Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Prehistoric Music

Not, literally, of course although there are people who have attempted to recreate such things as Mammoth skull drums.  No, this is about what music I play when I am painting prehistoric figures.  Of course I have a Prehistoric play list on my iTunes which has a surprisingly large amount of music in it.  First on the list is Benjamin Bartlett's truly excellent score for the BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs.  "Imagine you can travel back in time, to a time long before man," intones Kenneth Brannagh in the short spoken introduction to the first track.  Well, I certainly can with this evocative score.  Highlights are the lumbering The Ankylosaurus, Islands of Green, Secret Flight and, above all, Time of the Titans which accompanied the aerial sequence of sauropods walking down a valley which, as one TV critic said at the time, really brought a sense of wonder back to the small screen.  Oddly, it also reminds me of the Isle of Wight (or Dinosaur Isle as the local tourist board christened it a few years ago) as I bought this CD in the Dinosaur Isle museum in Sandown.  The score is performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Bartlett won the BAFTA for best TV score for Walking with Dinosaurs in 2000 as well as being shortlisted for an Emmy award.

Next on the list, naturally, is Walking with Beasts, Bartlett's follow up to Walking with Dinosaurs.  This also contains a few re-recorded (and therefore slightly different) cues from Walking with Dinosaurs and some music from one of the Walking with Dinosaurs specials, from which we get the theme music to Walking with Dinosaurs without Sir Kenneth. Best tracks are the title track, the Dies Irae inspired Lucky Escape and New Dawn.  Sadly, these are the only two Bartlett soundtracks that have been released, even though he went on to score Walking with Monsters and several Walking with Dinosaurs one off programmes.  Currently, you can hear his score for the second series of The Tunnel, which has just been released on DVD.

The soundtrack for Prehistoric Park by Daniel Pemberton (who went to the same school I did) is as good as Walking with Dinosaurs and, perhaps, melodically even stronger. Pemberton is a very prolific composer, with over a hundred TV and film credits to his name.  Recently he has been hired to score much bigger budget work, such as Steve Jobs (2015) and the recent Man from U.N.C.L.E.(2015) reboot.  Prehistoric Park was not nearly as successful a show as Walking with Dinosaurs (although it was made by the same team) and had a curious approach wherein the annoying wildlife presenter Nigel Marven supposedly goes through a time portal to collect prehistoric creatures for a modern park. Enjoyably, in Series 3 of Primeval (also made by Impossible Pictures who did the Walking with... and Prehistoric Park series) they had Marvin eaten by a dinosaur, in a sequence filmed at the Top Gear track at Dunsforld Aerodrome.  Best tracks are: Opening, Entering the Park, The Time Portal, Magical Flight and Mammoth Dawn.

Next on the list are two tracks from Hammer the Studio that Dripped Blood!  This features their horror scores, of course but also has an eight minute suite from One Million Years BC (1966) by Mario Nascimbene who is best known for his stirring score for  the Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis epic The Vikings (1958).  There is also a suite from Nascimbene's score from When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970).  Nascimbene would also score Creatures the World Forgot (1971) but, although he lived until 2002, he only produced one feature film score and some TV music after this.

The score for Primeval, by Dominik Scherrer, as do the Walking with... and Prehistoric Park scores mixes soaring orchestral music and percussive action cues.  The Swiss born, but London based ,Scherrer won an Ivor Novello award in 2014 for his soundtrack to Ripper Street, which is also in the Legatus' collection.  Best tracks in this are: Primeval Titles, Primeval Theme, Cretaceous Sea and Into the late Permian.

You can't have a prehistoric playlist without John Williams Jurassic Park of course, which contains some of his finest themes (indeed I might venture that it is  his last really memorable soundtrack).  Best tracks are: Theme from Jurassic Park, Journey to the Island and My friend, the Brachiosaurus.

Williams' follow up to Jurassic Park, The Lost World, was a very different score; eschewing the big themes of the first film for a much more percussive, dissonant score which, like the film itself, didn't go down quite as well.  It's actually a clever score but uses the Jurassic Park themes sparingly. Best tracks:  The Lost World, Malcolm's Journey and The Hunt.  Very difficult to come by, I had to get my copy from Hong Kong.

Although I enjoyed Michael Giacchino's score for the TV series Alias, I have never been that convinced by him as a big screen composer and felt his Star Trek scores (all for JJ Abrams) were rather weak.  This is a better score and although it quotes John Williams themes a lot there is some good original music too.  Best tracks:  As the Jurassic World Turns, Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus and The Hammond Lab Overture.

The final piece on my nine hours long Prehistoric playlist is an original composition, not a film or TV soundtrack.  The Lost World by Michael Stearns (who does produce TV and, especially, IMAX film soundtracks) is a sort of New Age journey into the rainforest which includes recordings of birds in the jungle in a sort of ambient version of Martin Denny's exotica records of the fifties.  It's a bit indescribable really but if you like the wailing Lisa Gerrard parts of Hans Zimmer's Gladiator score you will probably like this. Best tracks are: The Lost World Theme, Matawi: Killer of Men and Warao.  

Now, time to do some painting!

Mini-Prehistoric project: 1 Cavegirls and cavemen

A few days ago I was putting my painted Neanderthals away in one of my completed figures file boxes (they are resident in the Bronze Age box at present as I don't have a prehistoric one yet) and I found these five cavegirls.  These are Copplestone Castings figures, except the one on the right who is a slightly converted Founrdy Valkyrie. 

 Copplestone only do four cavegirl poses (Why? I would buy as many as he can sculpt!) so, back in 2010, I slightly converted the Valkyrie, added some longer hair to one of the others and bent some of the arms of the rest to add a bit of variety.  This was my first, very tentative use of Greenstuff.  Anyway, they sat in the box for five and a half years ignored and unloved (rather like this blog).

Feeling sorry for the ladies, when I put my Neanderthals away I got them out and undercoated them earlier this month. I realised they would need some weapons and soon discovered that Baueda do some Stone Age weapons.  I ordered the axes and clubs rather than the rather tree trunk like spears.  They arrived pretty quickly so I was able to arm the cavegirls and start putting some paint on them.

Actually, I discovered that I had some Copplestone weapons left over (they used to include slightly more weapons than figures in the packs) but I will need to use a couple of them for two of the three cavemen which I also found in the box and added to the workbench.

Yesterday, I put some more paint on these and hope to get some more done on them this week.  I am going to take this on as a mini project and see if I can get them finished before a probable two week business trip next month.  I have just realised, while looking at the Copplestone Castings page, that there is a set of these figures I don't have - cavemen characters.  So I have just bunged off an order to North Star.  Of course this will now give me 12 not eight figures to paint!

Monday, 20 June 2016


April 2014

I bought my first Lucid Eye Neanderthals at Salute in 2014.  They are some of the heaviest 28mm figures I have ever owned and the leader (available separately) is a strapping 34mm tall.  I based and undercoated them as soon as I got them home. 

May 2014

At the time I was concentrating on Alamo period Mexicans but they did get some initial paint on them by the first week in May.

May 2015

After this promising start nothing very much happened.  They sat on the paint table for a year and then at Salute 2015 I bought the second pack of Neanderthals which are really Neanderthals in cold weather clothing.  I based and undercoated these and the Cro Magnon leader,

September 2016

I had finished the skin on the first four figures but stopped as I was having trouble doing their eyes.  In September 2015 I started work on them again and also got some paint onto the final three figures.

March 2016

Things slowed down again but by early March 2016 the first four were nearly finished and I was getting on with the last three.

March 2016

I completed the first four in mid March and posed them in front of my Lost World backdrop.  You can read my post on them here and discover the ins and outs of Neanderthal.human/sex too.

May 2016

My focus could now switch to the last three figures and, just after a year after I bought them they started to come together and passed that tipping point I reach when I know that it is all downhill to finishing them.

I finished them on 24th May and they make a very nice raiding party.  Somewhere I have another pack of the first three Neanderthals and I am hoping to arm them with some different weapons which I got from Baueda.  All I have to do is find them!  Next I need to acquire the Cro Magnons!