Bartosz Chajdecki

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Bartosz Chajdecki started composing at the age of 12, inspired and motivated by Zbigniew Preisner, whose advice helped him to master the art of composition. At sixteen he joined Krakow’s Camelot Dungeon cabaret as accompanying pianist and has since written music for plays such as ‘A Little Requiem for Kantor’, which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1998. In 1999, he was accepted into the Krakow Music Academy and is currently a member of the chamber orchestra, ‘Forum Sinfonia’, performing worldwide. Since 2003 Bartosz Chajdecki has been composing for Polish theatres and television.

 

 

 

John Mansell: What musical education did you receive?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I graduated from Krakow’s Academy of Music in Poland. I started my interest in music at the age of 7 with the solo violin as my main instrument. After six years however I switched to piano – mostly because my hearing was having problems with the high pitch of the violin, which became more and more annoying. At the age of 16 I started to play as a pianist in Krakow’s cabaret bars and many other venues. But after about two years I felt that it was not something I really liked or wanted to do, so I took the double bass as my main instrument and concentrated mostly on classical music rather than jazz. When it comes to composition I had the privilege to be led by Zbigniew Preisner in the beginning and then, because of my short co-operation with Universities in England and USA I could also attend some classes with top orchestrators and I believe this to be the most important thing when it comes to my writing.

John Mansell: What instrument or instruments did you concentrate upon when studying?
Bartosz Chajdecki: First it was violin, then piano and in the last few years it was the double bass. Each of these instruments gave me a different view on music. In my opinion violin tends to be the most “contemporary” instrument, and when I was playing it I experimented a lot with non-tonal music and other contemporary styles. Piano is the complete opposite, as it is very “technical” and a 12-tone-scale oriented instrument (which is obvious), which is actually not very good for composers (this is something I’ve heard for the first time from Krzysztof Pendercki and I couldn’t agree more with him). The double bass, on the other hand, gave me the best view on harmony, which becomes the most important thing when you look at the music from the point of view of the double bass player.

John Mansell: You began to compose music from the age of 12 and were helped and advised by
Zbigniew Preisner. How did you become involved with the composer and how did he help you?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I met Zbigniew Preisner because my Mother was working for him. She is the best copyist in Poland and I’ve learned as much about writing music and preparing a score from Maestro Preisner as from her. Because not a lot of people know what the job of a copyist is, I think I will explain this better: a copyist is a person who extracts instrumental parts from the score and prepares the music for the orchestra so it can be performed. So, Zbigniew Preisner helped me mostly by giving me some advice about how to think about writing film music and what the most important thing is while doing it. Also how to prepare the score before writing and what the stages of writing film music are. I’m not going to get into the details, but as one can imagine this knowledge is very helpful as he has a great talent when it comes to “feeling” the picture and knowing how to fit the music within it. I got involved with him by accident as I never expected him to help me, and I would never dare to ask him for anything. Because he was working with my Mother he was visiting our place sometimes to supervise copying his scores. During one of his visits he just saw one of my scores lying on the desk and he got interested in it as it seemed to him as a very well written piece. From then on he decided to give me some advice on writing film music. On the other hand there was my Mother with a huge knowledge of the technical part of writing the score in general.

John Mansell: When you begun to become interested in music, was writing for film always in your mind as something that you wanted to do?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I come from a musical family, so being interested in music was kind of natural from my first years. But I really felt that music was going to be an important part of my life not only because we have a long tradition in my family to be a musicians but also because I started to feel this way myself after I’ve heard the music to THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE. I remember that after this experience something woke up deep inside me and I started to feel and experience music on the level that I had never before thought possible. In the beginning I was more interested in contemporary music, but as I wrote before it was connected with my violin education. However after a few years it began to change and finally I decided that film music is the best way to “say” to people this what I have to say. So I concentrated on writing this kind of tonal and illustrative music (as my first attempts and successes are connected with the theatre).
I decided that I wanted to be a film music composer at the age of 16.

John Mansell: Your music for the TV series DAYS OF HONOUR is epic, what size orchestra did you employ for this project?
Bartosz Chajdecki: You will be surprised, but in the first season it is a chamber string orchestra with seven wind instruments only. In the second season it is only eight string instruments with the piano and human voices and in the third series it is also a chamber ensemble. With my sound engineer, Michal Wozniak, we put a lot of efforts to make it sound epic so he did what he could with multiplying instruments, recording the same group of instruments several times etc. He also used a bunch of digital “exciters” which made the recording sound “bigger” and more powerful but on the other hand it made the mix a little bit flat and made it impossible to give it a more “spacious” feel. But we had to sacrifice that in order to get a more powerful sound. We had to do all of this because the budget did not allow me to hire the full scale symphonic orchestra and I felt that this was something I really want to write and most importantly, will work for this picture. What we achieved is epic and powerful, but also with a little bit of a flat mix, but it is obvious that it is impossible to achieve the sound of a big orchestra without being able to hire one, and sacrificing a little bit of quality in the field of mix and “space” is inevitable. But I believe that, despite the conditions, Michal did a really incredible job and I’m very satisfied with it. The other thing is that because we had to cut the budget to the maximum we were recording this soundtrack in a monastery which gave us a nice natural reverb but on the other hand it made it more difficult to add other effects and mix it afterwards.

John Mansell: How much music did you compose for DAYS OF HONOUR, and as it was a long running television series did you ever re-use any cues?
Bartosz Chajdecki: For the first season I wrote about 65 minutes of raw material which I could expand to about four hours of many different versions of the same music (it was also possible because of the way we recorded it – most of the pieces were recorded with one section of instruments at a time). For the second season I wrote about 25 minutes of additional music and for the third season about 50 minutes as it was supposed to be the final season and there was a need for the most epic pieces I could come up with. Right now however there are rumours that the series is going to be continued with two more seasons planned. I’m not sure what you mean by writing about “re-using cues” because it’s not like each season has it’s own musical material. It works like this: that with each season the base of subjects and cues is constantly expanded on according to new events and characters that appear, but we are still using the pieces from the previous seasons.
Czas_honoru_PRCD1326John Mansell: When you were assigned to score DAYS OF HONOUR, how much time were you given to put together some musical ideas for the series and as it was such a mammoth undertaking (I understand the series ran for two years) were you the only composer involved?
Bartosz Chajdecki: At this time it’s the third year with a new season each year. I was assigned to this job… too late.  It’s a funny story itself, as it all happened a little bit by accident. There was a competition for the composer of the music to this series, but I had no idea about it. As far as I’ve heard the producer had even chosen one composer already, but wasn’t sure about this choice. And then, at the final stage of post production my demo CD got to Michal Kwiecinski (the main producer and also the director of the series) and he liked it so much that he decided to re-open the competition so I could enter it. I was given six scenes from the first and second episode and I had to write music for each. I got one week for writing, recording and sending it back. Which I did. As you can imagine I didn’t get much sleep during this time. After a week I sent it to the producer by train and went to sleep not expecting anyone to call me for the next 24 hours or so.
But an hour after receiving this music Michal Kwiecinski called and said that after listening to these new pieces he decided that I’m the best choice for this production and he invited me to collaborate with him on the series. Because it was very late already I had just three weeks to write and deliver all of the music for the first season, and it took me about nine days to write the scores; then there were four days for the copyist to prepare the music for the orchestra and then we needed about one week to record and mix the music. So as you can see this production was as crazy as it can get when it comes to deadlines. But sometimes additional tension works for me very well so I don’t mind it as I usually need a boost and it works well also for the musical ideas I have. Answering the last part of your question: yes, I was the only composer for this series and there was big pressure not to use any other music so I had to come up with a plethora of moods and subjects which would be enough for the whole season.

John Mansell: There is a compact disc available of the score from DAYS OF HONOUR, did you have any involvement in what music cues were utilised on this recording?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I could have been involved, but I chose not to as I decided I may have a different view on the music from an average listener and fan of the series, so I left the choice to Adam Krysinski and my Mother, Urszula Chajdecka as I believed these two people would make the best as well as the most objective choice. The first one, Adam, is a journalist writing about film music so he would choose the most memorable pieces from the point of view of the listener and audience in general and the second one was a copyist so she would choose the best written scores. When I merged their choices I got the set of pieces I was satisfied with and after this my sound engineer and I were working a lot on adjusting pieces and creating a new master of this music so it could have the satisfying quality for the CD.

John Mansell: You began your career by writing music for theatre productions and still work in this area. Is scoring a theatre production very different to scoring films or television, do you find working on a production such as DAYS OF HONOUR is maybe restricting at times because of specific timings, dialogue and sound effects etc?
Bartosz Chajdecki: To be completely honest working on the music for DAYS OF HONOUR was very different from what I was doing before, because it was not like I wrote music separately for each episode. I had to create the number of pieces of music which would be a “base” of subjects and moods for the whole season. So I didn’t even have a chance to watch more than two episodes before writing all of the music. So from the side of musical ideas it wasn’t too restrictive, and from the side of the form of this pieces, however, it was very restrictive. Because in Poland it works such that the composer writes the music and can only supervise its use; afterwards there is another person responsible for actually putting the music into the picture and this person is called a music illustrator. In DAYS OF HONOUR the illustrator was Anna Malarowska who wanted the music to be as flexible as it is possible for her to merge two, three or even four different pieces together, cut the pieces in half or use different parts of the same piece at the same time. The result is that you can have music in the series which sounds almost as written, especially for each scene – but the “technology” of writing the pieces to make it possible to in this way is very restrictive. First of all, it has to be extremely thematic – all of the pieces are made from parts where each has to have the same harmony and amount of measure as the other ones so you could take the strings from one section and merge it with the piano, trumpet or percussion from the other section. This was a huge restriction, but a necessary one. The other big restriction was that in order to be able to switch flawlessly between different moods, all pieces had to be written in one scale which does not hurt when you listen to the music in a TV show but after you listen to all of the pieces on a CD, even if it is not obvious it’s still possible to become tired with the music more quickly even without consciously knowing why it happens so. So while writing this music I had no restrictions when it comes to timings, dialogue and sound effect but on the other hand I was very restricted when it came to the form of the pieces and I couldn’t choose the scale I wanted.
The last one was also annoying because I have to write in the scale I hear music in, so afterwards there was additional work with transposing it and I also sometimes got distracted during recordings as I could hear the difference between my external and internal hearing, and also I had to choose not really the best “somniferous” (I got this word from the dictionary a moment ago;) scale but the one that would be the easiest for the musicians to play as there was very limited time for the recording sessions so I had to think about making it as easy and fast as possible.

John Mansell: Do you ever perform on any of your compositions, and do you also conduct?
Bartosz Chajdecki: Yes. I had my pieces performed live several times and I love this way of showing my music. Right now I’m working on preparing the concert version of a score from DAYS OF HONOUR for the performance during the Festival of Film Music in Krakow which will take place in a huge abandoned factory hall for 8000 people. I’ve also just had two performances of my Mass for orchestra, choir, voices and ethnic instruments. Sometimes I conduct my pieces of music but only when it is absolutely necessary as I don’t like doing that. I get easily distracted when something happens and the performance stops being as close to how I imagine the piece to sound, and then I can get lost. Besides, I believe that one can be really good only in one field and in my case it is, as I hope, writing music. There are a lot of good conductors who are well prepared and will do this job better than me so I don’t see the reason to take this role unless I have to, as the most important thing at the end is the quality of a performance and of the music itself, and not the ego of anyone involved in the production.

John Mansell: What composers would you say have influenced you, firstly film music composers and then classical composers?
Bartosz Chajdecki: In the first place it was, of course, Zbigniew Preisner. But then I started to look more into the Hollywood composers as this is the kind of music that I like the most and I believe that works the best in the movies. The obvious start is John Williams, then Jerry Goldsmith, Elliot Goldenthal, Eric Serra. I love orchestrations of Danny Elfman who is absolutely the best in using orchestra and wind instruments in it. I also love Harry Gregson Williams and Craig Armstrong who can both write extremely powerful music. James Horner is also one of my favourites, especially for the score that is not very typical for him, the OST for SNEAKERS, And one can’t forget about Hans Zimmer but I need to say that I don’t admire his first soundtracks as much as the latest scores. Especially for THE DA VINCI CODE. When it comes to classical composers, it’s Shostakovich in the first place for his incredible power, freshness and ability to mix many different moods in one piece of music. Then it is Brahms for his symphonies and Ein Deutches Requiem. Beethoven for his Fifth and Seven Symphonies as well as absolutely incredible overtures. Also Mozart for his later works. There was a time I also really admired Karl Jenkins for his Adiemus and Ennio Morricone for his music to THE MISSION.

John Mansell: You have worked in Brazil, England and also The United States collaborating with various Theatre groups etc, is there a great deal of difference between working in Brazil, The UK and the United States in comparison to working in Poland?
Bartosz Chajdecki: There is a huge difference. Unfortunately most of the differences have one basic source which is money and budgets, these are much lower in Poland also comparing to Brazil which came as a surprise for me. But I really like working for Polish theatre which I think is on a very high level and is a very well developed part of Polish culture and I hope it’s going to stay this way despite the rough economic times. There are so many little things when it comes to working in different parts of the world that I would need more specific questions in order to tell more about it. It’s also because of cultural differences and attitude towards the composer as a profession and his role in the production.

John Mansell: What do you think is the purpose of music in theatre and also film?
Bartosz Chajdecki: There is only one and obvious reason for the music to be a part of creation – to help support the picture or the performance. The sole purpose of music is to help create emotions and atmosphere. Sometimes by doing that with the support from the director and in conjunction with his way of thinking about the role of music in a particular movie, it can also help to tell a story. Adjust a mood in some scenes. Sometimes you see the scene and there is no obvious emotion or it seems to be a little bit emotionally empty. Then the purpose of music would be to suggest to the audience what kind of emotion the character is experiencing. In theatre, for example, I love moments when there is a character on the stage but we don’t know what is happening inside his soul. It remains silent instead of screaming or laughing. And then the director with the help of composer can use the music to point it. And this is the moment where the music starts to tell a story and becomes an important part in creating the whole experience. In a movie however it’s not like you need to “create” or force music into the picture. When I’m supposed to write music for a film, I always watch it as if there were music before and I just have to find it. Find the music which already exists within the picture I’m watching. Then the whole process as well as the music itself becomes a very natural part of the whole work.

John Mansell: Do you orchestrate all of your own music, or maybe at times use an orchestrator if a deadline is looming, and do you feel that orchestration is an important part of the composing process?
Bartosz Chajdecki: At this time I’m very strict about doing it myself as I think that it’s a big part of the composer’s personality. This is true when it comes to film music, where you usually use minor and major scales because these work the best for showing basic emotions. Besides, in my opinion there are a lot of people in this world who are capable of coming up with a melody – but what makes composers different from these people is the ability to use this melody in the right way.
Controlling the process while achieving the effect they want. That’s why I think that ability to orchestrate is absolutely crucial and that’s why I made it an important part of my work and education. Of course I can’t say that I’m never going to use an orchestrator, but I will do everything not to be forced to do so. For now, I much prefer not to accept the job than to agree on doing it knowing that I will not have time to do it properly and a part of this is orchestrating it myself. I have a feeling that only when doing it this way does the full responsibility for my work lay upon me, and I find this situation to be the best from the point of view of the producers as well as my commitment to the work I need to do.

John Mansell: When working out your musical ideas, do you use piano or maybe synthesiser / computer?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I only use the piano sometimes to check which scale I hear the piece in. Besides that, I never use the piano and absolutely not synthesisers during the writing process as it can destroy the way I’m hearing the music in my head. However, sometimes after finishing the score there is a need to prepare a preview for the director or a producer and then, depending on the kind of sound which is going to be the best for showing my intentions, I perform the piece on the piano or work with Michal, my sound engineer, on an electronic version of the piece.

John Mansell: What is your opinion of the state or quality of film music at this moment in time and do you have any particular favourite composers or composers you would say are original and interesting?
Bartosz Chajdecki: I think that, except a few of the best and most memorable scores, the quality of film music has improved a lot compared to what you could listen to thirty or even twenty years ago. Composers like Zimmer, Horner, Desplat, Elfmann took film music a level higher, so that right now you really need to provide the highest quality music.
As I said before, nowadays a well-written subject or a nice melody is not enough to make you a decent film music composer and in order to compete with the best your music needs to represent a really outstanding quality. And it counts much more right now than being very original because sometimes if you are this way it makes you interesting, but in the long term it becomes apparent that it’s not going to work for most of the movies or you can make music only to one genre of movies or you music works only with the movie that was made in the way so it is going to work with your music. So I can’t say that as for today I find most of the composers I mentioned very original. What is more important is that they are all great in providing a film with music that perfectly fits in it’s mood and atmosphere and really helps with experiencing it. Right now one of the best composers in my opinion is Harry Gregson-Williams, but he was much more original at the beginning of his big career with his music to SPY GAME, with each production getting a little bit less original which doesn’t change the fact that his music is still absolutely awesome and incredible to listen to! On the other hand we have the soundtrack to the latest Sherlock Holmes movie which in my opinion was the most original blockbuster movie soundtrack of last few years and I really liked it very much but it didn’t meet with acceptation from most of the film community and filmmakers. The thing is that the really great film music composers can still do absolutely amazing pieces without being very original but by just having their own kind of style and approach towards writing a piece of film music. The thing is not to force the music to be very original against all odds, because that’s not the point; and by doing that, even if the composer succeeds in being original, it still doesn’t mean that he is going to come up with a good film score – which should be the most important factor for every film music composer.

John Mansell: What are you working on at the moment?
Bartosz Chajdecki: Right now I’m just finishing my work on a new TV show directed by Maciej Dejczer who is one of the leading polish directors. I’m also preparing scores for three concerts of my music and I’m producing a CD of one of the most important singers in Krakow. I just prepared my propositions for the music for two feature films and if it’s going to work out well it will be produced next year. I’m also negotiating two other contracts for writing music to a movie. When I finish producing this CD, I start working for a theatre and will be preparing two plays with the premiere performances in March and April. This is my schedule till May and then there is TV and theatre. I will also go to England, Germany, France and Hungary to talk about possible co-operation with film directors and producers there. Hopefully it’s going to work out well.

John Mansell: Do you do anything musically away from theatre and film?
Bartosz Chajdecki: Yes, I do. As I mentioned before I just finished working on a Mass. I also wrote a symphonic suite titled ‘Destination Unknown’ based on Jewish style music which had a few performances in Poland and Germany and I’m working on merging it with a dance as that was my first idea but I didn’t manage to organize the production with any dancers or choreographers yet. Right now I’m thinking about writing a piano concerto and I started working on a symphony but because of my other assignments this last enterprise will probably take a long time to finish. However, all of that is or will be written also as a kind of illustrative music, so I’m not planning to go far away from my film interests.

A personal note: Thanks goes to Łukasz Waligorski for his help contacting the composer, without his assistance this interview would not have happened.

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Piero Piccioni.

piccioni5During the 1960’s and the early part of the 1970’s, Italian produced western movies enjoyed considerable success at the cinema box offices all over the world. It was due to this particular genre of films that many of Italy’s directors and producers began to receive recognition from the cinema going public outside of Italy. Italian composers too began to become noticed, their unusually innovative and original musical scores gaining a following that was in certain circumstances nearly as large as the audiences for the films which they had been composed for. The main reason that the scores for these sage-brush sagas were so popular was because they were so totally different from what many of the cinema audiences had become used to over the years with the American made western movie. It is true to state that a number of people, critics mostly were at first unimpressed with the style that was employed by Italian composers, but now it would be very hard to image a western movie without this type of scoring on its soundtrack.
Composers such as Ennio Morricone, Stelvio Cipriani, Bruno Nicolai, Francesco De Masi and Piero Piccioni were all launched upon their musical careers because of music that was composed for a Spaghetti Western. Many of these composers are today regarded as the mainstays of that genres musical heritage. Because of the success of the Italian produced western and also the emergence and development of the Italian Western score, many composers such as the individuals mentioned went onto work on numerous other motion pictures of varying subject matters. Morricone in particular excelled at writing for the cinema and is regarded in the 21st century as one of the world’s most prominent music smiths. Piero Piccioni is a composer that I have always found interesting, and his ability to adapt to any genre of film is at times astounding, his use of jazz and symphonic styles is masterful, and the technique which he employed on Spaghetti westerns was original and exceptional.

Piccioni avoided most of the stock sounds that were utilized by his contemporaries. Thus making his work for the genre even more original and innovative. For example Piccioni did not employ the whistling or the shrieks that were heard in many of the Spaghetti Western scores, he more often than not relied on the conventional instruments of the orchestra, trumpet, strings and woodwind, and although his music is from the Italian school, it also is probably the most Americanized in its overall construction, sound and impact within the context of the movie. My first question for the Maestro was about his approach to scoring a western. Where did he get his inspiration from when scoring a western ?

My inspiration for music in westerns came mainly from composers such as Max Steiner and more than any other Dimitri Tiomkin, his scores for the Hollywood produced westerns are classics and highly regarded. Obviously I did not copy his style directly, but hopefully emulated it, at the same time following my own compositive instinct.
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Piccioni was born in TorinoItaly, on December 6th 1921. He did take piano lessons, but as for composition etc. is concerned the composer is self taught. I enquired if the Maestro had he always wanted to write music for the cinema?
No, I really wanted to become involved with the composition of pure music. By this I mean jazz, film music came later. 

So what was the composer’s first entry into writing for the cinema?
My first feature film score came in 1950/1951. This was for a movie entitled IL MONDO LE CONDANNA, which was a movie that was directed by Gianni Franciolini. 

I asked Piccioni if he had been influenced at all by any composer or artist, in the way that he composed?
Yes most definitely, Dimitri Toimkin I have already mentioned, but I have drawn much from the works of Debussy and Honegger, plus there is the jazz side of things where Duke Ellington and Bill Holman figured quite largely. 

A question that I like to ask Italian composers is the issue of taking an alias to score a movie, had Piccioni ever changed his name for any movie score at all?
Yes, quite a few times actually. I would at times take the names Piero Morgan or Peter Morgan, this was at times to make the credits on the movie look more American or at times the director asked me to do so, and also sometimes if I personally felt that the movie was not that good after it was all finished, thankfully this has not happened to me a great deal. 
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Piero Piccioni has composed many film scores, these have been for films of varying genres, I enquired if the composer was happier working on say westerns as opposed to crime thrillers etc.?

I do really prefer to work on films that have a modern setting, the romantic and mysterious variety are particularly appealing to my appetite, then I can write either a jazz or contemporary classical score, and maybe in certain circumstances I have been able to combine the two styles, which is quite interesting. 
 

Had he ever declined an offer of a scoring assignment, or indeed had he ever had a score rejected?

I have refused a number of films and other projects, mainly because the project was not a good one, I have had one score rejected, this was for a film called L’UOMO CHE RIDE, which was based on a story by Victor Hugo, and directed by Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci actually told me that he liked the work that I had done for the movie, but the producer, who’s name I forget and is no longer important, decided to have another composer write the score. I was rather young and inexperienced at the time, so I did not challenge his decision, needless to say I went onto score many more movies, and he went onto do other work, which was more fitting to his aptitude and position, cleaning toilets I think.

Italian film music composers during the 1960’s and 1970’s would on many occasions work in what has been described as a family environment, by this I mean that they would work within each others orchestras, performing, conducting or at times collaborating on composition. They would also use the same soloists, performers and choirs. I asked Piccioni about this practice.
Yes that is correct, many composers worked alongside each other, this was particularly true during the period when the Italian western was popular. I do not think that I worked with as many as say Morricone or Trovajoli, but I did work with Allessandro Allessandroni a few times but this was mainly on television scores, his choir is very good indeed, and as a performer he himself is flawless.
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During the early stages of his career, Piccioni worked on westerns such as MINNESOTA CLAY and SARTANA. I asked the composer about the scoring schedules on films such as these, as the budgets must have been a little tight?
I would normally be allowed 10 to 14 days to complete my work, but this depended on the individual movie or the attitude of the films director and producer. It also depended on what type of music was needed, whether I needed to write for a special instrument or had to include choir etc., plus as you are aware, many directors leave the music until the last minute, so invariably, I was told that the music was needed ‘YESTERDAY. 
 

Going back to MINNESOTA CLAY, how did the composer become involved on the movie?

Basically the director Sergio Corbucci asked me, the film was very good, but unfortunately it was released at the same time as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, so it became overlooked and was not as successful as Leone’s western. 

Did the composer orchestrate his own film scores, or did he use an orchestrator?
I must admit I do not always work on my own orchestrations; there is very often not sufficient time to do this, so I have an orchestrator or an arranger. Like I have already told you, directors always want the music yesterday, and it annoys me a little that the music is often the last thing that is considered on a movie. One of my very first arrangers and orchestrators was Ennio Morricone; he was also incidentally the best I ever used. 

And how did the composer work out his musical ideas?
I use a piano, and then I record the themes that I have put together, then I start to develop these and transcribe them. But I do sometimes write them straight down onto the manuscript. 

I also asked the composer if he had a favourite score for a film, either by himself or by another composer?
There are two scores of my own that I like very much, C’ERA, UNA VOLTA, which was called MORE THAN A MIRACLE outside of Italy, and directed by Francesco Rosi, this starred Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif. I also liked LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, this was directed by Kevin Billington who is British, the film starred Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner. 
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Remaining with THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, which was a movie that had its screenplay based on the story by Jules Verne, the film was very heavily edited when it was released, and at times was so badly cut the storyline became fragmented and hard to follow. I asked the composer if he had experienced any problems on the movie?
No, not at all, but I did see the film before it was so badly cut. I really enjoyed working on the film, and as I have said I regard it as one of my best scores for the cinema. The director was very pleased with my work on his film, in fact he was so impressed with one of the sections that I scored, that he asked for all of the sound effects to be removed on the soundtrack, so my music was more prominent. 

The soundtrack was issued on General Music records originally, and has subsequently been re-issued onto CD by Alhambra in Germany. General music or GDM as it is known today was founded by a number of prominent composers, Piccioni was one of these.
I was actually the founder of the company, it was a record company, but more importantly it was a music publishing company. The other composers involved with the establishing of the company were, Ennio Morricone, Luis Bacalov and Armando Trovajoli. Enrico De Melias who is also now Morricone’s manager was a partner. The company is still active today and has begun to re-issue a number of its older soundtracks, some on its own label and others under license to various companies around the world. 

On the subject of CD re-issues, did the composer think that enough of his music was available on compact disc or record?
No, never enough (laughs).
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Was he engaged on anything for the cinema or television at the moment?
Recently I have been working on a film with my good friend Alberto Sordi, this is a documentary which deals with the philosophy and sociology of soccer, this will be aired by the Italian television network RAI, and then hopefully shown around the world. 

IL MOMENTO DELLA VERITA or MOMENT OF TRUTH, contained a wonderful score, which was a fusion of jazz flavours and symphonic styles. An original and unique way of scoring a movie. I asked the composer if he was asked to score the movie in this way, or did he decide to tackle the assignment like this?
The ideas on this were all mine, I was in charge on this film for the music. 

When did the composer like to become involved on a film?
As early as possible, but relay it is not good until the film is in its rough cut stage, if I am given a script it is almost useless to me, as scripts change all of the time and are very rarely intact by the time that it comes to filming. 
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And in what order did he score a film, from start to finish, larger cues first or how did he tackle the work?

I actually prefer to start from the end of the movie, I can then see the films climax and develop the rest of the score from there, maybe this seems a little odd to you, as many other composers work from the start of the film, but I find that this is the best way to work. 
 

Did he conduct all of his scores or just some of them?
I conduct at least 80% of my music for film, but there have been times when circumstances that have arisen make it impossible for me to conduct, so I have someone else work with the orchestra, whilst I am in the recording booth, but I still supervise what is going on musically, and if I am not happy with something I am able to change it. By this I might think the music will work when I am writing it, but in the recording studio I might think NO this is not working.

My final question to the composer was what was the largest orchestra that he had ever employed?
The largest orchestra that I have worked with so far is a 97 players that included a 60 strong string section; this was for a ballet “STRESS” which was performed at the Lyric theatre in Palermo Sicily.

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Piero Piccioni died on July 23rd 2004 in Rome  Italy. He scored well over 300 movies in his illustrious career.

Many thanks to the Maestro,s family, in particular Jason Piccioni for their assistance with this article.

Bruno Nicolai.

bruno 3Apart from Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai is probably the composer/conductor that most soundtrack collectors and film buffs alike associate with the music for the Italian cinema, in particular the scores for the Spaghetti western genre. His style was not unlike that of Morricone’s and at times it was very difficult to differentiate between the two composer’s works for film and television. So much alike were their styles that many people outside of Italy during the late 1960,s and early 1970,s were of the opinion that Nicolai and Morricone were one and the same person, this opinion was also reinforced in the eyes of collectors because Bruno Nicolai conducted Morricone, s scores and his name appeared regularly alongside Morricone, s on screen.

 

 

Bruno Nicolai was born in Rome in 1926. He studied with Aldo Manitia for piano and Antonio Fernandi and Godfredo Petrassi for composition. Petrassi was also responsible for schooling Morricone in composition, and that is probably why the two composers had similar styles in composition and orchestration. Nicolai also studied organ with Ferruccio Viganelli. Nicolai, s entry into film music as a composer came in 1963 when he scored HEAD OF THE FAMILY,then in 1964 he  collaborated on the score for the sequel to MONDO CANE, which was very originally titled MONDO CANE 2. The composers break into bigger projects came in 1965 when ennio Morricone asked him to conduct the score for sergio Leone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, after this Nicolai and Morricone worked on numerous projects together,Nicolai either being musical director or collaborating with Morricone on the composition of scores such as OPERATION KID BROTHER and A PROFESSIONAL GUN. In 1966 he conducted Morricone’s classic score for THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, after this Nicolai began to work as a composer in his own right and started to be commissioned to write scores for all types of moviesAs well as composing soundtracks for the cinema, Nicolai conducted many works for film, and during his career was employed by many well known Italian film music composers, these included, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Luis Bacalov and Carlo Rustichelli. Nicolai also had a keen interest in classical music and spent much of his time studying the scores of past musical masters such as Beethoven and Mozart. He also would at times perform on soundtracks for movies; this was in the main as a keyboard player or an organist. Nicolai would often be offered scores for movies when Morricone was not available.

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So at times he would be conducting for Morricone, playing organ for Rustichelli whilst at the same time composing a score of his own for a western or otherwise. In 1969, Nicolai penned the soundtrack for an American produced western entitled LANDRAIDERS; this contained a particularly haunting theme and also a driving and powerful main score. Arguably this is Nicolai, s best western score, and although it contains passages and musical phrases that are very much in the style of Morricone, most of the soundtrack is pure Nicolai. Morricone,s success unfortunately overshadowed much of Nicolai,s musical output, and many collectors and critics alike considered Bruno Nicolai to be a mere Morricone clone. This of course is not true, and Nicolai was a great composer possessing much originality and talent. One only has to listen to his music for the movies as produced by filmmaker  Jesus Franco. IL CONTE DRACULA, 99 WOMEN & IL TRONO DI FUOCO being particularly worthy examples. Nicolai, s scores for Italian made westerns are also of a very high quality, and contain many of the musical sounds and trademarks that are associated with that genre, but they also have  a secondary sound that is similar to the music that was employed in American made westerns which is  grandiose, sprawling and vigorous, and this style combined with the rawness and savagery of the established spaghetti western score creates an interesting and  original sound.

bruno 2During the 1970,s Nicolai established his own recording label, this was for the purpose of releasing his own film scores and other musical works, a small an independent label EDI-PAN released a number of albums, but was not really that widely distributed, and this is probably why Nicolai, s soundtracks were always  difficult to obtain outside of Italy in the days of vinyl. The label still operates today, and is helmed by the composers daughter Julia, she took charge of things when her Father passed away in August 1991.  Since his death many of the Maestros soundtracks have made an appearance on compact disc He died on August 16th 1991, he was just 65, Unfortunately the composer’s death went almost unnoticed, and the vast majority of soundtrack collectors that were aware of his music did not receive news of the composer’s death until some two months later. His passing left a void in the Italian film music fraternity, a void that in many peoples opinion has never been filled.

Piero Umiliani.

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Born Florence Italy, in 1926. Composer musician Piero Umiliani had originally studied law, fully intending to make a career as a solicitor. His keen interest in music however was to distract him from this profession and led him to begin to play the piano. He had been teaching himself the instrument since he was a child and by the time he was 14yrs of age had become quite competent at performing. It was also during his childhood that Umiliani decided that it was jazz music that particularly attracted him. He studied with Vitto Frazzi, and later graduated from The Luigi Cherubini Consevatory in Florence with degrees in counterpoint and fugue. During the 1950,s, Umiliani decided to change location and move to Rome, on arrival in the Italian Capital the aspiring composer set himself up as a pianist, arranger and orchestra director. In the early part of 1958, Umiliani made his first recording, this was an LP entitled DIXIELAND IN NAPLES, which was released on the RCA recording label. Soon after the release of this recording, Umiliani was approached by

Film director, Mario Monicelli who asked the composer if he would compose the score for a film entitled I SOLITI IGNOTI, The film was a comedy, and was the first film in Italy to have a score that was completely jazz music. Umiliani, s music was so successful that it led to other assignments, which included film scores and commissions for jazz compositions. Although I SOLITI IGNOTI is looked upon as the composer’s first cinematic encounter, Umiliani had in fact worked on a film some three years previous, as he recalled. ”I was studying in Florence, and I was asked to write a piece for a documentary called IL PITTORI DEL DOMENICA, this was produced and also directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, the theme that I composed PICCOLA SUITE–AMERICANA PER 4 ANCIE was not relay that melodic, quite avante garde I think, but at this time I was still young and enjoyed experimenting”. Many collectors of soundtracks associate Umiliani with scores for comedies, thrillers and films that fit into the category of being soft porn or striptease.

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Movies in all of these categories were produced in their abundance in Italy during the 1960,s thru to the mid 1980,s. Umiliani,s style and musical approach was very much suited to these types of films, his scores being mostly light in their construction and being influenced with jazz flavours, and it was probably due to this style or sound that was realised by the composer that the majority of his music is now being labelled as Exotica or Lounge music, and is also finding its way onto countless compilations that are easy listening. Umiliani has become a highly respected and widely known jazz musician and composer. His jazz efforts often outweighing and overshadowing his works for the cinema. The composer’s love of jazz is very evident and often manifests itself within his music for film. On many occasions this jazz style forming the musical foundation for his motion picture scores. But it has sometimes been difficult for the composer to incorporate jazz into his work for film.

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” It has always been something of a task to convince filmmakers that maybe jazz could be the right style of music for their movie, I have always been fortunate enough to be able to work with directors and producers that I have had a good working relationship with. But many times they have asked me to create a grand more symphonic sound, when really jazz music would have served the picture much better”. One particular piece of music that the composer is readily associated with is the quirky and somewhat offbeat and infectious composition MAH,NA,MAH,NA. The tune was originally released in1968, and has over the years been re-released on many occasions, and has become something of a musical calling card for the composer. ” MAH,NA,MAH,NA. is the most simple and elementary music that one could write, so maybe that is why people have found it so appealing over the past 30 years or so, the voice on the song is that of my good friend and fellow composer Alessandro Alessandroni. I have worked with him and his choir on many things; Sandro has a great talent, but maybe is not recognised as much as he should be”. Said Umiliani.MAH,NA,MAH,NA. Was given a new lease of life in the 1980,s and charted high in the British charts when Jim Henson’s Muppets gave it an airing, re-introducing the peculiar sounding tune to a whole new generation of listeners. As a composer Umiliani is very much like the proverbial chameleon, adapting and changing his styles for each project, enhancing and gracing each movie with his music, and applying his own individual mark upon it. He has also worked with and had his compositions performed by such great artistes as, Chet Baker, Helen Mirril and Gato Barbieri. The film music career of Piero Umiliani spanned some four decades, and during the composers later years he still continued to compose for the cinema and also write sophisticated and tasteful jazz, that was modern yet easily interpreted and understood, and above all listenable and entertaining. The Maestro passed away in Florence on February 16th 2001, aged 75, He will be missed by all who knew him and worked with him.

Franco Micalizzi.

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Like so many composers that were starting out in Italy during the 1960,s and 1970,s, Franco Micalizzi began his film music career by scoring an Italian made western. The movie entitled THE GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE, was basically a B movie of very little consequence, that received a very limited release outside of Italy, the score for the film was a joint effort between Micalizzi and fellow composer Roberto Pregadio, the style of the music in the score is very much like that of Ennio Morricone, and contains a distinctive theme which is everything that is now associated with the ‘SOUND’ of the Italian Western. Whistling, soaring trumpet solos and choir all go to make up a very haunting and somewhat rousing opening for the score. This was the first thing that I spoke about with the composer. ” GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE, was my initiation into film music, I composed the score with the help of my good friend Roberto Pregadio, we scored the film in late 1969, and it got released in 1970, later I worked with him again on I DUE VOLTI DELLA PADRA and LO CHIAMAVANO TRINITA. I must admit that we did write the score in a style that was similar to that of Morricone, but there again many Italian western soundtracks contained scores that were basically Morricone sound alike soundtracks. It was done with the greatest respect for the maestro; after all he was along with Sergio Leone the creator of the Italian Western sound. It was the hope of every producer and director in Italy to get Morricone to score their productions, but the great composer could only work on so many films, so the filmmakers tried to imitate Leone, and asked other composers to attempt to mimic Ennio Morricone, and this is what happened on GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE.

We even employed musicians and other performers that had worked with Morricone, to get the sound that we did. For example Alessandro Alessandroni whistled on the score, and the trumpet solo was performed by Michele Lancerenza, both of whom had played on Morricone western scores, we also had the IL CANTORI MODERNI providing the vocals”.

In the same year Micalizzi was offered the score for a comedy western entitled LO CHIAMAVANO TRINITA, the movie was really the first of its kind, as the mixture of spaghetti western and comedy had not been attempted before.  The film was to be the first in a series of films that would star, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, it was this score that attracted attention to Micalizzi from soundtrack collectors, the score not only serviced the movie extremely well, but it also stood on its own as entertaining music. It was a little surprising after the success of TRINITY that Micalizzi did not return to score the films numerous sequels, instead the task was allotted to Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. I asked the composer why this was? ”When the score for TRINITY was completed and recorded there was unfortunately some mis-understanding about the publishing rights, this was between myself and the films producer Italo Zingarelli. This upset did sadly lessen our friendship, and I think that is why I was not asked to score any of the sequels. I am glad to say that this mis-understanding has thankfully now been cleared up, and our collaboration has now resumed which is better late than never as they say”. .

trinita micalizziI continued on the subject of TRINITY and how the composer actually got the assignment? ” The big composers at the time were not relay interested in the film, the idea of comedy and the style of the Italian western being combined did not enthuse anyone, apart from the films producers and myself, I think that many of the composers Morricone included were a little concerned that the film was going to turn out to be an embarrassment to the genre. So the producers decided to take a chance on me, and offered me the score”. One of the highlights of the score is the rather tongue in cheek title song, I asked the composer about the song and who decided that the film required a vocal? ”It was a joint decision between the director, E.B.Clutcher (Enzo Barboni), the producer and myself. We discussed the possibility of a song on the titles, and it was decided that a vocal would possibly attract more attention to the movie”. And why did the composer have the vocals sung in English? ” There was at that time in Italy an opinion that if American or English actors were in leading roles in Italian made westerns that the film would stand a better chance of success when and if it was released outside of Europe, and this opinion also applied to the music in films, so a song that was sung in English was thought to be much more advantageous to the films success. I suppose that to a degree this was true, and the single 45rpm release of the TRINITY song sold very well in Italy, and also many copies were exported to America and England. A very good friend of mine in England Lally Stott wrote the lyrics, he understood perfectly what I wanted, and what I wanted to achieve. Sadly Lally died a few years later in a boating accident in Liverpool, the song is a send up of all other western songs, as the film itself was a parody of other westerns, both American and Italian”.

The composer enjoyed a little limelight during the 1970,s outside of Italy, when he scored the romantically slanted tearjerker of a movie THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING. The film did very well at the box office, and Micalizzi, s music was also something of a hit. For this soundtrack the composer employed a very rich and lush score, which again was very similar to the style of Ennio Morricone, selections from the film were released on RCA Original Cast in Italy and sold moderately well. Micalizzi followed this success with something in a similar vein, THE TREE WITH PINK LEAVES was also a weepy, and because of the films appeal a soundtrack album was issued in Italy on the Cinevox label. But apart from these two albums and the LP releases of TRINITY and the second rate Exorcist clone movie, THE DEVIL WITHIN HER, Micalizzi has been almost without representation as far as recordings of his scores are concerned. I asked the maestro if he felt a little disappointed that his music for film was not easy to obtain on any type of recording? ” I do feel that maybe more of my film scores should have been released onto disc, in fact RCA did issue a BEST OF LP, which had various themes of mine on it, this however has not been re-issued onto CD as of yet, but soundtracks I think are not a big profit maker for the record companies, and outside of Italy I think that you would find it difficult to get any of my records, this is because many of the films that I worked upon, did not get a release outside of Italy, so people did not know about them. It is only people like yourself that know of their existence. Also music publishers were not interested in soundtracks, when they could deal with more profitable things, such as popular music”.  Many composers had released their music on their own recording labels, is this something that Micalizzi had thought about? ”No, not really, if I am totally honest I don’t think that I would sell many copies. Soundtracks have a very little market, and they are very expensive to produce. They are very complicated things to release, there are many things to consider, such as re-use payments, and it can become a nightmare in the end. It is better to leave such things to the larger companies such as RCA, CAM and BEAT. Although the two western scores that we have spoken about TRINITY and THE GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE. have just been released on CD by an English recording company that has links with Italy, and LUCREZIA GIOVANE got issued on BEAT, also my score for STRIDULUM has been released by RCA, but only in Italy. Over the past few years I have been concentrating on writing music for the ARIOLA music library, this will in the end consist of some 60 CD,s. I am also in the process of producing for my own production company which is called THE NEW TEA DANCE MUSIC COMPANY, a collection for a music library, this should amount to 20 CD,s.”. So as the composer had his own production company, did the rights to his film scores belong to him? “The music that I have written for the cinema is normally owned by the film company that has released the movie, or the music publisher who has financed the soundtrack. Again this can vary from project to project. But it is normally the music publishers that own the copyright on film soundtracks in Italy“. So what actually made the composer decide that he wanted to write music for film? ”I had always had a big love for the cinema, and also music was and is still important to me. So I obviously took particular interest in the music in films. Cinema was a very important source of culture for people of my generation, I was fascinated by how the music worked with the film, and this is what made me decide that I would like to compose music for the cinema. The idea of doing this intrigued me immensely “. I continued by asking the composer if any of his family were musical at all? ” No it was not a tradition in my family to be involved in music professionally, although I did show an interest in music from a very early age, I could only devote myself to study music privately, and this was at the end of my education at high school. I gained most of my musical knowledge by my own personal experience and also by studying and listening too the works of other important musicians and composers “. Was he influenced by any composers at all? ”Of course, I have been influenced greatly by all types of jazz, and also the romantic Russian composers, and finally I have been drawn from the styles and techniques of my friends and colleges such as, Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni and Armando Trovajoli. All of whom have been great points of reference to me”. Had Micalizzi ever written a score under an alias? ”No, I did not, but I know that this was something that other composers did from time to time in Italy. There were various reasons for this, the most common I think being that the composer was not happy with his work on the movie. I always signed my film scores with my own name, even if I thought that they were maybe not so good”. The composer worked with a number of soloist’s etc on his scores for the cinema, I asked him what it was like working with people such as EDDA and ALESSANDRONI? ”Edda, is an extraordinary talent, to work with her is wonderful, her voice and her great talent are unique in creating a sensual and lyrical atmosphere. Alessandroni, is a great talent also, he is so versatile, flawless whistling, precise guitar playing and a choir that is second too none. “.

micalizzi 2Micalizzi seemed to excel at composing romantic music for the cinema. I asked him if he was more at home writing for any particular genre of film? ”The beauty of writing for the cinema is that you get the opportunity to work on all genres, one week you could be working on a western, and the next a love story or a crime thriller etc., every genre has its own stimulating opportunity for a composer. I do not think that there is any particular type of film that I am more or less happy working on, the real problem is to find the correct solution for every film, the right idea for music on any film is always difficult to find, and this requires work, concentration and of course talent”. Did the composer think that orchestration is a vital part of the composition process, and does he orchestrate all of his own music? ”It is a very important part of the composing cycle, and yes I do carry out all of the orchestrations for music that I have composed, I would never charge anyone with this refined work”. Did he also conduct his own music all of the time or did he employ a conductor on occasion? ”I do at times employ a conductor, but I also conduct myself, this depends on the film or the budget on the project”.

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And how did he work out his musical ideas, on piano or did he use synthesisers at all? “At one time I would work out my ideas on piano, but now like so many other composers I sit by my computer, very age places the best instruments at a composers disposal, but since everybody knows that the only really important thing is the original idea it does not really matter how you arrive at the end product. Without ideas, no amount of computers or synthesisers can be useful “. A point that is spoken of on many occasions by film music composers, is the very tight deadlines for each project, I asked Franco Micalizzi what his feelings were on this subject? ” Here in Italy, a director or producer will tell the composer that he needs the music yesterday, and I am sure that it is the same in other countries, music is often the last thing that is considered, which is rather annoying because music at times can either make or break a certain scene in a movie, I have at times been given less than ten days to complete a score, and that is composing and actually scoring the movie, I am of the opinion that a composer should be given a lot more time than this, and also that a composer should be involved with a film as early as possible, right from the beginning with the script for example. This gives the composer a chance to find out what the film is about, and also get involved with the storyline, it gives him the opportunity to develop themes etc., for each of the characters in the film, and also music can also be played during the filming of certain scenes, which will obviously also help the actors and director create the correct atmosphere “. And what was his opinion of the use of a temp track on a film, did he think that this assisted the composer or did it maybe distract him? ”This I think is a pointless exercise, the use of a temp track is in my opinion a most destructive thing to do to a composer “. And what of the future? ” As I have already said, I am busy recording a lot of music for various music libraries, and this is taking up a lot of my time, in Italy the cinema industry is having a tough time, this is because of the development of television, there are now so many channels, offering such a variety of films, documentaries etc etc, so people tend not to go to the cinema as much as they used too. This has damaged the film industry considerably, and has effectively sunk the great Italian cinema. I hope that new laws may soon balance the further development of these forms of art and entertainment”

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