The first iterations of the classic anime series DragonBall Z came to America's screens in the late 1990s, courtesy of Cartoon Network. It took a few seasons for the fantasy adventure cartoon to find an audience, but when it did, the show dropped a spirit bomb on its competition by becoming the highest-rated show for three straight years in six different demographics.
The recipe for DragonBall Z's success is layered, but one of the key ingredients is its score; composer Bruce Faulconer created it specifically for the American release.
The score conveys pulse-pounding action and promises of adventures with chord-spewing guitar riffs and heavy moments of sadness and tension by using synthesized beats and echoing chimes. The music can capture the attention of anyone who has the TV on in the background, inevitably sucking them into the action.
"I watched every nuance and every detail," Faulconer says of working on the show. "The music follows along with the story. It follows the action inside the scene. It follows the cutting style. It follows the dialogue. It's like a giant opera where the music on its own can stand as original music, but it's all about the characters and an epic, arched theme like DragonBall Z."
These days, Faulconer runs his own music production studio and recording studio in Dallas. Even though it's been more than a few years since he was involved in the Funimation series, and he has composed hundreds of soundtracks for TV shows and movies — such as the full length, animated version of the Lady Death comic book series — he says he still gets compliments from fans for his groundbreaking DragonBall Z score.
"We appreciate all the support we've received from our fans over the years," Faulconer says. "When it comes out of nowhere for my music and how it influenced them growing up, I get to hear lots of wonderful stories that way."
Faulconer has answered his fans' calls for another action-packed score by crafting a brand new, standalone composition called Dragon Amnesty, which he plans to fund with donations from a new Kickstarter campaign that kicks off Wednesday.
"It's going to be an epic piece of music like you'd see on a video game trailer," Faulconer says, "a high-end one like Halo or Mechwarrior or some of the newer releases."
The composer says he's been getting requests to write a new composition that's similar in tone and style to DBZ for years. He wrote the music for 242 episodes of the long-running anime series from 1999 to 2007 and became a revered anime and musical composer thanks to the sharing nature of the internet.
If Faulconer can raise $28,000 to produce the composition and release it in the late fall of the winter, he says he'll also stage a live performance of his Dragon Amnesty score with a full orchestra and social distancing guidelines and seating procedures.
"I thought, 'Well, people have been wanting me to do something, and I'd like to tie in a live performance at the end of it,'" Faulconer says. "So I decided to throw it out there to all my music fans — especially to my DBZ fans."
Like his other scores and soundtracks, Faulconer says Dragon Amnesty will tell an operatic story of adventure, "like a symphonic poem."
"You'll discern a story from it, and it'll be battle-themed," Faulconer says. "It'll be martial arts-themed, like an epic, sweeping, fantasy kind of a wild ride."
Faulconer's compositions and soundtracks — particularly his work on DBZ — can be enjoyed without a cartoon in front of them. The changing moods and sounds tell unique stories and themes, concocting their own drama and emotions.
"It carries the story and develops the characters," Faulconer says of scoring. "Some become good, some become evil and some become more evil. Some are conflicts, so the music themes that are following along have these different changes in character and in mood.
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"Sometimes the character might evolve," he continues, "like the character Cell whose themes become less and less pure and more and more aggressive like on a guitar that's more distorted."
Since Faulconer's new composition isn't tied to a separate animated story, he'll be free to explore the score's story and themes on his terms just for his fans. He's still in the middle of writing it, but he describes what he's done so far with a score that has "a murky beginning that you just build as a civilization would build. Then will arise the protagonist and the antagonist and they'll battle and somebody will win. It'll have a nice arc that ends up keeping everyone on the edge of their seat."
Faulconer says the composition is inspired by his fans and their love of his music.
"The style is going to be similar but also it's not going to be DBZ, per se," he says. "It'll be a larger scope and that show, which was a huge scope after working on it for almost a decade, was a very enjoyable experience ... and the reactions from fans [it] had over the past few decades have been phenomenal."