Godzilla King of the Monsters

GKOTM01

PROLOGUE

Godzilla has permeated global popular culture for over six decades.  His first cinematic appearance in 1954’s Gojira launched the kaiju film genre, “kaiju,” translating literally to “strange beast.” This summer, he has returned to the big screen in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and I am honored to have composed the score for this next entry in cinema’s longest running franchise. Like many fans in the West, I knew Godzilla through television broadcasts of Japanese films and ubiquitous media culture. However, the film that actually introduced me to Godzilla and Ghidorah was not one of the Toho Co. classics scored by Akira Ifukube, but Peewee’s Big Adventure, a quirky American comedy scored by my childhood hero, Danny Elfman.

Nearly thirty years later, Godzilla would emerge into my life again and once again Danny Elfman’s music was playing. I invited a few friends to join me at the Hollywood Bowl performance of Danny Elfman’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, with Elfman himself on stage singing the songs. One of those friends was Michael Dougherty, with whom I share a mutual love of all things “scifi, fantasy, horror genre.” That night, Michael told me he was writing and directing the new Godzilla film, the sequel to the 2014 film, Godzilla, and I thought Warner Bros. and Legendary could not have picked a better guy to expand their “MonsterVerse” cinematic universe.

A few months later, Michael offered me the job scoring Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Overcome with excitement and ideas, I plunged into the journey that would span nearly two years.

GKOTM_Perc3

POUNDING DRUMS

While Michael was still on set shooting the film in Atlanta, I began my creative process. With more than a year to go before I would record the score, I had time to prepare my sound palette. In 1954, the Godzilla film franchise began with Akira Ifukube’s massive taiko drums, emulating impending monstrous footsteps. As an homage to Ifukube’s inspired work, I knew that drums – big drums – would be an integral component in my score. It was time to reinvent my approach to percussion.

GKOTM_Perc1

To begin, I essentially trashed the meticulously edited custom percussion library I had cultivated over fifteen years. Working closely with my team at Sparks and Shadows, we re-sampled every percussion instrument I wanted for Godzilla, assembling them into a huge recording studio at once. There were all manner of taiko drums, shime daikos, nagado daikos, hira daikos, bass drums, snare drums, concert toms, rock toms, cymbals, tam tams, gongs – even the metallic engine ring from a jumbo jet!

GKOTM_Jet

My dedicated team spent months editing the recordings and building virtual instruments. When it was all done, we had created a completely new percussion arsenal, dialed in to my exact specifications. It was responsive, intuitive, and utterly massive. With a few mouse clicks, I could replicate the sound of a single drummer, or a hundred drummers playing in unison – and anything in between. The first time I played taiko rhythms with my new sounds, I almost cried. It was as if I could hear Godzilla himself!

While my Sparks and Shadows crew furiously edited drum samples, and Michael Dougherty edited the film, I began writing and developing my thematic material.

GKOTM_Score

THE MONSTER OPERA

“Monster Opera” is not a genre I had heard of before. However, when Michael used the term in an early discussion about the score, I realized that I could not focus simply on scoring a film. I was writing an opera! The concept of “Monster Opera” would eventually influence our work through the entire creative process, shifting even the very language we used to describe what we were doing. This new perspective changed how I approached the drama on a fundamental level. For instance, the climax of the first battle between Godzilla and Ghidorah was not merely the “end of a scene.” Now it was the “fanfare before the curtain drops for intermission.”

The essential component of any opera, especially a ‘monster’ one, is the voice. I wanted to give each primary monster a musical voice, represented in a clearly identifiable theme. The fundamental question I faced was whether to write completely new themes, or draw from the wealth of themes from the franchise’s past.

GKOTM_Godzilla1

Beginning with Akira Ifukube’s score to the 1954 Gojira, the Godzilla franchise has a storied reputation for memorable music with big themes, epic brass, energetic marches, and soaring, emotional passages. While Ifukube is the master musical architect of the series, other composers have contributed significant scores as well, including Yūji Koseki’s immortal Mothra, Michiru Ōshima’s knockout scores for several of the “Millenium Series” films, Shirō Sagisu’s daring Shin Godzilla, as well as the bombastic and brooding tones of Alexandre Desplat’s score for 2014’s Godzilla, to name just a few.

I began two months of sketching and musical experiments to see which old themes, if any, might work in this new film. I also wrote my own original themes for all four monsters. As I sketched and presented ideas to Michael, we trusted our instincts and weighed fan expectation against the needs of the narrative.

GKOTM_Mike

I sketched Godzilla’s rise from the sea with a variety of themes, including my own original theme, and even Desplat’s theme. However, every version paled in comparison to the classic Ifukube Godzilla Theme blaring as he ascended from the depths. When I first played that scene for the creative team, featuring Ifukube’s theme, I saw a tear roll down Michael Dougherty’s face. (Check out “Rebirth” on the soundtrack album.)

GKOTM_Ghidorah2

I love the classic Rodan and Ghidorah themes, but I composed my own compelling thematic ideas for them that were too effective to ignore. After months of thematic experimentation, director Michael Dougherty and I decided to represent two of the monsters, Godzilla and Mothra, with their classic musical themes, and the rest with my newly composed themes.

FourMonsters

FOUR MONSTER THEMES

My hope was that fans of the franchise would experience the story on a deeper emotional level when they recognized the classic themes from the Toho films. Equally important, however, I hoped that new audiences who have never seen or heard an old Godzilla film would simply think they’re hearing a modern, contemporary, cool film score. To achieve this balance, and craft an ideal musical experience for fans and newbies alike, I would need to reinvent the old themes, adapting them into my own musical language. 

GKOTM02

Godzilla

The most important musical idea in the film is the Godzilla Theme, which itself is a combination of two Ifukube compositions I refer to as The Godzilla Fanfare and the Godzilla March.

The first component, The Godzilla Fanfare, is a titanic blast from the low brass that heralds the creature’s arrival.

THEME_GKOTM_GodzillaFanfare

To Godzilla fans, this brassy fanfare instantly recalls memories of the classic Godzilla films from the “Showa Era” (1954 to 1975), although it did not appear in the original 1954 score, only in subsequent sequels. I was drawn to this idea’s bold rhythms, angular intervals, and nearly atonal harmonic structure. The stark space between each note leaves room for a long reverb decay, representing Godzilla’s massive size. When the audience hears this intimidating, badass fanfare, they know serious carnage is about to be unleashed.

The second component of Godzilla’s Theme is Akira Ifukube’s “Godzilla Main Title,” which I will refer to as the Godzilla March.

THEME_GKOTM_GodzillaMarch

I have always loved this theme for its Stravinsky-inspired rhythmic energy and meter changes.

This rousing march implies narrative drive, emotion, and heroism. Those qualities stem from the music’s origin in the 1954 film, where it ironically did not represent Godzilla at all. Instead, it supported the Japanese Self Defense Forces mobilizing to save the day. In later films, it was re-purposed into a theme for Godzilla, as he evolved into a savior character.

GKOTM_Orch5

This is the most recognized musical theme in the Godzilla franchise, the longest-running franchise theme in cinema history. After two huge-budget American remakes, audiences were still waiting to hear Akira Ifukube’s beloved theme appear in a Hollywood Godzilla film, and when our film came to the screen, the wait was finally over.

GKOTM_Taiko5

I wanted my arrangement of Godzilla’s Theme to directly reflect the Japanese culture that spawned the character. I immediately gravitated towards taiko ensembles, especially kakegoe, the iconic vocal chanting heard in Japanese traditional music, Kabuki theater, and martial arts. While I love the driving percussion, I have always felt it is the group’s urgent call-and-response vocalizations that give taiko music its unique character. 

GKOTM_Doctor

I requested the help of my friend, renowned Japanese music producer Doctor Osamu Kitajima. He and I first collaborated over a decade ago on the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, when I wanted to infuse an already ethnically diverse score with a stronger Japanese musical influence. We became fast friends and I have worked with him many times since, including on the Sony Playstation game SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals, and The Forest, for which he helped me record a Japanese children’s choir singing traditional folk songs. For Godzilla King of the Monsters I told Doctor I wanted to record a taiko ensemble in Japan, but without their drums – only their voices!

GKOTM_Taiko6

Through Doctor, we reached out to Hiromitsu Nishikawa to coordinate one of the most exciting recording sessions of my career. Through Skype, I watched twenty-five taiko performers, fully-costumed in traditional attire, assemble in a recording studio in Tokyo.

GKOTM_Taiko4

This “Kakegoe Choir” performed hours of chants, vocalizations, grunts, syllables, and monster names. We chanted both the American and Japanese monster names where relevant, so we recorded the American “God-Zil-La!” as well as the original Japanese “Go-Ji-Ra!,” “Ro-dan!” and “Ra-don!,” “Moth-ra” and “Mo-Su-Ra!” (Even then, I suspected I might experiment with the Blue Öyster Cult rock anthem “Godzilla,” so I also asked them to give me variations of “Go, Go, Godzilla!”)

GKOTM_Doctor2

Fundamentally, these voices form a crucial foundation of Godzilla’s theme. I was able to use them in conjunction with the Ifukube themes, and frequently even on their own, to represent the titular character’s heroism and strength.

GKOTM_Mothra

Mothra

In the film, Godzilla has a symbiotic relationship and bond with a benevolent kaiju named Mothra, the giant insect creature who made her debut in the franchise in her standalone film, Mothra, in 1961. That film not only introduced the world to the “Queen of the Monsters,” but also composer Yūji Koseki’s classic “Mothra’s Song,” the second classic Toho theme I incorporated into my score.

THEME_GKOTM_MothraTheme

Throughout the history of the franchise, “Mothra’s Song” been associated with, and often sung by, tiny twin priestesses known as Shobijin. While these female singers are only alluded to obliquely in King of the Monsters, I was nevertheless drawn to the inherent feminine quality of their performances. I set the melody in an ethereal female choir, with the sopranos and altos recreating the Shobijin’s dual harmony lines. For more intimate passages, I set the melody instead in haunting Chinese woodwind solos, performed by Wan Pin Chu and recorded in Shanghai.

GKOTM_Orch4

In Koseki’s original “Mothra’s Song,” the arrangement remains ceremonial and small, with a delicate tango-like dance rhythm supporting the singers. For King of the Monsters, I expanded it into a massive, operatic, soaring orchestral fanfare, reimagining that tango rhythm with pounding timpani, aggressive low strings, and distorted synth basses.

THEME_GKOTM_MothraOstinato

For Mothra’s most epic moments, in particular her hatching from her cocoon and spreading her wings, I expanded the two Shobijin vocal lines into full orchestral arrangements, backed by a large choir. To my delight, Koseki’s delicate little tune translated effectively and beautifully into this epic arrangement. I am grateful to see fans embrace my version of “Mothra’s Song” as one of their favorites on the soundtrack.

GKOTM_Ghidorah1

Ghidorah

The film’s primary antagonist is Ghidorah, the iconic three-headed, two-tailed dragon who made his debut in 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three Headed Dragon. Although this character had decades worth of existing music, I wanted to compose for Ghidorah a new theme that would signify pure evil.

As an homage to his striking biology, I composed the Ghidorah Theme as a prayer to the number three. Set in the meter of 9/8, the theme is built around groups of three notes, which repeat in patterns of three, then those patterns repeat three times in larger phrases. This fractal pattern underlining the number three begins with the Ghidorah Ostinato.

THEME_GKOTM_GhidorahOstinato

Inspired by the storm of swirling strings in “Night on Bald Mountain,” I set this ostinato in the orchestral strings. The strings carrying this idea form the foundation for The Ghidorah Theme, the sinister character’s primary melody.

THEME_GKOTM_GhidorahTheme

The minor and diminished modes here give the theme its evil quality. I typically set this tune in the trombones or French horns, giving it a massive weight. For more mysterious passages (for example when characters discuss Ghidorah in their base) I present it in a duet of Chinese erhu and zhonghu, both performed by Wan Pin Chu.

GKOTM_Buddhist1

Inspired by the idea that Ghidorah’s Theme is a prayer, I was curious about incorporating the hypnotic and gorgeous tones of Japanese Buddhist chants. Through a meeting once again coordinated by Doctor Kitajima, I sat down with Rev. Noriaki Ito, Bishop of the Higashi Honganji North America District. I pitched him my idea, clarifying that while Ghidorah was indeed the antagonist of the story, I intended his theme to be evocative and beautiful, and that above all, I would record Buddhist monks with a sincere respect for the spirituality behind the chants. Not only was Ito eager to contribute to the score, he enlisted three other monks as well.

GKOTM_Buddhist2

Our recording session in Los Angeles was a transcendent experience. There are many Buddhist sects in Japan, each with their own sutra, however our quartet chanted Hannya Shingyo, The Heart Sutra, a text which is universal to all the sects. I took the recordings into my studio, where I digitally edited, manipulated, and layered them to craft patterns that fit my 9/8 structure.

Combining the 9/8 fractal triplet rhythm, with the powerful brass, Chinese stringed instruments, and Buddhist monks, yielded a striking result. The Ghidorah Theme sounds ancient, hypnotic and disturbingly beautiful. The Japanese Buddhist monks offer a sound as powerful and distinct as Godzilla’s kakegoe chanting. Like the two kaiju themselves, these two themes are worthy foes for one another.

GKOTM_Rodan

Rodan

My final primary monster theme is for Rodan, the Pteranodon-like beast who originated in his own standalone film, Rodan, in 1956. Unlike the other three creatues, Rodan’s “voice” is not literally a human vocal performance. Rodan’s Theme is the result of a “screaming” brass effect, achieved by instructing the French horns to aggressively rip up to their top-most register. This sounds absolutely ear-shattering and mimics the vocalizations of the giant bird monster

THEME_GKOTM_Rodan

Playing a French horn that high and loud wears down the embouchure of the mouth for even the most experienced instrumentalist, and regardless of how good a player is, there exists a limit to how many times in a day this technique can be performed. To my great surprise, the horns in London absolutely nailed it, with all eight players in the section hitting the top notes every time.

GKOTM_Orch2

After we finished recording “Rodan” with London’s finest musicians at AIR Studios, I went into the control room for a break. My recording engineer Simon Rhodes, who has recorded many of my favorite film scores of all time, quipped as he pulled some faders down that he was fairly certain that my Godzilla score was the loudest he had ever recorded in his entire career!

GKOTM_Perc2

In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Rodan originates from a Latin American island, where he is known as the “fire demon” from local legend. Leaning into this new cultural backstory, I supported his theme with Latin percussion and grooves. If I had to pick a personal favorite moment in the score, it might be the Afro-Cuban inspired 6/8 groove that bursts into the track halfway through “Rodan,” where congas, quintos, surdos and shakers suddenly take the action to a new level

ADDITIONAL THEMES

 A few other important themes support the film’s narrative.

GKOTM_Monarch

Many of primary human characters are associated with Monarch, a massive paramilitary group that specializes in studying and tracking the titans. With the four monster themes bombarding the ears in chants, vocals, choirs, screaming brass, and massive percussion, I felt the Monarch Theme could be differentiated by featuring more traditionally cinematic orchestral sounds.

THEME_GKOTM_Monarch

Infused with punchy brass, chugging string ostinatos, pulsing high tech synths, and militaristic snare drums throughout, the Monarch Theme is the closest my score gets to contemporary Hollywood musical expectations. (Check out “Welcome to Monarch” on the soundtrack album.)

GKOTM_Family

The Russell family, Emma, Mark, their daughter Madison, and their deceased son Andrew, are at the center of this apocalyptic story. For them, I composed the Family Theme.

THEME_GKOTM_Family

Hinted at first in subtle celeste notes (“Memories of San Francisco” on the soundtrack album), then increasingly featured on intimate piano solos with warm muted string orchestra support (“For Andrew”), this theme provides emotional contrast to the monsters’ operatic tones. This theme undergoes the score’s most dynamic and dramatic evolution, when it eventually builds to a massive full orchestra arrangement during the climax (“Redemption”).

GKOTM_Ancients

One of the most jaw-dropping revelations in the film is the underwater discovery of long lost early human civilizations, societies that worshipped the titans as “the first gods,” creating carvings and cave paintings of Godzilla, Rodan, Ghidorah, Mothra, even King Kong. For these moments of discovery, I composed The Ancients Theme:

THEME_GKOTM_Ancients

This theme was meant to weave through the score like a ghost. Most of its appearances are featured by a haunting duet between Caroline Dale’s solo cello and Michalis Cholevas’ solo yaylı tambur, a Turkish stringed instrument with an evocative color.

GKOTM_Tanbur

The Ancients Theme becomes crucial to the score’s structure, even bookending the film. The first note heard in the score is, in fact, The Ancients Theme on Michalis’ distant yaylı tambur, floating like a mist over the film studio logos as Godzilla’s imposing footsteps approach. The theme’s few brief appearances pay off during the film’s final two minutes, (“King of the Monsters“) where The Ancients Theme comes to the forefront. Here, the tambur and cello are reinforced by muscular orchestra and menacing brass, with percussive blasts of Godzilla’s signature kakegoe chanting punctuating each phrase. Supporting the narrative arc of the film, the fully formed Ancients Theme rises from the background to overtake the score.

GKOTM_Taiko2

WORDS OF THE ANCIENTS

Another crucial component to any opera, even a “monster” one, is text. Even if listeners don’t understand the language being sung, they can still feel, on a subliminal level, that additional meaning exists in the words. The text I composed for King of the Monsters evokes a prayer from the Ancient World, one with lyrical relevance to the apocalyptic story unfolding. I divided the text up evenly amongst all the choral passages in the score, so that audiences could absorb the words gradually. I thought of the choir almost as a “Greek Chorus,” commenting on the action as it unfolds.

GKOTM_Ghidorah02

Of course, the chorus wasn’t Greek, it was British. I actually recorded three separate choirs for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, two of which, the taiko kakegoe group and Buddhist monks, were distinctly Japanese. The third choir was a traditional Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass (SATB) ensemble, recorded in London with some of the most accomplished singers in the world. This massive ensemble of dozens of singers provide the largest score passages their scope. (Check out the closing moments of “Old Rivals.”)

GKOTM_Choir

I knew my text would be distracting if it were sung in English, or indeed, in any language an international audience might understand. Furthermore, I wanted the text to truly feel ancient and authentic, so my team tracked down a scholar who could work with us to translate my words into the oldest language possible. We were fortunate to find and collaborate with Dr. Martin Worthington, Senior Lecturer in Assyriology from the University of Cambridge. Worthington encouraged us to employ Babylonian as our language of choice, as it is among the oldest languages for which we have any basic understanding of pronunciation.

GKOTM_Orch1

The text, sung throughout the film in Babylonian, gives the score a sense of historical and dramatic weight. These are the words being sung over the course of the film.

“A Tribute to the Ancient Ones”
Oh, Ancient Ones,
Those who first walked the Earth
With mighty steps
That shook mountains
And reduced cities of the unrepentant
To ash and stone
We make this offering unto you,
Of obedience, and gratitude.
With our bowed bodies
We clear a path at your feet

GKOTM_Serizawa

These lyrics combine to form every choral passage in the score, with one exception. “Goodbye Old Friend” is the film’s most introspective, emotional cue and the one that features the London choir most prominently. Given the narrative circumstances of the scene, where one of our favorite characters makes a noble sacrifice, this scene needed a unique text. I composed a poem for this scene, which Dr. Worthington also translated into Babylonian.

THEME_GKOTM_GoodbyeOldFriend

“Goodbye Old Friend”
Goodbye Old Friend
Your peaceful breath slows,
Your eyes gaze upon your world
I offer to you
My strength
Goodbye Old Friend
My hand reaches forth,
Striving for divinity
I offer to you
My love
Goodbye Old Friend
At the steps of your kingdom,
We become one
I offer to you
My life

My goal with this cue was to evoke a prayer from an ancient, lost world, to highlight a tragic emotional loss, and yet celebrate a noble sacrifice to the First Gods.

GKOTM_Fight

THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM

After two years of planning, writing, recording, and mixing, finally all the soaring voices of this “Monster Opera” can be heard, experienced in the theatre and on the soundtrack album. The record is available now in all formats from WaterTower Music, in conjunction with Sparks & Shadows. The digital album can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon and all other streaming outlets. The CD is available at Amazon.

GKOTM_AlbumCover1. Godzilla (feat. Serj Tankian)
2. Godzilla Main Title
3. Memories of San Francisco
4. The Larva
5. Welcome to Monarch
6. Outpost 32
7. Ice Breaker
8. Rise of Ghidorah
9. Old Rivals
10. The First Gods
11. Rodan
12. A Mass Awakening
13. The One Who is Many
14. Queen of the Monsters
15. For Andrew
16. Stealing the Orca
17. The Hollow Earth
18. The Key to Coexistence
19. Goodbye Old Friend
20. Rebirth
21. Fog Over Fenway
22. Battle in Boston
23. Redemption
24. King of the Monsters
25. Ghidorah Theme
26. Mothra’s Song

VINYL2

I am also honored that a deluxe three-vinyl set is available from Waxworks Records, in multiple colors, the “Kaiju Variant” and “Godzilla Variant.”

BOCBLOG02

The soundtrack opens with my new version of my favorite Blue Öyster Cult song, “Godzilla,” the film’s end title theme and perhaps the most audacious piece of music I have ever produced. I collaborated with vocalist Serj Tankian, my brother Brendan McKian, guitarist Brendon Small, and his Dethklok rhythm section, to create my own version of Buck Dharma’s beloved prog-rock classic. The track is complete musical madness: jammed to the breaking point with orchestra, choir, taiko chanting, taiko drumming, heavy metal rhythm section, Gene Hoglan’s blistering double kick drums, and Serj’s distinct vocals. (I have a blog entry about this experience available here.)

GKOTM_Taiko1

Completing the score to Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a momentous endeavor, a task I could not have accomplished without the support of those around me. I would especially like to thank director Michael Dougherty for his creative leadership, and for entrusting me with composing the music for his epic story. Thanks are also due to Mary Parent, Alex Garcia and everyone at Legendary Pictures, as well as everyone at Toho Co., and everyone at Warner Bros, in particular Paul Broucek and the entire music department. This score, especially with its incorporation of iconic thematic material from the past, could never have been completed without the tireless efforts of Peter Afterman, Margaret Yen, and Alison Litton, at Inaudible Productions.

GKOTM_Orch6

A special shout out is due to recording engineers Simon Rhodes and Casey Stone, and score mixing engineer Greg Hayes and song mixing engineer Jason LaRocca, whose combined efforts took the production value of my music to astonishing new heights. My music has literally never sounded better. I want to thank lead orchestrators Ed Trybek, Henri Wilkinson, and Jonathan Beard, music editors Michael Baber and Daniel Waldman, picture editor Bob Ducsay, everyone at WaterTower Music, especially Joe Kara and Sandeep Sriram, publicist Sabrina Hutchinson, my manager Joe Augustine, promo video editor Alec Siegel, the entire team at Kraft-Engel Management, especially Richard Kraft and Laura Engel, and my entire team at Sparks & Shadows for their tireless efforts on behalf of this project, especially Angelina Park and Jason Akers, who trekked across the globe with me to record it. My eternal gratitude goes to the composers of themes I adapted into the score, Buck DharmaYūji Koseki and of course, Akira Ifukube, the composer who taught us that music can roar. I am grateful to all the talented musicians, singers, orchestrators, engineers, music editors, copyists, and assistants who invested their time and talent to bring this score to life. Lastly, I want to thank my close friends and family for helping me survive the writing and recording of this score, especially Sonatine McCreary, who is always my first test audience.

GKOTM_PremiereScreen

EPILOGUE

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the kind of bold summer genre film that made me want to be a composer in the first place. As a kid, I longed to follow in the footsteps of musical heroes such as Jerry Goldsmith, Basil Poledouris, James Horner, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, and also Elmer Bernstein, with whom I would eventually work closely. But, the composer who had the greatest influence on me musically is undoubtedly Danny Elfman, whose first big film assignment, Peewee’s Big Adventure, served as my introduction to Godzilla.

GKOTM_Premiere1

Growing up, I had always dreamed that one day I would attend the star-studded world premiere of a big blockbuster studio film showcasing my music. Godzilla premiered at the world-renowned Chinese Theater in Los Angeles where taiko drummers performed on the red carpet.  With their kakegoe calls piercing the relentless percussion, they gave the audience a visceral preview of the sounds awaiting them in my soundtrack. As I watched them, I wished I could build a time machine to go back and tell my childhood self about this gala experience. But even if I could, that kid would never have believed that one of my personal guests that night would be Danny Elfman. Life has a way of being surprisingly surreal and poetic.

GKOTM_PremiereDanny

I loved the experience of sitting next to Danny at my first summer tentpole film premiere and took the opportunity to download a little wisdom from his years of experience in blockbuster cinema. I recounted some of the experiences, even painful lessons I had learned while working on the biggest film of my career to date, and was reassured to hear from him I was, indeed, learning the ropes for blockbuster cinema.

Premiere

Two weeks after the premiere, the film opened in theaters across the globe: the number one film in the world! To celebrate, I invited my entire crew to join me at a screening at the Arclight in Hollywood, our musical family’s night out at the movies. When the film ended in a blast of applause, we parted ways. But, I lingered for a bit with my wife and a close friend. I stood on the sidewalk, staring at the gigantic life-sized Godzilla head bursting out of the Cinerama Dome. I took a deep, contented breath, happy I had finally achieved my dream of scoring a big summer movie, though my emotions were tinged with the bittersweet recognition that my journey with Godzilla had come to a close.

GKOTM_DomeFInal

Looking skyward, I also began to assess what an incredible work of art this giant Godzilla head installation actually was! At least 150 feet high, it pierced the sky with an aqua-blue tinted searchlight replicating atomic breath. I noticed two men standing next to us, who were also staring at the gargantuan Godzilla with the same mix of awe, even solemn appreciation. We started chatting, and they introduced themselves as two of the team that had conceived of and built the massive installation atop the Cinerama Dome. We exchanged stories of our experiences working on Godzilla. They showed me cell phone footage of a crane lifting the massive rigging above Sunset Boulevard. I showed them footage of my taiko ensemble chanting their signature kakegoe during recording sessions.

They had come to pay their last respects to Godzilla, as their creation would be torn down the following day. Their work, staggering as it was, was about to be dismantled and shoved into storage, piece by piece, to live on only in social media images that could not possibly do it justice. We all stared at Godzilla towering over the Cinerama Dome for the last time, as if offering own prayers to the First Gods.

In that moment, I experienced a sense of profound gratitude knowing that my work — unlike theirs — would yet be heard, enjoyed, and experienced. Decades from now, the vinyl might rasp on an old record player, the CD might spin. My music might yet blare out of some futuristic screen showing Godzilla retrospectives, and perhaps even inspire some kid to dream of writing music for film.

-Bear