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Tonal Goes To The Movies

NEW YORK, NY — Tonal, the original music/sound design house led by Creative Director Alex Lasarenko, continues its long-time commitment to the independent filmmaking community, completing work on three new, highly-touted feature films, including the acclaimed documentary TEN9EIGHT: Shoot for the Moon, which New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently called “the most inspirational, heartwarming film you will ever see.â€? TEN9EIGHT will premiere this month on the BET network.

In addition to TEN9EIGHT, Tonal also worked on the terrifying documentary Cropsey, which was most recently seen in February at the Philadelphia Film Festival; and The Aspern Papers, a modern telling of the Henry James novella of the same name.

”Indie filmmakers all want same thing: for their movies to stand out,” Lasarenko says. ”That usually means they want to push the envelope musically as well. Each of the films we scored

recently is very different, but if there is a unifying theme to them it’s that the music is bold, adventurous and above all memorable.”

TEN9EIGHT, produced and directed by award winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio, chronicles the inspirational stories of several teens from low-income communities who enroll in a course at school — an innovative program that teaches these students how to become entrepreneurs. 24,000 students, from Harlem to Compton (and all points in between) then enter a nationwide business plan competition run by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and what they learn along the way profoundly changes their lives and destinies.

Musically, Lasarenko notes, Mazzio initially wanted an array of musical textures, something to match the lives of each kid profiled in the film. However, Lasarenko felt strongly that in order for the music to be effective it had echo the larger themes of each teen’s journey from despair to inspiration to redemption.

”It was important that the film have some basic musical theme that link each teen’s story in a larger context,” Lasarenko says. ”I composed a theme for when they describe their low points, another for when they describe the positive change they decided to make in their lives, and yet another when they find success. The challenge was composing these over-arching themes and then creating numerous variations on those themes that coincide with their individual stories.”

A complete 180 from TEN9EIGHT is Cropsey, a documentary by two filmmakers who investigate the mystery surrounding five missing children in their home town of Staten Island, New York and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances. For this, Lasarenko perfectly captures the chilling nature of the story with a simple-yet-haunting, sparsely orchestrated theme.

Although the film is powerful throughout, the most intense sequences occur when the filmmakers investigate the abandoned hospital for the mentally handicapped said to have been the home of the accursed murder. Lasarenko adds to the scary atmospherics by sampling the sounds of screaming, moaning hospital patients heard on an actual Geraldo Rivera television news report from the 1970s where he investigated the hospital for negligence and abuse. Those samples were then used to create an eerie sonic bed for Lasarenko’s music.

”For Cropsey my goal was find out exactly how a melody can be beautiful and evil sounding at the same time,” Lasarenko notes.

The Aspern Papers:
In The Aspern Papers, a modern adaptation of the novella by Henry James set in Venezuela, a young American publisher sets off on a journey to acquire the valuable and original manuscripts of his beloved poet, Jeffery Aspern. There he discovers the poet’s ancient muse and her reclusive niece. The American invents a false identity convinced that once inside their house he will get his hands on the precious papers. The tables soon turn though.

”Like the film, the music is journey as well,” Lasaenko, says. ”In the beginning, the music has lots of movement — a restless sense, but as he starts to realize he’s being manipulated, the music starts to get simpler and more introspective. I also took the South American setting to incorporate some indigenous instruments such as the quattro, a four-string guitar and numerous percussion instruments. All of which helped capture the mood and sense of place perfectly.” 

About Tonal:
Founded in 2002 by award-winning composer/sound designer Alex Lasarenko, Tonal is a place where original music and ideas converge in an artistic environment. Clients ranging from advertising agencies, television networks, feature filmmakers and record labels have sought out Tonal for their distinct ability to craft memorable music no matter the genre. Located in the heart of Manhattan’s West Chelsea arts scene, the company’s offices are destination for artists and performers of all stripes from around the globe. For more information about the company visit

Web Resources:
For more into about Tonal:

For more info about TEN9EIGHT: Shoot for the Moon:

For more info about Cropsey:

For more info about The Aspern Papers: