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Oscars: ‘Candyman’ Marks the Rare Horror Film to Compete for Best Original Score

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The rare horror contender, “Candyman” features an electro-acoustic score by New York composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe that contributes to the eerie and ultimately terrifying atmosphere of Nia DaCosta’s update of the 1992 classic.

“Candyman” was co-written and produced by Jordan Peele and wound up among the year’s top 20 grossing films. Lowe spent more than nine months composing music for it.

“To be able to enhance the story by way of creating a score that exists as a character within the landscape of the film, that’s most important to me,” says Lowe.

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The appeal? “The racial overtones of the film, the history of brutality and trauma for Black bodies, concepts of ancestry, folklore, mythology, stories that are handed down orally.”

Lowe actually lived within a few blocks of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project while in his 20s, and returned to those now-abandoned row houses that are the focus of the film to capture the sounds of the place. Lowe recorded “the wind rushing through the buildings, the creaking of doors, [sounds inside] old electrical boxes, insects around. Also, I prompted some of the actors to say certain words or phrases into the recorder. Then I took those words and phrases and granularly processed them down to where they were no longer understandable as a word or voice, and used those as textural elements within the score.”

In fact, most of the vaguely recognizable voice sounds are those of either Lowe himself or his friend, Oscar-winning Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker”); she also plays cello on the score.

“I also had [actor] Colman Domingo say ‘Candyman’ and really crushed it, made it into a buzzing, skittering sound. … I was treating a lot of the voices, and sounds in general, as apparitions. It’s almost like you have all of these ghosts weaving in and out of the story, or imparting their own particular story, in different moments throughout the film.”

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Lowe used a variety of modern techniques to create a mood of unease, an atmosphere of dread — but, he notes, “without providing any emotional bias. If you lay it on too thick it becomes coy. I like the idea of playing with illusion, something that factors quite heavily into this film — this concept of reflection, illusion, reality versus fantasy. …

“Technically, ‘Candyman’ is a horror film, but it works on other levels. There are whimsical moments within the score.”

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Former HBO Exec Len Amato Joins MasterClass as Chief Content Officer

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Len Amato, a 13-year veteran of HBO, joined MasterClass as chief content officer at the company that sells subscriptions to celebrity-led online courses.

In the new role, Amato will head up MasterClass’ content organization and help lead content innovation, strategy and development of class launches. He reports to David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass.

Amato formerly served as president of HBO Films, Miniseries and Cinemax before he departed in late 2020. Most recently, Amato was an executive producer on HBO’s upcoming limited series “The White House Plumbers” through his production company Crash&Salvage, where he will continue to produce independently.

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MasterClass provides access to more than 150 online courses led by experts and celebs including James Cameron, Shonda Rhimes, Ken Burns, Jodie Foster, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Nas, Gordon Ramsay, Bob Iger, Metallica, Issa Rae, RuPaul, and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. An annual membership to MasterClass starts at $180/year.

“Len has been a pioneer in creating premium, original content, and I’m thrilled to welcome him to the team,” Rogier said in a statement. “His passion for storytelling, proven leadership and ability to attract talent will help us expand and innovate, providing even more ways to transform our members’ lives through our content.”

“MasterClass is setting a new standard for premium content with its cinematic value and ability to intimately connect world-class instructors with its members,” Amato said. “I’m excited to continue to democratize learning by bringing these stories to life in new ways and scale the impact of our content.”

Amato joined HBO in 2007 as a senior VP and was promoted to president of HBO Films the following year. Under his leadership, HBO Films earned best television movie Emmys for originals including “Grey Gardens,” “Temple Grandin,” “Game Change, “Behind the Candelabra,” “The Normal Heart” and “Bessie.”

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Prior to joining HBO, Amato served as president of Spring Creek Productions. His producer and executive producer credits include “Analyze This” and “Analyze That,” “Possession,” “Deliver Us From Eva,” “Rumor Has It,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Astronaut Farmer.” Amato also was story editor for Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions. He started his film career in New York as a story analyst for various independent producers and studios. Prior to his career in the film industry, Amato was a musician and actor.

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Music Industry Moves: FKA Twigs Partners With Atlantic Records

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Along with her “Caprisongs” mixtape on Friday came the news that FKA Twigs has “partnered with Atlantic Records for this next exciting phase of her art,” according to the announcement. In the U.K., she will continue to release music via the Young label (formerly Young Turks) through Beggars Group.

“FKA twigs is the kind of artist you dream of signing — one with truly original vision, voice, and presence,” said Atlantic chairman-COO Julie Greenwald.  “She’s among the most compelling talents, always pushing her creative envelope to deliver emotionally honest music that’s both intensely personal and universal. We’re thrilled that she’s chosen Atlantic to be her home as she continues on her fantastic musical adventure.”

“The progression of FKA twigs’ music over the past decade has been extraordinary,” said chairman-CEO Craig Kallman. “She’s never content to stay in one place – constantly crossing musical boundaries, embracing fresh sounds, telling new stories, and exploring what’s next. An amazing vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, and producer, she’s barely scratched the surface of her potential, and we’re incredibly excited to see what she’ll be bringing her fans in the years to come.”

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+ Artist-services company AWAL has promoted Jennifer Kirell to senior vice president of catalog & retail marketing. Based in New York, she will report directly to Ron Cerrito, president of AWAL North America, and oversee and support artist and label partners. Prior to joining AWAL, Kirell spent 11 years with Sony Music Entertainment at Legacy Recordings, where she led global marketing campaigns and audience development strategies for artists including Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash and others. Cerrito said, “Jennifer is a goal minded, follow-through obsessed, results oriented, serial over achiever with a deep understanding of modern music marketing.  She is also a thoughtful leader and people manager. We are proud Jen is a member of our executive team and look forward to continuing to redefine catalog and retail marketing into the future.”

The 2021 deal that saw Kobalt selling AWAL to Sony for $430 million remains under review by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

+ RCA Records has named Alex John director of publicity. She joins after two years at Red Bull Records, where she worked with Blxst, the Aces and producer WondaGurl. Over the course of her seven years in the business has also worked for Listen Up (where she worked with Martin Solveig, Kevin Saunderson, Jamie Jones and others), FYI Brand Group (Jhené Aiko, Tyga, DJ Khaled) and M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment (Sprite, Coca-Cola, WAV Media).

 

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