Tristram Cary, pioneer of electronic music.I would like to begin by giving some background to this interview. The Composer at the time was living in Australia, so the questions and the answers were sent by letter as it was a little while before the World Wide Web found its way into our lives. This interview was conducted back in August 1996. The text was originally printed in The Jerry Goldsmith music society’s journal Legend In 1997.

Born in Oxford England on May 14th 1925,Tristram Ogilvie Cary was the third child of the novelist Joyce Cary and Gertrude Margaret Cary(nee Ogilvie). He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and Westminster School, London. He served in the Royal Navy between 1943 and 1946, which interrupted his education, whilst in the Navy; Cary developed independently the idea that was to eventually become tape music. Upon his demob from the service, Cary took a BA at Oxford and then headed for London, where he studied composition, piano, horn, conducting and also viola. The composer passed away in 2008,aged 82.


I began by asking the composer who he studied with whilst he attended Trinity College of Music in London?



I studied with a number of people, Alec Rowley and George Oldroyd for composition, James Murray for piano but I cannot recall who my teachers were for Viola and conducting. I did also undertake to learn the Oboe whilst I was at the college, but again the name of the tutor escapes me now. I was 24 years of age by the time I got out of the Royal navy, and I had already written quite a lot of music by this time plus I had taken my Oxford Degree. I do not want to dismiss the teaching I was given by Oldroyd and Rowley, but saying this by that time I was more or less going my own way, and neither of them seemed to fully understand what I was doing in the field of electronic music. The whole thing was fairly frustrating, but I needed a diploma in case I had to teach in the future.



Many film music enthusiasts and also fans of Hammer films associateTristram Cary with the music for mainly Hammer productions, in fact this is a little bit of a fallacy, as Cary was responsible for composing just two scores for the house of horror. As the composer explained.



I did Quatermass and the Pit in 1967, and then in 1972 I returned to Hammer to work on the music for Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. I cannot remember how I actually got involved with Hammer, 1967 was a frantically busy year for me, I am sure that it was Phil Martell who called me asking me to write the score for Quatermass. I have to be honest and say that I was not keen on the idea of doing the score, there was a lot of work to do, they wanted masses of electronic music plus a great deal of orchestral music also, but I had three kids to feed all of whom were in fee-paying schools and I needed every penny I could get, so of course I said yes.


Phil Martell was a very important figure within Hammers musical department, he was the MD and took over the position from John Hollingsworth after he passed away, I asked Mr Cary, did Martell conduct both of his scores for Hammer?




Yes Phil did conduct both the scores, which was something I was a little uncomfortable with as I would normally undertake this task myself.  




Tristram Cary’s first encounter with writing music for film came in 1955; this was for the famous Ealing studios comedy thriller THE LADYKILLERS which starred Alec Guinness amongst others. How did the composer become involved on the production?



I had by this time already done some work for the BBC, the director of THE LADYKILLERS- who was Sandy MacKendrick-had been listening to some of my music for BBC plays etc, consequently ,Sandy thought that my style of writing would be well suited to the black comedy that was THE LADYKILLERS. I went to Ealing and had some discussions, pretending that I was very experienced in the art of scoring movies, (which of course was not the case), and they knew that. Anyway they asked me to submit a couple of test sections, which I did. These two sections were actually recorded at the end of another recording session which turned out to be a John Addison score. Anyway, they laid these tracks to the film and they seemed to like them, because the very next day, they offered me the job. I was good friends with Sandy afterwards, and I last saw him a few years before his death in Los Angeles.



Cover of "The Ladykillers [Blu-ray]"
Cover of The Ladykillers [Blu-ray]

On the subject of Directors, the composer had worked with Joseph Losey and Don Chaffey on a number of projects, what was his relationship like with the two filmmakers?


Well, in short, both became friends of mine, and although Losey gave me no work after TIME WITHOUT PITY, he kind of apologized, saying that he was looking for a different kind of music, we did go on meeting up from time to time but we never collaborated again. Don however was one of my best friends, I was devastated when he passed away at only 73. I was privileged to work with him on four movies. He was a very keen follower of motor racing, and used to turn up in Adelaide when the Australian Grand Prix was run here. I last saw him in Hollywood in 1990; we stayed with him and his second wife Paula Kelly, the black singer. He died a year later at his holiday home in New Zealand.




When I interviewed composer James Bernard, he told me that Joseph Losey could at times be rather difficult. I asked Tristram Cary about both Losey and Chaffey, did they take an active role in where music should be placed in a film etc etc?




Well, this is a question that has no compact answer, both filmmakers discussed the music very closely, but Losey had no musical expertise, and would say things like, LOUD and fast here, leaving the details to me. Chaffey however was not a bad pianist and had an idea about the mechanics of music I suppose. Therefore he was inclined to interfere, (a little too much in my opinion). But, as we were such good friends I was able to tell him to lay off trying to write the music himself. Also Don would listen to me if I suggested he change a shot in the movie for the sake of making the music more effective, and we planned a lot of things together.




The composer has since the beginning of his musical career utilized and developed the use of electronics and it is probably true to say that Carey was one of the first composers to integrate electronics into a score for a film. Therefore I thought it appropriate to ask his opinion of the use of electronics and synthetics in film scores today.


This a difficult question to answer without going into endless chapter and verse, and in any case I don’t get to see many movies these days- I’m far too busy. But for what its worth I find NEW AGE tracks long, inactive and lacking development-extremely boring. Also, people are always claiming to have found a new sound or invented a new technique,whch normally turns out to be a digital version of what I and others were doing over 30 years ago.





When working on a film or indeed any project what stage of the proceedings did the composer like to become involved?



I prefer to get involved as early as I can, but many producers and directors do not consider the music until the last minute. When I am asked to score a picture I normally come on the scene and the film is 99 percent finished, at least all the filming is done, by this time the budget has all but gone and everything has to be done as cheaply as possible. In most cases I start work at the rough cut stage, but in some instances, e.g. the films of Don Chaffey, I got to se some of the shooting, and was able to make advance plan. In the case of animation, of course, it’s usual to do the music to story board before any action has been shot, and with television, one usually works to a script, but things are changing all the time.


 Cary worked on some episodes of DR WHO for the BBC; did he think that television was something that was easier to work on as opposed to scoring a movie or feature film?


It all depends on the actual job, remember back in the 1960’s TV lengths were much vaguer because you did not know the actual timings until the scenes were shot-Hence, much more flexible sections were necessary, with extensions and cuts possible, unlike the rigid timings on film. But, EASIER? Neither seemed to be particularly easy at the time, and there is never a job without its unexpected surprises.




Doctor Who: Devils' Planets – The Music of Tri...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



At the time of this interview, London based label Silva Screen had released a compact disc, this was a compilation entitled QUATERMASS AND THE PIT-THE FILM MUSIC OF TRISTRAM CARY, VOL: 1. I asked the composer did this mean there would be more volumes released in the future ?






Yes, I can reveal that David Wish art is already working on a volume 2, this will include music from THE LADY KILLERS,I understand this is also destined for a compilation of music from Ealing Comedies, and the label have also showed an interest in releasing some of my music from the DR WHO series. and an album of my electro acoustic concert music. In fact there will be two albums, one will concentrate on the early tape music and the other will include my more recent computer music. I also have a Carol setting being released on the Australian label Tall Poppies, and a cello piece of mine will also be released on that label.




THE QUATERMASS AND THE PIT collection is a very interesting album; it is a great representation of your music from British films of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I particularly enjoyed SAMMY GOING SOUTH; I asked the composer had he a favourite section on the album or indeed a favourite piece of his own film music?




There is only one track on the compact disc from TWIST OF SAND, but there is a lot of good music in that film, and I hope that we will be able to return to it on the next album. TIME WITHOUT PITY is also a good score, but the recording was bad and it would need to be re-recorded. The critics at the time of the films release said that there was too much music in the film and also that the music was far too loud, but this is what Joe wanted. I think some of my best music has been for animation, in co-operation with Richard Williams, LITTLE ISLAND won a lot of awards in 1958, and IVOR PITTFALKS UNIVERSAL CONFIDENCE MAN, which was a cinemascope film that never actually got finished due to lack of money, but all the music was recorded and I have made a suite of it, so maybe that will one day be recorded and released? Musically, some of my best incidental music has been for radio.



 What were the composer’s musical influences?



I have lots of different influences, I think it is mainly Bach, Chopin, Bartok, Stravinski, Schoenburg and to a certain extent Messaien and Walton. Alan Rawsthorne’s music I greatly admire and although he is a great deal older than I we became good friends during the 1950’s and 1960’s, in fact he was instrumental in getting me more widely know during the early 1960’s.



 When working on a movie did the composer have a set way in which he worked?


Usually I had no choice in the way or the order in which I scored a film; this was because the deadlines were always so tight. Things would be so close that one had to get on with whatever was fine cut measured(often by myself) and available with final timings. I do try and get main thematic material sorted out before I start, but often altered key material as I went along, I prefer to compose main and also end credits last if I can, when the main body of the score is in place and I can then select key material for an Overture.  






Many thanks to Tristram Cary.

Uno Di Piu All’Inferno.



Released in 1968, this spaghetti western starred, George Hilton, Paolo Gozlino and Claudie Lange. Directed by Giovanni Fago it tells the story of a gunfighter Johnny King played by Hilton, who becomes embroiled in a number of dangerous yet comedic situations that include a saloon brawl when dressed as a woman, a jail break, a farcical but successful bank robbery and fighting off land speculators, and all this in the first half of the movie. The tone and atmosphere of the storyline darkens and alters somewhat after this when Hiltons character finds out his friend and former guardian a Pastor has been murdered by the land speculators, the film then changes from a light comedy buddy movie into a full blown tale of revenge. An entertaining film and one that did not receive the praise it deserved at the time of its release. The score by Nico Fidenco is one of the most entertaining Spaghetti scores I have heard, excerpts from it were originally issued on a CAM LP (MAG 10.016) back in 1968, along with musical excerpts from two other Fidenco western scores, I WANT HIM DEAD and TO THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD. The LP was and still is one of my most treasured possessions and I am so grateful to Hillside and Lionel Woodman for re-releasing this classic Italian soundtrack onto compact disc. The disc opens with the title song from the movie FORGIVE AND NOT FORGET performed by Gianni Davoli, who is backed by Nora Orlandi,s choir and a whistler who is not credited, it’s a typical spaghetti western song complete with electric guitar rift and a foot tapping pop orientated backing. Track number 2, GUN STRIP MINUETTO, contains harpsichord and a sultry sounding female vocal courtesy of Edda Dell Orso, and as the title suggests is a minuet of sort if a little tongue in cheek. Track number 3, is for me one of the highlights of the soundtrack, ATTESA E MISTERO combines woods and harpsichord which are embellished by organ and shimmering cymbals at its outset, it then steps up-tempo into a riding track, with low key horn carrying the central melody backed by effect use of choir and a guitar strumming keeping the tempo steady.
Track 4, GUN STRIP SHAKE is another incarnation of the films central theme Forgive and not forget, Fidenco utilising low sounding woodwinds and subtly placed slightly discordant sounding harpsichord to create a somewhat threatening atmosphere, but this effect is short lived and soon changes to become a typical Fidenco sounding composition, with lighter sounding woods backed by a fairly up-tempo track, created with strumming guitar and carried along by the use of percussion and strings. Track 7, CAVALCATA, is an impressive cue, an infectious sounding solo trumpet being performed over the top of a mariachi type composition interspersed with electric guitar gets my attention every time. Track number 8, AMORE NEL WEST, is a low key and haunting composition, performed on guitar with a delicately placed choir providing the backing, again the central theme is present but Fidenco this time has arranged it in a very similar style to that of Nicolai, in the slow versions of the CORRI UOMO CORRI theme. The compact disc contains 13 tracks, 10 of which have never been issued before. The disc is presented superbly with stunning art work and an 8 page liner which includes a reproduction of the films original poster. The sound quality is also extremely good, this is in my opinion a must have for spaghetti western fans, an essential purchase, but hurry it’s a limited edition.

Twins of Evil


Now this is also a score that for years was on the wants list’s of many soundtrack collectors, the theme first appeared on the GDI compilation MUSIC FROM HAMMER FILMS Vol.1, this certainly whetted the appetite of countless hungry soundtrack enthusiasts for the complete score to be issued, and in true GDI form the label did not disappoint. The CD is packaged marvelously, the thick booklet is crammed with stills, pictures and posters of the movie, with an informative set of notes and extracts from an interview with the composer Harry Robinson. The opening scene of the movie is one of Hammers best, and prior to the credits we see Peter Cushing and his band of merry pilgrims on horse back riding through the night to find a helpless maiden to burn at the stake, as the flames lick around the young girl whilst Cushing and co. stand watching the frame freezes. Robinson’s theme begins, at first in a subdued fashion, slowly building gradually and anxiously, the composer utilizing timpani and percussion as a starting point whilst French horns are introduced and begin to perform the central theme, the track builds and builds until the full orchestra join the proceedings creating a theme that has certain western sounding properties to it.

In fact Robinson remarked that when he first saw the rushes of the film he straight away thought ‘western’. ‘Well there were horses in it so why not, I have always wanted to do a western’. The remainder of the score is just as strong and lively as the central theme, and the composer again serves up a musical smorgasbord of tense and suspense filled cues, which although at times are less than melodic still remain memorable.
TWINS OF EVIL is a soundtrack that should be in every collectors possession even if they are not Hammer fans and one that is surely the best of Hammer and certainly a score that can be deemed among Harry Robinsons most accomplished.

Vampire Lovers.


VAMPIRE LOVERS marked the first time that Scottish born composer Harry Robinson had worked for the House of Horror for a cinema release He had already completed the score for THE OBLONG BOX for American International Pictures in the States, who I suppose were the American equivalent of Hammer in those days. In fact VAMPIRE LOVERS was a Hammer/A.I.P. co-production, and was something a little different for the seasoned Hammer film audiences. More nudity, more blood, more of everything in fact, including the loping off of heads. An intriguing storyline with some pretty gorgeous young ladies including a glamorous looking Ingrid Pitt and some fresh talent in the forms of Hammer starlets Pippa Steele and Maddy Smith. The score by Robinson was a very important and highly integral part of the picture, it was more interwoven with the story that was unfolding on screen than previous Hammer scores, it is true to say that James Bernard‘s DRACULA scores were and still are the most popular and promptly recognised of Hammers musical archive, but Robinsons music brought new life and excitement to this Hammer movie, it was as fresh and different in its style and sound as the movie was different from previous Hammer vampire movies. The score is full of themes and musical phrases that suggest an atmosphere of dread and virulence. The main thematic and atonal properties of the score underline and support the fearful and for want of a better description scary and gory passages within the film, Robinson using the approach of scoring a frightening or harrowing section of film with a piece of music that itself has a melody to it, thus increasing the actual moment of tension or horror because the music does not hint that something terrible is about to happen, so this gives the scene extra weight and impact. There is also a milder almost romantic side to the score, Robinson employing strings to great effect to enhance and accompany Ingrid Pitt’s character Mircalla / Carmilla as she goes in search of fresh human blood, usually from another female. The film was a first thought to be too risqué for British audiences, and the censor expressed concerns about certain scenes, but the movie proved to be a great success on both sides of the Atlantic.Robinson’s soundtrack too was well received and soon made it to the top of many soundtrack collectors wants list’s. To satisfy the demand for Robinsons music, Hammer did release a short track from the score on an EMI LP back in the mid 1970s it was part of a collection of four excerpts from Hammer films, which formed the FOUR FACES OF EVIL on the B side of an album which had as it’s A side a Dracula story read by Christopher Lee which was supported by a specially adapted score by James Bernard. Robinsons score for THE VAMPIRE LOVERS has a presence to it that evokes a feeling of unease. Let us just say if the composer was attempting to style a soundtrack that created a sense of foreboding and evil he succeeded in doing it here. Maybe previous Hammer scores had been a little clichéd and predictable or had become that way because audiences and filmmakers alike were used to this kind of scoring in a horror picture, accepting the simple but effectiveness of for example James Bernard‘s compositions as the norm. Robinson’s music however has a style and sound to it that was not only perfect for the movie but has the ability to be entertaining and interesting away from the film which is no mean feat when writing music for a horror flick. The GDI release of VAMPIRE LOVERS is presented wonderfully, lots of stills, extensive notes on the film, the music and the composer, a striking front cover and sound quality that is dazzling. This was one of GDI’s first releases and set the standard for other CDs within its catalogue. VAMPIRE LOVERS still remains one of its best and most popular titles and also stands as a fitting testament to the music of Harry Robinson. Highly recommended.



Released in 2010, this is the impressive musical score from the most popular Polish television series ever produced. CZAS HONORU (DAYS OF HONOUR) ran for three seasons between 2008 and 2010 and is an epic tale set during the second world war. This compact disc prepared in association with Polskie Radio S.A. and Soundtracks PL, features just 16 of the commanding works stand out cues. The music is the work of one of Poland’s most talented young composers Bartosz Chajdecki, who at just 31 years of age has produced a score that has an astounding maturity about it within its overall sound and construction. In fact on my first encounter with the score I was under the impression that is was the work of a composer who was far older. But taking in to account that Chajdecki began composing at the tender age of 12 and was guided by Zbigneiw Preisner, it is hardly surprising that the music here is of such high quality. This is a score that will soon attain the title classic among many collectors, written for grand orchestra and choir, the work has the ability to invigorate and stir the listener with its thunderous and powerful compositions as well as enthrall and mesmerize them with its haunting, emotive and affecting themes. The CD opens with the principal theme, which begins with solo piano that tentatively picks out a simple but effective melody that at once grabs the listeners attention, the composer then builds upon this theme introducing an almost mournful sounding cello that mirrors the theme as played by piano, the two instruments are then further embellished by strings and subtle use of timpani which grows in intensity whilst further strings are introduced as the theme builds to its conclusion.

Track 2, UCIECZKA is very different in style and sound, this is a more urgent cue, the composer utilising percussion, struck strings and piano to create a tense air and atmosphere, underlying strings are called up to add greater urgency as percussion and piano feature in the main with strategically placed woods and brass adding support and giving the composition a distinct feeling of uneasiness. Track 3 POLONES, is for me one of the soundtracks highlights, and it is here that we can identify the composers links with Zbigniew Preisner, as he combines piano with strings creating a richness and a sound that is not only luxurious but undemanding and haunting.
Track 4, LA PANKA is another cue filled with tense sounding strings aided by brief use of oboe which are bolstered by percussion and brass flourishes, the composer building the tension wonderfully and then finally curtailing the proceedings as he slows tempo and segues into a more relaxed mode but still manages to retain an atmosphere that is anxious. Track 5, EGZEKUCJA is a subdued sounding piece in the opening stages but stirs mid way through into something more dramatic and powerful only to revert back to a calmer but darker sounding composition to see it through to its conclusion. Strings again are utilised with support coming from the brass and woodwind sections. Track 6, WARSAZWA is a delightfully melodic piece and is not dissimilar to THE PIANO as composed by Michael Nyman, but in this case there is far more than a piano playing, the theme is taken on at first by solo piano and the composer gradually adds more instrumentation in the form of romantic and sweeping strings, faraway sounding horns, woodwind as the piano continues to perform the central thematic property of the piece as the composition builds and builds to a heartrending and highly tuneful finale. Moving to track number 9, POGO (CHASE) is a high octane composition, rumbling percussion acts as support to struck strings that beat out an urgent tempo, driving strings are introduced and percussion also increases its involvement as the piece accelerates in it’s urgency and fervour. The atmosphere of pursuit is even more evident as the cue reaches its halfway mark where it slows slightly as if the orchestra are getting their breath back after being chased, then it stops and there is a moment of silence before the piece bursts forth again this time aided by choir who sound ominous and fearful underlined by unrelenting strings. This is a wonderful score, and also a soundtrack that should be in every discerning film music enthusiasts collection.
The CD comes complete with a full colour 16 page booklet that includes liner notes and an interview with the composer by Adam Krvsinski (Soundtrack PL).
This is highly recommended, if you do not seek it out and buy it, you will be poorer for not hearing this truly epic work.