MP3 John R Graham - Long Flat Balls II aka Lange Flate Baller II
This score for the hit film, Long Flat Balls II starring Don Johnson and Petter Jorgensen, is by turns driving and exciting, lyrical, retro, and comic. A dramatic, touching score.
25 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Film Music, KIDS/FAMILY: Kid Friendly
Graham’s score for Long Flat Balls II (aka Lange Flate Ballaer II) covers a tremendous amount of ground – by turns driving, tender, funny, and nutty – in order to serve Harald Zwart’s brilliant, funny film. The movie packs in plenty of humor, but is touching and thoughtful as well, stealthily planting seeds of a deeper story even as the comedic confusion, pratfalls and misunderstandings mount in the first half of the film. Zwart adds the American actor Don Johnson to his cast from the original Long Flat Balls, with Johnson playing an American Admiral taking part in joint military exercises in Norway. He collides with the EdGarage team, which is taking a tour of duty in the Norwegian military for national service.
Drawing together its many different plot threads, Graham creates a sound for the film using orchestral instruments, piano, and large percussion resources (synthetic and natural) to drive the action sequences. The strings are at times driving and staccato, at other times lyrical, then austere senza vibrato or flutey sul tasto; plenty of brass and percussion help build action scenes; and woodwinds add color and keep the score dancing away from seriousness.
Part of the goal for Graham was to make sure that the more serious threads in the plot got enough support early on so that they were not a jolt later, but also to avoid giving the game away or undercutting the fun and humor. Moreover, maintaining unity of sound is a challenge in a film that features such a range; from toilet jokes, to helicopter attacks, to a 2-year-old child, nuclear threats, to President Bush’s sober and dignified performance.
Central to the emotional heart of the film is the relationship between Petter, one of the EdGarage crew (and inventor of the “Turbonator”) and his tiny daughter, Mie. The evolution of this relationship lifts an already funny and entertaining film to a much higher and more satisfying level. Graham’s piano-based theme for the little girl and her father is plaintive and fragile, without being sentimental or condescending; he takes the child and the relationship seriously but it has quiet happiness and even contentment as well.
Supporting the genuineness of the threat that the nuclear submarine represents later in the film represented a challenge in two ways. Graham said, “making the threat of the sub ‘real’ is crucial to the film. Without that, Petter’s strength of character and that of his fellow EdGarage team just won’t be evident. At the same time, it’s a comedy, so you have to be careful not to turn it into ‘War of the Worlds.’”
“Freddie Moves Out,” the first track (though it appears late in the film), uses a fast tempo and steadily building intensity to generate a sense of urgency in the main dramatic thread of the film. Musically, this piece is more motivic than thematic, using both orchestral and synthetic percussion to drive the action forward. Throughout the sequence, everything is in motion. The military is on high alert while Freddie is racing to retrieve the Turbonator, Petter’s invention that, it turns out, may save the world. Meanwhile, Mie’s mother rushes into town, Mie herself is evacuated via helicopter, and the population flees in terror. This cue drives forward with marcato string figures, timpani and plenty of additional percussion, while violins and French Horns also touch on the worry of those imperiled by the nuclear submarine that is about to launch missiles world wide (again, the movie really is a comedy). The trick here is to make sure that all this urgency gets conveyed without veering into too much seriousness, on the one hand, or trivializing the moment, on the other.
For “The Gate,” track two, Graham composed a delicate, simple piano theme accompanied by sul tasto strings for Petter and his tiny daughter, Mie. The theme is at once tender and loving but, harmonically, it remains relatively austere and unsentimental, avoiding the third of the chord or resting on suspensions. The piano melody is deliberately simple and gentle, in keeping with the very young child, but the complex bowing and frequent register shifts in the strings evoke the shifts in emotion as the scene develops. Petter, at real risk to himself, is about to enter the nuclear submarine attempt to avert nuclear annihilation. As he is walking by a security fence, he catches sight of his tiny daughter peeking out from behind the woman who’s been looking after her. Petter comes over to her, kneels, and as he speaks to her, apologizing for ignoring her, he begins to cry.
In “Arrested,” the EdGarage gang is in trouble with the military and gets hustled off for national service. The winds take center stage in this cue, with plenty of color from percussion and brass, and percolating marcato strings. The key to this piece is to make sure that, although the guys are getting arrested, it’s kind of a jolly, funny arrest – not the other kind.
“Gates of Hell” takes the team into the army proper, where they are getting their equipment and coping with reentry to military life. Musically, this is led by warlike brass and percussion, with wind and mallet flourishes to produce the appropriate military air of discipline, discipline, discipline. Woodwinds take over at the end to remind us that this is a funny army, and to keep things colorful and lively.
“Dear God No!” introduces Helge, Ed’s nephew and – unfortunately for the guys – an officer. The music’s stilted, march-like air, along with a sly English Horn melody, evokes Helge’s embrace of military philosophy – “twenty-four / seven.”
“Night” introduces Mie and Petter’s relationship and takes the scene into a gentle, thoughtful mode in order to lay groundwork for that relationship blooming into the main drama of the film later on. The music floats around a scene that is light and joking, investing it with a little more sincerity and depth than would be called for if the child were only in the film as a source of jokes and pratfalls. The musical intention is to set this thread early in the film, as this relationship takes on more weight and beauty as the movie develops.
“Diaper” is straight comedic writing, with the bass clarinet and bassoons starting things off. The next morning, Petter delivers Mie to school in military style.
In “Mission Briefing” and “Radar Attack,” the music follows the military vein a little further, but keeps it relatively light, using a tuba for the main theme in “Mission Briefing,” decorating with woodwinds, and going somewhat retro in “Radar Attack” with flutter-tongued alto flutes, muted brass, vibes, and “big brass” as the helicopters swoop in.
“Sarping (Bloody Head)” accompanies Petter as he goes to pick up Mie, shocking her teachers, and giving him an idea…. Musically, bass and tuba accompany bassoon and English Horn, along with strings, winds, and various mallet instruments. This is strictly for fun.
“Mom from Hell” introduces Oyvind’s mother who, sadly, lectures him in a somewhat aggressive tone reminiscent of her approach in the first “Long Flat Balls” film. The harpsichord is intended to suggest her brittleness and – ah – otherworldliness.
In “Gladiator,” Petter tries with an impassioned speech to motivate Helge’s martial spirit. This motivational effort only succeeds when Petter, in a moment of inspiration, asks Helge if he’s seen the film ‘Gladiator.’ After Helge’s enthusiastic response, Petter uses the Academy-Award-Winning film in order to inspire the aggressive, offensive spirit in his Superior Officer. It’s all strength and honor.
“Headquarters / The Flag” takes us back to the Admiral’s command center, where Don Johnson learns more about Petter’s hidden talents and we get a clear instance also of his sense of honor. The music here restates the theme in French Horns and strings underlining military duty from “Decorated Hero.” This is another unusual attribute of the film that created a tricky dichotomy for the score – on the one hand, the EdGarage guys could hardly be less military or serious, but there is real reverence for genuine service and sacrifice in the film as well. The score plays both sides of this fence too, mocking Helge’s officiousness but honoring real heroism.
By the time we get to the “Death Zone” map we are learning just how lethal the problem is that faces the U.S. Navy. With nuclear disaster hanging in the balance, the Admiral asks for the EdGarage team’s help. Petter looks at the group and responds in the affirmative, using a characteristically earthy expression, underlined by a musical fanfare into the next scene. We learn a bit more about Petter when he tells the presiding officer in “Not Doing This for the Admiral” that he has other motivations for trying to save the world.
“Godspeed” sends our intrepid band into the depths of the nuclear submarine to try to save humanity. It’s a somewhat spooky, mysterious situation, with gasses and steam escaping all around the guys. The music builds tension as the guys feverishly work to put the submarine right. Half-step related harmony and strings in very high register, senza vibrato, along with echoing percussion figures and brass mutes help make things spooky. Marcato strings take over with a horn accompaniment as the concern develops to a head with winds and pitched percussion highlighting the buildup. Everything looks ok, but suddenly….
In “The Real Problem” and “Evac Level 1 / Run for your Lives” the crisis deepens. Petter and the EdGarage team get closer to the root cause of the submarine’s distress but the situation grows ever more critical as the countdown to missile launch gets closer and closer. The music plays around with texture and rhythm, following the camera work as it winds around the complicated inner workings of the submarine. Naturally, since it’s a comedy, the music also evokes disaster movies of yesteryear and builds tension as Freddie begins his journey for the Turbonator while the populace flees in terror following news reports of imminent disaster.
Oyvind gets some “Big News” from Petter at the start of the next cue which relieves some of his worry, but the guys are right back to work. Meanwhile, news organisations throughout the world carry the story of the EdGarage gang. This cue continues the tension buildup but is punctuated with muted brass and woodwinds that ‘comment’ on the newscasts. At the end, the music dramatically underlines the importance of the Turbonator being secured by Freddie.
But things can’t be that easy and, in “Don’t Let Him In,” Freddie encounters tremendous difficulties bringing the Turbonator to where it belongs. This gets worse in “Seppuku Rising / Countdown,” as the submarine starts to do its deadly work. There is plenty to be scared about as we find out whether the EdGarage team will be able to forstall nuclear annihilation. This cue takes its tone from Don Johnson’s line, “God help us all,” with the scale – and choir of basses – appropriate to such a moment. The tension builds to a climax as the team works desperately to install the Turbonator and find out whether or not it will save humanity.
Relief in “She’s Communicating / Return of Seppuku” is all too brief as the team is reminded that not all the risk has been averted, with the deadly Seppuku still on its way, aimed right at the sub in which our guys may be entombed.
“New Heroes” puts the EdGarage team in the same position as the “Decorated Hero” that the Admiral occupies – genuine heroes, though you don’t know if they are dead or alive. The music adds violins and violas in triple octaves, with mallet and percussion decorating the texture.
In “Motorcade,” President Bush himself comes to Fredrikstad to exchange flags with the guys. The President is his usual articulate, noble self, and gets support from French Horns, military drums, strings, and timpani. Woodwinds usher us inside the EdGarage for the guys to receive praise from the leader of the Free World.
“Long Flat Balls II” is John R Graham’s 11th feature film score. He began his musical life as a saxophone player and singer in bands, studied music in England at Charterhouse School and in the United States at Williams College, Stanford University, and UCLA. He has composed, orchestrated and conducted for major studios in Los Angeles. John remains inspired by the beauty, gentility, and wildness of the countryside of Virginia, where he spent his childhood, and grateful for the strong literary background he received from his parents, both academics, with PhD’s in literature and aesthetics. He says, “having a strong interest in story lines and literature probably supports my writing more than the musical training I’ve had; I’m more of a writer, in a way, than a composer.”
Mr. Graham’s website is https://www.tradebit.com
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