It's hard to come out from under the shadow of a cult TV series likes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but this compilation CD featuring selections from 8 scores by Douglas Romayne is both a superb promo for the composer's skillful writing, and an addictive album, particularly for film music fans wanting music with a rich, elegant orchestral sound.
A number of the scores were written for short student films, and whether it's a tribute to the filmmakers for inspiring the composer, or the composer transcending the innate limitations of student films (due to budgets, or a filmmaker's own inexperience as a first-timer), Romayne reveals a very intuitive style.
The music from Freedomland (7 cues from a 2007 short by J.C. Schroder for Miami University of Ohio) is centered around a gentle theme that unfolds like a soothing elegy, and in “Beautiful,” the theme goes through a number of gentle variations as Romayne switches from strings to woodwinds, and concludes the cue with a delicate turn towards a semi-tragic theme, using chamber string instruments and harp.
A tilting four-note motif on piano is carried by gentle chordal swells by strings, while the theme restatement in the suite's concluding cue, “Free,” is deeply tender, mostly due to the slow and comforting sound from a solo oboe.
Quirky humour dominates Romayne's score for Rocketboy (6 cues from a 2006 U.S.C. short by Justin Guerrieri ), and the jaunty tempo of “Something Unusual” is enhanced by the use of expressive, woody vibes and chimes, while “”Accountant's Dream” introduces the film's main theme on chimes, and an appropriately cheesy Ondes Martinot sample that recalls some of Danny Elfman's cheeky music for Tim Burton's early comedies.
For Rocketboy, Romayne's approach is to use sounds that tingle, chime, or resonate, and there's some excellent use of woodwinds in “Leaving Work,” and the full orchestra and synths in “Roger's Rocket.” Most of the cue lengths vary from a few minutes to just under 1 min., though the theme restatements aren't too repetitive.
Entity: Nine (5 cues from a 2006 U.S.C. short by Brad Kean) deals with the work of a robotics engineer in peril, and contains a darker orchestral colour with ominous strings, snare drum, and some resonating bass hits.
Romayne has fun with some highly dramatic suspense writing, and goes for a fast, percussive rush in “Home Invasion,” giving the short film the sound of a larger budgeted film. The 5 cues are longer than the Rocketboy selections, and contain better developed material that also goes through sustained chords, shimmering cymbals, and aggressive action hits typical for a suspense story, while “Escape to Fiji” wraps up the suite with a nice balance of unresolved chords, and a pair of brief (and slightly hopeful) melodic fragments.
In Shelter (4 cues from a 2004 U.S.C. short by Luke Hutton), the theme of disparate if not disconnected characters during a rainy night is reflected by a sparse group of instruments and atmospheric, ambient chords, woven together by a repeated piano motif. The first 3 cues seem to express a kind of inconclusiveness, whereas a more complete melodic phrase dominates the electronic tonal undulations and strings in the final cue, “Six Percent Chance.”
For Sunday Paper p.2b (4 cues from a 2003 short by Eric Towner), Romayne returns to the small orchestra sound of Freedomland, and uses warm tones to support his interplay between woodwinds and harp. Going for a looser though not quite free-form melodic style, throughout the 4 cues groups of woodwinds trade, vary or mimic parts, though the piano provides the most complete theme statement in the final cue, “Morgana's Gift.”
According to Romayne's brief liner notes, tragic circumstances are the motivating factors in 2 shorts whose themes are showcased with single cues: The Truth About Faces, and Antebody (a 2005 U.S.C. film by James P. Gleason). The former's theme is a more optimistic cue, and forms a moody contrast to the lone Antebody cut, which emphasizes a sense of lone tragedy through the gentle combination of clarinet, oboe, and strings.
The family secret that two sisters are compelled to address in Beyond the Silence (6 cues from Lucy Kwak's 2007 short) is reflected through a series of unresolved cues that seethe with implied melodic direction that's never achieved until the final cue (and the longest in this super-short score). “Unspoken” gives resolution to the drama, though it too doesn't go beyond some chord changes.
The CD concludes with a bonus track, “Suite for Beatrix,” which assembles a set of charming cues that move from intimate to a much broader, vivacious scope. A full orchestral recap closes the suite, and while brief, it certainly leaves the listener with a deeper feel for Romayne's writing.
This collection of film scores emphasizes character qualities, subtext, and humor over heavy action subjects, and it'll be interesting to hear one of the composer's feature-length scores, since he's clearly versatile in writing both discreet and prominent cues with exceptional refinement.
This excellent collection is available from several sources, as listed at the composer's own website HERE.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan