Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Batman: The Animated Series" - Original Television Score (Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Danny Elfman, 1992 - 1995)

 

Composed by Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Danny Elfman





Track Listing:


Disc 1:


1: Gotham City Overture – Shirley Walker (14:01)
2: ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ Main Title – Danny Elfman (1:02)


“On Leather Wings” – Shirley Walker


3: Sub Main Title/Batwing/Bat Attack (1:51)
4: Batman Drives To Gotham (1:00)
5: Batman Investigates/Batman Uses Infrared/Police Rush Building (1:48)
6: Batman Escapes/Batman Flies (1:48)
7: Bats/Evidence Goes Up In Smoke/The Formula/Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Bat (3:01)
8: Gotham From The Air/Ride 'Em Batman/Epilogue (2:16)


“The Last Laugh” – Shirley Walker


9: Sub Main Title (1:35)
10: The Submarine/Joker Loots Gotham (2:35)
11: Alfred Loses It (0:58)
12: Bat Boat/Batman Catches The Big Fish/Batman Fights The Bad Guys (2:18)
13: Cliff-Hanger Under Water/Batman a.k.a. Houdini (1:56)
14: Batman the Terminator (2:01)
15: Batman vs. Joker (3:47)


“It’s Never Too Late” – Lolita Ritmanis


16: Sub Main Title/Stromwell's Flashback #1 (2:01)
17: Batman On Top Of Church/Stromwell Arrives At Pete's/Thugs Exit (1:20)
18: Stromwell Confronts Thorne (1:15)
19: It's Party Time/Batman Carries Stromwell (0:48)
20: Stromwell Sees Joey (1:40)
21: Stromwell Tricks Batman/Thorne's Men Move In/Thorne Chases Stromwell (3:22)
22: Stromwell's Flashback #2 (1:46)
23: Batman Cracks Heads/Thorne Removed (1:21)


“Pretty Poison” – Shirley Walker/Lolita Ritmanis/Michael McCuistion


24: Ground Breaking Ceremony/Penitentiary Time Lapse (1:11)
25: Batman Catches A Chopper/The Chopper Crashes/Rooftop Chase (1:58)
26: Batman Sneaks Around (1:09)
27: A Little Plant Muzak/The Carnivorous Plant (0:59)
28: Batman vs. Poison Ivy/Poison Ivy in Prison (3:52)


“Christmas With The Joker” – Shirley Walker/Lolita Ritmanis/Michael McCuistion


29: 14 Seconds Opening/Jingle Bells/The Joker Blasts Off (1:03)
30: Down The Mountain/Sidewalk Red Herring (0:51)
31: Pukey Christmas Music/Christmas With The Joker/Game Show Music (2:18)
32: The Train Crashes (1:19)
33: Observatory Cannon/Cannon Out Of Control/Robin Blows Up Cannon (1:11)
34: More Game Show Music/Drive To Laffco Toy Factory (1:39)
35: Nutcracker Suite Medley (1:24)
36: Pie In Batman's Face/Dangling Hostages Saved/Deck The Halls (1:41)

Disc 2:

  
1: ‘The Adventures of Batman & Robin’ Main Title – Shirley Walker (1:09)


“Two-Face Part I” – Shirley Walker


2: Harvey's Nightmare/Dent's Soap Box (2:24)
3: Batman Tracks Dent (2:07)
4: Split Personality/Harvey/Big Bad Harv (4:21)


“Two-Face Part II” – Shirley Walker


5: Part One Recap (0:33)
6: Sub Main Title/The Heist (1:49)
7: Bruce Wayne's Nightmare/Two-Face Remembers (2:47)
8: Batcycle/What About Grace? (1:58)
9: My Name Is Two-Face (1:52)
10: The Great Equalizer/Where There's Love (4:03)

“Joker’s Favor” – Shirley Walker


11: Sub Main Title/Cussing Out The Joker/I Had A Bad Day (3:18)
12: Joker’s Hideout (1:19)
13: Charlie's Neighborhood/Joker Finds Charlie (1:18)
14: Charlie Arrives In Gotham/Joker Collects His Favor (0:42)
15: Harley's Party Source (0:44)
16: Crashing The Party (1:33)
17: Batman Saves The Commissioner/Batman's After The Joker/Charlie Gets The Joker (3:38)


“Vendetta” – Michael McCuistion


18: Sub Main Title/Conway Is Abducted (0:46)
19: A Clue/The Crocodile's Lair (1:29)
20: Another Clue (1:19)
21: Croc’s Cave/Killer Croc (2:53)
22: Batman Chases Croc/Sewer Fight (2:56)
23: Bullock Gets The Croc (1:11)


“Perchance To Dream” – Shirley Walker


24: Sub Main Title/The Dream Begins (0:54)
25: It's Impossible/Bruce Sees Batman/Bruce Watches Batman At Work (2:15)
26: My Life Is A Dream (2:49)
27: Climbing The Church Tower/Belltower Fight (2:45)
28: Your Own Private Wonderland/Back To Reality (2:48)


“Birds Of A Feather” – Shirley Walker


29: Sub Main Title/Criminal Sophistication (1:54)
30: That Fine Roman Nose/Penguin vs. Muggers (2:32)
31: Penguin Takes Veronica (0:40)
32: The Drop/Rubber Duckie Ride (1:50)
33: The Penguin's Opera/High Society (2:19)

  
------

  
34: ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ End Credits – Shirley Walker (0:34)
35: Music Of The Bat – Shirley Walker Audition (6:45)



----------------------------------------------

While “Batman: The Animated Series” was conceived and green lit in the aftermath of Warner’s success with Tim Burton’s 1989 smash, the show has nearly nothing in common conceptually with the film beyond the rigid framework of tone. The series followed through on the dark melodrama that the film presented, extending on it as a means of capitalization; this was the Batman fans wanted and the film primed them for the series.

However beyond that pre-conception, there’s nothing remotely tying the latter to the former. Batman’s design is closer in color and appearance to the comics rather than the black armor of the live action realm. Gotham, while still gothic in some aspects, seemed to pull more inspiration from the art deco period and the Fleischer “Superman” cartoons of the 40s. Even the villains weren’t placed through the Burton-lens (with the exception of the Penguin, whom the studio consciously asked to be modeled after Danny DeVito given the series running in the midst of completing and releasing “Batman Returns”).

Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, while still grateful to Tim Burton’s efforts for getting the ball rolling I’m sure, were very aware of their own intentions for the character.

Thankfully, there IS one aspect of the feature films that more or less DID translate over to the series.

The approach to the musical score.


 

With the early 90s, we were pulling out of a decade rampant with the likes of“Transformers,” “Thundercats” and “G.I. Joe” dominating the landscape of action cartoon programming and their music, while still great in its own right, was a reflection upon the customs of the period. It was little more than noise filler to ramp up confrontations between heroes and villains, pulsing with synthetic percussion and such. I’m not denying the effectiveness of those scores; they certainly work for that particular milieu of material with Cat-humanoids and vehicles turning into giant robots.

But that approach wouldn’t necessarily work for the portrait of Batman that Timm and Radomski were trying to paint.

And rather than go that route, they turned to the Tim Burton film for inspiration and found it with gusto in the form of utilizing traditional symphonic score.

In hindsight today it might not seem like much of anything, but to even think of scoring an action cartoon with classical score back then must’ve seemed surreal. It certainly wasn’t heard of before then given the aforementioned shows. But rather than follow in the footsteps of “Voltron” or “Silverhawks,”the decision was made not only to adhere to the foundation of Danny Elfman’s work on “Batman” but to also pay homage to the standard in music for Warner Brother’s animation set by legendary composer Carl Stalling and his work scoring classic “Looney Tunes” shorts.

It was into this climate of creative output and thought that walked in composer Shirley Walker.

A legend in her own right, Walker has composed several film and television scores such as “Chicago Joe and the Showgirl” (1990), “Escape from LA” (1996) and the 2nd and 3rd installments in the “Final Destination”franchise (2003/2006). She’s also performed duties as orchestra conductor for a number of films including “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Children of a Lesser God”(1986), “True Lies” (1994) and, attracting the attention of Timm and Radomski,“Batman” (1989).

With her symbiotic approach to scoring Batman in the haunted, staccato-driven vein that Elfman had done, Walker’s audition was met with enthusiasm and the composer was brought on to lend her efforts to the series in a professional relationship with the team that would carry on through “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Batman Beyond” until her unfortunate passing in 2006. Joining Walker on the lyrical pilgrimage to Gotham City were fellow composers Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuistion, who would provide incredible work of their own on various episodes and direct to video projects in the forthcoming years.

Following Shirley’s death, label LaLa Land Records worked with Warner Brothers records in a joint effort to finally see one of Walker’s unfulfilled dreams realized with the release of a first volume collection of “Batman: The Animated Series”scores.

One by one, we’ll take a look at these incredible works, composed for a twenty piece orchestra for a show running twenty minutes in length.

A true testament to the artistry of the series and its attention to quality for every single episode.

The album kicks things off with a wonderfully nostalgic collection of cues dubbed a“Gotham City Overture” as we’re introduced to the musical representations of Batman, the Joker and several other characters.

What’s noteworthy about the Overture is that, while a lot of it is assembled with cues from this collection, some pieces of iconic music from the show that aren’t on the album are also infused. Of those, there’s the haunting sub main-title for “Heart of Ice,” the brassy theme for Batgirl, the tragic three-note motif theme for Clayface and the operatic theme of Maxie Zeus. The material for Zeus from the “Fire from Mt. Olympus” episode actually takes up a lot the overture in the middle and, while it’s great, it’s a shame that it runs so long when other bits could’ve been included instead like the Catwoman theme or the jazzy material from “Read my Lips” or “A Bullet for Bullock.” Oh well.

Opening the series in stylistic fashion, things get off to a legendary start with“Batman: The Animated Series – Main Title,” the now-iconic theme that played over a title sequence without titles as the shadowy Batman makes quick work of dispatching a pair of thugs on a non-descript rooftop in Gotham City. The animation of the sequence and the theme are synonymous with one another. You can’t hear this music without visions of the Batmobile speeding through a tunnel or Batman leaping and knocking one of the men to the roof accompanying it; most likely, the first thing in your mind’s eye is that WB logo morphing into the face of a Police blimp.

It’s everything that you need to know about Batman wrapped up in a sixty second package and its orchestral effectiveness is still potent today.

----------

“On Leather Wings”






Perhaps one of the most ominous openings to an episode musically, “On Leather Wings”makes immediate work of setting the tone, rhythm and pace that the majority of the series’ scores would come to follow.

From its fluttering woodwinds and string work backed by a solemn rendition of the‘Man-Bat theme’ performed in trombone, the score takes us across the skies of Gotham with such effective mood and atmosphere before sinking us down into the bowels of the city as a terrifying shadow streaks across the faces of skyscrapers, highlighted by a musical stinger of brass and thundering percussion.





With “Batman Drives To Gotham,” we’re given a full, uninterrupted moment to bask in the glory of Shirley Walker’s Batman theme while it accompanies the Batmobile as the caped crusader departs from his cave and drives into the city. Immediately picking up with a motif of strings as Batman overlooks Phoenix labs, Walker punches it with throwbacks to Elfman’s movie theme with the dark knight’s descent towards the building to begin his investigation of the crime scene.

In many ways, given that it’s the pilot episode and the first score, “On Leather Wings”seems to act the most like the “Batman” movie score; possibly like the series, Walker was making an attempt to ease viewers gradually who might’ve been expecting just a carbon copy of Tim Burton. The backbone of the score is very much built upon brass and percussion while woodwinds flesh out the more atmospheric and slower moments.








One standout I have to make mention of comes in at 1:10 in the track “Batman Escapes/Batman Flies;” fans will recognize this as the music that plays at the moment when Batman dives out of the window, SWAT officer in tow, after a can of tear gas causes the lab to explode. There’s a five note motif just as Batman thrusts both himself and the officer out that I absolutely love and it’s capped with a bold, brassy rendition of the theme as Batman uses a handy batarang ling to swing to safety before disappearing into an alley.


Walker’s theme for the Man-Bat is also very beautifully conceived, right in the tradition of high strings to make note of some sinister scientist in a 50s horror movie; the theme is played very creepily throughout the cues that make up “Bats/Evidence Goes Up In Smoke/The Formula/Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Bat” and the mad scientist concept comes to full fruition at the end, when those strings carry Langstrom through his transformation into the creature.

Things take flight in “Gotham From the Air/Ride ‘Em Batman/Epilogue,” and I think it’s actually very clever to have the final sequence scored more heavily in favor of the flight that comes with the Man-Bat theme. Of all things, there’s a lot of great xylophone work here, catching every cue of action as Batman and Man-Bat weave their way through the Gotham skies.

A lesser composer might have ignored the narrative of the scene in favor of bringing Batman’s theme back into the fold but Walker was right to save Batman’s musical presence for the end of the episode.

----------

“The Last Laugh”







One of the scores that definitely stood out even when I was a kid, “The Last Laugh” is wonderfully striking due in large part to its use of percussion that follows Joker’s toxin-infested barge throughout Gotham Bay. The string work that opens the “Sub Main Title” is also tremendously atmospheric with its sense of drive and malice.

Shirley Walker’s now-iconic Joker theme is also introduced in this score (at least as far as the release itself; the theme made its actual debut with the Joker’s first appearance in “Christmas with the Joker”). As with her theme for Batman, the Joker’s symphonic anthem has achieved wide-spread popularity with fans and for many it remains synonymous with the Clown Prince of Crime to this day. The 2010 fan production “The Joker Blogs” even paid homage to the melody for one of their episodes.

A favorite cue is “Joker Loots Gotham,” as Joker and his two henchmen disembark from their ship to pillage Gotham while her citizens, gassed with Joker Toxin, roam the streets in fits of uncontrollable laughter. There’s a great rendition of the theme done here on accordion that emphasizes the idea here of Joker operating from the high seas around the city. While Walker made tremendous strides to instill a foundation of melodrama with her overall work on Batman, she pulls out all the zany cartoon stops when it comes to Joker, utilizing a lot of off the wall brass and xylophones while never forgetting just how much of a threat the Joker can truly be as evidenced by a wonderful flourish of brass about two minutes and fourteen seconds into the cue that puts a negative, dark spin on the Joker’s theme.

“When the going gets tough...the tough go shopping.”

I also love “Bat Boat/Batman Catches The Big Fish/Batman Fights Bad Guys” as the militant aggression via brass and percussion accompanies the Batboat’s pursuit of the Joker’s barge. It’s a very bold and heroic piece of music, especially as Walker’s Batman theme blossoms 40 seconds in before the track delves right back into the main “Last Laugh” theme.

Of course we can’t forget the four-note theme of the one and only Captain Clown; perhaps a tip of the hat to the rhythmic theme of “The Terminator” given the title of the track “Batman the Terminator.” That moment when the score quiets entirely...only to have Captain Clown’s theme barrage us yet again to symbolize its refusal to die is great stuff!

The score closes with “Batman vs. Joker” and one of my favorite moments occurs in this track as Batman, having incapacitated all obstructions, finally gives chase and pursues the Joker. At first as he ascends the conveyor belt we’re met with Walker’s theme. But in a beautiful moment as Batman picks up his pace, the score takes us to the next level with the inclusion of Danny Elfman’s movie theme. I always LOVED that bit as a child and it still holds up today.

----------

“It’s Never Too Late”



After two bombastic scores involving established members of the rogues gallery, the collection takes a refreshing turn with Lolita Ritmanis’ score for the episode“It’s Never Too Late.”

One of the many elements that made “Batman: The Animated Series” so compelling in hindsight was that it had the self-confidence and faith in Batman as a character that it never once felt obligated to stick with one cornerstone of his mythology. What I mean is you look at the cartoon “The Batman,” and what do you see? Nearly all of those episodes center around Batman’s confrontations with the costumed super-criminals.

While that’s a fundamental component to be sure, that’s only a fraction of it.

Along with episodes such as “Appointment in Crime Alley,” “Paging the Crime Doctor”and “P.O.V.,” “It’s Never Too Late” took an opportunity to focus on the part of Batman that deals with his continuing war on organized crime and more grounded villainy. From mob bosses and gang leaders like Rupert Thorne to white collar criminals like Roland Daggett, they posed just as much of a threat to Gotham City as Joker or Penguin and perhaps even more since they didn’t have the excuse of being a super villain to fall back on.

Ritmanis paints a lyrical portrait of Gotham City that carries with it a burden of gang violence and menace, of pathos and depth that goes beyond capes and cowls.

What really stands out here first hand would have to be the theme for Arnold Stromwell; more accurately, the theme for his mobster persona. Played at first by brass when Stromwell departs to meet with Rupert Thorne, this piece is rendered beautifully in saxophone for the cue “Stromwell Arrives at Pete’s.”

As the saxophone provides a cause for celebration with “It’s Party Time,” we move into some tremendous flight material for Batman as he both rescues Stromwell from an attempt on his life and them carries him while leaping across the rooftops. There’s a great moment in “Batman Carries Stromwell” when the bystander of the explosion’s aftermath manages to catch sight of Batman.

“Wow, he’s really out there!”

0:36 to 0:43 is my favorite portion of that cue with its exquisite brass.

There are, however, two moments in the score that stand out the most and for different emphases.

“Stromwell Sees Joey” is beautifully tragic and tender as Batman brings Stromwell to the drug rehab where it’s revealed that his son Joey has been in withdrawal. The haunting church bell and flute work that brings them into the Sunrise Foundation is amazing and to hear the music crescendo into despair as the burden of consequence falls onto Stromwell’s shoulders is just fantastic. Walker gets the majority of the credit for “Batman: The Animated Series,” but Ritmanis (and later McCuistion) more than deserve the kudos as well.

The second is more action oriented with “Thorne’s Men Move In” and Thorne’s Men Chase Stromwell.” The music intensifies this terrifying idea that even as Stromwell feels the need for redemption, the violence that he’s created throughout his life...now symbolized by Thorne and his men...is closing in and suffocating him, forcing him to flee into an uncertain future until he finds salvation in the form of his brother, Michael.

Not to be forgotten, Batman gets a lot of great brass work as he fights not so much to save the day as he does to give Michael the chance he needs to convince Stromwell to do the right thing.




----------

“Pretty Poison”




With the combined efforts of Walker, Ritmanis and now the inclusion of Michael McCuistion, the bedazzling Poison Ivy makes her debut into the series musically with “Pretty Poison.”

The score starts off literally on a haunting note with a lone flute and I think it idea that McCuistion is working with is one of Poison Ivy being represented by woodwinds; more earthy, textural sounds like the wind coursing through a flute and the more organic constructs of the oboe and the clarinet since they’re made of wood...of flora as opposed to the metallic edge of the brass.





Extending this theory further, we have a wonderful track adding to the luster of Batman and doing so with brass in “Batman Catches a Chopper/Chopper Crashes/Rooftop Chase.” I always loved how the music added to this scene that jumps back and forth between Harvey Dent describing Bruce Wayne to Isley and Batman’s actions either contradicting the statement (“Bruce runs with a high class crowd.”) or cleverly punching up the gag (“He still manages to get his kicks!”) and there’s genuine action-serial suspense in the brass work as the convict raises a handy pipe in order to incapacitate Batman on the roof. All of it comes back to Batman’s dominance with low, ominous strings as he overcomes his opponent.

“I’m your worst nightmare.”

“A Little Plant Muzak” also presents a great dichotomy, this time focusing on the dual truths of Poison Ivy...both the plant itself and, in extension, the villainess for the episode.

The cue, playing on Isley’s radio as source music at first while Batman makes his way into her greenhouse, starts with a beautiful soothing instrumental that sets the atmosphere of this location at night with an impression of gorgeous mystique. However, as the track plays on, we get these stingers of snarling brass threat as Batman falls into trap after trap of defense along the way before it culminates in his capture at the vines of a mutated Venus fly trap.

What this does is create a musical representation for Poison Ivy. One the one hand, she’s obviously a beautiful woman with all of the attraction and allure that being so implies, drawing you in with soothing eroticism and intrigue. But hiding behind that veil is a truly deadly force of nature. She’ll distract you with her pedals just before she strikes out at you with her barbs. McCuistion translates this idea into music extremely well and it’s very effective.





A personal favorite from the “Pretty Poison” score absolutely has to be “Batman vs. Poison Ivy;” specifically the cue that begins as Batman kicks Ivy away and begins to escape the clutches of her monstrous fly trap. The strings here are particularly striking, creating a tense situation that rings echoes of the supposedly hopeless death traps Batman had to endure in the 60s television series. It’s a piece of music with beautiful scope and emotion as Ivy feels the pain of loss as her precious plants are engulfed in the flames of explosion.

----------

“Christmas with the Joker”



The Joker’s debut episode in the series introduces us to the animated rendition of the Clown Prince of Crime on the most unlikely and, as a result, most perfect of scenarios.

The holiday season.

Shirley Walker and her duo cohorts have their work cut out for her having to deliver a score that’s not only Batman oriented and rightfully compelling and dramatic but also endowed with the spirit and music of Christmas; perhaps not the easiest feats on paper but Shirley absolutely pulls off a great score and a lot of it has to do with her approach to the narrative.

In the same way that the show’s producers and writers brought a sense of fictional inspiration to the series (not just drawing simply from the comics, but also from films, television, culture, etc.), Shirley employs the same method for crafting a score set right in the heart of Christmas in Gotham City.





A lot of the material for the Joker, given the center-piece of his Christmas Special, is gussied up and very infectiously fun. Inspired by the musical atmosphere of Variety shows, such as the ones popularized by Carol Burnett and the Brady Bunch, the track “Pukey Christmas Music/Christmas With The Joker/Game Show Music” is a wonderful ode to the aforementioned as the Joker’s theme is rendered in brisk trumpet work and the holiday atmosphere rears its head tenfold with everything from sleigh bells to the merry clopping of horse hoofs.

The action presents itself in various cues with amazing scope for a score that essentially accompanies twenty minutes worth of narrative.





I love the intensity of “The Train Crashes,” as Batman and Robin race to save the passengers and conductor of a train speeding towards certain doom after the Joker’s blown up the President’s Bridge. The brass work, fluttering with ferociousness and aggression, is great stuff!

There’s also “Observatory Cannon/Cannon Out Of Control/Robin Blows Up Cannon.” My favorite piece of music in this one comes twenty eight seconds in with an awesome four-note motif as the Joker’s cannon wreaks havoc on Gotham City.

The same drive from the Train sequence makes another impression on “Drive to Laffco Toy Factory” as Batman and Robin finally arrive at the Joker’s lair to save his hostages.

But not before we get a wonderful tip of the hat to legendary composer Peter Tchaikovsky’s and his iconic music for “The Nutcracker” with renditions of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “The Russian Dance” with the additional lacing of Batman material. It’s a great fusion of both the melodrama of the series with the spirit of Christmas as Batman and Robin duel with giant toy soldiers and dive-bombing toy airplanes.

Everything ends on a great send off to Christmas as a zany organ plays out the Joker singing “Deck the Halls” in his cell at Arkham, only to end with a venomous brass sour note as the madness of the Joker reclaims the character, abolishing any tidings of joy.

“Merry Christmas.”

----------

“Two-Face” Part I






Perhaps the darkest of the scores compiled here, Shirley Walker creates a piece built upon a competent foundation of psychosis that lyrically represents the tragic descent of Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent into the ‘Big Bad Harv’ split personality that will eventually manifest into Two-Face.

The flute work here is absolutely tremendous, and it creates a dramatic sound that instantly synonymizes itself with Two-Face in a beautifully poetic 9 note theme that first appears in “Harvey’s Nightmare” as Dent is faced with a dream image of a shadowy figure flipping a coin.

After his dream, the score takes us forward with “Dent’s Soap Box” and Shirley crafts a rightfully noble platform to represent Harvey as a crusading District Attorney, full of political pomp and circumstance as it paints a portrait of a righteous official that the citizens of Gotham can be proud of.




My favorite track from the score is definitely “Batman Tracks Dent” and I especially love the pursuit itself as the cue reaches an aggressive display of bongo percussion while Bruce watches form a window as Thorne’s men lead Harvey into a limousine bound for a meeting with the crime boss.

There’s a real power of flight as the image of Batman swinging through Gotham and landing onto a bus driving beside the limo carries a wonderful flourish of Walker’s Batman theme with it. Interestingly, the theme also seems to carry an extra weight given the context of Bruce desperately attempting to save his friend from an abyss he’s falling into. The theme feels more urgent, more apt and heroic. As Batman makes the move to plant a tracer onto the limo, you feel the desperation for him to make the shot...you feel a need for Batman to succeed for Harvey more than any of the other feats he’d achieved by that point in the series.

“Part I,”not to be outdone by the other scores, ends with incredible force courtesy of “Split Personality/Harvey/Big Bad Harv” as Batman and Harvey, now slave to his alternate personality, do battle with Thorne’s men in order to claim Dent’s psychiatric file at the root of Thorne’s blackmail. I really love a particular 7 note sequence that appears twice in the track...first when Candice, Thorne’s Hench girl, describes the fight as “Wild...” and we cut to this great shot of Batman dishing out a fierce punch before it’s amped up even more by pulling out of the window and casting Batman in silhouette as he grabs a charging goon and flips him out of frame. It appears once more as Dent gives chase to Thorne before the explosion mortally wounds Harvey, changing his life forever.

The score ends with the full culmination of the Two-Face theme as Harvey’s disfigurement is revealed to his would-be fianc√© Grace and he disappears from the hospital into the night.

----------

“Two-Face” Part II



An extension of the foundations laid out by the score for “Part I,” a lot of these cues stand out with incredible conviction and emotion and are among my favorites from the entire album.





I absolutely love the anguish and remorse of “Bruce Wayne’s Nightmare” as Bruce envisions his failing of Harvey. The track swells with incredible strings before falling into tragedy with a hollow cymbal as Batman’s subconscious parallels the loss of his friend with the loss of his parents. Such a breathtaking piece of music; one might think I’m just speaking highly of the score work on principle but rest assured, this material deserves all the praise it earns.

“Why couldn’t you save us, son?”






Another favorite is the theme Shirley created for Batman’s transport via the Batcycle; it’s not really a superficial theme for the vehicle or even for Batman, but an emotional theme conveying the drive and determination Batman feels in his quest to make amends for the failure he holds himself accountable for.

You know that idea I mentioned in the score for Part I, about the Batman theme carrying the burden of this case being so personal for Bruce?

Walker makes good on this concept with “What About Grace?” as the theme is played heartier and with a slower tempo as Batman confronts Two-Face for the very first time. The Two-Face theme makes more delicate undertone appearances before Batman’s theme in this manner flourishes once more when one of Dent’s twin goons interrupts Batman’s efforts to persuade Harvey back from the brink. It’s a beautiful moment both in the episode and the score and, again, you can sense Batman’s yearning to still help his friend regardless of the criminal he’s become.






The best part of the “Two-Face Part II” score ends the episode with “The Great Equalizer/Where There’s Love.”

In a clever parallel to the end of the first part, Batman and Dent once more partner up to fight their common enemy as Thorne and his men, after manipulating Grace to lead them to Two-Face, decide to kill them. The epic hits when a lush brass cue arrives in the form of a 3-note motif as Two-Face rescues Batman from Thorne’s attempt to gun him down. I love that they even get Grace into the mix as she takes out Candice!

The score ends with a gorgeously sad version of the Batman theme (which was actually used earlier in the show in the episode “Nothing to Fear” when Bruce visits his parents grave after defeating the Scarecrow) as Batman flips Two-Face’s coin into a nearby fountain, wishing for a little luck that his friend will someday recover from the psychological scars he’s endured.

----------

“Joker’s Favor”







The cartoon-motif foundation for the Joker rears its head yet again with “Joker’s Favor,” capped with its sub main title; the theme for pencil pusher nobody Charlie Collins. Prominent for its casual whistling and ho-hum tempo (almost reminiscent of the “Otis” theme from “Superman: The Movie”), it’s a great way of musically conveying the fact that we’re in for a ride, watching one of Gotham’s non-descript citizens get caught up in a whirlwind between Batman and the Joker.

The pace is picked up as we hit the road with Charlie in “Cussing out the Joker” and the music makes you feel as frustrated with the hustle and bustle of Gotham as Charlie is. I especially love the bit of comic timing a minute into the track. After it’s revealed that Charlie is trash talking the Joker of all people, marked with the Clown Prince’s theme, Walker punches up Charlie being taken aback by the reveal with a comical oboe as he comes to the grim realization that the one person he finally decides to stand up to just HAD to go and be the single more dangerous criminal in the city. Story of his life, right?

“Joker’s Hideout” crafts a more sinister edge for the Joker with its suspenseful string work and another track of prominence is the source material created for Harley’s intrusion at the Policeman’s Ball, with rolling snare drums of authority and utilitarian brass meant to gain the sympathy and approval of the Gotham Police Department in attendance.

The score ends with a dazzling flight, combining dramatic string work, the heroic yet suspenseful brass and baroque nature of Batman’s theme and the whimsy of Joker’s cartoon xylophones as Charlie finally manages to be somebody in his aid with apprehending the Joker.





“Batman Saves the Commissioner” creates a thick air of tension as Batman thinks fast to shoot the Joker’s dynamite out of the skylight before it kills Gordon and the other officers.

Charlie’s theme rounds out at the score as he starts to head home with a newfound appreciation for being an Average Joe after the insanity he’s been a part of. Where once the theme was oppressive and a stigma for his lot in life, it’s almost as though Charlie welcomes it...along with lovely visions of his wife Bonnie’s overcooked meat loaf.

----------

“Vendetta”






  
After the zaniness of “Joker’s Favor,” things take another darker turn with McCuistion’s score for the debut Killer Croc episode “Vendetta.”

Given that the story for this one is embroiled in mystery and intrigue, particularly concerning Harvey Bullock and his methods of contorting police procedure (which would play into “A Bullet for Bullock” later on), the score is rightfully moody and atmospheric starting with “Conway is Abducted” as Spider Conway is kidnapped during his escorted departure from Stonegate Penitentiary to testify against Rupert Thorne.

This atmosphere also courses through the track “A Clue,” as Batman’s investigation of the Penitentiary docks following the explosion of Conway’s police convoy boat turns up one of Bullock’s trademark toothpicks. Beginning with a wonderful flourish of Batman’s theme as the Batboat powers on to Stonegate, notice the use of harps and woodwinds as Batman climbs up onto the dock and conducts his search.

“Another Clue” plays us into one of my favorite scenes in the episode as Batman silently stalks the Gotham Police Department’s records, turning up Bullock’s file to assistance in his investigation with the case.

I’ve always loved that “Batman: The Animated Series” took its time, investing in the idea of Batman being the world’s greatest detective.

Crime fighting isn’t all gadgets and fisticuffs.

Whether it was Batman’s refusal to waste time attending a Police Rally in “Shadow of the Bat part I” or this unglamorous scene of sifting through dingy filing cabinets, this caped crusader was always depicted with competence; a sleuth with his priorities in order to not only win the day, but win it through intelligence and patience.

“Croc’s Cave/Killer Croc” introduces our villain of the piece and it’s very horror-driven and dramatic play on classic monster movie music with thrumming percussion and boisterous brass. This element plays on throughout the remainder of McCuistion’s material with “Batman Chases Croc” and especially “Sewer Fight” as the two duel in an open area of the Gotham sewers.

Batman’s theme gets a great militant rendition a minute into “Batman Chases Croc” and the action material is rightfully kinetic and bombastic, representative of Croc’s brute strength.





The moodiness of the earlier tracks returns with “Bullock Gets The Croc” as Batman and Bullock, while still at odds with one another, come to some sense of mutual respect after Batman successfully apprehends Killer Croc for Harvey. The strings are very heavy and dramatic and make a great testament for the portrayal of corruption and complexity in the Police Department that this particular episode taps into.

----------

“Perchance to Dream”







“Perchance to Dream” opens with Shirley Walker’s fluttering theme for the Mad Hatter and it’s tremendous to just consider the amount of time and attention to detail Walker and her fellow composers took to give every single major villain their own theme to carry them musically just as Batman gets to do with his theme.





Easily one of the highlights of the entire collection, there’s “My Life Is A Dream” as Walker crafts a variation of the Batman theme that’s tender and uplifting as Bruce decides to stop questioning his parents being alive and convince himself that their murders and his decision to become Batman was nothing more than a nightmare that he’s finally woken from. It’s beautiful and yet, ultimately, heartbreaking.

The brass goes for broke in “Climbing the Church Tower” as Bruce takes matters into his own hands and resolves to put an end to whatever’s happening to him. This ushers in one of the iconic scenes from the series as Bruce Wayne is confronted by none other than Batman and the men duel for supremacy after Bruce realizes that he’s in a dream. Given that we’re being assaulted with a larger than life version of the Mad Hatter theme, it symbolizes the idea that Bruce is a speck at this point, completely engulfed in an unnatural wonderland of the Hatter’s own making where Tetch towers from above as puppet master and God.





“Your Own Private Wonderland/Back To Reality” is a fantastic cue, particularly for the end where, after another flourish of the Hatter’s theme, we’re given a rendition of the Batman theme that’s admittedly slightly vulnerable after the violation that Batman has suffered from the episode. And yet it carries on as the dark knight does, stirring back up into brass as the episode closes.

----------

“Birds of a Feather”







The final score on the album, a twittering of violins akin to the coos and tweets of birds bring us into the musical world of Oswald Cobblepot as his theme with “Criminal Spohistication,” once more composed by Shirley Walker herself, presents itself in two striking formats; both as representation of the high societal statesman the Penguin aspires to be recognized as and the menacing umbrella-armed thug all of Gotham knows him to be.

It’s amazing how Shirley could so perfectly encapsulate all of the characters with every theme she crafted; you can feel the waddling of the orchestra’s instruments and the note composition as they perform the Penguin theme and it’s remarkable.

The music takes flight with sweeping romanticism as Oswald begins his courtship of socialite Veronica Vreeland. The angelic harp and string work is magnificent and certainly worthy of regal light the Penguin wishes to be cast in.

This bird motif carries on in cues such as “Penguin vs. Muggers” with a lot of fast flute and string work, and the brass perfectly bolsters Cobblepot’s sense of authority in bettering his opponents before the Batman theme swoops in on the scene.

Topped with a somber motif of the Batman theme melody, “The Drop/Rubber Duckie Ride”is laced with malice and suspense as Pierce makes the ransom drop for the kidnapped Veronica. A minute and twenty seconds in, the cue gives us a wonderful expression of simplicity with a bit of string-plucking. It’s minimal and very effective in creating a threatening atmosphere that still maintains the presence of the Penguin.





The score soars to theatrical heights with “The Penguin’s Opera/High Society” as Batman and the Penguin’s conflict literally takes center stage in an abandoned opera house. The Penguin’s theme, in all its brilliance, immerses itself in the cue. There’s a wonderful moment near the climax of the track about a minute and forty seconds in where the themes for both the Penguin and Batman intertwine with one another in the battle for supremacy and, as with every conflict of theirs, the dark knight triumphs.

The “High Society” cue of the track ends on a note of sympathy for Oswald as he condemns Vreeland for her hateful actions and the Batman theme sees our hero’s silent departure, insinuating that even though he had to defeat the Penguin, he feels as much empathy towards him as the audience does.

----------





The album ends with the reprise of Batman’s theme that played out every episode with the “End Credits” and it’s nearly as classic as the opening theme itself.




The album also gratefully includes the revamped opening theme created for when the show was changed into "The Adventures of Batman & Robin;" not as iconic as the original theme, but still classic for those of us who grew up with the series.
 

 Even after all of that incredible work, the album still sees fit to give us a final treat as it presents the full audition tape for Shirley Walker herself as she presents her ideas for the possible Batman theme (supposedly to Timm and Radomski; most likely with studio execs and such in attendance as well).

It’s just astonishing to consider the brilliance of her theme played by full orchestra...now condensed to its humble beginnings at Shirley’s own hands on the simple piano. It speaks volumes for the power of the music; it’s just as effective in her audition!

Much like the show it served for 85 episodes, the music of “Batman: The Animated Series” is everything; timeless, classic, bombastic, thematic, operatic.

Epic.

It’s a beautiful representation of Batman musically and it will continue to stand the test of time.

I can only hope that, someday, future collections are released; this is only a tiny piece of the symphonic mosaic Shirley Walker and her fellow composers created.
----------------------------------------


   
Shirley Walker

 
Lolita Ritmanis

 
Michael McCuistion


 
Chas Blankenship's Bat-Mania 2012 is Proud to Present "Music of the Bat;" Shirley Walker's audition tape:

 

No comments:

Post a Comment