With National Film Score Day back this April 3rd, film scores are on the mind. Last year we matched movie scores with book recommendations so readers could not only transport themselves via words but via music as well. This year we’re trying something different and imagining which film composers would create fitting OSTs (original soundtracks) for Quirk book adaptations.
Quirk has had a handful of books adapted for the big screen, most notably Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and 2016’s Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and there’s even an Amazon TV series in the works for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. But what about those that haven't made it to the screen yet?
Hildur Guðnadóttir to compose for The Last Policeman series
Hildur Guðnadóttir, the first solo female composer to win both a BAFTA and Golden Globe (oh, and an Academy Award) for her original score for Joker. That’s right, Guðnadóttir’s the one responsible for that heavy cello in the bathroom dancing scene (no, really, she’s the one playing it) and actually, the heavy cello throughout the movie. She also composed the OST for HBO’s Chernboyl and worked on the Sicario soundtrack with other composers like the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. Overall, she’s exceptionally skilled at instilling a bleak sense of loss and destruction, whether that’s through her intense cello solos, impactful choral arrangements, or sound editing (ie. “Meeting Bruce Wayne”). She also can build some insane tension and unsettle the bejeezus out of listeners if she likes (“Waiting for the Engineer”), which means she'd have no trouble building the apocalyptic and noir world of Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman series. If she could handle the events of Chernobyl and the creation of the Joker, she’s prepared for the impending crash of asteroid 2011GV1 and all the catastrophes and questions it brings up.
Buy book one:
Michael Abels to compose for Whisper Down the Lane
Horror fans will recognize concert and film composer Michael Abels’ multi-award-winning scores from Us and Get Out, and like the narratives for those films, the OST is twisted, deeply unsettling, and sometimes weird….which only makes them more horrifying. Abels knows how to build tension, plant mysterious seeds, and even throw in a pinch of hope to lure you into a false sense of security (give “Hypnosis” a listen for this exact feeling, but honestly, all his tracks are pretty terrifying). In an ideal world, Abels would compose the soundtracks for all Quirk horror titles, but if he could only do one, music for Clay McLeod Chapman’s Whisper Down the Lane would be a solid choice. Based in the 80s Satanic Panic era, the story warps between points of view, times, and truths (real and imagined) to create a grim psychological thriller exploring the destructive and reverberating effects of past mistakes and mass delusion. Abels would know exactly which beats to hit and which sharp turns to take in his compositions to drive home Chapman’s moments of dread, hysteria, and discomfort.
Buy the book:
Bear McCreary to compose for The Resurrectionist
Emmy-Award-winning Bear McCreary may best be known for his TV series scores from Outlander to The Walking Dead to Da Vinci’s Demons, but he’s also composed OSTs for films like Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Whether it’s historical fantasy, dystopian horror, or action-packed monster movie, McCreary is a master of atmosphere. He knows how to plant reader’s in a specific time and place, and he easily switches between reminiscent to thrilling to subtle eeriness. This would make him the perfect composer to tackle the score for a screen adaptation of E. B. Hudspeth’s The Resurrectionist. This book may not make for the most conventional screen adaptation as it’s told in two parts — 1) fictional biography of Dr. Black from childhood to the end of his life in the 1870s and 2) anatomically illustrative codex of mythical cryptids, including mermaids, dragons, and centaurs — but that’s why it would be exciting. Maybe an experimental mini series is due, exploring Dr. Black’s various drawings and slowly revealing aspects of his life, and McCreary would deftly juggle the darker tones of the narrative with the historical and inquisitive ones.
Buy the book:
Alex Somers to compose for The Big Book of Mars
Recognizable from his work with Icelandic band Sigur Rós and their lead singer Jonsi, Alex Somers has worked on numerous indie film scores, including Shia LaBeouf and Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic, and Apple TV+’s Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth. If McCreary’s compositions can be described as atmospheric, then a good word to pair with Somers would be ambience. His ambience is a very specific kind though, and once you hear a few of his OSTs (or even just a few tracks), he’s easily branded from his synthesized and industrial sound that often leave listeners feeling like they're floating in space or at least on a space station of sorts (“Patterns of Stars”). Naturally, he’d be a great fit for a documentary adaptation of Marc Hartzman’s The Big Book of Mars, especially as Somers often experiments with everyday objects to generate sounds (“Honey Boy”), and the odd charm of it just seems to sit right for a book covering everything from the obscure pop culture to the gritty science of our red planet.
Buy the book:
Rachel Portman to compose for the Once Upon a Con series
If you’re a fan of classic lit film adaptations or period and indie romance movies, you’ve probably stumbled across Rachel Portman’s work unawares. She’s composed numerous scores for classic adaptations like A Little Princess (1986 mini series), Emma (1996), and Nicholas Nickleby (2002), as well as other movies like Chocolat, Mona Lisa Smile, One Day, and The Manchurian Candidate, so the pairing with Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con books may not make immediate sense as the trilogy is set in modern times; however, her emotional orchestral movements and piano arrangements can be bright and playful (“Passage of Time”), subtle and sad (“We All Complete”), romantic and moving (“One Day Main Title”), kind of like these touching tales of love, loss, and hope. What makes Portman’s compositions even more impactful is they make you feel at home, and if you’re a romantic nerd with a passion for your fandom, your friends, and your family, that’s what Poston’s books manage to do from Elle’s mournful moments remembering her father to the way Rosie finds comfort in her Starfield books.
Buy book one:
John Powell to compose for Warren the 13th series
If you love animated films, you’ve had to have heard at least one of John Powell’s exceptional scores. He’s worked on over fifty films now, not all animated, though that’s what he’s best known for, including award-winning crowd pleasers like the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, the Kung Fu Panda movies, three of the Ice Age films, Happy Feet, and Shrek (just to name a few). No matter the individual films’ quirks, Powell always brings a sense of wonder, imagination, and heart to the OSTs (yes, Shrek is unironically included here), and he’s great at selecting specific instruments and mini melodies to match the setting of the movies (compare the Norse-leanings in How to Train Your Dragon to the Chinese ones in Kung Fu Panda). Hand Powell the job to score an animated adaptation of Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle’s Warren the 13th series, and viewers would walk away with stylistic and introspective character songs, spooky and mysterious adventure tracks, and whimsical and heartfelt melodies. And when given the chance, Powell can get heartfelt (listen to “Forbidden Friendship” or “Oogway Ascends” for a good ol’ pull on the heartstrings).
Buy book one: