Randin Graves' scores for 'Saturnalia' and 'Shades of Treason' are a great pairing, both completed in 2011 for dramatic character studies based on true stories, both featuring mixes of electronic atmospherics and acoustic instrumentation, and both utilizing simple themes for different characters and concepts that evolve and combine over the course of their films. 'Saturnalia's' score is fairly short as there are also classical and rock songs used in the film, and 'Shades of Treason's' score features a lot of slow, ambient texture underneath dialogue that does not make a great album to listen to. With all of the above, the bulk of 'Saturnalia' (just missing a couple very short cues) and the best of 'Shades of Treason' combine well into one full length album.
'Saturnalia' - a Gustavo Mercado film
'Saturnalia' required a strong but sensitive score, but not a lot of it, as two of the main characters are an older man who often listens to classical music and his son who fronts a rock band. The score is essentially the third and final musical element tying the film together, with two main themes that are established separately but combine later in the film.
The opening track "Richard's First Last Stand" establishes the tense music for a man who finds himself pushed to extremes after the sudden loss of his wife and a forced retirement. His theme music needed to not stray too far from the classical music he loves, while being modern enough to distinguish itself and convey tension to a modern movie audience. Orchestral strings, a small brass section, bowed glass instruments and a little rhythmic electric guitar create Richard's tense music. The second track "Mourning a Wife and Mother" uses the same instruments minus electric guitar to establish the sadder version of Richard's music. Both the tense and sad versions recur and develop throughout the film.
Edey is the perhaps unstable homeless woman who sneaks into Richard's house and begins to see herself filling the shoes of his deceased wife. Her palette starts with the same instrumentation as Richard's to reflect her connection to him, as we only meet her in connection with his home and wife. However, dreamy synth and electric guitars are added to reflect the alternate reality she lives in. Her music hits an emotional peak early on with "Look in the Mirror" and hits darker moments in cues like "Edey's Decision" and a climax in "Edey's Last Stand."
As Richard and Edey's lives begin to cross, so does their music, as heard in "A Chance Encounter" where Edey's simplistic theme is superimposed over the music of "Mourning a Wife and Mother."
"You Did What You Could" is a brief tangent, as the one cue scored for the B storyline featuring Richard's son Neil and his girlfriend Jeannie.
'Shades of Treason' - a Rob Diamond / Loren Lambert film
'Shades of Treason' is a somewhat surreal film about John Walker Lindh, "the American Taliban," William Lee, a character very loosely based on the American CIA operative who died in a prison riot in Afghanistan immediately after interrogating Lindh, and the two men's fathers as they deal with what has happened with their respective sons. The philosophy and simplicity of the music are similar to 'Saturnalia' but the palette is different. Overall there is an ambient, atmospheric synthesizer texture coming from a few different sources, plus electric guitars (frequently ebowed fretless electric guitar) but there are additions as appropriate throughout the film to create distinct sounds for characters and concepts.
The music of William Lee, his father, and all things representing traditional American patriotism in the film adds four horns to the mix. These can be heard clearly in the opening of "Images of 9/11," in "Grief of a Father" and in the first part of "Moments of Forgiveness and Acceptance."
The music of John Walker Lindh and anything representing "the other" adds "ethnic" instruments, primarily suling (a Balinese bamboo flute) and middle eastern winds and percussion to the synth/electric guitar texture.
As with 'Saturnalia's' music for Richard and Edey, 'Shades of Treason's' music for Will Lee and John Lindh combine as appropriate to the film. This is heard most clearly in the opening titles track, "Shades of Treason" and the conclusion/End Titles of the film, "Shadows of Courage."
Special note must be taken of the track "Prayers of Penance" which features recitation of verse from the Q'uran. The "singer" reflected quite a bit on whether to participate in the film or not, and decided that the film was neither anti-American nor anti-Muslim and was a positive piece, looking to foster peace in the world rather than more division. He chose a beautiful passage that is appropriate for the film and the scene the music plays over. The recitation was recorded in Randin's studio, then he added the instrumentation around it. The "singer" chose not to be credited and not to accept any payment as recitation is not a job, but something sacred to him that is not meant to bring him wealth or notoriety. As such, we are offering the track for free on music services where we have the option. If the film and the album find financial success, we will contribute proceeds to the "singer's" mosque.