Sparks & Shadows
April 11th, 2013
Dear fans and loyal blog readers, I have exciting news! I have founded Sparks & Shadows, a boutique new record label that will bring you my scores and original music. S&S will blast out of the gate with a slew of exciting releases this year, including “Defiance” (the video game score), “Defiance” (the television series album), my thematically-rich new music for “Da Vinci’s Demons” and my lyrically brooding score for the science fiction theatrical feature “Europa Report.”
Why am I starting my own label when I’ve partnered so successfully with La-La Land Records and others in the past? In order to tell you, I need to first step back in time a quarter century.
When I was a child, I had two passions: movies and music. I took piano lessons and loved the physical act of making music. I skipped introductory practice pieces and scales and moved almost immediately to Gershwin classics, Joplin rags, and the occasional Beethoven or Mozart. The more energy a piece could burn, the more I put into it.
I also adored the movies. My mother took me to the cinema even when I was an infant. I was so small, she had to hold the seat down or else it would snap up and devour me. I sat through sweeping epics like “Gandhi” and “The Natural” and was ever transfixed, never falling asleep or crying.
I was about five years old when movie music first caught my ear. My favorite toy at the time was a Fisher-Price tape recorder. About the size of a lunch-box, it was durable enough to endure the rigors of playtime. It allowed me to record the sounds of the world and play them back later, an accomplishment that absolutely blew my mind. Eventually, it occurred to me that I could use this marvelous device to record the music from my favorite movies and play it back later!
On my third or fourth theatrical viewing of “Back to the Future,” I snuck the little tape deck into the theater and held it towards the screen. Throughout the film, I scowled at my mother every time she burst into laughter, because I didn’t want her on my tape. It was bad enough that all the dialog and sound effects were already in the way! Despite the occasional interruption from the audience, I got my recording. Over the next year, I wore the magnetic tape down to a thread playing back Silvestri’s vivacious score.
Two years later, my life would be forever changed. I wandered through the neighborhood drugstore with my grandfather, who always bought me a little toy or action figure every Wednesday, after picking me up from early-release day at school. On my way to the toy aisle, I came across the cramped cassette-tape section. Something caught my eye and I stopped in my tracks. Before me was a cassette tape with the “Back to the Future” logo on it. And beside it, “Star Wars.” And beside that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Star Trek II.” My grandfather couldn’t possibly understand why I’d want such a thing. But, I begged, pleaded and wore him down. He bought me my first soundtrack cassette.
I was hooked. At last I could feast on the luscious details my favorite composers put into their music. These cassettes stripped away the dialog and narrative of the film, and freed me to imagine my own worlds as I listened to the music. I bought every soundtrack I could find. My Christmas and birthday lists were filled with nothing but requests for new soundtracks. Every time I got a new album, I would sit before my stereo with the booklet and listen to every track from top to bottom, making note of my favorites. Soundtracks were never background music for me, they were an emotional journey. Composers were my rock stars: Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Danny Elfman, Basil Poledouris, James Horner, John Williams, Ennio Morricone. I would go to movies just to hear their new melodies, and run out of the theater to buy the soundtracks.
I was finally able to combine my two greatest passions: movies and music. I spent less and less time at the piano practicing, and more time hammering out my favorite movie themes into epic arrangements that, in some cases, could be performed for hours. One day, after growing tired of playing the same pieces again and again, I sat at the piano and a new idea dawned on me: perhaps I could write my own movie music?
My passion for film soundtracks pushed me to write a feature film script in high school so that I would have a story to score, one that pushed me to compose a 75-minute orchestral score for an imaginary film. That led me to meeting Elmer Bernstein, who took me under his wing for seven years. That relationship led me to USC, where I learned the fundamentals of theory, orchestration, counterpoint, harmony and conducting from renowned instructors and scored nearly thirty student films. By my early twenties, I had shaken Danny Elfman’s hand at one of his scoring sessions. I had sung in a choir for Basil Poledouris. I had spoken with Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin and Leonard Reonsenman. None of these achievements, however, prepared me for my first soundtrack album.
La-La Land Records took a chance on a completely unknown composer and released my score for “Battlestar Galactica: Season One.” When I got the first case of discs and cracked it open, I stared at the CDs for an hour. It was totally surreal to see a real soundtrack CD with the words “Music by Bear McCreary” on the spine. My first thought was that perhaps there could one day be someone out there who would be as inspired by this album as I was by my favorite scores. This was among the truest sensations of completion I’d ever felt. A loop had been closed, and I was feeding back into the medium that had spurred me to write music twenty years earlier.
I value the soundtrack experience, because my love of soundtracks defined me more than virtually any other influence in my life.
Today, however, the market for soundtracks is a very different place. No kid will ever find a cassette tape of my music on a drug store shelf. We find our music on YouTube, X-Box and Spotify. We watch movies and series on Netflix, Hulu and other online sources. We DVR. We binge watch. We download directly to our phones, then watch and listen directly from them. The delivery vehicle and product have merged, and the idea of a delayed release window has been shattered. Music creators and consumers must find new ways to communicate with one another.
What does this mean for soundtracks? To answer this question, I collaborated with Joe Augustine and founded Sparks & Shadows. The primary goal of this label is simple: to bring you the music you want, when you want it. We will fully utilize digital formats in an effort to make music available to you the instant you hear it on TV, in a game or in a movie theater.
This label is an interactive forum. You tell us what you want, and we’ll do everything in our power to make it happen. Quicker digital releases? Expanded CDs? Sheet music? Ring tones? Let us know what you want through Facebook, Twitter and our soon-to-be-expanded website, SparksAndShadows.net.
Sparks & Shadows was founded for every one of the thousands of fans who’ve ever reached out to me and asked if a piece of music was available to them. From now on, I want the answer to be a resounding “Yes!”
Our emphasis will be on digital releases for the sole reason that digital can happen faster. My work in television moves at a break-neck pace. Music you’re hearing on the air may have been written as little as seven to ten days prior. There’s absolutely no way to mass-produce and distribute a physical CD on that kind of turn around. That does not mean, however, we will neglect the true collector. I’ve heard from many fans that have purchased signed copies of every CD I’ve ever released, and I know they will always prefer an album that can be seen and held. As albums merit physical CD releases, Sparks & Shadows will release limited edition CDs, with all the exclusive liner notes and bonus tracks fans have come to expect from my discs. If you’ve started a collection of McCreary CDs, you will be able to expand it.
Each release under the Sparks & Shadows banner will live up to my ludicrously high expectations in every aspect, from composition and production through mastering, packaging and liner notes. As a fellow soundtrack fan myself, I am thrilled about the releases we’ve lined up thus far and the promise of what is to come.
Writing music is a joy in part because I know that fans like you listen to all the detail a soundtrack release makes possible. You guys have supported me throughout the first decade of my career and waited patiently for my albums. Now, it is time for me to return the favor. So, please follow Sparks & Shadows on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and get ready for lots of new music!
PS: Special thanks are due to everyone who has contributed to the formation of Sparks & Shadows, especially Joe Augustine, Beth Krakower, Rich Jacobellis, Kevin T. Porter, Rudy Jahchan, Steve Kaplan and David Matics. Our awesome logo was designed by Sean Mosher-Smith and animated by Sam Balcomb.
And here’s the official Press Release, with details about our upcoming releases:
- BEAR MCCREARY ANNOUNCES THE LAUNCH OF A NEW LABEL:
- SPARKS & SHADOWS
- Upcoming Soundtrack Releases to Include:
- Defiance – TV Series and Video Game (SyFy & Trion)
- Da Vinci’s Demons (STARZ & BBC)
- Europa Report (Magnet)
- (April 11, 2013 – Culver City, CA) Composer Bear McCreary announces the launch of Sparks & Shadows, a new boutique record label that will release soundtracks primarily composed by the Emmy-nominated composer. The first four releases from the label will include two albums for Defiance (the Trion Worlds videogame and the SyFy television series), Da Vinci’s Demons (STARZ, BBC) and the upcoming feature Europa Report (Magnet). McCreary, listed by Io9 as one of the ten most influential science fiction composers in history, was recently named a “Secret Weapon” by WIRED Magazine.
- “I value the soundtrack album experience, because score records are what first led me down the path to becoming a composer,” explained McCreary. “I was a fan and collector long before I became a professional musician. I have always looked for ways to deliver my original scores to fans so they can have the same experiences.”
- Sparks & Shadows will release two soundtracks of McCreary’s music for the groundbreaking multimedia science fiction epic Defiance, the first attempt to launch a new franchise in both the television and videogame mediums. The game combines the intense action of a third-person shooter, with the persistence and scale of a massive online game, while its television counterpart exudes the sweeping scope and heroic characters of classic science fiction dramas. The videogame album was released digitally on April 2nd.
- The Defiance TV series soundtrack album will be available for pre-order late May, and will include both original score and songs. For the collectors, a limited edition combined multi-CD set will be released in late summer, featuring exclusive liner notes and bonus tracks.
- McCreary recently collaborated with writer / director David S. Goyer, scoring his historical adventure series Da Vinci’s Demons, which premieres on STARZ on April 12th. The secret history of Leonardo Da Vinci’s tantalizing life reveals a portrait of a young man tortured by a gift of superhuman genius. He finds himself in a conflict between truth and lies, religion and reason, past and future. His aspirations are used against him by the opposing forces of the time—luring him into a game of seduction where those who despise his intellect need him most.
- McCreary’s sweeping orchestral score was meticulously researched to accurately represent the time period, without being bound to it. His score combines full orchestra, Renaissance instrumentation, choir and ethnic soloists with the renowned Calder Quartet and surging contemporary synthesis. Sparks & Shadows will release McCreary’s main title theme for Da Vinci’s Demons as a digital single on April 12th and the full album will be available digitally to coincide with the season one finale. A limited edition CD, with exclusive bonus content, is planned for the summer.
- This August, the label will also release the soundtrack for the upcoming feature Europa Report. The film is a hard science fiction thriller starring Sharlto Copley (District 9) that explores the first manned mission to Jupiter’s mysterious moon, Europa. McCreary’s evocative score will feature string orchestra, solo piano and heavy synthesis.
- “Bear’s relationship with fans is incredibly unique,” said Joe Augustine, the label’s General Manager. “This direct communication gives us a keen knowledge of what his fans really want, and our variable distribution model gives us the freedom and flexibility to deliver it.”
- “I am fortunate to have collaborated with La-La Land Records and other labels to release over fifteen albums,” McCreary said. “While many of these important relationships will continue, Sparks & Shadows has been formed to push boundaries further.”
- Releases by Sparks & Shadows will be available worldwide, through select retail outlets, and digitally on all platforms.
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- For more information contact Beth Krakower, CineMedia Promotions, 310.439.1403, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @cinemediapromo on Twitter
- ABOUT BEAR MCCREARY
- Bear McCreary’s unique combination of atypical instrumental background (he is a professional accordionist) with rigorous classical training prepared him to compose for disparate genres. By the age of 24, McCreary was launched into pop culture history with his groundbreaking score to SyFy’s hit series Battlestar Galactica, for which he composed “the most innovative music on TV today” (Variety). It “fits the action so perfectly, it’s almost devastating: a sci-fi score like no other” (NPR). Io9.com declared Bear McCreary one of the Ten Best Science Fiction Composers of all time, listing him alongside legends John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann.
- McCreary continues to write for the television show The Walking Dead. In 2013 he will lend his talents to SyFy and Trion World’s groundbreaking entertainment experience, Defiance, a combined launch of a MMO videogame and television series as well as Da Vinci’s Demons, a bold new historical fantasy series from David S. Goyer (co-writer of The Dark Knight trilogy) for STARZ. His upcoming film projects include Europa Report and Knights of Badassdom. His other credits include critically acclaimed scores for series such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Eureka and The Cape. His swashbuckling score for Human Target featured the largest orchestra ever assembled in the history of series television and earned him his first Emmy nomination. His videogame credits include SOCOM 4 and Dark Void.