Escape From L.A.
Milan 7313835773-2 - 1996

01. EFNY Main Title (2:07) (A)
02. History Of Los Angeles (2:09) (B)
03. Snakes Uniform (0:58) (C)
04. Submarine Launch (2:36) (D)
05. Sunset Boulevard Bazaar (2:03) (D)
06. Motorcycle Chase (2:23) (D)
07. Showdown (1:27) (C)
08. Beverly Hills Surgeon General (4:10) (B)
09. The Future Is Now (2:00) (D)
10. Hang Glider Attack (2:30) (D)
11. The Black Box (1:14) (D)
12. Escape From Coliseum (1:53) (D)
13. Helicopter Arrival (2:05) (D)
14. Fire Fight (2:49) (D)
15. Escape From Happy Kingdom (1:30) (D)
16. Crash Landing (1:38) (D)
(A) John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
(B) John Carpenter, Shirley Walker
(C) John Carpenter
(D) Shirley Walker
Escape From L.A.
Music Produced and Arranged by Shirley Walker
Orchestration by Lolita Ritmanis & Michael McCuistion
Electronic Valve Instrument: Nyle Steiner
Sample Synthesist: Jamie Muhoberac
Keyboard Synthesists: Mike Watts & Shirley Walker
Electronic Percussion Mike Fisher
Harmonicas: Tommy Morgan
Hammer Dulcimer: Daniel Greco
Guitars: John Goux
Bass Guitar: Nathan East
Rock Drums: John Robinson
Timpani Soloists: Tom Raney & Greg Goodall
Daiko Drum Soloist: Robert Zimmitti
Violin Soloist /Concert Master: Endre Granat
Soprano Oboe Solo: Jon Clarke

Music Contractors: Patti Zimmitti and Debbi Datz-Pyle
Music Preparation: Bob Bornstein
Score Mockups: Kristopher Carter
Supervising Music Editor: Thomas Milano, Segue Music
Assistant Music Editor: Jeanette Surga, Segue Music
Recorded and Mixed by Robert Fernandez
Additional Recording by Doug Botnick
Orchestra Recorded at Paramount Pictures, Scoring Stage M
Assisted by Paul Wertheimer, Dominic Gonzales and Norm Dlugatch
Score CD Mixed at Signet Sound Studios
Digital Editing by Jason Arnold at Capitol Studios, Hollywood
Mastered by Wally Traugott at Capitol Studios, Hollywood

Album Supervision and Production: David Franco
Package Supervision: Tricia Lutz
Album Art Direction: Andrew Kagan
Milan Executive Album Producers: Emmanuel Chamboredon and Toby Pieniek

Special Thanks to Debra Hill, Vas Vangelos, Don Walker, Tom Hardisty, Jeff Shannon, Don Thomas, and The Gang at Avenue L & 8th Street.

In 1997, an antihero named Snake Plissken took us on an unrelenting tour of a penitentiary called Manhattan. Guiding him through this slice of future hell was the music of director/composer John Carpenter, a self-taught synthesist who'd been playing his own scores since Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween. His eerie music for Escape From New York, written in association with Alan Howarth, turned the decaying Big Apple into a haunted jailhouse. It was a spare electronic atmosphere that would become the soundtrack for many Orwellian action fantasies.

Cut to 2013. This time the asylum is post-apocalypse Los Angeles, a new place for our fascist government to send its exiles. And once again, Snake Plissken is back in urban hell, at the bidding of an even slimier President. Synth music once again guides Snake, but this time it's fuller, weirder more fun. There's a different vibe going on here, one that tells Carpenter's fans that Shirley Walker is along for the ride. Together, they've expanded the sound of Escape From New York into a unique fusion of computer samples and ethnic instruments-all topped off with the blast of a full orchestra.

Composing music for Hollywood action pictures had traditionally been a guy's playground until Shirley Walker got into the testosterone game. An instrumentalist who worked her way up through the system, Walker would gain recognition for her orchestrating and conducting work with such star composers as Brad Fiedel, Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. Her symphonic talents played no small part in the grand, orchestral sound of True Lies, Backdraft and Batman. Before she would score such tv shows as Space: Above&Beyond and Batman - The Animated Series, Walker was given her cinematic break by John Carpenter on Memoirs of an Invisible Man. This successful collaboration made her the ideal composer to help Carpenter redefine the sound of Escape From New York.

"There's a Hollywood style that I've always stayed away from," Carpenter remarks. "Shirley describes me as a minimalist in terms of my music. I use a lot of repetitive lines, as opposed to the Max Steiner Mickey-Mousing that everybody does now. But when you're making a big film like Escape From L.A., you have to reach out to the audience with an orchestral feel. Because that kind of music isn't my strongpoint, I wanted to team up with a composer who had the symphonic experience. Shirley was the first person I thought of, and she said 'Why not? Let's do it!"'

"This sequel was an opportunity to get away from the big orchestral stuff that everybody in town knew I could do," Walker comments. "I was able to compose in another style, starting with an homage to John Carpenter. His music is very direct, minimalist and synthy. Using John's approach made me think about what would happen if I didn't play everything. At our first meeting, we talked about how to retain that quality for Escape From L.A., while bringing a symphonic element to the film. Though it's there throughout the score, we wanted the orchestra to become noticeable halfway through the film, and to build exponentially from there."

Carpenter and Walker devised a collaborative process that divided the score between them. The director composed his ideas at a home studio, often writing without the benefit of looking at his film. A tape of the improvisations was sent to Walker's studio the next day, whereupon an orchestrator transcribed Carpenter's work. "I'd see where John's music was going," Walker says. "I'd rewrite it, and pick up the tempo if I felt a scene needed more drive. I basically tailored John's material to fit the picture."

The duo's first task was to adapt the Escape From New York theme for the 21st century. "The theme was written in 1981 when Alan and I were using Prophets and other old synthesizers," Carpenter recalls. "I wanted to bring its sound up to date with the latest musical technology. Tom Milano, our music editor, tracked the original melody lines into the opening of Escape From L.A. Because the theme was a little slow, we re-sequenced it and sped up the tempo."

"My challenge was to change the theme without distorting it," Walker follows. "I did a demo version on my computer. When John heard it, he said 'This is always the way I wanted the theme to sound.' I tried to give it more of an industrial vibe in the studio, but John preferred my first approach. So I peeled off the layers of what I'd added until we had the theme sounding just right with a simpler melody line and a guitar."

Carpenter and Walker each wrote a new theme for Snake Plissken. Walker's suspenseful motif first appears as "Snake's Challenge," as he boards a submarine for L.A. This synth version picks up instrumental muscle until it turns into a full-blown orchestral climax for Snake's airborne escape from the Happy Kingdom. Carpenter's theme is a comic, "cowboy noir'' take on his anti-hero, one that lets Snake truly become the Man With No Name.

"When it comes to heroes and film music, a lot of people want to hear this orchestral 'da da da da duhhhh!"' Walker laughs. "It's got to be big chords, big brass, big percussion and all of that stuff. John wrote a great new theme for Snake Plissken which I added a harmonica and hammer-dulcimer to. When we heard those instrumental colors, John and I went 'Yeah! This is a western! This guy's an outlaw and a gunfighter!'"

"There's a lot of humor to the movie," Carpenter adds. Escape From L.A. is an adventure that keeps you riveted to the screen but doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a dark, dark film, yet you find yourself laughing through it. Shirley and I haven't written a happy, peppy score. Snake goes into a very dark and strange city and we needed to bring the audience along with a dark and strange score. But we're also having a good time with the music."

Carpenter and Walker devised Escape From L.A. as a musical roadmap for the dystopian future. Its journey begins with the military's icy synths. Then various grooves and ethnic instruments are introduced for the "neighborhoods" that Snake blasts his way through, finally climaxing in his orchestral get-away.

"I think the audience already knows Snake's character and what's he's gone through," Walker says. "This film puts Snake in a new environment and I wanted the music to do something different every time he turns around. It's not just a different street he's on. It's a different universe. It's as if the music is playing Snake's thought process. It has to figure out what the ground rules are so he can get from Point A to Point B and survive."

With Escape From L.A., Shirley Walker and John Carpenter have created a daringly unique score, fusing their musical backgrounds into a new sound for action scores, one that's as technologically new as it is symphonically old-fashioned.

"There was a fluidity to our collaboration that I've rarely experienced as a composer," Walker remarks. "Traditionally, directors are overwhelmed with the process of finishing a movie. But here we were having fun tooling around when we were supposed to be finishing the movie! Escape From L.A. has allowed me to write music that's completely different from anything I've composed before."

"I described myself to Shirley as 'the carpet guy,'" the director concludes. "I lay down music to support scenes. But I couldn't have pulled Escape From L.A. off, because this is a film that's more driving than anything I've composed before. While Shirley has carried on the spirit of Escape From New York, she's made it bigger, better and completely unique." - Daniel Schweiger

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