Modern Orchestral Music Recommendations

What is Carl up to lately?

Now that my animated project, That Monster Show is being animated (and looking far beyond amazing, thanks Lance Myers!), I’ve turned my attention back to my orchestral music and film scoring projects. I’ve become absolutely obsessed with modern classical music, especially the stuff by Prokofiev, Bartok, and Stravinsky. My pathway into that was the old original Star Trek TV scores from the 60s, by Fred Steiner. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a lot of that stylistic era in TV music was influenced by Bernard Hermann, such as his Twilight Zone scores.)

Anyway, I’m picking back up where I left off before getting into animation, when I was studying orchestration and film scoring through Berklee.

So: these past couple of weeks, I’ve released a few short videos with cinematography by Omri Ohana, to which I wrote music.

AND a new version of the Guns A’ Blazin’ Main Adventure Theme:

What are your plans for music going forward?

For now, I have a huge list of my own orchestral music projects I’m working on. I am sure I will make another weird rock / pop / metal album at some point, but no immediate plans. I’m working my way up to more orchestral complexity, which takes a ton of studying and practice.

And, I’ve been wanting to do more scoring, so if anyone has film projects / cartoons, video games / podcasts that could use music, send me an email.

All this talk about orchestra music. I haven’t really listened to much before. Can you recommend a starting point, for newbies?

OK, we’re going to skip the Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven — which is all wonderful music, but not the stuff I find most exciting! (And I promise, I am not disrespecting the masters from those eras.)

If you’ve never really gotten into modern classical / orchestral or film scores, there’s a seemingly endless supply of incredible stuff out there. It bums me out that I might not have enough time to even hear all of it just once, if I keep listening every day. Orchestral composers have gone far beyond what modern rock musicians do, so if you’re looking for complexity, you’ve found it!

Here’s a short list of wild, fun, noisy, percussive orchestral music, for those used to listening to bands like Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, etc.

Christopher Rouse / Gorgon (1984)
This is like Death Metal for orchestra, but composed in 1984. I’ve never heard classical music as angry as that of Rouse. Check out those blast beats on timpani (Timpani are those big boing-boing sounding drums if you don’t know). Sadly, Rouse passed away recently, but we still have plenty of his explosions to listen to. This track made me laugh pretty hard the first time I listened to it.

Michael Daugherty / Metropolis Symphony (1988-1993)
Another weirdo masterpiece from the 80s (there’s an 80s theme happening here), a five-movement symphony inspired by Superman comic books. But BEWARE, this is not your typical heroic (or distorted synth) superhero soundtrack. It’s quirky, dissonant, and full of energy.

John Williams / Empire Strikes Back – Asteroid Field (1980)
Like most kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s (hey, 80s again!), John Williams was my introduction to music. All I had was his movie score records to listen to. This is a famous piece that was recently studied in a 3-hour workshop I attended (thanks Academy of Scoring Arts). I see 6 percussionists in this video, including one on drum set! It’s not the most dissonant, crazy music in the world, but it’s a great introduction to sounds of an orchestra, and from a brilliant composer.

We could go down the rabbit hole with modern classical but those are just a few tracks that are *relatively* accessible to get you started.

OK, why not… a couple last bonus tracks…

Edgar Varese / Arcana (1927)
Those who are into Frank Zappa might recognize the name Edgar Varese, who inspired a young Frank to start making noise. (I think something by Varese might have been the first record Frank bought as a kid? That could explain some things.) Also, it’s funny to watch the conductor in this video, keeping VERY strict time and the chaotic brass hurricane swirls around him. 🙂

And if you’re a Frank Zappa fan, give his Yellow Shark album a try, for an excellent introduction to listenable modern classical:

Frank Zappa & Ensemblee Modern / Dog Meat Variations (1992)

That’s all for now. Stay healthy and safe, everyone! (Is that the new Thoughts & Prayers?)

Carl King

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