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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

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When I arranged to meet with Roy Budd for our interview I had no idea he had just completed the mammoth task of scoring the 1925 silent film version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which starred Lon Chaney in the title role, he had hinted to me in a couple of phone conversations that he had been working on something grand and also that he was very pleased with the end result. “I have just finished working on the silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA”. It has been restored and looks magnificent; I have just recorded the score and am waiting to hear when the compact disc of the recording will be released”. Roy was certainly excited about the project and was very proud that he had been involved on the picture. “I have written 82 minutes of music for the picture and it was certainly a very different experience for me as there is no dialogue, I am used to explosions and lots of dialogue in the pictures that I normally do, so when there were none of these to deal with it was like a dream. Writing nearly 90 minutes of music was a daunting task and also was very tiring, but the film inspired me and I just seemed to be able to get on with it quite easily. The film and also the score will premiere on September of this year (1993) at the Barbican with all the proceeds from the screening going to U.N.I.C.E.F. I will conduct the orchestra and hopefully the film and the music will finish at the same time (laughs). I am very proud of this score John and I am so pleased to say that I have been asked to score another silent movie and I am looking forward to this so much”. Sadly Roy never got to score another movie or indeed to conduct his sweeping and majestic score for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. His untimely death was a shock to all who knew him and also to those who collected and loved his music, this release of his opulent and gracious sounding musical soundtrack to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is more than just a welcome sight it is a tribute to the composers artistry his immense talent and above all his ability to create melodious, emotive and inspiring music. My lasting memory of Roy was his jovial manner and the way he made people feel comfortable when talking to them, but it was apparent that his passion for music and film and in particular THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was paramount in his thoughts and his love of music just shone through. I spent a few hours with him when I interviewed him and it was like we had known each other all our lives, which I suppose I had via his music. He even asked me questions one that made me laugh was “So John how did you get involved with scoring STAR WARS, oh sorry wrong John !!!!!! So it is with much pleasure that is tinged with sadness that I review his last symphonic score, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

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Performed by the RTL Symphony Orchestra which numbered some 80 plus musicians, Roy Budd’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA score is a masterpiece of film scoring, the composer has created a work that is overflowing with rich and lush thematic material, sweeping string passages and growling brass flourishes adorn the score but it is also a soundtrack that contains a more delicate, intimate and romantic side. Roy’s score for PHANTOM is far removed from his jazz performances and also is different from his other film scores in the sense that it has a more classical sound and style to it, in fact it is reminiscent in many ways of thee film scores of Max Steiner with romantically tragic sounding strings and sumptuous orchestration. The composer makes good use of an eerie sounding organ solo to open the score with. Track number 1, BACK STAGE AT THE OPERA is a chilling and also melancholy sounding piece that after its organ introduction segues into a suitable grandiose and sweeping central theme with strings again being the mainstay of the performance enhanced by brass and woods and further supported by subdued percussive elements and piano that together create a proud and epic sounding piece which could be the work of either Steiner or Rozsa with commanding brass supported by percussion bringing the cue to a triumphant sounding conclusion. It is in the introduction of this cue that we hear for the first time THE PHANTOM THEME, which although unnerving is also filled with sadness and evokes an atmosphere of loneliness. The theme returns throughout the score and makes its second appearance in a more expanded version in track number 2, BALLERINAS/THE PHANTOM THEME, which begins in a slightly restrained fashion but soon builds with the composer relaying not only drama and romance in his music but hints at comedy and further conveys an air of charm and warmth, lulling the listener into a falsehood of well being and serenity before introducing the dark and sinister mood for the Phantom. Budd expresses his emotions wonderfully with his romantic and opulent score, and underlines and punctuates perfectly the picture with it’s driving and dramatic passages that are complimented and aided by the composers equal amount of less chilling and adventurous material that posses a luxurious and sumptuous sound which is comparable with the film music of the Golden age and evokes not just Steiner and Rozsa but Erich Korngold, Hugo Freidhofer and at times the melodic and lush sound achieved by composer Victor Young. Track number 3, GENITRIX, is the first time we hear the harpsichord within the score; it is a gentle and simple melody which is purveyed upon the instrument, but one that nonetheless grabs the listener’s attention and holds it for its relatively short running time of just over a minute.

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The harpsichord returns to repeat its performance in track number 6, THE MASKED BALL, on this occasion it acts as the introduction to an elegant and wistful waltz. Budd also acts an arranger within his own score when he arranges and adapts Charles Gounod’s ‘FAUST’ which plays a major role in the films storyline giving it new life and vitality and also integrating it wonderfully into the fabric of his original score. One of the highlights of the score for me personally is ON THE ROOF OF THE OPERA, which opens at first in a subdued manner but erupts with grand sounding fanfares of brass and percussion that are supported by strings and flyaway winds again shades of Korngold, this cue seems to have everything, grandeur, drama and also romanticism that is laced with melancholy that seems to cry out in despair at times underlining the Phantom’s obsessive craving for the object of his desire Christine. Surging strings, plaintive woodwinds, fierce growling brass and also low key but highly emotive strings work together to create a wealth of melody and a highly atmospheric piece. As the compact disc progress so does the urgency in the composers music, THE STRANGLERS WORK for example opens with shady sounding low strings, but soon these segue into a more melodic and calm musical persona, strings and woodwinds combine to fashion a haunting and tender sounding composition, this however alters with rising brass supported by percussion and driving strings bringing a sense of danger and foreboding to the proceedings, fierce brass stabs are embellished by pounding percussion and menacing horns, the strings then enter into the equation adding even more of a sinister mood to the composition. This dark atmosphere fades and all is well again as understated woods are given subdued but affecting support by low key strings which bring the cue to its conclusion.

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Track number 9 THE TORTURE CHAMBER is a tour de force of musical richness with strings and brass once again taking the lead and setting the scene and imparting upon the listener an almost impish sound in the first couple of minutes of the track, the cue soon changes direction and becomes a more subdued piece which although melodic still relays a sense of underlying unease. The final track on the disc is the powerful and highly volatile RACE OF RAGE, this is the longest cue on the compact disc and weighs in at a full twelve minutes, it contains many of the major themes and motifs from the score and sends us headlong towards a dazzling and exhilarating finale that will I know take your breath away. Budd brings all the elements of the orchestra together in a final and commanding end sequence that is filled with drama, tinged with romance and also filled with passion, danger and foreboding. This is a score that is simply a must have item, an essential purchase in fact it is something that all film music connoisseurs should have in their collection. Has it been worth the wait, YES IT HAS…

Re-mastering is courtesy of Richard Moore who has done a magnificent job, the release includes rare stills of the composer conducting the score in the sessions and also of him studying the score at the mixing desk.
With notes on the score and also a background on the film. Just go and buy it. NOW……

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AVAILABLE ON MISHKA MUSIC PRODUCTIONS. MPL015 AT AMAZON.

ARTURO RODRIGUEZ.

Born in Mexico, composer Arturo Rodriguez is one of the latest composers and conductors that are associated with music for concert hall performance who have crossed over successfully into scoring motion pictures.

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1. What musical education did you receive?

I received a classical music education and I got to composition through the long route. I started in music studying piano and flute and, even though I loved listening to orchestral music from a very early age, the though of becoming a composer never really crossed my mind. It was something a loved but it seemed like magic to me. Like something unattainable. But somehow, in a very natural way, I was always writing music. When I was studying to be a pianist I was writing short piano piece on my spare time. When I was studying flute and piano I would write flute solo pieces, or flute and piano pieces. When I was at the university in Texas (TCU) I was a piano major but I was also playing flute in the university’s orchestra. That’s when I really got the chance to be right in the middle of the action and I would study and analyze the orchestrations of whatever repertoire we were playing at the time and really started to get a sense of orchestral colors, combination of colors, balance, etc. That’s also around the time when I got interested in orchestral conducting, so I started taking lessons privately. I never studied composition formally but I really think that being in that environment in the middle of the orchestra, and being able to study the orchestral repertoire through my conducting lessons, that taught me the basis for the type of music and orchestrations that I would write in the future and somehow it worked out, when I was still in college that I got to write my first works by commission. One commission led to the next and I started to get more and more involved with film music, which I always loved but for some reason I never thought I could dedicate my life to it or that I could make a living from writing orchestral music. I’ve been freelancing as a composer/orchestrator/conductor since 2003.

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2. You write at the moment mainly for the concert hall, is music for film something that you have always been attracted to and do you hope to do more film scores in the future?

I grew up, as many of my colleagues did, going to the movies and listening to the wonderful orchestral scores of the 70’s and 80’s. I always had an inclination for writing music, but I particularly love ‘painting’ for the large orchestra. I guess a lot has to do with the type of music I got to hear in movie theatres when I was a child. Film music is relatively a new art, but I don’t like to catalogue apart from the rest of the orchestral writing history. We now have the luxury of being able to hear a Suite from Harry Potter or Star Wars in the concert hall, which is wonderful, but it doesn’t need to be anything different from being able to hear a Suite from a Tchaikovsky ballet or a Suite or concert version from an Opera. Good music is good music, and good film music is just that, good music, and deserves to be performed in concert halls.
As for the music I write for the concert hall it usually tends to be very ‘visual’ or programmatic or film music like in terms of orchestral colour and/or structure. It has a lot to do with the type of music to which I love to listen, so it’s not hard to me to write in that style when I get to chance to be involved with a film project. Once thing that fascinates me a lot about film music is the magic that happens with that connection between the visual and the aural. There is something very powerful about that. Setting music to moving pictures is certainly a passion for me and I do hope to be doing more and more of that in the near future.

3. You conduct concerts of your music but when you work in film do you also conduct your music or did you have a conductor on THE MAIDS ROOM so that you could monitor the recording sessions from the recording booth?

I do love conducting! So, when it’s been a few weeks of hard work composing, orchestrating, etc., for me the conducting part is the prize at the end of a long, hard work session. On the other hand, I usually write for live players and for the room in which I am to record, so I don’t need to be in the booth monitoring making sure everything’s working with pre-records, electronic elements, etc.
And also, for the type of music I write, if things are well balance in the orchestration and I have a good and reliable team in the booth, then if it sounds in the room it should work in the booth, and I’m usually more helpful in front of the orchestra. If something is not written with balance or colour then I can make small adjustments faster if I’m in front of the group.

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4. Orchestration is in my opinion an important part of music composition, do you orchestrate all of your own music?

When writing orchestral music, orchestration is not only an important part. It IS part of the composition process. I can’t separate one from the other so, yes, I orchestrate all of my music.
I don’t know if it’s because of the musical training I got or because of the music I love to listen to, but when I hear music is in orchestral colours. It’s very hard for me to think music for a solo instrument or for chamber groups. Sometimes I sketch out things for the piano, but I always see those as sketches that need to be painted with orchestral colours. When I’ve been involved in film projects I usually just skip the sketching part and go directly to the conductor’s score on the Sibelius software and compose/orchestrate simultaneously. I’ve found that this is usually best when I’m doing orchestral music, because I’m not working out a sketch that needs to be orchestrated, but I’m writing something that is orchestral from its very conception. Also, the whole ritual of a group of people getting together to make some music is very special to me and I’ve always felt a lot of respect and gratitude for the musicians that make the music come to life, so for all the music I’ve written for the concert hall or for film, I’ve always done not only the orchestrations myself, but all the music preparation, printing, binding, etc. I truly believe that if the musician is going to offer me that gift of music, bringing my music to life, then the least I can do is to prepare that part for him/her. Besides, is now so easy now with all the technology available. The first 50 minutes of symphonic music I wrote back in 1998-1999, I still had to do by hand. All, score and parts. So I don’t take all this wonderful new technology for granted and at the same time I realize that it allows me to do a little bit more myself in the same amount of time I would have invested in writing it by hand.

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5. How did you become involved on THE MAID’S ROOM?

It was very interesting. Both director and producer were searching for a composer and were running out of time. They saw my name in the Indie-wire magazine because I had been a Sundance Composer Fellow that year. They listened to my music on my website and then they gave me a call. I had two phone conferences, one with the director and one with the producer and then they sent me the film for me to watch before I decided if I wanted to commit myself to the project.

6. What size orchestra did you utilize for the score to THE MAID’S ROOM and how much time were you given to score the picture?

The instrumentation for The Maid’s Room is: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (second clarinet doubles bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (second bassoon doubles contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (including bass drum, snare drum, triangle, piatti, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, tom-toms, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba), harp, piano(celesta), strings.
That’s for the bigger cues. Most of the score is written for piano solo with strings, which accompanies the main character Drina most of the time, and another recurring orchestral colour is also flutter tongue flutes with vibraphone and tremolo strings. I had two weeks to write around 60 minutes of music.

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7. Was the director of the movie heavily involved with the music side of things for the picture, by this I mean dd he have specific ideas for you to follow or maybe he wanted a certain style or sound for the score?

Michael had it very clear from the beginning that he wanted a ‘classic movie sound’ for his movie. We talked about Bernard Herrmann’s music and also we discussed what he had already in his movie as a temporary music track. I find it helpful to have temporary tracks because they could be a good starting point for a discussion with the director for the concept of a particular scene and they also make apparent what could or could not work for the scene. But this works only when you have a director like Michael, who knows the temporary track is only a starting point. He was also very encouraging and was the first one to suggest me to depart from the temporary track as much as I wanted in certain scenes. Also, even though time was limited, I spent as much time as I could at the beginning of the process creating a short suite so I could show Michael a theme from the main character or how I could approach some of the suspenseful cues. I knew that if I could get the essence of the whole score for Michael to approve that we most likely will have a smooth ride for the remaining of the writing process. After Michael approved of the general concept then it was my task to write as fast as I could so that Michael still had the chance to listen and approve or make small modifications if needed.

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8. How many times did you watch the film before you began to start writing the score and at what stage of the films production did you become involved?

I saw the movie once right before I said ‘yes’ to the project. I then wrote the suite and travelled to NYC to have a spotting session with director, producer and music supervisor. I watched the film for a second time with them. Then I went back to my studio and watched it one more time and then started to compose in chronological cue order.

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9. THE MAIDS ROOM is out on compact disc on KRONOS records, were you involved in the sequencing or compiling of the cues for the CD release?

Yes. I produced the music part of the CD myself. I was very happy with the final score for this film, but I also ended up with a lot of short cues that serve as transition music in the film but would no work well structurally in an album. I am a fan of soundtracks that make you re-live the movie by listening to them from beginning to end, so I tried to keep the structure of the film in the order of the tracks on the CD, but I also made longer cues out of short ones that don’t necessarily follow the chronological order of the film but are still true to the narrative essence of the story.

10. What composers from the classical world and also from the film music arena would you say have inspired you or influenced you?

My main heroes who inspire me to this day are John Williams and Mahler whose music I continue to study on a regular basis.

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11. When working on THE MAID’S ROOM did you establish a central theme firstly and then build the remainder of the score around this or did you tackle smaller cues first and then move onto larger sections of the score?

As I mentioned before, I created a short suite first. It was important that the main concept of the music was clear from the very beginning and approved by the director. Time was short but I really thought I should invest as much time creating a theme or a sound first before I started to write any cues. But also in general for every project I do, my music is thematic and melodic at its core, and I try to spend as much time as I can creating that musical foundation on which I could construct a musical structure that hopefully won’t collapse.

12. Do you come from a family background that is musical at all?

No, but my younger sister and I are both musicians, so I’ve always thought that if my parents or grandparents had had the opportunity of explore something artistic, at least one of them would have been a musician.

13. At what age would you say that you began to notice music and can you remember the first piece of music or song that caught your attention?

I didn’t start studying music formally until I was 9 years old, but I would sit in front of the radio from a very early age whenever classical music was on. Or later I would look up the classical music station myself. When I was very young, maybe 3 or 4 years old, we didn’t have a record player, but I would spin with my hands anything that was circular in shape and I would sing the music I thought could come out of them.

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14. What is your opinion on the increased use of samples and synthetics being used in film music?

I think they are great tools. I don’t use much of it myself. I also think that at the end of the day is people and their creativity who make things happen. In my particular case, I’ve found that the world of the symphony orchestra is my passion and that the best I can do is to continue to grow on that field and that hopefully one day will need that kind of music and style for their project.

15. In your opinion how does contemporary film music compare with the film music from the 1940,s through to the 1960,s?

I think that film music should serve the film for which it is written. Film offers the wonderful opportunity that music could be in whatever style the filmmakers wish to choose. Modern film music is different from film music from the 40’s but films, their filmmakers and their audiences are also different. It’s a very young art-form, but the fact that is changing I believe it just means it’s alive. I think that now more than every, because all of the technology that has developed and because of all the different styles of film and filmmakers that exist, the creative possibilities are endless, and that’s just a wonderful environment for the art-form and its exponents.

16. Was there a temp track installed on THE MAID ROOM when you first viewed it, if so was this something that you found helpful or maybe distracting?

Yes, there was a temporary track, which I heard once. It was a great way for Michael, the director and I to start discussing the music. One really good thing is that Michael was extremely aware of the temporary tracks that were not working as well and the reasons why he thought they weren’t working, which was a great starting point for me.

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17. When you are making a recording do you have any preferences when it comes to studios or engineers?

Yes, for many years I’ve collaborated with sound engineer Fredrik Sarhagen and colleague H. Scott Salinas. I’ve worked as an orchestrator and conductor for some of Scott’s projects, and in turn, when it has been my time to compose and conduct my own music, he has been a great person to have in the booth as a score producer. Most recently I’ve been collaborating with composer Norman Kim whenever I’ve needed a music programmer and mixer. I do believe that one has to build little by little a team that works and that also inspires you to want to excel at each project. It’s hard to find people with whom you can collaborate, but once you find them is a great thing that should not be taken for granted. One thing that’s very clear for me is that, at least from my point of view, the main difference between being a composer for concert music and being a composer who also could provide music for films, is that film is always a collaborative art-form, and it’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy so much working for film projects.

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18. You were born in Mexico, does the film industry in your country get support from the government with funding etc and is the industry there thriving or struggling?

It would be unfair for me to answer that question. I was born and raised in México but then I got a piano scholarship to go to the United States and I’ve been in that country ever since. All of my family and some of my best friends are still in México but it’s in the United States where I’ve grown as a professional musician, so I have little or nothing to say about the film industry in my country.

Arturo with fellow composer Gus Reyes.

Arturo with fellow composer Gus Reyes.

19. What would you identify as the main differences between writing for the concert hall and writing for film?

As I said before, to me the main difference is that film projects are collaborative. Your music is at the service of someone else’s vision and your job as a composer is to support that vision, and there is also a music production team that helps you deliver the final product. To me that collaborative aspect of film is what attracts me and make me want to be a part of that world.

20 What are you currently involved with musically?

I just finished the reconstruction of Mexican composer Gonzalo Curiel’s 2nd Piano Concerto. It was a great and challenging project. Gonzalo Curiel is a Mexican composer who lived from 1904 thru 1958. He is mostly known for the popular tunes he wrote in the 40’s, like “Vereda Tropical”, but he also has over 100 film credits and was a great concert music composer. His family proposed this project to me. Curiel has 3 piano concertos but the second piano concerto had been lost for years and hadn’t been performed since its premiere in 1951. All that survived was the string parts, the piano solo part and a recording from the premiere performance. I had the honour and the challenge of taking down by ear what didn’t exist on paper and re-create the conductor’s score for a revival concert in San Luis Potosí, México in August 2014.
As an orchestrator I’m working with composer H. Scott Salinas on his score for the Darren Aronofsky produce film Zipper.
I love conducting and love classic films, and in an attempt to create new opportunities for my career I often try to bring those two and my composition skills together. Right now I’m writing music for the 1920 version of “The Mark of Zorro” with Douglas Fairbanks for live performance.

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Many thanks to Arturo for his time and also his co-operation with this interview.

HAUNTED.

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HAUNTED was released in 1995, its tag line being, A SUPERNATURAL TALE OF LOVE AND MYSTERY, directed by Lewis Gilbert and starred Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews, Anna Massey and Sir John Gielguld. Set in 1925 Aidan Quinn’s character David Ash is disturbed and frequently haunted by a harrowing memory from when he was a young boy of his twin sister drowning, although an accident he blames himself for her death. As an adult he has become a professor at Cambridge specialising in the paranormal and also psychosis, his outlook being that there is always a reason for such things as sightings of ghosts and the paranormal he attempts at every opportunity to offer a feasible or reasonable explanation to the unexplained. For his research he attends a number of séance’s and goes to the homes of people who believe that they are being haunted by spirits. It is not however until he goes to the house of the Mariell family that things begin to happen that make him doubt his own sanity and beliefs. An exciting and interesting storyline that is as all good supernatural tales should be entertaining and thought provoking. The music is by Debbie Wiseman, a composer of worth and one who is highly talented and has a great gift for melody. Her score is a (forgive the pun) haunting one and contains one of the most beautiful and lingering themes that I have heard in many years, JULIETS THEME is I suppose the backbone of the entire work and the composer fashions her score around this attractive and alluring piece. The theme first appears in track number 2 on the compact disc and is performed on piano it is a lilting and fragile sounding piece which attracts the attention of the listen right from the opening five notes, the remainder of the score being for a ghost story has its darker and more sinister moments, but it also contains some delightful string passages and highly emotive themes performed by strings, solo flute and piano that add depth emotion and also a slightly romantic air to the proceedings. The less melodic music within the score is still highly listenable as the composer fuses a certain amount of melodious material within these cues and at times they actually become more disturbing or unsettling because of the underlying harmonies and her use of choir and unnerving strings that receive subdued punctuation from harp and woodwinds. JULIETS THEME does re-appear throughout the score either as a plaintive sounding piano piece or in various other guises, the composer orchestrating the theme differently and at times sneaking in just a snippet of the theme into a cue so that we are reminded of it. There is a freshness and elegance about the central theme and also this is echoed in other cues such as CHRISTINA’S MINUET which is a delightful piece and LOVERS which incorporates a short section of BUT NOT FOR YOU by George and Ira Gershwin.

HAUNTED is an accomplished score by one of the worlds leading film music composers, Debbie Wiseman has the ability to work in any genre of film and also is prolific in the writing of memorable scores for television productions and she is also a talented pianist as demonstrated on this score.

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If you missed this release when it was first issued I am sure you will be able to find a copy on one of the internet shopping sites or I tunes. It is certainly worth having and a soundtrack that you will return to many times.

Roy Budd’s sweeping and haunting symphonic score for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is now available to order.

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This wonderful score is now finally available. Roy’s final score before his sad and untimely death.

NIENTE ROSE PER OSS 117.

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The music of Piero Piccioni was a great influence upon people during the 1960,s and 1970,s. He along with Ennio Morricone was probably one of the busiest composers in Italy that was writing for film at this time. Piccioni could turn his composing hand to almost any genre of film, but he seemed to excel in the world of the Eurospy and scored numerous examples of these movies. But I have to say that NIENTE ROSE PER OSS 117 is something of a disappointment, I think because the composer was involved with so many of these low budgets but entertaining movies his attention to originality began to stray slightly. NIENTE ROSE PER OSS 117 is a collection of nice enough themes but to be honest these themes could be taken from any number of other scores that Piccioni was responsible for during this period and by the third or maybe fourth cue it becomes a little tiring and monotonous. To be truthful I could not really differentiate where one track stopped and the next started and rather than a soundtrack to a Eurospy movie I began to think I was listening to an easy listening compilation and although packaged and presented well by BEAT with clear and lush sound quality for me personally this is a disc that will sadly remain in its jewel case after my initial first few listens, its good to see it released but honestly it could have probably remained in the archive for a little longer.

Available on BEAT RECORDS BCM9522

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