen while adding a cinematic quality to the stories.
Also worth noting is a new series that features the work of Humie Mann whose name will be familiar to those who check the orchestrators on a variety of series television in the 1990s and beyond. The second volume of his scores, which dropped in mid-March, focuses on two scores from the latter 1990s: Brokedown Palace (1999) heard in an electronic version since he was dropped from the final score; and a 1997 HBO comedy, The Second Civil War which gives listeners a chance to hear his own orchestral scoring style more fully.
The label balances their releases between mid-century rarities and these later surprises of which many become guilty pleasures. Most are available as downloads but have limited hard-copy CD availability.